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I've read a lot about how USN/USMC "Wildcats" performed against Japanese fighters in the Pacific theater, but almost nothing about USN/RN "Wildcat/Martlets" against Axis fighters in the Med and Atlantic.

Anyone know how they did against MEs, Fiats, and Macchis? Did they ever tangle with Vichy fighters?
 

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Didn't have much contact with Axis fighters, but didn't do badly. Fleet Air Arm pilot Eric "Winkle" Brown flew them in combat and shot down a couple of FW-200 Condors in one. He spoke well of it.

I believe some of the aircraft flying in support of Operation Torch were F4Fs, and if so they encountered Vichy aircraft. Am not sure if there were any F4Fs involved in Torch, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks! Was Mr. Brown flying off an escort carrier (i.e. "Jeep" carrier) or a full-sized flattop?

I suspect that F4Fs may have tangled with the long-range "fighter" versions of the Ju-88 over the Bay of Biscay that harassed Allied anti-sub patrol aircraft at times, too.'

I'll have another look at "Torch."
 

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Thanks! Was Mr. Brown flying off an escort carrier (i.e. "Jeep" carrier) or a full-sized flattop?

I suspect that F4Fs may have tangled with the long-range "fighter" versions of the Ju-88 over the Bay of Biscay that harassed Allied anti-sub patrol aircraft at times, too.'

I'll have another look at "Torch."
Brown was flying off HMS Audacity (one of the first "Jeep" carriers, converted from a captured German merchant vessel) when he got the Condors. He was nearly killed when the ship was sunk. Apparently F4F in Fleet Air Arm service nailed at least one Ju-88 while involved with escort of Gibraltar convoys. A quick look doesn't indicate F4F in Torch, my recollections to the contrary. Further research required. But in November 1942 don't know what else USN would have had for fighters off carriers - I know they had Avengers that flew, and SBDs, both attack aircraft of course. Pretty sure it was an Avenger that helped disable a French BB at Casablanca (ship also hit by USS Massachusetts, 16"/45 2700-lb. AP).
 

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Brown was flying off HMS Audacity (one of the first "Jeep" carriers, converted from a captured German merchant vessel) when he got the Condors. He was nearly killed when the ship was sunk. Apparently F4F in Fleet Air Arm service nailed at least one Ju-88 while involved with escort of Gibraltar convoys. A quick look doesn't indicate F4F in Torch, my recollections to the contrary. Further research required. But in November 1942 don't know what else USN would have had for fighters off carriers - I know they had Avengers that flew, and SBDs, both attack aircraft of course. Pretty sure it was an Avenger that helped disable a French BB at Casablanca (ship also hit by USS Massachusetts, 16"/45 2700-lb. AP).
Before WW2 started the French bought the Curtiss Hawk from Curtss where ii was known as the export Hawk 75. Changes were
made in the equipment and machine guns. These were used against the Germans until the fall of France. Some of these
Hawk 75 aircraft were sent to North Africa under the Vichy control, these aircraft had the red and yellow stripes During the
Battle of Dakar the Vichy Hawk 75 aircraft shot down some British Swordfish aircraft.

During Operation Torch, the Vichy Hawk 75 fought the US Navy F4F fighters shooting down seven USN fighters while losing
fifteen Hawk 75 aircraft. I have some photos of a model of a Vichy Hawk 75 from North Africa taken years ago.
 

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Before WW2 started the French bought the Curtiss Hawk from Curtss where ii was known as the export Hawk 75. Changes were
made in the equipment and machine guns. These were used against the Germans until the fall of France. Some of these
Hawk 75 aircraft were sent to North Africa under the Vichy control, these aircraft had the red and yellow stripes During the
Battle of Dakar the Vichy Hawk 75 aircraft shot down some British Swordfish aircraft.

During Operation Torch, the Vichy Hawk 75 fought the US Navy F4F fighters shooting down seven USN fighters while losing
fifteen Hawk 75 aircraft. I have some photos of a model of a Vichy Hawk 75 from North Africa taken years ago.
I did a Hawk 75 in the Vichy scheme like yours once. And a Dewoitine 520. It is my understanding that the red and yellow stripes on nose and tail were to allow instant ID as a (supposedly) neutral Vichy plane. I guess it offers some idea of just how neutral Vichy was that North Africa (and other French African and Middle Eastern possessions) didn't instantly change sides with Torch. Perhaps they were afraid that if they did that, the Germans would occupy the part of the country left "independent" on the Continent (as, of course, happened as soon as Torch proved successful).
 

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Two examples among others: In both operations, the US also flew SBD's and TBM's.

1) Operation TORCH November 1942: Wildcats from several flight decks engaged in numerous aerial combat sorties with Vichy planes over several days before Vichy forces capitulated - for the most part, the US flyers prevailed despite confronting some very good French pilots.












NOTE: P-40s also participated, flying off aircraft carriers (numerous ferry missions of P-40 squadrons to Africa were also conducted from one-way missions off of US Navy flight decks)




2) Operation LEADER October 4th 1943: Wildcats from USS Ranger engaged Luftwaffe forces over Norway.




On a personal note: my grandfather participated in these actions aboard USS Forrest DD-461 --- DESRON 10 operated with USS Ranger throughout 1942 and 1943 on numerous occasions.

 

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I read somewhere that the US escort carriers (at least) carried Wildcats throughout the war, they were simply too small for newer aircraft.
That is apparently correct - all the material I have seen over the years indicates that was the case. The Librarian's uncle who was on CVE-73 when his ship was sunk off Samar during the Battle of Leyte Gulf said his ship carried only F4F/FM and TBF/TBM aircraft.
 
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