The name "Piper Cub" is nearly synonymous with lightplane. It was designed as a small, simple airplane for flight training. The J-3 first flew in 1937, but its lineage stretches back to the 1930 Taylor E-2 Cub. The J-3 Cub was popular in the pre-war years, but World War II thrust the little plane into a new role. The Army purchased 5,677 Cubs, called L-4s, for observation and liaison. Cubs, along with similar aircraft produced by Aeronca and Taylorcraft, enabled commanders to move quickly among their troops, spot from the air, and help direct artillery fire.
After the war, many Cubs returned to civilian life, where they helped to popularize aviation in the post-war period. Although production of the over 14,000 civilian J-3 Cubs ended in 1947, its descendants, most notably the Piper PA-18 Super Cub, were manufactured into the 1990s.