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Other titles in the CrowooJ Aviation Series Aichi D3A 1/2 Val Airco - The Aircraft Manufacturing Company A vro Lancaster BAC One-Eleven Bell P-39 Airacobra Boeing 747 Boeing 757 anJ 767 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress onsol iJateJ B- 24 Li berator Douglas AD SkyraiJer Engl ish Electric Canberra nglish Electric Lightning Fairchild Republic A-IO Thunderbolt II okker Aircraft of World War One Hawker II unter Hawker Hurricane Junkers Ju 87 Stuka Junkers Ju 88 Lockheed C-130 Hercules LockheeJ F-I04 Starfighter Luftwaffe - A Pictorial History McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle Messerschmitt Bf 110 Messerschmitt Me 262 Nieuport Aircraft of World War One North American B-25 Mitchell North American F-86 Sabre North American T-6 Panavia Tornado hort Sunderland V-Bombers Vickers VC I0

Peter C. Smith Mick Davis Ken Delve Malcolm L. Hill Robert F. DOlT with Jerry c. SCUllS Martin W. Bowman Thomas Becher Martin W. Bowman Martin W. Bowman Peter C. Smith Barry Jones Martin W. Bowman Peter C. Smith Paul Leaman Barry Jones Peter Jacobs Peter C. Smith Ron Mackay Martin W. Bowman Martin W. Bowman Eric Mombeek BraJ ElwarJ Peter E. Davies anJ Tony Thornborough Ron Mackay David Baker Ray Sanger Jerry Scutts Duncan Curtis Peter C. Smith Andy Evans Ken Delve BaITy Jones Lance Cole

Vought

F4

•

orsatr Martin W Bowman

I~~cl The Crowood Press


First published in 2002 by The Crowood Press Ltd Ramsbury, Marlborough Wiltshire SN8 2HR

Dedication This book is dedicated to the memory of: Colonel J. Hunter Reinburg USMC 5 May 1918-23 June 1997, Roy D. 'Eric' Erickson USNR VBF-10, and to all former Corsair pilots throughout the world.

Contents

Š Martin W. Bowman 2002 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN I 86126492 5

Acknowledgements Alan Armstrong; Mike Bailey; Robert Bailey ASAA; Fred 'Crash' Blechman; City of Norwich Aviation Museum; Howard Cook; Lee Cook; Graham Dinsdale; Robert Dorr; Owen W. Dykema; the late Roy D. 'Eric' Erickson; Andy

Height; Tony Holmes; Philip Jarrett; the late Colonel J. Hunter Reinburg USMC; Gareth Simons; Kelvin Sloper; Peter C. Smith; Tom Smith; Mark Styling; Andy Thomas; Wallace Bruce Thomson; Terry C. Treadwell.

1

A Dream is Born

2

Land and Sea

3

7

Aerial Combat Escapades]. Hunter Reinburg, USMC

24

4

The 'Black Sheep' and the 'Jolly Rogers' Big Booty

44

5

Corsairs for King and Country

59

6

'The Sweetheart of Okinawa'

76

7

Corsair Models

93

8

9

10 11

True Tales of Trial and Terror Fred 'Crash' Blechman War in the Land of Morning Calm Korean Night-Fighter Close Air SUPPOrt]. Hunter Reinburg, USMC War and Peace

110

122 136 160 165

Appendix I Appendix II Appendix III Appendix IV Appendix V

US Marine Corps Corsair Squadrons US Navy Corsairs Royal Navy Fleet Air Artn Corsairs World War II: Monthly Acceptances of Corsairs Surviving Corsairs

179 180

182 184

Bibliography

185

Index

187 189

Typeset by Florence Production Ltd, Stood leigh, Devon Printed and bound in Great Britain by Bookcraft, Midsomer Norton, Nr Bath Origination by Black Cat Graphics Ltd, Bristol, England

..


CHAPTER ONE

A DreaDl is Born I was ncar! I' [cn ycars old on Sunday 4 July 1937 when my parents took me to an 8irsho\V at Floyd Bcnnc[[ Field in Ncw York City - a naval

air station at that time. My face was pressed right up against a chain-link fcncc whcn a sm'111 group of far Navy silvcr and ycllow figh[cr biplancs Acw ovcr [hc field in a right echclon, pccled off, landcd, Ulxicd up, and park cd no morc [han fifty fcC[ from mc! I wa[chcd widccycd as [he pilo[s, with [hcir clo[h helmc[s and goggles and flowing white scarves, climbed out of [hc tiny cockpits and clambcrcd down [he sidcs of [heir chunky figh[cr plancs. I saw [hcm ga[hcr [Ogc[hcr, rail and handsomc all, and was [hrilled whcn [hcy amblcd ovcr

[0

[he crowd at

[hc fcnce. Onc of [hcm cvcn [alkcd

[0

mc!

'Wow,' I thought, 'I wanna bc one of [hosc guys. Whcn I grow up I'm gonna be a Navy fighter pilo[!' A[ [hat rime i[ was just a dream ... I rcad Aying books, huil[ solid balsa-wood and s[ickand-papcr Aying models, and dcvourcd cvcrything I could find abour Aying. Throughou[ World War II I followcd [he cxploi[s of [he Aycrs, always planning [hm onc day, whcn I was old cnough, I'd join up

[0

AI'.

Frcd Blcchman, future Corsair pilo[

Dreams can sometimes come true, especially to those who have vision, ambition and a purpose. Pedigree, too, always tells in the long run. [n the 1930s the stubby little Grumman biplanes, such as the F3Fs that young Blechman saw, dominated the American Navy scene. Boeing was also making a name for itself in the field of military aviation. There seemed little likelihood of a shipboard fighter being conceived in the 1930s that could challenge the 'big two' - but there was a new kid on the block: ultimately the Vought Corsair series would earn its rightful place in the annals of aviation, and in the American hall of fame. Born of a family with maritime leanings, Chauncey Milton Vought married his boyhood interest in all things mechanical to a love of the sea and the air to produce a long series of successful aeroplanes. In fact this was only natural, because the young aviation pioneer loved to race boats throughout his short life, and he devoted a large proportion of it to championing naval aviation in America.

Chauncey Milton Vought (20 February 1888-25 July 1930) at the controls of the Wright B biplane in which he learned to fly. Vought

7

This young man's dream became reality, although sadly, he would not live to see American aviation dominate the world stage. When he died in [930, Chauncey Vought's influence lived on. Late in 1941, when war came, his gift was an aircraft that would serve his beloved Navy very well indeed, especially in the vast Pacific, then and for many years to come. Chauncey Vought was born on Long Island, New York City on 26 February 1888. His parents, George Washington and Annie E. Vought, owned a successful family business designing and building quality sailing boats. After graduating from elementary school in New York, the young Vought entered the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn; but, ever anxious for more specialized knowledge, by 1910 he had moved to New York University, where he put his energies into the study of the internal combustion engine. The American public did not, however, share his zest for engineering, and more especially for aeronautical engine development. But this feeling would change rapidly after the successes of the Wright Brothers between 1903 and 1908, and Americans would become more aviation-minded. In 1910 the first international air meet ever held in the United States took place in New York at the Belmont Park race track on Long [sland. An avid spectator was Chauncey Vought, who had been looking around for better engineering courses, and found them at the University of Pennsylvania. Shortly after the race Vought dropped out of university and joined Harold F. McCormick as an engineer in Chicago. McCormick was treasurer of the [nternational Harvester Corporation in Chicago, one of the founders of the Aero Club of Illinois, and a vice-president of the Aero Club of America. McCormick's pet project at this time was an experimental umbrella plane, a craft with a circular wing around the fuselage invented by William S. Romme, which, McCormick believed, would offer a viable alternative to the


A DREAM IS BORN

A DREAM IS BORN

In 1936 Vought bought the Northrop XP-948 or Northrop 3A design after the prototype was lost on a test flight over the Pacific on 30 July 1935, and built a new aircraft called the V-141. The smallest type in the 1936 Pursuit Competition (won by Severskyl. it suffered from tail vibrations and was rejected by the Army. The V-143 (picturedl was an export version with a longer fuselage and new tail and was flown on 18 June 1937. It was powered by a 750hp R-1535-SB4G engine. and was armed with a pair of .30 calibre machine guns and could carry up to 300lb (136kgl of bombs. The Japanese Army bought the prototype in 1937. via Philip Jarrett

Wright brothers' more conventional designs. McCormick was backed in this venture by his father-in-law, John D. Rockefeller Jr, and at first all seemed to auger well; however, it proved unsuccessful. Vought meanwhile began flying lessons with Max Lillie in a Wright B model biplane. On 14 August 1912, he was granted Aero Club of America flying licence number 156. In 1913, Vought left McCormick to become chief engineer for the Aero Club of Illinois. In the following year he became a leading contributor for Aero and Hydro magazi ne. By th is ti me he had become known by a variety of nameSj but then in February 1914 he signed his name at the end of his monthly column 'Chance M. Vough t' - and it stuck. J n August 1914 he became the editor of Aero and Hydro under this name; but by the winter he had joined the Mayo Radiator Works where he was the sole design engineer of the company's first aircraft, the Mayo Type A (Simplex tractor biplane). Vought also worked on a single-scat, pusher-type scout machine, and a three-place flying boat called the Simplex flying boat; but neither of these designs ever left the drawing board, and Vought joined the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company as a consulting engineer. Late in 1915 he moved to the famous Wright Company, later Wright-Martin, at Dayton, Ohio, as chief engineer. He continued to design three-

place flying boats, and he gained valuable experience visiting England and France where he studied European designs. Finally, Vought resigned from WrightMartin to create his own aircraft company with Birdseye B. Lewis: on 18 June 1917 this became the Lewis & Vought Company. Their first venture was the Vought VE-7 (Vought Experimental model 7), an advanced two-seat trainer powered by an American-built 150hp Hispano-Suiza Model A. Seven different sub-types of the VE-7 were constructed, including an advanced version, the VE- 7SF, that was fitted with flotation devices. The VE-7SF made its first take-off from the aircraft carrier USS Langley on 17 October 1922. Birdseye Lewis had been killed in a flying accident in France in 1917, and in late 1919 the Lewis & Vought Corporation moved to Long Island City, New York. In May 1922 Vought reorganized the company under the name Chance Vought Corporation and began deliveries of a succession of aircraft to the US Navy, such as the UO-l two-seat observation biplane, and a single-seat fighter version. The first Vought-built Corsair delivered to the Navy was the 02U-l, powered by a 450hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-88 radial, and capable of speeds of 150mph (240kmph) at sea level. It had a range of just over 600 miles (960km), and success was assured when it notched up some impressive world speed, altitude and endurance records.

8

Some 132 02U-Is were ordered, the first being delivered in 1927. In service with the US Marine Corps, some Corsairs saw action in Nicaragua in 1928, where they became one of the first aircraft ever used in a dive-bombing attack against fortified positions. In the following year, the Chance Vought Corporation merged with others to become a division of the United Aircraft and Transportation Company. In 1930 the Chance Vought Corporation moved its aircraft production from New York to a huge plant at East Hartford, onnecticut. The new venture promised much, although sadly, Chance M. Vought would not live to oversee the company's finest successes. His health deteriorated rapidly when, after an operation to have some teeth extracted, septicemia set in; his untimely death occurred on 25 July at his home in South Hampton, New York. He was only forty-two years old. Chance Vought went on to design and build the 03U Corsair observation biplane, powered by the 550hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-12 radial engine. A 600hp Pratt & Whitney R-1690-42 engine powered the two-place SU-l scout version of the 03U. In 1932 the SBU-l scout bomber was the final Chance Vought biplane design to be ordered by the US Navy: it was powered by a 700hp Pratt & Whitney R-1535-80 radial engine capable of a maximum speed of 205mph

(330kmph) at 8,900ft (2,700m). Vought's first monoplane design was the XSB2U-I, which in Navy service became the SB2U-I Vindicator, the Navy's first ::tllmetal, low-wing, carrier-based scout and dive-bomber. Fifty-four SB2U-Is were ordered on 26 October 1936, and the first example flew on 21 May 1937. The Vindicator was first delivered to Bombing Squadron 3 (VB-3) aboatd the USS Saratoga in December 1937. In January 1938 the US Navy ordered fifty-eight SB2U-2 Vindicators, and later followed this with an order for fifty-seven SB2U-3 examples in September 1939. These, and fifty Vindicators ordered by France, were diverted to Great Britain when war broke out in Europe that same month. In British service the type became known as the V-156B Chesapeake. In the meanwhile, Vought's long experience in building scout and observation aircraft for the US Navy led first to the development of the XOSN-I in 1936, and then to the more successful XOS2U in 1937, to meet a new observation-scout specification. The manufacture of the XOS2U-l was the responsibility of a team of engineers led by Rex B. Biesel, and it was devised as a two-scat, all-metal, lowwing monoplane, powered by a modest 450hp Pratt & Whitney R-985-4, which was fitted to help the aircraft meet the catapult weight limitations. The prototype flew for the first time on 1 March 1938 as a landplanej it first flew in seaplane form on 19 May that year. A n order for fi ftyfour OS2U-l Kingfishers was placed on 22 May 1939, and deliveries were made during May to November 1940. An order for a further 158 OS2U-2 Kingfishers was placed with Vought on 4 December 1939. Mass production of the Kingfisher series began in July 1941 with the OS2U-3, and eventually some 1,006 examples were built. A further 300 OS2N-1 Kingfishers were constructed by the Naval Aircraft Factory from April to October 1942. This agreement was designed to assist Vought in changing over mass production from Kingfishers to a new, powerful Navy fighter.

On 30 June 1938 the US Navy ordered the Grumman XF5F-1 (picturedl and the Vought XF4U-1. while a third aircraft, the Bell XFl-1. was ordered later. on 8 November. Grumman

The Corsair's main wheels could easily be retracted backwards. as they did on the SB2U-1 Kingfisher scout bomber then in production. and swivelled through 87 degrees flat into the wing (which folded upwards for stowage aboard carriersl. Vought

Enter the F4U Corsair In 1938 the US Navy had decided that the time was long overdue to bring carrierbased aviation up to the same performance level as land-based aircraft. On 30 June

lyman A. Bullard Jr, the chief of flight test at Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft, aloft in the yellow-and-silver-painted XF4U-1 that first flew from the Bridgeport Municipal Airport, Stratford, Connecticut on 29 May 1940. Vought

9


A DREAM IS BORN

A DREAM IS BORN

When this Associated Press photo of an early Corsair was released to British newspapers in 1941 the caption under the heading 'World's fastest Pursuit Plane ... As Bomber-Protector for Britain?' read: 'It is possible that before long. planes of this type may be among those supplied by the US to Great Britain. where its remarkable cruising range will make such planes invaluable as escorts to our bombers during their long flights over Germany: via Philip Jarrett

The prototype XF4U-1 showing to good advantage the air intakes for the oil cooler. and the intercooler for the two-stage. two-speed supercharger in the wing roots. Note the early-style squirrel-cage or birdcage cockpit hood and the gun fairing in the engine cowling.

•

Vought

1938 the US Navy ordered the Grumman XFSF-I and the Vought XF4U-I, while a third aircraft, the Bell XFL-l, was ordered later, on 8 November. The XF5F-l was the first twin-engine, single-scat aircraft to be built for the Navy, while the Bell XFL-1 was a carrier-based version of the P-39 Airacobra. The XFL-I differed in some respects to the P-39, including the installation of a tail wheel in place of the tricycle arrangement. As it turned out, the twin-tailed Grumman machine was delayed by cooling problems to its Wright R-1820-40 Cyclone engi nes, and the prototype did not complete tests until February 1941. After th is setback, more problems were experienced with the aircraft. After just over 200 flights the

XF5F-1 project was abandoned in favour of the XF7F-1, which later became the Tigercat. Equally, the Bell machine, first flown on 13 May 1940, was not proceeded with either. At Vought the F4U-I project came under the wing of C.]. McCarthy, who in March 1940 had been appointed general manager of the Chance Vought Division. Early in 1938 McCarthy, who had worked with the late Chance Vought on the original Corsair, directed Rex B. Beisel and his team, who were already committed to the Vindicator and Kingfisher company projeers, to turn their thoughts to the new carrier-borne fighter project. Beisel's first proposal was the V-166A; it incorporated the Pratt & Whitney R-l340 radial

10

engine, but was not proceeded with. His second proposal was the V-166B: this was designed around the new 1,800hp experimental Pratt & Whitney XR-2800-2 Double Wasp air-cooled radial, with a two-stage, two-speed supercharger; it was submitted to the Bureau of Aeronautics on 8 April 1938. At the time, the huge XR2800-2 engine promised to be the most powerful powerplant available. J ts take-off power alone was rated at 1,850hp at 2,600rpm (Navy pursuits of the day were rated at about 840hp to 1,200hp at best), and it could develop 1,500hp at 2,400rpm at 17,500ft (5,300m). The Pratt & Whitney experimental engine had the potential to make the XF4U-I the Navy's first 2,000hp fighter.

Beisel and his team had to design the smallest possible fuselage around the mighty Double Wasp. Everything possible that could be done to limit drag would have to be incorporated in the design, so use of spot welding and flush riveting was made throughout the external surfaces, and a completely faired-in landing gear greatly reduced the drag penalties. Three gear doors - one on the forward strut and two attached to the wing on either side of the wheel well- ensured that not one part of the main landing gear or tail wheel protruded into the slipstream. Then there was the seemingly insurmountable problem posed by the massive 13ft 4in (4m 6cm) diameter three-bladed propeller that had to be used if the XR-2800-4 engine (that would power the prototype) was to enable the Corsair to attain its optimum design speed.

Gulled Wing Design Meanwhile, the US Army Air Corps tried in vain to influence Pratt & Whitney to get them to develop a liquid-cooled inline engine instead of the air-cooled radial. But Beisel and his team were committed to the XR-2800, although they realized that

Using the gull wing instead of a straight wing made possible the use of a shorter. lighter landing gear than would ordinarily have been possible. via Philip Jarrett

unless they came up with a fairly radical design to accommodate the massive engine's 13ft 4in (4m 6cm) diameter, three-bladed propeller, then its arc would give insufficient ground clearance on both

11

take-off and landing. They could have opted for a much longer landing gear, but that would have been too stilted and too heavy. The solution lay in the XF4U-I wing design, which was gulled downwards,


A DREAM IS BORN

a feature that would also result in less aerodynamic drag at the juncture of wing and fuselage. The gulled wing was achieved by dropping the stub wings at an angle as they left the fuselage, and then the outer wing panels were canted upwards, again with a dihedral of 8 degrees 30 minutes in the outer sections. The stub wings included open vents in their leading edges to allow the passage of cooling air for the engine oil, and air for the supercharger intercooler equipment. Inverted gull wing design was not new. On [7 September 1935 the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation, New Castle, Delaware had been issued a US patent for an inverted gull wing - and in January 1941 Guiseppe M. Bellanca, chairman of the board of governors of that company, considered that Vought might have infringed their patent. The matter remained unresolved until the United Aircraft Corporation successfully pointed out that there were several British patents to the gull design dating back to the late 1920s. Then, both Bellanca, who were anxious not to be seen rocking the boat in time of war when everyone should be 'pulling together', and the Bureau of Aeronautics, which at the behest of Vought had carried out its own investigation, fully exonerated the company from any patent infringements. Using the gull wing instead of a straight wing made possible the usc of a shorter, lighter landing gear than would ordinarily have been possible. Also, the main wheels could easily be retracted backwards (as they did on the SB2U-I Kingfisher scout-bomber then in production) and swivelled through 87 degrees flat into the wing (that folded upwards for stowage aboard carriers). The wing arc joined to the fuselage at 90-degree angles to allow the air to flow smoothly over the wing root/fuselage joint, eliminating the need for a wing fillet. The wings were of all-metal construction and were built as an integral part of the fuselage centre section. The outer wings were made of metal, forward of the spar, and of fabric-covered plywood to the trailing edges. They folded upwards over the cockpit canopy, folding at the elbow of the gull wing. Fabric-covered plywood flaps spanned the width of the stub wings and one half of the distance of the outer wing panels. A ilerons formed the balance of the outer wing panel's trailing edge.

The stub wings included open vents in their leading edges to allow the passage of cooling air for the engine oil, and air for the supercharger intercooler equipment. via Philip Jarrett

This RN Corsair II demonstrates wing folding for stowage aboard carriers. Early in World War II, Britain was desperately short of modern aircraft types for the RAF and the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, and so looked to America - 'the arsenal of democracy' - for the supply of many new fighter, bomber and reconnaissance types. When funds quickly ran out, the United States Congress on 11 March 1941 passed the lend-lease Act to enable Britain and the other democracies to acquire American-manufactured aircraft and armaments. One of the naval aircraft types ordered by the British Air Commission was the Corsair, although it was not until mid-1943 that Britain at last began receiving the first models. While the seventy F4U-1 Bs supplied retained their American name, this version became the Corsair I in Fleet Air Arm service. Subsequently, 334 Brewster-built F3A-1s and 535 F4U-1A and F4U-1 D versions became Corsair lis; some F3A-ls and all F3A-lDs (ninety-six aircraft in totall became Corsair Ills; and 930 Goodyear-built FG-1s and FG-1Ds became Corsair IVs. via Philip Jarrett

12

A DREAM IS BORN

The wings featured small bomb cells in the outer wing panels, which in theory would be used to drop twenty 5.2lb (2.4kg) bombs (four in each of five compartments) on formations of enemy bombers, the pilot sighting the bomb-drop through a glass 'teardrop-shaped' panel in the cockpit floor. (This feature was never implemented on production models.) Fuel was carried in four integral tanks located in the wing centre sections and outer panel leading edges, with a total capacity of 273gal 0,24[\). The carburettor air, supercharger intercooler, and oil cooler air inlet ducts were situated at the leading edge of the wings to remove the need for a drag-inducing scoop for each. In flight this layout created a curious high-pitched whistling sound as air was sucked into the ducts. Later, its effect would not be lost on the Japanese, who called the Corsair the 'Whistling Death' after the blood-curdling scream emitted during high-speed dives on their positions. To American troops, particularly the USMC 'grunts' fighting in the Pacific Islands campaign, the 'BentWinged Bird' was their saviour, and the Marines finally dubbed the Corsair the 'Sweetheart of Okinawa'. A .30 calibre and a .50 calibre machine gun were mounted above the massi ve engine, firing through the upper propeller arc, and a .50 calibre machine gun outward of each wing-fold mechanism. The upper fuselage guns had 750 rounds of ammunition each, and each wing gun had 300 rounds of ammunition per gun. Provision was made to replace the wing guns with 23mm Madsen cannons if available. (On 28 November 1940, the Navy asked for a production configuration with increased firepower and fuel capacity.) Everything about the new fighter was massive: it weighed 9,3571b (4,244kg) empty, and measured 31ft [1 in (9m 73cm) with a 41ft [1 in 02m 78cm) wing spread - the largest American fighter yet built. On II June 1938 the Bureau of Aeronautics awarded Vought the contract number 6[544 for a single prototype, and the XF4U-l was assigned Bureau Number (BuNo.) [443. (Beginning in January 1939, United Aircraft Corporation moved Chance Vought Aircraft into a plant shared with the Sikorsky Aircraft Division to become the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division, United Aircraft Corporation.) The XF4U-I full-scale engineering mockup that would be used in wind-tunnel tests, was inspected by the Bureau of

Aeronautics during 8-[0 February [939, and shortly afterwards, construction of the prototype was given the go-ahead. New manufacturing techniques such as spot welding of aluminium, developed by the Naval Aircraft Factory, would be employed in the construction. Spot welding speeded up mass production because it enabled a structure of heavy aluminium skin and supportS to be built up to form a very strong fuselage and wing framework. By 1 July of that year the basic XF4U-l design was 95 per cent complete. [t was powered by the XR-2800-4, which was an improvement over the earlier -2.

The XF4U Flies After several hours of taxi tests and days of ground engine runs, on 29 May [940 the yellow-and-silver-painted XF4U-I was ready for its first flight at the Bridgeport Municipal Airport, Stratford, Connecticut. Lyman A. Bullard Jr, the chief of flight rest at Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft, would be at the controls. Bullard took the fledgling fighter up to 10,000ft (300m) while executing some very basic standard manoeuvres such as turns, and he cycled the gear and flaps a few times. He then headed away from the airfield to carry out a couple of stalls and to test the cruise power ability. The flight lasted 38min and went mainly without a hitch, although flutter had briefly attacked the elevators, and the spring trim tabs had shimmied off in flight. This had made the aircraft vibrate badly, though it had not prevented Bullard from returning safely to the airport in full control. These were no more than the usual niggling little problems associated with most new aircraft, and indeed others began to manifest themselves during the twomonth flight-test programme.

The XF4U-1 had sticky brakes, bouncy landing gear, and aileron spin, and the experimental fighter was so sleek aerodynamically that it would accelerate to the edge of compressibility, making recovery from extremely steep dives almost impossible. Spinning such a heavy aircraft made recovery exacting and later, during final acceptance tests, the US Navy eliminated the two-turn spin requirement and required that the Corsair be spun only once. Another main concern was engine cooling. Poor fuel distribution from the carburettor caused hot and cold cylinder head temperatures and became a chief concern for Pratt & Whitney chief test pilot, A. Lewis MacLain who flew the development programme on the experimental versions of the R-2800 engine. After its first flight, a second test pilot at Vought-Sikorsky, Boone T. Guyton, took over the test flying of the XF4U-I. All went well during his first four test flights, but on the fiftfl, while performing a series of low altitude cabin pressurization and high-speed cruise tests, low on fuel, the XF4U-1 crashed on the Norwich golf course far to the north-cast of the airfield at Stratford. Guyton was not helped by the weather, which produced heavy rainfalls in the test area. He attempted a short carriertype landing on the fairway, nose high with full flaps and power on, in order to maintain the slowest possible landing approach speed. All was fine until he chopped the throttle and allowed the XF4U-I to float onto the fairway. The aircraft touched down at the relatively high landing speed of around 80 knots and skidded on the wet grass. The brakes proved ineffective on the sl ippery surface and the smooth tyres were unable to get a firm grip. In desperation, Guyton tried to ground-loop the aircraft to prevent it crashing off the edge of the fairway, hut his efforts were in vain. The

Specification - Vought XF4U-l Engine

Pratt & Whitney XR-2800-4: I ,850hp at take-off, I,460hp at 21 ,500ft (6,553m): fuel capacity 273gal (l,2411)

Dimensions

Length 31ft II in (9m 73cm): span 41 ft (12m 50cm): wing area 314sq ft (29sq m): height 15ft 7in (4m 75cm)

Weights

Empty 7,5051b (3,404kg): gross 9,3571b (4,244kg): max. take-off 10,5001b (4,763kg)

Performance

Max. speed 405mph (652km/h), lanJing speeJ 73mph (117km/h): range 850 miles (1,370km) normal, 1,070 miles (1,722km) max: climb 2,660ft (810m)/minure: service ceiling 31,000ft (9,450m)

Armament

2 X .30 cal machine guns above engine, and 2 X .50 cal machine guns in wings: 40 51b (2kg) bombs

13


A DREAM IS BORN

A DREAM IS BORN

Corsair I JT104 of the FAA in flight. via Philip Jarrett

Vought (F4U-1A) Corsair II JT505 of the FAA in flight. via Philip Jarrett

XF4U-1 crashed into a wood and the prototype was catapulted upwards by trees, it then flipped over onto its hack, and slid along rudder first until it hit a tree stump, before finally coming to rest midway down a shallow ravine. Incredihly, Guyton emerged unhurt and was able to scramble out of the crumpled wreckage. But damage to the aircraft was severe, and it looked for a time as if it might have to be written off: one wing had been sheared off, the empennage had been torn (rom the fuselage, and the propeller was smashed - but the main fuselage, engine and undercarriage were relatively unharmed. Vought worked night and day, and they were able to completely rebuild the Corsair: within two months the XF4U-1 was airworthy once again. On I October 1940, Lyman Bullard demonstrated the XF4U-I for USN officials. He flew from Stratford to Hartford, Connecticut at a speed of 405mph

(652kmph), making the Corsair the first single-engine single-scat Navy fighter to fly over 400mph (644kmph). The effects of the achievement were not lost on the Army Air Corps, especially its chief, Major General Henry H. 'Hap' Arnold, who now re-evaluated his stance on the air-cooled radial powerplant. He gave Pratt & Whitney permission to cease development on liquid-cooled, inline engines and to forge ahead instead with radial engine development. On 24 October 1940 the XF4U-1 was delivered to NAS Anacostia for US Navy evaluations. Final US Navy demonstrations were carried out by Boone Guyton at Anacostia during 24-25 February 1941. Much to the delight of the Navy, who were already pleased with the top speed of the new aircraft, their evaluations revealed that, despite its size and weight, the XF4U-1 had an excellent all-round performance, too. The fitting of a new

14

Hamilton Standard Hydromatic airscrew increased effiCiency over the previous propeller arrangement, and power was further boosted by using a 'jet thrust' exhaust system. This, and very high ram pressure recovery by the wing leading edge carburettor air intakes, contributed greatly to the excellent overall performance of the aircraft. At a normal fighter weight of 9,3741b (4,252kg), the Corsair's sea-level rate of climb was 2,600ft (800m) per minute, and its service ceiling 35,500ft (10,800m). Take-off distance in calm conditions was 362ft (110m), and with a 25 knot headwind, just 150ft (46m). It had a range of 1,040 miles (l,673km) at 3,500ft (I ,070m) altitude. On 3 March 1941, Vought received a letter of intent from the Bureau of Aeronautics inviting them to propose a production version of the Corsair. On 2 April 1941, Vought submitted Proposal VS-317, which would become the F4U-1. On 14 june the XF4U-I was flown to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) facility at Langley Field, Virginia. Less than a month later, the XF4U-1 returned to Anacostia, only to be transferred to the Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF) in Philadelphia, on I August 1941. The XF4U-1 returned to Vought later in August where it remained, with periodic postings to Anacostia and to the NAF. Meanwhile, on 30 june the Bureau of Aeronautics awarded Vought Contract 82811 for 584 F4U-1 production aircraft for the Navy, with initial deliveries to begin in February 1942 (the first production model was actually delivered to the USN on 31 july 1942). Mass production of all types of combat aircraft in America became critical after the japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the action that finally forced the USA into the start of a global war. The Corsair became one of the first combat aircraft to have its production programme expanded, and the VGB programmer - consisting of Vought, oodyear and Brewster - was formed to mass produce the F4U-1. The Brewster Aeronautical Corporation was designed as an associate contractor for Corsair production on 1 November 1941. But Brewster's factory at johnsville, Pennsylvania, built only 735 F4U-I s, designated F3A-1 s: these finally began del ivery in April 1943 - and then in july 1944, the US Navy put it out of business. (More than half of Brewster's production was

J

Corsair II JT274 of the FAA. via Philip Jarrett

delivered to the Royal Navy.) Goodyear Aircraft, a division of the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company, joined the programme in December 1941, ami their Akron, Ohio, facility built 3,941 FG-I versions, 35 per cent of all Corsairs built. The production model would differ from the prototype in several respects, not least in having an 'increased length, to more than 33ft 41\in (101m 6cm). At first, two more .50 calibre M-2 machine guns were installed in the wings, while the two machine guns mounted atop the engine cowling were permanently deleted. Later, the four wing guns were increased to six. Each inboard and intermediate .50 machine gun was fed with 400 rounds of ammunition, and the two outboard guns were supplied with 375 rounds apiece. Anti-aircraft bombs and wing-mounted flotation bags were deleted, ami two Mk 41-2 bomb racks and two mounts for 100Ib (45kg) bombs were installed beneath the wings. The increases in wing armament resulted in the leading edge fuel tanks being removed, although the two outer wing panel leading edge fuel tanks, each with a capacity of 63gal (2861), were retained. Experience gained by the Royal Air Force in combat led to the tanks being fitted with a carbon dioxide vapour dilution system. This system inerted the atmosphere above the fuel to preven t

the petrol being ignited by gunfire in combat. F4U-I fuel capacity was replaced with a 237 US-gallon (8961) self-sealing tank (which included a standpipe reserve o( 50gal (2271)) in the fuselage between the engine and the pilot. Mounting this tank ahead of the cockpit and ncar the aircraft's centre of gravity obviated the need for altitude changes as the fuel was used, but the fuselage had to be extended to make room for the fuel tank. The cockpit was therefore moved about three feet (one metre) further back than on the prototype, which in turn made the forward view worse for the pilot, especially during the nose-high landings that were a characteristic of deck landings. Improvements designed to increase pilot visibility over the new 'hose-nose' were rudimentary at best: the number of metal ribs in the jettisonable canopy - nicknamed the 'squirrel cage' or 'birdcage' canopy, so called for the number of reinforcing bars in the sliding cockpit canopy - was reduced, and fuselage cut-outs were introduced behind teardrop-shaped windows as a further aid to vision. After the removal of the wing tanks to make room for the additional guns, new wing fuel cells were installed, which added a (urther 62 US gal (2341) to each wing. Some 15 Sib (70kg) of armour plate was added to the area around the cockpit and oil tank, while the pilot was protected

15

by the addition o( one half-inch thick, laminnred, bullet-proof glass behind the forward windshield. Identification, Friend or Foe (I FF) radar transponder equipment was installed. The wings still retained the use of fabric-covered panels, but by slightly reducing the span of the landing flaps, it was possible to increase the aileron size over and above that on the prototype. This prompted a (aster rate of roll than had been possible on the XF4U-I. The compl icated deflector plate-type flaps as had been used on the prototype were replaced with NACA slotted flaps: these were lighter, and had fewer moving parts as well as giving a higher maximum lift coefficient. Maximum flap deflection was decreased from 60 to 50 degrees to decrease drag in the landing configuration. Modifications were made to the arrestor hook and tail landing gear systems. All of these changes increased the F4U-I's all-up fighting weight to 12,0611b (5,47Ikg). The up-rated Pratt & Whitney R-28008 Double Wasp, which used a manual Eclipse starter cartridge system, was chosen as the pOlverplant for the production model of the Corsair. The -8 produced 2,000hp at 2,700rpm at sea level, and 1,550hp at 2,550rpm at 22,OOOft (6,706m). This high altitude power would give the Corsair a top speed of 417mph (67Ikmph) at 19,000ft (5,79Im), and 397mph (639kmph) at 23,OOO(t (7,000m). The F4U-I had a sea


A DREAM IS BORN

A DREAM IS BORN

level rate of climb of 3,000ft (l,OOOm) per minute, and a service ceiling of 37 ,000ft (l1,300m). Meanwhile, in January 1942 the XF4UI was fitted with the XR-2800-4 engine rated at 1,850hp at 2,600rpm at take-off. Later that month the aircraft was flown to the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for field carrier landing tests on the airfield runways. For five days Navy pilots had the chance to fly the XF4U-1 before the aircraft was returned to the factory. On 12 May 1942 the XF4U-1 left for a twenty-nine day test at NAS Anacostia; it was also used to test future mod ifications on the production Corsair models. The XF4U-1 left the Vought factory on 3 December 1942, and by 30 June 1943 had relocated to the new Flight Test Center at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The XF4U-1 spent the remainder of its career at the technical training centre at Norman, Oklahoma, before being snuck from the USN's inventory on 22 December 1943. Meanwhile, at the Stratford, Connecticut plant during the early summer of 1942, the production lines began turning out the first of the F4U-1 models. Boone T. Guyton took the maiden flight of F4U-1 Bu No. 02153, the fourth production F4U-1, on 25 June 1942. The new Corsair notched up a maximum speed of 415mph (668kmph), a sea-level rate of climb of 3,120ft (95Im) per minute, and a service ceiling of 37,000ft (l1,300m).

Problems Mount Bu No. 02156, the seventh production Corsair, was the first to be delivered to the US Navy, at NAS New York, on 15 August 1942. This aircraft was flown aboard the escort carrier USS Sangamon (CVE-26) in Chesapeake Bay by Lt Cdr Sam Porter on 25 September 1942 for carrier qualifications. Porter carried out four landings and four take-offs to determine the Corsair's suitability for carrier-borne operations. Unfortunately it became immediately obvious to the Navy observers that there were a series of landing problems, raising serious doubts as to the aircraft's ability to be used as a future shipboard fighter. Firstly, it was quickly apparent that in the three-point landing attitude the pilot's visibility was impaired by the long round-nosed engine installation. Nor was his visibility helped by his location well aft

of the aircraft fuselage, or by oil from the hydraulically actuated upper engine cowlflaps and engine valve push rods, which deposited a fine film of oil to coat the windscreen. (The individual actuators of each cowl-flap, and the early magnesium rockerbox covers, which tended to warp, leaked oil badly. The cowl-flap problem was finally solved by a modification in December 1942, using one actuator and a cable-and-roller mechanism, while the magnesium rockerbox covers were replaced by aluminium ones, many of them borrowed from F4F Wildcats and PB4Y-I Liberators.) Also, during the slow speed approach to the carrier, when the pilot was given the cut over the deck, the Corsair descended almost stalling onto the flight deck in an attempt to grab an arresting wire, and the F4U-1's 'stiff' main landing gear caused it to bounce very badly after landing: this was because on touchdown the landing gear oleos would compress, and then extend quickly back to full travel, bouncing the fighter into the air again. Other serious problems were caused by the Corsair's unhappy stall characteristics. To start wi th, the huge flaps and low-set tail wheel created a directional stability problem (corrected only later on the production line with the use of an inflatable tail wheel and the fitting of a stilted tail-wheel leg). Also, a sharp fall in the F4U-I's lift curve scope near the stall, combined with the high power and torque of the huge propeller, caused the aircraft to stall suddenly and drop its port wing before the right wing, especially during deceleration. The port wing tended to stall first because of the upwash from the propeller. True, a highly skilled pilot could pre-empt this problem, but it would be beyond the capability of most newly trained carrier pilots, and if the inexperienced pilot tried to regain control after bouncing on the first landing, touching down again with the brakes on could put the aircraft over on its back, with disastrous results. Another annoying malfunction was the 'rudder kick', something that had already occurred during testing of the XF4U-1. It was evident to Vought and the Navy that all these problems would have to be solved, and solved fast, if the Corsair was to go to sea. Vought flight-test and engineering departments went to work quickly to try to remedy the situation, and a series of design changes were suggested and later instituted during production. Vought suggested to

16

the Navy that the top three cowl-flaps be permanently sealed to prevent oil coating the windscreen, and that the individual hydraulic cowl-flap actuators be replaced with a single hydraulic cowl-flap master actuator and mechanical linkage to the remaining cowl-flaps. (Later, pilots would learn to look for rain clouds to give their windscreens a quick wash.) Before agreeing to these modifications, the Navy requested that a test aircraft be flown at military power with the top three cowlflaps opened, and then with them sealed, in order to compare engine-cooling data. As expected, sealing the top three cowl-flaps did not significantly increase cylinder-head temperatures, but it did complicate engine maintenance, in that mechanics had to remove a pair of the mechanical cowl-flap pulleys to gain access to the spark plugs of the top rear cylinder. To cure the stall problems a small, 6in (l5cm) wooden spoiler, or stall strip, was added to the leading edge of the right wing panel just outboard of the machine-gun ports. This refinement effectively spoiled the airflow over the area of the wing immediately behind it, and caused both wings to stall at the same time. Bu No. 02510 became the first F4U-l to be fitted with the 'stall improvement device' and it was delivered to NAS Anacostia and then to the Naval Aircraft Factory for testing. The addition of the spoiler was incorporated continuously from the 943rd Corsair onwards to solve a potentially dangerous flight characteristic. Equally, the 'rudder kick' problem was easily solved, by increasing the length of the tail-wheel strut, which effectively reduced the aircraft's ground clearance angle from 13.5 to 11.5 degrees. This reduced the percent of maximum lift coefficient used for landing, and the down wash angle over the tail. Other problems were not so easily solved. During fl ight testing, a number of F4U-1s were found to have a wing heaviness, which required aileron trim tab deflection of from 8 toW degrees out of the 15 degrees available to achieve level flight at cruising speed. A number of corrective measures were tried until Vought concluded that the problem was the result of manufacturing irregularities in the ailerons that were too small to positively detect. Replacing the ailerons could alleviate wing heaviness, but Vought had to try a number of different pairs before the problem was solved. Beginning with the F4U-4, the company used ailerons fitted with balance

Negotiations and suggestions on the part of the Royal Navy, the US Navy and Vought to turn the 'bent-wing bastard' into a more malevolent carrier aircraft had been an ongoing since the beginning of the year. However, before the flying and operational characteristics could be improved upon, there was a more immediate problem to contend with. Early on the Fleet Air Arm had realized that the Corsair could not be accommodated on the low-ceilinged hangar decks of Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Because of their armoured flight decks, British carriers had only 16ft (4m 87cm) of vertical clearance available on the hangar deck, while the F4U-1 Corsair, with its wings folded, had a height of just over 16ft 2in (4m 93cm). Nevertheless, although the armoured decks of the RN carriers presented something of an immediate problem for the storage of aircraft such as the Corsair, during Japanese kamikaze suicide attacks in the Pacific in 1944-45, it was the American carriers with their largely wooden flight decks that suffered worst. via Philip Jarrett

tahs. In the meantime, Vought engineers corrected the wing heaviness problem by gluing a 1. X 18in (3mm X 46cm) strip of wood to the bottom of the aileron on the wing that rode high. Early on, the Fleet Air Arm had realized that Corsair could not be accommodated on the low-ceilinged hangar decks of Royal Navy aircraft carriers. After discussing the problem with the Royal Navy, on 23 January 1943 the Bureau of Aeronautics instructed Vought to find ways of reducing the F4U-l 's overall height with the wings folded. A month later Rex B. Beisel, then Vought engineering manager, sent the

Bureau then suggested methods of reducing the height of the Corsair so that it could be carried aboard British carriers. Mostly, the suggestions involved retracting the tail wheel, compressing the main gear oleos with the jacking devices, or retracting the tail wheel and deflating the main tyres. Meanwhile, the Royal Navy came up with a much simpler solution of its own: Lt Cdr R. M. Smeeton, RN, of the British Liaison Office, suggested that a reduction of the wingspan, achieved by removing the 8in (20cm) wing-tip panels of the Corsair, be carried out, and the wings faired off with a wooden fillet. Beisel responded by outlin-

17

ing the design difficulties and the numerous re-drafting of drawings that would result if such a proposal were adopted, but the Royal Navy won the day. Smeeton sought and obtained data from Vought proving that in theory, removing the wing-tips would not greatly affect the Corsair's performance. Actually, although the clipped wing-tips increased take-off distance in a 25-knot head wind by 15ft (4.5m), the change produced a slightly increased stall speed, which gave the pilot more of a warning buffet before stalling and less roll after the stall. They would also improve manoeuvrability at lower altitudes.


A DREAM IS BORN

FAA Corsairs in a hangar deck aboard a British carrier. via Philip Jarrett

Smeeton's recommendations were approved on 16 July 1943. The revised wing-tip design would be carried out on Bu No.17952 (British serial JT270). Aircraft prior to JT270 would be modified retrospectively by Blackburn Aircraft in England and by Andover Kent Aviation orporation of New Brunswick, New Jersey. Another British improvement was the fitting of small air-scoops to the fuselage sides to help prevent life-threatening carbon monoxide fumes accumulating in the fuselage abaft the cockpit. It was thought that, because the exhaust stubs were flush with the engine cowlings, they were not throwing the expelled gases clear of the forward end of the fuselage. Later, British-type VHF radio equipment was also installed in the Corsair. Altering the Corsair's landing characteristics proved more difficult, and Programme Dog was instituted to modify the landing gear quickly and get the Corsair carrier qualified. The programme ran a whole year before the problem was finally solved. Then it was a case of simply replacing the landing gear oleo's Schrader valve with a Chance Vought valve and increasing the strut's air pressure, something that took just ten days, although it took much longer to implement. This changeover was incorporated on all production line

aircraft, and was performed on Corsairs during major overhauls. A side benefit of this modification was a reduction of 20ft (6m) in the F4U-1 's take-off distance in a 25-knot headwind. Meanwhile, Vought was requested by the Navy to redesign the tail-wheel yoke so that it raised the Corsair's tail 6in (I Scm) and improved pilot visibility on the ground. At the same time, the arresting hook-down angle was changed from 75 to 65 degrees to prevent the Corsair from 'sitting on the hook in a full stall landing'. Bu No. 02557, the 404th F4U-I, became the first Corsair with the extended tail wheel, and it was delivered to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, on 8 September 1944. Bu No. 02161, the ninth F4U-I built, was delivered to the NACA fullscale wind tunnel at Langley, Virginia, to find ways of reducing the drag. NACA recommended the installation of smoothsurface wing walkways and smoother wing surfaces, plus smoother, tighter fitting wing access doors; and the addition of aileron gap seals and an arrestor hook cut-out fairing. The Navy soon carried out all of NACA's drag-reducing recommendations except for the aileron gap seals. The tail hook was partially faired over with the extension of the tail wheel gear door, enclOSing the hook up to the last six inches.

18

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Aeronautics wanted the pilot's seating position raised to increase visibility; this was done, but on 27 February 1943 Vought requested that a different model designation he given to Corsairs with the raised seating modification. This was duly carried out hy the Bureau of Aeronautics, and the new model hecame known as the F4U-IA: it featured a semi-bubble canopy with only two reinforcing bars in the upper surface of the hlown glass structure, replacing the F4U-I's 'squirrel cage' or 'birdcage' canopy. However, there was a war on, and the Bureau of Aeronautics requested that the -I A modifications 'be incorporared in the earliest airplanes in which it can be made without seriously affecting production'. Bu No. 02557, the 689th F4U-I, served as the prototype aircraft, with the seating raised 9in (23cm) and a semibubhle canopy; the new scat raised the pilot's line of sight Sin (13cm). Bu No. 17647 was the first F4U-I A production model to have the raised cabin. In all, forty-two significant changes were made on the F4U-IA production run, many of the major ones being to the cockpit. As we have seen, the pilot's scat could be raised and lowered approximately 9in (23cm), and it incorporated an armoured headrest. The control stick was

Brewster Corsair advertisement in 1944. The Corsair became one of the first combat aircraft to have its production programme expanded. and the VGB programmer consisting of Vought. Goodyear and Brewster was formed to mass produce the F4U-1. AIr News

19


~

:x.

CORSAIR

FIGHTERS

BUCCAN EER

ABOVE: Chance Vought Corsair advertisement in Flying, October 1943. Flymg

~

RIGHT: Brewster advertisement in October 1943. Flying

" 20

21

AN D.

BERM UOA

DIVE

80M 8ERS


A DREAM IS BORN

A DREAM IS BORN

.........

-\

a,;;a;;'

_f~S'~

--

r

o

Brewster F3A-1 (F4U-1! showing the early framed canopy, and bomb attachments beneath the wings. Brewster

lengthened, and the rudder/brake pedals were revised. There was a new instrument panel, gunsight, and turtle deck and cockpit armour plating; and the overturn structure was reinforced. Despite all the last-minute changes, the Navy had decided that the Corsair was not suitable for carrier operations, and it would be the US Marine Corps that would introduce the F4U-l to combat. A Corsair modification centre was formed at San Diego as Air Base Croup Two, Fleet Marine Force West Coast, commanded by Col Stanley Ridderhoff. Vought field service manager Jack Ilospers supervised the incorporation of 159 changes that went on right around the clock to get the Corsair combat-ready in time. And time was short. The changes went from the sublime, such as having to add a rear-view mirror to the canopy, to the extreme. Other pressing problems centred on the master brake cylinders, which had to be modified, and also the engine ignition harness had to be improved for operation at altitude. The horizontal stabilizer in the tail needed to be reinforced, and the rudder control horn attachments to the rudder needed to be strengthened. Changes also had to be made to improve the belt feed of the .50-calibre machine guns. The duct seals between the engine and intercoolers ami to the carburettor had

to be improved, and the attachments fastening the fuselage fuel tank to the bulkheads had to be reinforced. Also, the hydraulic engine cowl-flap controls had to be replaced with mechanical controls. The ignition harness problems, and problems with the radios, were not rectified by the time VMF-I 24 left for the South Pacific,

and kits to correct both had to be fitted in the field at Espiritu Santo. Nevertheless, most of the other myriad problems were alleviated, if not solved completely. Marine squadron VMF-124, commanded by Major William Cise, at Camp Kearney, California, received its first Corsair on 7 September 1942, although it

ABOVE: A Corsair being tested at Stratford in 1942.

Vl.ught RIGHT: Engineers at work on the Corsair's massive

Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine. USMC

was not declared fully operational until lhree months later. In October, VF-12, wmmanded by Lt Cdr Joseph 'Jumping Jlle' Clifton, became the first USN Corsair squadron to be formed, at NAS North Island, California. However, after navalI :ed Corsairs had been declared unser\'tceable for use aboard carriers, the inrended Corsairs were soon replaced by F6F Hellcats. The USMC - the 'Flying Leathernecks' - would take the Corsair to war. VMF-124, which had priority for Corsairs, departed for the South Pacific in January 1943, arriving on Cuadalcanal on 12 February 1943.

c.

