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Clank Stories

History / By Dario Politella: The term “Grasshopper” is no longer used with pride and affection of World War II days. Army Aviation today also frowns on the term “light” plane because the adjective no longer applies. But some of the old timers of the “organic” air observation for artillery days are still nostalgic over the printable names they were called.

L-4 Piper Cub / Army Aviation photo

“Air OP,”[1] “Flying Jeeps,” “Horseflies,” “Puddle Jumpers,” “Dragonflies,” “Maytag Messerschmitts.” The derivations of these terms are obvious, but just who used what first and how come would make interesting reading.

For example.—During the summer and winter of 1941, light plane manufacturers had been trying to convince the War Department that they could provide aircraft cheap in cost and easy to maintain for field operation with ground units. Ten Pipers, two Aeroncas and two Taylorcrafts, manned by civilian pilots, were attached to field commanders engaging in maneuvers. In November 1941, at Fort Bliss, in the midst of a mock battle, Major General Ennis P. Swift, commander of the First Cavalry, called for “those grasshoppers.

He had seen the little planes flitting from pasture to pasture at tree-top height.—And the name stuck.—It became most appropriate for the L-5 Stinson Sentinel, however, whose fuselage silhouette resembled that of a grasshopper, especially the shape of the tail cone whose streamlining was definitely that of the ovipositor (egg-laying organ) of the insect.

(Any stories about nicknames for AAs [old and young], with sources and dates, will be appreciated for inclusion in this column. Please send your information to Dario Politella, 485 Francis Street, Kent, Ohio).

Endnotes

[1] Air OP or Air Observation Post is actually what was organized on June 6, 1942, not Army Aviation.

Source: See page 27, Vol. 3, No. 3, Army Aviation, March 1955.