"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
         Grumman at War
Above:  Early production Hellcats aboard USS Essex in March, 1943 are seen in the blue gray over light gray scheme with black or natural metal prop hubs.

Below:  Some well-worn VF-5 Hellcats are pushed aft along Yorktown's flight deck by three plane handlers per horizontal stabilizer while one steers the tail wheel. Note the over-painted national insignia on the upper surface of the starboard wing.
Above:  As the war progressed, and operations moved ever further north toward the Japanese Home Islands, the final navy camouflage scheme of the war was adopted, glossy sea blue overall.  This CVG-12 Hellcat displays the distinctive white markings indicating it is embarked aboard U.S.S. Randolph.

Below: CDR David McCampbell, top scoring naval aviator of World War 2, was CAG of Air Group 15, flying from USS Essex in 1944.  The perfect mixture of man and machine (a Grumman product) resulted in 34 aerial victories and the nation's  highest award for valor.
Background:  A cutaway view of the F6F-5 from the June, 1945 issue of Industrial Aviation magazine. 

Below:  The first camouflage scheme applied to the Hellcat was the navy's non-specular blue gray over light gray with national insignia in six locations.

Medal of Honor citation of Commander David McCampbell, USN (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 223):

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commander, Air Group FIFTEEN, during combat against enemy Japanese aerial forces in the First and Second Battles of the Philippine Sea. An inspiring leader, fighting boldly in the face of terrific odds, Commander McCampbell led his fighter planes against a force of 80 Japanese carrier-based aircraft bearing down on our fleet on 19 June 1944. Striking fiercely in valiant defense of our surface force, he personally destroyed seven hostile planes during this single engagement in which the outnumbering attack force was utterly routed and virtually annihilated. During a major fleet engagement with the enemy on 24 October, Commander McCampbell, assisted by but one plane, intercepted and daringly attacked a formation of 60 hostile land-based craft approaching our forces. Fighting desperately but with superb skill against such overwhelming air power, he shot down nine Japanese planes and, completely disorganizing the enemy group, forced the remainder to abandon the attack before a single aircraft could reach the fleet. His great personal valor and indomitable spirit of aggression under extremely perilous combat conditions reflect the highest credit upon Commander McCampbell and the United States Naval Service."

Above:  As a member of the ground crew stands by with a fire bottle, this F6F-3 has just started its engine. The location is believed to be NAS San Diego. The azure sky and white clouds found on this day are a close match to the plane's vertical surface and underside camouflage colors.

Below:  Cruising over Pacific waters, this F6F-3 has seen plenty of air time, but still retains the "last three" of its BuAero No., crudely applied at the Grumman factory.
Above:  At the end of Air Group 15's cruise, CDR McCampbell and his plane captain pose with his full scoreboard displayed. In the past, some authors have stated that all 34 victories were never shown on Minsi III, but clearly, this photo proves the contrary to be true.

Below:  Understandably, "Minsi III" had been, and always will be, a popular subject for scale model builders. Quite often, it is depicted with a blue belly tank, but visual evidence shows that an earlier, white painted, tank was carried on the CAG's plane, at least on more than one occasion. This screen capture, taken from film footage shot at a photo session on the hanger deck of USS Essex, which featured the CAG with the pilots of VF-15, illustrates both the full scoreboard and the white tank.
Above:  Another screen capture showing Minsi III with 30 flags on the scoreboard and a white belly tank.

Below:  It's rare to see the Commander, in flight gear, standing outside his plane. Note, he has "ladder laced" his high-top brown shoes, a practice that was popular at the time with airborne troopers, when lacing their jump boots.