The Stratford Corsair assembly plant in full swing. Vought

22

23


LAND AND SEA

Specification - Vought F4U-l

CHAPTER TWO

Engine

Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8 (B) Double-Wasp 18-cylinder two-row radial; 1650 hp at 21,000fr (MOOm); fuel capacity 237-537gal (l,077-2,4411)

Dimensions

Land and Sea

Length 33ft 4in (lOm 16cm); span 41 ft (12m 50cm); wing area 314sq ft (29sq m); height 16ft lin (4m 90cm)

Weights

Empty 8,9821b (4,074kg); gross 12,039Ib (5,460kg); max. 14,0001b (6,350kg)

Performance

Speed 417mph (671kmfh) at 19,900ft (6,065m), 359mph (578kmfh) at sea level, 182mph (293km~1) cruising, 87mph (l40km/h) landing; range 1,015 miles

SuJJenly Zeros were all around us. Their big reJ meatballs flasheJ angrily in the sun. If they fired, I didn't see any tracers. We knew Zeros couldn't dive with the Corsairs, especially if they feared that other American planes were Jown there. Their arrack endeJ as quickly as it had starreJ. The Zeros disappeareJ for good. USMC Corsair pilot, Wallace B. Thomson VMF-211

VMF-124 'Checkerboards' had received its first Corsair on 26 October, and was hurriedly brought up to strength. On 28 December 1942, although its twenty-two F4U-l Corsairs were not strictly combat ready and none of its pilots was combat experienced, VMF-124 was declared operational. Such was the urgency of the situation in the South Pacific that the Marines, with or without their Corsairs, were shipping out in january, and if the F4Us had to be picked up at Pearl Harbor en route, then that was how it would be. As at31 December 1942 the US Navy had a grand total of just 178 Corsairs, having accepted fifty-five aircraft in November and sixty-eight F4U-ls in December. Early in january 1943 VMF-124, commanded by Major William E. Gise, sailed from San Diego, California, for New Caledonia in the Loyalty Islands aboard an unescorted passenger ship. Meanwhile its Corsairs were freighted and shipped via Espirito Santo in the New Hebrides, to Guadalcanal, a hilly, tropical, junglecovered island in the Solomon Group where, in july, the japanese had started building an airfield on the Lunga Plain. When Lunga airfield. was complete the japanese could send land-based bombers on raids on the New Hebrides for a thrust southwards. The small islands of T ulagi, Gavutu and Tanambogo enclose Guadalcanal. As earl y as April 1942 T u19ai had been deemed the number one American objective in the Solomons. The deep and spacious harbour, with air cover from Guadalcanal, presented the japanese with an excellent naval base to threaten the

lifeline to Australia. Guadalcanal was captured by US Marines in August 1942, and the captured airstrip was renamed Henderson Field after the commander of the USMC dive-bombers at Midway; and from then on the 'Cactus Air Force' as it was known, gradually took shape. Further japanese and USMC reinforcements arrived on Guadalcanal in September and October 1942, and the fierce fighting carried on into November 1942, with air attacks on Guadalcanal and the neighbouring islands of Tulgai, Gavutu and T anambogo. One of the most frequent American aerial missions was against the 'Tokyo Express', the japanese transport and combat ship task force that plied the 'Slot' (the channel between New Georgia and Santa Isabel Islands north-west of Guadalcanal) almost nightly to reinforce their hard-pressed ground troops on the embattled island. The enemy then built a new airfield at Ondongo in a coconut grove on the New Georgia Islands at Munda. In the local language, Ondongo meant the 'Place of Death'. Army Air Force bombers and fighters made many air raids on these enemy bases and others in the Solomons area, at Rabaul, Bougainville and the Russell Islands. On 4 january 1943 the japanese Imperial Staff finally issued orders for the evacuation of Guadalcanal to begin.

'Fighting Squadron 12' and 'Blackburn's Irregulars' On 9 january 1943 VF-12 (Fighting Squadron 12) was commissioned at San Diego under the command of Lt Cdr 'jumping joe' Clifton, with Cdr H. H. Caldwell as CAG (Commander, Air Group). Five days later VF-12 received its first ten F4U-ls, and the unit was declared operational. By 25 january the Navy squadron had twenty-two Corsairs on strength. Fighting Squadron 12 moved to Hawaii preparatory to moving to New Caledonia because, unlike VMF-124,

24

VF-12 not only had to convert to the Corsair, it also had to practise carrier landings, even though it was destined as a land-based Corsair squadron. VF-12 lost seven pilots while training on the Corsair, four of them in an early morning storm. At the same time Vought engineers were still wrestling with the myriad problems that were still troubling Corsair operation aboard carriers. Pilots disliked the Eci ipse 'shotgun' starters (later replaced with electric starters), and the flap blow-up feature and the battery installation were proving unpopular. Leaking cowl-flap cylinders also adued to the general mistrust. To improve landing stability, larger tailwheel bearings were used on F4U-Is, and two Corsairs were fitted with pneumatic tail wheels on longer struts and tested by VF-12 on the escort carrier USS Core (CVE-13). There was some improvement on carrier landings, but the tail wheels tended to blowout. VF-12 considered the Corsair tricky to fly, with a bad stalling characteristic, and the aircraft was soon dubbed the 'Hog' because it was about as co-operative as a 'hog on ice'. An F4U-l was written off aboard the Core, and another crashed trying to land on board the USS Enterprise near Hawaii. Inflatable tail wheels that were supposed to aid Corsair stability on landing, proved more of a hindrance when several began bursting during hard landings. These, and the other well documented carrier landing problems, hardly won over the Corsair pilots; but the overriding problem, and the one that would prevent VF-12 raking the Corsair to sea, was the lack of a supply of spare parts on board the carriers. By the time VF-12 sailed aboard the USS Saratoga from Hawaii in july 1943, F6F Hellcats had replaced the Corsairs for combat sea duty. VF-17 became the second Navy squadron to operate the Corsair, and in February 1943 began receiving their first F4U-ls for training at NAS Norfolk, Virginia. Its CO, Lt Cdr john T. Blackburn, had previously led VGF-29 in

(I,633km) normal, 2,220 miles (3,570km) ferry; climb 2,890ft (880m)/minute; service ceiling 36,900ft (l1,250m) Armament

6 X 0.50 calibre machine guns in wings with 2,350 rounds; I X 1,000lb (450kg) bomb 01' 8 X Sin (13cm) rockets

Operation T Q1'ch, the invasion of North Africa in November 1942, and had been a flight instructor at NAS Miami (Opa Locka). When Blackburn assumed commanu of VF-l 7 he recru ited fellow instructor Lt Cdr Roger R. Hedrick as his l'xecutive officer. VF-17 were to become fully operational on the improved F4UIAs, anu woulu take them to sea aboaru the new Essex-class escort carrier USS Bunker Ifill (CV- I 7), that would make its shakedown cruise in july. The pilots of VF-17 were high-spirited, rugged individuals with little or no combat experience. They were thrilled with their new 'hot' planes, and flew them under bridges and ~kimmed the waters near the fleet at every opportunity. 'Flat-hatting', or low-level flymg, and other hell-raising escapades soon l'arned them the nickname 'Blackburn's Irregulars'. Ensign Howard M. 'Teeth' Burriss ran a truck off a highway while playing 'chicken' m an inverted Corsair, while Ensign Ira 'Ike' Kepford upset the good people of Norfolk when he and an Army P-51 Mustang pilot entered into a low-level dogfight overhead. In March 1943 VF-17 were ordered to leave town, and 'Blackburn's Irregulars' relocated to NAAS (Naval Auxiliary Air Station) Manteo, on the coast near Kitty Hawk, North Carol ina, where they completed their pre-carrier training. During training at Manteo, VF17 lost six pilots, including two who collided in mid-air during gunnery practice. 'Blackburn's Irregulars' worked hard to hreak in their wild Corsairs, and they helped improve some of the F4U-ls more alarming traits; for instance, they softened the shock of landing by changing the fluidair mixture in the oleo compression cylinders. Lt (jg) Merl W. 'Butch' Davenport, VF-I7's engineering officer, partly devel-

oped the new wing anti-stall device, and pilots tried to overcome the restricted view out of the 'birdcage' canopy by sitting on two, and even three parachute cushions. In combat they knew they would not be able to see 'diddly-squat' from the birdcage, and the situation only really improved when VF-17 received the F4U-IA with the semi-bubble canopy. But VF-I7's freespirited aviators were prepared to forgive the Corsair its faults because more than anything else they wanted to fly them in combat as soon as possible. Operating from land bases, 'Blackburn's Irregulars' had broken in the Corsair; but then on 1 May there was a portent of things to come. Tom Blackburn, with the ski lied LSO, Shailer 'Catwalk' Cummings, made the first real carrier landing on a simulated carrier landing area marked off on a concrete runway. VF-I7's CO approached at 90 knots, chopped the throttle, hit the 'deck' - and bounced about 20 ft (6m) into the air! Blackburn made further opera-

tiona I tests in the Chesapeake Bay using the jeep carrier Charger (ACV-30), a converted merchantman. Once his pilots had had sufficient flight time in the Corsair, they began their initial carrier landing qualifications (carquals) on Charger. It proved difficult landing a Corsair on the jeep carrier's 50ft (ISm) deck, and there were mishaps along the way; but they mastered it, encouraged by the knowledge that the Essex-class deck of the Bunker Hill was that much larger. During their land-based training, formation loops involving between eight and twelve F4U-ls at a time was not uncommon - but Blackburn had one grand finale in mind. While en route to Boston for the Bunker Hill commissioning on 23 May 1943, Blackburn led his formation of twenty-five F4Us over New York, and they all dropped down and flew under the Brooklyn Bridge! Bunker Hill cleared the ways at Quincy, Massachusetts in june, and shortly arrived off Norfolk, where VF-I7's Corsairs welcomed the carrier in style, three eightplane flights buzzing her from three different directions. On 7 july 1943 VF-17, now part of CAG-17 (Carrier Air Group 17), were embarked aboard the Bunker Hill for her shake-down cruise to Trinidad's 30by 70-mile (50 km by 112km) Gulf of Paria Bay. (CAG-17 also included the Avengers of VT-17, and the troublesome SB2C Helldivers of VB-17 and VS-17.) Carrier operations concentrated minds wonderfully, and bouncing over the barrier wire and flipping over or crashing into the parked aircraft ahead became commonplace. On final approach the Corsair's elongated nose made it difficult for pilots to

:::::~~-, One of VF-1Ts F4U-1s on the USS

ChargerlACV-301. a converted merchantman,

during carrier landing qualifications. March 1943. USN via Lee Cook

25

~ --

---


LAND AND SEA

No. 21 is prepared for a catapult launch from the USS via Lee Cook

Charger (ACV-30)

LAND AND SEA

see the landing signal officer. If a pilot opened h is fourteen cowl-flaps, they cut down forward visibility to almost zero; but if he left them closed, the engine quickly overheated. Soon, F4U performance was judged in some circles to be 'too hot' for deck operations - and on occasion, so too were the pilots: one VF-17 pilot was grounded for a few days after making a barrel rollover the flight deck! Other problems manifested themselves on the voyage. Engines and propellers were changed frequently. It was found that Corsair's arrestor hook simply snapped when it came into contact with the steel drain channels on landing. When the hook caught a barrier wire the F4U-l's tail was lifted clear of the deck, and if the pilot missed the arresting wire the hook caught a drain channel and snapped. This problem was solved with a redesigned hook. Sadly, although many of the Corsair's other faults had also been overcome by a combination of squadron ingenuity and Vought adaptability, in the final analysis the Navy brass would decide that the aircraft had not gained its sea legs, and so VF-I7's valiant quest to become the first USN unit to go to war at sea with the Corsair would be in vain. At first the omens had appeared to be good. On 10 August, VF-17 returned to Norfolk aboard the Bunker Hill, and CAG 17 returned to shore bases wh ile the carrier and the squadrons were brought up to combat readiness. By 26 August VF-17 had received thirty-six new, raised-cockpit F4U-IAs; these embodied many of the modifications recommended, carried out as a result of the shake-down cruise to the Caribbean. In deference to the Corsair's 'Hog' nickname, Torn Blackburn's call sign became 'Big Hog', and he had the name painted on the tail of his personal F4U-l, Bu No. 17649 'White 1'. On 10 September, when VF-17 and the rest of CAG-17 left Norfolk for the south-west Pacific aboard the Bunker Hill, each of the Corsairs had a small 'skull and crossbones' motif painted on its engine cowling. VF17 was going to war - or so they thought!

in Chesapeake Bay, May 1943.

USN

One of VF-l7's F4U-1s successfully catches the wire on the deck of the USS Charger during landing qualifications, March 1943. USN via Lee Cook MIDDLE: An F4U-1 of VF-17 is brought up on deck aboard the USS Charger, March 1943. USN via Lee Cook LEFT: It was no easier on the USS Bunker Hill ICV-17) in July 1943. USN via Lee Cook

TDP:

One of VF-l7's F4U-1 Corsairs picking up the barrier cable and flipping over onto its back during initial carrier landing qualifications (carquals) aboard the USS Charger in May 1943. It proved difficult landing a Corsair on the jeep carrier's 50ft (15m) deck, and there were mishaps along the way. USN via Lee Cook

26

27


LAND AND SEA

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The carrier sailed south off the east coast of the USA and on through the Panama Canal to San Diego, California, before heading westward to Hawaii on 28 September. A few days out, however, orders were received detaching VF-17 from CAG-17, and their beloved Corsairs were to be put ashore upon arrival at Pearl Harbor on Oahu. The 'Jolly Rogers' could remain aboard the Bunker Hill and fly F6F Hellcats if they wanted- but to a man, VFITs dejected pilots voted to retain their F4U-IAs. When Bunker Hill docked at Pearl Harbor on 2 October, their beloved orsairs were flown ashore to Ford Island - next to wh ich, on 7 Decem bel' 1941, the Japanese had decimated 'Battleship Row'to await onward transportation to the Solomon Islands. VF-17 was replaced aboard the Bunker Hill by VF-18, equippcd with the F6F. (Bunker Hill and CAG 17 first went into action on 11 November with a strike on Rabaul.) A perceived shortage of spares in the fleet supply line (which was full of parts for the hundreds of Grumman fleet fighters, but not for one squadron of thirty-six fighters of a different type) was further justification that the Corsair was not yet ready for combat operations aboard US carriers. Nevertheless, although they were short of one or two important items, the USMC Corsairs in fact had all the spares they needed.

More fun and high jinks. USN via Lee Cook

Go Tell It to the Marines! VMF-124 arrived on Guadalcanal on 12 February 1943 with twelve Corsairs. The most experienced of VMF-I24's pilots had accumulated just twenty hours on the new fighter. An hour after landing at their airstrip, called 'Cactus', the dozen Corsairs were tasked to fly CAP (Combat Air Patrol) over the island and escort a PBY Catalina on a nO-mile (370km) rescue flight to Sandfly Bay on Vella Lavclla to rescue two downed F4F pilots. The following day, 13 February, the Marine Corps orsairs were plunged into action when they were chosen in favour of the relatively shorter-ranged Navy F4F Wildcats as long-range escorts for US Navy PB4YI Liberators, to make the 300-mile (480km) trip to bomb shipping in Buin Harbor. No enemy fighters appeared.

Ensign F. A. 'Andy' Jagger in F4U-117-F-26 has a hook-point failure landing aboard the USS Bunker Hill, on 26 July 1943. USN via Lee Cook

Next day, 14 February, VMF-124's Corsairs saw action for the first time when they joined PAO Warhawks and P- 38 Lightnings in an escort for PB4Y-1 Liberators raiding Kahili airfield on Rougainville Island. But it was hardly an auspicious debut. In what became known ,IS the 'St Valentine's Day Massacre', the force encountered fifty Mitsubishi A6M 7ero fighters, which shot down two of VMF-124's Corsairs flying middle-level escort cover, all four P-38s flying top cover, and two P-40s flying low cover; two of the PR4Y-ls were also brought down, and one of the American pilots was strafed in the water after he had ditched. For the enemy, only three Zeros were shot down, and a fourth collided with one of the downed Corsairs. Even so, despite this setback, the signs were that the Corsair could more than hold its own, and it soon hecame obvious in combat with Zeros that if the American pilots had the advantage of altitude, the Corsair largely had the upper

TOP: F4U-1s of VF-17 on a training flight in the US in

1943. via Philip Jarrett MIDDLE: It Ijgl Clement D. 'Timmy' Gile leading a

flight of F4U-1 Corsairs of VF-17 off Manteo, North Carolina, in the spring of 1943. Note that the censor has tried to obliterate the '17' on the sides of the fuselage. Gile was credited with eight victories, including three Zekes shot down in one day, 17 November 1943, at Empress Augusta Bay. He received two DFCs and three strike/flight Air Medals (for fifteen combat missionsl. He was WIA on 18 March 1945 flying in VBF-10 aboard the Intrepid. USN via Mike Bailey LEFT: Carquals complete, in August 1943 VF-17

received thirty-six new raised-cockpit F4U-IAs and sailed aboard the Bunker Hill from the east coast of the USA and on through the Panama Canal, to San Diego, California, before heading westward to Hawaii on 28 September. USN via Lee Cook

28

29


LAND AND SEA

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hand: the Zero could neither out-rurn, outdive nor out-climb the American fighter. However, VMF-124 was encountering problems with their Corsairs. There was limited visibility out of the 'birdcage' canopies, there were engine ignition faults, and the nose-high attitude on landing, together with the shorL tail-wheel strut, caused more difficulties. On I April 1943 the Japanese 'I' Oreration started, and the first big battle between the Corsairs and Japanese aircraft occurred during attempts by Sea Bees to build a landing strip at Banik<!. The Corsairs, together with some Wildcats and P-38 Lightnings, fought a series of dogfights with fifty-eight Zeros and Val divebombers: eighteen enemy aircraft were shot down for the loss of six American fighters. 2nd Lt Kenneth A. Walsh of VMF-124 shot down a Zero and an Aichi D3A Val dive-bomber over the aptly named Ouch, thus beginning a score that would end up with him becoming the first of the Corsair aces. In three tours in the Solomons, VMF-124 'Checkerboards' would destroy sixty-nine Japanese aircraft in the air for the loss of eleven Corsairs and just three rilots. Three days later, on 4 April, VMF-213 'Ilellhawks', commanded by Major Wade II. Britt, arrivcd on Guadalcanal, thus becoming the econd USMC F4U-1 Corsair squadron in the south-west Pacific. (Britt was killed in a take-off accident on 13 April, and was replaced by Major Greg Weissenberger.) Then on 15 April, VMF-121, which was equipped with Wildcats, was taken out of the front line for a short while in order that it could change to Corsairs: it received between ten and fifteen hours' training on the F4Us, and then became the third Corsair squadron to go into combat. VMF-213 'Hellhawks' went into action on 25 April when four of its Corsairs engaged sixteen Japanese divebombers and more than twenty Zeros. Five of the Ze!<es were shot down for the loss of two of the F4Us and one of its pilots. Just after noon on 13 May, upwards of twenty-five Zeros escorted a reconnaissance plane down the Slot towards Guadalcanal. Intercepted near the Russell and Florida Islands by fifteen Corsairs of VMF-II2, and VMF-124 led by its commanding officer Major Gise, fifteen of the Ze!<es were shot down by the F4Us; a sixteenth was brought down by an AAC P-38. Three Corsairs were lost, and Major Guise was one of the pilots killed. 2nd Lt Ken

Walsh brought down three enemy aircraft 15 miles (24km) east of the Russells to take his score to six and make him the fi rst of the Corsair aces. (Walsh would eventually notch up twenty-one victories flying with VMF-124, and he scored his twenty-second and final kill of the Pacific War flying with VMF-222. His tally led to the award of the Medal of Honor on 8 February 1944.) Captain Archie G. Donahue of VM F-112 shot down four of the Ze!<es west of Florida Island to add to his two previous F4F victories in November 1942, and he also attained ace status. A fifth that almost certainly fell to Donahue's guns, was credited as a 'probable'. Meanwhile in the United States on 1 April 1943, two F4U-2 night-fighter squad rom - VF(N )-75 at NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and VMF(N)-532 at MCAS Cherry Point, NC - were commissioned. On 19 May, VMF-22 1 started flying Corsairs. The 'Fighting Falcons' would fly two tours at Guadalcanal, and a third at Vella Lavella, before ending their rour on 19 November 1943 and returning to the United States. In June 1943 VMF-I22, an F4F-4 Wildcat unit, was equipped with Corsairs, and they completed a tour on Guadalcanal, returning to the United States on 23July 1943. VMF-214alsoconverted to F4U-s from the F4FA duringJune and flew a tour at the Russell Islands and Munda from 21 July to September 1943. On 5 June 1943 the Corsairs of VMF112 and VMF-I24 escorted fifteen SBD

Dauntlesses and a dozen Avengers on a raid on Japanese shipping off Buin. 2nd Lt Ken Walsh brought down a Ze!<e and a Mitsubishi Pete float biplane. In all, the Corsairs destroyed fifteen of the enemy aircraft. Two days later, on 7 June, Corsairs were among US fighters that intercepted 112 Japanese aircraft on a raid to Guadalcanal, and the Marine Corps pilots claimed twenty-three enemy aircraft shot down. VMF-112 destroyed seven of the enemy, but four Corsairs and a RNZAF P40 were lost. All the downed US rilots were rescued, although Lt Sam Logan of VMF-112 had lost most of one leg after a ero rilot had shot at him as he dangled helrlessly in his chute, and having missed, tried to chor him in half with his rropeller. On 16 June, about 120 Ze!<es and Vals made a final daylight raid on Guadalcanal, attacking shipping between the island and Tulagi. Corsairs of VMF-121, VMF-I22 and VMF-124 claimed eight enemy aircraft destroyed. Altogether 107 Japanese air-craft were shot down, eighty by defending fighters and the remainder by anti-aircraft fire. Six US aircraft and five pilots were lost. On 30 June the USM squadrons supported the US landings at Rendova and Vangunu in the New Georgia Island group. Four Corsair squadrons of thirty-two F4Us in all, though heavily outnumbered, claimed fifty-eight Japanese aircraft shot down in three determined enemy attacks on the landing beaches. VF-21 claimed thirty

It Kenneth A. Walsh of VMF-124. the first Corsair ace. shortly after recording his fifth victory. which took place on 13 May 1943 when he shot down three Zekes 15 miles (24km) east of the Russell Islands. Walsh finished the war with twenty-one confirmed victories. twenty of them with VMF-124 on F4U-1 Corsairs. and one with VMF-222 on 22 June 1945. flying the F4U-4. USMC

30

,lIrcraft, while P-40 Warhawks destroyed ,tnllther cleven enemy planes. Fourteen US fighters were shot down, with seven of the pilots lost. On 2 July, VMF-123 'Eight Balls' flew its first mission after converting to Corsairs, hringing the number of USMC Corsair squadrons in the Solomon Islands to eight. hve days later, on 7 July, twelve Jaranese hllmbers escorted by sixty Zeros attempted tll sink the US invasion ships off Rendova bLind. Intercepted by the Corsairs of VMF-I22, VMF-I21 and VMF-22I, sixIl'l'n Ze!<es and Bettys were claimed shot dllwn, and the raid was broken up. Meanwhile, seventy-eight US bombers l'scorted by forty-four Corsairs and sixtynine P- 38s, PAOs, and F4F-4s, bombed shipping in the Kahili area at Bougainville tn a surprise raid. During three Japanese raids, on 11, 14 ,tnd 15 July, VMF-213 added to their score 'l{ enemy fighters destroyed. On the 15th the Corsairs of the newly formed ComAir New Georgia claimed fOrLy.four Japanese ,lIrcraft destroyed, fourteen of them by VMF- I22 in a fifteen-minute air battle. Nllt to be outdone, eight Corsairs ofVMF213 claimed another sixteen victims. On 17 July the four Corsair squadrons, rarL of lhe escort covering almost eighty SBDs, TBFs and PB4Y-Is against enemy shirping ,It Kahil i, claimed forty-one of the fifty-t wo l'nemy aircraft reported destroyed during the raid. On 26 July, ten PB4Y-Is bombed Kahili airfield after twenty-one Marine Corsairs had strafed the area with their machine guns. Four days later, nine of the Navy Liberators, escorted by sixty-two lIghters including F4U-1 Corsairs, bombed Ballale Island, a few miles south of Kahili. On 14 August, the Corsairs ofVMF-123 <tnd VMF-124, newly returned after R&R 111 Australia, began operations from the 'Iirstrip of Munda on New Georgia Island, caprured by US forces from the Japanese Just nine days before. (Normally, a squadron would remain in the forward cllmbat zone for four to six weeks, and wlluld then be sent on leave in Australia or New Zealand. This would be followed hy a two- to four-week sojourn in a back ,lrC<l such as Espiritu Santo or Efate in the New Hebrides, then the squadron would return to action on Guadalcanal, New lJeorgia, Vella Lavella or Bougainville.) Next day, 15 August, the 'Eight Balls' and the 'Checkerboards' provided the escort cover for the US invasion of Vella Lavella Island, beating off heavy enemy attacks

and shooting down seventeen Japanese aircraft, three of them falling to the guns of 1st Lt Ken Walsh of VMF-124. On 28 August, Lt Alvin J. Jensen of VMF-214 made a spectacular solo strafing attack on Kahili airfield, having become separated from the rest of his flight in a tropical storm. Ill' strafed the airfield from north to south, leaving eight Zeros, four Vals ami a dozen Betty bombers burning. Photoreconnaissance photos taken the next day confirmed the destruction of the twentyfour Japanese planes. On 7 Sertember 1943, VMF-124 completed its hrst derloyment in the Solomon Islands and returned to the United States. It had scored sixty-eight aerial victories over the past seven months, for the loss of seven pilots killed (three to enemy action and four in operational accidents) and nine seriously injured. Altogether, VMF124 had written off thirty-two Corsairs, although only eleven were caused by enemy action. By the time of VMF- I 24's withdrawal from the combat zone, 1st Lt Ken Walsh, who on 30 August had survived being shot down near Vella Lavella, had taken his score to twenty confirmed victories, two probables and one aircraft damaged. VMF-I24 had written off thirtytwo F4U-1 and F4U-IAs, though only eleven of them to enemy action. Of the seven pilots killed, four were the result of non-combat accidents. VMF-124 arrived at Miramar, California, on 13 October and trained there unti I 18 Sertember 1944; then it moved to Pearl Ilarbor, and on 28 Dec~mber 1944 went aboard the USS Essex for a second deployment to the Pacific.

Boyington's 'Black Sheep' Squadron Also on TSeptem!:ler 1943, VMF-214 was reorganized at Munda under the command of the legendary thirty-year old Major Gregory Boyington. 'Pappy' Boyington' had been a naval aviator since 1937. He had nown P-40Cs with the American Volunteer Group - the 'Flying Tigers' - in Burma, where be was credited with 3.5 victories in the air and on the ground, although he considered his score was nearer six aerial victories and thirty on the ground. Boyington left the A VG in April 1942 with a dishonorable discharge; three months later he had rejoined the US Marine Corps. Early in 1943 he went to

31

the South Pacific and became CO of VMF-I22; he relinquished command of the squadron after breaking his leg in a drunken barracks room wrestling match. Boyington's new squadron, which took its designation from the squadron returning to the US after their tour of duty in the Solomons, quickly filled up with 'outcasts' from other Marine Corps squadrons. 'Pappy's' pilots wanLed to call themselves 'Boyington's Bastards', but this was too risque even for Boyington, and the unit was fittingly retitled the 'Black Sheep' Squadron. On 16 September Royingron became the first Corsair pilot to become an ace in a d'ly. I Ie led twenty Corsairs on a strike mission against the airfield at Ballale, a small island west o( Bougairwille, which was to be attacked by three squadrons of SBD Dauntless dive-bombers and two squadrons of A vengers, some ISO aircraft in all. On this momentous mission Boyington shot down four I laps and a Zero, while other 'Black Sheep' Squadron pilots were credited with the destruction of six more Zeros and eight probables. After a month of combat the 'Black Sheer' Squadron was credited with forty-seven confirmed aerial victories, and by the end of the year Boyington had racked up nineteen more victories on Corsairs, and four probables. At Rabaul, Boyington and his 'Black Sheer' Squadron develored the fighter sweep technique, and employed the tactic for the first time on 17 December 1943 when he led seventy-six Corsairs, P40s and Ilellcats over the island and flung down the gauntlet to the enemy fighters. Few appeared, and Boyington decided to reduce the fighter total to a more manageable forty-eight aircraft, mostly Corsairs. This time they destroyed thirty Japanese fighters, and more successful sweeps over Rabaul followed.

Night-Fighting Corsairs Meanwhile, lln II September 1943 VF(N)-75 arrived at Espirito Santo, and within a fortnight had moved to Munda with six F4U-2 night-fighting Corsairs. Operational ratrols of F4U-2 night fighters began on Munda on 2 October. An F4U-2 night fighter of VF(N )-75 made the Navy's first successful radar-guided interception over New Georgia Island on 31 October/! November 1943, when Lt Ilugh D. 'Danny' O'Neill shot down a


LAND AND SEA

LAND AND SEA

Betty bomber that he spotted by the light of its exhaust flames. At about this time, VMF(N)-531 Corsairs began their successful night-fighter patrols around Bougainville, and on 13 November 1943 made the first successful enemy aircraft interception by a Marine Corsair night fighter. VF(N)-75 were credited with a total of seven night victories flying F4U2s in World War II. On the night of 11/12 December, Lt Hugh D. 'Danny' O'Neill of VF(N)-75 destroyed another Betty. Operating from Torokina Field on 13 December, Lt John S. Hill was credited with the probable destruction of an enemy floatplane. On successive nights, IS and 16 December 1943, Hill destroyed two Rufe floatplane fighters, and three nights later, on the 19th Lt Ruben L. Johns also destroyed a Rufe. On the night of I january 1944, Lt Charles L. Penner destroyed a Val, and was credited with probably destroying another. Lt johns bagged his second night victory on 13 january, when he destroyed a Val.

forty-four combat sorties on close air support over the Treasury Islands - and still no enemy planes showed. (Corsairs were also in action elsewhere: on 20 October, twenty-four raided Kahili and were met by twenty Zeros. The F4Us shot down three of the Zekes for the loss of two Corsairs.) On the 29th, VF-17 contented themselves with a sixteen-plane strike on barges, and on the 30th, twenty-three Corsairs escorted bombers over the Shortlands. That evening, Lt james A. Halford led eight F4Us on a 'Dumbo' mission, escorting a PBY Catalina that had gone out to rescue a pilot who had ditched off the enemy-held coast. While VF-17 strafed the enemy shore installations, the PBY landed and the pilot was picked up, all within reach of the Japanese guns. VF-17's Corsairs saw action for the first time on I November. On this day the US invasion of Bougainville took place at Empress Augusta Bay, at the Cape Torokina beachhead, code-named Cherry Blossom. Eight of Blackburn's Corsairs were among the thirty-two American fighters detailed to cover the Marine landings, with staggered eight-plane flights on station until mid-afternoon. Blackburn led off the first flight, and at 0900 hours they intercepted a formation of eighteen Aichi Vals at 14,000ft (4,270m), and twelve Zeke escorts flying top cover for the divehombers. Both of Blackburn's four-plane divisions went into a long, shallow dive, building up their speed to 350 knots hefore attacking. Lt Shelton R. Beacham, in Lt Thad Bell's second division, drew first blood for the 'Jolly Rogers' when he overhauled a Zeke in a dive and blasted him out of the sky from 200yd. Shortly afterwards Beacham's Corsair was jumped by two Zekes out of the sun: they shot up his right wing badly, but he managed to nurse the F4U hack to Ondonga. Blackburn opened up on a Zeke at 500yd but although the enemy plane took hits, it did not go down. After the first attack the Corsairs climbed to 20,000ft (6,000m). Blackburn found himself on a Zeke's tail, and he fired: the ero exploded, and Blackburn flew through the burning debris. The Corsairs destroyed three more Zekes, and the jolly Rogers' CO added a second Zeke to his score as they headed for home. A division led by Lt John M. Kleinman strafed the south shore of Kulitinai Bay after a two-hour patrol over the US invasion fleet had failed to find any enemy aircraft. Lt Cdr Roger Hedrick and Lt

It (jgllra 'Ike' Kepford of VF-17. via Lee Cook

The 'Jolly Rogers' Finally Set Sail

Ensign Ira 'Ike' Kepford of VF-17 in the cockpit of his F4U-117684, after his first, second, third and fourth victories, all on 11 November 1943. Kepford was credited with the destruction of three Vals and a

Kate, as well as one Val damaged. via Lee Cook

It Cdr John T. Tommy' Blackburn (left). the CO of VF-17, and J. J. 'Jack' Hospers, chief field service representative for Vought Aircraft, in front of Blackburn's personal F4U-1A Corsair 'No l' Bu No. 17629 'Big Hog' at Ondonga on New Georgia Island after his fourth victory, which occurred on 11 November 1943. Note the four patched bullet holes to the right of the aircraft number, which were put there that same day by the XO, Roger Hedrick, who mistook Blackburn's Corsair for a Zero! USN via Lee Cook

32

In the meantime, VF-17 and its thirty-six new raised-cockpit F4U-IAs in Hawaii awaited their assignment to ComAirsePac Solomon Islands. On 12 October 1943, VF-17 departed Pearl Harbor aboard the jeep carrier, USS Prince William, ami thirteen days later their Corsairs were catapulted off the CVE to Espirito Santo. VF17 flew up to Henderson Field on the 26th, and finally arrived at the former japanese airfield carved out of the coconut plantation at Ondonga, on New Georgia. Lt Cdr Blackburn described Ondonga as ' . . . clean, virtually bugless, free of snipers, and above all, near the enemy'. By this time moSL of the central Solomons were in American hands, although Bougainvillc to the north of New Georgia still had to be taken and occupied. The next objective was the Bismarck Archipelago and the japanese stronghold at Rabaul on the north-east tip of New Britain. The maintenance crew of Marine Squadron VMF-215 adopted the 'Jolly Rogers' from the outset. On 27 October VF-17 began their first tour, flying from the 4,000ft (l,220m) white coral runway, and putting three fl ights over the Treasury Islands in support of the 3rd New Zealand Division that had landed there. On 28 October, CorSc'irs flew

Lt Cdr Roger R. Hedrick, XO, VF-17, on the wing of his Corsair. via Lee Cook

33


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struct air strips close enough (200 miles/300km)

sion leader, Major Buck Ireland, and attempted

to Rabaul so that fighter planes could manage ro

to signal that I was going back to cover McCaleb.

fly from this bay over ro Rabaul and return, to

Buck nodded, aprarently not seeing what had

avoid japanese military forces concenrrated at

happened ro Mac.

the south and north ends of the island. And to

By the time I caught up with McCaleb he had

locate where the construction of airstrips and

made a water landing, was floating in his Mae

radar sites was taking place was a feasible project

West and was fumbling with his life raft. I slowly

for the Sea Bees. The Third Division disem-

circled and he waved to show that he was OK. I

barking from a dozen transports assaulted the

continued to circle, wondering what to do, when

beaches in the Empress Augusta Bay at Care

a PT boat or crash boat appeared in the distance

Torokina and Puruata Island. The surf ran high,

from a direction I judged to be Munda or

landing craft landed at the wrong beaches, boats

Ondonga. If McCaleb radioed for help I sure

broached in the surf, and japanese shellfire killed

didn't hear him. I checked out the US flag on

many Marines. But by nightfall several beach-

the boat and could sec that it was head-

heads were secured, although many of the troops

ing srraight for McCaleb. At that point I headed

ended ur waist-deep in swamps all night.

for Bamkoma hoping to rejoin the rest of the

Clement D. 'Timmy' Cile's divisions were also in action, and they claimed one Zeke shot down (Hedrick), and three damaged. VF-17 suffered its first casualty of the tour when Lt (jg) John H. Keith was shot down by enemy ack-ack over Poporang Island and Faisi Island. Keith successfully ditched about 15 miles (24km) south-east of Faisi, and was last seen swimming towards land. He was never found. In all, twenty-two enemy aircraft were shot down on 1 November for the loss of four aircraft. Six of the confirmed victories were credited to VF-17, as were six enemy aircraft damaged.

Landing at Barakoma I was able to join them,

;MC via Wally Thomson

of us took off for Velb (the airstrip was usually

Working on the engine of No.5 of VF-17 beneath the palms at Ondonga. USN via Lee Cook

guys.

F4U Corsairs on a coral fighter strip at Banika Island in the Russell Islands.

On the morning of I November 1943, sixteen called Barakoma). I was in the last division, my

and gas up for our mission to Bougainvillc. I was

wingman being Lt McCaleb. Normally we would

startled to realize that the rest of our formation

try to use up the gas in the internal wing-tip

didn't see McCaleb go down, didn't sec me go

tanks, then rurge these two tanks with carbon

back to help, and didn't seem worried that both

dioxide so that in combat they would not

of us were missing. Our chief mission for that day

oppressive trorical humidity, the swarms of

explode. The gas in these tanks would last

was still ahead o( us. The Third Marine Division

insects, the torrential trorical rainstorms, the

roughly a half-hour, then we would switch over

was invading Bougainville at Empress Augusta

waist-deep swamps and the threat of rrorical

to the main 230gal 11,0451J tank between the

Bay close to a place called Cape Torokina. There

fevers, all made Bougainville a wretched place ro

pilot and the engine. I had just emptied and

were surposed to be about 40,000 japs on the

conduct military operations.

purged my wing-tip tanks when out of the cor-

island. There were seveml jap airstrips at each

But on I November 1943 the Third Marine

ner of my eye I saw McCaleb abrurtly drop out

end of Bougainville, plus the five airfields at the

Division under the command of Marine Major

of formation. My first thought was that he had

fortress of Rabaul. For all we knew, rhe japs

General Turnage invaded the south-west coast

forgotten to switch tanks. But his engine didn't

of Bougainville at Empress Augusta Bay. The

start and it looked like he would ditch in the

reasons for choosing this location were to con-

water ncar a small island. I pulled ur to the divi-

might attack our invading forces with planes

Corsairs lined up on Barakoma airstrip, autumn 1943. USMC via Wally Thomson

coming from all directions. The flight fmm Barakoma up ro Torokina took about (orty-five minutes. We had to circle out to the left, then back to the right to avoid the five or six jap fields at places like Ballale, Shortland, Buin, Kahili and Kara. About twelve

of LIS finCllly arrived on station. Far helow

LIS

we

could sec dozens of landing craft making curving white wakes as they sped toward the shore. From

USMC Cover the Bougainville Invasion

our vantage point up there at 20,000ft 16,000mJ or so, things seemed to be going smoothly. In

Marine Corps' Corsair pilot, Wallace B. Thomson ofVMF-211, recalls:

reality (as we later (ound out) the Marines were

â&#x20AC;˘

having a terrible time: landing craft landed at the wrong places, vital supplies were lost, the japs raked the invaders with 75mm artillery fire,

For the last few days in Ocrober 1943 we were

the shore was open to rough seas, and troops

told that there would be an invasion of

(ound themselves waist deep in muck.

Bougainville Island and that we would supply air

The good news was that the japs were sur-

cover. From the Russells, Bougainville was

prised, not so much that we had invaded, but

beyond our effective range, so we would have to

that we had chosen Torokina - no harbour, no

stage through Munda or Vella Lavella, refuelling at those airsrrirs. Bougainville is the most north¡

Marine Fighter Squadron 211 'Wake Avengers' in Hawaii, August 1943. Wally Thomson

western large island of the I ,OOO-mile II ,600kml

is at rear left. In September 1942 2/lt Thomson began training on the Grumman F4F

long Solomon Island chain. It is about 125 miles

Wildcat in Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-221, which had been decimated at Midway

1200kml in length and averages about 30 miles

the previous June. In November 1942 he was sent to the Palmyra Island Naval Base to

150kml in width. Down its centre runs a srine of

defend that base flying the Wildcat in VMF-211, which had been wiped out at Wake

very rugged mountains including the smoking,

Island in December 1941. In June 1943 VMF-211 returned to Hawaii to begin training

active volcano, Mt Bagana, at some 10,000ft

on the F4U-1A Corsair; that August they set off for the Marine base at Turtle Bay,

13,000ml in elevation. The heaving ridges and

Espirutu Santo in the New Hebrides, arriving in October; and a few weeks later being

gullies, the dense tangle of jungle vines, the

sent to the Russell Islands in the Solomons. USMC via Wally Thomson

34

good place for an airfield and all those dismal swamrs. Ward Hower, my usual wingman , was back on my wing. We climbed to 25,000ft 17,500mJ to look things over. In a situation like that you don't know whether to fly high or low. If you fly low to protect the troops, the Zeros get a vital altitude advantage, but if you fly high,

An F4U Corsair after an emergency landing on the unfinished runway at Torokina

bombers and strafers can get at the landing craft

airstrip. USMC via Wally Thomson

and troops ,md you never know it. We circled

35


LAND AND SEA

LAND AND SEA

the Invasion area (or an hour, hut no Jar planes showed up. We could only guess what was going on down on the gmund. We kept cIrcling, surptlsed that we dIdn't see any planes m all, friend or foe. Where were all the dozens of Corsairs wc had seen at Ramkoma! Finally I saw about a dozen 'PAOs' a few Ihousand feet above us. My lust thought was, 'Roy, those r-40s sure arc flying high, they musl have those new Rolls-Royce engtnes tn them'. They were also all strung out in an unfamilIar formation; mayhc they were New Zealanders. Then the leader waggled hiS wtngs and started to dIve ilt us. I went fmm 1,700rpm to 2,600 and to full thmttle JUSI like that. Then I went into a 45-degree dive. Ward followed suit - and suddenly, Zeros were all around us, their big red meatballs flashtng angrily tn the sun. If they hred, I didn't see any trace". We knew Zen" couldn't dl\'e with the Corsairs, especially If they feared that other Ametlcan planes were down there, ,md theIr iltrack ended as qUIckly ,1S It hild staned

and thcy dISappeared for

good. It was our hrst conwct with the enemy,

and it \Va . . an ignoll1tlllou", rctrcclt for u.... But at least we were OK. We hnlshed our patrol at 15,000fl 14,500ml Then we returncd

and nothing happened. 10

Barakoma, gassed up and

Lt Cdr Roger R. Hedrick, XO of VF-17, in the cockpit of his F4U-1A Corsair 17659, shortly after his third victory, a Zeke at Empress Augusta Bay on 17 November 1943. Hedrick finished the war with twelve confirmed victories, nine of them with VF-17 and three with VF-84 in 1945. via Lee Cook

flew to our base in Ihe Russells. (,ulping all th,lt oxygen really milde me hungry, and I atc enough for rhrce people. As I WrllC this I am looking at our squadron 'tntelligence' record for that day. It says that McCaleb had 'cnglne trouble', and furtherABOVE: Trio of VMF-215 'Fighting Corsairs' aces.

more that 'none of our pilot... had clny contdct WIth the enemy'. I would guess that McCaleb

left to right, Lt Robert M. Hanson (twenty-five

Simply forgot to SWitch from his wing ranks back

victories), Capt Harold l. Spears (fifteen), and Capt

to the main wnk. Also, Wilrd and I had becn

Donald N. Aldrich (twentyl. USMC

jumped by a dozen Zeros, which would certainly

RIGHT: lt Cdr John T. 'Tommy' Blackburn, the CO of

qualify as 'contact with Ihc encmy'. It is really

VF-17. in front of the squadron's operations' hut on

surprising thaI thcrc werc no morc enemy con-

Bougainville, 19 February 1944. USN vIa Lee Cook

tacts, as rccords show that 104 Jap ,mcraft

The Battle of the Solomon Sea

attacks wcre made on Ihc Toroktna bcachhead dutlng thc firsltwcmy-four hours of the tnvasion. Wlthll1 a month, the Sca Flees had constructed iln ,lItsttlp at Cape Torok ll1a , complete with a steci-Ialllcc Marston Mat runway. By late December wc were based m this new Torokina rllr"'trip, living In (our.. man tems in a forest ofhuge Banyan trecs. It was New Year's

Day

1944.

Two

days

earlier

we

had had our hrst flighl over Rab<ll.I, 200 miles 1300kml

10

the west from Tomkina, followcd

by a Dumbo (rescue) flight looking for a downed B-24 Liberalllr: the month of January indeed

Lt ljgllra 'Ike' Kepford in F4U-1 Corsair 55995 No. 29, guided by a ground

promISed to be grim and difhcult. On Ncw Year's

crewman sitting on the right wing, taxis out to the runway at Bougainville for a

Day, lhing~ were caSler (or me as I was as... igncd

raid on the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul on New Britain Island, early in the

to a routine patrol flight over the Torokina

morning of 19 February 1944. On this trip Kepford shot down a Rufe and two Zekes

beachhead. It was routine in that no Japanese

at Cape Siar, New Ireland, to bring his final score to sixteen confirmed victories.

fighters or bombers showed up.

