This Article About the Wildcat Restoration
and Reunion of Squadron VC-93 Appears in a Recent Issue of the
The text of the article:
THE WIZARDS OF THE WORKSHOP
Pilots of VC-93 Reunite with One of Their Own
Last September, former members of U.S. Navy Composite Squadron
VC-93 visited the Museum of Flight Restoration Center to be reunited
after more than fifty years with one of their aircraft, an FM-2
Wildcat, Navy Bureau of Aeronautics No. 74512.
VC-93, a mixed squadron of Wildcats and TBM Avengers, flew from
the escort carrier USS Petrof Bay in support of the invasion
of Okinawa in March, April, and May of 1945. Wildcat 74512 was
one of the aircraft the squadron flew during the historic battle,
which was the last land battle of World War II.
Cover of May/June issue of the Museum of Flight News - Supplement
to Flight Journal Magazine
According to Robert H. Allison, one of the VC-93 Wildcat pilots,
the Museum's airplane was most likely flown several times in
combat by each of the squadron's pilots.
BuAer 74512 was accepted by the Navy on December 27, 1944,
at the General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division plant in Linden,
New Jersey. The Wildcat was delivered to the Navy on December
29th and flown first to NAS Trenton, New Jersey, and then on
to San Diego, from where it was shipped to Guam. In early March,
74512 joined VC-93 aboard the Petrof Bay (built at the Henry
J. Kaiser Shipyard in Vancouver, Washington), which then steamed
west toward Okinawa and began combat operations.
The story and photo form page 5 of the newsletter.
The caption reads: Former VC-93 Ensign Robert H. Allison stands
in front of Wildcat 74512 holding a wartime photograph of himself
piloting a sister ship over Okinawa.
(Note. Actually, the aircraft in the photo may in fact be Aircraft
74512 rather than a sister ship. To date, the aircraft markings
have not been corrilated of the bureau numbers so Number 20,
seen here, may be 74512. The original of this picture
can be seen on page 2 of this restoration section.)
The records of 74512 show that it was flown from the
Petrof Bay to Guam in late May 1945 and put into storage. At
that time, VC-93 left the Petrof Bay and boarded the USS Steamer
Bay to perform shipping interdiction missions in the Western
Pacific. In August 1945, the Steamer Bay returned to San Diego,
where VC-93 was decommissioned.
In September 1945, Wildcat 74512 was stricken from the active
record. It appears to have been picked up from Guam in the autumn
of 1945 and brought to Tacoma, Washington, by one of the seventeen
escort carriers then assigned to the Tacoma Branch,19th Fleet.
In 1959, the commandant of the Tacoma Naval and Marine Corps
Reserve Training Center gave 74512 to the King County Parks and
Recreation Department. The aircraft was placed in a playground
in White Center, south of Seattle.
There the Wildcat remained, with children clambering all over
it, until 1970, when the aircraft was given to the Museum. By
that time, the fighter had deteriorated greatly due to weather
and vandalism. Over the next twenty-five years, several restoration
efforts were made, but none addressed the internal structural
damage in a "per the blueprint" manner.
In 1998, Museum restorer Milt James and his crew of dedicated
volunteers undertook to return the aircraft to factory-rollout
condition. As of this past winter, the crew had painstakingly
completed the aft fuselage structure and systems and had begun
restoration of the cockpit. They plan to complete the project
in time for the Wildcat to join other World War II aircraft from
the Champlin Fighter Collection in the Museum's future military
The FM-2 will be repainted in its wartime VC-93 livery: glossy
dark sea-blue exterior with white four-leaf clovers on both sides
of the fin and rudder, as well as on top of the starboard and
bottom of the port wings. The fuselage and wings will bear standard
stars and bars. Volunteers continue to research the history of
74512, hoping to uncover its actual squadron aircraft number.
To view the restoration efforts on the Wildcat and other historic
aircraft, visit the Museum's Restoration Center, open free of
charge 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, at Paine Field