USA: Warplanes of the Second World War preserved: Curtiss P-36 Hawk

Curtiss P-36 Hawk

The aim of this website is to locate, identify and document Warplanes from the Second World War preserved in the USA.  Many contributors have assisted in the hunt for these aircraft to provide and update the data on this website.  Photos are as credited.  Any errors found here are by the author, and any additions, corrections or amendments to this list of Warplane Survivors of the Second World War in the United States of America would be most welcome and may be e-mailed to the author at hskaarup@rogers.com

(NACA Photo)

U.S. Army Air Force Curtiss P-36A Hawk that came from a pursuit squadron for handling qualities trials with the NACA Langley Research Center, 16 August 1939.

The Curtiss P-36 Hawk, also known as the Curtiss Hawk Model 75, is an American-designed and built fighter aircraft of the 1930s and 40s. A contemporary of the Hawker Hurricane and Messerschmitt Bf 109, it was one of the first of a new generation of combat aircraft—a sleek monoplane design with a retractable undercarriage making extensive use of metal in its construction. Perhaps best known as the predecessor of the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the P-36 saw little combat with the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. It was the fighter used most extensively and successfully by the French Air Force during the Battle of France. The P-36 was also ordered by the governments of the Netherlands and Norway but did not arrive in time to see action before both were occupied by Nazi Germany. The type was also manufactured under license in China, for the Republic of China Air Force, as well as in British India, for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF).

Axis and co-belligerent air forces also made significant use of captured P-36s. Following the fall of France and Norway in 1940, several dozen P-36s were seized by Germany and transferred to Finland; these aircraft saw extensive action with the Finnish Air Force against the Soviet Air Forces. The P-36 was also used by Vichy French air forces in several minor conflicts; in one of these, the Franco-Thai War of 1940–41, P-36s were used by both sides.From mid-1940, some P-36s en route for France and the Netherlands were diverted to Allied air forces in other parts of the world. The Hawks ordered by the Netherlands were diverted to the Dutch East Indies and later saw action against Japanese forces. French orders were taken up by British Commonwealth air forces, and saw combat with the South African Air Force (SAAF) against Italian forces in East Africa, and with the RAF over Burma. Within the Commonwealth, the type was usually referred to as the Curtiss Mohawk.

(USAAC Photo)

Curtiss P-36 Hawk.

With around 1,000 aircraft built by Curtiss, the P-36 was a commercial success for the company. It also became the basis of the P-40 and two unsuccessful prototypes: the P-37 and the XP-42. (Wikipedia)

(USAAC Photo)

Curtiss P-36 Hawk.

(Bill Larkins Photo)

Curtiss P-36A Hawk, 79th Pursuit Squadron, 20th Pursuit Group, stationed at Moffett Field from November 1939 to September 1940, Oakland Airport, 1940.

The first production P-36As were delivered to the 20th Pursuit Group at Barksdale Field in Louisiana in April 1938. The aircraft's service history was marred by numerous teething problems with the engine exhaust, skin buckling over landing gear, and weak points in the airframe, severely restricting the performance envelope. By the time these issues were resolved, the P-36 was considered obsolete and was relegated to training units and overseas detachments at Albrook Field in the Panama Canal Zone, Elmendorf Field in Alaska, and Wheeler Field in Hawaii.The P-36s had been delivered to Hawaii in February 1941 by being loaded on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in California, then in a first for the USAAC, flown off the carrier's deck by the P-36's U.S. Army Air Corps pilots when the Enterprise neared the coast of Hawaii. This saved considerable time over the traditional shipping method of having the fighters first disassembled, crated and then loaded by crane in the hold of a freighter, then unloaded and reassembled in Hawaii.The only combat by U.S.-operated P-36s took place during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Five of the 39 P-36A Hawks at Pearl Harbor, delivered previously by the USS Enterprise, were able to take off during the attack and were credited with shooting down two Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2 Zeros for the loss of one P-36, thereby scoring U.S. aerial victories that were among the first of the Second World War. (Wikipedia)

(USAAC Photo)

U.S. Army Air Corps Curtiss P-36C Hawk of the 27th Pursuit Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, in flight, in 1939. The P-36 was camouflaged just for public relations for the U.S. National Air Races in a paint scheme that was never used by the USAAC.

