Ordnance – L-4 Grasshopper in the Pacific

The “L’series liaison aircraft in US army service were often known as “grasshoppers.” These aircraft served with artillery and outfits spotting targets and giving commanders real time information on enemy positions. They also served in Liaison Squadrons, such as the 25th Liaison Squadron which earned fame in the Pacific Theater with their “Guinea Short Lines” aircraft.

L-4 Grasshopper, Piper Cub

Primarily to serve at elimination training bases in World War II the Navy acquired 230 Piper NE-1s , basically similar to the Army L-4s with Continental 0-170 engines. Twenty NE-2s were similar.

deHavilland WWI

As war spread around the world at the beginning of the 1940s, the U.S. military, dominated by old soldiers who expected to fight the next war exactly as they fought the last one, had to be convinced that the requirements for certain weapons needed to be redefined. An example was the Army’s observation airplanes, latter-day versions of the World War I, the deHavilland DH-4.

A two place tandem cockpit, dual-control, modified J-3 civilian light plane built by Piper Aircraft Corporation, Lock Haven, PA. Military models were designated the L-4B, L-4H, L-4J. This lightweight aircraft was among the most useful tactical aircraft of WWII. Dubbed “Grasshoppers” for their ability to fly into and out of small spaces, this military adaptation of the famous Piper J-3 Cub became the center of the toughest inter service turf fights of the war. General George S. Patton, Jr. played a major role in their introduction, a fact often overlooked in light of his other major accomplishments.

The L-4 had a fabric-covered frame with wooden spar, metal-rib wings, a metal-tube fuselage, and a metal-tube empennage. Its fixed landing gear used “rubber-band” bungee cord shock absorbers and had hydraulic brakes and no flaps.

Grasshopper pilots flew dangerous missions over enemy territory without any armor.

The aircrafts flight instruments included an airspeed indicator, and altimeter, compass, and simple turn-and-bank indicator. It was equipped with a two-way radio, powered by a wind-driven generator.

All of the little L-birds land like feathers, but the L-4 is the easiest and softest to land. Put 10 knots of wind on the nose, and all of them seem to come to a halt before gently touching down.

The L-4 retained the metal ribs of the Cub, so only the spar is made of wood. The ribs, however, are trusses of T-sections formed of thin aluminum riveted and screwed together. If poorly treated, these rib trusses are easily damaged and attract corrosion in the corners.

 

A: Cables or struts braced the Piper L4 tailplanes and wings. These allowed the necessary strength to be built in without resorting to a heavy structure. Rough field operations exert a lot of stress on airframes.  B: Mounted semi-exposed, the Continental flat-four engine powered the majority of more than 5000 Piper L-4s delivered to the Army, Several J-4 Cubs owned by civilians were pressed into service.  C: Structurally. the Piper L-4 was quite simple and had a fabric-covered wooden framework. The wing had no slats or flaps, but was equipped with large, long-span ailerons, Internally the wing was braced with wire.  D: For solo flights the L4 Grasshopper pilot sat in the rear seat, which had a full set of controls but was normally used by the observer. The Grasshopper was also equipped with a map table and the radio fit varied between models.

 

In Florida, the Civil Air Patrol had a Piper Cub patrolling at a low altitude along the Palm Beach coast (as many other cities had) and on one occasion, the 55-year-old pilot swooped down for a closer look at something he felt was unusual and he was fired on – it was a German submarine. The plane received enough damage to force him to return to the airfield. This is probably the only American plane downed by enemy fire in the continental U.S. history.

While some of the men were confined to fighting up in the mountains, the division’s newspaper called the Static Line, used a piper cub plane to drop bundles of the publication down to the men.  This was the only news of the outside world that the troopers could receive.  One day, a roll of the papers was dropped with a note attached addressing it: “To the girls, with the compliments of Art Mosley and Jack Keil, Phone Glider 3.”  It was discovered later that the WAC camp received the roll meant for the 11th airborne.

21 December 1944, General Swing and Col. Quandt flew to Manarawat in cub planes.  Upon landing, the general was said to look “as muddy as a dog-faced private.”  (Swing would often be in the thick of things and this description of him was common.)  He slept that night in the camp’s only nipa hut, which ended up being destroyed the next day.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Angel Balcarcel – Canton, OH; US Navy, WWII

Arthur H. Bishop – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, Korea, 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment

Mare Island Cemetery

Jimmy Coy – Columbia, MO; US Army, 1st Gulf War, 3rd Group/Army Special Forces, Medical surgeon, Colonel (Ret. 25 y.)

Wayne DeHaven Sr. – Roseville, MN; US Army, WWII, 17th Airborne Division

Richard Fry – Hudson, OH; US Air Force  / NASA (Ret. 30 y.)

