Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Old Postcard Wednesday--Navy Planes over Pensacola, Florida



My mother's family lived in Pensacola when she was a young girl. The planes in the postcard look like ones from the 1930s, which was after the family left Pensacola. The postcard was a keepsake of my grandmother's and never mailed, so there is no postmark on the back to date it. The planes in the postcard appear to be open cockpit. The artist used a number/letter code on the planes that led me to try to identify the aircraft (see discussion below). I just don't visualize the planes in this postcard being in dogfights in WWII (see discussion below).

You can learn more about Pensacola at the city's official website. For the history buff or flight aficianado, Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields-Western Pensacola Area has great old photos and an interesting text.

Perhaps someone out there who reads this will know exactly what these planes were. In researching background for this postcard I've become frustrated over the use of 4F4 and F4F in the Grumman series of planes. In spite of a great deal of confusion caused by the number/lettering on the planes in the postcard with available information online, I think they may be the Grumman FF-1 series, (or earlier?). The Northrop Grumman website has a "heritage" tab with timeline information, including the history of Grumman Corporation from its inception to its being acquired by Northrop Aircraft Incorporated in 1994. In the Grumman image gallery mid-page there is a photo of the FF-1 in flight that clearly shows the fully enclosed cockpit. This puzzles me because, when enlarged, the postcard planes look like they have open cockpits.

The planes in the postcard look similar to this one shown at Wikipedia,
but, again, the enclosed cockpit appears different from the postcard. Wikipedia notes, "The Grumman G-5 design was an American biplane fighter aircraft operated by the United States Navy during the 1930s, designated FF-1. It was the first Navy aircraft with retractable landing gear."

To further confuse, in its series "Dogfights" History.com features a Guadalcanal DVD with a short synopsis that says (text coloring is mine): WWII hung on the Pacific, the Pacific hung on Guadalcanal, Guadalcanal hung on a small squadron of daring pilots and their outmatched Grumman F4F Wildcats. However, in details this information is given:
On their own without resupply or relief for months against daily Japanese bombing raids, battle-hardened pilots did everything they could to avoid head-to-head dogfights with the vastly more agile Japanese Zeros. The 4F4 Wildcat lumbered into battle against the sprightly Zero, its only advantage being the far superior firepower of its six .50 caliber machine guns, which could cut an enemy fighter in half with a two-second burst. If the audacious Cactus Air Force hadn't perfected the two-plane mutually protecting flight section, they never would have stood a chance.

The history of the Naval Air Station Pensacola is truly fascinating, this being most notable:
The site now occupied by NAS Pensacola has a colorful background dating back to the 16th century when Spanish explorer Don Tristan de Luna founded a colony on the bluff where Fort Barrancas is now situated. . .

In May 2006, Navy construction crews unearthed a Spanish ship from underneath the Pensacola Naval Air Station, possibly dating back to the mid-16th century. It was discovered during the rebuilding of the base's swim rescue school which was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan.

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6 comments:

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Hi Lydia - i couldn't NOT read OPW, so i've taken a few minutes out of organising complicated meetings i don't fully understand to have a look :).

I think the plane shown is probably the Grumman G5 - but that the person who did the postcard has employed artistic licence.

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

You are so thorough! Of all the years I lived in Florida, I never went to Pensacola....

Buddha said...

I love Florida. I love the Cuban food and the music. Hated the humidity!

Lydia said...

DFTP,
You are pretty great to come by OPW in the midst of the hectic schedule you are currently following. Thanks, too, for your opinion on the plane. I think you are correct!

WW,
Sometimes I select a card from the box because it looks like it'll be fairly easy to research. This one fooled me! I've never been to Florida, but maybe some day...

Buddha,
I don't believe that I've ever had Cuban food. I had a girlfriend in high school who was Cuban and she played some music at her house once. That's as close as I've come to the Florida you enjoy!

Snowbrush said...

I don't know "exactly" what they are, but they are racers as can be deduced from the fact that they're all engine and very little anything else. Such planes were notoriously dangerous, and the best known model was the BeeGee, although I've been away from aviation too long to know if that's what these are.

Lydia said...

Snowbrush~ Thank you for the fascinating information you left here in your comments!

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