OY-1 Sentinel | L-5A Rare Bird: This Aircraft Served at Iwo Jima
Capable of operating from short unimproved airstrips, the L-5 “Sentinel” delivered personnel, critical intelligence and needed supplies to the front line troops. On return flights, wounded soldiers were often evacuated to rear area field hospitals for medical treatment, providing a huge boost to the morale of combat troops fighting in remote areas. L-5’s were used for many other important activities, such as aerial photography, controlling vehicle convoys, para-dropping food, medical supplies and ammunition, laying communication wire, distributing propaganda leaflets, spraying pesticide, transporting prisoners, and directing fighter-bombers to ground targets. The L-5 was also popular with Generals and other high-ranking officers for fast, efficient short-range transportation.
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The fuselage was constructed using chrome-moly steel tubing covered with doped cotton fabric and the wings and empennage were constructed of spruce spars and plywood ribs and skins, also covered with fabric. The use of aluminum, which was in critically short supply and more urgently needed for other aircraft, was limited to the engine cowling, tail cone, framework for the ailerons, rudder and elevator and the landing gear fairings. The L-5 was powered by a six-cylinder 190 horsepower Lycoming O-435 engine.
The USAAF, US Marines, and US Navy used this aircraft in the European, Pacific, and Far East theaters during World War II, and in Korea during the Korean War. The Royal Air Force operated 100 Sentinels in India and Burma.
The Navy and Marine version of the L-5 through L-5E were designated 0Y-1, and all these aircraft were produced with 12-volt electrical systems.
During World War II, Merton Hansen, of Des Moines, Iowa, flew this aircraft at Iwo Jima to spot enemy artillery and mortar units on the ground and relay that information.
This aircraft flew on at least 28 sorties and sustained battle damage in the air and on the ground from mortar, sniper and anti-aircraft fire over Iwo Jima with Marine Observation Squadron 5 in 1945. The bullet holes were patched, according to information about the plane. Amazingly, 57 years after he flew it in combat, Marine Corps pilot Merton Hansen was reunited with his old mount.
In 2012 in Reno, Nev., Duncan Cameron who restored the OY-01 Sentinel received the Neil A. Armstrong Aviation Heritage Award for its restoration.