Corsairs On Deck

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The CAF’s hardworking FG-1D Corsair needs a new engine. Let’s help her get back in the air. The cost of the replacement is over $100,000. Please click HERE to contribute.

Without doubt, the mighty F4U Corsair is one of the most iconic warbirds of all time. It’s brutish, but elegant lines, combined with a superb fighting record and longevity as a frontline combat aircraft have permanently etched its name into military lore. Given its position in aviation history, it seems surprising that only a couple of dozen examples still fly worldwide. This is due mainly to the complexity of the airframe’s manufacture, especially the massive, curved main spar and the heavy use of spot-welding in constructing much of the airframe (unique amongst WWII fighters). Corsairs are incredibly expensive to repair, and it is only just recently that it has become cost-effective to remanufacture main spars and the spot-welded fuselage skin assemblies. We are perhaps about to enter a renaissance in Corsair restoration, with a dozen or so examples about to rise from the ashes, as it were, in the coming years.

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The entire engine section is currently off the CAF’s FG-1D, as she is in need of a new engine, along with the overhaul of her systems. The complex engine dish pan will likely have to be replaced too. The cost of the replacement is over $100,000.Click HERE to help!

But, let us not forget those we have right now. Probably the longest serving Corsair warbird of them all is the Commemorative Air Force’s FG-1D Corsair Bu.92468, which has been flying at air shows across the country since the late 1950s! Right now, this hard-working aircraft needs a lot of TLC as well as a new engine, and that’s where our readers can help. The CAF’s 12 Airplanes of Christmas fund raising campaign is winding down as the year comes to a close. We have until December 31st to make tax-deductible donations this tax year to this stalwart Corsair. Please do click HERE to contribute… even just $10, less than a movie ticket, will help get this marvelous machine back where she belongs… in the air!

We here at WarbirdsNews believe firmly in supporting organizations, both large and small, in their efforts to preserve vintage aviation history, which is why we are committed to the CAF’s mission. To add a little sugar to the message though, author and military historian Bruce Gamble sent us a selection of WWII-era, Corsair-related images with captions to share… and we know you will be interested to read on… after you’ve made your contribution of course.

