The Grumman J2F Duck (company designation G-15) was an American single-engine amphibious biplane. It was used by each major branch of the U.S. armed forces from the mid-1930s until just after World War II, primarily for utility and air-sea rescue duties. It was also used by the Argentine Navy, who took delivery of their first Duck in 1937. After the war, J2F Ducks saw service with independent civilian operators, as well as the armed forces of Colombia and Mexico.
The J2F was an improved version of the earlier JF Duck, with its main difference being a longer float.
The J2F-1 Duck first flew on 2 April 1936, powered by a 750 hp (559 kW) Wright R-1820 Cyclone, and was delivered to the U.S. Navy on the same day. The J2F-2 had a Wright Cyclone engine which was boosted to 790 hp (589 kW). Twenty J2F-3 variants were built in 1939 for use by the Navy as executive transports with plush interiors. Due to pressure of work following the United States entry into the war in 1941, production of the J2F Duck was transferred to the Columbia Aircraft Corp of New York. They produced 330 aircraft for the Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. If standard Navy nomenclature practice had been followed, these would have been designated JL-1s, but it was not, and all Columbia-produced airframes were delivered as J2F-6s.
Several surplus Navy Ducks were converted for use by the United States Air Force in the air-sea rescue role as the OA-12 in 1948.
The J2F was an equal-span single-bay biplane with a large monocoque central float which also housed the retractable main landing gear, a similar design to the Leroy Grumman-designed landing gear first used for Grover Loening's early amphibious biplane designs, and later adopted for the Grumman FF fighter biplane. The aircraft had strut-mounted stabilizer floats beneath each lower wing. A crew of two or three were carried in tandem cockpits, forward for the pilot and rear for an observer with room for a radio operator if required. It had a cabin in the fuselage for two passengers or a stretcher.
The Duck's main pontoon was blended into the fuselage, making it almost a flying boat despite its similarity to a conventional landplane which has been float-equipped. This configuration was shared with the earlier Loening OL, Grumman having acquired the rights to Loening's hull, float and undercarriage designs. Like the F4F Wildcat, its narrow-tracked landing gear was hand-cranked.
The J2F was used by the U.S. Navy, Marines, Army Air Forces and Coast Guard. Apart from general utility and light transport duties, its missions included mapping, scouting/observation, anti-submarine patrol, air-sea rescue work, photographic surveys and reconnaissance, and target tug.
J2Fs of the utility squadron of US Patrol Wing 10 were destroyed at Mariveles Bay, Philippines, by a Japanese air raid on 5 January 1942. The only Duck to survive the attack had a dead engine but had been concealed at Cabcaben airfield during the Battle of Bataan, to be repaired afterwards with a cylinder removed from a destroyed J2F-4 submerged in Manila Bay. Following repairs the J2F-4 departed after midnight on 9 April 1942, overloaded with five passengers and the pilot, becoming the last aircraft to depart Bataan before the surrender of the Philippines to the Japanese only hours later. Among its passengers was Carlos P. Romulo (diplomat, politician, soldier, journalist and author), who recounted the flight in his 1942 best-selling book I Saw the Fall of the Philippines (Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York 1943, pp. 288–303), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for Correspondence.J2F-1
Initial production version with 750 hp R-1820-20 engines, 29 built.
United States Marine Corps version with nose and dorsal guns and underwing bomb racks, 21 built.
As J2F-2 with minor changes for use in the United States Virgin Islands, nine built.
J2F-2 but powered by an 850 hp R-1820-26 engine, 20 built.
J2F-2 but powered by an 850 hp R-1820-30 engine and fitted with target towing equipment, 32 built.
J2F-2 but powered by a 1,050 hp R-1820-54 engine, 144 built.
Columbia Aircraft built version of the J2F-5 with a 1,050 hp R-1820-64 engine in a long-chord cowling, fitted with underwing bomb racks and provision for target towing gear; 330 built.
Air-sea rescue conversion for the United States Army Air Forces (and later United States Air Force, OA-12A).
