On Thursday, September 14 the Intrepid Museum hosted a press preview of its newest permanent exhibition, Final Flight: The Story of a WWII Corsair. On March 18, 1945, Loren Isley, a young, newly-married naval aviator flew from the USS Intrepid on his first combat mission. Unfortunately, it would also be his last. He and his F4U-1D Corsair were shot down near the city of Saiki on Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu. Fifty years later, a Japanese fisherman found what is believed to be the remnants of his aircraft.
In 2016, Japanese officials returned the Corsair fragments to the U.S. Navy, and they were brought home to Intrepid earlier this year. A dedicated team of Intrepid Museum curators worked diligently to repatriate and preserve the Corsair’s pieces but also embarked on an extensive research journey into the pilot’s history. Their investigation led them to discover the existence of Loren’s nephew, Dale, via Ancestry.com, thus forging a connection between the Museum, the Isley family, and the history hidden within these artifacts.
The F4U Corsair was one of the most advanced combat aircraft of its day. Intrepid received its first Corsairs in 1944, and the aircraft then became a core part of Intrepid’s air group during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The aircraft was shot down into the Pacific Ocean after it was ordered to strike a naval base near Japan. The new exhibit features fragments from the plane found 78 years later, rare photographs, and an immersive installation.
Through artifacts, photos, and a visually engaging installation of the aircraft’s engine and a section of the wing, this exhibit tells the story of the discovery of the aircraft, its young pilot, and the scientific and technical process of preserving artifacts from underwater environments.