The effectiveness of the F4U Corsair, designed as a carrier-based fighter, was originally demonstrated by land-based Marine Corps pilots in the Solomon Islands during World War II. Due to a number of correctable issues with the initial production model, particularly in the carrier environment, the Navy temporarily took the Corsair out of service. The existing aircraft were transferred to USMC fighter squadrons and entered combat in early 1943. As additional Corsair-equipped squadrons arrived in the South Pacific, the F4U earned praise for its ruggedness, dependability, high performance, and firepower. The Corsair was ideally suited for the island-hopping style of warfare characteristic of the Pacific theater. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via Frank Walton
The effectiveness of the F4U Corsair, designed as a carrier-based fighter, was originally demonstrated by land-based Marine Corps pilots in the Solomon Islands during World War II. Due to a number of correctable issues with the initial production model, particularly in the carrier environment, the Navy temporarily took the Corsair out of service. The existing aircraft were transferred to USMC fighter squadrons and entered combat in early 1943. As additional Corsair-equipped squadrons arrived in the South Pacific, the F4U earned praise for its ruggedness, dependability, high performance, and firepower. The Corsair was ideally suited for the island-hopping style of warfare characteristic of the Pacific theater. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via Frank Walton
While one ground crewman signals pilot Ken Walsh (VMF-124) to hold the brakes, another kicks the chocks off the port wheel of his F4U-1 prior to a mission. Note the fourth gun port painted on the leading edge of each wing to confuse and intimidate the enemy. Lieutenant Walsh, a former enlisted pilot, shot down his fifth Japanese plane in May 1943 to become the first Corsair ace, and within four months raised his score to 20 victories, mostly against Zeros. He was also on the receiving end several times, losing five aircraft in combat. A recipient of the Medal of Honor, Walsh returned overseas in 1945 and scored his 21st victory during the Okinawa campaign. Photo credit: Mike Schneider collection
While one ground crewman signals pilot Ken Walsh (VMF-124) to hold the brakes, another kicks the chocks off the port wheel of his F4U-1 prior to a mission. Note the fourth gun port painted on the leading edge of each wing to confuse and intimidate the enemy. Lieutenant Walsh, a former enlisted pilot, shot down his fifth Japanese plane in May 1943 to become the first Corsair ace, and within four months raised his score to 20 victories, mostly against Zeros. He was also on the receiving end several times, losing five aircraft in combat. A recipient of the Medal of Honor, Walsh returned overseas in 1945 and scored his 21st victory during the Okinawa campaign. Photo credit: Mike Schneider collection
The next highest-scoring Corsair ace was Maj. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington. As the commanding officer of VMF-214, the legendary Black Sheep, Boyington downed 22 aircraft between September 1943 and January 1944, according to official records. Despite a checkered past and a penchant for booze—he famously admitted to flying with an occasional hangover—Boyington was a superb combat commander, earning a Medal of Honor for his accomplishments and leadership. Prior to commanding the Black Sheep, Boyington served with the American Volunteer Group. The USMC accepted his verbal claim of six victories with the AVG, but only two of the six were aerial victories. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via Frank Walton
The next highest-scoring Corsair ace was Maj. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington. As the commanding officer of VMF-214, the legendary Black Sheep, Boyington downed 22 aircraft between September 1943 and January 1944, according to official records. Despite a checkered past and a penchant for booze—he famously admitted to flying with an occasional hangover—Boyington was a superb combat commander, earning a Medal of Honor for his accomplishments and leadership. Prior to commanding the Black Sheep, Boyington served with the American Volunteer Group. The USMC accepted his verbal claim of six victories with the AVG, but only two of the six were aerial victories. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via Frank Walton
The pilot with the most Corsair victories, and another Medal of Honor recipient, was Robert M. Hanson. Although he scored his first kills with the “Swashbucklers” of VMF-214 (before they became the Black Sheep), the majority of his 25 official victories occurred with VMF-215 in early 1944. Hanson had a reputation as a lone wolf (he was known to deliberately shake off his wingmen in order to hunt solo), but his meteoric rise was too good to last. On February 3, 1944, one day prior to his 24th birthday, he was shot down by antiaircraft fire and crashed at sea off New Ireland. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via National Archives
The pilot with the most Corsair victories, and another Medal of Honor recipient, was Robert M. Hanson. Although he scored his first kills with the “Swashbucklers” of VMF-214 (before they became the Black Sheep), the majority of his 25 official victories occurred with VMF-215 in early 1944. Hanson had a reputation as a lone wolf (he was known to deliberately shake off his wingmen in order to hunt solo), but his meteoric rise was too good to last. On February 3, 1944, one day prior to his 24th birthday, he was shot down by antiaircraft fire and crashed at sea off New Ireland. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via National Archives.
Although his score of 6 Japanese planes was surpassed by numerous pilots, John F. “Jack” Bolt of VMF-214 was perhaps the most unique Corsair ace. His experiments with various machine-gun rounds led to a new belting sequence, which used a high percentage of incendiary rounds to destroy lightly-built Japanese planes. Bolt also downed 6 MiGs while serving as an exchange pilot with the 51st Fighter Wing (F-86 Sabres) in Korea, becoming the only naval aviator in history to achieve ace status in two wars. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble via Jack Bolt
