Excerpted from US Army Aviation Digest, August 1962, The Army Aviation Story by M/Sgt Thomas M. Lang, Part III—Fixed Wing Aircraft

THE QUALITY and capabilities of aircraft in the current Army inventory represent a distinct improvement over the hardware that was available the now-historic 6th of June 1942. Considerable progress has been made in both the aircraft and the tactics employed in their use.

If we are proud of the progress made, we may also consider recent engineering discoveries which might augur a new flight of birds possessing both appearance and capabilities we cannot now conceive.

In the early 1940s Stinson’s L-1 was first designated an “observation” and then a “liaison” airplane by the Army Air Forces. It was cumbersome, required extensive maintenance, and was obviously impractical for artillery observation. At that time, Army Aviation was envisioned as being solely concerned with adjusting artillery fire. However, a need developed for the L-1 in the China-Burma-India theatre of operations during World War I. The L-1 had a powerful engine and was able to evacuate wounded over the mountains in the CBI. In 1941 the Army Ground Forces (AGF) evaluated L-2s, L-3s and L-4s for use as the Artillery’s aerial observation plane. Taylorcraft’s L-2s and Aeronca’s L-3s were small, fabric-covered aircraft used primarily by the AGF for training. By October 1943, L-2s were being produced for the Army at the rate of 100 per month and L-3s at the rate of 50 per month. Contracts expired in early 1944 and were not renewed. Relatively few L-2s and L-3s ever saw overseas service.

Piper’s L-4 was the principal combat airplane used by Army Aviation throughout World War II. It was a slightly modified, fabric-covered J-3 Piper Cub with the addition of more plexiglass for better observation.

The Army’s first L-4 was accepted in early September 1941 and was given the Army Air Forces serial number AC-42-460. It had a six-volt transmitter and receiver as well as an antenna which could be reeled out and in. This airplane was shielded and bonded and had a wind-driven generator.

The L-5 Stinson had a more powerful engine than the L-4 and incorporated a litter-carrying capability in the B model. It was superior to the L-4 in many respects but, on the other hand, required more space for landing and taking off. Consequently, many AGF commanders opposed adopting it. However, by 1943 ground commanders were requiring the Artillery’s light planes to perform many missions in addition to the adjustment of artillery fire. The L-4 was not able to satisfactorily accomplish such missions as medical evacuation, wire laying, and resupply. A need for the L-5 was thus realized, and it was first used in combat by the Army Ground Forces after the breakout at Anzio in 1943. It supplemented rather than replaced the L-4.

Fixed Wing Aircraft

L-1 Vigilant—Vultee-Stinson, two-place (pilot and observer). Observation, reconnaissance, and medical evacuation. Models ranging through F were obtained by the Army Air Forces. This aircraft was formerly designated O-49. All models were powered by a 295 hp Lycoming engine (R-680-9).

ModelTotal ObtainedFY First ObtainedNotes
L-1B31942Ambulance aircraft.
L-1C11943L-1A converted for use as ambulance aircraft with one litter.
L-1D211943L-1A converted for familiarization in glider training.
L-1E21943L-1 converted for use as amphibious ambulance.
L-1F11943L-1A converted for use as amphibious ambulance.

L-2 Grasshopper—Taylorcraft, two-place (pilot and observer). Observation and reconnaissance. Models range through M (excluding I). The Army Ground Forces and Air Forces both used the L-2. This aircraft was formerly designated O-57. All models had a 65 hp engine except the L, which was 50 hp.

ModelTotal ObtainedFY First ObtainedNotes
L-2741942Tandem seating; Continental engine (0-170-3).
L-2A4761942Tandem seating; Continental engine (0-170-3).
L-2B4901943Tandem seating; Continental engine (0-170-3).
L-2C11942Tandem seating; commercially designated DC-65; Continental engine (A-65-8).
L-2D11942Tandem seating; commercially designated DL-65; Lycoming engine (0-145-B2).
L-2E11942Tandem seating; commercially designated DF-65; Franklin engine (4AC-150).
L-2F11942Tandem seating; commercially designated BL-65, formerly UC-95; Lycoming engine (0-145-B1).
L-2G11942Tandem seating; commercially designated BFT-65; Franklin engine (4AC-150).
L-2H11942Side-by-side seating; commercially designated BC-12-65; Continental engine (A-65-7).
L-2J11942Side-by-side seating; commercially designated BL-12-65; Lycoming engine (0-145-B1).
L-2K11942Side-by-side seating; commercially designated BF-12-65; Franklin engine (4AC-150).
L-2L11942Side-by-side seating; commercially designated BF-50; Franklin engine (4AC-150).
L-2M9001943Tandem seating; Continental engine (0-170-3). Modified L-2A with the addition of spin strips.

