Bazooka Charlie: The Pilot Who Mounted Bazookas to Recon Plane

L-4 Grasshopper

The sun barely peeped through the fog of war when the roars of combat echoed across the battlefield. As the German forces advanced, steadily gaining an upper hand, the American GIs braced for what seemed like inevitable defeat. But fate had a different plan. From the horizon, the hum of an aircraft punctuated the chaos. Not just any aircraft, but a seemingly L4 Grasshopper. Yet the German forces could only watch in disbelief as explosions rocked their ranks, thanks to this modest monoplane’s lethal modifications.

Charles Carpenter and his L-4, "Rosie the Rocketer"
Charles Carpenter and his L-4, “Rosie the Rocketer”

Bazooka Charlie

Born in the quiet town of Edgington, Charles Carpenter was far from your typical soldier. As a history teacher, his battles were typically confined to the classroom. But following the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, Carpenter felt a calling. Leaving his chalkboard behind, he enlisted in the US Army, training his sights on the German war machine. Under General Patton’s command, Carpenter was initially tasked with reconnaissance. But a thirst for direct combat led him to a daring modification: equipping his plane with bazookas.

Bazooka Charlie and the Grasshopper
Bazooka Charlie and the Grasshopper

Rosie the Rocketeer 

His beloved L4 Grasshopper, “Rosie the Rocketeer,” soon became the stuff of legend. Striking from above, Carpenter exploited the tanks’ vulnerabilities, turning the tide in battles that seemed lost. His bravery didn’t go unnoticed. Newspapers ran stories of the fearless history teacher-turned-soldier, bringing his exploits to households across the nation. The Battle of Arracourt was but one chapter in his war story, where fog, surprise, and a determined pilot changed the course of the day.

L-4H Grasshopper
L-4H Grasshopper Photo: kasz Golowanow

Bravery Beyond the Skies

Though Carpenter’s airborne antics captured headlines, his heroism was equally evident on solid ground. Ambushed and under fire, Carpenter once commandeered a Sherman tank, showcasing his versatility and grit. His leadership rallied troops and turned the tide, even if it sometimes led to mistaken targets. Yet, even an error in judgment could not overshadow Carpenter’s commitment, with General Patton himself stepping in to shield the audacious pilot from consequences.

Attaching bazookas to the L-4
Attaching bazookas to the L-4

Legacy of “The Mad Major”

As the dust of war settled, Carpenter’s place in history was clear. With six enemy tanks to his credit and countless lives saved, he returned home a hero. Though awards like the Silver Star adorned his mantle, Carpenter’s most cherished title was that of a history teacher. Even when faced with a terminal illness, his fighting spirit endured. “Bazooka Charlie” may have left the battlefields, but his legacy as the fearless “Mad Major” lives on.