Although his score of 6 Japanese planes was surpassed by numerous pilots, John F. “Jack” Bolt of VMF-214 was perhaps the most unique Corsair ace. His experiments with various machine-gun rounds led to a new belting sequence, which used a high percentage of incendiary rounds to destroy lightly-built Japanese planes. Bolt also downed 6 MiGs while serving as an exchange pilot with the 51st Fighter Wing (F-86 Sabres) in Korea, becoming the only naval aviator in history to achieve ace status in two wars. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble via Jack Bolt
From their heavily-defended military complex at Rabaul, the Japanese held a firm grip on the Southwest Pacific for much of 1942. But the capture of Guadalcanal enabled the Allies to begin a series of island-hopping advances that would gradually encircle the enemy stronghold. For the Corsair units, the heaviest fighting occurred over southern Bougainville until late 1943. After the invasion of Bougainville that November, the construction of several airstrips in the vicinity of Empress Augusta Bay allowed Corsair squadrons to reach Rabaul directly. The result: epic air battles on practically a daily basis until Rabaul was neutralized in early 1944.
From their heavily-defended military complex at Rabaul, the Japanese held a firm grip on the Southwest Pacific for much of 1942. But the capture of Guadalcanal enabled the Allies to begin a series of island-hopping advances that would gradually encircle the enemy stronghold. For the Corsair units, the heaviest fighting occurred over southern Bougainville until late 1943. After the invasion of Bougainville that November, the construction of several airstrips in the vicinity of Empress Augusta Bay allowed Corsair squadrons to reach Rabaul directly. The result: epic air battles on practically a daily basis until Rabaul was neutralized in early 1944.
Frequent tropical downpours and crude airstrips—some were bare crushed coral, others had an interlocking mat of pierced steel planking—presented aviators in the Solomons with plenty of challenges. The F4U’s sturdy construction and wide stance gave it stability, but that long nose blocked forward visibility, making takeoffs or landings especially hazardous in poor weather. Here, the propeller of an F4U-1 of VMF-215 leaves a vapor trail as it accelerates down the strip at Munda Point, New Georgia. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via National Archives
Frequent tropical downpours and crude airstrips—some were bare crushed coral, others had an interlocking mat of pierced steel planking—presented aviators in the Solomons with plenty of challenges. The F4U’s sturdy construction and wide stance gave it stability, but that long nose blocked forward visibility, making takeoffs or landings especially hazardous in poor weather. Here, the propeller of an F4U-1 of VMF-215 leaves a vapor trail as it accelerates down the strip at Munda Point, New Georgia. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via National Archives
Most of the Navy fighter squadrons in the Solomons were equipped with F6F Hellcats, but VF-17, led by Lt. Cdr. John “Tommy” Blackburn, deployed to the South Pacific with Corsairs. During two combat tours in the Solomons, the “Jolly Rogers” were officially credited with more than 150 aerial victories and produced 11 aces. Pictured is the squadron’s top ace, Ira “Ike” Kepford (16 victories), taxiing from a revetment on Bougainville prior to a mission against Rabaul. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via National Archives
Most of the Navy fighter squadrons in the Solomons were equipped with F6F Hellcats, but VF-17, led by Lt. Cdr. John “Tommy” Blackburn, deployed to the South Pacific with Corsairs. During two combat tours in the Solomons, the “Jolly Rogers” were officially credited with more than 150 aerial victories and produced 11 aces. Pictured is the squadron’s top ace, Ira “Ike” Kepford (16 victories), taxiing from a revetment on Bougainville prior to a mission against Rabaul. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via National Archives
Even when conditions were ideal, putting the high-performance Corsair down on a narrow runway of pierced steel planking could lead to trouble. If a pilot strayed off the edge of the paved runway and hooked a wheel in the soft shoulder, the result was often a sudden flip upside down. Black Sheep pilot Denmark Groover had the distinction of overturning two Corsairs—but he walked away from both accidents, including this one in “lucky” side number 777. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via National Archives
Even when conditions were ideal, putting the high-performance Corsair down on a narrow runway of pierced steel planking could lead to trouble. If a pilot strayed off the edge of the paved runway and hooked a wheel in the soft shoulder, the result was often a sudden flip upside down. Black Sheep pilot Denmark Groover had the distinction of overturning two Corsairs—but he walked away from both accidents, including this one in “lucky” side number 777. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble collection via National Archives
With its distinctive gull wing and long cylindrical fuselage, the F4U Corsair had the visual appeal and panache of a thoroughbred race horse. Combined with its high speed, superb gun package, ruggedness, and external armament options, the Corsair was arguably the best single-engine fighter in the Pacific theater. Many survived combat encounters with extensive damage, yet brought their pilots safely back to base. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble via Frank Walton
With its distinctive gull wing and long cylindrical fuselage, the F4U Corsair had the visual appeal and panache of a thoroughbred race horse. Combined with its high speed, superb gun package, ruggedness, and external armament options, the Corsair was arguably the best single-engine fighter in the Pacific theater. Many survived combat encounters with extensive damage, yet brought their pilots safely back to base. Photo credit: Bruce Gamble via Frank Walton

Many thanks to Bruce Gamble for the Corsair story… Please also remember to click HERE to contribute to the CAF’s FG-1D Corsair restoration project!

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