Army and Marine “grasshoppers” (light-observation/liaison aircraft) flew in almost every combat theater during World War II—sometimes from ships. The grasshoppers were needed to spot artillery fire as soon as possible after troops came ashore.
When U.S. and British forces invaded Vichy French–held North Africa in November 1942, the U.S. carrier Ranger (CV-4) had three Army L-4 grasshopper observation planes in addition to her air group.1 The L-4s fairly leaped into the air as the Ranger was making 25 knots into a ten-knot wind. The small aircraft headed toward shore at an altitude of 2,000 feet. About three miles out a U.S. light cruiser opened fire on them. The planes scattered, with two safely coming down near a French fort, where their crews were briefly held prisoner. The third L-4 skimmed the waves as it evaded gunfire from the cruiser. Crossing the beach, it was fired on by U.S. troops. The plane was hit and the pilot wounded. He made a “controlled crash,” crawled from the plane, and watched it explode.