L4 Grasshopper

This J4 WW2 Veteran “warbird” is a great addition to any airshow.

World War II service –The Piper Cub quickly became a familiar sight. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt took a flight in a J-3 Cub, posing for a series of publicity photos to help promote the CPTP. Newsreels and newspapers of the era often featured images of wartime leaders, such as Generals Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton and George Marshall, flying around European battlefields in Piper Cubs.

Civilian-owned Cubs joined the war effort as part of the newly formed Civil Air Patrol, patrolling the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast in a constant search for German U-boats and survivors of U-boat attacks. Piper developed a military variant (“All we had to do,” Bill Jr. is quoted as saying, “was paint the Cub olive drab to produce a military aeroplane”), variously designated as the O-59 (1941), L-4 (after April 1942) and NE (U.S. Navy). The L-4 Grasshopper was mechanically identical to the J-3 civilian Cub, but was distinguishable by the use of a Plexiglas greenhouse skylight and rear windows for improved visibility, much like the Taylorcraft L-2 and Aeronca L-3 also in use with the US armed forces. It had accommodations for a single passenger in addition to the pilot. When carrying only the pilot, the L-4 had a top speed of 85 mph (137 km/h), a cruise speed of 75 mph (121 km/h), a service ceiling of 12,000 ft (3,658 m), a stall speed of 38 mph (61 km/h), an endurance of three hours, and a range of 225 mi (362 km). Some 5,413 L-4s were produced for U.S. forces, including 250 built for the U.S. Navy under contract as the NE-1 and NE-2.

All L-4 models, as well as similar, tandem-cockpit accommodation aircraft from Aeronca and Taylorcraft, were collectively nicknamed “Grasshoppers“, though the L-4 was almost universally referred to by its civilian designation of Cub. The L-4 was used extensively in World War II for reconnaissance, transporting supplies, artillery spotting duties and medical evacuation of wounded soldiers. During the Allied invasion of France in June 1944, the L-4’s slow cruising speed and low-level manoeuvrability made it an ideal observation platform for spotting hidden German armour waiting in ambush in the hedgerow bocage country south of the invasion beaches. For these operations, the pilot generally carried both an observer/radio operator and a 25-pound communications radio, a load that often exceeded the plane’s specified weight capacity. After the Allied breakout in France, L-4s were also sometimes equipped with improvised racks, usually in pairs or quartets, of infantry bazookas for ground attack (actually a form of top attack) against German armoured units. The most famous of these L-4 ground attack planes were Rosie the Rocketeer, piloted by Maj. Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter, whose six bazooka rocket launchers were credited with eliminating six enemy tanks and several armoured cars during its wartime service, especially during the Battle of Arracourt.

After the war, many L-4s were sold as surplus, but a considerable number were retained in service. L-4s sold as surplus in the U.S. were redesignated as J-3s but often retained their wartime glazing and paint.