Piper Aircraft was founded in the late 1920s with an eye toward building planes for general civilian use. From 1938 to 1947, Piper sold nearly 30,000 of their relatively inexpensive J-3 Cub models, making the plane one of the most ubiquitous non-commercial planes soaring over the United States by the mid-20th-century.
1943 industrial film of the building of a Piper Aircraft J-3 Cub
During World War II, Piper supplied the US Army Air Forces with nearly 6000 of their J-3 Cub planes in a modified military version known as the L-4 Grasshopper. The main modification of the light plane was the installation of wide banks of plexiglass windows, making it usable as a radio observer and reconnaissance plane during key missions like the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. The Grasshopper also found varied service transporting supplies to the front, carrying wounded to the rear and ferrying military and political dignitaries. In rare cases later in the war, the plane was also equipped with light weapons for use as an air-to-ground attack platform.
My modelling for Flames of War has been focusing as of late on filling in some odd little gaps in my forces. Since I run some US artillery from time to time, adding an air observation plane not only allowed me to add to my gaming but also take a break to model another plane. This time around I also decided to pay a bit more attention to basing my plane to add a bit of visual interest to an otherwise simple model. I like the quick work on the base so much that I’m going to go back and add the same to my US P-47 Thunderbolt and British Hawker Typhoon models. While relatively inexpensive and easy to assemble and paint like my other aircraft, my one criticism of the FOW Grasshopper model is the lack of decals.
Even with the one shortcoming in markings, my new Grasshopper will be a welcome addition to my FOW games. In most American army lists, adding an AOP is a cheap point spend while also greatly expanding the effectiveness of the already devastating US 105mm howitzer battery. Getting this little plane zipping over the heads of my Axis opponents on the tabletop battlefield may not prove to be a total game changer. It is, however, going to give the enemy one more thing to worry about and may just provide an edge like this classic of American engineering did some 70 years ago in the skies of Europe.