Looking Back From Ninety

All about the immortal J-3 Piper Cub and L-4 Grasshopper, built by William Piper at Lock Haven, which evolved into the PA-11 Cub Special, PA-18 Super Cub, and the Legend Cub and other lookalikes of today


Rosie the Rocketer in flying condition

The story of Bazooka Charlie

I've long had a page about Major Charles Carpenter and his bazooka-equipped L-4 on this website, but I never dug into their story beyond that. Now, in Bazooka Charlie, James Busha has done it for us, unearthing the full story with the help of the major's daughter and his wartime diary. The result is a rather wonderful book that would have benefited greatly from an editor's red pencil. You may find yourself skipping, as I did, and you may be baffled by some of the malapropisms: jinx for jinks, defiantly for definitely, imaginary for imaginative. (Perhaps Schiffer has outsourced editing to ChatGPT?) But you should see it through, as I did, with maybe a damp eye at times. In brief: Charles Carpenter (never "Charlie," it seems!) grew up poor during the First World War, earned an Army Reserve commision through a summer training program, and became a history teacher in Moline, Illinois. So he was 29 and a first lieutenant by the time he actually entered military service.

Carpenter volunteered for glider training but switched to "liaison" as the pilot of a 65-horsepower Piper Cub L-4 modified for spotting artillery targets. What with one thing and another, it was July 1944 before he finally went to war, wearing the gold leaves of a major in Patton's Third Army as it rampaged through France. Carpenter did indeed outfit his Cub with bazookas on its port and starboard wing struts, fired by a battery in the cockpit, and he did indeed destroy some German panzers and lesser vehicles, though no one seems to know how many. More often, though, he chauffeured Maj Gen John Wood, commander of 4th Armored Division. This was a good-luck assignment, because when Carpenter wildly exceeded his authority by jumping atop a Sherman tank and got a stalled squadron moving again, he was arrested and might have been imprisoned if "his" general hadn't interceded.

After the Battle of the Bulge that December, Carpenter went through a bad patch, probably suffering what was then called "battle fatigue," and after V-E Day he was invalided back to the US with Hodgkin's Disease. He recovered, reunited with his family, and returned to teaching, but died at the rather young age of 55. But his story didn't end there. Incredibly, the L-4 he named "Rosie the Rocketer" not only survived the war but survived the peace as well, winding up in an Austrian museum after a career as a glider tug with a replacement 90-hp engine. The plane was acquired by the Collings Foundation and restored to flying condition three years ago, complete with her wartime nose art -- painted by Erin Pata, the granddaughter whom Carpenter never met. What a story! -- Daniel Ford

Classic Cubs, from Taylor and Piper:

What's a Cub? (from the E-2 to the PA-18 Top Cub)
Production figures (from Taylor to Zlin Aviation)
Assembling Cubs at San Benito on the Gulf of Mexico
Restoring Marion Carl's J-2
Piper Cubs of the Luftwaffe
Meet Leah Jones, one of the original Piper crew
Liberty Girl: around the world in an L-4 Grasshopper
A Sentimental Journey to Lock Haven
San Diego to Lock Haven, 2003 (Len Buckel)

Cub wannabes of a later time:

The Legend Cub: a J-3 for the 21st century
The Tiger Cub Ultralight
The Savage, a lookalike with a Rotax engine
The Wall Street Journal salutes the Top Cub (Lynn Lunsford)
The Aviat Husky, another more-or-less Super Cub

Flying Tigers

Some highly practical stuff:

Everything up to date: adding an ELT, handheld radio, and GPS to the Cub
The story of Cub Yellow
Inspection Reports for Classic Cubs and the Super Cub
Choosing the engine for a J-3 (John Renwick)
Getting Cub records and Airworthiness Directives
The case for a wood prop (Tim Kern)
A wind generator for a Piper Cub
Removing the gas tank on a Piper J-3 (Len Buckel)
Fixing the brakes on a J-3 Cub (Len Buckel)
That Marvel-ous Mystery Oil (Robert Parker)
Piper Cub instrument panel (Stu Bright)
Hand propping a Cub (Lynn Towns)
Recovering a Piper Cub (John Scott)
J-3 Weight & balance table; specs for the C3-65 engine
Pre-flighting a J-3
Clearing up the paperwork on a J-3 Cub

Books and suchlike:

A Piper Cub bibliography
Subscribe to Cub Clues newsletter
Taildragger Tales (Daniel Ford)
The Compleat Taildragger Pilot (Harvey Plourde)
Janey: A Little Plane in a Big War (Alfred Schultz)
L-Birds and the Brodie Device (Terry Love)

Piper Cub Forum Warbird's Forum

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Flying Tigers

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Posted December 2023. Websites © 1997-2023 Daniel Ford; all rights reserved. This site sets no cookies, but the Mailchimp sign-up service does. So does Amazon if you click through to that store.