During World War II, the Stinson L-5 Sentinel played a crucial role as a versatile liaison and observation aircraft. Known for its reliability, ruggedness, and remarkable performance, the Sentinel became a valuable asset for the U.S. Army Air Forces and U.S. Navy / U.S. Marine Corps as well as the Royal Air Force under Lend-Lease.
Developed by the Stinson Aircraft Company, the L-5 Sentinel was derived from the civilian Stinson Model 105 Voyager. It was specifically designed for military use and made its first flight in 1941. The aircraft featured a high-wing configuration and a robust structure, allowing it to operate in various terrains and challenging conditions.
One of the key advantages of the L-5 Sentinel was its short takeoff and landing capabilities. With its efficient STOL (short takeoff and landing) design, the aircraft could operate from improvised airstrips, small clearings, or even unprepared fields. This flexibility made it an ideal choice for reconnaissance missions, artillery spotting, medical evacuations, and transporting personnel or supplies to remote locations.
Equipped with a six-cylinder Lycoming O-470 engine, the L-5 Sentinel had a maximum speed of around 125 mph and a range of approximately 400 miles. Its ability to fly low and slow allowed for effective observation and communication with ground forces. The aircraft was often fitted with additional equipment, such as cameras, radios, or litters, depending on the mission requirements.
The Stinson L-5 Sentinel served with distinction in various theaters of World War II, including Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific. It played a vital role in supporting ground operations, providing vital intelligence, and conducting search and rescue missions. Even after the war, the L-5 Sentinel continued to serve in the military, as well as civilian roles, such as forest fire spotting and aerial surveying.
The L-5 Sentinel now on display at the American Heritage Museum in our annex hangar is on loan from a donor with the intention of becoming a permanent addition to our collection within the next several years. The aircraft was meticulously restored by noted Stinson experts Duncan Cameron and Tab-Air of East Troy, WI and has been returned to its original air ambulance configuration as it served with the USMC in the Pacific Theater. In this configuration, a large panel in the right rear fuselage folds down to accommodate a stretcher in place of the rear observer. This very aircraft was used during the Battle of Okinawa from April to June of 1945.
See the L-5 Sentinel during our special event weekends in the hangar through the summer and see it fly along with the L-4 Grasshopper “Rosie the Rocketer” and our Nieuport 28 for the World War I and Aviation Weekend on September 16th and 17th, 2023.