USN vIa Lee Cook

36

On the following day, 2 November, VF17 flew forty-seven sorties in response to ,\ japanese dive-bombing attack on the destroyer Foote, but no contact was made. On 3 November more than forty Corsair ,orties were flown, but again, no contact was made so the 'jolly Rogers' had to content themselves with strafing enemy positions. Two days later VF-17 flew CAP ovcr two US carriers as strikes went in 'lgainst japanese warships at Rabaul. On 8 November, twelve Corsairs of VF-17 were 10 cscort a bombing and strafing strike by nine B-25s on Matchin Bay; however, llnly five Corsairs formed up, and none of

37


LAND AND SEA

LAND AND SEA

It (jg) Ira 'Ike' C. Kepford's F4U-1 at Bougainville, Solomon Islands, 19 February 1944. USN

Lt (jgllra 'Ike' C. Kepford of VF-17 near Bougainville, Solomon Islands, March 1944. USN

VF-17's Corsair aces pictured 21 March 1944, after the 'Jolly Rogers' had left the combat lone. Left to right, Lt Cdr Roger E. Hedrick (nine victories, twelve by the war's end), It Cdr John T. 'Tommy' Blackburn, CO (eleven victories!, and Lt Ira 'Ike' C. Kepford (sixteen victories!, the then leading Navy ace. USN via Lee Cook

38

the bombers was sighted. Angered by this ,lIlticlimax, Blackburn, who was leading, decided to head north with his four other HUs and take on the enemy themselves. They chanced upon a 'Ruth' light transpmt coming in to land at Buka, and Blackburn shot it down. Later in the day il flight of six Corsairs led by Lt Cdr Roger I ledrick intercepted twenty-four Zekes and fI(teen Vals over Empress Augusta Bay. The Vals turned and ran as soon as the l ~msairs were sighted. Three Zekes fell to the Corsairs' guns, and Hedrick was credlied with three aircraft damaged. On 9 November some of VF-I7's l \ltSairs had arrestor hooks installed. The rL'ason for this became obvious two days later when carrier-borne aircraft from t he Essex, Bunker Hill and Indef)endence, ,urrorted by nine destroyers, attacked Rabaul: VF-17 flew top cover, together with VMF-212, VMF-221, VF-33's Hellcats, and a squadron ofRNZAF P-40s. VF-l7's Corsairs were to take off from Ondonga at 0420 hours and fly CAP over the fleet while the strike went in. They were to remain airborne until their fuel reserves were low, at which time they were to land on board the Essex and Bunker Hill to refuel and rearm before resuming CAr over the fleet again. Just before dawn, Blackburn led twentythree Corsairs off from Ondonga and two hours later they were in position, joined

by twelve of VF-33's Hellcats from Segi Point. The Corsairs remained on patrol until 0830 hours, when, low on fuel, and as instructed, Blackburn's twelve Corsairs headed for the Bunker Hill, and Lt Cdr Roger Hedrick's eleven F4Us made for the Essex (one of his Corsairs had become lost after leaving Ondonga, and was forced to return to base). All the Corsairs landed without a single wave-off, and the Hellcats landed aboard the Independence. While the fighters were refuelling and rearming ready for the next CAP, the orsairs of VMF-212 from Barakoma and VMF-22 I from Munda took over CAP duties overhead. After a late breakfast, VF-l7's Corsairs took off from the carriers again, although three aborted almost immediately with mechanical problems and had to return to Ondonga. The twenty remaining Corsairs took up station over the invasion fleet as the second strike prepared to go in over Rabaul. At first the enemy was noticeable by its absence. Lt (jg) Fred J. 'J im' Streig took off in pursuit of a lone Kawasaki Ki-6l Tony, and shot it down during a 23,000ft (7,000m) dive. But it was not until just after 1300 hours that the enemy planes appeared in strength, and then four waves were picked up on radar, heading in the direction of the carriers. The 'Jolly Rogers' sighted sixty-five Zekes at around 24,000ft (7,300m), escorting twenty-five Val dive-

39

bombers flying helow them at 18,000ft (5,500m), with fifteen Nakajima Kate torpedo bombers behind and below. The Corsairs had height advanmge, but they had been airborne for three hours so fuel was getting low. I lowe vel', the enemy had to be stopped, and in any event, VF-17 could not land on the carriers as they were still flying off the strike aircraft, And so the 'Jolly Rogers' dived on the Zekes, and six of the Japanese fighters went down in rapid succession. 'Teeth' Burriss went right through the Zekes and shot down one of the Kates. Blackburn damaged a Zeke and followed it down to 2,500ft (760m), but lost it in the clouds. Then he latched on to a Tony, and was gratified to sec its port wing catch fire and the aircraft go down. The rest of the Kates sought cover in the clouds, and disappeared from view for a short while. Two more Vals went down in flames, and after searching unsuccessfully (or the other Kates, 'Teeth' Burriss spotted a Betty twin-engined bomber and shot it down. The tenacious pilot was also credited with a half share in a Kate with one of VF-33's Hellcats. The remaining Kates emerged from the cloud cover, and lost height to begin their torpedo attacks on the carriers. Their target was the Bunker Hill. Lt John Kleinman, Lt (jg) Robert Hill, Lt 'Timmy' Cile and 'Ike' Kepford saw them, and made their attacks amid intense anti-aircraft fire from the carriers. Shells of 20mm and 40mm exploded around them and sent up huge plumes of water as the torpedo bombers pressed home their attack with grim determination. Hill destroyed one of the Kates, pulling away sharply after his attack to avoid being hit by fire (rom the carrier. (He and Ensign B. W. Baker were forced to ditch en route to Ondongo, but happily both were rescued.) Kleinman destroyed another, but then a 'friendly' shell shattered his windshield and peppered h is face wi th broken Plexiglas. He managed to nurse his battered Corsair back to Ondongo where he put down safely. Clement Cile dropped onto the tail of a Kate just after it had launched its torpedo from too high an altitude, so it failed, and after a short chase, shot the bomber into the sea. By now the remaining Zekes had appeared and were trying to protect the torpedo bombers. Undeterred, Ira Kepford saw a Kate that had closed to 1,000yd from the Bunker Hill, and blasted it out of the sky just as the Japanese pilot was about to


LAND AND SEA

LAND AND SEA

ABOVE: RNZAF F4U¡1 s of No. 18 Squadron in

formation off the coast of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, in March 1945. Vought LEFT: It Cdr John T. 'Tommy' Blackburn, the CO of

VF-17. USN via Lee Cook

It (jgllra 'Ike' C. Kepford in 55995 '29', leading a division of VF-17 F4U-1A Corsairs near Bougainville, Solomon Islands. March 1944. '8' is flown by It ijgl Hal Jackson, '3' by It (jgl Frederick 'Jim' Streig lfifteen victories), and '28' by Wilbert P. Popp. USN

launch his torpedo. A Zeke rounded on Kepford's Corsair, but fortunately a Hellcat shot it off his tail almost before Kepford had time to notice the enemy plane was there. The Bunker Hill's saviour managed to avoid the flak, and powered up to altitude to take on a flight of six Vals trying to return to Rabaul, roaring in behind them with all his guns blazing. Three of the dive-bombers went down in flames in quick succession, but as he

opened fire on the fourth, his guns stuttered to a stop, the last of his ammunition expended. The events of 1 J November J 943 became known as the Battle of the Solomon Sea. The Japanese lost 137 aircraft, and VF-17 was credited with 18.5 confirmed kills and seven Japanese planes damaged. It is also worthy of mention that ten days later, on the morning of 21 November, the 'Jolly Rogers' followed up

40

their success when four of their Corsairs, led by Lt M. W. 'Butch' Davenport, intercepted a flight of six Zeros and shot them all down. By 30 November VF-17 had a total of forty-five victories for the loss of five F4U-1As, two of them in combat, and three pilots killed. The Battle of the Solomon Sea was a major strategic victory. Never again did the Japanese Navy base its warships in Simpson Harbor, and the Japanese gave up all attempts to

41


LAND AND SEA

LAND AND SEA

repel the invasion of Bougainville, resorting only to holding actions in the Solomons while withdrawing their forces to the strongholds of Truk and Rabaul.

1943 Draws to a Close In December 1943, VMF-213 completed its south-west Pacific tour of duty in the Solomons, having achieved over 100 victories; by now its ranks included seven aces. By this time the night-fighting Corsair was making quite a name for itself, too. Since 9 December the F4U-2s had been based at Torokina on the northern end of Bougainville Island, from which to strike the big Japanese base at Rabaul, and during this month they destroyed two enemy aircraft at night. On 10 December the F4U-2s were joined by seventeen F4Us of VMF-216. The Corsair was by now one of the most numerous American fighters available to the AirSols (Solomons Air

Forces), with about seventy F4Us, roughly a quarter of the 270 fighters on strength. Apart from the Navy Corsair squadrons (supplemented by fifty-eight Hellcats), five USMC F4U squadrons - VMF-211, 212, -215, -221 and VMF(N)-531 - were now based in the Solomons. Twentyseven Corsairs and thirty-one P-38s were based in the Russell Islands, thirtyone Corsairs and P-39 Airacobras were on Munda, and 103 Corsairs, P-39s and Royal New Zealand Air Force P-40 Kittyhawks were at Ondonga. While these totals appear impressive on paper, in actuality they were severely reduced by maintenance problems and other operational considerations, which limited the effective total of aircraft available to just over 130 Corsairs, Hellcats and Warhawks, while just 38 per cent of the P-38s were normally available. A new command, AirNorSols, carried out its first fighter sweep over Rabaul on 17 December, when the Marine and Navy Corsairs were among the fighters used.

The sweep took place using thirty-one F4U-s along with twenty-two F6Fs and twenty-three RNZAF P-40 Kittyhawks. (Only forty-seven of the seventy-one F4Us in theatre were operational.) On 23 December 1943, forty-eight Corsairs and forty-four other fighters, together with a heavy formation of bombers, carried out a fighter sweep over Rabaul. This time the Japanese took the bait, and about forty Zekes rose to meet the incoming force. The American fighters claimed thirty enemy aircraft destroyed. More successes followed on 27 and 28 December when fifty-two enemy aircraft were claimed destroyed, thirtythree of them over Rabaul by four Marine Corsair squadrons - VMF-214, -216, -223, and -331 - that were staging through Torokina. But despite the Corsair successes throughout 1943, in the Solomons campaign, and aboard British carriers, the US Navy still refused to station Corsairs in strength aboard its carriers.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Beginning in late March 1944, the Royal New Zealand Air Force received 364 Vought-built Corsairs and sixty FG-1Ds from Goodyear under the terms of lend-lease. The F4U-1s and F4U-1Ds were used as fighter bombers and equipped thirteen squadrons in the Pacific beginning in May 1944, but the Goodyear models did not see service until after hostilities had ended. They were used by No. 14 Squadron, part of the Japanese Occupation forces, from March 1946 to November 1948. The Kiwi Corsairs were the forgotten squadrons of the South Pacific campaign, being used to help mop up considerable enemy forces on islands bypassed during the inexorable advance on Japan. RNZAF Corsairs Serial Numbers

Model F4U-1A 237 F4U-1D 127 FG-ID 60

NZ5201-NZ5396, NZ5461-NZ5463, NZ5465, NZ5487, NZ5501-NZ5536 NZ5397-NZ5460, NZ5464, NZ5466-NZ5486, NZ5537-NZ5577 NZ5601-NZ5660

Mostly, the RNZAF Corsairs operated from bases in the Bismarck-Solomons area for strikes on New Ireland, New Britain and Bougainville. No. 20 Squadron was the first Kiwi Corsair unit to enter service, arriving on Bougainville on 14 May 1944. Nos 15 and 16 Squadrons flying Corsairs joined them by the end of December that year. On the 21st, No. 16 Squadron moved forwards to Ocean Strip, Green Island, for strafing and bombing attacks on Rabaul and strikes on enemy shipping, in company with RNZAF PV Venturas. RNZAF Corsair Squadrons 1944-49 No. No. No. No. No.

14 15 16 17 18

Squadron Squadron Squadron Squadron Squadron

No. No. No. No. No.

19 20 21 22 23

Squadron Squadron Squadron Squadron Squadron

No. No. No. No. No.

24 25 26 27 28

Squadron Squadron Squadron Squadron Squadron

Throughout 1945 the RNZAF Corsair squadrons were rotated on a regular basis. Nos 21 and 24 Squadrons on Bougainville were replaced by Nos 18 and 20 in January and February 1945. By the spring, the squadrons had moved to the forward areas, and by May, four Corsair squadrons - Nos 14, 16,22 and 26 Squadrons - were operating on airfields at Piva on Bougainville. During June and July they were relieved by Nos 15, 18, 23 and 24 Squadrons, which remained on the island until the end of the war. The Kiwi Corsairs flew numerous bombing and strafing attacks in all weathers from Espiritu Santo, Guadalcanal; Green Island; Emirau in the New Ireland group; and Los Negros on Manus, in the Admiralty Islands, attacking targets on New Ireland, New Britain and Bougainville. These were often carried out in support of Australian ground forces and in conjunction with RNZAF Venturas and USAAF B-25 Mitchells. By May 1945 RNZAF squadrons were based at Jacquinot Bay, New Britain, and in June all squadrons on Emirau were ready to move forward, ultimately to Borneo. However, the Japanese surrendered on 2 September 1945, before the final move to Borneo could take place. By this time, nine RNZAF Corsair squadrons were based in the Bismarck-Solomons area, four of them on Bougainville, two at Los Negros and three on New Britain. Some 154 RNZAF Corsairs were lost in combat and during training, with fifty-six pilots killed. At the end of the war most of the surviving RNZAF Corsairs were scrapped, or returned to the US Navy.

42

43


AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

---

CHAPTER THREE

Aerial CODlbat Escapades J. Hunter Reinburg, USMC All six of my guns needed only m hark for less than a second hefore he Ithe enemy bomber] disintegrated. In the next instant, I had to pull hack the stick to avoid flying through the dehris of the exploding aircraft. It was a gruesome and yet rewarding sight. For an instant, several human bodies could be seen among the falling mess.

Twenty-three-year-old Joseph Hunter Reinburg, a Texan from Fort Worth, joined the Marine Corps and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant with effect from 14 February 1941. He flew a combat tour with VMF-121 at Guadalcanal after transferring from VMF-ll1, and was promoted to captain. In January 1943, flying the F4F-4, Captain Reinburg shot down three Zekes, the first one at Vella Lavella Island on the 13th, and the other two at Guadalcanal on 27th. On the following day VMF-I21 was sent to the back area training base at Turtle Bay on Espiritu Santo. Eight pilots, including Reinburg, who were considered 'healthy enough' were sent to VMF-I22 to be checked out in the new F4U-I Corsair. Many replacement pilots fresh from the United States were being checked out with them, and one was Major 'Pappy' Boyington, who became the CO for a short time. Hunter Reinburg recalled that he rarely saw him sober, and that he was '... continuously flabbergasted at how well he could fly... Greg never missed a mission assigned to him, thanks mostly to the fact that his plane captain literally poured him into the airplane's cockpit.' VMF-I22 were fourth in line to be equipped with the Corsair, but there was no time to practise because on lOA pri I they were ordered to Guadalcanal, together with twenty-four Wildcats, to help defend it against a new Japanese offensive to retake the island. When the enemy offensive failed, VMF-I22 was sent to Sydney, Australia, for a week's leave before resuming training on the Corsair at Turtle Bay. On 12 June 1943, VMF-I22

returned to Guadalcanal, this time with Corsairs, but minus 'Pappy' Boyington who, after recovering from a broken leg sustained in a drunken barracks room wrestling match-cum-brawl, had been directed to take over VMF-112; soon after he was appointed CO ofVMF-214, which became known as the 'Black Sheep' Squadron. Meanwhile, on Boyington's recommendation, Hunter Reinburg, who was promoted to major, was appointed acting CO of VMF-I22. Major Reinburg's Corsair combat career began with mixed emotions when, on 30 June 1943, he led his flight of eight F4U Corsairs from Fighter Strip No.1 at Guadalcanal. These are his recollections: We were assigned to fly comhat air patrol over assault landings on Rendova Island, 200 miles

a few days with more landings across the narrow strait on New Georgia Island, with the enemy airfield at Mumla Point as the objective. Just under an hour later we were flying over the Rendova area at 10,000ft 13,000m]. I had just reported to 'Plum', the Comhat Information Center (CIC), on a destroyer warship somewhere below us. Pluto's radarscope was splattered with targets as he transmitted a hlanket hroadcast: 'This is Pluto. Many hogies sixty miles II OOkm] north-west, presumed to be very high. All fighters climb to 25,000ft 17,500ml.'

Major Hunter Reinburg mounting his Corsair for a combat mission 'from Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. v,a the late Hunter Reinburg

We always tried to keep our radio conversa-

tions to a minimum, transmitting only impor~

After ascending through 22,000ft 16,700m[, a

attack at any moment from above, while there

normal. The windmilling propeller would keep

tant messages in concise form. Fortunately my

large formation was visihle ten miles to the

was also very active and hostile anti~aircra(t fire

fuel flowing, and it could only be stopped hI'

seven pilots also heard the voice because they

north-west and considerahly higher. I was sure

from Munda, directly below. I was between the

shutting off the mixture control level at the

anticipated my hand signals to push the mixture

this was the enemy bomber formation because

proverhial rock and a hard place, and virtually

throttle quadrant or at the main gas valve

control to automatic rich, the propeller to mil-

I could also see a covey of smaller planes above

helpless with a dead engine. The powerplant

alongside the scar.

itary RPM, and the throttle wide open for max-

them, obviously their fighter escort. My heart

was nonnally rated m 2,000 horsepower, hut at

imum climb. At the same time, they followed

action quickened and I radioed to my flight:

the moment it was just so much excess weight contributing only to my high rate of descent.

f320kml m the west. The amphihious attack had

my example of hitching on their oxygen masks,

'Th is is Red One. Bogies, many bogies, ten

commenced at dawn, and would be followed in

which were necessary for our higher destination.

o'clock high.'

Thc Corsair was our newest type fighter air-

Major

Herm;lI1

'I lap'

Hansen

was

the

squ;lliron commander of VMF-122 by seniority, but because he had just come from a desk joh, he had no com hat experience. Consequently I

I continued to climb at full power, hoping we

plane, just completing its fourth month of com-

was designated the acting squadron commandcr,

could get to their altitude before the shooting

hat, and it soon endeared itself to all of us

and Hap was leading my second section this day.

'tarted. There seemed to be no hope of gaining

hccause it was a match for the Zero. The engine

I radioed: 'Hap, I think I have arcing mag

favorable r()~ition lIr~Slln and ahovc them,

was new and the most powerful yet huilt, hut in

trouhle. Take the lead and I'll rejoin you when

hecause they were much closer than Pluto's

the last few months we had had a number of

I get it started.' I was either extremely naive or

information had indicated. As we approached

mysterious high-altitude engine failures. We felt

optimistic - I'm still not sure which - consider-

the Jap-held Munda airfield and were passing

sure thcsc were causcd by unwarranted srark~

ing the imminence of a fight, normal restart dif-

through 23,000ft 17,000m], my engine quit

arcing within the unpressurized magnetos while

ficulties and the enemy airfield located directly

(l

completely with frightful suddenness. With the

flying in the rarefied upper air, and the obvious

below. After Ilap acknowledged, I radioed my

,,'und of my own engine silenced, I could oddly

cure was pressurizcd magnctos. These had bcen

wingman: 'Sims, follow me down and cover me while I get my engine started or if I ditch off the

hear the sound of my companion's engines,

ordered from the States - hut in thc meantime,

which only added to my consternation' I

the war had to go on. Seeing that my instru-

Rendova shore.' I didn't even want to think that

instincti\¡e1y nosed my Corsair over into a glide

ments wcrc normal, I was <...juite surc my trouhle

hostile action might intervene.

while frantically glancing at the instruments,

was arcing magnetos. The book remedy (which

While gliding toward Rendova and around

hoping to get a clue to the trouble. Much to my

did not seem to work all that often) was to glide

the Munda airfield, I checked the propeller con-

surprise, all gauges were normal, but the pro-

to a lower altitude where the denser air would

trol lever and then moved it to the low pitch

peller continued to windmill, due to my gliding

stop the arcing. We already had a history,

position. I moved the throttle back and forth a

airspeed.

though, of some pilots never getting their

couple of times, hoping to hear the engine

In friendly skies such a crisis would not be so

engines started again. This had cost the lives of

restart, but nothing happened. I pushed the

bad, but we were deep in enemy territory. The

two pilots so far, so the problem wasn't one of

throttle forwards to the full powcr setting and

only encouraging thought was that I could glide

merc inconvenience or lost aircraft.

left it there.

The fighter leaders on Guadalcanal, June 1943, in front of an F4U Corsair. left to

to a water ditching near our ships supporting

The only reason that anyone could come up

I imagined that Sanderson Sims was no

right: Wally Cloake, J. Hunter Reinburg, Gregory Wisenberger, Major General

the assault landings on Rendova. This fact,

with for the engine's failure to restart was that

happier than I was because this would have

Ralph Mitchell (Guadalcanal Air Commander), Herman 'Hap' Hansen and Herbert

however, was outweighed by the realization

raw gasoline fouled the spark plugs, thereby

been his first enemy air contaer and I was

Harvey long. The late H. Remburg

that enemy fighters could, and probahly would,

drowning out the spark when it returned to

depriving him of a possihle victory. He was easy

44

45


AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

AERtAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

bullers, and I had no time or cause ro give the

I thought (and hoped) the fire would go out

matter more thought. Before I had completed a

hefore it melted the wing off, or the whole works

hard left turn, I was in a firing position to kill

exploded. A cloud was very close by, so I ducked inro it for greater safety while considering the

'Red One from Pluto, I have many bogies

squadron policy of trying to stay in sight of each

than trying

confirm the leader's destruction.

fire situation. While enshrouded in the mist, I

approaching from the north-west, high. Climb

other would offer us some mutual protection. It

It was almost a no-lead shm, and my cone of fire

noticed fog beginning to fill the cockpit - and

to Angels 25 over X-Ray.' This was simply a

was always my fond hope that each of us might

blew him up with a two-second burst.

the smell of smoke told me that I was mistaken,

code for a pre-seleered landmark.

destroy an enemy hom bel' before we had to

[0

But there was no time ro relax and shout

as the new squadron leader of VMF-122. The late H Relnburg

to sec in my rear~\licw mirror, zigzagging behind

me, trying

in quick succession. From then on, it was individual taerics. We could only hope that our

another Zero, and I felt this was more important

joyous words of victory, because another Zero

Major Reinburg (left) being congratulated by Major General Ralph Mitchell on Guadalcanal in June 1943,

'V' of Bettys, my flight was supposed to follow

The Zero's Wings were Weak, 15 July 1943

and that the fog was actually smoke' It became difficult to breathe and to see the

'Roger from Red One.' I was transmitting to

protect ourselves from the Zeros. Fighting with

the destroyer-borne radar station by depressing

Zeros was a greater challenge, but the destruc-

was looming up in the distance, slightly below

instruments. A glance to the left indicated I was

the microphone button on top of my airplane's

tion of bombers was more important to the toral

and coming head-on, emulating his leader's

suddenly out o( the cloud, and I could see that

throttle lever. I was using a throat microphone,

war effort.

recent manoeuvre. A forward push nn the

flames were now intermingled with the smoke

which allowed my hands complete freedom.

Machine guns blinked at me (rom most of the

C<11ltrol stick instantly established the proper

coming from the rop of my engine. Christ, now

The seven Corsairs of VMF-I22 following me

tail guns in the Betty bombers, but I hardly

lead, and my trigger finger flexed. Again I

I' t'e gOI a fire in the engine' Th is was it. I was a mass

heard the instructions, and silently duplicated

noticed or feared them - the heat of battle was

ohserved my tracers drill into him as he passed

of flames and had ro get out - in a hurry' The

my climb from 9,000ft [2,700ml. We were about

on, and with it the chance (or further imminent aerial victories.

heneath me. He did nor return my fire and I

plane was expendable, but I sure as hell was not.

120 miles 1200kml south-cast of Kahili, an

again turned hard left hoping ro observe him

I was determined to bail out as fast as possible

important jap airbase on Bougainville Island.

My Corsair was in a steep dive, with the gun;

disintegrate. Halfway through the turn, a

and avoid heing cooked. After many bull ses-

Ascending past 22,OOOft 16,700m], I could see

sight aligned on the leader of the left-hand 'V'.

Corsair passed in front of me, presumahly Sims.

sions with other pilots on how each of us would

many planes above, and quite a disrance ahead

My six .50-calibre machine guns had hardly

He was on my level and ahout 1,000yd away,

hail out of a Corsair, my plan was finn. The cock-

of us. The sight startled me hecause I had not

started chattering when the jap's left engine began to belch black smoke. On seeing their

pas>ing left to right. Tracers were chasing him,

pit canopy slid back in quick response to manual

expected ro see them so soon. An undeter-

and a glance down their path led me ro ohserve

movement. I unsnapped my safety belt and then

mined number of bombers were discernihle in

leader catch fire, the two wingmen partly broke

a very unfriendly fellmv, the red 'meatball' easy

barrel-rolled the aircraft ro the right. This type

close formation, and many flyspecks could be

formation to allow him ro (all down and behind

to sec from the side vicw.

them. I quickly shi(ted my aim to the left

of roll was intentional: the centrifugal force

seen above them, obviously the enemy fighter

Y01! can't do Ihal to my wingman' I reversed my

would hold me in the seat until the Corsair was

escort. I turned my flight slightly to the right

[0

wingman and I was able to give him a two,

turn to hring my guns to hear on the enemy. The

upside down. Once inverted, a hard push for-

continue our climb perpendicular to the japs'

second burst before having ro push my stick forward to avoid a collision with him. lie,

Zero was slightly out of range, and hoth he and

ward on the stick sent the plane in an inverted

course. This manoeuvre was calculated to put

Sims were flying a nearly straight and level

climb and catapulted me downward into space.

us 1,000ft 1300mJ above the enemy bombers

exactly like his leader, began to belch hlack

The jap pilots did not appear to see us as,

course, but it was imperative that I shoot the jap

My radio conneerions broke loose easily. It may

when we wcre close enough to attack.

smoke (rom his left engine. A. flash to my left attracted my gaze, and I was exhilarated to see

march speeds with my powerless

without conscious thought, I turned my power-

quickly because he had already had ample

sound like a complex procedure, but it worked

The enemy leader apparently did not like

beast. Remembering that the raw, unburned gas

less machine rowards them. My aerions were

chance to hurt Sims. My rate of closure was

great. I felt an instant pleasure to be in the open,

what he saw, because a few seconds later his for-

my first target, the leader, disintegrating as the

must he prevented from fouling the plugs until

based purely on the hest means of survival,

slow, so I decided ro try some long-range shoot-

breathing clean air again, and I enjoyed the quiet

mation commenced a right turn, and at the

engine fire ignited his gas tanks.

[0

a spark returned, I cut off the carhuret[Or

rather than from heroic intentions. I knew my

ing: if he could not he fatally hit, my hullets

fall through space. The silence reminded me of

same time all of the bombers began to hatch

Wise tactics and a desire to get out of range

mixture control on the throttle quadrant. Since

guns would work, so my plan was ro get a cou-

would at least sccne him into Icaving my

wing~

the unwanted stillness I had experienced just a

eggs. From our location in the sky it was evident

of enemy rail gunners prompted me to continue

I had no way of knowing when the electricity

ple of japs head-on since I had the altitude

man alone. Surprise and exhilararion surged

short while ago while trying to coax my dead

the bombs would not fall anywhere near Allied

my dive helow rhe hostile homher (ormation, so

might he routed through the spark plugs again,

advantage, for the moment ,1Il)'way; then there

through me as the jap exploded from a three-

engine back ro life. After counting a short ten

positions; furthermore, it was not normal for big

2,000ft 1600ml below the Bettys I levelled out

seconds, I pulled the ripcord.

I had

guess. I decided to put on the mixture

would he fewer to bother me in my continued

second burst of my machine guns. I must have

when I felt the timing was right, and if the

glide [Owards the water. Moreover, experience

hit him

engine started, the prohlem was solved. If not,

had taught us that the enemy would usually

crossed before reaching him; they were set to

the mixture control must come off again and

scatter in confusion if attacked first.

converge at 900ft 1300ml.

[0

more precious seconds wasted until time for the

at

about I ,200ft 1370m], as my tracers

While moving my control stick to commence

But while concentrating on Sims' tonnenror,

the attack I unconsciously moved the mixture

Reinburg landed in the sea and took to his life-raft. Eventually the destroyer Woodworth picked him up, and after three days on board he was landed back at Guadalcanal.

airplanes to bomb from a turn. It therefore

parallel to the north-west course they had

seemed obvious that our sudden appearance

settled on. My speed was quite a bit faster than

had caused the enemy ro abandon the mission

the enemy bombers, and it was easy to keep

and run for home - and in scaring the Japs into

track of them above and behind me in the

abandoning their attack, the bigger part of our

Corsair's

rc:u~vicw

mirror.

9,000ft

control up to the auto-rich position - and was

I had neglected to notice ajap fighter closing on my tail in much the same manner as I had

13,000ml. I began ro get really concerned. A

surprised and elated when my engine roared to

stalked my now defunct victim. The sudden

water landing was becoming a definite possibil-

life, at full power. Those 2,000 horses made

silence of my own guns revealed that bullers

ity so I jerked off my uncomfortahle oxygen

sweet music ro my ears, and the fight was on.

were dancing on and about my machine, indi~

mask. By then I had made three tries to revive

But the Zero leader had now seen me and was

cating that my attacker had apparently heen

wingman, Sims, had returned safely in spite of

bombers had completed 90 degrees o( their turn

hut none did. I had also expected some Zeros

the dead engine (by moving the mixture con-

manoeuvring directly towards mc, and we were

shooting at me almost as long as I had heen

about twenty bullet holes in his Corsair. When

when we werc ready to attack from abovc, on

to join me in an attempt to carry out their

trol to the auto-rich position), hut with no suc-

coming at each othef, almost head~on, at a ref;

doing the same to his friend. A glance in my

I next saw him, I asked: 'We jumped eight

their left side. I knew we had to hurry, as the

bomber protection mission. By their absence, I

cess. While the mixture was off, and before my

rific closing rate. However, I was ready for him:

rear~view mirror confirmed his presence.

Zeros. I got four, how many did you get?'

Zero fighters must have seen us, and would soon

,lssumed that they and my friends had come ro

attack with an altitude advantage.

hlows back at our original point of contact.

next try. While

gliding

down

through

I

mission was accomplished. Of course, it was also

Our radio circuit was squealing unintelligible

pleasing to attempt to destroy the twin-engined

noises caused by many (riendly pilots all trying

bomhers so they could not return and try again.

to get their particular important messages heard

belongings (no one on 'Canal expected me

Upon seeing the enemy's change of plans, I

simultaneously. I allowed a couple of minutes

hack), I was happy to be informed that my

altered our climbing course to the left. The

for my flight to join me at the safer lower level,

After recovering some o( my confiscated

fourth try, I saw a fOrmi:Hion of airplanes ahead

I placed my gunsight pipper just in front of him

instinctively rammed my stick forwards to get

Sims said apologetically: 'Gosh, I didn't get

and slightly below, coming toward us.

ro allow for the proper lead, and squeezed the

below his line of fire, a technique that had

any because I was getting the hell shot outta

It was now easy to see that there were fifteen

I counted eight aircraft and was then sure, by

trigger at about 500yd. An instant later, his

served me well in past fights. This caused the

me. Then all of a sudden, it stopped, so I ran

medium twin-engine bombers arranged in 'V'

Eagerness for more air victories overcame any

their silhouettes, that they were Zeros. Chrisl'

leading-edge machine guns spat flame as he

subsequent hail to miss me - but it was already

for home, plenty scared"

formations. We had given codenames to all

further concern (or my fellow fliers. Besides,

What a S[)OI' la[)s ahow to attack and my engine's dead' I was more concerned with starting my

exchanged fire with me. My tracers struck his

too late. My right wing's internal gas tank was

This really annoyed me, and I retorted angrily:

Japanese planes, and our name for this particu;

they were supposed to follow me, and our

airplane in the engine, and since every third

on fire, and several large holes were easily dis-

'[)amn you' The reason you got away is because

lar type was 'BeHY'. We were not able to count

number one joh was to destroy the bomhers.

engine than warning Sims. Besides, he also had

hullet fired was a tracer, I knew he was getting

cernible. I t was obvious he had scored with his

I risked my neck to kill your tormentor. You did

the exact number of escorting Zeros, but my

They had chosen another course, I presumed,

eyes, he was trained and he was presumahly

hit three times for every tracer flash. My finger

cannons, because they had an explosive charge

a lousy job protecting me when I had engine

quick guess was twenty. My seven fighters were

leaving me to pursue our mission goal alone.

ready for com hat. He damn well better cover

released the trigger as he flashed by, close under

when they hit: Zeros had two 20mm cannon, as

trouble. You're fired" The next day I continued

dropping behind me in a staggered column: as

me,

me. I never felt my Corsair heing struck by his

well as machine guns.

my combat sorties, but with a new wingman.

I rolled left and dived down on the furthest left

Okay, Sl.!ckers, rake on Ihe tougher Zeros. I'll get these easy ones all hy myself' Hot damn' An

Of

else.

46

47

Radio chatter suhstantiated this theory.


AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADI::S

AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

exploder ~nd ~ ,moking proh~hle! l\1~yhe one

Furthermore, I wa, too intent upon killing my

My trigger finger itched while I 'tnllned my

'tralght down. I continued jinking to spoil his

on his tail and give him some 'arrows' in return,

of rhe fellow, c~n confirm that prohable

next victim to worry about the stranger. If he

eye, for the first glimpse of the jap m my gun-

,Iltn, all the while keeping the ~ircraft on its

'md show him how he should have hit me.

,ure rhing for me. These bomber' arc duck ,oup

were friendly, I would condescend to ,hare

,ighr; hur he didn't appear, ~nd I began to

no~c.

compared to Zeros, who fight hack. Cotta get

some of this juicy target with him. I really didn't

..,uspect that my attacker was no amateur,

some more!

think I had enough amlnunition, ga' or time to

hecause he never did fly in front of me. My head

engineers h~d been able to get their hands on

kill them all, ~nyw~y.

swivelled on my shoulders as, fearfully, I tried

,I

Zero 21 fighter that crash-landed pretty much

'l>

a

One last >can to the rear produced neither

Early in the war our intelligence people and

Some welcome convcrscllion over my radio

convinced me that the Bettys I had been chasing

After making a complete turn, there W'1S no

would not get home. A flight of friendly fighters

sign of him. I started worrying that he might be close under my tail, in my blind spot, and would

had followed my general broadcast directions, and [hey were C<l<1ching one another while

soon he drilling me again, but several swishes

atnlcking. It was a conMlling thought to know

good nor bad news. On the good ,ide, I had

The frightened Belly hom hers were now

to relocate my opponent. There wa' no sign of

Intact in a bog in the Aleutians. The Zero was

of my tail calmed my fear. Another circle of the

thai friends had taken over my unfinished busi-

hoped to ,ee my flight joining me, and/or my

passing down through the 19,000fl 15,800ml

him anywhere. I then threw the airplane in a

,ltutinized from stem to stern, as well as being

area still revealed no Zero. But hey, what's that?

ness. Across open ocean from the New Georgia

'econd targer exploding obligingly. On rhe bad side, I had expected to ,ee many Zeros coming

level. I was funning my Conmir wide open, and

right skid, but ,till could nor sec hun.

flown by American pilots {after being rehuilt at

f\lack smoke hegan to rise out of the jungle at

Islands, I rechecked my fuel and airplane condi-

North Island Naval Air Station in California}.

ahoul the place where I would have cra,hed,

tion. The next island group, the Russells, was 70

only seemed to have a 50kt speed advantage m

In my frantic search for the Zero, I did

after me for mole.'rtng their charge.,. I lowe vcr,

my shallow climb for pmllllln. O/{(Iy, I'm 11l1(1t

happen to notice that the bomber' were nO.\s a

Intelligence reports ascert~ined th~t the Zero

had I not succeeded in pulling our. The ,moke

miles 1I00kmi away and not yet visible, and it

I thought I could ,ee what diverted the re,t of

en()ljl(lt and far enoul(lt ahead. My Cor,alr rotated

half-mile ahead of me as a result of my haVing

was prone to losing its wings in a high-speed

volume rapidly increased, and its blackness was

was an lInca~y feeling to have to leave lanJ

my comp'1I110m: many ,pecks hack on the

left and down tow<ltd the 'traggler. When 90

reduced speed m the hope of trickmg the Zero.

dive. And ~s far ~s I was concerned, even if it

,ndicative of a petroleum fire.

horizon indicated that fflendly and enemy

degrees to hiS cour'e, I rolled abruptly to the

Seeing them again dispelled my fear a, I

,ut\'lved ,uch a dive, I really douhted if it could

Ilot damn! That just has to be that Zero l

fighter' were having a grand dogfight.

hehind me while piloting a wounded airplane. My g~s gauge now registered 45gal [20011. and I

right 'md hegan setting the proper gun"ght

returned my thoughts and efforts towards

hold tllgether in a h~rd, right-turning pull-out.

Though I'll never know for sure, I guess. I just

My Cor,air was now a mile ahead of the

lead. The BellY wa, nol too ncar any other

de'troying more of those ea,y targel'. II look

With this in mind, I headed for the earth in a

barely made the recovery, and it seemed impos-

Fluid had quit dripping from rhe tnliling

Bettys, and I commenced a climh that would put

planes in the fmmation, so I would nol be ahle

sevcral minutcs to resulllc a good attacking

full power, vertical plunge. Of course, I hoped

sible thai he could have. I guess I can't even

edge, of my wings, and Ihe hydraulic gauge now

assured mysc\f that il would get me home.

me high on their forward right side. I counted

to ,hoot at two in the ,ame ,mack. lib ,peed

po~ition

- hut straightaway, traccr~ once again

that he would not try to follow me down, hut

claim him as" probable, even though the evi-

registered zero: Ihe spring-loaded tail wheel and

them, and looked for their escort: there were

caused me nearly to flatlen oul hehlnd hlln

hegan tll whIZZ hI' and strike my wing', and a

If he did, it was my intention to try to prove or

dence is pretty conclusive that he crashed.

engine-cooling flaps were extended due ro this

d"prove Intelligence's theory.

Anyway, he's not around to hother me. Boy,

1m, of hydraulic pressure, and thi> added drag

Ih<11 fire's really hurning fiercely now, and only

reduced my airspeed, which in turn reduced the

thtrteen homher' Idt, ,md no 'Ign of the com-

hefore getting close enough to ,hoot. The lail

glance In the mirror confirmed that the Zero

panion Zeros. The hom her, were In a ,hallow

gunner wa' already ,hootll1g at me. All "X of

had reappeared. Without thmkmg, I exeLuted

My Corsair quickly attained '1 high rate of

dive, and apparently Ilor ~rarlng the cnginc~,

my gum needed only to bark at the homber for

the 'ame e\'a,I\'e sklddmg caper, and th" elun-

de'cent. Due perhaps to an overpowering urge

gomg a, fa'l a, they could for their h'lSe ilt

less than a second hcfme he d"mregrated. A,

Inated the 'arrows', as It had done he fore

10 go even faster, just the opposite seemed

hut

gasoline could make ,uch <1 bi<lze.

III

One more circle of the area for good me<1sure ,till did nOI produce an airborne Zero. I flew

di>tance thar I could Iravel on my meagre fuel 'UPI'll" Thi' also meant that, when ready to land, my main wheel; would have to be lowered

K,thilt. Kilhill repre,ented a m't)or enemy sea-

ncar a, I could tell, the gunner never hit m\

again, no Zero appeared In front, .lnd a ~kld to

IKcur: my plane hardly seemed to be gaining on

,md alrha,e on the ",uthern tiP of Hougamville

plane. In the next m,tant, I had to pull hack

the fight ,till did not reveal hun. By now I wa,

the earth far below. I could see the island of

low and slow over the fire, but could not sec

hI' the emergency syslem - and I would have to

bland; 'ome "'ILl It wa, the higge't jilP airha'e in all the Solomom.

the stick to aVOId flYing through Ihe dehns of

getting more angry than frightened. Another

Kolombangara underneath me, bur with no

through the [hick ,moke and foliage. The

cruise along in su'pense wondering if thi> long-

the expJodmg bomber. It wa, a gruesome and

se"rch of the sky revealed the Helt)' hom her"

altimeter to tell me when to srart my pull-out,

jungle had swallowed another mystery. A weak

dorm<1nt emergency syslem would work. There

A good, fa't, h,gh-,ide run and I'll finish off

yet rewarding . . ighr. For an In~tant, . . c\'cnll

hut nothing more. Where was that ha'tard? But

I knew that I had better judge the momenl very

thought prodded me to u1ke up the homber

w~s no hackup 'Y>lem for lowering the wing

that 'traggler, there m the left-"de formation

human hodies could he seen among Ihe f,tlling

once again, seeing those juicy lsitting;duck'

carefully - or oJ' Hunter would grow no older,

chase again, hut the Bellys were now out of

trailing-edge fl~ps, bUllhe slightly higher atten-

of three. I ,upp'he I could Lhllm that flammg

mess.

hom hers crowded the fears from my mind a, I

,md would become one more M IA.

sight, and a glance hack into my cockpit

dant landing speed wa, only a minor problem.

prohahle hecau,e he\ Ilm"ng from th" forma-

The re.. \t of the hom hers were now 400yd

re.,umed the chase.

f)amn' \'(Iillmy plane hold togetlter' I lis hullets

revealed a frighrening fact: only 60 gallons

The next worry 10 enter my mind was the

127011 of g<1S registered on my fuel gauge. Golly!

embarrassment that always accompanies a

I'd helter scoot for 'Canal. It's well over 200

wheels-up

nautical mile, away, and it's going to be close,

aCcuses the pilot of negligence before consider-

on that little gas. I'd helter lean out the mixture

ing mitigating circumstances. Furthermore, we

wonderful opportunIty: thirteen 'Iltlng ducks,

minutes to gam my attack pO~ltlOn .Ig'l1n, high

lie

diving on my tail from higher altitudes,

Itaw slrllck and could lta11e weakened its SlrllClllre. Too lale now: I'm already in my dive' I was too

and they're mme, all mll1e.

on their fight "de. I realt'ed th'll Il would he

and using hiS excess speed to loop over me

husy Irying to figure out my altitude to be fright-

tion, Ju,t like h" exploded leader. Oh, what a

aheClLC and

J[

took mc long, cXlrUClilting

ThL' enemy pilot wa, apparently an acrohat. .1.1"<1.\

A glance in my rear;view mirror scared me

t\\.'o gun", ,It a tllne and pick one

impo,,,hle to destroy all of the homher' alone.

when my skidding manoeuvre cau,ed him 10

ened.

homher off on each run. No, that'll tilke too long l I'll get low on ga' and they'll get too ncar

I deCIded to get on the radIO and hroadet'l the

overrun my plane {hefore he could aun prop-

further: the Zero was right with me in Ihe dive.

location, course, altitude and ,peed of the

erly}; this would explain hi, ability tll d"appear

(Josh! He's still after me, and still shooring. lie

home at the rate they're gomg. No douht, right

enemy formation. Many flight, of friendly fight-

and reappear '0 quickly. I should have ,us-

this minute, their nell' leader " frantically radioing hi, home ha,e fm ,ome fighter help.

ers were supposed to be in Ihe area, and perhaps

pected his manoeuvre "t the time, a, I had

some of them might he close enough 10 Join and

"Ire'tdy fought with some acrohm Ie enemy

I'll

lI"'C

and pull the rpms hack.

landing.

Everyone

immedialely

needed every airplane, and a wheels-up landing

After throttling hack to an economical cruise

would put the machine out of commission for

must be their highest ~ce. I'll h~ve tllmake Ihis

selting, I looked the airplane over as well as pos-

some time. It was not long he fore the Russell

pull-out a tough one to finish him ... or mayhe

,ihle. This was not ea,y since you can only move

Ishmds loomed into view. Another ga, check

me. The volcanic peak of Kolomh~ngat<1 was

around so much in a Corsair cockpir. There

convinced me I could barely get home. We had

I'd like to pull in hehmd theIr formation 'md

finish what I had started. After transmitlmg Ihe

pilots. Amazingly, the whole scenaflo wa,

helpful in gauging my altitude. At what I

were four hullet holes in the right wing, over the

<1n <1ir,trip in the Russells but I wanted to avoid

pick them off a, fa't a, I can ,hoot. No, that's

hlanket broadcast tss'lce, I wa, almost ready for

repeated in exactly the same way tor a third

guessed to he 2,000ft 1600ml. I commenced

wheel well, and three more holes in the same

'1 landing there if at all possible; I wanted to get

not ",mart. TheIr tad gunner crossfire would

another attack.

back ro GL"'Lhllcanal. Appro~ching Henderson

time' Ilowever, on this occasion the Zero,

ea,ing back on the control stick with both

area of the lefl wing. Aside from the shaltered

SIX

My plane started tll roll left for the all'tck

havmg had more th~n hiS share of practice, sent

hands. When my eyes began to sec more grey

altimeler, I could not sec any more holes or

Field I had 10gai 14511 remaining, and with my

of tail I(IHlner ull1l(e after l(eUlnl( one or two homhers. Use /Jlenty of s/Jeed for eaclt lIIwck and /Jlck off tlte ()Imide homhen each wne. That will expose me the least w tiul !:lHlner fire. Come on now, hoy, /Jlay it smart and you'll Itave the world's record witlt eil(JIl or more vicwrie.s on one load of ammunilion.

when I realized that tracer hullcb were whiZZing

a very hostile hullet into the cockpIt. lie mu,r

than light, I refr~ined from pulling hack on the

damage. Fluid wa, ,treaming off the tr~iling

hean in my mouth, I searched for the emergency ,ystem valve thar ,hould extend the

,urely get me. (lood seme lells me w use all !:l/llS and accelerate m,' attack.l, /mllinl(

Ill/I

hI' me. My fir't thought wa' that the tar!

have been shooting from slightly on my left

,tick further, but froze it in that position in the

edge of hoth wings, hehind the wheel wells, and

gunners were responsihle, hut a glance into my

side, because the bullet entered jusl outboard of

hope th~t the recovery would continue. When

I knew Ihar it had to be either gasoline or

wheels. It w,,, hard 10 reach in its confined pmi-

rear-view mirror cleared up Ihe my'tery: a Zero

the armour plate {behind me, on Ihe left} and

halfway out of the steep dive, I commenced a

hydraulic fluid. I sure hoped it was the latter'

tion, and this prevented me from gerring a firm

was there, pumping larrows' at mc. That di"'tant

shattered the altimeter on the instrument

right rolling turn ~nd could barely ,ee the island

Next I figured there might be a little gas left

speck I had not iced a short wh i1e ago had now

panel. The huller just missed my atln as it pa.\Sed

,horeline and the sea beyond. Am I goinl( to mClke

in the wing leading-edge fuel tanks. Without a

grown tll a full-size and vcrI' unfriendly air-

through the crook of my elhow.

,t' The island seems to be coming LI/J at me awflllly

gauge in Ihe cockpit for these auxiliary tanks,

The small amount of rem<1ining fuel indi-

there wa, no w~y a pilot could tell when they

cated thaI there was little time to struggle with

were empty except to draw fuel from them until

the valve. One more circle of the field and still

the engine quit. A quick switch to a full rank of

the damn valve would not budge! I recalled a carroon once where the pi 1m ,tuck hi, feet

grip; my hand hecame sorely hruised from the frantic fumhling.

high right-,ide po'ition necessary fm a good fa,t

Corsair in ~ left skid. This decelerating

awakening. I lost my hero complex, and

atmck. just hefore the attack, I took a last look

manoeuvre wa, designed to catch my attacker

devoted my full attention to getting aW'ly from

fml! Perspiration Sllll1l( my eyes, Clnd the strain of ~~m'ilY /Jre1'enred me from watchinl( the lap in the Corsair's mi,,¡or. Made iI'

around for other aircraft. Scannmg disclosed

by surprise, confusc his aim, and Cl-lu..,e him to

[he jap and giving him no further opportunity

I levelled of( just above the treemps of the j un-

gas always resrored the engine to smooth oper-

none, hut a qUick glance in the mirror revealed

scoot by before he could recogni'e my actions

to kill me. I recalled that a few ,econds hefore

gle, and continued my hard-right lurn aW<1Y from

ation. If the leaking fluid was gasoline, the best

through the hotrom of hi, airplane as a ,ubsti-

a ,uspiclou, speck high 'md ahout a mile hehind

and his mistake; then when he appeared In

it was hit, the altimeter had registered 17,000ft

the mountain peak and towards the shoreline.

praclice was ro run the engine on the punctured

lute for 1~llLling ge;rr. My Cor,~ir was a bit roo

By this time I had unconsciously attained the

plane. I chopped my throttle while pUlling the

Th is real danger from the rear was a rude

me. A few seconds of 'quinring proved it to

front of me, I would have him at my mercy.

15,200ml. I put the Cors~ir into a lefl skid "nd

As the lo~ds of gravity lessened on my body, I

tanks until they were dry. I was happy to get

heavy and fa,t for such an idea! After lowering

be an airplane and on my cour,e, but much

This caper had worked well in practice, so I

did a sloppy half-roll. I left the throttle wide

ttled to sec hehind me, hoping m ohserve the jap

Iwelve minutes of engine operation from those

my scat to Ihe lowe,t nmch, I made a last try

too far away for more exact identification.

automatically used it.

open and, when inverted, pointed the airplane

hghter crash - <1nd ifhe survived, I wanted to gel

tanks hefore I had to switch back to the main.

at the val ve.

48

49


AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

Damn thing! What a lousy place for lever-

unsuccessful. Last winter and spring the japs had run this same Tokyo Express of fast destroyers [() Guadalcanal every night to reinforce

figured they were going to make anmher run. The ship did not seem to be funher damaged,

wcre torpedo boats. For several days now, we

age. Whoops, there it goes! Yes, the wheels are shown as being down and locked now. Thank

considering that 6,0001b 12,700kg] of explosive

God! I'm saved from having to defend myself like a criminal. I massaged my sore haml. Less

their garrisons. From experience gained in the long battle for Guadalcanal, we now had an

- twelve 500lb 1230kg] bombs - had JUSt been slung at it. But the Rosebud division met uou-

"peraring in this area, and had been cautioned not to bmher them - in fact we had been [()Id to protect them; furthermore, there was no evi-

than a minute later, the crippled Corsair responded [() back pressure on the control stick

undersmnding of the jap panern. We had been sending a pre-dawn bomber force out of

ble: they were hardly five minutes away from us when they closed up in a formation that was

dence of the japs operating similar vessels.

as I smiled it about a foot above the runway. As

Guadalcanal every morning to finish off the

was common with that early Corsair model, it shook as if it was in the throes of death before

Tokyo Express stragglers. On 20 july the sun was JUSt rising in the east

much too close for combat cruise. This was foolhardy, as we were a long way from home base

I" do. Us old-timers didn't buzz any vessels unless wc considered them [() be enemy, and then we

resigning itself [() landing on the pierced-steel maning. I thought I had mastered the airplane's

behind us as I led a formation of twelve Corsairs up the Slm, esconing a similar number of Army

and only about 40 miles [60km] from the operational jap airfields at Kahili. Consequently, it

landing peculiarities and so prepared for a normal [()uchdown in a three-poim aniwde. The wheels had no sooner wuched when, much [() my surprise, the tail reared up! A thought flashed through my mind: maybe the brakes are locked' But I was sure that my wes were not yet depressing the brake pedals. There was nothing w do but hold the stick all the way back in my swmach and hope there was enough wind across the e1evawrs w preven[ the aircraft from nosing over. JUSt before it seemed cenain that the idling propeller would nick the runway,

had been briefed that our lOT boats would be

I wondered what the B-25 leader was planning

leader. Out.' If the bombers were receiving me, they neither answered nor changed their course. A check of my gas gauge warned that I had bet-

again within an hour. Soon after take-off I saw

ter get my fighters homeward 01' some of them might have to imitate the ditched Mitchell. 'B-25s, this is the fighter escort leader. You arc

some B-25s in formation just ahead of us. Suspecting that they were our recent charges, I

heading suaight for the Coral Sea where there's nothing but water. We are gening low on gas

A little later in the day, I learned thar the

meant to strafe. Moreover, our ships, large and ,mall, were real jumpy, and would usually shoot

lead 8-25 crew was returned safely in a Dumbo (PBY) flying boat. I had to assume the other

wasn't surprising that the four Rosebuds were

at any airplane that came near them - and

you and then take up the course for home.

