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Do you know this about the Corsair?

That 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.

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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 A. Walsh.



Lieutenant Joseph 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.

The 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.

Taken from flight deck level, this photograph aptly portrays why pilots called the F4U "Hose Nose."

The 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.

Lieutenant 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.

Perhaps 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.

Nose-art 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.

An 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 aircraft.

Lieutenant 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.

Personnel 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.

Two 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.

Traditionally, 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.

Armed with bombs and rocket, an F4U-4 of VF-63 prepares to launch from USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) for a strike on Korea, 1951.

One 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.

A VMF-323 F4U-4 pictured at K-1 airfield just prior to launching on a combat mission over South Korea, 1951.