kills. Perhaps the most interesting encounter
occurred on March 26, 1945, when aircraft from
No. 882 Squadron of HMS Searcher clashed with
eight Bf 109G planes. German fighters catch the
opponents with surprise and shot down one
Wildcat, but subsequently, British pilots used
the agility of their planes and, according to
reports, shot down four Bf 109Gs and damaged
one. Although none of the British pilots became
aces flying Martlets and Wildcats, it was a highly
With a total of 4,437 produced units, the
FM-2 became the most numerous version of the
Wildcat (a total of 7,905 Wildcats of all versions
were produced). Production only ceased in May
1945 when Grumman began manufacturing the
Bearcat, which was meant to replace the FM-2.
The first operational squadrons of this type were
enroute to the Japanese islands when the enemy
surrendered, and the war ended.
While the Bearcat represented a significant
increase in performance compared to the FM-2, it
ultimately did not leave as remarkable a mark in
history as the FM-2 did. It was the Wilder Wildcat
that made sense for escort aircraft carriers of
the Casablanca and Bogue classes, ensuring
the safety of millions of tons of material and
hundreds of thousands of transported personnel
in the Pacific and Atlantic. In some respects, the
FM-2 can thus be considered the most significant
Wildcat version of them all.
F4F Wildcat in detail & scale, Bert Kinzey, SQUADRON/
SIGNAL PUBLICATIONS, INC.
F4F Wildcat in action, Richard S. Dann, SQUADRON/
SIGNAL PUBLICATIONS, INC.
Fleet Air Arm, British Carrier Aviation 1039–1945, Ron
Mackay, SQUADRON/SIGNAL PUBLICATIONS, INC.
Wildcat Aces of WW2, Barrett Tillman, Osprey Publishing, 1995
Photo: Patricia Elliott family collection
Deliveries of the FM-2 began in the first half of
1944, and squadrons operating both in the Pacific
and the Atlantic received them. However, their
main tasks were different. In the Pacific, the FM-2s
were often used to support ground units during
landing operations, aided by their ability to carry
two 250 lb bombs under the wings (from BuNo.
74359, FM-2s could also carry HVAR rockets).
In the Atlantic, they primarily provided air cover
for supply convoys from the US coast to Europe
and often assisted Avengers in hunting German
submarines. Of course, in the Pacific, FM-2 pilots
also provided cover for supply ships or engaged
in anti-submarine operations.
The FM-2 scored its first kill on March 20, 1944,
when Lt.(jg) J. H. Dinnen and Ens. R. P. Kirk of
VC-63 encountered and shot down a Japanese
Ki-61 Tony. The most intense aerial combat for
FM-2 pilots occurred during the two-day Battle
of Leyte Gulf. On the first day of the battle,
October 24, 1944, all American carrier-based
fighters claimed a total of 270 kills, with FM-2
pilots achieving 65 of them.
During the Philippine campaign, the Wilder
Wildcat pilots were also known for providing
close air support and air cover over the invasion
beaches. During the Battle of Samar, they directly
attacked Japanese ships.
Many Japanese pilots underestimated the
FM-2 based on its familiar silhouette and were
subsequently unpleasantly surprised. Several
Japanese pilots fell victim to their misjudgment,
and until the surrender of Japan, FM-2 pilots
achieved a total of 432 kills. Lt. Kenneth G. Hippe
became the last American “ace in a day” when
he shot down a total of five Ki-48 Lily bombers
on October 24, 1944. On the same day but slightly
earlier, Lt. Cdr. Harold N. Funk achieved the same
feat, shooting down five enemy aircraft with his
FM-2, adding one more kill in the afternoon.
And the most intriguing fact: While the Hellcat
is generally considered the fighter aircraft with
the best victory-to-loss ratio, 19:1, there was one
type that significantly surpassed it. Yes, it was
the FM-2. Its ratio of aerial victories to losses in
air combat was 432:13, or 33:1! For comparison,
the F4F-3 and F4F-4 versions recorded a ratio of
5.9:1 in 1942.
In British service, FM-2s were designated as
Wildcat VI. They were the only version of this
type that did not receive the Martlet designation.
They performed similar tasks as in the US Navy.
In addition to providing air protection for their
own ships and covering bombers, they also
conducted ground attacks. For example, during
Operation Dragoon, to support the Allied landings
in southern France in August 1944, Wildcat VI
aircraft carried out bombing attacks with 250
lb bombs, carried on the modified racks used
for drop tanks. They also used RP-3 rockets. In
the North Sea, Wildcat VI pilots engaged in air
combat with German aircraft and scored several
The most successful FM-2 pilot with nine confirmed victories was Ralph Earle Elliott Jr.