Argentine Naval Aviation received four new-build Grumman G-15s (equivalent to J2F-4s) in 1939, to supplement the eight Grumman G-20s (export version of the Grumman JF-2) received in 1937. In 1946–1947, 32 ex-US Navy Ducks (consisting of one J2F-4, 24 J2F-5s and 7 J2F-6s) were acquired, with the last examples remaining in use until 1958.
Colombian Navy (operated three examples from 1948).
Mexican Navy (operated three ex-U.S. Navy J2F-6s from 1950-1951).
Peruvian Navy (operated one ex-USN example from 1961-1964).
United States Army Air Forces
United States Coast Guard
United States Marine Corps
United States Navy
The United States Coast Guard worked with North South Polar, Inc. to recover a J2F-4 Duck, serial number V-1640, downed in a storm on a Greenland glacier on 29 November 1942. Two Coast Guard airmen were lost along with a rescued U.S. Army Air Forces passenger from a downed B-17 searching for a downed C-53 with five on board. The three men of the Duck are presumed to still be entombed at the site. North South Polar, under the auspices of the Coast Guard team, located the aircraft in August 2012 resting 38 feet beneath the surface of the ice sheet. As per the mandate of Title 10 of the U.S. Code, North South Polar, the Coast Guard and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command plan to recover the men's remains for proper interment. The Coast Guard and North South Polar are also developing plans to recover the aircraft and restore it to flying condition as a memorial to the aircrew.
Noted aviation entrepreneur and aircraft collection Jack Erickson maintains a flying J2F-6 Grumman Duck in Madras, Oregon based at the Erickson Aircraft Collection. The museum’s J2F-6 Duck was accepted by the USN on 26 May 1945 and served as a pool aircraft at New York, Weymouth, Quonset Point and Chincoteage Naval bases. In 1948 it was declared surplus and acquired by the USAF as an A-12A. The American Automotive Company bought it from the Air Force the following year for $727.00. Thereafter, it operated out of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the United States before becoming part of the museum’s collection in 1993 where it received an “in-house” restoration.
Aircraft collector Kermit Weeks has been the top Duck owner since World War II, owning as many as four. A J2F-6 model known as "Candy Clipper," was purchased in 1983 by Weeks and is still regularly flown by him at Fantasy of Flight. When Fantasy of Flight opens again in January 2015, they plan to include the Duck as part of a limited display collection. The second Weeks Duck was acquired in Lake Wales, Florida, from Sam Poole and is currently under a slow rebuild in Wichita, KS. A third was included in the Tallmantz Collection that Weeks purchased in 1985, and was traded to the National Museum of the United States Air Force where it is currently on display. A fourth was purchased from the San Diego Air & Space Museum in 2001 and traded for the Grumman F3F that is now in the Fantasy of Flight collection.
Data from Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II
General characteristicsCrew: two (pilot and observer)
Capacity: two rescued airmen
Length: 34 ft 0 in (10.37 m)
Wingspan: 39 ft 0 in (11.9 m)
Height: 13 ft 11 in (4.25 m)
Wing area: 409 ft² (38 m²)
Empty weight: 5,480 lb (2,485 kg)
Loaded weight: 7,700 lb (3,496 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Wright R-1820-54 nine-cylinder radial engine, 900 hp (670 kW)
PerformanceMaximum speed: 190 mph (304 km/h)
Cruise speed: 155 mph (248 km/h)
Stall speed: 70 mph (112 km/h)
Range: 780 mi (1,255 km)
Service ceiling: 20,000 ft (6,100 m)
Rate of climb: ft/min (m/s)
Armament1 × Browning .30 cal machine gun (7.62 mm) on flexible mount in rear cockpit
650 lb (295 kg) of bombs or depth charges
A J2F Duck was used in the 1971 film Murphy's War, which includes a spectacular three-minute rough water takeoff scene along with numerous flying and aerobatic sequences. The actual airplane used in this film is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio; although it has been restored and painted to represent a rescue OA-12.
A Grumman Duck was also seen in several episodes of the 1970s TV series Baa Baa Black Sheep, (aka Black Sheep Squadron) based on the legendary exploits of Marine fighter squadron VMF-214.