The Army first procured the Stinson Sentinel in 1941, when six commercial model 105 Voyagers were purchased for evaluation in the observation and liaison roles. These six machines, which were designated YO-54, were followed in 1942 by 275 O-62 production models.
In mid-1942, the O-62 designation was changed to L-5, and ultimately seven distinct variants were produced. The L-5 was the second most common liaison and observation aircraft in US service during WW II, being outnumbered only by the Piper L-4 Grasshopper.
The L-5 was a two-place metal frame, fabric covered, high wing observation- reconnaissance and medical evacuation aircraft. It had a 'drop' rear seat which permitted carrying cargo or a litter, and a hinged hatch aft of the cockpit for loading. They were also fitted with carrying brackets for a single-mount K-20 camera.
The Sentinel was powered by one Lycoming O-435-I engine of 185 horsepower. The propeller was a fixed pitch, two-bladed wooden propeller, 7 feet, 1 inch in diameter. The wing span was 34 feet and it stood 7 feet, 11 inches high. With a gross weight of 2020 pounds, it could cruise at 100 mph to an altitude of 15,800 feet.
The L-5 continued in use during the Korean War, including the dramatic rescue of South Korean President Syngman Rhee, evacuated from Seoul in an L-5 during the North Korean assault. The L-5 Sentinel was replaced by the Cessna L-19 Bird Dog and disappeared from the Army inventory by the late 1950s.
Stinson L-5 Sentinel with pre-1948 markings.
Stinson L-5 Sentinel preparing to take off from a road in Korea, 1950.
Stinson L-5 Sentinel photographed at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, August 2005. Photo: Courtesy of Bob Pettit.