British Commonwealth service:

(IWM Photo, E (MOS) 274)

Curtiss Mohawk Mk. IV, (Serial No. BK585), running up its engine prior to giving a flying demonstration at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down, Wiltshire. BK585 joined No. 5 Squadron RAF in the Far East later in 1941.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) also displayed interest in the aircraft. Comparison of a borrowed French Hawk 75A-2 with a Supermarine Spitfire Mk I revealed that the Hawk had several advantages over the early variant of the iconic British fighter. The Hawk was found to have lighter controls than the Spitfire at speeds over 300 mph (480 km/h), especially in diving attacks, and was easier to maneuver in a dogfight (thanks to the less sensitive elevator). The Hawk also had better all-around visibility and was easier to control on takeoff and landing. Not surprisingly, the Spitfire's superior acceleration and top speed ultimately gave it the advantage of being able to engage and leave combat at will.

Although the British decided not to purchase the aircraft, they soon came into possession of 229 Hawks by way of shipments diverted from occupied France and aircraft flown by escaping French pilots. The aircraft received the designations Mohawk I through IV, mirroring French Hawk 75A-1 through A-4, and were fitted with 0.303-cal. machine guns and conventional throttles (forward to increase power).

Although the Hawk was considered obsolete, a number saw service with the RAF and Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) in India and Burma. In April 1941, the government of British India ordered 48 Cyclone-powered Mohawk IVz (Hawk 75A) for the RIAF, to be built by Hindustan Aircraft. The first such aircraft completed was test flown on 31 July 1942. Only four additional aircraft were completed before the project was abandoned. However, Chinese license production of the Hawk 75A-5 was moved to India, and these aircraft were also absorbed into the RAF/RIAF as Mohawk IVs. They were supplemented by 10 Hawk 75A-9s that were captured in Iran, during the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran of August 1941. A further 74 Mohawk IVs that had originally been ordered by France were shipped to India from the United Kingdom. The only RAF units to see combat in Mohawks were No. 5 Squadron RAF and No. 155 Squadron RAF, using the type mainly for bomber escort and ground attack. The type was retired by the RAF/RIAF in 1944.

The South African Air Force received 72 Mohawks. Its first Mohawks were delivered to East Africa in mid-1941, where they were used by 3 Squadron SAAF to support operations in the East African Campaign, taking part in the Battle of Gondar which ended the campaign, and helping to patrol the border with Vichy French held Djibouti. These Mohawks were then sent to South Africa, where, supplemented by fresh deliveries, they were used for training and for home defense. (Wikipedia)

Survivors:

New Zealand

CU-554 – Hawk 75A-6 under restoration to airworthy condition at Ardmore Airport, New Zealand for Jerry Yagen's Military Aviation Museum. Formerly located at Omaka Aerodrome in Blenheim, New Zealand.

Thailand

(aeroprints.com Photo)

Unknown ID – Hawk 75N on static display in the Royal Thai Air Force Museum in Bangkok.

United Kingdom

(Kogo Photo)

(Alan Wilson Photo)

N°82 – Hawk 75A-1 airworthy at The Fighter Collection in Duxford, Cambridgeshire. It was one of the first 100 delivered to the French in April 1939. It wears French camouflage and is painted in markings from two different periods during its service on either side of the fuselage.

(Alan Wilson Photos)

38-210 – P-36C airworthy at The Fighter Collection in Duxford, Cambridgeshire. It was the last P-36C built and was restored in 2015 in Chino, California, before being shipped to England. It is painted in US Army Air Corps silver and yellow.

United States

(NMUSAF Photo)

(ZLEA Photo)

(NMUSAF Photo)

Curtiss P-36A Hawk (Serial No. 38-001), 69, c/n 12415.  This was the first P-36A to be delivered to the US Army Air Corps (USAAC), and is displayed in the markings of the P-36A flown by Lt Phil Rasmussen during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941.  National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio.

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