"L" is for Liaison
The Aeronca L-3B is an example of the lightplanes used by the U.S. Army during World War II. Built by Piper, Taylorcraft, and Aeronca, the little observation and liaison planes, nicknamed Grasshoppers, were adapted from existing commercial airplane designs made before the war. Using established designs and proven airframes saved time and money and brought the Grasshoppers into service quickly. The Piper J-3 Cub became the L-4, Taylorcraft's Model D was the L-2, and Aeronca's Model 65TC Defender flew as the L-3. Aeronca's L-3 was a military version of the Model 65TC Defender and is equipped with a Continental A65-8 65 horsepower engine. Modified with a wider fuselage, bigger windows, and military equipment, the L-3B was used as a patrol plane, VIP transport, and artillery spotter and director.
This L-3B is one of about 8,900 Aeronca L-3s, Taylorcraft L-2s, and Piper L-4s made during World War II. It was purchased by Aeronca, Inc. in 1985, and was restored in its wartime colors for The Museum of Flight.
The Army's liaison plane's famous name is said to have come about in the summer of 1942, when Piper pilot Henry Wann was directed to fly a message from Fort Bliss, Texas, to the cavalry Major General, Innis Swift, at his field headquarters. The general saw Wann's rough landing in a field and commented, "You looked like a damned grasshopper when you landed in those boondocks and bounced around!" Later, when Swift wanted Wann and his little plane to return, he sent a message to Fort Bliss: "Send Grasshopper." Bliss's personnel were baffled until Wann told them the story. Soon, all of the Army's liaison aircraft were called "Grasshoppers."