Aviation History

The day Luftwaffe Bf 109Gs were overwhelmed by Fleet Air Arm F4Fs and why the little Wildcat could be more than a match for the legendary Messerschmitt Bf 109

The F4F Wildcat

First flown in February 1939, the rugged and heavily armed F4F Wildcat became the Navy/Marine Corps premier fighter until late 1942. By the end of that year, Navy and Marine F4F pilots had amassed a 9:1 kill ratio over the Japanese, despite the reputation of the vaunted Mitsubishi A6M Zero.

By war’s end the stubby Grumman design had accounted for 1,006 enemy aircraft, and listed 58 aces among its pilots.

The Martlet

At the start of the Second World War the British Royal Navy was desperately in need of a powerful single seat monoplane fighter. The new American made Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter fitted this requirement.

Martlets (the Royal Navy’s designation for the F4F) fighters distinguished themselves in the Battle of Atlantic and on Arctic Convoys providing effective fighter support from escort carriers and working effectively with Fairey Swordfish in the hunt for German U Boats.

In the final days of the war Fleet Air Arm Squadron 882 F4F Wildcat (Martlets were re-named Wildcats in 1944 to align with combined US and British operations) fighters even overwhelmed some Messerschmitt Bf-109Gs of III Gruppe/JG5.

Luftwaffe Bf 109Gs Vs Fleet Air Arm F4Fs

‘On 26 March 1945, in a last action, FM-2’s from 882 Squadron Lieut Comdr. GAM Flood, RNVR) off ‘Searcher,’ escorting a flight of Avengers along the coast of Norway, was attacked near Christiansand by a flight of eight III Gruppe JG 5 Me-109Gs that may have been the -14 model,’ Pete Feigal, Former Pro Military Artist and Aviation Expert, says on Quora.

‘The Wildcats shot down four of the Bf-109Gs at a cost of one Wildcat damaged. A fifth 109 was claimed as damaged.

‘As near as can be determined from available Luftwaffe loss lists, there were three 109’s lost, werk# 412398 (Fw. Hermannn Jaeger), 782139 (Uffz. Gottfried Rösch), and 782270 (Fw. Heinrich Dreisbach). One other 109 crashed, (pilot unknown) on landing, however the information available does not indicate if the crash was due to pilot error or from battle damage. Damage to this airplane was noted as 25%. Available Luftwaffe credit lists show no claims from this action.

‘One other 109 crashed, (pilot unknown) on landing, however the information available does not indicate if the crash was due to pilot error or from battle damage. Damage to this airplane was noted as 25%. Available Luftwaffe credits lists show no claims from this action.

Angry little opponents: Fleet Air Arm F4Fs

‘Capt. Eric Brown wrote about the F4F Wildcats (Martlets) vs the Messerschmitt Bf 109:

“The Wildcat, although faster and more manoeuvrable than the Sea Hurricane, was still some 60mph slower than the German fighter. The lower the altitude the less the odds favoured the Me109F. The Wildcat also had a heavier punch to deliver. Verdict: As a dogfighter the Wildcat was superior to the Me 109F, but the initiative always lay with the German because of superior performance. At low altitudes the Me109F had the edge over the Wildcat, but not by much.”’

Feigal concludes;

‘However by the time the Wildcat VI was on the scene (1944) his assessment was rather less rosy:

“Wildcat VI Versus Messerschmitt 109G-6: The agile little Wildcat could outmanoeuvre the latest version of the Me 109, but the performance differential had widened and the German could run rings around the Wildcat. If the Me 109G-6 was tempted to mix it in a dogfight, the Wildcat had a better than even chance of success. Verdict: The Wildcat was no real match for the Me 109G-6, but the German could not afford to take liberties with his angry little opponent.”’

Photo credit: Clemens Vasters from Viersen, Germany, Germany and Rob Hodgkins via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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