Aug. 29, 2006
- Read about Iowa’s 2006 recruiting class
- Follow the renovation of Kinnick Stadium
- Kinnick: The play at Hancher
- The Schedule: 2006 and beyond
- Cruise with Kirk
Editor’s Note: Robert F. Dorr, an Air Force veteran, who lives in Oakton, VA, contributed to this article. Dorr is the author of books on military topics, including “Chopper,” a history of helicopter pilots.
Football and patriotism will receive equal attention during a ceremony at 4 p.m., Friday on the Krause Family Plaza south of historic Kinnick Stadium when the University of Iowa rededicates the home of the football Hawkeyes, dedicates the Krause Family Plaza and unveils the 14-foot bronze statue of the stadium’s namesake, Nile Kinnick.
Immediately after the statue of Kinnick is unveiled by former teammates Red Frye and Hank Vollenweider, the world’s only surviving F4F-3 Wildcat – the same plane that Kinnick piloted while in training as a US Navy fighter pilot.
Kinnick died in a 1943 crash of an F4F-3 Wildcat off the coast of Venezuela. According to records assembled by the late aviation writer Jeffrey L. Ethell, 13,000 Americans lost their lives in aviation accidents while preparing to get into the war.
Kinnick died in a 1943 crash of his F4F-3 Wildcat off the coast of Venezuela. According to records assembled by the late aviation writer Jeffrey L. Ethell, Kinnick was among 13,000 Americans who lost their lives in aviation accidents while preparing to get into the war.
Navy records suggest Kinnick’s ditching at sea initially appeared survivable but he never escaped from his plane. Kinnick’s body has never been retrieved.
The rededication of historic Kinnick Stadium Friday at 4 p.m. on the Krause Family Plaza at Kinnick Stadium is open to the public. The UI will also dedicate the Krause Family Plaza and unveil the bronze statue of the stadium’s namesake, Nile Kinnick.
“It’s going to be a real honor to play a small part in this event,” said Steve Craig, 59, the former Naval Reservist and hotel entrepreneur in Lawrence, Kan., who owns the F4F-3 and flies it occasionally in air shows.
The Wildcat was the standard U.S. naval fighter on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II. The attack took place three days after football star and Naval Reservist Kinnick was called to active duty.
During the war, American industry turned out 7,825 Wildcats, including 1,988 F4Fs built by the plane’s designer, Grumman, and 5,837 FMs from the Eastern Division of General Motors Corp. Although the F6F Hellcat eclipsed the Wildcat during the late years of the war, Foster Hailey, correspondent for the New York Times, summed up the Wildcat’s impact on history in 1943. Hailey wrote: “The Grumman Wildcat, it is no exaggeration to say, did more than any single instrument of war to save the day for the United States in the Pacific.”
A handful of FM models survive today, but Craig’s restored plane is the world’s only flyable F4F. When Craig isn’t piloting his F4F-3, it appears on display at the Combat Air Museum at Forbes Field in Topeka, Kan.
Craig’s F4F-3 wears the light blue paint scheme of a March 1942 Wildcat, replete with a red circle inside a white star and red and white horizontal striped on the tail.
Craig, who owns and flies several historical airplanes, said Friday’s flyover is not about him or his plane, but about Kinnick and all who served when the nation was caught up in a global war.
Craig’s plane was among those lost in an aviation mishap without reaching the combat zone. On March 1, 1944, Ensign John R. Forsburg flew the aircraft into Lake Michigan during training aboard the USS Wolverine (IX 64), survived, and later flew F4U Corsairs in the Pacific. The F4F-3 sat at the bottom of Lake Michigan for 47 years before it was retrieved in 1991. Forsburg, who has since died, had a chance to sit in the cockpit again in June 1994.
When retrieved, the F4F-3 belonged to the Navy. The service disposed of it. Craig acquired it in 2002.