This early entry in Osprey's Aircraft of the Aces series looks at the Grumman F4F Wildcat (known as the Martlet in British service). This aircraft entered combat with the Fleet Air Arm in 1940, and until the appearance of the F6F Hellcat in the summer of 1943 was the best and most important naval fighter in British and American service.
Tillman starts with a general introduction to the Wildcat, its introduction into US service and the early campaigns of the Pacific war. This is followed by two chapters looked at the biggest battles of the Wildcat's career (Midway and Guadalcanal), and a look at the period when the Wildcat was being replaced by the Hellcat. Tillman also looks at the Wildcat's brief involvement in the war in Europe, the career of the Eastern Aircraft Division FM-2 Wildcat, and the aircraft's service with the Fleet Air Arm, where as the Martlet it became the first high performance purpose-built carrier aircraft to enter service.
Tillman avoids the most common flaw in this series - some entries tend to focus rather too heavily on a day-by-day account of what feels like every individual combat, failing to put them in their context. Here the later chapters begins with good introductions that put the combat stories to come into context, as well as explaining the organisational structure of the Wildcat units.
The heart of each chapter are still the accounts of the actual fighting. These are well written, often with interesting contributions from the pilots themselves. Their important for the development of American aerial tactics is also highlighted. The book concludes with an intelligent assessment of the Wildcat as a fighter aircraft. This is a well written, well balanced account of the combat career of this important aircraft.
Pre-war Naval Aviation and Early Campaigns
On the Offensive
Torch and Leader
The Eastern Wildcat
Fleet Air Arm
Victory Credits and Wildcat Evaluation
Author: Barrett Tillman