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Missouri Wing - Commemorative Air Force
Missouri Wing - Commemorative Air Force

L3 "Lil' Show Me"


In October 1941, the L-3 you see to the right came off the production lines of Aeronca Aircraft Corporation in Glendale, California.

For the next 40 years our L-3 found itself bouncing around Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and finally in Missouri all while having changed owners 28 times.

In October 1981, the Missouri Wing of the Commemorative Air Force took ownership and she has stayed in our care ever since.

Over the last few years a complete restoration has been underway. We are all looking forward to the first flight in the Spring of 2011. The return to the skies for this little piece of history will be a sight for all to see.



The U.S. Army Air Corps had been slow to appreciate the value of light aircraft for employment in an observation / liaison role, but information received from Europe in late 1940, where World War II was already more than a year old, highlighted their usefulness. Consequently, in 1941 the U.S. Army began its own evaluation of this category of aircraft, obtaining four commercial light planes from each of three established manufacturers (Aeronca, Piper, and Taylorcraft).

The Army experimented with using small organic aircraft for artillery fire adjustment and other functions in maneuvers at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana in August 1940, and again on a larger scale in the Army maneuvers in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and elsewhere in 1941.

An amusing incident occurred in the course of the 1941 Desert Maneuvers, when Henry Wann, one of the Piper pilots reported to the First Calvalry Brigade headquarters of Major General Innis P. Swift. General Swift was watching as he landed near headquarters and seemed quite impressed. He said "You looked just like a damn grasshopper when you landed that thing out there in the boondocks and bounced around." Thus "Grasshopper" became the proud title of the early Army aviators.

These airplanes proved to be much more effective than the larger Air Corps planes used for the same purposes. The Secretary Of War ordered the establishment of organic air observation for field artillery units on June 6, 1942. Hence the birth of modern Army Aviation.

As American ground forces went into combat around the world during World War II, the Army Air Force found the unarmed L-Birds to be invaluable for spotting enemy troop and supply concentrations and directing artillery fire on them. They were also used for other liaison and transport duties and short-range reconnaissance which required airplanes that could land and take off in short distances from unprepared landing strips. By the time the United States had committed substantial forces to the war, the Aeronca L-3 (and sister ship Taylorcraft L-2) were declared Operationally Obsolete, and few found their way to a foreign front as newer and more capable aircraft were already being pressed into service. Instead, they were assigned to training fields to serve as trainers. Liaison pilots would train in an L-3 and then be moved on to the standard front-line aircraft like the Piper L-4 or the Stinson L-5.

This airplane was manufactured as an Aeronca civilian Model 65TAC Defender in October 1941. It spent the war time years at Meacham Field in Fort Worth, Texas likely serving as a primary trainer. The Army designation was L-3E.


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