L-3 Grasshopper—Aeronca, two-place (pilot and observer). Observation and reconnaissance. Military version of commercial Aeronca “Challenger.” Models range through J (excluding I). The Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces both used the L-3. This aircraft was formerly designated O-58. All engines were 65 hp.

ModelTotal ObtainedFY First ObtainedNotes
L-3541942Tandem seating; Continental engine (0-170-3).
L-3A201942Tandem seating; Continental engine (0-170-3); fuselage 4 inches wider than L-3.
L-3B8751942Tandem seating; Continental engine (0-170-3).
L-3C4901943Same as L-3B except that radio equipment was omitted; Continental engine (0-170-3).
L-3D101942Tandem seating; commercially designated 65-TF; Franklin engine (4AC-176).
L-3E101942Tandem seating; commercially designated 65-TC; Continental engine (A-65-8).
L-3F11942Side-by-side seating; commercially designated 65-CA; Continental engine (A-65-8).
L-3G21942Side-by-side seating; commercially designated 65-LB; Lycoming engine (0-145-B1).
L-3H11942Tandem seating; commercially designated 65-TL; Lycoming engine (0-145-B1).
L-3J21942Tandem seating; commercially designated 65-TC; Continental engine (A-65-7).

L-4 Grasshopper—Piper, two-place (pilot and observer, except for F and G model). Observation and reconnaissance. Models range through J (excluding I). All have tandem seating except those indicated below. The Army obtained 5,671 of the L-4 series. Records at Piper Aircraft Corporation indicate that between 1942 and 1945 there were 5,424 L-4s produced for the Army. However, Piper did not consider some models of its J series as L-4s while the Army did. The L-4 was formerly designated O-59. The civilian nickname was “Cub.”

ModelTotal ObtainedFY First ObtainedNotes
L-41441942Commercially designated J3; 65 hp Continental engine (0-170-3).
L-4A9481942Commercially designated J3C-65; 65 hp Continental engine (0-170-3).
L-4B9811943Same as L-4A except radio omitted.
L-4C101942Commercially designated J3L-65; 65 hp Lycoming engine (0-145-B1).
L-4D51942Commercially designated J3F-65; 65 hp Franklin engine (4AC-176).
L-4E161942Two-place, side-by-side; commercially designated J4E; used for pre-glider training; 75 hp Continental engine (A-75-9).
L-4F451942Three-place, one in front and two in back. Commercially designated J5A; used for pre-glider training; 75 hp Continental engine (A-75-9).
L-4G411942Same seating as L-4F; commercially designated J5B; used for pre-glider training; 100 hp Lycoming engine (GO-145-C2).
L-4H1,8011943Improved L-4B with a fixed-pitch propeller. 65 hp Lycoming engine (0-170-3).
L-4J1,6801945Same as L-4H except for controllable-pitch propeller.

L-5 Sentinel—Vultee-Stinson, two-place (pilot and observer). Observation, reconnaissance and medical evacuation. Models range through G (excluding D, which was designed but cancelled prior to production). All have tandem seating. This aircraft was formerly designated O-62. The Army Ground Forces began using L-5s in 1943. All were powered with the 185 hp Lycoming engine except the G model which was 190 hp. Models A through E had engine 0-435-1; model F had 0-435-2, and model G had 0-435-11.

ModelTotal ObtainedTotal ObtainedNotes
L-51,7311942Used by AAF and U.S. Navy.
L-5A6881942Remodeled L-5 with 24-volt electrical system.
L-5B6791943Modified to incorporate litter or cargo carrying capability.
L-5C2001944Modified for K-20 camera and litter.
L-5E5581944Same as L-5C except for drooping ailerons.
XL-5F11944Altered L-5B with a reworked engine.
L-5G1151945Improved L-5E. [190 hp]

L-6—Interstate, two-place (pilot and observer). Observation and reconnaissance. Procured for use by the Army Air Forces, this tandem-seated aircraft was formerly designated O-63.

ModelTotal ObtainedTotal ObtainedNotes
XL-611942Commercially designated S-1B Cadet; 100 hp Franklin engine (XO-200-5).
L-62501943Commercially designated S-1B Cadet; 102 hp Franklin engine (O-200-5).
L-88Two-place commercially designated S-1A Cadet; obtained for Bolivia; 65 hp Continental engine (0-170-3).

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