B-25 Mitchell twin-engine bombers. I gazed [() the north-west where Kahili, a jap harbour with

jumped by some Zeros who had been stalking us from a much higher altiwde for some time. They

tWO adjacent airfields, was only 40 miles 160kml

had apparently figured that twelve of us were too much for them: our Corsairs had been gening

rhose lOTs carried a good brace of 20mm and .50-calibre machine guns. I was not kept waiting long for the show, as machine-gun tracers began

Follow us. Out.' The announced course of retreat was adopted. The moumains of Rendova Island were dead ahead, and with such an excel-

making a two-way path between the lOT boar and

lem landmark, there was no excuse to pick the

sank, but all were rescued by their companion craft - which avoided the downed bomber crew

wrong course. It was distressing to look back to

like they had the plague. That's why the

my starboard rear and see the bombers in a very loose formation, holding their southerly course. The body of water just III the east of Rendova

Dumbo had been sent out' Such arc the fortunes of war. Incidentally, Munda airfield was

distant, JUSt beyond my view. Kahili was on the south end of Bougainville Island; Choiseul Island was visible about 20 miles 130kml to the north. Since early july we had been pounding Bougainville, trying [() soften it up for our invasion forces. There was a ship off in the distance. It had [() be japanese because we were more than 300

the best of them in recent engagemems. However, a mere four were just their meat, espe,

rhc friendly bomber converging on it. Rccognizing that the boat was a lOT and there-

cially flying close together. Rosebud Three and Foul' wem down in flames

f,lI'c friendly, I made a hasty transmission: 'Hey,

before they knew what had hit them. By some

B-25 Icader' Don'L shoot at that boat' That's a fnendly lOT boat!' A call would also have been

suddenly caught my anention, and I paused in

miracle, although hit by the first anack, Rosebud One and Two were still in flying con-

made to the boats if I had been able [() get on Ihcir frequency. However, even though we had

my reminiscing to check navigation, sky and my own airplane as well as the others. Twelve

dition. Rosebud One was able to reach the pro-

Ihe newer Corsair fighters, we still had the same old radio system, which did nqt permit us to

machine slowed almost [() walking speed, it

dead in the water - there was no wake. I kept

He was then able to SCOOt for home in his non-

settled back on the tail wheel. Knowing mher planes were landing behind me, it seemed wise

my eyes open for Zeros, as the japs would surely put a fighter cover over this ship. I scanned the

fatally hit plane. Rosebud Two managed [() get one Zero who carelessly zoomed up in front of

again yelled over the radio: 'Hey, 8-25s' This

The ones I really missed were 'Ras' Rasmussen and 'Fateye' Gardner; and it's strange the way

sky, hoping [() increase my seven confirmed air vic[()ries. The bombers had led us on a zigzag

him, and he then dived away and gm home without further incidem, unhindered by a few

IS your fighter escort. Those are friendly lOT hoats! Don't suafe or bmher them. They're

the three of us each had our accidents on the same day, three weeks ago. I was lucky and was

frlcndly" My transmission was not answered, hut I was relieved [() see that the second 8-25

only shot down and forced to spend some time

tection of a nearby cloud, and luckily the japs didn't see him when he emerged the other side.

it along, operating the engine at nearly full

course up the Slot and I knew we could not

holes through non-vital parts of his Corsair.

power. I wrned off on the nearest taxiway before swpping the engine and climbing OUt to check the trouble. I was happier than usual [()

accompany them much longer 01' we would not have enough gas [() get home. I felt a great obligation [() stay with the B-25s and [() see them

The bombs dropped by the B-25s had found their mark and in a maner of about a minute the destroyer was almost in the vertical, before

be home once again, safe on the ground and

safely home at the end of the mission. Now that

it disappeared beneatb the waves. The ship

they had a target in sight, I figured they would

must have been over 300ft 190m] long - though 300ft wasn't deep for the area. I had expected

me, slowing [() a walk as he reached the plane. 'Hey, Major, did you forget to lower your wing flaps? And those tWO Fiat tires look like someone wrned machine guns loose on them!'

quickly sink the ship and head for home. My fighters descended with the bombers [() give them the maximum protection if Zeros should appear. I scanned the sky continuously

,hange transmining frequencies while in flight. Furthcr alarm shook me, as the second bomber appeared to be ready to join the fray. I

did not strafe, and I double-checked the locarion of my fighters just to make sure they were n"t thinking of panicipating. The anacked hoat had stopped dead in the water and the

In August 1943, Hunter Reinburg was among the first USMC fighter pilots to complete three combat tours fighting the japanese, and of those few completing the combat record of three tours while operating out of Guadalcanal, he had been overseas the longest. He went home to the US by ship to San Francisco, and enjoyed two weeks' leave and some greatly overdue liberty. Soon after he became the official CO, charged with rebuilding VMF-122 at MCAS El Centro, California, with a cadre of forty-four 2nd Lieutenants. At first Reinburg and his four instructor pilots had to use twenty old F4Fs, as all new Corsair fighters were needed in the Pacific; but about half way through the combat training curriculum, four F4Us arrived. But by the end of the first week, VMF-l22 was down to three Corsairs, as Reinburg recalled:

in a raft, but Ras was fatally burned in his Corsair when he started the engine back there on the Russell Islands airstrip. It was an unusual accident. Apparently, while filling the main tank, situated between the engine and cockpit, the refueller spilled some gas, which dripped into the cockpit. The noonday heat turned the

a southerly course. I wondered if the B-25

,hoot down some B-25s! Christ, what a mess. While busily watching the lOT boats and try-

fuel to fumes, and a spark from the shotgun starter ignited it. Ras was badly burned, and died a few hours later. What a tragic way to go!

mg to preven[ another strafing anack, I had forgonen about the crew who had done the diny

heading down the Slot; those Mitchells hadn't

dced. However, it was now easy to locate the

And Fateye Gardner was last seen in a furious dogfight right near where we were flying now.

gening real low on fuel. We're going home. Over.' As Rosebud pealed away with his divi-

been OUt of the States long. As the bombers passed between the islands, which were about

misguided 8-25 because it was beginning to trail hlack smoke from its right engine. I watched as

I sure wish he'd have shown up, but there was little chance of thar.

sion of four, I double-checked the other seven

30 miles [50km] apart, they were flying low, around 1,500ft 1450ml. My fighter formation remained deployed about another 1,000ft

the pilm ditched it in the water about a mile from the burning lOT, and was relieved to sec the

Almost every night in the last few weeks, the

Corsairs. Our squadron was now made up of very dependable men, as we had eliminated weak-

new climb out and inflate their life-rafts. The

yanked myself back to the present. As we approached the Russell Islands, about 50 miles

japs had used the Tokyo Express to reinforce their ground installations in the New Georgia

lings one way or another. All of my planes were in good combat deploymem, and the radios

[300m] above them. Although the mission seemed to be success-

B-25 formation began to circle their ditched leader, so I postponed thinking about my own

180kml short of Guadalcanal, I double-checked my gas gauge and then radioed: 'This is Hunter.

miscrable night in that ocean. Even though it

I don't think I have enough gas to get home.

My throat contracted momentarily, and I

and Kolombangara Island areas. On the night of 12 july 1943, the Express brought 1,200 jap

were quiet. While scanning the sky for trouble, I nmiced that the bombers fell into column and

fully completed, I searched the sky with some faint hope of an air contact. When my glance

soldiers [() Kolombangara alone; the enemy was still able [() land, even though Allied naval

commenced a single-file glide-bombing anack

routinely returned to the bomber leader, he

"ppeared that they had heard my radio transmission, I was afmid the airborne Mitchells

Any of you other guys in doubt, land here with me, over.' Soon after the battle for Guadalcanal

on the :,hip. The anti-aircraft guns on the ship were blazing away at our Army friends, but it did

appeared [() be in a shallow dive, so my eyes smyed glued on him. With a little more forwardlooking concentration, I could see tWO 'V' marks

might become angry and sink the burning boat ,IS well as the untouched one. 'B-25s, your leader seems to be okay. You

had been won last spring, our High Command thought it prudent to build a fighter strip in the

on the water, and knew that such signawres

,an't help him now. Let's go home and I'll call

Russells, and it was now certainly earning its keep in support of the New Georgia campaign.

belonged [() boats. They were small vessels, and by their oversized wakes I quickly guessed they

the Fighter Direction Station at Pluto and see if

I realized suddenly that if the strip had not been

they can send a rescue ship. This is the fighter

put there, several of us would have had to ditch

forces had discovered them. Our landings in the area ([() capwre the airfield at Munda Poim on the western end of New Georgia Island) had been going on for three weeks now and the enemy was doing his best [() make them

not seem to be very heavy or effective. A count of the bombers indicated all were in good shape after completing one skip-bombing attack. I watched them circle the ship and

50

5 August 1943) by American forces after nearly tWO weeks of ferocious fighting.

down side, we sure had lost a lot of swell guys.

leader was confused, and was mistaking Vella Lavella for New Georgia and thought he was

Problems of Identification and Communications, 20 July 1943

finally takcn a couple of week> later (on about

Rebuilding the Squadron

Suddenly, I heard my call sign on the radio headset: 'Red One, this is Rosebud One. We're

hoping to SpOt some nervy jap fighters.

learned that no one in the lOT boat was killed, but several were slightly wounded. Their boat

air fighting in the Solomons, the first squadron to do so - some kind of record, I guess. On the

"ther was pulling up to it; smoke was beginning 10 show. If the others anacked, I might have [()

to sec the bombers rendezvous and head for home down the Slot, but instead they [()ok up

tWO missing Mitchells had ditched in the Coral Sea and the crews lost. The next day, we

of us were about to complete our third tour of

miles [500kml up the Sim from Guadalcanal. It looked like one of the big desuoyers the japs were using for the Tokyo Express. It appeared

among friends. My airplane mechanic was running [()wards

counted them and was distressed to tally only nine, when we had started out with a dozen.

and must get home. The course for home is 100 degrees' I repeat, the course for home is 100 degrees! We are going to zoom in front of

the mil swpped rising and the aircraft teetered like a seesaw. A few seconds later, as the

w get the machine off the runway as fast as possible before investigating the uouble. I forced

for lack of fuel, no thanks to the B-25 bombers. Three of us made the gas stop and were airborne

57

One was wrecked by a student on his very first landing because he hit the brakes too hard, which caused the F4U to flip forwards, right on over its nose and onto its back. The long snout of the 'hosenose' had obstructed the student's forward view as the tail settled on the runway, and because he couldn't see forward, he hit the brakes harder than necessary. He was unhurt, but I sure wanted to clobber him. However, after a long talk he convinced me that he deserved another chance, and he did so well flying the Wildcat for another twelve hours that


AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

his head under the instrument panel, mellnentarily blinding him,

On 30 September 1944, I led my twenty-four

reach the unlocking

F4Us from Emirau to support the Peleliu inva-

knob. Then he had to pull the knob out to

sion. Our first refuelling point was to be a newly

[0

unlock the handle from the down position, and

built US naval airbase on a small island named

raise it to a horizontal position to be sure it was

Owi, in western New Guinea; from there we

then locked in the 'up' detent.

were to go nonstop to Peleliu. We were forced

If a pilot wore winged shoes (ones with

to fly west-south-west because a typhoon was

extended soles), the shoe edge could catch

located just north of our course; the weather

under the locking knob and pull it out of the

also confined us to about 1,000ft [300m] of alti-

down-lock detent; this occasionally happened

tude, the solid overcast above emitting steady

if the pilot excessively sec-sawed the rudder

drizzle, which made it difficult to see ahead

pedals back and forth while taking off or

because our planes had no windshield wipers.

landing. This inadvertently retracted the

After being aloft for some forty minutes, I

landing gear, with disastrous result: a bent prop,

switched my fuel selecmr valve from the main

skinned-up belly, flaps worn off at their trailing

tank m the left-wing leading-edge tank. Then I

edge, and a verbal beating from the command-

turned my head m note the positions of my

ing officer. Fortunately, late in 1943, the

other twenty-three Corsairs. But my counting

Chance-Vought factory corrected this potential

was suddenly interrupted by silence as my single

problem by moving the wheel-actuating handle

engine quit ... completely' Automatically, my

to a more sensible location up and forward of

USMC Corsairs in formation over ships of the US invasion force off Eniwetok

the throttle quadrant.

Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, 9 July 1944. USMC

cye~

scanned the insuulllcnls, along wilh

eSlab~

lishing an appropriate glide angle. With my

One day I had an unusual test flight to

engine totally silent, I could hear my roaring

perform involving a full-power speed run at

squadron following me. From years of flying

30,OOOft [9,000ml. This went fine, but when I

habits, I unconsciously switched the selector

pulled back on the Corsair's throttle to reduce

valve back to the main tank. My F4U's descend-

power, the engine kept right on running wide

ing glide speed kept the propeller windmilling

open' jazzing the throttle back and forth made

so that the oil and fuel pressure gauges indicated

no difference, and the ease with which it moved

normal, just as if the engine was running with

indicated that the throttle control was discon-

power. A moment later I rammed the throttle,

necred from the engine. A descent with all

the propeller, ami the mixture controls to their

In the late summer of 1943 Hunter Reinburg was charged with rebuilding VMF-l22

2,000 horsepower puffing the airplane down-

full-forward positions: this would give me full

at MCAS EI Centro, California. via Hunter Reinburg

ward would result in a fast return to the ground,

power if the engine took a notion to fire again.

but nothing more than I could cope with; but

All quick efforts failed, however, and after jet-

I decided m let him try the Corsair again -

squadron of good pilots: the excellent teamwork

what I needed was an ultimate reduction of

tisoning the 150gal [6801[ belly tank, I slid back

though I only agreed to do this after all of the

that we had taught everyone convinced us that

speed, which would be necessary for a safe

the canopy. But for some inexplicable reason, I

other student pilots had safely checked out in

we would all be likely to get high scores against

landing at home base. I figured that the smartest

ignored good ditching rules and did not jettison

the F4Us. And would you believe it, he did it

the enemy, with small risk to ourselves. We

thing to do would be to stop the engine and

the Plexiglas overhead shield.

again, just like the previous accident, on his

were told that we would be returning m combat

glide down, and this could be done in one of

very first landing attempt' So now my squadron was down to two hard-to-get F4Us. We also had

as soon as the new covey of pilots completed

three ways. One way was to turn off the fuel

the training course. Unfortunately, things got

valve to stop gas flowing from the main tank;

was about to be engulfed by monstrous waves

one less student pi lot, because the Group

off m a bad start with the new class. One of the

another way was to switch off the magnetos,

created by the nearby typhoon - the surface

Commander quickly transferred the man to

new boys, on his very first flight in a Corsair,

thus cutting off the ignition; and the third way

wind was at least 35 knots. 1 aimed my Corsair

another outfit before I had the chance to do

radioed to the tower operator for landing clear-

was to keep fuel from entering the engine by

directly into the wind to attain the slowest

him any physical harm. Soon after this, my

ance. He was told to circle cast because the duty

cutting off the carburettor mixture control on

squadron began to receive more Corsairs. At

runway was being changed - and then the care-

the throttle quadrant. I selected the third

about the same time, we were told not to push

less man in the tower forgot about the obedi-

method as the best. So down I came, with an

the engines any harder than necessary: this was

ent Corsair pilot, who silently circled until he

understandably high descent rate, basically

to taxi inm the regular parking area at full

new Corsairs on the same old airstrip at Turtle

ined the seawater was lapping at the airplane's

because we were operating on automobile gaso,

ran out of gas. The result was a dead-stick,

because the Corsair was not designed to be a

power, so I radioed for the tow truck. Back at

Bay. I immediately started training my squadron

bottom, and nc\v noises seemed to confirm it.

line, as all of the higher-octane aviation fuel

wheels-up landing in a cornfield and another

glider - it was more like a gliding brick'

the hangar on the flight line, investigation

on tropical sea/island indoctrination. The laps

But all at once I realized that the new noises

was neeucd in the combat zones. Even so, we

scarce Corsair ruined. You can bet that some

revealed a broken throttle rod. It was quickly

no longer had the airpower to launch fighter

were coming from my engine, which was

didn't 'baby' the engines, and we never had any

dumb personnel got a good chewing-out.

of the troubles predicted. By the end of 1943, most of my student pilots

I was too far aw"y from the field to dead-stick

The sight of the rough sea below sent

,1

very

frightening thought through my mind, that 1

Groundcrew raising the tail of a Corsair on Bougainville, February 1944, prior to

possible water contact, then lowered the flaps

boresighting and test firing the F4U's machine guns. USN

but kept the wheels retracted. When I had the plane very close to a full-stall attitude, I imag-

it all the way. After obtaining landing clearance

replaced, and the Corsair was ready for flight

planes in the Solomon Islands. The next possi-

roaring up to full power, and saved from Davey

One of the peculiarities of the Corsair was

from the tower operator, I put the mixture back

again.

ble action for VMF-I22 was the planned inva-

jones' locker, I breathed a slow sigh of relief.

that the landing-gear retraction handle was

on and the engine roared back to full power.

In early july 1944, Marine Fighter Squadron

sion of Peleliu Island. Thinking that the laps

While nursing the plane and my nerves back to

would probably defend it fiercely on land and by

1,000ft [300ml of altitude, I surmised that my

sea and air, we all looked forward m this opera-

trouble must have been caused by water in the

had completed the training curriculum, though

down by the pilot's left-foot rudder pedal.

When I was in the landing pattern and in posi-

(VMF) 122 finally sailed back to SOPAC

three had been killed in crashes. I informed the

When the wheels were down, the rod handle

tion to dead-stick the plane onto the runway, I

(South Pacific) aboard the carrier f-/ollandia.

Air Group Commander that we were ready for

pointed downward, and there was a knob on the

stopped the engine again by moving the

Ten Jays later, we were put ashore on Espiritu

tion. We were confident of our aerial teamwork

fuel tank. Obviously I h,1(1 done the correct

war-zone combat - but we were then told that

end of the handle, shaped like a tire and wheel,

mixture control all the way aft. When I had the

Santo Island in the New Hebrides archipelago.

system, and anxiously figured we could shoot

thing by going back to the main tank and

we couldn't go as a unit. We five instructors

which put a pin in a hole for positive down-

plane rolling slow enough to turn onm a

This was the same chunk of land I had departed

down many enemy planes during combat in the

pushing the three power controls to the full

were disappointed and bitter at not being able

lock. To retract the wheels after take-off, a pilot

taxiway, I brought it to a stop at a spot clear of

from some eleven months ago when going home

sky. While waiting for the jap airfield on Peleliu

forward positions. The windmilling propeller,

to return to air combat with such a well trained

had m be comfortably airborne before ducking

the duty runway. I considered it too dangerous

to the States. We were assigned twenty-four

to be captured, we operated off Emirau.

induced by my forward airspeed, had kept the

52

53


AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

fuel pump going, and that hit of gooJ mechan-

spitting in the sky as we rolled over for vertiGll

back to Ulithi, and Tabe was able to make a

ical luck had c1emed the lines of water.

dives. It was disgustingly easy to ascertain thm

safe landing. Inspection revealed that a bullet

The Admimlty Islands were 30 miles 150km]

there were no new targets, so I laid the egg on

had entered the leading edge of the horizontal

south of our present position, and I knew that

one of the AA positions and radioed my pilots

stabilizer and split the aluminium as it went out

the US Navy had just opened a strip there on

to do likewise. Recent experience seemed to

the rear. The damaged area was not a vital

Pitelyu Island. I ,md my faithful wingsman,

indicate that we should concentrate on the

structural member, so I pushed the frayed metal

Misely, headed "".ight for it, and after landing

l'ver~threateninganti,aircrafr emplacements, as

hack in place with a screwdriver and the plane

there I had my tanks checked: the left-wing

they needed punishment for their many hits on

was ready to ny again.

leading-edge tank disgorged more waler than

us. At times it had seemed to me that we would

gas. We fuelled up with fresh gas and were soon

not have lost so many airplanes and pilots if we

on our way, and rejoined the squadron

Owi.

had made the AA more of a prime target. My

On later investigauon we discovered why only

d.ve-bombing pull-out was made over the water.

<1t

the leading-edge gas tank was contaminated.

The white sand, coral reef and white surf of

Several weeks h'lCk we had ferried our Corsairs

the Ulithi Atoll was easy to see in the twilight.

Emirm. Island, using all the gas in the lead-

The airfield was on Falalop Island on the north-

ing-edge lanks to get there. These auxiliary

east side of the reef, which was a pretty even

tanks were only used for ferry nights, and had

circle of about 10 miles 116km] in diameter. I

not heen touched since. While we were on

could see many of our ships in the excellem

Emirau there were milny rcdn~lorms, and my

harbour formed by the reef: aircraft carriers,

(0

F4U had heen parked under trees, and these had funnelled waler omo the leadmg-edge area. An inspection revealed thal the left-wing leadingedge t,mk cap d.dn't fit tightly, whereas the right-wmg lank cap was fine. When ready

battleships - a complete neet. The scene had

Fourth Marine Air Wing Corsairs on a strike against Japanese positions in the

heen dubbed 'Murder Row'. Our landing was uneventful, but it took several hours to get four

Marshalls in 1944. USMC v.a M.ke Ba.ley

more hombs, as the island ordnance crew did

(0

not take kindly to working after hours, espe-

ferry the aircraft to Pelel.u on our as"gned mis-

cially at night. The three pilots with me were

sion, we requested thm all tanks (mcluding the

eager and dependable, so we were airhorne well

leading-edge ones) he filled, and I discovered

before the crack of da wn.

later thal when the gas-truck driver went to fill

As the sun rose in our faces, jim Misely's

my left leading-edge tank, he found it full; ohvi-

good eyes won again. He had manoeuvred his

ously he assumed the liquid was aviation fuel,

airplane close to mine, on my right side, and

and replaced the lank G1p. Pre-take-off inspec-

was making pecking motions with his left fore-

tion> mcluded checking the one 1I',ner-catcher

finger, indicating that there was an island dead

for all t,mks: this" a valve in the engme com-

ahead. As we got closer I compared it to my

partment, and If the left-wmg leadmg-edge tank

map, and it was definitely our target. Woleai

had recently fcd thc eng.nc, the water would

was no bigger than Ulithi. I strained my eyes

have hecn dctccted. But such was not thc case.

for airplanes in the sky over the base, and squinted into the rising sun. If there were any

The Commuter Air Attacks By November 1944, Hunter Reinburg's war became as routine 'as the daily commuter in New York', and he has clear recollections of this time:

F4U-1A Corsair '122' of VMF-111 with 100 mission symbols. reportedly the only aircraft in World War II to receive an official citation for flying 400 hours of combat with no aborts due to mechanical malfunctions. VMF-111 operated from the Gilberts and Marshalls against by-passed Japanese units during the Pacific campaign. Vought

laps up, they had the advantage of hiding in the glare. Nope, damn it, there was nothing there. The place looked pretty beat up and deserted, hut there was some AA to greet us. I counted about ten puffs of black smoke to our right and slightly above. I told everybody to lay his egg Oil

Then, late in November, we started a shuttle

it the same pounding as Yap, then return and

an anti'(1ircraft position (lnL! sec if we coulJ

find some low-altitude strafing targets. I (Old

We were operaung our Cor",ir fighters from the

bombing service on hy-passed jap hases via a

reload at Ulithi, get airborne, and hIt Yap again

them to keep jinking, and not to let the AA

captured stnp on Pelelru Island in the Palau

new strip on Ulithi, ahout 110 miles [180kml

on the way home.

:cro in on them, keep their heads up and keep

Island group, the last atoll chain in the western

beyond Yap and almost halfway lO Guam

As the squadron commander, I thought it hest

watching for airborne aircraft. After puffing Ollt

Pacific hefore the Philippines, and we had been

further east. Fly that time we had heen raiding

to mke over, because these types of raid were

from my bombing run, I radioed: 'A couple of

at this field for tWO months. Our daily routine

Yap for a month, so we knew it well. We were

much more challenging and interesting than the

those planes in the revetments don't look so

was

to

Reinburg planned to waste little time getting back to Peleliu while making the usual pause over Yap. The Corsairs were quickly refuelled, but no ordnance crew could be found to hang bombs and rearm the guns. While asking the field operations officer to help, the air-raid siren went off. It was a bogie coming in high from the north-cast, and no fighters were assigned to go after him. Reinburg was off like a shot, but as he ran toward the Corsairs he suddenly remembered that they had not been rearmed. He stopped dead in his tracks and swore out loud: 'Goddamn, we haven't got any ammo! Well, we didn't use it all at Woleai. There ought to be enough to get one bogie. Hell, let's go!' He resumed his run, and all three of his pilots scrambled with him; they got off quickly and climbed at full speed. Passing 25,000ft [7,600m] they could see nothing. At 30,000ft [9,000m] above the ocean there was still nothing. The Corsairs stayed at that altitude for about fifteen minutes before Reinburg radioed: 'Hey, Yucca. If you still don't have anything on him, we'll have to come down. We don't have heaters in these crates and we're freezing our fannies off. I sure hate to give up but 1 guess I've lost hope. Yucca answered, 'We can't pick him up again. uess he took one quick look and ran. Rerum to base. Sorry, it was a good try.' Back on the ground, there was much profanity while the planes were refuelled and rearmed. It was disheartening for them to learn a few days later that a rival squadron got the job of defending Ulithi and shot down one of the high fliers two weeks larer. Reinburg's congratulations to them were tendered with envy.

south of Koror Harbour. The Corsair pilots knew thar they had to be aware of anti-aircraft guns on Babelthuap, to the north. Two pilots would attack each ship, and if their dives were accurate, the 500lb [225kg] GP bombs fitted with an instantaneous nose fuse and a one-second-delay tail fuse should do the job. If the nose fuse failed, the tail fuse would cut in a second larer. Hunter Reinburg was confident, and told the Lt Colonel in charge of operations, 'Don't worry, Colonel, they're as good as sunk.' Reinburg's account of the attack is as follows: The four of us lOok off in quick succession, c1imhed away from our base on Peleliu, and headed north towmds the target. It was a beautiful day. There were just enough scattered cumulus clouds to hreak up the monotony. A large cumulus was over the target, so I imme~ diately planned to use it for cover until ready to dive on my particu\;1t ship. The long thin island that separated the two ships was visible from 10 miles 116kml away. Soon after entering my dive I could see my target, ,md noted that it was indeed a fine piece of camounage work. I'd nown by this location several times lately, and not seen the ships and of course, a few anti-aircraft bursts nearby had caused me lO hurry elsewhere: we had quit taking chances since we were apparently winning the war. I concentrated on making an accurate dive. Out of the corner of my eye I could sec anti-aircraft gun-muzzle nashes, and assured myself that they were always inaccurate at first. It was those subsequent passes that were dangerous to us. I was pleased with my dive angle and aim, and let the bomb go, pulling out lO the west as I passed through 800ft 1250ml. As the Gs of the pull-out began to strain my body, I instinctively tightened my stomach muscles lO prevent blackout. My radio came to life: it was Lippy Lepire. 'lieI', Ilunter, you hit it square in the middle!' At this .tage of the

Wal'

we were allowed to use

our radIOS freely since the laps could do little to

bother us. The sky above the target was

hlotched

with

many

anti-aircraft

bursts.

Climhing ,,,val' easily, I glanced back to sec

raid Woleai Island, just over 310 miles

daily stuff, and so we wanted to continue lO he

hadly damaged. Let's make a few strafing runs

Lippy's bomh burst close alongside the same

[500kml south-cast of Ulithi. As we passed Yap,

the squadron that was chosen for them - and th is

on them and see what happens.' But after

ship that had been my target. I "'as elated that

ground forces. We had hoped it would be

we were

one showed real promise of some dogfighting.

shooting the first one I heard Misely's voice:

another Guadalcanal hecause the enemy-held

the best target we could find, and strafe any-

At our squadron briefing just before take-off

Philipp.nes were just 500 miles [800kml to the

thing that seemed lO need it. We were lO hit

on the morning of 27 November, I instructed

west. But much to our disappoi11lment they did

Yap at sundown, so it meant landing nt Ulithi

my pilots not to strafe Yap unless we saw a juicy

and three were set on fire. I was pulling up from

not dl~PUlC our invasion, and ne"er tried an air

after dark. There we were lO get the four

target, such as an airborne airplane, since Ulithi

my third strafing run when Tabe said he'd heen

raid. Consequently, the day-long combat air

Corsairs rearmed and refuelled during the night,

was not well equipped to rearm us. We hit Yap

hit in the tail and his elevators were jammed.

parrol over the hase, and the bombing and straf-

and get off before daylight so we could hit

right on the button after flying 262 miles

We joined up, and Tabe seemed to have the

ing of nearhy japs, was hecoming quite boring.

Woleai at the crack of dawn. We were lO give

1422km] over open water. The AA was already

wounded Corsair under control. We all made it

to

keep hy-passed jap installations in the

area knocked mil and provide air defense for our

to

throw a 500lb 1225kgl GP bomh on

54

Dive Bombing Personified

we had destroyed the larger of the two ships and

On 14 December Hunter Reinburg and Robert 'Lippy' Lepire - who was substituting for his regular wingman, Jim Misely - Tom Tulipane and 'Tabe' Tabler, took off for a dive-bombing arrack on two large enemy ships on either side of an isthmus

for thc second one

'lieI', Skipper, the one you strafed is burning.' J saw four more. They were

Belly bombers,

wa.., now greedy (or our squadron to get credit

55

but Tabe and Tom could

not find their target. I told them to follow me down in another dive, and I'd spray the t<1rget's decks with my guns. Lippy circled ,md watched; he didn't want lO go down in that gun hotbed again. Another run didn't thrill me either, but


AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

The third time in, Tom still did not see the

personnel who had failed to keep us from

occasionally catch a few small boats in running

rising land and jungle. I was trying to see if

ship but the strafing by the two wingmen vir-

bombing the ships. Our bravado had waned

shape. To get these meagre targets, when we

there was any activity on Babelthuap airfield,

tually stopped the anti-aircraft firing. Deter-

,omewhat, however, so we fired from several

could see them from Out of AA range, we had

half a mile to my left: bomb crarers and dis-

mined to see that Tom found and hit the ship,

rhousand feet out; by this time safety was more

to run the ground-fire gauntlet. We learned that

persed wrecbge were visihle, hut there were no

I led him in three more times. On the last pass,

desirable than accuracy. After joining up with

we could generally get away with one fast sur-

attractive targets. But then M isely spotted two

he thought he saw the ship and let his bomb

the other section, we returned to base and

prise attack, if we kept going while jinking. If

camouflaged floatplanes hidden in this cove

go, but unfortunately it missed by several

reported 'mission accomplished without inci-

we returned immediately, the AA was warmed

below, so I let him take the lead, which he

hundred feet. In the meantime, some of the

dcnt\ never revealing our chicanery!

up and ready, so we seldom took the chance.

acknowledged, and I fell in behind him as he

ground guns had resumed action, so I would not

Feeling frisky this day, I led my wingman in

cut inside me on a hard right turn. We gained

have made another immediate run under any

a dive down to water level. I planned a fast low-

a little altitude over the sea, east of the big

altitude buzz through the harbour, hoping to

island, and I watched Mise zoom back into the cove: he concentrated his gunfire on what

circumstances. Nevertheless, determined to add

The Peleliu Air Circus

the second hidden ship to the squadron scoreboard, I called to my fighters: 'This is Hunter,

On the morning of 18 December 1944 I led my

we approached the island ridge flanking the

looked like just a lor of jungle foliage next to

Tom. Take your section on up the coast and

division off Peleliu airstrip on one of several

south-east side of the harbour, I added consid-

the beach. He quit firing and pulled up over the

shoot something. Lippy and I are going back for

daily reconnaissance sweeps of enemy installa-

erable power to my engine, and made sure my

trees as I pressed my gun trigger. My bullets

some more bombs.' I reasoned that if all four of

1 ion>

just to the north of us. We had fully

six .50-calibre machine guns were ready. A pull

bounced into the same clump of greenery as my

us returned to base for bombs, we would have

loaded guns in our four F4U aircraft, but no

hack on the stick guided the plane over the

wingman's and I still saw norhing unusual.

to check in with Intelligence, and then another

bombs or other ordnance. Four of the ten

sharp ridge. Jim Misely was in the proper posi-

However, black smoke belched upwards, and

squadron would get the next crack at the ship.

enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground by the

tion about a 100yd behind me and offset to the

when we zoomed over the spot I could see that our bullets had cut a swath through the area,

However, if just twO of us hurried home, had

squadron had been at the Babelthuap airfield.

right. It seemed the propeller would nick

two more bombs quickly hooked up, and got

(Rabelthuap was by far the largest island in the

some foliage from the treetops, but I knew it

unveiling glimpses of the floatplanes. They were

rapidly airborne again, the Group CO likely

Palau Islands - almost 30 miles [50kmj long and

was just an illusion as my plane made it safely

two-seater Jake biplanes. One more shooting

would not know the difference. Not having to

B miles Il3kmlwide - and the enemy had an

over the other side and into the forbidden

pass finished the job, leaving both Jakes burning

refuel would also save us some time.

,lItfieid on the southern end, which we had kept

harbour.

profusely - we could see men trying to control

The plan worked, and we were airborne again

II1capacitated with daily strafing and dive-

My eyes joyously focused on a motor launch

the fires. We made a third attack, spraying the

in twelve minutes. In just twelve minutes more,

hombing attacks.) The six others had been

putt-putting along, just to the right of my path.

area generously with .50 calibres, hoping to do

I was pushing over in another dive on the

acquired on Yap and Woleai. All three airfields

It was close to the narrow island, that curved

all

second ship. The enemy anti-aircraft guns came

were speckled with many wrecked airplanes,

to the left in front of my course. It was appar-

cooking Jakes apparently burned their mooring

and it was very difficult to be sure we were not

ent that the crew of the 20ft [6m] boat felt

lines, because they began to drift away from the

released the bomb, the target was clearly visible

,hooting decoys or hulks already claimed by

secure hugging the shoreline. I rolled my fighter

shore; in another minute they fell arart, scat-

to me, because my gunfire in the previous straf-

someone else. But our system was fairly straight-

to the right and commenced firing a few

tering their remains on the shallow transparent

ing runs had knocked off some of the camou-

forward: 'If we can make it burn, it must be

seconds after sighting the vessel. The occupants

bottom. Their pontoons were the last to sink.

flage. I-laving already run that AA gauntlet six

flyable and therefore claimable.'

were caught completely by surprise. My low

Anti-aircraft guns from the airfield and

approach had been hidden from sight and sound

harbour were desperately bursting shells over us, hoping to scare us away. However, this was no

growing danger of each subsequent dive. The

Rabelthuap consisted of many small atolls, most

by the narrow strip of land now behind me. My

of them long and slender-looking, like many

bullets tore pieces off the craft and many bodies

bother, as we knew they could not depress their

control movements as I dived for the cover of

worms scattered on the concrete after a rain. The last cluster, just south of the big island, enclosed a magnificent deep harbour at Koror, which averaged about 5 miles in diameter. The Japanese had developed it into the Pearl Harbor of the western Pacific. When we began operatII1g from Peleliu, 45 miles to the south, the harhour was on our daily target list, along with the airfield on its north side. A II of our squadron pilots had made many strafing and dive-bombing attacks on the enemy's main installations, and several pilots had already been killed in these assignments. We had become quite familiar with the layout, and its only remaining means of protection: Jap anti-aircraft guns. These were well camouflaged, and seemed to be relocated frequently to foil our counterattacks. Moreover, the Japanese appeared to have a bottomless pit of ammunition, in spite of the fact that we had cut them off from surface ship resupply. We guessed they were getting some replenishment from submarines. Since there was a dearth of usable shipping to attack, we considered ourselves lucky to

slumped to its bottom. As I passed over my

aim low enough to score. I then noticed tracer

make myself as small as possible by cringing behind the "rmour pl"te. I threw some cmltion to the wind and pulled up a little sooner than normal because I was anxious to see the results Camouflaged Japanese ships along the south edge of Koror Harbor. Circles

of my egg laying. Several AA bursts were not

identify a disguised destroyer and cargo vessel. DoD/Marine Corps

far behind me, but I could also see the smoke and debris kicked up by my exploding bomb. 'You did it again, Skipper' Your bomb hit

plane's armour plating: I always felt uncomfort-

square on it!' Lippy radioed. 'Yours looks right

and rolled over into a dive. This time, the

able until out of gun range. When I was in a

on target too, Lippy" I replied. 'Good work!

muzzle flashes from anti-aircraft guns seemed to

position to glance back towards the ship, there

Join me in a loose column and we'll take a

spark from everywhere. When passing down

was no sign of Tom's homb-burst th"t I h"d

better look.' We climbed to 8,000ft 12,500ml

hoped and expected to see. Tom called. 'Sorry,

and then I led Lippy in a fast, shallow dive

visible to me. Goddamn it' I wished I had

Hunter, I just couldn't see it. And, boy, is that

towards the two bombed ships, jinking con-

another bomb - I'd have gotten this target, too.

AA getting thick.' A moment later, Tabler's

stantly. About the time the anti-aircraft gun

At 2,000ft [600m] I squeezed my gun trigger on

bomb hit about a hundred yards from the objec-

muzzle flashes became visible, we could see our

tive.

latest target falling away from the shoreline. It

the control stick. My tracers were bouncing all

'This is Hunter. You missed it, Tabe!' Then

rapidly rolled over on its side and started set-

'See them, Tom?' There was no time for

to Tom, in disgust: 'Well, come on, Tom, I'll

tling on the bottom. The other ship had already

further conversation as I hurriedly pulled out to

shoot up the decks again, and watch closely this

rolled under on the other side of the narrow

time! Lippy and Tabe, you two watch for gun-

island ridge. We decided to finish our gun

muzzle flashes and strafe them as we dive in.'

ammunition on the AA emplacement enemy

over the ship.

the west, jinking across open sea. In spite of my many past similar missions, I cringed behind the

56

The island chain between our base and

Corsair responded properly to my jinking a nearby island to the east. I remembered to

through 4,000ft [1,200m], the ship was clearly

possible additional damage. The two

to life again with greater intensity. When I

times in the last hour, I was well aware of the

I wanted that ship sunk, so I cut in front of Tom

spot some careless target of opportunity. As

target, it turned toward the shore and several

bullets buzzing all around us, and for a moment

men leaped into the water. I looked back in

was scared that an aerial challenge was at hanel.

time to see Misely imitate me and pour a mur-

However, closer study of the situation revealed

derous stream of lead into the enemy boat. The

that the tracer was coming from several spots

converging bullets were interspersed with

flanking the cove. (Misely was killed by one of

visible tracers.

these same ground guns about two months later.)

The surprise of our appearance in the harbour was immediately over as the sky above rapidly

We emptied our guns on one more pass, con-

became cluttered with black flak bursts. These

centrating on SpOts from where the small arms'

higher explosions that I could see did not worry

fire was coming; then I called Misely to follow

me, but I knew from experience that many

me up the east coast of Babelthuap. We radioed

unseen smaller guns were surely tuning in on

congratulations to each other as we capered

us. I jinked while turning to the right, with the

along the shoreline. Many times we had

express intention of getting out of range east of

checked the native villages along the beach,

the islands as soon as possible. Mise radioed

but we never bothered them, as there was never

that the launch was burning: he wanted to go

any sign of enemy activity; a few natives were

back and finish it, but I said: 'Not now. We'll

usually visible, and some of them always waved.

come back later after the AA gunners tire of

A fter we reached the rendezvous, the other two

waiting for us.'

planes rejoined us. We were all very hot and

The mountainous island of BabelthuaJ? con-

sweaty from the low altitude tropical heat and

fronted us as I resumed a northward course. I

from the excitement, so I climbed for the higher

stayed Iowan the water, entered a cove, and

and cooler heights for the return trip: as we

then led us in a gradual climb just above the

reached 6,000ft [1 ,800m] the chilly air felt

57


AERIAL COMBAT ESCAPADES

great. While climbing, I informed the ,econd

streaked the sky. A few AA were beginning to

u, had a jubilant time relating the mi"ion to

,ection of our good fortune in target,. They still

explode close to us, and I imagined the japanese

our groundcrews. However, while chocking my

had ammunition, and reque,ted permi,sion to

were becoming more angry and exasperated at

airplane, my crew chief noticed a I in [2.5cml

shoot up the ,ame cove in the hopes of finding

our insolence. However, the rate of fire ,eemed

hole underneath my right wing where it joined

additional ,cap lanes. Upon receiving my okay,

to diminish, probably because they were gelling

the fuselage. He investigated by removing the

they dove away a, Misely and I continued to

tired and low on immediately availahle ill11mU-

fairing plate with the hole in it, and quickly db-

c1imh. Black smoke was ,till drifting up from

nition. Qur last acrobatic ,tunL was followed by

covered that a 20mm bullet had caused the

the cove, and it wa, nm long before we could

an erratic dive to the cast. I radioed rendezvous

damage. After entering the aluminium skin, the

instructions to my second ,ection, and soon

bullet had struck the head of the main bolt that

We levelled off at 10,000ft [3,OOOml, and

after we rejoined at I,OOOft above the ocean,

hold, the wing to the fuselage; and with the top

sec the two Corsairs working it over. noticed that the hig gun, were active again,

and headed south for home. Tulipane reluc-

of the bolt sheared off, the metal pin wa, about

with more hur,t, ne~H the cove - and thi> gave

tantly reported that they had nm heen able to

to fall out. I broke out in a cold sweat, realiz-

me an idea for more mi>chief: I decided we

find any more hidden floatplanes.

CHAPTER FOUR

The 'Black Sheep' and the 'Jolly Rogers' Big Booty

ing that I had performed the entire air show

would put on an <lir ,how to confu,e the AA

As we approached our ba,e on Peleliu, I

with a wing about to break off. I then tried to

When I was very close, maybe 60 to 80 yard"

guns and distract them from shooting at the

moved my control stick hack and fonh to indi-

figure when I had been hit, and guessed it was

I opened fire with the six Browning,. He

I burst

I.

others. Adding combat power, I did a split-S

cate close right echelon formation. We clipped

while making the second or third pass at the

the Zero leader.

(half-roll to a venical dive) manoeuvre from

along at an indicated airspeed of slightly more

seaplane cove.

almmt at the moment I swept by his left wing-

into a ball of flame

in there during the night (I never saw any, but

Two or three coloneb gave little talb on the

wme guy, were bitten). No shaving, no

upcoming mbsion; in the dim light they and

,hower"

no hru,hing of teeth: we shuffled

their map> were hard to ,ee, and their voice,

through the giant, towering Banyan trees to the

hard to hear. Then a chuhhy, yellow-skinned officer nro,e to complete the briefing, and

10,OOOCt. The airfield wa, directly below me,

than 200 knots. Qur squadron took pride in pre-

We had had nearly twO months of flying

tip. I fancied that I could hem the explo,ion.

make,hift me" hall 50yd away. My breakfast

and in my gun,ight. I could see the enemy was

cision flying, and I was pleased to sec our for-

combat air patrol and fighter-bomber 'trikes

My Cor,air shuddered as I hit the bla,t, and I

combted of two large cups of coffee and one

immediately there was a teme silence in the

ready, from the many gun-muzzle flashes blink-

mation was well dres,ed: Mi,ely';, left wing was

against

also felt that something hit my plane.

,lice of ,0methl11g that resembled French toa,t

pmt. The man looked overweight, drawn, humourle", almmt ,uffering: it wa, Pappy

japanese-held

islands

within

our

ing at us from the field and harbour: apparently

inside and behind my right wing, and slightly

combat range -

Babelthuap, Yap,

USMC pilot Wallace B. Thml1;,on,

and that wa, my b,t meal till evening.

the japs were extra-angry with u, for our better-

stepped down to ju,t bmely miss my ,Iip"ream.

Somorol, Pub Anna, Merir, Woleai, and ,0 on

VMF-211

Outside on the dank and muddy road ,ome

Boyington

than-average ,ucce", becau,e I never before

The other two aircraft held the ,a me excellenL

- and it wa, getting pretty obvious that the

oltve-coloured vam, called 'carry-ails', were

the famous Boyington, who had twenty-five

noticed so many big gun locatiOn>. \Xlhen the

position outboard from my wingman. When

enemy wa, not going to try any offemive,

w~lIl1ng; the,e bumped all of u, down the newly

japane,e plane> to hh credit, only two behind

nrst shot, burst ten or so ,ecolllb later at

over the field, I patted my head <lnd pointed to

agaimt our captured air base on Peleliu. Morale

bulldmed paths to the large command pmt by

joe Fo>s. Boyington, who had JU" four day, left

10,OOOft, we were pas;ing down through 7,000ft

Misely. This hand signal meant we ,hould fall

among my pilots (and me) began to wane.

[2,100ml. Then the enemy must have feared a

into column for landing. An immnt Imer I made

dive-bombing <lttack, hecause their hur,ts sud-

a hard left pull-up into a lopsided loop; the mh-

denly began to clutter the air helow u,. Having

ers imitated the manoeuvre at ollc,sccond inter..

no intention of being so ohvious or obliging, I

vals. This wild, fan-like break-up wa, st<lndard

pulled into anmher loop. Indeed, Mi,e1y and I

squadron procedure and looked mo,t impre;"ive

had a ball, pUlling on an ulllNla1 high-altitude

from the ground. Unfortunately, higher-ranking

air show over the enemy installation>. Qur gyra-

officers had continually cautioned u, that the

tions were an unonhodox collection of every

manoeuvre wa, overly boi,terou, <lnd therefore

stunt trick I knew. I felt smug because we had

dangerous. Privately we called It the 'bursting

caLI.~cd

fart' break-up.

the enemy to waSLe precious

cHlll1lUni#

tion while we were just having fun. Then I

We made a snappy landing, where our fourth

began to worry that they might just get lucky,

man was ju,t rolling hi> wheels on the runw<lY

and decided to quit while we were ahead. The

as I was turning off ill the far end. This landing

black anti-aircrafr ,moke balls cluttered the air

technique was developed from aircraft carrier

around and below u, like hundreds of huge,

operations, and was e;senLial for full ,quadron

ghostly halloon,. They ,lowly dispersed and

missions. After parking our Cor,air" the four of

Koror,

Five hundred miles (800km) west of Peleliu, the Allied invasion of the Philippines began on 20 October 1944, landing on the East Coast of Leyte Island ncar the town of Tacloban. VMF-122, though, remained at Peleliu, and it was still operating from there against Babelthuap, Korol' and Yap when the war ended. Reinburg, meanwhile, was 'promoted' to be the Air Operations Officer of the Marianas Air Defense Command on Saipan Island. When Admiral Nimitz dissolved the command he was transferred to the Marine Corps A ir Group on Guam, on 5 March 1945.

1944 began with mixed fortunes for the Corsair squadrons. VF-17 had recenrly returned from two weeks R&R in Australia and reorganization on Espiritu Santo, and in January returned to the fight. Eight of its F4U-IAs were now fitted with water injection-equipped engines. By 1 January a total of 147 enemy aircraft had been claimed destroyed since 17 December in fighter sweeps in the Pacific. F4U-2 night fighters shot down five enemy planes during the month. On the debit side, the MilI'ine Corps suffered a serious blow when VMF422 became lost during a flight from Tarawa to Funafuti in the Pacific, and of the twenty-three F4U-s that started the flight, twenty-two Corsairs and six pilots were lost. Thirteen of the F4Us ditched together, and these pilots were rescued.

'Gramp,' to thme c1o,e to him -

the TorokiJ1<l air,trip. The post was built half

before heing >hipped hi1Ck to the Stale,; who,e

underground and had coconut logs for ,ide

VMF-214 'Black Sheep' ,quad ron had lo,t >ix

wall,. Imide, eighty or ninety officers were

pilot, in the pa" ten day,; who had shot down

g'llhered in the gloom, fighter pilots and Marine Air Group Ileadquarters brass.

four japane>e plane> in the pa,t week in a desperate effon to c<ltch joe Fm,; who had to put

'Boyington's Last Flight' In early January 1944 a fighter force was sent out to attack the fortress of Rabaul. USMC pilot Wallace B. Thomson of VMF-211 gives a detailed account of this mission: On the morning of 3 january 1944, we were

VMF-I22 Corsairs on Guadalcanal. June 1943. USMC

58

Major Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington. who scored twenty-two victories flying

awakened in our tents in the jungle at 0500hr.

Corsairs and led VMF-214 from 7 September 1943 to 3 January 1944, in the cockpit

Qur mission that day was to take part in a fony-

of a Corsair. Early in 1942. flying P-40Cs in the American Volunteer Group in

eight plane fighter sweep across the Solomon

China. Boyington claimed six victories in the air and thirty on the ground.

