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Off Midway Atoll, a Famous Flying Dud

Off Midway Atoll, a Famous Flying Dud

In the generally upbeat annals of American military aviation, the plump, snub-nosed little fighter called the Brewster Buffalo stands out as a turkey.

The plane had its day of ignominy in the epic Battle of Midway in June 1942, when 19 Marine pilots valiantly engaged Japanese Zeroes in dogfights above Midway Atoll, a strategic speck some 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu. Only five of the pilots and planes returned.

In his action report, one of the survivors complained that “the Japanese Zero fighter can run circles around the F2A-3,” the Brewster Buffalo model that had been handed down to the Marines by the Navy because its wheel struts broke during the hard landings on carriers. “It is my belief that any commander that orders pilots out for combat in a F2A-3 should consider the pilot as lost before leaving the ground,” wrote Capt. P. R. White of the Marines.

Now, the discovery of the rare wreckage of a Brewster Buffalo in the Midway lagoon, in only 10 feet of water, has rekindled interest in the aircraft and a record that, with the passage of time, seems as colorful as tragic.

For the complete story by Erik Eckholm in the New York Times, click here.

Updated: January 2, 2013 — 3:31 PM

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  1. The Zero could run rings around most airplanes of the day…including Wildcats and Hurricanes. Proper tactics were needed to beat it, e.g. the Thatch Weave. It is good to keep in mind that the Buffalo was used with great succes by Finland in fighting the Russians.

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