on October 3, 1942, the Navy took delivery of the first production
models of the F4U Corsair. Over the course of the next ten years,
until the last example rolled off the Chance-Vought assembly
line in Dallas, Texas in December 1952, the aircraft would live
up to its nickname, though as a "swift ship" its domain
was the clouds rather than the sea. During World War II, Corsair
pilots downed 2,140 Japanese aircraft, achieving a kill ratio
of 11:1. Additionally, ten Communist aircraft fell to F4U guns
during the Korean War, including a MiG-15 jet fighter.
The most recognizable
features of the F4U were its long snout and inverted gull wing,
which prompted the nicknames "Hose Nose" and "U-Bird"
respectively. Designer Rex Beisel constructed the aircraft around
the Pratt and Whitney R-2800 engine, one of the most powerful
in the stable at the time of World War II. The engine’s 2,000-plus
horsepower drove a propeller that measured over 13-ft. in diameter,
a size that necessitated the unique wing design. Another visible
characteristic of early Corsairs was the canopy, which on early
F4U-1s resembled a birdcage. Subsequent versions of the aircraft
incorporated a bubble canopy that improved pilot visibility.
The first squadron
to receive the new aircraft was VMF-124, a Marine Corps unit based
at Camp Kearney, California. During the course of World War II,
pilots downed 83 Japanese aircraft, 21 of them by a Captain Kenneth
C. "Jumpin’ Joe" Clifton’s VF-12 was the first Navy
squadron to fly the F4U-1, and the first to evaluate the aircraft
aboard ship. Though poor visibility and the tendency to bounce
after a hard landing initially precluded the use of the aircraft
aboard U.S. carriers, pilots loved the speed of the "Hog."
Click on the above report for Clifton’s comparison of the F4U
to the Army Air Forces’ famous P-51.
famed "Jolly Rogers" of VF-17 compiled an enviable
record of 152 confirmed kills during the period November 1943
– February 1944, the most by any Corsair squadron. Click on
the pages above to view a handwritten account of an air battle
that took place on 28 January 1944.
An F4U-1 of VMF-215
and an F4U-1A of VF-17 highlight the differences between the the
"birdcage" and "bubble" canopies.
from flight deck level, this photograph aptly portrays
why pilots called the F4U "Hose Nose."
Corsair’s massive propeller and unique gull wing are readily
apparent in this June 1945 photograph of Marine Air Group
Fourteen aircraft taxiing on Okinawa.
Commander Joseph C. Clifton passes out celebratory cigars
in the ready room aboard USS Saratoga (CV-3) following
a successful strike against Rabaul, 3 November 1943.
the most famous squadron in the history of aviation was
the VMF-214 Black Sheep, pictured here in a 1943 publicity
photograph. The pilots wear hats given to the squadron
by the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, and those holding
bats are aces with five or more aerial kills. Major Gregory
Boyington, the squadron’s colorful skipper, is pictured
tenth from the right.
was not as common on World War II Navy and Marine Corps
aircraft as it was on those of the Army Air Forces. When
it did appear, it was most often on landbased aircraft
like this F4U of VMF-321 pictured on Guam in 1944. Note
the scripted pilot name, squadron insignia, and aircraft
nickname. Additionally, it is no wonder that the Corsair’s
gull wing was popular with weary aircraft mechanics.
F4U-1 of VF-17 catches a wire aboard USS Bunker Hill (CV-17)
during July 1943. The "Jolly Rogers" were one
of the squadrons that initially evaluated the Corsair
as a carrier-based fighter.
His eyes closed as he remembers a recent aerial battle,
Lieutenant Oscar I. Chenoweth, Jr., of VF-17 describes
action over Rabaul in which the squadron shot down 16
Commander Roger Hedrick of VF-17 pictured with F4U Corsair,
which is adorned with nine kill markings. The pilot added
three more to his tally before the squadron completed
its combat tour in the Solomon Islands. Note the tape
applied to the aircraft forward of the cockpit, a measure
taken on early Corsairs when it was discovered that the
fuel cells leaked.
on Bougainville examine battle damage on F4U-1A (Bureau
Number 17736), which battled Zeros over New Britain on
12 January 1944. The aircraft was assigned to VMF-216.
trips into outer space were far in the future for carrier
pilot Alan Shepard, pictured her in a VF-42 Corsair during
a 1948 Mediterranean cruise.
when a Navy aircraft lands on a carrier other than the
one to which it is assigned, the deck crew is permitted
to "decorate" it before it takes off. Such was
the case for these unlucky pilots of who landed aboard
USS Princeton (CV-37) in May 1952.
with bombs and rocket, an F4U-4 of VF-63 prepares to launch
from USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) for a strike on Korea,
of the more colorful paint schemes ever seen on Navy and
Marine Corps squadron aircraft was that adorning VMF-323
F4U-4s during the Korean War. Here, "Death Rattler"
aircraft sit on the flight deck of the escort carrier
USS Sicily (CVE-118) at Sasebo, Japan, during 1951.
VMF-323 F4U-4 pictured at K-1 airfield just prior to launching
on a combat mission over South Korea, 1951.