Sea to the vast fortress of Rabaul. We pulled on

although officially he was credited with two 1-97 fighters shot down in aerial

our flight suits in the semi-darkness, and banged

combat and 2.5 bombers destroyed on the ground. His wartime score therefore

our boots on the tent fl,x,r to knock oul any

stood at twenty-four confirmed kills. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross. USMC via Wally Thomson

poisonous centipedes that might have crawled

59


THE 'BLACK SHEEP' AND THE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

THE 'BLACK SHEEP' AND THE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

It Wally Thomson of VMF-211 in flight gear on the Russell Islands; note his Mae

Occasionally we would see some of the other Corsairs below us, but the multiple cloud layers

West and shark repellent. On 1 November 1943 VMF-211 provided air cover for the invasion of Bourgainville by the Third Marine Division, fighting off repeated

made visual contact difficult. Now we wcre

attacks by Japanese planes based at Rabaul on New Britain Island. By late

crossing thc Solomon Sea, aiming for thc

December 1943 they were based at the Torokina airstrip on Bougainville and

northern perimeter of Rabaul. We didn't think

began making escort and sweep attacks on Rabaul. On 3 January 1944 Wally

of it at the time, but to the left of us was the

Thomson accompanied 'Pappy' Boyington on a fighter sweep to Rabaul during

yawning New Britain Trcnch wherc the occan

which Boyington was shot down and imprisoned by the Japanese. During this

reached a depth of 30,000ft 19,000m1. The multiple cloud layers continued to plague

month Wally shot down two Zeros and damaged a third. In June 1944, after

us. Boyington and about half of thc forty-eight

twenty-one months of overseas duty and sixty-one combat missions, he was returned to the States and sent to the Marine Corps Station at Cherry Point, North

planes had long since disappeared, and Hopkins'

Carolina. There, in VMF-911 the Marines formed the first day-fighter squadron

four-plane division was also no longer to be

flying the new F7F Tigercats. After a spell as test pilot flying the F4U-4 and F7F

seen. We must have been well across the

Wally rejoined his squadron, and in August 1945 was about to be sent overseas in

Solomon Sea, but there was no sign of Rabaul

the F7Fs when the war ended. Wally Thomson

on our left, or New Ireland on the right. Soon I heard what must have been Pappy Boyington's voice,

~aying:

'Let's go down, Ict's

go down,' ovcr and ovcr in a calm and mea; sured tone. So the eight plancs I was with nosed tobacco grains in his eyes to keep awakc; and

Guadalcanal some 600 miles [950kml south-

good high altitude performance they might be

who was covered with a gross tropical skin

east of Rabaul. We maintained a tight, weaving

up in the stratosphere just waiting for us.

Some of the pilots in VMF-211 talk things over at Torokina airstrip. USMC via Wally Thomson

down through one cloud layer - but we were still well above 20,000ft [6,000m]. Then sud-

flight pattern over the B-25s and kept the Zcros

Pappy finished his pilots' bricfing in about ten

denly the radio became full of some sort of

Pappy W'lS dcscribing our mission, a fightcr

away, but wc saw '1 lot of them out there: the

minutes. To me hc secmcd to have physically

frantic, staccato-like yelling that was quitc

sweep to Rabaul, the dccp-watcr harbour at thc

estimate for that particular day was about sixty.

deterioratcd in the past couple of months. Then

unintelligihle to me, much of it probably in

north cnd of thc largc island of Ncw Britain.

Today it would be a forty-eight plane fighter

wc all broke up and hurricd in thc carll' dawn

Japanese. We milled around betwcen various

disease that we all called 'the crud'.

On 23 January 1942, thc Japancsc had takcn

sweep, consisting of from four to twelve planes

to our long lines of F4U Corsairs strung out

layers of cloud, though never went below

ovcr Rabaul, ousting a small Australian force,

from each of several Marine Corps' squadrons:

along the Torokina strip, wet from last night's

12,000ft [3,650ml.

and had built it into a major naval basc with

VMFs-211, 212, 214, 216, and possibly one or

rain and streakcd with mud. Behind us was the

Finally we broke through the lowest layer to

fivc surrounding airfields. General MacArthur

two others. I had friends from flight school in

tumultuous Bougainville jungle, where even

find only water below - we hadn't quite reached

had strongly advocated taking Rahaul by force,

all those slJuadrons. Our group had three four-

now wc could hear distant gunfire between thc

Rabaul. But there was still action going on, as

but the strategy of bypassing Japanese strong-

plane divisions led by Major Ireland, Captain

Third Marine Division and the Japanese forces

the screaming and yelling over the radio con-

holds such as Rabaul and T ruk was adoptcd -

Langenfeld and Major Hopkins; I led a section

surrounding our little salient. In front of us were

tinued. Now I could only sec our own four-

probably as a result of Admiral Nimitz's insis-

behind Herb Langenfeld. On my wing, as usual,

the grey waters of Empress Augusta Bay; to our

plane division headed hI' Capt Langenfeld.

tence. Rabaul, it was decided, would be neu-

was my tent-mate, Ward Hower. Flying with

right, off the western end of the runway, was

Looking around for the next half-hour we saw

tralized by air powcr - Army/Navy Marinc

Hopkins was my othcr tcnt-mate, Adolph

thc little island of Purapata.

no more planes, neither Japanesc nor ours.

Corps, Australian and New Zealand. Howcver,

Vctter - soon to make captain, soon to gct his

First the muffled sound of cartridge starters,

It would be nice to say that we found our

by I January 1944 Rabaul was near the peak of

first Zero - and soon to die. The mission was a

thcn the blue and grcy Corsairs fircd into life

buddies and rescued them from the Zeros, but that's not the way it happened. As I learned in

its considcrable defensive strength, Zcros

rathcr simple one: wc would fly in toward

one by one: engines were warmed lip, Illagnc~

swarming around the place from its five air-

Rabaul stacked up bctwccn 20,000 and 30,000ft

toS were checked, wing flaps tested, cowl flaps

fields. I had made my first flight over Rahaul just

[6,000 and 9,000ml; I was assigned to bc in the

cracked open slightly, scat height adjusted,

four days earlier when escorting Army Air

highest group. The Zeros might risc to attack

mixture control set at automatic rich, prop in

Corps B-25s that had taken off back on

us or simply stay on thc ground. With thcir

full low pitch, seat belts snugged up, oxygen

USMC

via Wally Thomson

get fouled up. Of our twelve guys, Major Ireland and Capt Hopkins each shot down one Zero, but the rest of our fellows had no contact with the enemy at all.

mask, the maze of gauges in front of me, the

so we turned the supercharger to 'High Blower'

roarcd

vast strctchcs of sea and clouds and sky would

to fecd the maximum amount of air to our eigh-

Finally we straggled back to Torokina, not

bring me back to reality.

teen-cylinder engines. At about that time I

feeling too badly because we had all seen this

down

the

Marston [0

mat-covered

west, and made a

giant, climbing circlc to the left over thc bay.

At first our course took us well away from

swung out a littlc way from the others and fired

sort of thing before; the weather and poor com-

As we were providing high cover we were the

mountainous Bougainville, because for all we

my six .50-calibre Browning machine guns,

munication between squadrons had blunted

last planes to take off; we cut across the circle

knew, Japanese

watchers were looking nut

giving them a short burst - though some pilots

many a mission. One by onc we dropped down

and gradually closed in on Boyington and thc

for our missions, and could lJuickly radio vital

did not take that seemingly essential precau-

to 1,000ft 1300m], heading east across Empress

CO(lst

leading planes. Finally, in a compact group we

information to Rabaul. Then we roughly paral-

tion. But the familiar 'chug-chug-chug' of the

Augusta Bay, lowercd our wheels, circled slowly

hcaded for New Britain and the fortress of

leled the south-west Bougainville CO'lSt as we

gUlls and the curving tracers were reassuring.

to the left, received a green light from the newly

Rabaul, some 200 miles 1320kml to the west.

slowly climbed. At about 10,000ft [3,000ml we

We passed thc island of Buka at the north-west

built tower, and landed on our little Torokina

Most of the time it was business as usual, but

augmented the main supercharger with the

end of Bougainville where the Japanese had

strip. But an hour later we heard that Pappy

occasionally I would look around at the beau-

second supercharger, called 'Low Blower',

several airstrips, though we couldn't sec them

Boyington and his wingman, Capt George M.

tiful yet ominous planes around me and wonder:

turning it on to push more oxygen into our

because of the several cloud layers. Just ahcad

Ashmun, had failed to return, and then it

'What in God's name are we doing here l Why

Pratt & Whitney engines.

of mc were Capt Herb Langcnfeld and Lt

became more than a mission foul-up. We had

Watson flying a two-plane section, and about

lost a superb leader in Boyington and a thoroughly nice guy in Ashmun, and a real shock

are we here, ar the ends of the earth, in a death

60

Zero cannon fire after landing at Torokina.

m'lsk in place. Then one by one the Corsairs TOfokina airstrip from cast

F4U 'scramble' at Torokina. USMC via Wally Thomson

my two years in the Pacific, some missions just A Corsair damaged by Japanese

Soon we climbed through a cloud layer, then

struggle with an enemy we have never known

another, and then still another, and it became

fifty yards off on my wing was Ward Hower, my

- an enemy just as lost as we arc in this tropi-

difficult for those of us performing high cover

faithful wingman with whom I had been flying

w'lVe went through the pilots' camp in the

cal hell I' Then the smell of the rubber oxygen

to follow those below. At 18,000ft 15,500m] or

for the past fourteen months.

jungle above Torokina.

61


THE 'BLACK SHEEP' AND THE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

THE 'BLACK SHEEP' AND THE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

To put the record straight, from my conver-

ordinated, had excellent eyesight and great

sation with Pappy and from the remarkable story

courage, and inspired the pilots that flew with

in his book, this is what happened to him on

him; he was intelligent enough to get a degree

that sad day: Pappy and George Ashmun, being

in aeronautical engineering, and developed key

lowest in the formation, spotted about ten japs

friends in the Marine Corps. But on the down

just below them. Diving into this group they

side (by his own admission) he was personally

each shot down one plane. But as they started

irresponsible, always heavily in debt, not a fam-

back towards the remaining Zeros, Pappy saw

ily man, a pronounced alcoholic, involved in

about twenty more planes above him, which he

countless 'bar-room brawls', sought personal

thought were friendlies but were in fact the

glory, made many enemies (being politically

enemy. Ashmun and Boyington were weaving to

by many. For my part, 1 know that if 1 were to

up, caught on fire and dived into the ocean.

meet up with a bunch of enemy planes, I would

Pappy tried to escape, but his gas tank erupted in

was a constant transfer of pilots from one

Brubaker, 1st Lt Bruce Ffoulkes (a good friend

flames: with an amazing effort he bailed out,

squadron to another; indeed, the average pilot

of mine from our days on Palmyra Island) and

rather than any other pilot I can think of, with

pulled the ripcord and landed in the water all in

who entered early in the war was probably in

Major

Pierre Carngey (Pappy's executive

the possible exception of gentleman joe Foss.

one fell swoop! After floating around for an hour

three or four squadrons, and they ran the spec-

officer) were killed in action. On that same day

[Boyington died of cancer on II january 1988.[

or two he saw a submllrine surface ncar him; this

trum from hard-drinking, hell-for-leather types

Boyington shot down four planes over Rabaul.

like Gregory Boyington, to quiet, introspective,

Then on 28 December, 2nd Lt Harry Bartl, 1st

professorial types like George Ashmun.

Lt Don Moore and Capt Cameron Dustin also

took him aboard and headed for Rabaul. Pappy discovered that he was badly wounded:

Thomson

Most of us assumed that Pappy and George

Corsairs lined up on Torokina's Marston Mat runway, USMC via Wally Thomson

cover each other's tail. George was badly shot

l

Sergeant Felton helps 1/Lt Czarnecki with cockpit gear at Torokina. USMC via Wally

naive) and seemed to be accident prone. Like

an ankle was shattered, there was a bullet

The following are some cold, hard facts about

were killed in action - yet Pappy mentioned

through one calf, he had almost been scalped,

the Black Sheep Squadron, as gleaned from the

none of these six tragic deaths. It is easy to read

and there were shrapnel wounds in his shoulder

Marine Corps' and National Archive records:

into this that he pushed his men into danger-

and groin. His woul1<..b were not treated for ten

fir>l, although VMF-214 had an excellent record

ous situations while seeking fame anJ [onLine

days. He spent six weeks at Rabaul and six more

in the war of 127 enemy aircraft shot down, they

for himself, and that he really did not care for

at the japanese base at Truk. He was beaten,

were only seventh on the list of Marine Corps

them - but probably just the opposite would be

starved, thirsty, and he also had malaria; he was

squadrons. VM F-12 I had the best record of 208

nearer the truth. He did care for his men, and

finally island-hopped to japan. His weight

planes brought down, and this was achieved

the only way he could cope with the over-

dropped from 190 to 1IOlb [86 to 50kgl- but a II

while flying Grumman F4F Wildcats, which

whelming sadness that he felt at their deaths

is recorded in his book, Baa, Baa Black Sheep.

were modest performers: having had many hours

was by burying it in his subconscious - writing

Pappy writes how anxious he was to break joe

in both the Wildcat and the Corsair, 1 can tell

about it would have brought it all back and been too painful.

Foss's record of twenty-six victories, as if it were

you the Corsair was vastly superior. VMF-221,

a home run record, and not a matter of life and

which I was in for a short while, compiled a

Gregory Boyington was a complex and gifted

death. He says several times that he was not

record of 185 victories. I was in VMF-211 for a

character. He was physically strong, well co-

interested in records, but that the news media

long time, and they knocked down ninety

kept pushing him; yet in several chapters writ-

planes. Among the best twenty-five Marine

1958

ten at about that period, he seems to have been

Corps aces, the only Black Sheep pilot was

were prisoners was also considered. It was

Boyington finally came out with his best-sell-

totally preoccupied with breaking Foss's record.

Pappy Boyington, and he was at the top of

doubly upsetting in that the bulk of 214

ing book Baa, Baa Black Sheep. I last saw

In truth, it might take a psychologist to perceive

everyone, with twenty-eight planes. Of the

were dead, although the possibility that they

After several years of procrastination and, unhappily,

excessive

drinking,

in

many a genius, he was loved by many, and hated

Squadron - the Black Sheep - was due to be

Pappy in 1959 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where

what was really driving that gifted, complex

eleven Marine Corps pilots who were awarded

shipped back to the States in one week. Soon

he was kind enough to autograph a copy for

man. Certainly on that occasion he was push-

the Congressional Medal of Honor, Boyington

afterwards, fourteen pilots from VMF-214 -

me. We reminisced about his last flight on

ing things a bit too far, and his precipitate dive

was the only Black Sheep member.

who had in fact not yet completed their tour of

3 january 1944, and I told him that I always

from 20,000ft [6,000m[ down to sea level was

The Black Sheep Squadron had an excep-

duty - were transferred to VMF-211.

felt the rest of the flight had failed to give

perhaps ill advised. To us fighter pilots, altitude

tional Intelligence Officer in Col Frank E.

It was not until after the end of the

him sufficient support that ill-fated day.

was always a precious commodity. Furthermore,

Walton. During the war his record of the

war, in September 1945, that we learned that

While he did not seem to think there was a

at that period of time the Marines - to say noth-

squadron activities was superior to any that I

Boyington had become a prisoner of the

lack of support, in his book he indicates that

ing of the Navy and Air Corps - were pouring

have read - and I have read the records of fifteen

japanese and was still alive, and that George

he did believe the rest of the Corsairs were

a huge number of fighter pilots into the Pacific.

to twenty squadrons, Possibly it was his accurate

Ashmun had indeed been killed back on

slow to follow him down to sea level where he

Also, the military situation in the Rabaul area

and descriptive writing that caused the news-

3 january 1944. [At the time it was believed

was finally shot down. For example, he talks

was not critical, so it was really not all that

papers of that day to begin to pay attention to

that the 'Black Sheep' leader was dead, but

about the weather that day as: 'A few hazy

imperative for one pilot to knock down just two

Pappy Boyington and to the Black Sheep.

after six weeks on Rabaul, Boyington was

clouds and cloud banks were hanging around -

or three more japanese planes.

put on a transport aircraft and taken to Truk;

not much different from a lot of other days.' .

Much misinformation has been put out in the

choose to have a fellow like Pappy with me

On 8 January VMF-2l4 completed its tour of duty with ninety-seven enemy aircraft destroyed, and thirty-two probably destroyed. Next day, four F4U-2 nightfighter Corsairs of VF(N )-1 0 1 went aboard the Enter/Jrise, to become the first F4Us assigned to a carrier. At the same time, another small detachment joined the Intre/Jid, The Corsair's unhappy landing gear 'bounce' was remedied by a local solution, and the leaky wing fuel ranks were not used. After the capture of Roi Island in the Marshalls early in 1944, fourteen F4U-2s of VMF(N)-532 arrived from Tarawa to help defend against night intruders. Later, some F4U-2s went to

In the part of the book concerning the week or two before he was fi na II I' shot down, Pappy

he was made a prisoner in japan, where he sat

However, it is my distinct recollection that the

media about the Black Sheep squadron. Let me

talks continually about his health, trying to

out the rest of the war. In August 1945

number of cloud layers was unusual, and they

just say that they were not misfits, nor were they

break Foss's record and the media pressing him;

Boyington was one of the American prisoners

did tend to disrupt the formations and any

always breaking the rules, and they were cer-

hut he says not a word about the fate of many

liberated by the Allies; he was promoted and

visual communication - and he may indeed

tainly not failures in life: they were more or less

pilots in his squadron. For example, on 23

F4U-2 night fighters of VF(N)-101 on board the USS Intrepid. Note the old-style

received the Navy Cross and the Medal of

have complained privately that we were slow to follow.

just like the other Marine Corps fighter pilots.

December, just eleven days before Boyington's

'birdcage' canopies and the top engine-cooling flap bolted down to help keep oil

If you look at the records, you wi II see that there

last flight, VMF-214 pilots 1st Lt james

off the windscreen. USN

Honor.!

62

63


TilE 'BLACK SIIEEP' AND THE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

THE 'BLACK SHEEP' AND TilE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

Engebi Island on Eniwetok as a defence force. The F4U-2s' base at Torokina was taken over by USMC Corsairs, and on the 14th, when US fighters claimed to have shot down twenty-nine enemy aircraft in dogfights over Rabaul, nineteen of them were by Corsairs of VMF-215 operating from Torokina. On 21 January 1944, VMF-211 Corsairs from Torokina moved to the south Piva airfield (Yoke) to begin operations on Bougainville. They were joined by VF-17, VMF-321 and a New ealand P-40 squadron, and on 24 January by a new unit, VMF-216 'Wild Hares'.

A Combat Mission Three weeks after the fighter mission to Rabaul in which Pappy Boyington was lost, another fighter force was sent out to attack the Rabaul Zeros. Wallace B. Thomson, USMC, has clear recollections of this attack: On 23 january 1944, on the ,outh-west coast of Bougainville in the Northern Solomon Islands, fony-eight F4U Corsairs, (ighter planes attached to Marine Fighter Group Fourteen (MAG-14l. coughed and sputtered a, they were started one by one. We were poised to fly on a fighter sweep to the major jap base at Rabaul on rhe island of New Britain 200 miles to the north-we,t acroÂť the Solomon Sea. Most of us were on Piv~, air,trip, the second o( three

the pack and was (ollowed by that o( my (aith-

been confusing layers of cloud thar had (oulcd

Thc (ormation was now north-north-wcst of

All this lime I W<lS heading for the leader.

wc put on Rahaul during the past few weeks had

ful wingman, Ward I lower.

up the mission, whereas today there was hardly

Rabaul, so with the sun in the south-west we

a cloud in the tropical sky.

werc ahlc to have a good look at the fonrcss helow. Simpson Harhor glistencd in thc sun's

Whcn I W'IS vcry close, maybe 60 to 80yd away, I opcncd firc with the six Brownings and he

hccn trcmcndous. As Il turned out, the mighty hasc o( Rahaul was homhed and strafed lmmer-

burst inw a ball of flamc <llmost at the moment I swcpt hy his Iefr wing-tip; I fancied I could

cifully, while hundreds of Zcro fighter, wcre shot down hy the Allied (orce, in late 1943 and carll' 1944.

The flight leaders made a sweeping circle to pocket at Empress Augusta Bay, allowing all the

In a few minutes I charged my six .50-calibre Browning machine guns, three in each wing,

planes to join up in formation by CUlling across

thcn ar a safe moment I veered a little to thc

hargcs, on its watcrs. Rabaul had fivc airfields,

the circle. Below were the tumultuous jungle

right and gave them a very short burst to see if they were working. The familiar 'chug, chug,

rhc most important one being Lakunai right

hcar the cxplosion. My Corsair shuddered as I hit thc hlast and I abo felt that ,omething hit

ncxt to Simpson Harbor and thc city prnpcr. Suddcnly I was alerted by hugc clouds of dust

of my traccrs wcnt slightly left, and thinking

,lI'Ismg from Lakunai and anothcr field to thc

that I should havc trimmed my ,hip during rhc long hlgh-spccd lilve m avoid being in a skid. Lookmg hack I could scc that Ward had shot

the left around the Bougainville invasion

mountains that formed a 100-mile 1160kml

rays, and wc could sec a (cw small ships, pcrhaps

IS miles [24km] inland the active 10,000(t

chug, chug' sound and the curving tracer, out ahead o( me showed that the guns were working

[3,OOOml volcano, Mt Bagana, put out its whp

OK. I never had any gun trouble ar all during

sourh, which I judged to bc Vunakanau: thIS

the war.

was an indIcation thar Zerns were taking of( to

spine along the length o( Bougainvdle. Ahout

of black smoke. A, usual, one or two planes

my planc. I rcmcmhcr being annoyed that most

down thc wmgman - but thar Zern never did

qUIckly Jomcd up and wc headcd cast. Wc had

sometimes even 'psychological' prohlem,. We

inLO cach wing near the wing-tips, and wc

headed north-west along the south cml,t o(

would all switch to these soon a(ter takc-off;

mcct our challengc. This was cxactly thc purposc o( our fightcr swcep - to tcmpt thc crns mto thc alf and thcn shot)[ somc of thcm

Bougainville, then swung somewhat le(t towards

thesc would soon run dry, and then we all

down. The dustcloud, wcrc typical of japancsc

Rabaul. There were jap airstrips at Bub., at the

switched back to the main gas tank that hcld

,1Ir

opcnaions, as the American coral air:"ltrip:"l

lost <I lor o( valuahle altitudc and knew th<lt

extreme north-we,t end o( J)ougainville, ,md we

nOgal 11,00011 of high octane gas. To avoid a

<lnd stcel M<lrsmn mats had (with somc notahlc

Zcros could hc all amund us; but as wc contin-

wanted to stay well mvay (rom them, and in par-

possible explosion in the empty wing-tip Lanks

ticular their coast watcher" who could, ,md

during combat, we turned a valve that purgcd

cxccptions) much less dust. By now wc wcre up m 2,600rpm <lnd <llmosr

ucd casl wc saw nonc. Thc oil Icak still looked had. Also, lookmg out at my right wing-tip \

didn't make it, having mechanical, radio or

probably did in this case, radio an urgenL warning to their comrades over at Rahaul. Soon we were at 10,OOO(t 13,OOOmi and shifted our super-charger, into Low Blower. Most of us had been on oxygen right (rom the start. We were in our standard 'Thatch Weave' formation, planes flying in pairs, pairs flying in groups of (our, and so on. The grey-green island of Bougainville with its smoking volcHno gradually faded from view. On our left was the slme blue Solomon Sea with its yawning New Britain T rench, an abyss going down to an mcredihle depth o( 30,000ft 19,OOOmi - though to us, o( course, 30,000ft was no wor,e than 30(t 19m1. This was a fighter swcep, so therc wcrc no

runways built by the Sea-Bees since the inva-

dive-bombers or torpedo bomhers to cscon.

sion o( Bougainville that began on 1 November 1943. Pi va was a heauti(ul coral runway sur-

That very morning wc had csconed SBD, and TBFs to Rabaul and had run into a flock o(

rounded hy coral Laxiways, concrete plane

Zeros, and now we werc coming hack to chal-

revetments and towering jungle Banyan trees. Five miles away the laps ringed the American

lenge the Zeros once again. Only twenLy days ago we had lost our controvcrsial and pcerless

invCl:)ion :;aliclll, wtliring to pounce if they

leader, Pappy Boyington, on just such a fighter sweep - although on thar grim day therc had

The Corsairs had auxiliary gas Lanks built

hum: Ir Just wcnt Into a grotesque and jerky spm In thc man ncr of a scrics of stalls. Ward

hoth o( these tanks with carbon dioxidc. Thesc

<It full thnmle, and travelling at proh<lhly nor

could scc that somchow I had sustaincd damagc

carly model Corsairs had a Plexiglas window at

much helow 400mph [650kmphl. Thc sky W<lS

out thcrc. So aftcr gctting out of the Rahaul

the bottom of the cockpit through which the

c1car mall dircctlons, and at thIS altltudc <lPpc<lrcd almost hlack. Whdc thc ,ur tcmpcra-

area wc contlnucd on our way, hack to the Pi\'Cl

pilot could (in theory) sec downwards, but this window was usually smeared with oil and dirt, so you couldn't see much. Today, howe vcr, I could see oil trickling back from thc enginc in a linle greater quantity than usual, though for the timc heing I paid it no attention. At about \8,OOOft [5,500m] we switched to High Blower, which would allow us to climb up as high as the stratosphere, and the whole (ormation continued to climb until we werc a lillic above 25,OOO(t [7,600mJ. We headed up St George's Channel, having the long and curving island o( New Ireland on our right, and Ncw Britain with its port of Rabaul on the le(t. To

turc outSide was probahly closc to ,O"F, I W<lS swc<lllng fmm thc mtcnsc warmth fmm thc sun's rays, and from tensIOn. At this POl11t I was

Lllsmaycd m sce thc oil pouring P<lst the lowcr window in a thick, twisting rivcr. As our whole

airstrip at a low cruiSing pl)\\'Cr, and in about

41 mmutcs Emprcss Augusta Bay and thc Tnrokina hasc lame into \'iew.

My engine

ncvcr gave any trouhle from the los, of oil. Thc two coral runways along with thc stcel Marsmn

pOS'

mat of thc Torokin<l strip, were casy m spm in thc grccn junglc of Bougailwille.

Slhl)' 20 miles 130kml in diamctcr m thc left ""cr R<lhaul, I [hought that Ward and I would

ahout half my od supply. Years latcr, whcn

hc smart to thmttle hack a hit, cut <lcross thc Clrclc, pcrhap, run inw somc c1unbmg Zcros

studymg M'lI'1nc Corps' rccords, I noticcd that thcrc wcrc quitc a few cnginc failurcs during

<lnd, hopcfully, join up wllh thc rcst of our Marines. So I cut hack to 2,300rpm, rcduced

high perfmmancc com hat 111Issions, failures that o(tcn appcarcd to bc caused by thc loss of

thc throttle sctting, and then hcadcd across thc

cngmc od. BlIt my Pratr & Whlrncy functioned OK on th,n mission in spite of a heavy loss of

hghter formation

\\'HS

making a glatH cm..::Ic,

Aftcr landmg I found that I had indccd lost

save (uel we had been cruising at 1,750rpm and

Clrclc. Ward followed without hCSltallon.

ahout 24in of manifold pressurc, but now wc were up to 2,250rpm and 32in - and at this point I noticed a little more oil was flowing

In a fcw minutcs we werc ahove the nonhl

oil; indeed, in (our ycars of flying in World War

castern tip of New Britain and almost ahovc thc city o( Rahaul itself. Thc rivcr of od slackcncd

II, I ncvcr had an cnginc failure. Looking at the wing-tip damagc, wc judgcd that it was from

back (rom the engine over the window helow

noticcably. Suddenly two plancs appcarcd to

cxploding debrIS (rom

me.

the left and a few thousand feet below us, and

Somctimc latcr I (ound out that the planc I flcw

Division had carved Out a semicircle in the

in the hrilliant sunshine thc rcd mcatballs on

on thc mission was one of the FG-I A Corsair,

swamps, tangled undergrowth and rugged hills,

the wings were easily ,een - they wcrc two

all through the mosquitoes, tropical downpours

manufacturcd by Goodyear, and it i, pos,ible [hat thc scvcrc leak of oil was caused by the

could. The ,uperh American Third Marine

the

leading Zero.

the

Zcms, climhing in closc formation, hcadmg castwards. I put my Corsair into a shallow lllvc

Bougainville terrain. By now a US Army divi-

and headed for the lead plane. Glancing around

Just started.

,ion manned the (ront lines, waiting for the

m my right, I could see that Ward had also sported them and was diving with me. The

down wa,: 'That ball o( flame could have been

and strange

(evers

that came

with

inevitable j"panese counter-offensive.

usual hugs (ound in a production line that had Ward's comment on the Zero I had ,hm

jap wingman, also on thc right, began 'lCting ncrvously, but the leader never budged as we

scen for a hundrcd miles" We walked over to

onto the runway, their Pratt & Whitney engines roared, and then the hlue and white

closed in on them. The wingman rocked

anJ two cxciting mi~sions to Rabaul, wc were

One by one the Corsairs humped their way

camouflaged craft with the (amous inverted gull wings climbed out over the jungle in a gentle

ravcnous. Somehow being on oxygen all day

his leader. Then he moved back in formation,

always made me hungry - hungrier than at any other lImc m my life.

thi> in the space of a few second,. Thcn m

squadrons were represented on this mission, each squadron cOnLributing eight planes. All the fighters on thi, Rahaul fighter sweep were Corsair,. My plane was ahout in the middle o(

his wings thcn shot out a few hundrcd fcet (rom thcn back out again, then back in agam - all

curve to the le(t. At least six Marine fighter

A Corsair being relocated to a protective revetment. USMC

64

thc mc,s hall: after little breakfast, no lunch,

add m his bizarre display, he flipped over on his

The fighter sweep was a success. As I recall, thc Marincs lost no Corsairs that afternoon,

h'lCk <lnd flew in perfect formation, hut upside

and shot down rcn or twelve Zeros. How could

down!

thc japancsc livc with such lo,ses! The prc,sure

65

The Jolly Rogers' Big Booty On 26 january, thirty-two Corsairs of VF-17 escorted SBD DaunLiesses on a strike to Rahaul's Lakunai airfield. VF-17 shot down eight enemy aircraft for the loss of two pilots and four Corsairs damaged. One of the Zel<es that was shot down fell to the guns of Tom Blackhurn, making him VF-l7's first ace. Next day, twentyfour Corsairs of VF-17 escorted B-25s in another raid on Rahaul, and about seventy Zekes attacked the formation. The Corsairs were credited with 6.5 victories, but Lt Thad Bell was shot down and killed, while 'Teeth' Burriss' F4U was badly shot up. Burriss ditched successfully and he was picked up hy a 'Dumbo'. Two days later, on 28 january, the 'jolly Rogers' provided fourteen Corsairs to escort seventeen TBF Avengers, which would make a glide-bombing attack on Tobera airfield. After losing three pilots in the previous two days, Blackhurn had devised a new tactic whereby another six Corsairs would fly high above the main escort and attack any enemy fighters that attempted to interfere with the main formation. Lt dr Roger Hedrick, flying at 32,000ft (9,700m), led the RHC ('Roving High Cover'). The tactic reaped dividends, as Hedrick's half-dozen Corsairs shot down four Zekes and broke up the enemy attack, while Blackburn's main body of Corsairs was credited with 10.5 victories. On the 29th, Lt (jg)'s Ike Kepford and 'Teeth' Burriss each shot down four Zekes, which took the former's score to double figures, and the latter's to 7.5 confirmed kills. On the morning of the 30th, Lt Cdr Roger Iledrick shot down another Zeke over Rabaul, and this took his personal score to six confirmed kills. In the afternoon of the same day, VF-17 rook off en masse in search of a japanese carrier that had been reported off Rabaul. Although the carrier did not appear, VF-17 more than made up for the disappointment by shooting down ten enemy aircraft, two of them being credited to Ike Kepford, and two to 'Butch' Davenport. But on the


TilE 'BLACK SIIEEP' AND TilE 'JOLLY ROGI' RS' BIG BOOTY

down side, there were losses: one pilot was lost, though a second was recovered after ditching, and then Lt (jg) Doug H. C. Gutenkunst, Blackburn's wingman and close friend, collided with a Marine F4U as they came in for a dusk landing at Piva Uncle airfield on Torokina. Next day, 31 january, 'Teeth' Burriss' Corsair was badly damaged by a Zel<e cast of Kabanga Point, New Britain; Burriss force-landed successfully, but he was not recovered. During the six days between 26 and 3 J january 1944, the 'jolly Rogers' were credited with the destruction of 60.5 enemy aircraft in the air, for the loss of six pilots killed and thirteen F4U-IAs destroyed: five of them by enemy action, four in crashes after being shot up by the japanese, three operational landing crashes, and one in the mid-air collision. In February, VF-ITs score for two tours in the Pacific had risen to 152 enemy aircraft shot down, for a loss of twenty Corsairs in combat and four due to accidents. On 6 February, Tom Blackburn destroyed three Zel<es and a Hamp over Rabaul, to take his final score to eleven confirmed victories for the war. On 19 February, the 'jolly Rogers' shot down no fewer than sixteen enemy aircraft at Cape Siar, New [rel,lI1d, including two Zel<es and a Rufe: these were credited to Ike Kepford, whose final score now stood at sixteen confirmed victories for the war. By the time the 'jolly Rogers' completed their second tour on 6 March, they had been credited with the destruction of 106.5 enemy aircraft during 1,099 combat sorties. VF-17 lost sixteen Corsairs (eight to enemy aircraft, one to nak, four in force landings as a result of combat damage, and three in operational accidents) and ten pilots. The grand total for two tours was 154 victories in 2,579 combat sorties, for the loss of twenty-four Corsairs and thirteen pilots. Another thirty-one enemy aircraft were probably destroyed, and twenty-three more were damaged.

MAG-3I, all in the 4th Marine Air Wing, were based in the Marshall [slands. On 10 February, VMF-215 completed its tour of duty. This squadron had ten aces, which had included 1st Lt Robert M. I [anson, the greatest of all Corsair aces, hut who had been killed a week earl ier during a strafing run returning from a mission; moreover, only fourteen of the original pilots of the 'Fighting Corsairs' had survived to return home. At the time of his death, 11anson's score stood at twenty-five confirmed airto-air victories, twenty of them in six comhats; he was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor in August 1944. A II told, VMF215, in eighteen weeks of combat, was cred ited wi th the destruction of I 35.5 enemy aircraft and another thirty-seven probably destroyed. The squadron's ten aces had accounted for al[ except 30.5 of the total number of victories.

Trouble at Green Island On 15 February, eight Marine Corsair squadrons flew cover for New Zealand units occupying ()reen Island, north of Bougainvillc. Wallace B. Thomson of VMF-211 recalls this interlude:

TilE 'BLACK SIIEE!" AND THE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

and suppmedly infe,ted with headhunters.

56027), and one of the groundcrew came up

w

The wing hinge-pin that, when in place, pre-

reason for sendll1g me there: gathered m the

SuddenlY1 without warning, one wing of thi~

me to talk about it. Apparently it had been in an

vented the wing from folding in flight, was a

extreme south end o( the runway, perhaps

poor fellow" plane folded, and he gyrated wddly

aCCident with the previous squadron, and the

solid cylll1der a little over I in [2.5cm] in diam-

l,OOO(t 1900ml away, were about thirty 1'-40

II1to the jungle below. Since hi, dealh was cer-

left wing had had to be replaced; thIS had heen

eter, and made of hardened steel. To indicate

'Warhawks'. Each one carried helow its fuselage

tain, the difficulty in reaching him was '" great,

done by the previous groundcrew, and the plane

that the hinge-pins were in place, or 'home' as

a 500lb cluster o( thermite bombs - that is,

'lI1d our resources I'm doing so were so linmed at

still had to he test-hopped before going out on a

they called it, there were indicator doors at the

bomh, impregnated with magnesium to start

that time, no recovery effort was mounted. After

mission. As I was the engineering officer o( our

upper surface of the wing at the wing joint.

intense (ires. They were ohviously getting

the wm ended, I'm sure people went

III

squadron, and as the plane was one I would he

These doors, measuring perhaps 3in 18cml wide

ready

find hI' remains. Since very many of the pl,mes

flying regularly, it was only natural that I wOllld

and 6in 115cmllong, lay flat, flush with the wing

turning over, and they were only minutes from

the Mannes flew were deSIgned tor 'lIrcraft car-

he doing the test flight.

surface when the wings were 'spread'. If the

take-off.

111

there

Now the F4U Corsair was primarily designed

hmge-plns were not in place and the wing could

The lOwer wanted to get me out of the way

as an aircraft carrier fighter plane, and so had

fold, the !ttl Ie doors ,wod up on edge and one

firM, so g'lve me a green light. So I gave my ship

wmgs that could be folded up to allow the craft

could see the red paint of their under-surface.

ner operation, they had wll1gs that could he and

folded

111

rare II1stances such as th" the)

would fold accidentally. (~reen bland, also called N "san bland, "

to be moved from deck to deck on a carrier ele-

an atoll that lies ahout halfway hetween

ViltOr, i-l~ well as to prOVide rool11 (or more

was sa(e1y locked or not, there were four thing,

BOUg<lllwdle and New IreL1I1d, ahout 75 mdes

plane, when they were placed side by side on

one could do

1120kml from each. Green bland Is oval

any given deck. In this particular instance, the

went out

shape, H mdes 111kmi across

111

111

the north-soulh

,lirectlon, and 4 mdes 16.5kml east to west. As 111

alm'''t all allllls, at the centre was a large

w pay Rahaul a hot vi,it, their props were

I

II. there was ,my douht as to whether a wing

w check things out. So when I

w Corsair 027 that day, I climbed into

the throttle and headed down the ,mstrip, expecting that I would he seven11 hundred (eet ahove the P40, hI' the time I reached them. My

w ahout 60 or 70 w take-oI'l. ,peed hut still on the

Corsair had picked up speed knots, close

new wing' meant the part that extended (r0111

the cockpit and checked the wing folding

deck, when somel hing on the left cmlght my

w the

levers. They were in the correct position, but

eye: I was horritied

the joint where the folding occurred, out wing'lip,

because

whalever

damage

had

seemed

w he stiff, rarher than resting easily in

w

,ee thm the indicator

door m the left wing jomt had popped up. The

lagoon. The Llild area formed a narrow ring,

occurred - and I never learned what it was

place. Then I glanced at the indicator doors on

wing was unlocked! An instant later the left

a\"Craging ahout dHee'liuiuters of a mile from

had heen in that outer part of the left wing. The

hoth sides: they appeared to he flush with the

wing shot upwards so that the wmg-tlp was

ocean

lagoon. On 15 Fehruary 1944, 5,HOO

Corsair plane had thm famous inverted gull

wing upper surfaces -

though afterwards I

stratght ahove me. It hit the Illp position with

New Zeahmd troops, protected hy Manne (:llIPS

wmg, which folded at ahout the lowest POint o(

wished I had taken a harder look at them.

a hang, went all the way down With another

hghter" IIwaded Green. After three d"ys Ihey

the curvature.

G01l1g down to the landing gear I located the

hang, then up With yet another hang: the

cahles connected to the folding mechanisms.

damned thing was flappmg like a wounded bird'

III

During carrier operations the Corsair wings

h"d 1'1111 control of the area. There were "hout 100 jap,mese on this island, of which numher

were spread and

on every flight.

The cables were supposed to be somewhat loose

I cut the thrnttle in,t;mtly and 'lpplied the

r1l11ty were killed. The Brd, 37th "nd 9hd Sea-

Ilowever, all the operations with which I was

and they were. Finally, following our pilot's

brakes, but the weird aerodynamic I.orces on the

Bees worked hard

III

construct a hase there, and

hy 15 M"rch the airstrip was fully operat ional.

folded

handbook in,truction, I went

and, reaching up, shook each one

hard as I

the runway, and it raced towards the p-40s and

could: hoth seemed to be solid. So as far as these

their thermite hombs virtually out of control:

checks went, everything was normal.

III

each wing-tip

wing made the Corsair snake violently down

involved were land-based ones, and we never folded the wings - in more than two years o(

::lS

VMF-

flying the Corsair I never once folded the wings,

'BUllO"", m Turtle Bay,

2/1, the 'W"ke Avengers', was h"sed at the new

and nor did my fellow pilots. Nevertheless we

on the east CO,ht of Esplnlu Santo In the Ne\\

amlTtp on (~reen Island. Ahout fourteen pilots

were all familiar with wing folding, and with

Hebrides blands

nf the 'Black Sheep' squadron were now With the

the two controls in the cockpit: one thm placed

moving down the coral taxiway. The tower sur-

fin"h, I don't recall them now. But as I flapped

prtsed me a little hy directing me to take offfrom

on down towards the P-40s they saw me comll1g and, with some going right and some left, parted

On 20 March the squadron I was When I first arrived 111

.It

Octoher 1941

t h,lt great

,,,¡,,It Ion

111,

I prepared

w go on the te't-hop, and was soon

with all my (rant ic hraking I was never going

III

,wI' In time' If I had any thoughts of a hellish

'Wake Avengers'. On the next day, 21 Mmch, I

the w1l1gs in 'spread' or 'neutral' or 'fold' mode,

Itl the Solomon

was at the squadron ready, hut prepared, h)r

and the second that would 'lock' or 'unlock' the

the nonh end of the airstrip; I could clearly sec

Island, - we would hear all kll1ds of tales of what

whmever m"sions were planned. Our squadron

wll1g hinge-pins. When the wings were spread,

thnt the various windsocks were pointing south,

like the Red Sea in Moses' time. I laving no

the wm wa, like. In one slllry, a Marine flier,

groundcrew was in the process of relieving the

.1:'>

they always were for us, the first lever was

so I would he taking off downwind. For a fighter

control m all I still missed everyone of them,

whose name and organization I never learned,

crew of the previous squadron. I wa~ informed

always moved aft in the 'spread' position, while

plane with high performance this should present

then went 0(( the end o( the airstrip and into a

was flying in formation over the remote interior

thm t he plane I would be flying for the next few

the second was always placed forward in the

no prohlem, hut it was still unusual. However,

swamp fdled with tree-stumps.

of Espiritu. Th" was incredlhly rugged country

weeks would he number 027 (F4U-1 Bu No.

'lock' position.

arriving m the north end I could see the tower's

Marine Cmps hase that fed Manne power inlll the hrutal camp'llglb

I was unhurt, hut livid. Two crash trucks were there at once. An ambulance crew checked me out. And the damage to the Corsair! I had knocked off the tail wheel. They got me back to the squadron ready hut, but nobody there had noticed anything unusual. Who had hotched the wll1g installation! The responslhle squadron was leaving and couldn't he hothered. I tried

w

mlk

w

the skipl~er, Tom

Marines to the Fore

Murto,

hUl

Island

w worry about a minor accident that

The Marine squadrons meanwhile also went from strength to strength as the American onslaught sh ifted to the Marshall Islands. By February 1944, Marine Air Group (MAG) 24 numbered six Corsair squadrons - VMF-211, VMF212, VMF-215, VMF-218, VMF-222, and VMF-223 - in the Solomons, while (mail'S of MAG-l3, MAG-22 and

none o( the fellows had seen. The flight did

he

\ViiS {OO

husy moving into Green

not even appenr in my loghook, for the Simple reason that I had never left the ground' I could never figure out, after checking all four Items in the Cors;1II prlot" manual, why the wing could allllcar to he locked In place, hut ohviously was not. Somehow the hinge-pin was only JU~l in place, and the levers in the

A 'birdcage' canopy USMC Corsair passes three newer, raised canopy models as it taxies out to the coral runway at Espirito Santo, 8 March 1944. USMC

66

cockpIt were I.orced.

FG-1 Corsairs in formation. Goodyear Corp

67


TilE 'BLACK SIIEEP' AND TilE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

TilE 'BLACK SIIEEI" ANDTIIE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

What about Corsair No. 027! Well, our grounJcrew repaireJ the tail wheel, reimralleJ the left wing - this time correctly - anJ the plane wa; back in the air in a few Jay;. My loghook ;hows that I flew that Cor;air six Jays after the folJing wing affair, anJ within the next few weeks I flew it eight times: e;corteJ Jive-bombers to Rabaul, e;corteJ Jive-bomher; all the way to Kavieng, New IrelanJ, patrolleJ Green IslanJ (almost like a Jay off), covereJ a naval task force, maJe a harge sweep to Cape Lamhert, escorteJ B-25s to Rahaul, 'lI1J several similar missions. So olJ No. 027 W,Nl't so haJ after all! But my minJ sometime; goe; hack to that unfortunate Marine flying over the ruggeJ interior of Espiritu whose wing ;uJJenly folJeJ, plunging him into the remote heaJhunter country of that New Hebrilb, blanJ.

On 17 February, F4U-2 night fighters of VMF(N)-S31, flying from Green Island, carried out two successful night interceptions and destroyed two enemy aircraft; and on the 20th they destroyed a third japanese aircraft. The day before, 19 February, the last important japanese opposition on Rabaul was encountered when fifty Zero and Tojo fighters and Rufe floatplanes met a formation of 145 aircraft comprising fifty-four F4U-s and F6F-3 Hellcats, twenty P-40s, and seventy-two SBD Dauntlesses and TBF Avengers. The American fighters destroyed twenty-three of the enemy aircraft, sixteen of which were shot down by the twenty-six Corsairs of VF-17. Three of these were creJited to Lt (jg) Ira C. Kepford, who destroyed a Rufe anJ two Zekes off Cape Sim, New Ireland, to bring his total wartime score to sixteen confirmed victories, making him the highest scoring Navy fighter pilot. AirSols Intelligence believeJ that eight weeks of fighting had cost the enemy 730 aircraft, but the figure was nearer 400. There was nothing that could disguise the japanese defeat however, and the following Jay japan pulled its few remaining aircraft back from Rabaul to Truk.

jaluit, in the Marshalls. Many of the Corsairs were hit by anti-aircraft fire, but this type of Corsair operation would continue throughout the rest of the war. On 18 March 1944 the Corsair's groundattack role was greatly enhanced by an additional dive-bombing capability, courtesy of VMF-Ill. This squadron, commanded by Major Frank Cole and based on Makin, successfully rigged 1,0001b [4S0kg] bomb racks to eight of its Corsairs for a ra id on Mille. The Marine pilots lowered their wheels in the diving attacks to reduce their air speed. (Later, bomb racks and a special slot for the landing gear handle, which dropped only the main landing gear for airbraking, was installed to improve dive-bombing). Meanwhile on 28 March, as if to confirm the new role for the F4U, six

USMC Corsairs of the 4th Marine Air Wing carrying 1,OOOlb 1450kgl bombs on a strike over Japanese-held bases in the Marshalls, June 1944. USMC

USMC Corsair Ground-Attack Role in the Central Pacific Primarily the USMC Corsairs would be used in the ground-attack role throughout 1944. Starting on 4 March, Marine orsairs of ten different squadrons in the 4th MAW, together with bombers, began attacks on the Japanese-helJ bypasseJ islands of Wotje, Maloelap, Mille and

orsairs of VMF-l13 from Eniwetok, while flying escort for four B-2S Mitchells to Ponape Atoll in the Carolines, shot down eight of twelve intercepting Zel<es. It brought to an end Japanese resistance in the air in the Carolines, and it was the last real dogfight in the Central Pacific area. Two of the victories on 28 March went to the VMF-l13 CO, Major (later olonel) Loren D. 'Doc' Everton, which took his score to twelve. His previous ten victories had been achieved while flying F4F WilJcats at Guadalcanal, between August and October 1942. While covering landings at Ulejang Atoll, Everton's Corsairs set an F4U record, remaining airborne for 9hr 40min. Armed with six heavy machine guns, and capable of diving on targets from angles as steep as 85 degrees or in shallow

Corsairs on the line. Armstrong

68

glides, the Corsair brought terror to even the most stoic of japanese anti-aircraft crews. The attacks of course were accompanied by the characteristic 'whistling death' sound, as air was sucked into the inlet ducts in the wing roots. But bombing and strafing strikes were not without loss, ami during September 1944, the 4th Marine Air Wing in the Marshalls lost thirty-six F4Us to enemy anti-aircraft fire while dive-bombing enemy-held atolls.

