Published September 27, 2007
Piper L-4J "Grasshopper"
Crew: One or two
Engine: One Continental A65 four-cylinder reciprocating; 65 hp
Wingspan: 35 ft 3 in
Length: 22 ft 3 in
Height: 6 ft 8 in
Weight: empty: 680 lbs; gross: 1,220 lbs
Speed: max: 87 mph; cruise: 75 mph
Range: 220 miles
Service Ceiling: 11,500 ft
The L-4 was a light observation and liaison aircraft adapted for military use from the Piper J-3 "Cub," a popular private airplane developed in the late 1930s. The primary difference between the civil and military versions is the enlarged window area in the rear cabin to allow better observation. Produced in various models, the L-4 was used by both the U.S. Army and Navy, whose designation for the aircraft was NE-1.
During World War II, the Grasshopper served admirably in its primary role of airborne artillery spotting. Flying over the battlefield, the L-4's observer would spot enemy artillery and troop positions, radio the information to Allied ground forces who could then direct artillery or air strikes on the enemy. L-4s were so effective at silencing enemy artillery that they became a favorite with Allied ground forces. The Grasshopper served in all theaters of World War II and in both Korea and Vietnam.
This L-4J, S/N 45-4655, was manufactured by Piper Aircraft in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, and delivered to the USAAF on March 24, 1945. It immediately departed the United States via Norfolk, Virginia, for the Fifteenth Air Force in Bari, Italy. In September 1945 it returned to the U.S. via Warner Robins Air Depot in Georgia.
In December 1945 the aircraft was transferred to the U.S. Army Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In December 1947 it moved to the 2432nd Air Force Base Unit, Air Training Command, at San Marcos AFB, Texas. Then in May 1948 it went to the 7th Liaison Squadron, Continental Air Command, at March AFB, California.
In March 1949 it was transferred to the 1st Maintenance and Supply Group, Strategic Air Command, at March AFB. That May it was assigned to the California Civil Air Patrol at Los Angeles Airport. In August 1949 it was sent to the Idaho Civil Air Patrol at Boise Airport. The aircraft was dropped from the active USAF inventory in March 1952 due to flying accident.