Grumman F4F (FM-1) Wildcat
The Wildcat in the National Air and Space Museum, Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number 15392, is the four-hundredth FM-1 built at the Linden, New Jersey, Eastern Aircraft Division plant. The Navy accepted it on July 21, 1943, and it operated almost entirely from Naval Air Station Norman, Oklahoma. After thirteen months of service, the Navy struck the fighter from the active roster and placed it in storage. It was transferred to NASM in 1960.
In 1974 the Grumman Aerospace Corporation agreed to restore the Wildcat for exhibit in the new National Air and Space Museum building set to open in 1976. Former and active members of the company worked on the fighter -- many of them had built Wildcats for Grumman during the war. Early in 1975 the Wildcat emerged, looking like new and in nearly flyable condition. It wore new paint that duplicated the U. S. Navy blue-gray camouflage used early in the war. The markings were patterned after an FM-1, aircraft number E-10, that operated from the escort carrier U.S S. "Breton" in the Pacific in mid-1943.
At some time during storage, a major component went missing from this FM-1, the nose cowl ring that covered the front of the engine. This discovery led NASM officials to search for a spare. In 1965 the Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, Virginia, lent NASM the nose cowl ring from the Wake Island Memorial. When the Grumman craftsmen received it, the ring cowl was still riddled with bullet holes incurred during the Japanese assault. This historic component perpetuates the memory of those Marines who fought and died on the island. The Wake Island Memorial reads, "dedicated to the gallant Marine, Naval, Army, and Civilian personnel who defended Wake against overwhelming Japanese invasion armadas, 8 thru 23 December 1941."