Lind bergh's Contribution Another reason for the Corsair's great success in the ground-support role can be attributed to forty-one-year-oIJ aviation pioneer Charles A. Lindbergh, who in May 1944 began flying missions in the Corsair with USMC MAG-14 pilots at Green Island and Emirau. Lindbergh had joined United Aircraft as an engineering consultant early in the war, and served in an experimental advisory capacity in the Pacific during World War II. His last mission in the Solomons was on 9 june, and although he now went to New Guinea to fly combat in P-38s, Lindbergh's association with the Corsair was not yet over. One of the Corsair's problems at this time was its limited bomb-load capability, which, due to the short, rudimentary airstrips in the Marshalls, dictated that loads seldom exceeded I,SOOlb (680kg). The problem became Lindbergh's to solve. Soon after his arrival at Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshalls, early in September, Lindbergh worked mainly with Colonel Calvin B. Freeman and ordnance personnel of MAG 31, progressively raising the bomb load available to Corsairs, until finally the F4U was capable of hauling 10aJs of 4,OOOIb (l,800kg) of bombs. This was achieved by successfully mounting a 2,0001b (900kg) bomb under the centre section, and rigging a I,OOOlb (4S0kg) homb under each wing. Operating under conJitions of strict secrecy, on 12 September Lindbergh carried three I,OOOlb hombs on his F4U-1D (one 1,0001b bomb had to be removed because a 14 knot crosswinJ was gusting at take-off time) while raiding an enemy radio station at Wotje Atoll. Lindbergh successfully dropped his bomb load on the enemy target from 1,600ft (SOOm). Next day, 13 September, after working on a new belly bomb rack, Lindbergh returned to Wotje with 4,0001b of bombs - a 2,OOO-pounder

on the centre Iinc rack, and a I,OOOlb bomb under each wing - to drop the first 2,OOOIb bomb ever carried on a Corsair. Lindbergh approached h is target, a small concrete blockhouse, at 8,000ft (2,SOOm), and dived at 65 degrees, but he miscalculated and overshot, and dropped his bombs on the beach where they blew a naval shore battery to smithereens. It was still, nevertheless, a 'first'; Lindbergh had spent six months in the Pacific, and had flown fifty combat missions lasting 178 hours, and later that day he left for Hawaii, his work completed.

The Corsair on Land and Sea, 1944 The Corsair was assured of future employment in both the ground-attack and divebombing roles - actions that would continue long after World War Two had ended. Moreover, there were men such as jack Hospers, the Vought service rep, and men in high places in the Navy, who believed that the use of Corsairs at sea aboard its carriers was long overdue. Among them was Captain john Pearson, Fighter Design Officer at the Bureau of

Major Joe Foss MoH, commander of VMF-115 (left) and Charles A. Lindbergh (right!. who had joined United Aircraft as an engineering consultant early in the war and served in an experimental advisory capacity on Green Island. In May 1944 Lindbergh began flying missions in the Corsair with USMC MAG-14 pilots at Green Island and Emirau. USMC via Wally Thomson

69


TilE 'BLACK SIIEEP' AND TilE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG Bom y

THE 'BLACK SIIEEP' AND TilE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

Aeronautics, and Captain Hugh S. Duckworth, the USN Chief of Staff. There were some, however, who still firmly believed that the Corsair was only suitable for operations from land bases. The Chief of Naval Operational Training at NAS Jacksonville was one who believed that the Corsair's carrier decklanding characteristics were ~till too dangerous, and that the accident rate, especially with new pilots, was still unacceptably high. In March 1944 he drafted a letter condemning the Corsair's ability to fly from carriers, but his letter was pigeon-holed. By now, support for the orsair to operate at sea was LOO great, and 'Programme Dog' was carried out immediately by Vought engineers to get the bentwinged bird ready for carrier operation. In just ten days Vought modified the oleo legs with a longer stroke landing gear oleo shock strut, and eliminated the 'builtin bounce'. CommanderT. K. 'Kip' Wright USN, and Lt Col John Dobbins USMC, conducted successful fl ight tests at Jacksonville NAS, and they proved that the orsair was now safe for carrier operations. During April, VF-301, a training squadron on the West Coast, carried out carrier trials with the newly modified Corsairs aboard the escort carrier Gambier Bay (CVE- 73), and after 113 landings without incident, they declared their support for the Corsair to operate at sea. The move was rubberstamped on 16 May, when, after a series of comparative tests between the F4U-1 D and the F6F-3 Hellcat, a Navy Evaluation Board concluded that the Corsair was the best all-round Navy fighter available and suitable as a carrier aircraft. It was recommended that carrier and fighter-bomber units he converted to the F4U type. In May, the new landing-gear oleo struts were installed on production Corsairs, and new strut-filling procedures were introduced. F4Us no longer had to be 'dc-bounced' by using field modifications. (Later, in August 1944, a high level meeting o( Marine and Navy officials at Pearl Harbor decided that Marine air squadrons would be assigned to VEs.) In March 1944, Goodyear had been awarded a contract for 418 fixed-wing F2G-1 aircraft, and ten folding-wing versions, with the R-4360 engine. In April the F4U-ID Corsair model with two pylons for bombs or tanks entered production. Goodyear and Brewster were also contracted to produce the F2G-1 as FG-I 0 and F3A-1 0 respectively. On 22 April the

Navy accepted its first F4U-ID. By the end of the month the Navy had accepted 230 Corsairs from Vought, 220 from Goodyear, and 119 from Brewster. In May 1944 the Navy accepted a further 254 Corsairs from Vought, 220 from Goodyear, and 122 from Brewster, to make May 1944 the peak production month in the Corsair's history.

More Night Kills Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the USMC Corsairs continued to excel against Japanese opposition. On the night of 13/14 April 1944 a detachment of VMF(N)-532 at Engebi Island made the Marines' first and only successful night interception using F4U-2s fitted with SCR-270 radar, when Lt Edward A. Sovik and Captain Howard W. Bollmann each shot down a Betty bomber. LtJoel E. Bonner Jr. claimed a probable before his tail was damaged so badly that he had to bale out. He was picked up by a destroyer the following day. Lt Donald Spatz became lost and was never found. Such was the effect on the attackers, however, that the nine remaining Bettys dropped their bombs harmlessly in the sea and fled. In June 1944 the Engebi detachment started making night raids against Wotje, and in July moved to Saipan for operations there and over Guam. They returned to the US on 25 October 1944.

On the night of 18 February 1944, the of VF(N)-101, operating from the carrier Enterprise, Commander Richard E. 'Chick' Harmer, destroyed a Betty. On 17 April 1944, Marine Corps orsairs supported US landings in the Malabang-Parang area of Mindanao in the Philippines. On 24 April 'Chick' Harmer, again in an F4U-2, operating from the EnterJ)rise off Hollandia in New Guinea, shot down another Japanese aircraft at night. I-larmer later came upon five Japanese bombers in formation, and he fired at two that had their lights on. More night action followed on 15 June when Harmer and Lt (jg) R. F. Holden Jr attacked a formation of Sallys and Tojo fighters. On the night of 27 June, Holden shot down a Sally at 1O,000ft (300m), and the following night he and his CO destroyed three more enemy intruders, Holden getting tWO Bettys, ami Harmer, one. By July, when the night-fighting orsairs were withdrawn from the 'Big E', Harmer and Holden between them had accounted for five confirmed night victories, a probable, and four damaged. In June, VMF(N)-532 also began night raids against Wotje. On 12 July its twelve F4U-2 Corsairs were flown off a carrier to Saipan, but they were later pulled back to Guam, and VMF(N)-532 returned to the United States on 25 October, remaining there in training until the end of the war.

o

F4U-1s carrying 500lb (225kg) bombs at Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands, August 1944. USN

The Pacific War moved on. In August 1944, MAG-21, comprising F4U-s of VMF-216 'Wild Hares', VMF-217 'Bulldogs' and Marine Fighting Squadron 225, as well as Hellcat night fighters, arrived on Guam immediately after the island's capture, and for several months MAG-21 carried out attacks on Rota and Pagan. On 26 September the 'Death Dealer' Corsairs of VMF-114 joined in providing close air support in the e1even-day-old battle (or Peleliu in the Palaus group, about 500 miles (800km) east of the Philippines. In October, the Corsairs of VMF-121 and VM-122, both of which were on their second deployment to the Pacific, with MAG11, arrived at Peleliu from Espiritu Santo. From then until the end of the war these two squadrons flew CAP and carried out strikes against Yap, Babelthuap and Koror.

Shimpu Tokubetsu KogekitQ (the Divine Wind) During October, the USMC Corsair pilots began training for shipboard duty aboard CVEs. Their presence was due in no ~mall

An F4U-2 being raised to the deck in the elevator, while on deck are F6F Hellcats Corsairs on patrol. USN via Philip Jarrett

of VF-1 O. USNA

70

71


THE 'BLACK SIIEEP' AND TilE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

THE 'BLACK SHEEP' AND THE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

It Richard Milhous Nixon with friends on Green Island. USMC via Wally Thomson

Bob Hope. Jerry Colonna and France langford entertain the troops at Green Island. USMC via Wally Thomson

72

part to the lack of Navy carrier pilots available. Each MAG would now consist of one squadron of eighteen F4Us, and one of twelve TBF Avenger bombers. Unfortunately - or luckily, depending on which way one wants to look at it - the move to carriers coincided, in October, with the start of the japanese kamikaze offensive. The japanese credo was 'One plane for one warship, one boat for one ship, one man for ten enemy and one man for one tank.' The waves of 'Divine Wind' suicide attacks would at least be met by an increasing number of Corsairs. In all, ten USMC F4U- fighter squadrons were authorized for carrier qualification and preparations were quickly carried out to put two F4U-l D aircraft on each of five fleet carriers.

On the morning of 25 October, nine

Zekes, five of which were 'human bombs' flown by suicide pilots, each wearing the traditional Samurai hachimaki scarf wrapped around their heads, took off from Mabalcat airfield ami headed for the four escort carriers in the US invasion fleet off Leyte. As the alarm was sounded and the pilots of the Corsairs ran to their aircraft, the Zekes began diving on their targets. japanese Lt Seik picked out the carrier St La and deliberately crashed into the CVE, whose rurtured fuel tanks began burning and then exrloded, sending flames 1,000ft (300m) into the air. The St La took two more hits, and began sinking. The Zekes struck three more escort carriers. The suicide attacks alarmed the US chiefs, and

73

more and more Corsairs would obviously be needed to intercept the suicide planes at low level and destroy as many of them as possible before the enemy could sink more ships. On 26 November a Navy conference in San Francisco finalized the decision to put a seventy-three fighter-percarrier complement on fleet aircraft carriers, and to put Marine fighters aboard. Meanwhile, many of the fixed-wing FGIA Corsairs, which could not be used aboard carriers, were operated by USMC orsair squadrons from land bases. On 3 ,lnd 4 December 1944, seventy-five fixedwing FG-IAs, F4U-ls and F4U-1Ds of MAG-12 arrived at Tacloban airfield in Leyte from Emirau ready for combat from the muddy, crowded field. On 5 December


THE 'BLACK SIIEEP' AND THE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

THE 'BLACK SHEEP' AND THE 'JOLLY ROGERS' BIG BOOTY

long-drawn-out war, which involved the Americans having to take one island after another. Fighting was dogged and bloody, and the enemy gave no quarter. Most of the island hopping was the province of the 'Grunts', supported by Corsairs and other land- and ship-based aircraft. Later that month the three Corsair squadrons in MAG-12 moved out of T acloban and transferred to Leyte. On 6 january, fifteen F4U-s of MAG-12 assisted Army aircraft in softening up enemy positions prior to the invasion of Lingayen by destroying key bridges in the area. The Corsairs continued with ground-support missions throughout january, for the loss of fifteen pilots. In january 1945 Marines from Green Island moved into Guiuan, Samar, and MAG-14 moved with them. First to arrive, on the 2nd, were twentytwo F4U-ls ofVMO (Marine Observation Squadron)-25I, to fly combat patrol the next day. (VMO-251 was re-designated VMF-251 on 31 January 1945.) VMO-251

was followed at Samar by F4U-Is and F4U4s of VMF-212 on 8 january, and shortly thereafter they were joined by VMF-222, and on 14 january, by the F4U-4s ofVMF223. MAG-14 movement was finally complete by 24 january. MAG-14's stay on Samar was marred by the loss of twenty Corsairs in crashes over a period of thirty days, the worst on 24 january when the crash on take-off of a VMF-222 resulted in the deaths of thirteen men and more than fifty injured. On 23 February 1945, four Corsairs of VMF-115 'joe's jokers' claimed to have destroyed a japanese midget submarine at Cebu City while skip-bombing with 1,0001b (450kg) bombs. On 10 March, Corsairs of MAG-14 flew ground-attack missions at Zamboanga near Mindanao prior to the landings by US troops, while the Corsairs of MAG-12 flew top cover. Four days later, F4Us of VMF-1l5 landed at San Rogue airfield and flew two missions the next day. The airfield was renamed Moret Field, and

Re-arming an F4U on Green Island. USMC via Wally Thomson

four of VMF-115's Corsairs on CAP over an American convoy off Leyte intercepted two Zekes and shot one down into the ocean. Next day, twelve Corsair fighterbombers of VMF- 211, led by the CO, Major Stanley j. Witonski, attacked a japanese convoy of seven ships heading for Ormoc Bay, protected by a mass of Zekes high above them. One of the enemy destroyers was damaged by a bomb blast. Flak and fighters shot down three Corsairs; one pilot was lost, but Major Stan Witonski was picked up safe and sound after ditching in the sea. Next day, 7 December, near San Isidro, twenty-one Corsair fighter-bombers of VMF-211, -218, and -313, supported by Army PAOs, made attacks on japanese destroyers and transports trying to reinforce Leyte. Four of the vessels, including a transport that was hit by four bombs dropped by VMF-

218, were sunk with 1,0001h (450kg) and 500lb (225kg) bombs dropped by the F4Us and P-40s. Four days later, on II December, the F4U-s and FG-IAs of VMF-115, VMF211, VMF-218, and VMF-313, made a further two strikes on a ten-ship japanese convoy in the area. In the morning, twenty-seven Corsairs attacked the enemy shipping 40 miles (65km) east of Panay Island, and in the afternoon, forty Corsairs and sixteen AAC P-40 Warhawks attacked again near Palompom on the west coast of Leyte. When the smoke cleared, it could be seen that two cargo ships had been sunk. Four FG-IAs of VMF-313 that were flying cover for the US re-supply convoy heading for the Ormoc, Leyte beachhead, intercepted sixteen Zeke fighter-bombers, and the combined firepower from the surface ships

74

and the Corsairs shot down four of the Zeros. But one of the Zekes got through and hit the destroyer Reid, which exploded and sank. VMF-313 bagged five more Zekes, bringing the total of enemy aircraft destroyed on the 11th to nineteen. MAG12 lost six Corsairs and three pilots killed to fighters and enemy anti-aircraft fire, and seven more F4Us were so badly damaged that they had to be written off. On 13 December, thirty-five Corsairs of MAG-12 helped provide close air support for US landings on Mindoro Island. Fierce fighting was made worse by the appearance in the Mindoro beachhead area of kamikaze; however, several of these were shot down by the CorsairsofVMF-211, which destroyed five Zekes on 14 December, and by the Hellcats of VMF(N)-541. In January 1945 the japanese still showed no signs of ending the

75

eventually many aircraft of various types were based there, including ninety-six Corsairs. On 18 March, Marine Corsairs flew air cover for the landings by the US 40th Division at Panay. Corsairs took part in the attacks on 26 March during the landings at Cebu, and on 29 March for the unopposed landings at Negros. Support missions continued to be flown during April, as the ground forces fought the japanese on Cebu and Negros. Operating from the island and from Zamboanga Island, MAG-12 conducted operations throughout the Philippines until the end of the Pacific war. On 17 April, American troops landed on Mindanao, and on 2 May Davao fell. On 12 july the last American landing in the Philippines took place at Sarangani Bay, and the last resistance on Mindanao was finally overcome. Meanwhile, from 22 May to june 1945, MAG-14's VMF 212, -222, and -223, moved to Okinawa to take part in the final battles of World War II.


CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

CHAPTER FIVE

Corsairs for King and Country Not for nothing was it called the bent-wing

then the lights came on - and there they were,

carriage alone could never have achieved suffi-

bastard from Connecticut.

Corsairs that filled the hangar Aoor, and I must

cient - the wings were of 'inverted gull' format,

Norman Hanson,

say that, of all the aircraft I had seen, these were

dipping downwards for about 4ft llm+1 from the

No.1833 Squadron Corsair pilot

the most wicked-looking bastards. They looked

wing root at the fuselage, then rising sharply to

truly vicious, and it took little imagination to

the wing-tip. Not for nothing was it called the

Late in 1943. while

realize why so many American boys had found

'bent-wing bastard from Connecticut'.

training. and in particular approach pattern flying. was continued aboard the escort HMS Ravager

Late in May 1943, representatives from 1830 Squadron, commanded by Lt Cdr D. B. M. Fiddes, DSO RN, travelled to US Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, Rhode Island, for a live-month conversion training course on the Corsair. In ] une they were joined at Quonset Point by the nucleus of 1831,1833 and 1834 Squadrons. 1831 Squadron was commanded by Lt Cdr Peter Allingham DSC RNRj 1833 Squadron was commanded by Lt Cdr H. A. 'Eric' Monk DSMj and 1834 Squadron was commanded by Lt Cdr (Acting) A. M. Tritton DSC RNVR. These personnel left Liverpool in]une aboard the RMS Em/Jyess of Scotland. The ship was also taki ng 1,300 Afrika Korps prisoners to America, as well as several hundred naval ratings to train on landing craft for D-DaYj it dropped anchor at Newport News, Virginia. Rommel's desert troops were destined for PoW camps in Canada, while the Royal Navy representatives travelled to Quonset Point (after an enforced two-week stopover in New York) to join the nucleus of 1830 and 1831 Squadrons there. (Four more FAA Corsair squadrons were to be formed by the end of 1943, bringing the total number of British Corsair squadrons to eight.) The Corsair's fearsome reputation had lirst come to the attention of the FAA squadron pilots Juring their sojourn in New York. Norman Hanson, an 1833 Squadron pilot, wrote:

it difficult, if not well nigh impossible, to master

Its armament consisted of six .5in Browning

them, especially in deck landing. We stared at

machine guns, hydraulically charged and elec-

them and hadn't a word to say.

trically fired. The radial engine was a Pratt &

Hanson saw no reason why a Corsair shouldn't kill him when it could obviously kill so many other pilots, and he soon found a typewriter to type out his last will and testament' He continues:

Illustrious waited to go to sea with its two new Corsair squadrons. deck landing

(pictured). Ravager was much smaller than a fleet carrier and had the smallest flight deck on which the Corsair could land. via Philip Jarrett

Whitney R2800, developing 2,000hp from

without any need to search or grope (infl11itely

eighteen cylinders arranged in two banks of

superior, I may say, to the cockpits of British

nine. Fuel was supplied to the engine through

aircraft of that time - which by comparison sug-

a Stromberg injection carburettor, which pre-

gested they had been designed by the adminis-

vented the aircraft 'cutting out' on the top of a

trative office charwoman).

loop - a disconcerting feature to which aircraft

The aircraft had two built-in safety devices

fitted with the normal carburettor were prone.

that were worth their weight in gold ifhydraulic

For some months, Corsairs were decidedly

A two-stage supercharger was fitted: the first

trouble arose. Both undercarriage and arrestor

tricky aircraft to handle. For one thing, they

stage was engaged at 10,OOOft [300m 1 and the

hook were hydraulically actuated. Should hydraulic pressure be lost, the hook fell auto-

were damnably big fighters for their day. They

second at 19,000ft [S,800mj. The aircraft was

had a vast length of fuselage between the

capable of producing a genuine speed of over

matically, ready for a deck landing. The use of

cockpit and the propeller which, together

400mph f650kmphl at its rated altitude of

the undercarriage, too, was protected. One

with a rather low sitting position and a

round 22,OOOft l6,700ml.

simply had to select 'down' on the undercar-

not-too-clever hood (both of which were

The Corsair was a rugged machine that could

riage lever, and then open a CO 2 bottle that

modified and greatly improved in the Mark II

take any amount of punishment on the flight

effectively 'blew down' the wheels into the

version), made for very poor visibility when

deck, and appeared to make light of it.

'landing-locked' position.

taxiing and landing. It was pretty long-legged

Everything about it was class, and great atten-

Rumour had it that the prototypes had been

in the undercarriage department in order to

tion to detail proclaimed itself wherever one

equipped with 'spin chutes' in their tails, to

give clearance to the great propeller, said to be

looked. The cockpit was meticulously arranged

help effect recovery from that deadly enemy,

the biggest ever fitted to a single-engined

with all dials readily visible, and every lever and

the spin. Whether it was true or not, the pilots'

fighter. To increase the clearance - the under-

switch comfortahly and conveniently to hand,

FAA Corsairs taking off from a British fleet carrier. via Philip Jarrett

handbook Pilots' Handling Notes was emphatic on the point that spins should not be deliberately undertaken because the chances of recovery were dubious, if not downright impossible. (In those days, these Notes were a highly important and integral part of becoming a fit and proper pilot for a single-seat aircraft. They had to be studied carefully, first on the ground for two or three days, and then sitting in the aircraft on the ground, learning the position of all the 'bits and pieces' in the cockpit. Nowadays

Each morning we heard dreadful tidings of

manufacturers build two-seat versions of most

pilots being killed in Corsairs. Then suddenly,

aircraft, so that dual instruction can be given

when I felt there couldn't be any Corsairs left

before a pilot fl ies solo.)

for us to fly, we found ourselves at Quonset Point.

The fighter had originally been ordered by

We walked up to the hangar that

the US Navy for carrier use to replace the

been allocated to us; there was an armed sentry

Grumman F4F, the Wildcat (Marrlet to the

on guard, but Eric told him to open up and turn

Royal Navy), but it had proved to be such a

on the lights. For some reason or other we

handful in Fleet trials, and particularly in deck

headed up a flight of stairs leading on to a

Corsair II JT228 6A of No. 1830 Squadron in flight. From June 1943 to July 1945 No.

balcony running the length of the hangar. Just

1830 was embarked aboard HMS

76

Illustrious. Charles E.

Brown

landing, that the new Grumman F6F - the Hellcat - had been adopted instead. This meant

Corsair 115 in formation. IWM

77


CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

that the F4U - the Corsair - could now go to the shore-hased squadrons of the Marine Air Corps, and to the Royal Navy, if they wanted it. The Royal Navy accepted it willingly, since the only alternatives in sight were the Seafire and Sea Hurricane, RAF-production models fitted with arrestor hooks - and these were just not carrier material. Their range was patheti~ cally limited, even with drop tanks, and worse still their structure, whilst perfectly adequate for airfield flying, was not up to the rough and tumble life of carrier decks. In both Glses a heavy landing, caused either hy the vessel's pitch or by the pilot's hamfistedness, often hrought the undercarriage through the wings. Nevertheless, somehow or other the Royal Navy would see to it that the Corsair could he deck-landed.

FAA Corsair IVs in formation over Cape Town, South Africa. via Philip Jarrett

The Royal Navy's gruelling familiarization training flights at Quonset Point did not proceed without a few setbacks. Pilots practised low flying out to sea, formation flying in both close and open 'patrol' formation, and numerous circuits as well as practice firing and dummy deck landings. It had become obvious almost from the outset that the standard method of landing a fighter aircraft onboard an aircraft carrier would have to be rethought. In 1943 it was customary to fly the downwind leg abeam the length of the carrier opposite to the vessel's course, turn base leg perpendicular to the carrier's course, turn again to set up the final approach, and then head straight for the deck. But the FAA Corsair pilots were unaccustomed to the F4U-l 's uneven wing stalling and landing bounce, and this resulted in a number of fatal accidents until pilots realized that they could not carry out a standard carrier approach in the Corsair, and instead began landing them in a stalling turn all the way on to the deck. Late in September 1943, 1830 Squadron and the first of the FAA Corsair pilots who had yet to make any actual F4U deck landings - even though they had made numerous ADDLs ('assisted dummy deck landings) - flew their aircraft to the US Navy airfield at Norfolk, Virginia. There their aircraft were hoisted aboard the escort carrier HMS Slinger, and they and their crews were shipped home to Britain. During October, the remaining Corsair pilots continued training in Brunswick, before they too returned to Britain aboard the newly commissioned escort carrier HMS TrumJ)eter. During further training in December on the River

FG-l/Corsair IV KD178, one of 937 acquired by the FAA. via Philip Jarrett

Corsair landing mishap aboard HMS

Attacker.

via Philip Jarrett

78

Clyde in Scotland, deck landings were carried out on a full-sized deck for the first time on HMS Illustrious, exercising in the Firth of Forth prior to going to sea again. Upon arriving home, 1830 and 1833 Squadrons, which formed 15th Naval Fighter Wing commanded by Lt Cdr R. J. 'Dicky' Cork DSO DSC, were to go to sea on Illustrious, together with two Fairey Barracuda squadrons, Nos 810 and 847. Cork had been seconded to the RAF during the Battle of Britain, and had flown with Douglas Bader. It had been decided to increase Corsair squadron complement to fourteen aircraft, so 1831 Squadron was disbanded and its pilots and Corsai rs sent to bolster 1830 and 1833 Squadrons. These sqlladrons now came up with a new method of landing the troublesome Corsair on the carrier: it involved flying the F4U-I just above stalling speed, and judging the rate of descent exactly so that by the time the carrier height had been reached, the ship would be directly underneath, and the pilot could chop the throttle and drop the Corsair onto the flight deck. Unfortunately, not all the pilots were successful, and the Corsair could still prove more than a handful for even the more experienced pilot. One of these such crashes resulted in the death of the 1830 Squadron CO, Lt Cdr D. B. M. Fiddes DSO: despite his experience, Fiddes made a bad approach to the deck, and in trying to take a lastminute wave-off from the batsman, clipped his port wing-tip on the flight deck. (The batsman is the 'deck-landing

control officer', or DLCO, invariably an ex-pilot, who stood at the end and to one side of the runway waving extra-large 'table-tennis bats' covered with fluorescent fabric.) His Corsair toppled over the port side of the carrier and Fiddes drowned before he could be rescued. Lt Cdr Michael Tritton transferred from 1834 Squadron to take command of 1830 Squadron. While Illustrious waited to go to sea with her two new Corsair squadrons and two Fairey Barracuda squadrons, further Corsair deck-landing training, and in partiCLilar approach pattern flying, were deemed essential by Captain Cunliffe, captain of the Illustrious. This continued aboard the escort carrier HMS Ravager, one of the thinly plated 'Woolworth' carriers built in the USA on merchant-ship hulls. Ravager was much smaller than a Fleet carrier, and was equipped with the smallest flight deck upon which the Corsair could land. 1833 Squadron too, was brought up to speed on ADDLS at Stretton with the expert assistance of the Illustrious' batsman, Johnny Hastings, an ex-fighter pilot. When Illustrious sai led for the Indian Ocean on 30 December 1943, the Corsair Is of 1830 and 1833 Squadrons went with them. However, it would be another nine months before the US Navy began Corsair operations from the decks of its aircraft carriers. During that time the Corsairs of the British Eastern Fleet and those aboard carriers of the Home Fleet in the Arctic would sec action, proving once and for all the viability of the aircraft for successful Fleet operation.

Ravager was much smaller than a fleet carrier, and was equipped with the smallest flight deck upon which the Corsair could land. via Philip Jarrett

79

Escorting the Tirpitz Attacks While the British Eastern Fleet had been preparing for action on the other side of the world, in Britain two other Corsair Squadrons, Nos 1834 and 1836, had been embarked aboard Victorious on 12 February and 8 March 1944 respectively. The Victorious, together with Furious and four escort carriers, formed the main component of a huge Royal Naval strike force that was tasked to sink the TirJ)itz, the 42,000-ton German battleship that had proved a constant thorn in the side of the British war effort. It had been holed~up in Alten Fjord in Norwegian waters after being damaged in an attack by British midget submarines in September 1943, but now it would be only a matter of months before the Tirpitz would be seaworthy again, and it had to be put out of commission permanently before then because of the threat that it posed to convoys operating in the Atlantic or en route to Russia through the Arctic. The strike, code-named Tungsten, was to be carried out by torpedo-bomber reconnaissance wings comprising four squadrons of Fairey Barracuda divebombers. Top cover would be provided by twenty-eight Corsairs, fourteen each from 1834 Squadron, commanded by Lt Cdr r. N. Charlton RN; and 1836 Squadron, commanded by Lt Cdr Chris Tomkinson RNVR(A). Fighters that were to act as close escort to the dive-bombers and to carry out flak suppression would be the responsibility of sixty aircraft from four squadrons of Martlets, and two squadrons of Hellcats. TirJ)itz was armed with a main battery of eight 15in guns, each capable of firing 1,750lb (800kg) shells; twelve 5.9in guns in its secondary batteries; and sixteen 4in heavy anti-aircraft guns. In addition, nine single and nine quadruple 20mm flak guns had recently been installed on top of the existing gun turrets, each gun capable of about 8,500 rounds per minute. Tirpitz was also very well protected, with 12 1/zin (275mm) thick side armour plating. Antisubmarine patrols would be undertaken by eight Martlets, and twelve Swordfish from the carrier Fencer, while two squadrons of Seafires would carry out CAP to protect the fleet. After a full dress rehearsal on 28 March, the strike force sailed from Scapa Flow in the Orkneys in two formations, joining up on the afternoon of 2 April about 220 nautical miles to the north-west of Alten


CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

Fjord. From there, the force sailed to the flying-off position, 120 miles (190km) north-west of Kaa Fjord, 80 miles (130km) from the main entrance to Alten Fjord. On 3 April, between 0415 and 0423 hours, eleven Corsairs and twelve Barracudas of 827 Squadron took off from the Victorious, and were joined by nine Barracudas off Furious. Despite the difference in speed, the Corsairs formed up with the Barracudas without difficulty. Though visibility was 'excellent', nine-tenths snow cover on the ground made it difficult to see the aircraft below. After sixty-five minutes flying, the Corsairs' long-range tanks were jettisoned, between Alta and Lang fjords. As the target came into view, a German smoke-screen was beginning to form, and as the bombers began their dives from 8,000{t (2,400111), the Corsairs ranged over Lang and Kasa fjords, wh iIe the closeescort Martlets and Hellcats attacked the flak guns. The Tir/Jitz seemed to be caught unawares and the Barracudas scored several hits on the battleship. At 0600, about half an hour after the first-wave attack, the Corsairs set course for Victorious. All the strike aircraft, except {or one Barracuda that was shot down, were safely recovered aboard the carriers. The longest of the Corsair sorties lasted 2hr 30min. Between 0515 ami 0520 hours Victorious sent off ten Corsairs, and between 0525 and 0535hr they were {ollowed by eleven Barracudas of the second-wave attack force. Furious despatched its nine Barracudas, and they joined with the others to head for the target, climbing to 15,000{t (4, 500m). In the meantime, Hellcats and Martlets made their attacks on the battleship's guncrews and flak defences ashore. The second-wave attack had meanwhile gradually reduced height to 10,000{t (3,OOOm), and the divebombers made their final dive from 7,500ft (2,280m). They also scored hits on the Tir/JitZ, for the loss of one Barracuda that crashed into a hillside after releasing its bomb-load, and another that was shot down in flames as it pulled out of its dive. Furious and Victorious each put up two AP Corsairs over the fleet when the second-wave aircraft returned. One of the returning Corsairs missed the arrestor wire on Victorious and crashed on its nose about 25-30ft (7. 5-9m) beyond the second barrier: incredibly, no one was hurt. Altogether, the Barracudas were believed to have hit the Tirpitz with three 1,6001b armour-piercing bombs, eight 500lb semi-

armour piercing, five 500lb MC, and one 600lb Anti-Submarine bomh. The twowave attacks killed 122 sailors and wounded 316 more, while the FAA had lost three Barracudas and one Hellcat, whose pilot was saved. Most importantly of all, the Tir/JitZ was put out of action for three months. Over the following three months the weather and enemy interception prevented any more attacks on the Tir/Jitz. On 14 May, an FAA strike force of twenty-seven Barracudas and twentyeight Corsair escorts, with {our Seafires and four Martlets, was flown from Victorious and Furious, but ten-tenths cloud at 1,000ft [300m] in the target area forced a recall while the aircraft were en route. Operation Mascot was mounted on 17 july using the fleet carriers Indefatigable (twenty-four Barracudas, twelve Fireflies and six Swordfish), Fonnidable (twentyfour Barracudas and eighteen Corsairs o{ 1841 Squadron) and Furious (twelve Seafires, twenty Hellcats and three Swordfish). Forty-eight fighters, including the eighteen Corsairs of No. 1841 Squadron from Formidable, escorted fortyfour Barracudas to the target. Twelve of the Corsairs carried cameras to photograph the bombing attacks, and the other six were to be used in flak suppression duties, providing no enemy fighters were encountered. The attack was detected early on German radar and the defenders were able to fill Kaa Fjord with smoke, obscuring the Tir/Jitz. None of the Barracuda's bombs hit the battleship, and a second strike was cancelled when fog threatened. One Corsair was shot down, its pilot being captured by the Germans. In August the FAA carried out four more attacks on the Tir/Jitz under the code-name Operation Goodwoocl. All three fleet carriers were involved, and the Navy, worried by the possibility of heavy fighter opposition, added two escort carriers: Trum/Jeter (With eight Avengers and six Martlets), and Nabob (with twelve Avengers and four Martlets). Indefatigable carried twelve Barracudas, twelve Fireflies, twelve Hellcats and sixteen Seafires; Formidable twenty-four Barracudas, plus 1841 and 1842 Squadrons respectively with eighteen and twelve Corsairs, mainly for top cover escort duty, but also for divebombing if needed; while Furious carried twel ve Barracudas and twenty-four Seafires. Bad weather delayed the operation, and when it went ahead on 22

80

August, conditions were still marginal and prevented the participation of the Avengers. A strike force of thirty-one Barracudas and their twenty-four Corsair escorts was forced to turn back 15 (24km) miles short of the Norwegian coast. The orsai rs of 1841 and 1842 Squadrons from Formidable did not take part in Goodwood 1/: this was left to a handful of Ilellcats and Fireflies to make attacks the on the Tirpitz. Goodwood 1lI went ahead on 24 August after fog had prevented a strike the previous day. Twenty-four Corsairs of 1841 and 1842 Squadrons from Fonnidable escorted thirty-three Barracudas all the way to the target, but the attack inflicted only minor damage to the battleship. Two Hellcats and three Corsairs were shot down by anti-aircraft fire as the F4Us traversed Kaa Fjord to strafe the 88mm flak gun positions, and a fourth Corsair ditched close to Fonnidable on the return flight. Later, a Barracuda pilot - Sub Lt R. Fulton - praised the Corsair pilots for their 'sheer cold-blooded gallantry'. Goodwood IV went ahead on 29 August, but this, too, met with little success. This time two Corsairs from Fonnidable, each carrying a 1,000lb (450kg) bomb apiece, and three Hellcat fighter-bombers joined twenty-six Barracudas. Fifteen more Corsairs and ten Fireflies flying as close escort were used on flak suppression. When the bombers arrived, the target area was covered in a thick smokescreen and the attackers were forced to bomb blindly. Of the 52 tons of bombs dropped, several near-misses and just two hits were claimed. One Corsair and a Firefly were lost over Kaa Fjord, and later two Barracudas had to be pushed over the side of their carrier after crash landings. In the wake of Goodwood, the resul ts were analysed, and they made for pretty grim rcading: basically, it had bcen the most costly Fleet Air Arm operation of the war. One of the 1,000 AP bombs that had 'possibly' hit the Tir/Jitz had been dropped by one of the Corsair fighter bombers, and it was mooted that future carrier attacks on Tir/JitZ should be carried out either by '... Mosquitoes, or as many Hellcats and Corsair fighter bombers as possible with suitable anti-flak support, provided thcse can be adapted to carry 1,6001b [730kg] bombs.' In fact Tirpitz was later moved south to Troms¢ for repairs, and it was there that, on 12 November 1944, the battleship was capsized by I2,0001b (5,500kg) Tallboy bombs dropped by Lancasters of

Nos 9 and 617 Squadrons. Afterwards,

()()odwood, Victorious and

Formidable

headed for Scapa Flow, and later they both left home waters to join thc British Eastern Fleet.

Corsairs and the British Eastern Fleet Meanwhile on 5 january 1944, Illustrious had reached the Straits of Gibraltar without incident; but the first Corsair was lost off Alexandria one cvening shortly after, when the standby Corsair flight was scrambled to intercept a high-flying ju 88 reconnaissance aircraft. The Corsair, piloted by Sub-Lt D Montieth of 1833 Squadron, crashed on take-off, the pilot having omitted to lock his wings properly in the 'spread' position: when he retracted his undercarriage as he passed over the destroyer screen, his wings folded and the Corsair plunged into the Mediterranean without trace. Illustrious continucd hcr passage, through Port Said, the Suez Canal ,Iml rort Tewfik into the Red Sea. The carrier refuelled at Aden and headed across the Indian Ocean to China Bay, Ceylon, where the Corsairs were moved to T rincomalee airfield and further pilot training. On 22 February Illustrious put to sea to intercept a possible German blockade-runner sailing between the Cocos Islands and the Sunda Strait. The Corsairs and Barracudas flew exercises for two days hefore bad weather halted proceedings. Illustrious returned to Ceylon on 3 March, and five days later made another 'Calcutta sweep' after a japanese cruiser force ventured into the India Ocean {rom Singapore and sank two ships; hut again it was to no avail. Accidents continued to happen, and two Corsairs ami one pilot were lost during further training. The Royal Navy planned to carry out strikes in Sumatra, but not bcfore Illustrious could he supported by the arrival of a second carrier, HMS Victorious. To fill the gap the USN agreed to loan one of its carriers, and on 2 April Illustrious was joined by the arrival from Esperitu Santos in New Britain, of the USS Saratoga and her air fleet, Air Group 12. For two weeks the two carriers worked up their routine prior to rutting to sea, and the Corsairs continued to be upgraded. Sadly, during this time, Lt Cdr Dicky Cork was killed landing his Corsair at China Bay, Ceylon. During thcir time in Ceylon, the Corsair Is werc

Corsair taking off from a British carrier. via Philip Jarrell .â&#x20AC;˘<

~~

.-

Corsairs of the British Eastern Fleet in 1945. via Philip Jarrell

Goodyear-built FG-1/Corsair IV KD431. via Philip Jarrell

81


CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

This F4U-1 Corsair from Illustrious suffered a landing mishap at China Bay. Ceylon. in 1943. via Philip Jarrett

exchanged for the improved Corsair II version, with the water-injected engine and improved cockpit hood and undercarriage. The Corsair lis were shipped by sea in crates from the USA to Cochin, southwest India, and reassembled at the Royal Naval Air repair yard at Coimbatore where they were test-flown before being issued to the carrier squadrons. The Corsair Is were flown to Coimbatore, and the pilots flew back to Ceylon in the Corsair lIs. By midApril all was ready for CocklJit, which would see the first Corsair fleet action of the war. On 16 April the Eastern Fleet put to sea in two groups: Task Force 69 was composed of the battleships Queen Elizabeth, Valiant and Richelieu, and the cruisers

Newcastle, Nigeria, Ceylon, Gambia and Tromp, with nine escorting destroyers. Task Force 70 comprised the carriers Illustrious and Saratoga accompanied by the cruiser London, six destroyers, and an airsea rescue submarine. The task force's destination was the Bay of Bengal and Sabang Island harbour off the north-east tip of Sumatra. Before dawn on 19 April, the carriers arrived at their flying-off position 100 miles (160km) south-west of Sabang Island. At 0650 hours, first light, thirteen Corsairs of 1830 and 1833 Squadrons, and seventeen Barracudas of Nos 810 and 847 Squadrons from Illustrious, and fifty-three SBD Dauntlesses, Hellcats and Avengers from Saratoga, took off and headed for Sabang Harbour. The fighters carried out strafing and dive-bombing attacks on the harbour facilities, radar stations and military installations at Sabang. In a preemptive strike on the airfield, the Corsairs

and Hellcats destroyed twenty-four Japanese aircraft on the ground. A considerable amount of surprise had been achieved, the port was heavily damaged, two small merchant ships were destroyed, and the oil storage tanks destroyed. None of the Corsairs was lost, but one Hellcat failed to return, the pilot being picked up by a rescue submarine. During recovery aboard Illustrious, four of 1833 Squadron's Corsair lIs, which were flying CAP (Combat Air Patrol), intercepted a Mitsubishi Ki-21 Sally reconnaissance bomber, and shot it down in flames into the sea. On return to Ceylon, Saratoga was ordered back to America for refitting, and it was decided that en route home, the American carrier would take part in Operation Trans com , a joint RN-USN strike against the big aviation fuel dump at Sourabaya, Java. On 15 May the two task forces, 65 and 66, comprising the two carriers, three battleships, five cruisers and

CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

fourteen destroyers, departed Ceylon and headed for Exmouth Bay, Northern Australia, before heading north for Java. On board Illustrious, longer-ranging Avengers replaced the Barracudas of Nos 810 and 847 Squadrons because the strike aircraft would be required to fly across the breadth of Java. At 0705 hours on 17 May, Saratoga and Illustrious sent off their air components, which would fly 180 miles (300km) to the target. Twenty-eight British and American Avengers were joined by eighteen Dauntlesses, supported by sixteen Corsairs from Illustrious and twenty-four Hellcats from Saratoga. The Corsairs and Hellcats flew top cover for the torpedo and dive-bombers, and they flew on in two waves to the north to make strafing attacks on Surabaya town and industrial areas, the harbour, and the Wonokromo oil refinery and the Bratt engineering works south of the city. Surprise was achieved, and fighter attacks on Malang airfield succeeded in destroying about a dozen enemy aircraft amI airfield buildings; but the oil refinery was only slightly damaged, and only one small ship was sunk. Next day Saratoga bid farewell and headed for Pearl Harbor, while Illustrious and the rest of the task force returned to Ceylon for replenishment. IlIU5trious' next action took place on 22 June 1944 when her carrier group sailed for the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal to attack the harbour and airfield at Port Blair. There was no American presence, but the force comprised the cruisers Renown, Richelieu, Ceylon, Nigeria, Gambia and Phoebe, and seven destroyers. The Corsairs destroyed ten Japanese aircraft on the airfield and many buildings were wrecked, while a handful of small coastal vessels were also sunk. Overall, however, the operation was not a

A pair of FAA Corsairs pictured in May 1944. via Philip Jarrett

82

success; it was hampered by bad weather, and only a few small enemy ships were sunk. In the meanwhile, Victorious and Indomitable were en route to join Illustrious in the British Eastern Fleet. Victorious provided two more Corsair squadrons and these were to be used in Operation Crimson, a second strike on Sabang, scheduled for 22-27 July. Most of Illustrious' Barracudas were replaced by additional Corsairs of 1837 Squadron to help provide full defensive cover for the Barracuda dive-bombers to be used in the attack on the oil refi nery. On 25 Jul y the force arri ved 12 miles (19km) off Sabang, and the attack was preceded by a terrific naval bombardment from the fleet of four battleships, five cruisers and five destroyers. Two Corsairs were allocated to each battleship to spot for the guns, reporting the accuracy of the fall of shot by R/T. To make recognition easier, each battleship used a different-coloured shell burst. Over 1,300 shells, ranging from 4in to 15in, were fired at Sabang, followed by a torpedo and shellfire attack on the harbour itself by four of the ships. The remaining Corsairs made an early dawn take-off from the carriers and headed for the airfield at Sabang, where at daybreak great destruction was carried out to the airfield buildings and several enemy aircraft were destroyed. Ten Japanese aircraft that attempted to attack the fleet, were intercepted by combat air patrols, which destroyed seven of their number. On 30 July, Illustrious departed China Bay for the Simonstown dockyard at Durban, South Africa, for a boiler refit, arriving on 9 August. Indomitable had arrived in the Indian Ocean shortly before the departure of Illustrious to South Africa. During the last week of August, Corsairs, Hellcats and Barracudas from Indomitable and Victorious took part in strikes against the port of Emmahaven and the cement works at Indaroeng on Sumatra. All the strike and fighter escorts returned without loss, the Corsairs and Hellcats encountering no fighter opposition. The Eastern Fleet was now a force to be reckoned with, comprising two carriers, two to three battleships, a battle cruiser, eleven cruisers and thirty-two destroyers. Between 16-20 September 1944 the two carriers, supported by ten other ships of the Eastern Fleet, carried out Operation Light, a strike on the railway junction at Sigli in northern Sumatra. But the results overall were

poor, the main reason being the lack of target intelligence available to the attacking aircraft. At the request of the US Navy, Eastern Fleet's next task was to provide diversionary support against the N icobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal preparatory to the American invasion of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. The huge US fleet approached Leyte on 19 October for the landings, and these went ahead during 24-28 October. In an attempt to divert some of the Japanese forces away from the Leyte force, and make the enemy believe that an invasion of the Nicobars was imminent, the Eastern Fleet carried out a three-day air assault, beginning on 17 October, on the Japanese defenders on Car N icobar. However, Operation Millet, as it was called, was only partially successful, although the British fighters and dive-bombers were met in some strength. On 19 October, Corsair lIs of 1834 Squadron from the Victorious destroyed four Nakajima KiA3 Oscars, and two more were shot down by Hellcats. An attack by twelve Japanese torpedo bombers on the fleet resulted in seven being shot down. On the British side, only two aircraft were lost, a Barracuda and a Hellcat. Following this strike, the longer-ranging Grumman Avengers permanently replaced the Barracudas.

British Pacific Fleet Meanwhile, after its refitting in South Africa, Illustrious had sailed to Ceylon, arriving on 1 November, to join Indomitable, Victorious, and the other ships of the British Fleet. Command of the fleet now passed to Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, and Operation Outflank, the first operation under his command, was planned for 20 December: this was against the oil refinery at Pangkalan Brandan in north-eastern Sumatra, about 8 miles (13km) inland from the Malacca Straits. Vian decided to use strike aircraft from the Indomitable and Victorious, which between them put up sixteen Hellcats, fourteen Corsairs, four Corsair fighter-bombers, each carrying two 500lb (225kg) bombs, and twenty-eight Avengers. But bad weather prevented the primary strike against Pangkalan Brandan, so the secondary target, Belawan Deli near Medan, an oil outlet port, was attacked instead. The Corsairs and Hellcats strafed an airfield at Medan and destroyed several

83

enemy aircraft on the ground, but the port was obscured by low cloud and heavy rainsqualls, and the strike was largely ineffective. On the withdrawal flight to the north of Sumatra, the Corsairs and Hellcats attacked the airfields in the Sabang area, destroying more enemy aircraft on the ground. At the end of November, the British Eastern Fleet was reorganized into the British East Indies Fleet and the British Pacific Fleet, the latter being the bigger and more powerful of the two, having on its strength the carriers Illustrious, Indomitable and Victorious. On 17 December the First Aircraft Carrier Squadron, comprising Indomitable and Victorious, together with four cruisers and seven destroyers, mounted Operation Robson, the second strike on Belawan Deli. During the Christmas period 1944 the First Aircraft Carrier Squadron was further strengthened by the arrival in Ceylon of the Indefatigable, giving the British Pacific Fleet four carriers in all.

Indefatigable, Indomitable and Victorious now provided the aircraft for Operation Lentil, a second attempt at bombing Pangkalan Brandan. Task Force 63 sailed from China Bay leaving Illustrious behind, and on 4 January 1945 the strike went ahead with Fairey Fireflies armed with bombs and rockets and protected by Corsairs and Hellcats, which also made a sweep of the Japanese-held airfields before the bombing strike went in. This time the weather was very good, and the attack was deemed a great success. The Corsairs and Hellcats destroyed about a dozen enemy aircraft in air-to-air combats, and a further twenty aircraft on the ground. 1836 Squadron's Corsairs from Victorious alone destroyed five Oscars, while 1834 Squadron shot down a Sally and a Mitsubishi KiA6 Dinah. None of the Corsairs was lost, and only one aircraft, an Avenger, failed to return. Heavy damage was caused to the refinery, which significantly reduced its output of oil.

The British Pacific Fleet's Finest Hour At 1430 hours on 16 January 1945, the BPF, as Task Force 63, commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Philip L. Vi an, sailed from China Bay to Sydney, Australia, in the first stage of its planned deployment to


CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

Corsair 1 and IV Specification Length pan

33ft 4in (10m) I: 41ft (12.5m); IV: 39ft Bin (12m)

Wing area

I: 314 sq ft (29sq m); IV: 305 sq ft (28.3sq m)

Ileight

15ft I in (4.6m)

Empty weight

I: 8,8001b (3,992kg); IV: 9,100Ib (4,128kg)

Max. take-off weight

1: 1l,8001b (5,352kg); IV: 12,1001b (5,488.5kg)

Fuel

234-534gal (1,064-2,4281)

Engine

Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8 Double Wasp

Ilorsepower

I: 2,000hp at I ,500ft (457m); IV: 2,250hp at sea level

Performance

I: Maximum speed 374mph (602kmph) at 23,000ft (7,010m). Cruising, 251 mph (404kmph) at 20,000ft (6,000m). IV: 415mph (668kmph) at 19,500ft (5,944m). Cruising, 261mph (420kmph) at 20,000ft (6,000m).

