"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
        Grumman at War
Below:  An early production F6F, probably retained by Grumman as a test bed. Note the prototype landing gear doors, as found on the original XF6F-1, and a lack of armament.
Above:  Fresh from the factory floor, this F6F-3 shows the placement of the pre-June 1943 national insignia, reduced now to four locations, and the open access door to the fuselage baggage and radio compartment.

Below:  Another pre-June 1943 built example and probably another test aircraft, without its guns.
Above:  F6F-3s, having joined the fleet, on an unidentified aircraft carrier. Both appear to be fitted with drop tanks sporting the earlier light gray camouflage finish. A rainbow and wet decks tell us it has rained recently.

Below:  Aviation machinist's mates do open-air maintenance on this Hellcat's R-2800 radial engine. Note the QAS parachute pack temporarily sitting atop the fuselage in front of the pilot's windscreen. 
Above:  During sustained periods of air operations, maintenance requirements were constant to keep the highest number of aircraft serviceable. Moored on the fantail, this F6F-3 has an unknown detail attended to by a mech, perched on its yellow painted prop hub.

Below:  Despite the harsh effects of constant exposure to strong sun and sea air, the aircraft aboard carriers were always well maintained and taken care of. This clean example belongs to VF-1 aboard USS Yorktown, as evidenced by its squadron insignia decal below the windscreen.
Above and below:  Training aircraft were marked differently than those in the combat zones and usually carried a combination of large letters and numbers in white, or yellow, on both the fuselage and wings. This was an attempt to deter the dangerous practice of extremely low flying, know as "flat-hatting". The letter would be assigned to a local air station for reporting purposes.
Above: This is an uncropped version of a photo used as the background for our article's page four. It shows Air Group 16 preparing to launch a strike from the deck of  USS Lexington in the Fall of 1944. Subtle differences in the camouflage applied to the Hellcats are evident. Light gray painted drop tanks can be seen on at least two of the aircraft.

Below:  As seen in our background photo, and this screen capture from the same film footage, weeks, and sometimes months, of constant exposure to the elements while at sea resulted in the breakdown of the paint finish on carrier aircraft, as witnessed by this faded VF-16 Hellcat. Having just landed, and now rapidly taxiing forward to clear the deck behind it, we can see the pilot is raising his flaps and has already unlocked the wings for folding. When locked, the red, beer-can-sized indicator would be flush with the upper surface of the wing and provide a visual proof to the pilot. In addition to the oxidation of the paint, we can see where the previously red insignia surrounds have been painted over and the extent of the heavy exhaust staining along the wing root. 
Above:  Aboard USS Bennington in 1945, plane-handlers begin folding the wings on aircraft number 66 from VF-82.

Below:  Sharing some news from home, and maybe a photo, these deck crewmen stand in front of F6F-5s from VF-31, aboard USS Belleau Wood in Summer of 1945. The overall glossy sea blue finish used on the -5s appears to have held up better to Pacific Ocean atmospheric conditions than the camouflage paint used on the earlier -3s.