Georgina Grey – Bristol, ENG; Royal British Navy, WWII, aircraft maintenance

Jessica Mitchell – Topeka, KS; US Army, DSgt., 68E Dental Specialist

David Michaud – Denver, CO; USMC  /  Denver Police Chief

Joseph Papallo (101) – Meriden, CT; US Army, WWII

Doris (White) Ryan – Como, MS; Civilian, WWII, Memphis Army Dept.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on January 7, 2021, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 86 Comments.

  1. The brave men that flew this planes need a page or two in history books to tell their story

    Liked by 2 people

  2. hello dear Pacific Paratrooper, another soul to remember :
    “Ed Guthrie, Nebraska’s last known Pearl Harbor survivor, dies at 102”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for this: my Grandfather was a Royal Air Force pilot in WWI and he told of flying in an open cockpit and how cold it was.
    Such bravery to fly these “early” planes … in war!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Imagine those little planes – grasshopper – not much to them. Brave souls who flew them! 🦌

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I admire pilots . I’d never go up in one of these things . It’s bad enough flying in a modern commercial aircraft . Wartime flying even worse in a flimsy unarmed cub . That guy fired on by the submarine had a story to tell !

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Reminds me of the plane Henry Fonda uses in “Battle of the Bulge”.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Charlee: “The grasshoppers we have around here don’t look like that one …”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Sorry I’m late, GP. This was an amazing little plane. I had to laugh a little when I read:

    “The aircrafts flight instruments included an airspeed indicator, and altimeter, compass, and simple turn-and-bank indicator. It was equipped with a two-way radio, powered by a wind-driven generator.”

    And then thought about the avionics in today’s aircraft.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a beautiful and practical little aircraft. I’ve never been able to understand why such designs have been abandoned. If I were an eccentric millionaire pilot, I’d want to fly one!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I checked it out and I found quite a few, but then I realized you were ‘across the pond’. I changed my search and found a few any way – so go for it, John.

      Like

  10. And now, there would be drones… –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  11. That plane sounds really dangerous. The pilots must have been a breed apart!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. A nice little aeroplane. I believe there are quite a few still flying in private hands – always nice to see.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I never thought about that kind of plane being used in WWII, GP. I love the idea that they were nicknamed Grasshopper. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Immensely useful little flying machines; thank you for bringing them up, GP.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Another interesting post. And the comics–you always lift my spirits.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I admire all the brave pilots who flew in armed warfare – especially in those little planes! Happy New Year, my friend. K x

    Liked by 3 people

  17. I like the way you bring General Swing into the stories since your dad was connected to his unit. I’m beginning to feel like I know the man.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. I love this story about an airplane I can relate to and the shout out to CAP’s involvement in WWII costal defense. Even the little guys make a contribution.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I hadn’t heard about this Civil Air Patrol “action.”
    CAP aircraft were responsible for the sinking of at least one sub. Regular sub patrols were common practice for CAP members using their personal aircraft.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. That’s quite a story about the CAP pilot in Florida. I have dim memories of Civil Air Patrol activities in Iowa when I was very young — probably before I even started school. I remember my dad taking me out to our airport to watch the planes take off, and explain to me why they were so important.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. More of the forgotten men and machines

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I recall seeing several of these at the small airports scattered around the valley. They had one in Monte vista that had the military marking painted over.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Loved this, GP. It was amazing how much utility these lightweight planes delivered. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  24. The ‘Grasshopper’ was an amazing little plane well adapted for landing and taking off in tight places. Very interesting post, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Thank you for posting on the L-4 Grasshopper. Such a simple aircraft that made tremendous contributions during the war, but gets very little attention. Andy

    Liked by 1 person

  26. At first i thought what they had done with a civilian plane, but with noted addition for sure a “lightweight” one. Thank you for sharing, GP! Btw: What had happend yesterday? Here our parliament fear the same, after our elections in September this year. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paid agitators and being worked-up over Trump losing the election. A powder keg that that certain people stirred up and then acted surprised it developed and escalated. They suspected it would happen, yet they did not have the police ready for them – no answer to that one!! I saw the video of the woman shot, she was about the first trying to break in, and a gun was fired.

      Like

  27. Stealing your ATC cartoon!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Very cute cartoons. WEB Griffin featured the grasshoppers a lot in his WWIi and post WWII novels. I recognize the L-4 but never knew they were piper cubs. They remind me of the Cessna Bird Dogs that were used for similar purposes after WWII. The USS Midway (CV-41) has a Cessna in its hangar deck that is similar to what MAJ Bung-Ly stole to escape from Saigon with his wife and five children during Operation Frequent Wind. CAPT Chambers ordered a bunch of helicopters pushed off the deck of the Midway so the major could land after they realized that he had 4 children stuffed in the back of the plane and it was deemed impossible to save all of them if they landed in the water (which was the first option.)

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Nice to see a tribute to an unarmed aircraft that was so versatile and useful. We had something similar in the RAF, the Lysander.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westland_Lysander
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thank you, GP. I was unaware of the German sub off the Florida coast. Without sonar or other tracking devices, the pilot of the little Cub knew something was ajar. Amazing and very brave. Your stories are always appreciated. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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