Range

I: 673 miles (1,083km) (normal) or 1,125 miles (1,810km) (with extra tanks). IV: 500 miles (805km) (with 2,000Ib/900kg of bombs) or 1,562 miles (2,513km) (with no bombs and maximum fuel).

limb

I: 10.8min to 20,000ft (6,000m). IV: 10.lmin to 20,000ft,

Service ceiling

I: 34,500ft (10,515m); IV: 34,000ft (10,360m).

Armament

I: 4 fixed .50 calibre machine guns in the wings. IV: 4 fixed 0.50-calibre machine guns in the wings and provision for 2 X I,0001b (450kg) bombs beneath the centre section.

the Pacific Theatre. The force comprised the battleship King George V, four cruisers and six destroyers, and the 1st Aircraft arrier Squadron comprising the Indomitable (Aag), Illustrious, Indefatigable and Victorious, with 220 strike aircraft in total. On board Indomitable were twentyeight Hellcats and twenty-one Avengers; on Illustrious, twenty-eight Corsairs of 1830 and 1833 Squadrons, and twenty-one A vengers; on Victorious, twenty-eigh t orsairs of 1834 and 1836 Squadrons, and twenty-one Avengers; and on Indefatigable, fony Seafires, twelve FireAies and twentyone Avengers.

Operation Meridian On the way to Australia, Vian planned ro carry out a series of operations, the biggest ever by the FAA in World War II, codenamed Meridian I, /I and III, against the oil refineries at Pladjoe ami Serongei Gerong, Palembang, south-cast Sumatra. Pladjoe was the larger of the two, amI these refineries supplied a large part of Japan's aviation fuel. As well as dealing a severe blow to the Japanese war effort, the strikes would help convince the Americans that the British Pacific Fleet meant busi ness. Before the Force left T rincomalee, all four carrier groups took part in a rehearsal attack on Colombo. An intensive mission briefing took place, starting the day after Force 63 put to sea. The ,enior officers of the squadrons, after studying target models, then told their aircrews and worked out a plan of attack. The crews were told that there would be an attack on each refinery, and if necessary a third to mop up anything that was left undamaged. (The BPF was incapable of mounting simultaneous strikes against both targets.) Palembang town lies on the north side of the Musi river, some miles from its mouth, south of Singapore and opposite Borneo. The two refineries were on the south bank of the river on either side of the Komerine river where it joins the Musi. The Royal Dutch Oil Refinery at Pladjoe lay on the north bank of the Komerine, while the Standard Oil TOP: Corsair IV KD718 at Dum Dum Calcutta. India.

in 1945. Author's collection LEFT: Corsair IVs of No. 1846 Squadron and Fairey

Barracudas of 827 Squadron aboard HMS Colossus in 1945. via Philip Jarrett

84

Refinery at Serongei Gerong was on the opposite bank. The confluence of the rivers, the town and the huge refineries, all within an area of Ssq miles (l3sq km), was to make spotting them easy. Force 63 was opposed by four fighter squadrons of the 9th Air Division of the Japanese 7th Area Army and by heavy AA batteries. Aircrews were warned that there would be stiff opposition from ack-ack and fighters, though they were promised 'plenty of fighter cover from the Hellcats and Corsairs'. Aerial reconnaissance showed that there were no barrage balloons, but this was to prove false on the days of the attacks. Meridian I, the first strike, against Pladjoe, was originally scheduled to take place on the 22nd. However, a prolonged tropical srorm of high winds and driving rain on the night of 21/22 January, and again on the night of 22nd/23rd, each time caused a 24-hour delay. This did not do the aircrews' nerves any good, strained as they were already with the thought of what might happen if they fell into the hands of this particular enemy. The final approach was made on the night of the 23rd/24th. The low cloud lifted, and the four carriers made another run into the flying position, about 70 miles (1ISbn) cast of Engano Island, for a take-off. The wind had dropped and the rain stopped, but there was low cloud over the Acct. At 0630 the launching of forty-three Avenger bombers, armeu with 172 SOOlb (230kg) bombs began. Twelve rocket-armed FireAies from Indefatigable were detailed to strafe the balloons uuring their rocket dives. Top cover anu Fighter Ramrods (strafing attacks on enemy fighter opposition on the ground by groups of fighters) on three airfields in the area were to be the tasks of eighty-nine Corsairs and Hellcats. Illustrious and Victorious each contributed twelve Corsairs, and Indefatigable her Seafires, to create the Ramrods. In order to prevent the enemy fighters from reacting in strength, four Avengers anu six Hellcats of the fighter escort were to attack Mana airfield on the west coast. Although a diversion, their main aim was to put out of action the runway and reconnaissance bombers that were known ro be there. Because of launching difficulties, the twelve FireAies that had been detailed to provide low cover and then strafe the balloons ahead of the Avengers, left long after the main strike had disappeared

ABOVE AND TOP: Corsair IV of No. 1846 Squadron making an arrested landing aboard HMS Colossus in 1945.

via Philip Jarrett

A FAA Corsair nearly goes over the side of its carrier. via Philip Jarrett

85


CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNI RY

towards the mountains of Sumatra, and only joined in at the tail end of the action. This left just eight Corsairs of No. 1833 Squadron to provide the whole of the low cover for the Avengers. 1n the words of Lt Cdr Norman S. Ilanson RNVR, the CO: 'We pOSitioned ourselves over the centre of the bomber force and hoped for miracles.' Although anti-aircraft fire was heavy, the attackers left the runway blazing fiercely. The fighter sweep destroyed thirty-four enemy aircraft on the airfields, but was unable to prevent about twenty Japanese fighters from getting airborne. The escort accounted for fourteen enemy aircraft, for the loss of seven FAA aircraft from all causes. By 0940 the first planes started to land on the carriers, and the fleet then withdrew to the south-west. Major Ronnie Hay RM wrote: 'I think this has heen one of the better strikes the FAA has ever accomplished.' Production at the Royal Dutch Refinery at Pladjoe was halved for three months, and all its storage burnt out. A few merchant ships were attacked in the course of the strikes, and at Pladjoe, one of Japan's largest surviving tankers was damaged beyond repair. There was to be a second attack, on 29 January, on the second largest refinery at the Standard Oil Refinery at Serongei Gerong, also in the Palembang vicinity. Meridian II benefited from the lessons of the earlier raid, but after Meridian I the fleet had to withdraw for refuelling, and it was something of a shambles due to inexperience. To aircrews this was an awful waste of time and a five-day wait for the next attack was bad on the nerves. Meanwhile the enemy, knowing that another attack was almost certainly imminent because the other refinery had been left untouched, strengthened their defences and brought down from the north some crack fighter squadrons to augment the local squadrons. This time the FAA fighter sweep would concentrate on the two major airfields. To cover Talangbetoetoe airfield, Victorious despatched twelve Corsairs, while two Fireflies were sent up from Indefatigable to carry out an armed recce of Mana airfield. Meridian II proved even more successful than the 24 January strike, but enemy fighters were up in force and there were continuous air battles all the way to the target, and then heavy and accurate AA took over. Nevertheless the strike was pressed home, and the Standard Oil Refinery at Serongei Gerong was put out

of action for two months - and when it did start again it was at greatly reduced capacity. In addition to thirty-eight enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground by the fighter sweep, over thirty were shot down by the escort; but on the down side, eleven Avengers and nineteen pilots or aircrew were lost, and crews complained about lack of adequate protection. Altogether, sixteen FAA aircraft were lost. Force 63 was now due to carry out Meridian Ilion the following morning (30 January), but how many planes would be ready by then was doubtful, and the nerves of the pilots had worn thin; many believed that the casualties would be appalling. Crews spent the morning of the 29th in a state of gloom; but then at midday, the tan nay blared out 'Meridian III has been cancelled'. This was because the fuel situation would not allow more than one further attack - and crews felt 'as if a ton weight had been lifted from them'. The carriers and their consorts headed for Freemantle and Sydney, having inflicted enormous damage on the refineries, the effects of which would last for months. The air groups had cut the aviation gasoline output from Sumatra to 35 per cent of its normal level, at a time when Japan was desperately short of oil in any form. Probably the three strikes in January 1945 against Pangkalan Brandon (4 January 1945), Pladjoe and Serongei Gerong were the British Pacific Fleet's greatest contribution to the ultimate victory. Sixty-eight Japanese aircraft were destroyed. British losses amounted to sixteen aircraft lost in battle, eleven ditched and fourteen destroyed in deck crashes - a total of fortyone aircraft from 378 sorties. Personnel losses amounted to thirty aircrew.

New Horizons The British Pacific Fleet and the Air Group now began to grow into the new concept of a fast, efficient and hardhitting task force with, if necessary, a continuous flying capability that was a feature of the American naval operations in the Pacific. The idea of the one set-piece strike gave way to a pol icy of constan t rake-offs and landings by smaller numbers of strike aircraft, and a continuous stream of fighters as circumstances demanded. Arriving at Sydney on 10 February 1945, the British Pacific Fleet worked hard to ready itself for action with the US Navy.

86

Seventeen days later, the BPF departed to join Task Force 57, a part of the US 5th Fleet, which was destined for Operation Iceberg, the landings to capture Okinawa. After stopping at Manus Island in the Admiralties Islands, the BPF sailed with TF57 for Ulithi Atoll in the Carolines. By now the Royal Navy's Corsairs were certainly war-weary, as Major Ronnie Hay RM, of No.4 7 Wing on Victorious, recalls: With the Corsnir you felt as if you were literally ~trappcd into an armchair in your

)illlllg

room, the cockpit was that large. You honestly felt like a 'king' sitting up there, with virtually unlimited visibility through the bubble canopy of the Mark II. We flew those aircraft very hard, and just to illustrate this point, n little after the Sumatra :"lhow, \ve ventured northwiud lo

Okinnwa for Iceberg, where I Glme across an airfield full of the latest spec F4U-4s in glossy sea hlue at Manus, in the Admirnlty blands, aw,liting shIpment back to the US. I found the US Nnvy Officer in charge of this operation and asked him what was occurring. lie told me they were being rerurned to the States for overhaul and repair, prior to being sent to the front line again. I enquired as to their individual service use per airframe, and he replied that they had seen ahout 500 hours of flying ench. I was astonished, and replied that our Corsair lis had accrued nearly 2,000 each, and were no nearer an overhaul or deep sen'lCe than the day they were built' I ventured a swap, whereby I took one of his non~ser\'iceJ machines in place of myoid crate, and he replied, 'Sure hud, you can have anyone you like. Any guy going up mthe "sharp end" can take anything he wants!' Sadly

I expressed the fear that my admiral would have spotted the F4U-4's glossy hlue scheme sat amongst the ranks of grey Corsair lis on

Vicwrious!

The BPF was to seal the six Japanese airfields on the Sakishima Gunto island group east of Formosa, and south-west of Okinawa and the other Ryukyu Islands, whilst the Americans took Okinawa. TF57 reached its flying-off position about 100 miles (160km) south of Sakishima Gunto on 26 March, and the first strike went ahead using forty Avengers, twelve flak-suppression Fireflies, and small formations of Corsairs and Hellcats. The air attacks were repeated on the 27 1h before the task force withdrew for replenishment. Bad weather prevented the resumrtion of air attacks until31 March, and on I April, Japanese aircraft appeared over the invasion fleet in some strength. High-level

bombers, followed by kamikaze aircraft, on Ishigaki. At 1100 hrs, shortly before Nakajima C6N Saiun ('Painted Cloud') made their attacks, but they were largely the first strike force of Avengers returned Myn, a Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (,Comet') dealt with by the Corsairs and Hellcats. to the carriers, the BPF was attacked by a Judy and two Zeros. One of the suicide On 2 April, however, a Zeke made a straf- wave of twenty kamikaze aircraft. All rlanes hit the Formidable at the base of the ing run over Indomitable, killing one rating available Seafires, Hellcats and Corsairs island and destroyed eleven aircraft on and wounding two more. Another lone intercepted the suicide aircraft, and only deck, but the carrier damage was soon kamikaze made a strike on Indefatigable and two got through the screen. The Corsairs repaired, and it was fully operational again hit the base of the island, killing four offi- of 1834 and 1836 Squadrons shot down a by the end of the day. cers and ten ratings and wounding sixteen. The carrier was put out of commission for a time, but thanks to the armoured flight deck, no lasting damage was caused below. More kamikaze attacks occurred on 6 April, and a Zero got through to hit the island on Illustrious with its wing-tip before crashing into the sea. During this suicide attack the Corsairs of 1830 Squadron and the Hellcats of 1844 Squadron shot down five Aichi D4Y Judys and a Nakajima PI Y Frances. When not flying CAP, the Corsairs and Hellcats were tasked with strafing the airfields, but the runways were made of crushed coral and could be easily and quickly repaired after the strikes. On 12 April, air strikes switched to the northern part of Formosa, where it was believed that a number of kamikaze attacks were waiting to be launched against the 5th Fleer. The first strike, by forty-eight Avengers and forty Corsairs against the port of Kirun ami airfields in the vicinity respectively, went ahead in bad weather. A few Corsairs found targets in the Shinchiku area and strafed aircraft on the ground. Later in the day a joint strike by Avengers and Corsairs succeeded in cratering airfield runways and destroying aircraft and buildings. Attacks on Formosa continued on the 12th when Corsairs of Nos 1834 and 1836 Squadrons shot down three enemy fighters. Later in the day a CAP intercepted a /wmikaze attack on the BPF carriers, and four enemy aircraft were destroyed, with six more damaged. Next day, eight Japanese aircraft were shot down during air strikes on the BPF. I laving been at sea almost continuously for the past four years, the crew of Illustrious and her two Corsair squadrons, 1830 and 1833, were long overdue for rest and recuperation. On 15 April Illustriou.~ was withdrawn, to be replaced by Formidable, which entered the battle off Sakishima on 16 Arril. On board were two Corsair squadrons, Nos 1841 and 1842. On the night of 20 April, the BPF withdrew for much-needed replenishment at Leyte in the Philippines. Operations Damage to HMS Formidable from a kamikaze that hit her at the base of her island were resumed on 4 May with air attacks in the battle of Sakishima on 4 May 1945lsee also overleaf). via Philip Jarrett

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CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

Five days later, following the return of a strike, Formidable was again hit by a kamikaze. It struck the carrier and exploded among the full deck-park of aircraft, destroying six Corsairs and one Avenger; however, the bomb did not penetrate the fl ight deck. The fires were soon under control, but burning petrol seeped into the hangar deck and caused the loss of four more Avengers and fourteen Corsairs. Victorious was also hit by two kamikaze, which killed three ratings and wounded nineteen, disabled the forward lift, and destroyed four Corsairs on the deck. Formidable left the battle area for Sydney on 22 May after an accidental hangar fire destroyed thirty of her aircraft. (Indomitable, which needed a refit, was replaced later by Im/)lacable, which had joined the BPF at Manus anchorage in the Admiralties in june, amI on the l2th had joined in attacks on Truk in the Caroline Islands.) The air attacks on Sakishima Gunto continued until the 25th, by which time Okinawa had been taken. During the attacks on the Sakishima lslands, the British Pacific Fleet flew 2,444 sorties, dropped 412 tons of bombs, and fired 325 rockets, with the loss of forty-seven aircraft and twenty-nine aircrew. The Corsairs and Hellcats destroyed twentyeight japanese aircraft. In two months at sea TF57 lost seventy-three aircraft in the kamikaze attacks and the fire aboard Formidable, a further sixty-one aircraft had been destroyed in accidents, and twentysix in combat with the japanese. In july 1945 the BPF, now retitled Task Force 37, joined USN TF38 in attacks on I Ionshu, the largest of the japanese Home Islands. It was the height of the typhoon season when attacks began on 17 july, and the US Navy was forced to recall its first strikes. The FAA Corsairs and Fireflies however carried on, and attacked the airfield and railway marshalling yards in the northern part of the island. Next day, while the US Navy attacked the Yokosuka naval base, the largest in japan, aircraft from the BPF were allocated targets to the north-east of Tokyo. Only the Corsairs were able to find their targets in the bad weather conditions prevailing, and make their attacks. Indefatigable was delayed by mechanical problems and did not join the battle until 24 july, when airfields on Shikoku and coastal shipping in the Inland Sea were bombed and strafed. The airfield attacks were met by intense light flak and the shipping strikes were hampered by a

The kamikaze hit on HMS Formidable on 4 May 1945 destroyed several Corsairs and Avengers, but the ship was fully operational again by the end of the day. via Philip Jarrett

88

low cloud base, but two Corsairs, six Avengers and two Fireflies carried out a successful attack on the japanese escort carrier Kaiyo, leaving it crippled ;:\IId burning. Further shipping strikes in the Inland Sea, and against the naval base at Maizuru on the northern coast of Honshu, were carried out during 28-30 july.

Operations early in August were cancelled because of bad weather, and then on 6 August the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima; but japan still refused to surrender. Attacks were resumed against Honshu on 9 August by aircraft from Indefatigable, Victorious (Corsairs of Nos 1834 and 1836 Squadrons), Formidable

Lt Robert Hampton Gray RCNVR, who led four Corsair fighter-bombers from HMS Formidable in an attack on enemy shipping in Onagawa harbour on 9 August 1945, the day on which an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. RN

89

(Corsairs of Nos. 1841 and 1842 Squadrons) and Implacable, when the second atomic bomb destroyed Nagasaki. Shortly before sunrise, four Corsair fighter bombers of 1841 Squadron, led by Lt Robert Ilampton Gray RCNVR, were flown off Formidable for an attack on enemy shipping in Onagawa Wan harbour. Gray, it will be remembered, had received the DSC for his part in the strikes on the Tir/)itz in 1944. When five japanese destroyers and escorts were sighted, Gray detailed two of the Corsair~ to strafe anti-aircraft positions, and a third to provide top cover while he dived on the escort sloop Amakwa. Gray's Corsair was hit repeatedly and it quickly burst into flames, but he continued his dive and his 1,0001b (450kg) bomb sank the vessel. Gray was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his action. It was only the second such award made to an FAA airman during the war, and the last Victoria Cross to be awarded for actions in World War II. On 10 August more FAA strikes went ahead from dawn to dusk, and more japanese ships were sunk. On 15 August, japan surrendered unconditionally, and the Pacific War was all but over - but one last shock awaited the British Fleet. When the carriers Venerable (with Corsairs of 1851 Squadron onboard) and Indomitable, two of the four carriers based in Sydney preparing for operations in the East Indies and the Philippines, were tasked to reoccupy Hong Kong on 31 August and 1 September, they were attacked by suicide boats. Corsairs, Avengers and Hellcats dive-bombed and strafed the attackers and finished off the rest that were hidden in the bays on the north of Hog King Island. Next day, 2 September, the main British Pacific Fleet, now designated 38.5, was part of the Allied fleet assembled in Tokyo Bay to witness the japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. And what of the FAA Corsairs? Under the terms of Lend-Lease, all aircraft that were left either had to be returned to the United States, or paid for. Most Corsairs were therefore pushed over the side of the carriers off Sydney I Iarbour and sank to the bottom of Davy jones' locker. A few aircraft were retained, but these squadrons were rapidly decommissioned, and by the end of 1945 only four Corsair squadrons remained in FAA service - Nos. 1831, 1846, 1850 and 185l - and these were all decommissioned in the summer of 1946. The last to disband were Nos l831 and 1851 Squadrons on 13 August 1946.


CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUN·' RY

CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

LEFT: Corsair IV of No. 1851 Squadron taking off

from HMS Venerable. via Philip Jarrett MIDDLE: Corsair IVs of No. 1851 Squadron on board

""""-

HMS Venerable. via Philip Jarrett BDTIDM: Detachment of Corsair IVs of No. 1851

Squadron in Hong Kong. via Philip Jarrett

Corsair IV of No. 1851 Squadron on finals to HMS Venerable. via Philip Jarrett

--_.

Corsair IV of No. 1851 Squadron making an arrested landing aboard HMS Venerable. via Philip Jarrett

Corsair IV KD213 of No. 1851 Squadron catching the wire aboard HMS Venerable. via Philip Jarrett

Barrier being erected aboard HMS Venerable. via Philip Jarrett

90

91


CORSAIRS FOR KING AND COUNTRY

CHAPTER SIX

'The Sweetheart of Okinawa' There were parkeu aircraft lined up on the runway, and with the red Jap meatball zeroed in on my gunsight, I blasteu away. I was almost mesmerized watching the first plane explode in a violent ball of flame and the second one fly apart as my bullets struck home. Lt (jg) Roy D. 'Eric' Erickson,

USNR VBF-IO

Corsairs Go To Sea at Last

Corsair IV of No. 1851 Squadron detachment taxiing past at Hong Kong. via Philip Jarrett

Corsair IV of No. 1851 Squadron taking off at Hong Kong. via Philip Jarrett

92

On 28 December 1944, Corsairs finally went to sea aboard fleet carriers. VMF-124 'Checkerboards' and VMF-213 'l-lellhawks' sailed from Ulithi Lagoon in the Carolines aboard the Essex for their second Pacific deployments. VMF-124 had left the Solomons on 7 September 1943 and had trained in California until 18 September 1944, when it had moved to Pearl Harbor. VMF-213 had returned to the United States on 9 December 1943 to reform at Mojave, California; it was then declared ready for a second deployment and moved to Ulithi on 25 December to join VMF-124 aboard the Essex. The 'Checkerboards' had already qualified for carrier landings aboard the flat-tops Saratoga, Makassar Strait and Bacaan. The voyage back to the Pacific War began on 30 December when Essex slipped anchor at Pearl and headed west. The start of the voyage was marred by three fatal landing crashes during training. On the first day after his first take-off, Lt Thomas J. Campion's Corsair spun in off the starboard bow, and he was killed when it burst into flames as it hit the flight deck. Next day a second Corsair pilot spun in, but he was picked up by a plane-guard destroyer. A short time later another F4U pilot lost power while attempting recovery aboard, and he too spun in and was drowned when the Corsair sank beneath the waves. Altogether the two USMC squadrons lost an unlucky thirteen F4UI Ds and seven pilots before the Essex reached its destination; this was in part due to the Marine pilots' relative inexpe-

rience in instrument flying in bad weather, and in navigating from a carrier at sea. Thus three pilots took off on a mission and never returned when operating in the northern Philippines in very limited visibility, and the other Corsairs lost were written off in water landings. Then on 3 January, the Corsairs from Essex mounted their first strike when escorting bombers to Okinawa, shooting down one Japanese aircraft for the loss of one of their own. After the seizure of the Philippines, most of the American fast carrier task forces were deployed forwards to the Western Pacific for the final assault on the Japanese home islands. On 12 January the Essex entered the South China Sea with ten other carriers of Task Force 38, and its Corsairs escorted TBM Avenger bombers on a raid on the Saigon area in French Indo-China. This marked another turning point in the Pacific War, the raid causing considerable damage to enemy airfields and arsenal: fourteen warships and thirtyone merchant vessels were sunk, and Corsair pilots claimed twelve enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground - all this for the loss of one F4U to anti-aircraft fire. By 25 January VMF-l24 and VMF-213 had destroyed ten enemy aircraft in the air and sixteen on the ground, as well as damaging several Japanese vessels; but seventeen F4U-IDs and eight pilots were lost, the majority of them from operational accidents. By February 1945, three more USN fleet carriers besides Essex had received Corsairs, and in March Essex also received the F4U-I D Navy Corsairs of VBF-83 ('VBF' meaning 'bombing-fighting' squadron). During December 1944 the Bunker Hill (CV-17) had received VF-84 'Wolf Gang', VMF-lll 'Fighting Falcons' and VMF-451 'Blue Devils', part of CVG-84; and at the end of the month, VMF-I12 'Wolfpack' and VMF-123 'Eight-Balls', part ofCVG-82, had gone to sea aboard the Bennington (CV-20). During the first week of February 1945 the F4U-ID Corsairs of VMF-216 'Wild

93

Hares' and VMF-217 'Bulldogs', part of CVG-81, were taken aboard the Was/J (CV-18); during March, Wasp also received the F4U-l D Navy Corsairs of VBF-86 'Bengal Bandits'. Altogether the eight Marine squadrons totalled 144 Corsairs, or 16 per cent of the fighter strength of the fast carrier task force. That same month the United States were also supported by the addition of thirteen land-based RNZAF Corsair squadrons, where previously they had flown Curtiss Kittyhawks. Three of the RNZAF Corsair squadrons were based on Bougainville, one on Guadalcanal, two at Espirito Santo, one on Emirou, two on Green Island, one on Los Negros in the Philippines, and two in New Zealand. On 3 February, Marine Carrier Division 27 received the firs[ of its four 'jeep' carriers for the final battles against Japan. On 20 March 1945, Block Island (CVE-I06) received eight F4U-l D Corsairs of VMF511 and eight Hellcats, and was assigned to MCVG-l ('MCVG' meaning Marine Carrier Air Group). Gilbert Islands (CVE107), with the Corsairs of VMF-512 embarked, was assigned to MCVG-2. Vella Gulf (CVE-lll), with VMF-513 'Flying Nightmares' embarked on 17 June, was assigned to MCVG-3. Ca/Je Gloucester (CVE-I09), with F4U-lOs and FG-lOs of VMF-351 embarked, went into action off Okinawa in July. The Gilbert Islands flew support missions at Okinawa in May, and carried out airfield suppression at Sakishima Retto during June before supporting the landings at Balikpapan, along with Block Island; when the war ended, the latter was off Formosa. The Vella Gulf arrived at Saipan late in July, and served briefly at Okinawa in August. Also in July, the Ca/Je Gloucester provided support for minesweeping and air strikes in the East China Sea. Meanwhile the first stage in the final assault on the Japanese home islands had begun on 16 February. Extensive raids on enemy airfields in the Tokyo area were made from the carriers by 144 Corsairs and


'THE SWEETHEART OF OKINAWA'

other fighters, while the invasion fleet moved to take IWo j ima, a small island midway between Saipan and Tokyo. Launch began 60 miles (lOOkm) off the coast of Honshu, L25 miles (200km) from the Imperial City. The nine squadrons of Corsairs - VMF-1l2 and -123 on Bennington, VM F-L24 and -213 on Essex, VMF-22L and -451 and VF-84 on Bunker Hill, and VMF-216 and -217 on Wasp were cred ited wi th seventeen enemy planes destroyed in the air, for the loss of ten Corsairs and eight pilots. On the 17 th the Corsairs managed to bring down fourteen enemy aircraft, even though their mission had been compromised by bad weather. On the 19 t \ the air attack on Iwo j ima began: it was the first close air support mission of the war for an amphibious assault. As the troops hit the invasion beaches, F4U and Hellcat pilots aboard Bunker Hill, Wasp, Bennington and Essex were told to 'go in and scrape your bellies on the beaches'. The Corsairs roared into action over the sands of Iwo j irna, fi ri ng their 5in rockets and machine guns at gun positions just 200yd ahead of the invading US troops, and then un leashed their deadly cargoes of bombs and napalm on the inshore enemy emplacements. Bunker Hill, Was!), Bennington and Essex repeatedly launched Corsairs and Hellcats on strikes against over 640 enemy strongpoints and gun positions throughout the day. Air strikes on Iwo jima continued for four days, until 22 February. The island citadel, dominated by Mount Suribachi at its southern end, finally fell on 23 March, at a cost of 6,000 American and 22,000 japanese lives. At lwo jima, twenty-five suicide aircraft sank an American escort carrier, and damaged a large carrier and two smaller ships. On 23 February, aircraft from the Fast Carrier Task Force 58 made attacks on Chichi j irna, then headed for japanese home waters for another strike on Tokyo. The raid went ahead at 0800 on 25 February, but the weather was bitterly cold and some of the F4Us' machine guns and gun cameras froze and pilots were unable to fire properly. Nine Corsairs of VMF-124 and VMF-213 from the Essex made strikes on Kamagaya and Matsuyama airfields north of Tokyo and fought with fourteen japanese fighters, shooting down five and damaging six. The Essex Corsairs completed their mission by strafing cargo ships off lnubo

F4U-1P of VF-84 being marshalled into position on board the USS Bunker Hill for a strike on Iwo Jima in February 1945. USNA

USMC F4U-1 D Corsair fighter-bombers, each armed with eight HVARs under their wings and a napalm bomb on the belly starboard store station, warming up on the flight deck of the USS Bunker Hill early in 1945. USNA

Point. Meanwhile Corsairs from Benning- Build-Up to Operation ton had also gone on shipping strikes, in Jceburg, the Invasion of Tokyo Bay, but on this mission two F4Us of VMF-123, including the CO, Major Okinawa Everett Alward, were lost. Sixteen F4Us of VF-84 from Bunker Hill attacked Katori The end of the war was in sight, and japan airfield with HV ARs (high velocity could not win. During the Battle for the rockets), and they shot down at least nine Philippines the japanese had lost an estienemy fighters that tried to intercept the mated 9,000 aircraft, including 4,000 in Corsairs. Two Franks and one Zeke were combat. Of these, the tok!w wi (special brought down by Fighting 84's CO, Lt Cdr . attack) pilots, who sank sixteen US ships Roger R. Hedrick, to take his final tally to and damaged another 150, destroyed 650 twelve confirmed victories. Bad weather in suicide attacks by hits or near misses. cancelled all further operations during the Okinawa, a 60-mile (lOOkm)-long island in the Ryukyu chain only 350 miles afternoon.

94

'TIIE SWEETHEART OF OKINAWA'

(560km) from Kyushu, would see the supreme effort made by the kamikaze. Experienced japanese pilots were now few and far between, and barely enough were trained to be able to hit shipping by conventional means. So a plan called Ten-Go ('Heavenly Operation') was devised, whereby aerial attacks known as kikusui, or 'floating chrysanthemums', would be made on American shipping by the kamikaze. Even though the japanese airforce was outnumbered and outclassed by American airpower, there would certainly be plenty of targets for the kamikaze to aim for: some 1,457 US ships would be involved in the operation to take the heavily fortified island. On I March, Task Force 58 carrier aircraft, including Corsairs, began strikes on Okinawa, before heading south to Ulithi Lagoon in the Carolines. VMF-112 'Wolfpack' and VMF-I23 'Eight-Balls' on Bennington were credited with shooting down twenty-three enemy aircraft in the air and destroying a further twenty-four on the ground, for a loss of twenty-four Corsairs and nine pilots. In a five-week period aboard Wasp, F4U-l Ds of VMF216 ami VMF-217 were credited with the destruction of nineteen japanese aircraft (five of them in the air) and a japanese destroyer, for the loss of nine Corsairs and five pilots. On 10 March, VMF-124 and 213 left the carrier Essex and returned to the United States on board the escort carrier Long Island. In a two-month period the 'Checkerboards' and 'Hellhawks' had shot down twenty-three japanese aircraft in the air, and destroyed sixty-four on the ground, for the loss of twenty-four aircraft and nine pilots. On 13 March, the pilots of VMF-216 and -217 from Was!) left for Pearl Harbor, although some of their thirty-six F4U-l Ds and deck crews remained aboard to be used by the incoming VBF-86 'Bengal Bandits' of CVG-81; likewise VMF-216 and -21Ts F4U-l Corsairs were retained aboard Essex by the incoming VBF-83, part of CVG-83. VMFL12 and -123 were on Bennington, VMF221 and -451 and VF-84 on Bunker Hill, VBF-IO and VF-LO with thirty F4U-lD/4s on Intre!)id, and VBF-6 on Hancock. Then on L8 March 1945 the Franldin arrived, with the F4U-LD Corsairs of VMF-214 (the old BLack Sheep Squadron with new pilots), VMF-452 'Sky Raiders', and VBF5's FG-L Ds: this meant that there were now thirteen Corsair squadrons in the ta,k force - seven USN and six USMC.

" .....

Kamikaze attacks on US carriers and shipping during the Philippines' campaign. A twin-engined suicide bomber narrowly misses a carrier from CVE 71. USN

F4U-1D just before take-off from the USS Franklin in March 1945. NA

Carrier Landing The following account is by Lt (jg) Roy D. 'Eric' Erickson, USNR VBF-10, and describes the technique that every carrier pilot had to learn of how to take off from, and land on, a carrier, and the procedure whereby a pilot gained his qualifications to fly carrier aircraft.

95

A routine carrier landing was neither overly cll1l1plex nor difficult as Illng

,IS

the pilllt knew

what he was doing and cll-operated with the LSO, who assisted the pilllt in landing lln the carrier hI' using only arm and hand signals. Although the signals were, in mllst cases, an indicarilln and not an ahsolute order, the pilot was llhliged to follow these silent directions that had heen developed over many years.


"TilE SIVEETIIEART OF OKINAWA'

'THE SWEETHEART OF OKINAWA'

It w,,, importanr to develop confidence in

elaborate ann-motion forwards that ended with

The hrst signal after the left turn m hnal

It was important to add power cautiously in

wheel. The 'smp' signal was two raised fists

I watched operations as most senior officers

taking direction in this unnalural fashion, and

two fingers pointing towards the bow. This

approach concerned the aircraft's altitude. If at

a low airspeed, low power, low altitude situa-

above the shoulders; 'shut down' was a finger

carried out their obligations. As a pilot made his second successful landing, another standing

there were a few serim" dos and don'ts. The

silently dramatic ~Ignal was an indication to the

a proper height, the LSO would hold hoth arms

lion such as that preceding a wave-off. By

across the throat. The deck personnel also had

pilot, for example, had to rrust that the LSO's

catapult operator, stationed in the catwalk,

III

strmght out to the side at shoulder height: the

applying large amounts of power m a 2,000hp,

a number of arm and hand signals used to

in the catwalk would leap forward and change

judgement was sound, and resist the temptation

activate the hydraulic ram: the hold-back

'roger' signal. If it was high, the LSO advised

high torque propeller aircraft, it was virtually

manage the operation of the deck.

places with the one who had just qualified. But

[() 'chase the deck' by pumping the control Sl ick

fitting paned, and the aircraft was hurled on its way by the cmapult.

the pilot by raising his outstretched arms slowly

certain that the engine would overcome aileron

At night, directors used flashlights with tubes

lip and down. A certain amounl of wind over

ahove his shoulders; if low, he would lower his

control, causing the plane to roll left and

about 6in 115cmllong that lit up as red rods. The

the Corsair stayed in one piece, as most came

the flight deck was required to reduce relmive

Aircraft returning from a miSSion flew to their

outstretched arms below shoulder height.

plunge into the sea.

'come-on' was indicated by moving the red rods

slamming into the deck as they landed and the

Landing at Night

the thing that most amazed me was the fact that

mOllon and ease the shock of the landing on

carner and entered a left-hand orbit over the

rapid sLiccession came signals to

rapidly back and forth, as the day signal; to turn,

planes were obviously under great stress, air-

both ship and aircraft. The pJ!ot was reqUired

standard rectangular flight path. Formations of

remtnd the pilot to lower flaps and 1,Id hook If

one tube was potnted at the wheel to be braked

frames crinkling and tyres blowing. It took an

Next

III

to ng his approach a few knots above stall

four aircraft passed the ship on the starboard

either was not already down. Speed control

while the other flashlight waved the plane for-

excessively long time for just four planes to he

speed, while the carrier increased ,peed to make

side on the same course and flew ahead a dis-

signals follmved. If the approachtng ,Iircraft was

Flight-deck personnel, affectionately called

wards. Two rods crossed overhead indicated

landed, as wave-off after wave-off took place.

more wind, or slowed to reduce It. I always

tance of a mJ!e or so. The division then made

slow, the LSO moved his outstretched arms

'deck apes', handled all the night deck activity

'stop'. The plane remained slnpped until either

Ilow the hell were they ever going [() get us all

added five knots for my future famJ!y, and many tltnes got reprimanded (or J01l1g so.

two 90-degree lefl turns to return abeam of the

towards the plane and back

without a single word exchanged between

it was moved forwards again with a signal, or the

qualified "t this rate! As many as five passes w"s

ship at a distance of approxllnately a mJ!e. Once

mOllon. If It was fast, he slapped hIS right leg

them, Speed and efficiency were of the essence,

wheels were chocked. The engine 'shut down'

not unusual for some pilots. It was quite easy to

Lmdmg an F4U Corsair presented a greater

abeam, the fonnallon agam turned left and flew

once or tWice with the right-hand paddle as ,tn

as another aircraft was usually close behind and

signal was given by drawing a red rod across the

ascertain who were the better pilots, and I was

within seconds of recovery.

III

a 'come to me'

problem than any other type of aircraft. The \'IS-

at an altitude of a few hundred feet towards the

indicat ion

ibJ!ity ovcr its long nose was nJ!, and if you

carrier, repeating the pallern until the ship was

ful movc he would shake a leg m the ,1r""lng

opened your cowl flaps It was difficult for some

ready

to sec even the LSO. When the Corsair w,,, first

intending roland orhlled ahove those, ready for recovery.

mtroduced, It was doubted that It would ever

In

recover them. Additional division.s

reduce speed. And In a les.s grace-

throat. In retrospect, it is amazing that the dan-

surprised to find out the next day that the junior

As :soon as the aircraft's forward motion

gerous activities on the flight deck were accom-

ensigns in some cases did a hetter joh than the

Slopped, a deck director would signal the pilot

plished without talking, whtle the sighting of an

veteran Iicurenants.

The most critical Signal was 'Turn left 10

with both fists raised and clenched, indicating

enemy aircraft often caused hedlam on the radio.

Due to thc extrcme weather conditions,

,Iltgn With the flight deck', which came Just

to him to 'apply the brakes to both wheels' and

For now, my own mind was on the qualifi.ca~

"i1ms were allowed to delay their qualifications

III

'lIrcraft If It was flying in a skid.

make a good carrier aircraft. But Ihe Bnt ISh, who

Landings commenced when the carners

hcfi"e touchdown. Some leeway was posSlhle tn

keep them on. Then he would give the direc-

tions ahead. I was selected to go aboard a jeep

until the weather got better. However, this in

were one of the first to put the Cor"lir Into car-

turned into the wind and hoisted the 'Charlie'

speed and altitude, but the turn to fLnal

tion to retract the flaps by two or three times

carrier, the USS Core (eVE-I 3). Part of the

turn would delay our boarding of Inlre/Jid, our

rier sen'lce, had discovered that If they

flag at the yardarm, md,ultmg to ships within

approach wa.,; critical. Once coml1lel1ung the

pressing both hands together, then separating

night carrier qualification requirements was that

future home, and in fact not one ofhcer "board

approached the carrier from a rllrn, st ralghten-

visual range that the carner was 'landing air-

left turn aheam, the aircraft approached In a

them while keeping the wrists in eonl<1ct.

you had to make three successful day landings,

declined to fly, as we all wanted to get it over

Ing out Just prior to landmg, they could fi,llow

craft, stand clear'. After flymg up the starboard

continuous, descendtng flight path ,III the way

S"nultaneously, a hook runner emerged from

followed by two successful night landings - and

with, and agreed that it should he c"rned out

the LSO's Signals and come aboard wllhout

side and ahead of the carner, the first 'lIrcraft

ro the cut pOSition. The LSO, With arms out-

the cmwalk to disengage the arresting wire from

as scheduled. The night I was scheduled to

mIShap; and we were soon to follow their lead.

In

land hanked left, turnmg away from its for-

stretched, leaned to one side at the W,lISt rapidly

the tail hook. Once the aircraft was clear of the

all these landings h"d to be m"de during the same day. Thus you couldn't make three day

The F4U also had tricky stall characteristiCS, and

mation. The second aircraft to land turned

two or three times to show hI' the angle of hIS

wire, the director would give the signal to

"'ndings on one d"y, and the next d"y make two

for the incoming plane to land - the one I'd usc

trim tahs had to be constantly adjusted to hold

away from the

arms the amount of increase

'retract the tail hook', followed immediately by

night landings. But the first night of carrier qual-

on my turn. To my horror I watched as Lt (jg)

fOf1llCl110n ilhollt

30scc later, to

Of deCfel1Sl' III

the

qualify I W,IS standing in the catw"lk, waiting

the correct speed and approach. The Ilelicat was

follmv the first aircraft, and numhers three and

turn needed m line up with the deck. ThIS

'I

'come on' with both hands raised high. lie

ifications was a fiasco. The weather was intoler-

Lmy Mead approached the ship and then sud-

a snap to land compared to the 'hog',

four aircraft followed m turn. Although I did

motion was filllmved by the cut Signal, when he

would then transfer control m the next direc-

"bly nasty, and things were made worse by the

denly stalled in the groove, ploughing 1I1to the

TYPIcally a ship might launch one or two divisions - four or eight aircr,lft for CAP

not time the up-Wind turn, I based it on my

smanly passed a paddle across hiS throat to

tor up the line by pointing with both arms in

fact that we had to land on a CVE-type carrier:

fantail with a tremendous crash. lie must have

Iseaman's eye', which was adjusted to achieve

instruct the pilot to close the throttle, shlfl hiS

that direction. Once clear of the landing area,

it had a shortened deck and a sholT draft, which

died instantly.

(Combat Air Patrol), and recover them three or

an optimum landing lI11erval of 34 to 35sec.

gme to the deck, and land. In response, the

the director g'lVe the 'fold wings' signal, ,1I1d the

made it bounce ahout the windswept Atlantic

Operations were secured for that evening, hut

four hours later, though on atr strike or homher

Our inrerval under comhat conditions was set

pilot would then level his Wtngs 'lI1d straighten

plane was then guided to a parking spot.

waters like a cork. When the junior officers saw

c~con miSSions, carrier atrcra([ often OPCfiHCd

the following morning at 0430 I was the hrst to

at 15sec, but uSll<llIy came tn at around 20sec.

take off in the pitch black, rain-squalled sky;

In

large groups of forty or more from sevcral cam-

As each pdOi left the fimna\lon, he passed the

ers sllnultaneously. The flight was roullnely so

lead to the next hI' palling hIS head and point-

noisy that talking was useless, so despite the

ing; though more often than not the only signal

hustling activity of launching and recovering,

was

the moving of aircraft wa.s accomplIShed calmly and ,J!most enllrely without talk mg.

level as the ship steadied on a landing course. If

Most of my flight operations began wllh a catapult launch. I was guided hy a director,

,1

casual wave. The flight leader normally

landed first, gauging his turn m roll his wings

the aircraft to align it with the flight deck.

The harrier was located amidships aft of the

that even the veterans of our squadron were

the cut position, mtnor ddferences tn

parking area, and it would he lowered [() allow

feeling a cerrain amount of resistance to this

hut although the weather had gotten worse, if

allilude, speed and alignment from one lal1lltng

the airplane to taxi rapidly over it on Its way for-

operation, by all accounts it Illade it a qllestjon~

the squadron was going to complete its require-

to the next required the pilot to he alen, and fly the aircraft to the lancltng.

warllt;; as soon as it had passed, the harrier was

able exercise altogether, and generated a certain

ments and meet the time schedule, they had to

raised again. It was invaluable in protecting the

amount of apprehension as to our ability to

go ahead with the carrier qualifications.

If the LSO judged t11,H not everythtng \vas set

aircraft parked in the bow area of the night deck.

accomplish this assignment successfully.

Once

,11

tll

up for

On take-off I tried to discern the horizon

safe landmg, the pilot would recel\'e a

It W'IS mounted on 5ft [1.5m] hinged stanchions,

take a wave-off. A cor-

wave-off Signal - a dellherate wave of the

and consisted of two heavy cables that were held

intermittent showers. Snowstorms and hitterly

Ihar It was simply impossible, so I had to rely

rectly executed turn pleased everyone, of course.

paddles ahove the LSO's head. If thIS was

in a horizontal position by means of short,

cold winds prev"i1ed, causing enormous con-

on instruments to guide me. Also, since I was

he was early, he had

In

,I

By day the skies were grey and cold, with

line, hut It was so black and the rain so fierce

mxied to the catapult and reqUired to straddle

The aircraft would estahlish itself at about a

reCel\'ed, he was then ohliged to increase power

smaller cables attached to the heavier cahles by

cerns over icing conditions, which might

Ihe r,rst to take off I couldn't see the exhaust

It. A cahle bridle connected the aircraft to the

half mile away on the carner's port beam at 150

and go around for another try. The \\'ave-off

clamps and shear pins. If the tail hook failed to

hamper operations, not to mention our

lives.

fl"mes of any other plane to guide me. Trying

catapult shuttle, and a hold-back filling was

to 200ft 150 to 60ml, flaps and tail hook down,

Signal was given well befnre the crlllcal pOint

c;Hch a wire on landing, the airplane rolled into

Nevertheless, during the day we all managed to

In

placed hetween the plane's taJ! and the flight

doing approxlmmely 90 knots, depending on

tn the landtng sequence. In many cases, the

the barrier, breaking the short cables and allow-

cope, and landed safely aboard; but when night

directly over the POrt side of the carner.

deck. The launch officer, standing alongSide the

the 'lIrcraft type. The LSO would pick up the

fell it IVas a different maller! There was no

Looking down I could see the little lights out-

approaching aircraft as It turned left towards the

reason for the wave-off had nothmg 10 do With the pdOl'S performance.

ing the longer cables to payout and stop the air-

aircraft, signaled me with a rapid rotallng

craft with minimal damage.

horizon line available, 'md most of the time it

lining the deck. I used my clock

motion of his uplifted right hand to apply

ship, and from thIS point on, I used to focus

Although a pdot was under LSO control on

No aircraft was allowed to move on the flight

was pouring rain and sleet. The ceiling was less

down-wind leg, made my 90 degree turn to the

make my first pass at landing, I crossed

10

time my

power. The fining at the taJ! restrained the air-

almost entirely on the LSO. Stationed on a plat-

a carner landtng, he had to fly responSlhly. For

deck except under the control of a director.

than 500ft [150m!, and landing lights had been

left and then, timing another 90 degree left,

craft during engine check.

form on the pon Side at the extreme aft end of

example, he was not to slam the throttle

Iland and arm signals were standard. When the

restricted due to the report that many enemy

again flew parallel to the carrier. From this side

If the cockpit Instruments mdicmed every-

the flight deck, the LSO held brightly coloured

Wide open In disgust if gIven a wave-off.

director wanted to move an aircraft sLraighr

German subs were in the vicinity. The only

I could sec the little blue light on the trailing

thing was satisfactory, I saluted or held up my

cloth paddles for easy recognition. A large can-

Furthermore, if he were given a cut, he had to

ahead, he gave the normal comc#on signal with

available illumination were small blue lights on

picket destroyer, and could make the appropri-

the director and pressed my head hack

vas blind protected him and his assistants from

take It. The two signals - wave-off and cut -

both arms. To turn the aircraft, he pointed a

the picket destroyers in front and behind the

ate turn into the groove, where I could pick up

against the headrest in preparation to launch.

arm

the strong wind over the deck, usually about 30

were the only mandatory landing signals.

clenched fist at the wheel he wanted the pilot

carrier, and the small 12-degree lights on the

the lights that outlined the carrier deck. From

When the launch officer was sallshed that all

knots, and comments would be logged for later

Moreover, once engine power was

to hrake, and waved forwards with the other

carrier deck that could only be seen when we

this angle the LSO in his fluorescent suit of

was ready, he knelt on one knee and made an

discussion once the pdot had landed.

was not

hand to turn the plane arnund the locked

were properly in the groove I

or,1I1ge and red, lit by black light, came into

III

96

tll

reapply power.

