Grumman, Leroy Randle
Aeronautical EngineerEnshrined 1972 1895-1982
It is 1929!—In spite of the approaching depression—Leroy Randle Grumman scrapes together $64,000 and starts Grumman Aeronautical engineering Corporation in a garage on Long Island, New York.
From the start, the firm does a brisk business repairing Loening amphibians. But the first big break comes when he builds seaplane floats having retractable wheels for the Navy. The result is a deep and lasting accord that binds Grumman and the Navy together over the next 42 years.
In 1932 Grumman develops the FF-1, a fighter with the Navy’s first fully retractable landing gear. When it flies at over 200 miles per hour, the enthusiastic Navy orders 28, as well as a group of his “Duck” amphibians.
Grumman perfects the F2F single-seat fighter in 1933 that can streak to 250 miles per hour. The Navy awards him a million dollar contract for a fleet of them. In the mid-1930’s he also produces a variety of amphibians for sportsmen, executives and small airlines operating in remote regions.
The last days of peace in 1938, Grumman develops the F3F biplane fighter that becomes world-famous as a navy dive bomber. Meanwhile, he tests his first monoplane fight, the prototype of the famous “wildcat.”
World War II erupts in 1939 and astronomical expansion is required as the navy orders hundreds of Grumman wildcats and scores of J2F amphibians. After the fall of France, the British take first delivery of the Wildcats, which they rename as “Marlet-I1.” Later they seize more wildcats as Gibraltar intended for Greece, and use them with the British fleet.
With America’s entry into the World War II in 1940, Grumman rises to the challenge to design a better folding wing, so more warplanes can be stored aboard aircraft carriers. He sticks two paper clips into an eraser and invents the “Sto-Wing.” It is instant success and it rushed into use on the new F4F “Wildcats.” Meanwhile, Grumman’s new “Avenger” torpedo-bomber, also with folding winds makes its debut.
Then on December 7th Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. Instantly Grumman Wildcats” and “Avengers take up the battle against the Japanese. They get their baptism of fire in carrier strikes at the Marshall and Ilbert Islands, the Battle of Coral Sea, The Japanese Thrusts at Australia, and the battle of Midway. They bear the brunt of the Japanese “Zero” attacks during the Epic Battle for Guadalcanal. Secretary of the Navy Forrestal says Roy Grumman and his aircraft are largely responsible for saving this vital foothold in the Pacific.
In 1943 Grumman “Wildcats and “Avengers support the long, tedious advance up the Solomon Island Chain, as leap frogging amphibious forces establish air bases as they go. Meanwhile, “avengers” flying from escort carriers, tackle the arduous task of clearing “U-Boat Alley” in the Mid-Atlantic.
Now to help stop the Japanese, Grumman perfects the “Hellcat,” a superb 390 mile per hour fighter-bomber. It is his greatest contribution to the war. The hellcats’ exploits become legendary as they help turn the tide in the Pacific. At home General Motors begins production of Wildcats and Avengers, while Grumman concentrates on Hellcats. The Navy proudly presents Grumman its first “E” award for production Excellence, as more than 30,000 warplanes of Grumman design was built during the war.
Now it is 1945 and Grumman delivers the twin-engine “Tigercat” the high powered Bearcat is readied. But suddenly Japan surrenders, unconditionally, with the searing flash of the atomic bomb!
With the war behind him, Roy Grumman becomes Chairman of the Board of his Company and postwar production includes “Bearcats, the “Panther”, and the Navy’s first jet aircraft used in combat. And the swept-wing “Cougar” all used in the Korean War.
In 1962 Grumman makes major contributions to the nation’s space effort by building the Apollo Lunar Module that lands men on the moon and blasts them back to earth. It along earns the Grumman organization the highest respect for its excellence.
Finally with the introduction of the Gulfsteam Jet, and other advanced military aircraft used in Vietnam, Grumman enters the 1970’s as one of the most vital, world-wide rospace organizations, with annual sales over $1 billion, employment over 35,000 and with 65 installations around the world.
It stands as a great personal achievement for this man of innovation, integrity, courage and patriotism, the outstanding pioneer of aviation—Leroy Randle Grumman.
Born in Huntington, New York, on January 4, 1895 Grumman was graduated of
Cornell University with a mechanical engineering degree in 1916. During World War I, he enlisted in the Navy, took flying training and was commissioned an Ensign and Designated Naval Aviator No. 1216. Grumman died in Manhasset, New York on October 4, 1982.