By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Divers cleaning up garbage in the shallow waters off Midway Atoll in the Pacific discovered wreckage from a World War II Brewster Buffalo last summer, the New York Times reported recently. Only one intact copy from the original fleet still exists, and it's on exhibit in Finland, the Times said. The Buffalo is "a very rare aircraft and to find even the wreckage of one is an exciting discovery," said Hill Goodspeed, historian at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla. The Buffalo, however, was not a great favorite with pilots, says the Times. "It is my belief that any commander that orders pilots out for combat in a F2A-3 should consider the pilot as lost before leaving the ground," wrote Marine Capt. P. R. White in a 1942 report.
The Buffalo couldn't compete against the Japanese Zeros, and of 19 airplanes that engaged in dogfights at Midway, only five returned. The wreckage, found in waters only about 10 feet deep, comprises parts of the engine, a bent propeller, tires and landing gear, and piles of ammunition. Soon after the Midway battle, the Buffalo was removed from combat units and assigned to advanced training duty only, says the Naval History & Heritage Command. In that role, it helped new U.S. fighter pilots enhance their skills before they joined operational squadrons. The aging F2A-2s and F2A-3s remained in the training mission into 1943, and a few were still in service in 1944-45.