ClIt,

the pilot

97


'TIIE SWEETIIEART OF OKINAWA'

'TIIE SWEETHEART OF OKINAWA'

view, directing me aboard with his glowing

had pUt up a great argumelllto avoid making the

The deck of the carrier seemed w explode

into their lifeboat. As soon as the carrier and

Then my mind srarted playing tricks on me:

mixture until full rich was really needed.

paddles.

night landings that all us junior dflcers were

with smoke, fire and nOise as we all "arted our

the destroyers had cleared the area. they were

thought I heard strange noises coming from

Ilowever, the 4 1/2hr flight had nearly depleted

required to do - and that some of our senior offi-

planes. Like a blind man reading Braille, I weill

picked up hI' the trailing DD and transferred to

the engine, but a quick glance at my instru-

cers never did make them'

through the checklist, knowing that failure to

Intre/)id for the next day's strike. I thought to

ments rold me everything was OK. Still my

Upon returning to the fleet, Inr:re/)id was in

follow one step could kill me. Tightening my

myself, does this happen every dayl If it did, we

imagination kept conjuring up problems thar

the process of launching aircraft, and was

shoulder straps, I followed the lighted wands of

sure didn't need the enemy to help us - we were

didn't exist. Was I running out of fuel? Were

unahle to land any planes. Many of us were

the deck officer and moved forwards to the left

doing just fine by ourselves, and it wouldn't he

the 111<lgnetlls firing properly? Were my guns

running out of gas, hut the carrier Enterprise, the 'Big E', had just cleared irs decks and turned

The carrier was hobbing up and down so much Ihat one moment I was headed directly toward the fantail, and then the next I seemed too high. Rut the LSO was holding a 'roger' on me most of the time, and I had w really helieve in him. I thought for sure I was going to dupli-

'Baptism of Fire' (Sunday 18 March 1945)

cate the fatal performance I'd seen the night before: even

In 1hl:"l

(reezing weather, !'lwcat was

runnll1g down my LICe as I approached the deck. Then the LSO gave me the cut, and I caught the numher two wire. Takll1g

111

my tail

hook I was sent off IInmedl<llely, and repeated the same procedure for a successful second landing. From sl<lrt to flnish I wasn't in the air over twelllY minutes, but it seemed like hours. As I folded my wings and taxied over the har-

On 18 March, Franklin, Benningtun and Bunker Hill sent off their Air Groups on raids on forty-five airfields on Kyushu. VBF-lO's F4U-IO/4s from Intrepid were used on CAP and an inland strike, but lost three Corsairs and two pilots, shooting down just one judy in return. Ensign Roy O. 'Eric' Erickson, a VBF-IO Corsair pilot, recalls the events of th is day:

riers, I knew I had qual ifled!

Ciltapult, lowering and locking my wing~ inlo

long before we would he out of torpedo planes

working? I even practised grabbing the ring of

place. The deck crew hooked my altcraft to the

altogether' Later, I found out that there was roo

my parachute just to be sure it was still there!

hydraulic-powered monster: the Image of myself

little wind over the deck that day for the two

a

II

stonc in some giant sling camc to mllld. A ...

all my fuel mnks.

into the wind, ami it was prepared to rake me

An hour of monotonous searching and

aboard. As my fuel g'llIge showed my ranks to

obtain enough air speed ro get them-

checking had passed when suddenly, through

be nearly empty, I knew I would have to make

u ual, thc comnlandcr and his wingman wcrc

selves airborne with their heavy loads of torpe-

the mist, our rargel appeared: Saeki naval base,

the fltst approach a good one, or go for a swim.

the air, and Lt (jg) G. R. H. 'Windy'

does and fuel. I never again saw or heard of a

localed on the shoreline of Kyushu. I forgot all

I made the standard approach down the right

. . imil:u experience.

the imaginary prohlems and concentrated on

side of the Gttrier, lowering my flaps and

the target, arming my guns and bombs, and

landing gear and opening my cowl flaps. I

already

111

Ilill, my section leader, had just been launched

planes

to

off the right catapull. I put my head back

It was Cdr Hyland's responsihility to co-ordi-

agal11st the headrest and raised my ann to show

nate all the attacking aircraft within the air

setting my outhoard rockets

fire. I checked

lowered the tail hook, making sure my rail

the deck officer I was ready for launch.

group. He was also air co-ordinator for other

the instruments to make sure that all were in

wheel wasn't locked, put the prop in full rpm,

Lowering my arm, the catapult shot me into

great sweeps involving the aircraft from carri-

working order. My adrenalin was really flowing

and moved the mixture control to fdl rich as I

space!

ers opemting with us. One of my duties was

as we pushed over into our attack. I went ro the

made my turn into the groove. Sighting the

I followed a pair of lighted red wamb and was

The rough sea sheared against the gre," steel

Tail-End Charlie was my position in the divi-

directed to the "arhoard side of the ship. The

hull of lntre/)id. I looked up at the black,

sion of four aircraft led by ICAGI Cdr Uohn J.I

nose of my aircraft was overhanging the edge of

ominous sky and found Il next ro Ilnpossihle to

the ship on the starhoard Side when I was given the c1osed-flst Signal to .swll1g my aircraft ro

to

til

outSIde of the formation and a little behind

landing signal offlcer, I waited for his signals

The sun and mist were breaking over the

Windy so that I could concentrate on the

and corrections

Ilyiand. Ensign Tessier was on the comman-

horizon a... wc continucd to the targct over an

L;ttgel. There were parked aircraft lined up on

he were cast in stone. Whde closing in on the

discern the horizon from the cockpit of my

der's Wl11g, and my section leader was Windy.

endlcss sea. I was nervous with anticip,uioll

the runway, and with the red Jap meatball

fantail of the Enwr/)me, I kept w'llching the

F4U-ID CorSair. My plane capt,lin, a man In hIS

Not only was the CAG's division the fl'" w he

ovcr what was in store. It was hard to realize

zeroed in on my gunsight, I hlasted away: almost

LSO. The Enter/)rise's deck seemed much nar-

port. I then found myself lined up with the very

early thirties, was ncar tears and :"lhaking as he

launched from Intre/)id, it was also the Ittst to

that I was actually on my way

attack the

mesmerized, I watched the first plane explode

rower and shorter than Intrepid's, hut I had

starhoard edge. I was given the cur engine'

came up onto the wing heside me and helped

land, and the first to wait, too. We circled

home islands of Japan, as my eyes kept search-

in a violent hall of flame, and the second one

never made such

signal - and suddenly the lltrector disappeared!

me into my shoulder harness. lie seemed much

ahove and watched the other divisions launch

ing the sky for enemy aircraft and the ocean

fly apart as my hullers struck home.

I hegan to wonder if the LSO was OK. He was

older to me, though, as I inserled the plotting

and join up, grouping in a long waving tail

helow for enemy ships or any sign of life. I cal-

As we cleared the field, I saw a tanker cruis-

still standing there with hoth arms extended in

board into its slot and locked it in place. lie

before each proceeded to its designated wrget.

culated the force of the wind from the size of

ing in the harbour. Resetting my eight rockets,

a 'roger'. As I came ahreast of the fantail, he

told me they'd all heard a report that the sky

All the fighters and fighter-bomhers were in

the waves, and kept track of our course on my

I fired them in salvo while strafing the ranker.

gave me a cut and I dropped onto the deck,

was thick with Jap planes overhead and he

the air, and now the torpedo planes were wking

plotting board. If we were

encounter enemy

The rockets all smashed into its deck and hull.

grabhing the numher two wire. I raised my tail

feared for his life. I consoled him 'IS hest I could,

off from Intrel)id's deck. The first TRM took off,

planes and I was to get lost in the melee. it

As I looked around it was blowing and blazing

hook, folded my wings, and crossed over the

but I had to he ahout my business.

and then sank out of sight below the deck; I

would be my only roo I to help me find my W'ly

rind smlors wcrc Jiving into the ocean; one less

harriers. I was laler wid that I had five gallons

watched as he reappeared, and saw hllll land

home to the fleet.

ship in the Jap Navy. We made a few more straf-

of fuel left: not enough to have taken a waveoff - hut then I knew that already.

I

As Erickson laxied forwards, the next Corsair, flown by Fred Meyer, attempted its landing. But the plane hit the deck nose first, the propeller chewing down the wooden deck with sparks flying; it missed all the arresting wires, and slammed into the barrier in a nose-down vertical position where it teelered and threatened to go right over and crush Erickson I Fortunalely the wind over the deck blew it back onto its wheels.

I flicked on the hlack Itght, Illumll1atll1g my

111

protect his tail.

to

to

hut he JUSt stood there, as if

'1

perfect approach before and

control panel and enahlll1g me to adJllSlmy tmn

the water. Fortunately the pilot had m,111aged

Flying wing is not like leading the pack: it is

ing rum over the airfleld. and then CAG gave

tab settings. From the hrldge the loudspeaker

to ditch safely

one side of the oncoming

an unending juggling of the throttle and

us the thumhs up and turned for home. I had

bellowed, 'Erickson, turn off those (,odd,llnn

carrier, and the three crewmen scrambled from

working diligently ro sray close to your seCtion

nm yet learned

conserve fuel while flying

ready room and grabbed a cup of cocoa. As I

lights" I complied in a flash. Ilow the hell did

rhe still floating Avenger and managed to get

leader, keeping a constant weHch on any

1ll0VCi

Tail-End Charlie, which used much more gas

sipped the hm conCOCtion the LSO arrived with

they know it was me? With the absolute hlack-

into their lifeboat. But no sooner had

ments he might make. The last position in a

than when flying bld. Pumping the throttle

a big smile on his f'lce. Shaking my hand, he

out, I couldn't undersl<lnd how they could iden-

gotten their feet out of the drink when the

formation was usually the first one that gOt

and flying wide in a turn would suck up your

said: 'Congratulations! You're the first Corsair

to

I hey

til

Crossing over the deck I went into the pilots'

I thought I was surely going to '!:luI' the farm I " sat in my aircraft watching in disbelief in my

tify me in particular. Rut of course, the men up

identical thing happened to the next TBM

picked off from an unknown assailant coming

fuel all too quickly. The next day, I learned to

I've ever landed!' The Big E was flying F6Fs, and

on the bridge had every plane and pillll's pOSI-

attempting a take-off! They, wo, had cleared

out of the sun, and I lVas not about to let this

conserve fuel by slipping under aircraft on a

this exp!;lined his statue-like srance as I made

rearview mirror as Fred and his plane careened

tion carefully plotted on the deck.

the oncoming carrier and were safely getting

happen. I was kept very busy.

turn and hI' fine-lUning the richness of my fuel

my final approach. lie said he figured I knew

down the deck, spilling flre and sparks while the

more about the Corsair than he did, and so he

three-hladed prop threw woodchips all over the

had decided to leave it all to me!

deck l I had folded the wings of my Corsair, and 100kll1g ro my lefr the exit W'IS hlocked, and ro

A Iso on 18 March, VBF-83 from the Essex claimed seventeen Zekes and a judy destroyed, and nine more enemy aircraft probably destroyed. Three of the Essex' Corsairs were shot down over Tomikaka airfield. The Marine Corps' Corsairs from Bunker Hill and Bennington were credited with the destruction of fourteen enemy planes for the loss of two Corsairs. However, Franklin's contribution to the war against japan was all too brief, because at 07.08hr the following day she was hit by two 550lb [250kg] bombs dropped from 100ft [30ml above the carrier by a judy.

my right I could sec only the hlack water helow - and the chance of survival

111

the cold At lantic

water for longer than flfteen minutes was nil. The picket destroyers would have a very difflcult time flnding a downed pillll in enemy suhinfested w,llers, and the usc of spotlights was prohlhited. I decided to take my chances and rely on the harrier wires to do their Joh, and fortunately, along wllh the Wind, rhey did. Fred Meyer claimed that twellly-two aircraft had heen damaged, and thm seveml of the junior pilllls were severely Injured. Later I found out that some of the old flghter pilllls from VF-17

F4U-1D Corsair of VMF-214, 14 July 1944. VMF-214 reformed at Santa Barbara, California, on 8 February 1944 to prepare for a third deployment to the Pacific and carrier duty with CVG-5. Armstrong

98

Two bomb-carrying F4U-1 D Corsairs of VMF-214 skirting the hills. Armstrong

99


'THE SWEETHEART OF OKINAWA'

'THE SWEETHEART OF OKINAWA'

Ensign 'Eric' Erickson of VBF-lO takes up the story again, as from Monday 19 March: japanese Air Group 343 was flying the new NIK2-j

Major Stanley R. Bailey, CO, VMF 214,11 April 1944 to 9 June 1945. VMF-214 trained for carrier duty, and went aboard the USS Franklin on 4 February 1945, beginning operations against the Japanese on 18 March, but the carrier was damaged by kamikazes on 19 March and Fighting Squadron 214 returned to the United States. Armstrong

The explosions ignited thirty-one fuelled and armed Corsairs, Helldivers and Avengers on her flight deck ready for launch, and only superhuman efforts managed to extinguish the blazing inferno that resulted as bombs, fuel and rockets exploded; but even so, 724 men died and a further 265 were wounded. Fran/din survived, but she was now out of action for the rest of the war. She I imped away under her own power and headed for sanctuary at Ulithi Lagoon; ultimately she made it to Pearl.

'Shiden' 21, code-name 'George'.

pilots getting their heads chopped off in a town

suit on, because I could still see the oncoming

What neither of us realized was that Windy

square by their jap captors. The memory alone

aircraft, and without the suit I would have

had JUSt shot down the japanese ace, Lt Kanno,

left me both angry and apprehensi ve as we flew

blacked OUt completely. My vision was clear as

leader of Squadron 301 from Air Group 343'

cleeper over the island.

I put my gunsight direcdy on the lead plane and

joining up, we headed towards the sea. As we

The commander led us across the bay,

fired. The jap pilots were flying in such a tight

traversed the mountains and hills I saw another

making a 180-degree turn, ancl we starred our

section that I raked both planes with .50-calibre

Zero directly below and heading in the oppo-

Derived from a Kawanishi Rex floatplane, the

approach towards the oil storage tanks. At

rounds: my plane shook as the tracers flowed,

site direction. I thought it would be a great

aircraft had gone through many stages of devel-

about 12,000ft f3,650ml we released our belly

and I could see them sparkle against the silver-

opportunity for an overhead run, but since

opmenr. Unlike the Zero, the George had a

ranks and then armed our bombs in the dive:

grey underbellies of the oncoming Zeros. As the

Windy didn't see him, I again thought it

special aUlOmaric flap system that enabled it

lO

our division began the attack, followed closely

lead plane passed over me he was already in

prudent to stick with my section leader.

lUrn on a dime. It also had self-sealing gas tanks,

by the other six planes, and we were met with

flame, trailing thick black smoke; he was so

Cruising back over Shikoku Island, I looked

armour plate lO protect the pilm, and tWO

an absolutely ferocious barrage of antiaircraft

close I could count the rivets in his wings.

over at Windy, who had positioned me a hundred yards to the side of him, and I could-

20mm cannons in each wing. With a lOp speed

fire. Dropping our bombs, firing our rockets, and

Windy was below me and wasn't able to confirm

of 369mph 1594kmph] ar 18,370ft 15,600ml, it

strafing the target, we pulled out over the bay

my kill, but now, out of formation, I wisely

n't believe my eyes: there sat a Tojo on his tail,

was a formidable foe against the Corsair and the

ar 3,000ft [I ,800ml to avoid small anns ground-

decided to form on Windy and not follow the

and all four of the jap's cannons were blinking

plane that I'd lit up.

his way' I shouted a warning to Windy and we

Hellcar. In the hands of a veteran pilm, the

fire, which was as capable of killing us as any-

George was probably one of the best fighters to

thing else. Then all at once a situarion arose

come OUt of the Pacific theatre of war.

that challenged my loyalties.

It was just as well that I diu, because making

immediately broke to weave, but I couldn't get

a turn to join up, I saw another Zeke sitting on

my sights on the enemy with the proper lead. Not wanting to waste ammo, I didn't fire.

Dawn was breaking above the mounrains,

I informed Cdr Hyland that I'd sighted a Rufe

Windy's tail, guns flashing away! We starred our

and what a sight it was, nearly overwhelming'

floatplane taking off in front of us. So he wem

weave, and Hill shouted, 'Shom the son-of-a-

Having Icarneu my lessons well the first time

Having studied arr since the age of eight, I was

after the Rufe, and Hill and I starred to climb.

bitch, Eric, shoot the son-of-a-bitch!' By now

around, I went further OLlt than seemed neces-

fmniliar with japanese prinrs, and had always

But this immediately put me in a dilemma -

we were well into our first weave, and 1

sary. Coming back on the second weave, I had

thought japanese anists had taken a very broad

should I join Hyland, my commander, or con-

answered, 'What the hell do you think I'm

a straight 90-degree deflection shot. I hau to put

anistic licence when they depicted their moun-

tinue with Hill? In a split second I realized there

trying to do?'

my sights directly on Windy's head to get the

tain peaks so sharply poimed, with clouds of

really wasn't a decision to make: my duty was

My first efforts to get him in m.y sights were

proper lead on the enemy aircraft, and it took

mist and fog lying in milky layers at their base.

to fly wing on Windy, ancl so I stuck right with

fruidess, and I quickly realized that we were

real nerves of steel to pull the trigger. BLlt true

But here, before my eyes, was the very embod-

him. Hyland splashed that floatplane, a well

weaving too tight. On the seconu weave, I went

to my training, the tracers seemed to bend

iment of a Hiroshige prim, and with the rising

deserved first victory in his new squadron. My

out far enough to make damn sure I had him

directly into the Tojo' He went ablaze and slid

sun no less, providing that luscious kind of the-

observation had been thar it was a Rufe, a basic

sighted. All this time he had been hammering

to earth as if he was on a greaseu wire. To my

atrical lighting. The colours of the canvas

ero fighter with a float attachment, but

at Windy and I'm sure my partner's drawers were

minu, this was my third victory of the day'

before me literally produced tears of apprecia-

Hyland recorded it as a Rex floarplane, the fore-

a bit moist. The Zeke suddenly broke away to the

tion - but then my mind snapped back to

runner of the George,

would

left of Windy, and now flew directly in front of

reality. I gendy rolled off lO one side lO test my

encoumer shordy. Almost fifty years later I was

me' I could see Windy off to the right, still zig-

guns. Hitting the charger buttons with my feet,

proven right, and the CAG's victim had indeed

ging and zagging, seemingly unaware that his

I pulled the trigger on the control stick and

been in a Rufe' Lt Shunji Yamada of the 951

pursuer hau turned away. In a matter of seconds

found to my satisfaction that all six fifties were

A ir Group survived this encoumer, though his

I had the unwary jap pilot perfectly bracketed

in superb working order.

aircraft was destroyed.

in my sights and then, with all my six guns blaz-

which

we

We crossed the mountains and arrived over

My three years of training were about to pay

ing, blew the Zeke apart! The front part of his

the inlet at 12,000ft [3,650ml. As we ap-

off. No longer did I have to think about a

plane flew on straight and level, but the tail sec-

proached the target, I could see a group of eight

manoeuvre - it was if my aircraft and I were

tion sheared off behind the cockpit and spun

japanese planes circling 6,000ft II ,800m 1above

one! In fact

survive, it was essential that

crazily away. Gaining on him fast, I flew through

[0

us at eleven o'clock. Little did any of us realize

every fighter pilot aboard ship had a very large

all kinds of flaming debris, instinctively uucking

they were from Gend5's 343 Air Group, led by

measure of self-esteem: it was imporranr that he

to avoid getting hit by all the fragments. There

Lt Kanno from the 30 I Squadron. Excitedly, I

thought he was the best, and knew he was,

was no sign of anyone even trying to jump out

radioed Hyland and told him of my sighting,

because this sorr of competitive aggressiveness

of the enemy plane, so I assumed the pilot was

but he informed me he'd already been warch-

wouldn't allow for the possibility that he would

dead. The time it took to make that assumption

ing them for the last few minutes. They we're

be the one to get shot down: his ego wouldn't

was all the thought I gave it.

tail-chasing each other in a circle. One would

allow it. I myself had formed great confidence

I was now high above anu in front of Windy,

do a snap roll, followed by another and then

in two things: my ability to navigare accurately,

and I maue a tLlrn to join up on him. To my

another. Whether they were trying to draw us

but most importandy, I could clamn well hit

amazement he was already shooting at another

away from the target, gening their courage up,

whatever the hell I was aiming at'

or just plain showing off, I do not know. This

The japanese bomber and kamikaze strikes against Task Force 58.2 caused heavy damage to the Enterprise (on 18 March) and Was/) , and also forced their withdrawal from battle, reducing the number of Navy and USMC Corsair fighter squadrons to nine on six carriers. (In fact the Big E returned, but was hit again on 11 and 14 April.) Wasp took a direct hit

that ignited aviation gasoline, wrecking the hangar deck and killing or injuring 370 personnel. Like Franklin, only the bravery and efficiency of her fire crews saved the carrier from extinction, and Wast) was able to recover her aircraft returning from strikes inland. Despite the losses, US pre-invasion strikes continued. But then on 21 March a new threat against the fleet manifested itself: in addition to the suicide bombers, japan could also call upon about fifty single-seat Yokosuka MXY-7 'Ohka' ('Cherry Blossom') 16 1/2ft (5m) long piloted missi les. These 'special attack' ai rcraft were packed with 2,6451b (1 ,200kg) of explosive and powered by three rocket motors; they were taken up from Kanoya by a Betty (Mitsubishi G4M attack bomber) or a Peggy (Mitsubishi Hiryu Ki-67) mother aircraft, and once Allied shipping had been sighted, would be launched from 20,000ft (6,000m) to make diving attacks on ships at over 400mph (650kmph). The Americans called them 'Bakas' (baka is japanese for 'fool'). On the afternoon of the 21st, eighteen of these Bakas were inbound, escorted by thirty Zekes; however, the Hellcats of TG58.1 mainly dealt with the threat. Then on 23 March Okinawa was attacked again, and Corsairs from VMF-1l2 and VMF-123, together with VF-82, destroyed twenty-six suicide boats and damaged military targets on the island. On the 24th, eight Corsairs from Intrepid used 'Tiny Tim' rockets for the first time, on caves at Okinawa. In fact these rockets were considered inaccurate and unreliable, and were later withdrawn from use; and as if to prove the point, one of the Corsairs

ero' I watcheu as his quarry burst into flame

After we'd climbed to 3,000ft [1,800mll sud-

and the pilot scrambled aLIt. He was wearing a full length, dark brown flight suit and an aston-

was my first encoumer with enemy fighters, and

denly realized, as had Windy, that we were

staring at the bright red meatballs on their

alone! I kept a very watchful eye on the circling

ished expression. As his chute billowed I tried

wings and fuselages, it seemed as though I was

enemy aircraft above us, and as we continued

to get my sights on him, but to no avail. At the

watching a movie unreel before my eyes. We

to climb, two of the Zekes did a snap roll and

time I diun't think of shooting the parachute.

were indeed over japan' However, I couldn't

flew straight down towards us. As they came

Later I heard it might not be a goou thing to

help thinking of an article thar had been

within range I pulled up into them, pulling back

do, as it didn't help the treatment given to our

recendy published in Life magazine, where a

on the stick - and then I greyed out for a few

PaWs below. I had no moment to consider this

Yokosuka MXY-7 'Ohka' ('Cherry Biossom'l16V2ft (5mllong piloted missiles.

seconds. Thank God I had my ami-blackout

either - I was at war.

via Peter C Smith

full-page pholO showed some downed B-24

100

101


'THE SWEETHEART OF OKINAWA'

'THE SWEETHEART OF OKINAWA"

was struck by one of them, and had to make a forced landing on the Yorktown. The most significant attacks started at first light on Easter Sunday, 1 April, when CVG-84 - including Corsairs ofVMF-221 'Fighting Falcons' and VMF-451 'Blue Devils' - on Bunker Hill, and VMF-1l2 and -123 on Bennington, bombed and strafed beaches with napalm and gunfire as a prelude to more than 200,000 men being landed on Okinawa. Two days later, kamikaze attacks off Okinawa threatened to disrupt the invasion, and the American fighter shield was hard pressed to cope with the suicide planes. But twelve Corsairs of VMF-451 joined up with sixteen Hellcats on an attack mission over Amami-O-Shima and Kikai jima, and this was highly successful, the Corsairs destroying eleven of the kamikaze wh ile the Hellcats bagged the others. Then on the 6th and 7th, the largest concentration of kamikaze ever experienced so far appeared over the fleet. About 700 aircraft took off from Kyushu, and of these, 355 (230 Navy and 125 Army) were flown by suicide pilots bent on sinking a carrier or some other shipping. More than 200 of the kamikaze were shot down by the fast carrier force, and fifty more by the escort carriers; but twenty-eight kamikaze got past the combined air and sea defences and each hit a US ship, sinking three of them. On the 'up' side, on the first day Corsairs of VMF-221 'Fighting Falcons' and VMF-451 'Blue Devils from Bunker Hill splashed twelve of the suicide planes, and on the second day, Corsairs from Bunker Hill and Bennington claimed seventeen of them.

'Imperial Sacrifice' Some measure of retribution for the suicide attacks was achieved on 7 April, one of the biggest days in the history of VBF-lO. Early in the morning two target CAPs from the Intre/)id were launched over Okinawa: Cdr Hyland, who led one flight, succeeded in shooting down a Val over the target, and his flight then proceeded to Tokuno, where they destroyed a twin-engine and a single-engine plane and damaged other grounded aircraft in revetments. (During the same day Ensign Raymond V. Lanthier jr, flying a target CAP, shot down a Tojo, and Lt Moran, flying CAP, damaged a Myn snooper.) Meanwhile aboard the Intre/)id, consid-

erable exci tement was created by the report, made at 0830 by an Essex search plane, of a japanese task group in the East China Sea steaming south towards Okinawa. It was composed of the superbattleship Yamato, an Agano class cruiser, an Oyodo class cruiser, and seven destroyers. In fact the Yamato, a 64,1 70-ton beast with nine 18.1in guns, had put to sea with only enough fuel for a one-way kamikaze trip of her own. The japanese task group was shadowed by two PBM Mariner flying boats, which held contact for five hours despite being shot at by their prey. At 0915, Admiral Mitscher sent off sixteen fighters to track the Yamato, and at 0100, Task Groups 58.1 and 58.3 began launching a 280-plane strike. Included in this group were ninety-eight torpedo-carrying Avengers. The Hancock was 15min late in sending off their fifty-three-plane cormibution. TG58A followed this main strike with 106 planes; among them were twelve Corsairs ofVBF-10, led by Lt Cdr Wilmer E. Rawie, a former Dauntless pilot, who was also leader of the seventy-five planes of TG58A. One of the VBF-10 Corsairs was flown by Ensign 'Eric' Erickson, who clearly recalls this period: It was 1030. I was resting in my sack, having

I had never seen so much helter-skelter as the deck officer directed me forwards. He rorated his flag violently and then pointed it down the deck. Pushing the throrrle full forward, my plane rose from the deck, and I joined up on a division that was missing a plane. I found myself flying wing on Wes Hays from Texas ILt (jg) Wesley M. I-lays was leading VBF-IO's third division]. Lt (jg) Hollister and Ensign Carlisse fi lied the other two slors. On the way ro the target the sky became increasingly black due to rain squalls and the heavy weather front that the japs were using as cover. Still groggy from this unexpected call to duty I cranked off the cap to the canreen and rook a swallow of water. I grabbed the candy bar that I had stuffed in a trouser leg of my flight suit, and thought about how considerate the plane caprain had been. It provided me with a new surge of energy as I slid under the lead plane. Now the rain squalls were gerring worse and visibility was lessening. Looking down at the water I could see white caps below, and I estimated the wind to be around 25 knots - nor a good day to make a water landing. But this time there

Lt Hal Jackson (second from the right) on

were no imaginary noises frolll Illy engine, as

ABOVE:

there had been on my first combat flight: it was

board USS Intrepid immediately after the Yamato

purring like a kirren. Checking all the instru-

attack. Hal Jackson via Robert Bailey

Lt Hal Jackson pictured in 1943 with VF-17

menrs the plane seemed to be functioning prop-

RIGHT:

erly. By now we had travelled for over two

wren he was a Lt (jgl. via Lee Cook

hours searching the sea through this muck,

served as the duty officer for the early morning

looking for the elusive japanese Fleet. I hadn't

0600 flights, when suddenly over the squawk

been presenr at the briefing so I had no way of

he prepares to make his final assault: how could

box I heard the message: 'Ensign Erickson reporr

knowing exactly where we were headed, but by

all those ships down there miss when they were

to the ready room" I put on my panrs and shirr

plorring the time and course I knew we were

armed with all that sophisticated radar? It w"s

and slipped into a pair of loafers; in case I had

somewhere south and west of Kyushu.

a true test of courage! Even the Yamaw's 18in guns were shooting at our approaching aircraft

to go for a swim, I wanted to be able to get out

At about 1330 my skipper, Lt Cdr Rawie

of my shoes fast. I hurried down the corridor,

('Red One') was about ready to rum back. We

(as they had in vain at the flying boats), and in

through several hatches, crossed the hangar

were flying at 1,500ft 1450ml when suddenly,

addition to her big guns, she was able to fire on

deck and thence up the ladder to the ready

through rhe scud, I saw a massive grey strucrure

us with her twenty-four 5in guns and "bout 150

room. Uncompromisingly the duty officer said,

directly beneath me: I was the first in our group

25mm guns. The light cruisers and the destroy-

'Get on deck!' One of my buddies, Ensign Ecker,

to see it - the biggest damn battleship in the

ers joined in the crescendo'

had injured his hand the day before and was

world, the mammoth 64,000-ton Yamato' It had

We tried to get our sights on the barrleship,

unable ro fly, so I had to rake his place. They

been hiding under rain squalls and low clouds.

but we had starred our run so low it was impos-

needed every available pilot. I didn't know who

I transmirred the message to 'Red One' that the

sible. I could see men scrambling all over the

I was flying with, and was completely unaware

Yamato was directly below, and Wes Hays sig-

deck in what looked like mass hysteria' Where

of the urgent situation. jorring down 'Poinr

nalled us to starr our arrack' So we whipped

were they all going? Diving and pouring on the

Option' on my plorring board, and purring on

into a fast 180-degree rum in an arrempt ro get

juice, we crossed over the Yamaw "nd strafed the

my flight gear while noring the deck assignmenr

on it, and as we broke through the 1,500ft

hell out of it: I could see bodies flying all over the

for the aircraft, I left the ready room.

ceiling, the ship appeared to be almost dead in

place! In return, the sky was bursting with thou-

Pilots were firing up their engines, and many

the water, though still in a slow left turn.

sands of brass wires as the japs' guns zeroed in on

were already in the air. I crawled aboard my

Smoking destroyers were allover the place, but

us - and looking down, I wondered why I wasn't

assigned plane and strapped myself in. The plane

only two could be seen swiftly manoeuvring

gerring hit, as the tracers were so close you could

captain handed me a chocolate bar and a can-

through the water. With no enemy aircraft to

smell the cordite! Black flak bursts were bounc-

teen of water, and in surprise I asked what the

repel our arracks, it was a Navy pilor's dream.

hell it was for: I had never before been treared

Even so, I had watched our task force shoor

with so much arrenrion. He said, 'Haven't you

down kamikazes like they were ducks in a shoor-

heard) They have located the jap fleet"

ing my plane Violently from side to side, and the sky was turning dark: I thought that for sure, this was the day I would meet my maker!

ing gallery, and my immediate thought was:

I could re"d the wake of the light cruiser

Suddenly I appreciated the full implication of

'Oh my God! Now I'm the sirring duck!'

Yahagia, an Oyodo class cruiser, as it rurned

the huge I ,0001b 1450kgl bomb under my plane.

Now I know how a kamikaze pi lor must feel as

around towards the Yamalo to help protect it.

102

103


'THE SWEETHEART OF OKINAWA'

'THE SWEETHEART OF OKINAWA'

This was my first time to wing Wes, but I knew

While we were circling, I noticed great spouts

he was heauing directly toward the cruiser' I

of water rise from the ocean floor. My first thought was that some of us hadn't dropped our

moved in closer and closer on him and concentrated on his aircraft as we dropped our bombs in unison. After releasing our ordnance we headed for c10uu cover; and then, as if on a roller coaster, we dived back down and skimmed along the ocean floor, strafing the destroyer Isokaze that lay dead ahead. Flashes of bright light were blinding us as the destroyer tried to evade our attack - and then suddenly it stopped firing as it burst into flames, and dark black smoke poured from its deck. We passed over it and pulled up again into the low cloud cover. We thought we were au( of range of enemy fire, anu as we looked back, the cruiser and destroyer were indeed no longer in view [the third division was credited with three direct hits and one near miss on the Oyodo class cruiser]. We circled at 5,000fr [1,500m] and 5 miles [8km] from the Yamato; the clouds starred to clear, and we could see the battleship and the rest of our group making their attack.

ordnance and were now doing so, but this was not the case: in fact it was the damn Yamato, still shooting their big 18.1 guns at us - the largest guns in the world' Then Air Group 10's divebombers, torpedo planes and fighter-bomber pilots completed their run, and all at once there was a terrific explosion, and great billows of black smoke were sent skywards over 6,000ft 12,000m]: it was the end of the biggest battleship in the world!

Lt Cdr Wilmer E. Rawie's own division had scored two hits and one near miss on the Angano cruiser, and his second division, led by twenty-four-year-old Texan Lt Robert 'Hal' Jackson, went one better. Known as the 'nightwatchman of the wardroom', Jackson, who was attending law school when Pearl Harbor was attacked, managed to sustain a completely

bohemian existence amidst the otherwise regimented life aboard ship. Never on the flight deck except to take off, the only way Hal could tell whether it was night or day was by the activity in the wardroom. He led his flight of four VBF-IO Corsairs as high roving cover, and carried out a rollercoaster type approach in order to avoid fire from the Yamaco's gunners. He wrote: 'The four of us came in at the Yamaw at low level, and delivered our bombs as we swept over the ship. The flak was very intense. Then we got the hell out of there as fast as we could, continuing our roller-coaster manoeuvring. One hit and several misses were observed on the ship. We circled the area below the overcast, and shortly afterwards there was a tremendous explosion.' Hal's four Corsairs were the last aircraft to attack the Yamaw, and they were credited with a direct hit and two near misses on the battleship. They also strafed one of the destroyers, scoring many hits and

Cannon-armed F4U路1C Corsairs of VMF路311 'Hell's Belles' on board the USS Breton (CVE路231. USNA

~

Flight Petty Officer (First Class) Hyoji Ueda in the cockpit of an Ohka at Kanoya Air Base, Japan, in April 1945. By courtesy of the Association of Comrades in Arms of the Divine Thunderbolt Corps. via Peter C. Smith

104

F4U路1 D Corsairs of VMF-323 returning to base after a close air support mission over Okinawa. USMC

105


'THE SWEETIIEART OF OKINAWA'

starting a number of fires. Ensign 'Eric' Erickson concludes the report of this episode: The giant warship listed heavily to porr, and at 1423 disappeared undenv,ller, followed by

my mind, a ncar miss might actually have done more damage than a direct hil, since a bomb at the waterline could have hlown open the scams, and may have been the bomb thm sank the ship! No one told us that the low card

various cxplo~ion~ of rupturing compartments

would receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the high cards would receive the Navy

and her magazines. Il had taken ten torpedoes

Cross! The Navy Cross was one of the Illosl

and five direct bomh hits to sink the Yamaw,

coveted awards that the Navy could bestow upon a pilot - a pilot can spend his entire career

though thIs was less than her sister ship MQSQ.lhi, which had reqlllred cleven torpedoes

flying for the Navy, and never ever have the

and sixteen bomhs to send her down in the

opportunity to receive such a distinction. The

Sibuyan Sea the previous October. Two light cruisers in the Ya1l1aw force were sent to the

consequences of this draw continues to gnaw at me to this very day!

ocean noor; one destroyer wa~ ~lInk outright;

and three others were so severely damaged that

asked one of the pilots mulling around there to

Hal Jackson had hoped that the occult powers he demonstrated with cards aboard the Intrepid would help him in studying and practising law in Denton, Texas, where his wife Barbara, waited for him. He finished the war with one Betty and three Zekes confirmed, and was awarded the Silver Star for his role in sinking the Yamato. And when he went home in 1945, he finished his law studies and pracLised criminal law until retirement. On the following day, 8 April, Corsairs of VMF-224 destroyed three Iwmi/wze trying to dive on destroyers on picket duty moored off Okinawa to give radar warning of approaching aircraft. More Corsairs arrived from Guada1canal, Espiritu Santo, and Manus Island on CVEs during the first week of April to lend air surport in the Battle of Okinawa. F4U-I Cs, F4U-l Ds and FG-l Ds of VMF-311 'Hell's Bells', VMF312 'Day's Knights', VMF-322 'Fighting ocks', VMF-323 'Death Rattlers', and MAG-14's VMF-224 'Fighting Wildcats' and VMF-441 'BlackJacks', were Aown oFf the CVEs, some during /wmi/<.aze attacks, to land at Yonton and Kadena airfields. On 7 April, while launching Corsairs of MAG-31 from the Aight decks of the Sitkoh Bay (CVE-86) and Breton (CVE-23), a Kawasaki Ki-48 Lily kamikaze bomber, Aying at 500ft (l50m) was engaged about 10 miles (16km) from the CVEs. The combined firepower of five of VMF-311's Corsairs blasted the Iwmikaze out of the sky just 50yd short o( its inLended Larget, the

shuffle lhe cards. lie placed the cmds on the

Sitlwh Bay.

rahle and asked if we wished to cut. One of

Based at Roi from January 1944, VMF224 had taken part in strikes on the Marshalls before moving to Yontan on 7 April. VMF-441 had also operated from Roi and conducted strikes against Wotje and Maloelap before moving to Yontan with the 'Fighting Wildcats'. The USM squadrons entered the fray immediately.

they were scuttled. The four other destroyers were damaged to vmying degrees. Only 269 men survived the Yamaw: 2,498, including her captain anti the force commander, went down

with her, and almost 1,200 more men were lost floundering in the sea. With the light cruiser and destroyers that were sunk, 3,700 lives were lost in tillS, the gTemeSl kamikaze sonic of all. By way of comparison, remarkably TF 58's carriers lost just three fighters, four dive-bombers, three torpedo planes 'lIld twelve fliers. One of the aircraft, a Corsair, was lost in a mid,air col ..

lision en rollle to the attack. Our air group rendezvoused all ils planes and headed for home. Not one of our aircraft was shot down, and only a few tail feathers were lost in this auspicious attack. Back in the ready room aboard Inlre/)id, five hours and fifty minutes laler, our division was asked to identify who hit and who missed the cruiser we sank. The pictures taken by the photo planes showed three hits and one ncar miss. Of course, trying to identify your homh from the others was impossible, since the four of us had dropped our bomhs together at the lead of our division leader, 'md lhen immediately pulled up through the low-lying clouds. One of the pilots, however, exclaimed: 'I saw my bomb hit" And sO the remaining lhree of us were asked to draw cards to decide who had dropped the homb that was the ncar miss

Oil

the cnd~cr: the low card

would receive that honour' The three of us walked over to the gaming table still set up in the pilots' ready room, and

us Cut the cards and he replaced the cur under the pack. I grahbed a section of cmds, as did the others. Turning the carli> over, I discovered rhm I had drawn

the deuce of hearts!

At the time I did not realize its importance, and merely thought, 'The whole damn war is like this, it's just the luck of the draw" To

106

'TIIE SWEETIIEART OF OKINAWA'

On 12 April the land-based USM orsairs shot down sixteen enemy aircraft, eight of them by Major Richard M. Day's VMF-312. (Day was KIA on l3 May 1945.) The four USMC Corsair squadrons from Bennington and Bunker Hill destroyed fifty-one other kamikaze, five of them falling to the guns of Major Archie Donahue CO ofVMF-451, thus raking his personal score to fourteen confirmed victories. VF-84 from Bunker Hill waded in with eight victories, while VBF-83 from the Essex destroyed seven kamikaze bombers. VBF-lO from the Intrepid claimed twenty-six kamikaze for the loss of three Corsairs, whose pilots were saved. But despite the Corsairs' best efforts, fourteen US ships were damaged during the mass suicide attacks on 12/13 April by an estimated 185 aircraft. On 14 April, six F4U-ID pilots of VMF-1l2, Aying over Iheya Shima, destroyed nine l<.amikaze. As Lt Dennis' target burst into Aames, the pilot was thrown out and he struck the bulletproof windshield before bouncing off to the side and away. Later, Dennis found the remains of kamikaze silk Aying clothes on h is aircraft. On 16 April a massive air battle took place off Okinawa as the enemy put up masses of kamikaze aircraft and Ohkapiloted missiles. The land-based Corsair squadrons brought down thirty-six kamikaze, with seventeen kills being awarded to twelve Corsairs of Major R. O. White's VMF-441: these succeeded in breaking up an attack by twenty-five Bettys, Va Is and Zeros on the destroyer Laffey. In his first aerial combat, 2nd Lt William Eldridge shot down four enemy aircraft in four minutes. Three F4Us were lost, and one pilot was killed. The carrierborne Combat Air Patrol fighters destroyed twenty-nine enemy aircraft without loss. Pride of place went to VF-I 0 'Grim Reapers' from the Intrepid, which destroyed twenty kamikaze over northern Okinawa. One VF-I0 F4U-ID pilot, Ensign (later Lr) (jg) Alfred Lerch, shot down six Nakajima Ki-27 Nates and a Val north-west of Okinawa. On the down side, two kamikaze put his carrier out of action, with the loss of twenty fighters destroyed. Furthermore, ten men killed and almost lOO more injured, and the 1ntrel)id was (orced to leave the area for repairs at Alameda. (On 21 April the carrier Shangr-i La, with VBF-85 'Sky Pirates' in Air Group 85 embarked, left Ulithi for the first of three sorties, remaining at sea until

14 May, conducting operations in support of the Okinawa campaign.) Intrepid took no further part in the Pacific War, and VF10 was decommissioned on 26 November 1945. On 22 April the CAP was increased to thirty-two Corsairs and other fighters over the task force, and twelve USMC Corsairs were held on ground alert. No enemy attacks were encountered during the day, but at about 1800 hours the dusk USM CAP was vectored towards the destroyers on the radar picket line where eighty or so kamikaze had appeared. Ground-based Marine Corsairs were credited with the destruction of 33.75 enemy aircraft that tried desperately to attack and sink them. Of these, 24.75 were credited to VMF323, which waded in 50 miles (80km) north of Aguni Shima. Major Jefferson D. Dorroh, the 'Death Rattlers' executive officer, shot down six Vals in the space of twenty minutes; he was also awarded tlVO 'probables'. Major George C. Axtell Jr, the CO, destroyed five of the Vals in fifteen minutes, and received credit for three more damaged. 1st Lt Jeremiah 'jerry' J. O'Keefe also bagged five Vals, including one that tried to ram him after being set on fire. VMF-224 and VMF-441 destroyed five and three kamikaze respectively. VMF-323 would finish the Okinawa campaign with 124.5 victories without loss. Corsairs of VMF-224 'Fighting Wildcats' and VMF-441 'Black Jacks' were credited with eight victories on 22 April. On 27 and 28 April, the land-based Corsairs had another field day, being credited with another 35.5 aerial victories. On the 28th VMF-22 I were credited with shooting down fourteen enemy aircraft, and sixteen Corsairs of VF-84 destroyed eighteen out of twenty-eight kamikaze trying to get to the fleet. On 4 May the first operational cannonarmed F4U-4s to reach Okinawa went into action, being credited with the destruction of 60.5 Japanese aircraft, most of them kamikaze, the second highest single day total for the USMC in the war. Six days later, on 10 May, the escort carrier Block Island, with VMF-5 11 's eight F4U-IDs, eight F6F-5Ns and six F6F-5Ps, went into action off Okinawa. The same day two Corsairs piloted by Captain Kenneth Reusser and Lt R. Klingman of VMF-312 on early CAP, chased a Kawasaki KiA5 Toryu ('dragon slayer') reconnaissance aircraft to 38,000ft (J 1,600m), firing at intervals. Reusser

expended the last of his ammunition damaging the twin-engined fighter's port engine, but when Klingman got to within 50ft (15m), his guns were frozen and would not fire. Undaunted, Klingman closed in and sliced the Nick's tail surfaces off with his rropeller, and the enemy aircraft spun down to 15,000ft (4,500m) where the wings came off. Klingman managed to make a deadstick landing back on Okinawa. Next day, 11 May, l35 Val kamikaze took off from Kokobu Airfield's Airstrip 2 and headed for TF 58 again. They sighted two destroyers, and over fifty orbited before diving down on the Evans and the Hugh W. Hadley. In a battle lasting an hour and a half without pause, the destroyers claimed thirty-eight of the suiciders, and the USMC Corsairs from Yontan and Kadena finished off another nineteen before running low on ammunition. When the Hadley called for more from the Marine Corsairs, the squadron leader rerlied, 'I'm out of ammunition but I'm sticking with you!' He and the rest of his orsairs did just that, Aying straight into a formation of ten kamikaze heading fore and aft towards the destroyer, and breaking them up amid ack ack fire from the sh ips. The two destroyers suffered four kami/<.aze hits apiece, but thanks to the intervention of the Corsairs, they survived. Commander Mullaney of Hadley wrote: 'I am willing to take my ship to the shores of japan if I could have these Marines with me.' Meanwhile, eight pilots of VF-84 'Wolf ang' bounced about thirty Iwmikaze over Kikai, and in two passes they destroyed eleven of them before returning to Bunker Hill. But then came disaster, because just as Admiral Marc Mitscher's Aag carrier was recovering some of her fighters, she was hit by a Zeke kami/wze. It crashed into the Aight deck aft of the no. 3 elevator, and almost immediately the carrier then suffered a second strike when a Judy crashed into the Aight deck at the base of the island. The Zeke released its delayedaction bomb as it hit, then skidded along the Aigh t deck to set rows of ai rcraft on fire. The judy pilot released his bomb just before impact, and it went through the Aigh t deck and exploded on the gallery deck. The kamikaze penetrated the Aight deck at the base of the island, and poured aviation fuel into the gallery and hangar decks, which were soon on fire at all three levels. It took fire crews 51h hours to put

107

out the fires that engulfed the Aight and hangar decks, and 400 men were either dead or missing. Bunker Hill was finished as a fighting ship, and VMF-221 and VMF-45 I were eFfectively out of the war too, although fifteen Corsairs of VMF-221 were still airborne during the tragedy. They shot down four kamikaze in the attack, and the surviving F4Us landed on the Enterl)rise. VMF(N)-543 aboard ship off Okinawa was hit badly when a kamikaze exploded on deck, wounding five men and destroying equipment. VMF-322 aboard LST 599 was also hit. All 424 tons of vehicles and cargo, and all gear were lost. Seven men were wounded. Four days later the Enterprise was hit by Jwmikaze: a Zeke (identified as Lt Tomia Kai by Robert Leckie) successfully hit the forward elevator and exploded five decks below, and thirteen men were killed and sixty-eight wounded. See Leckie, R., The Last Air Battle of World War II (Viking, 1995). Though badly damaged, Enterprise managed to remain in action for several more hours, shooting down two more diving Zekes, before the Big E too was out of the battle. Enter/)rise limped away from the battle zone and headed for safer waters at Ulithi. On 21 May, Corsairs of MAG-22, VMF-Il3, -314 and -422, began arriving at Ie Shima from Engebi, although three F4Us were lost in bad weather en route. Four days later, 165 kamikaze launched themselves against the Aeet near Ie Jima, sinking two ships and damaging nine others. Four F4Us of VMF-312 intercepted and destroyed twelve out of a formation of twenty kamikaze north of Kadena airfield. One of 'Day's Knights' victorious pilots was Captain Herbert J. Valentine, who became the ninth and last Corsair pilot in World War II to become an ace in a day when he destroyed six enemy aircraft. Valentine was credited with two Zekes, two Tojos and a Val, and the joint destruction of two Vals (one with 1st Lt William Farrell, who was credited with four other kills and a rrobable), plus a Zeke probable. VMF-422 scored six out of twelve, and the Marines shot down a total of thirty-nine japanese planes this day. On 27 May, Jaranese suicide planes made fifty-six raids of two to four planes each throughout the day on the Aeet off Okinawa. USMC Corsairs accounted for thirty-two /wmikaze on this and the next day, and Army Air Force P-47 Thunderbolts shot down seventeen more.


'THE SWEETIIEART OF OKINAWA'

'THE SWEETIIEART OF OKINAWA'

At the start of June, the on Iy Corsa irs left on the fast carriers belonged to VBF83 on Essex land VBF-85 'Sky Pirates' in Air Group 85 on the carrier Shangri La. They were joined at the end of June by VBF-6, en route to Okinawa on board the Hancock, Air Group 88 with thirty-seven F4U-IDs of VBF-88 on Yorl<town, and F4U-43s of VBF-94 on Lexington. VBF-83 had been commissioned on 2 January 1945, and during its only tour its F4U- LOs notched up ninety-one aerial victories. VBF-85, which operated F4U-IC, F4U10 Corsairs and F6F-5N and -5P aircraft, were credited with the destruction of forty enemy aircraft. VBF-6 flew FG-IDs in combat from 18 March to 8 April, and F4U-4s from 20 June to IS August. It scored seventeen victories for the loss of six Corsairs and three pilots killed on operations, and six Corsairs and their pilots lost in operational accidents. VBF88 operated thirty-seven FG-IDs and destroyed five enemy aircraft. VBF-94 operated the F4U-4, losing one pilot during training, seven in action, and four killed in operational accidents. Four Corsair squadrons were still operating on CVEs Block Island (VMF-51 l with eight F4U-IDs), Gilben Islands (VMF-512), Cape Gloucester (VMF-351 with eight FG-I Os) and Vella Gulf (VMF513 'Flying Nightmares'). MCVG- Land VMF-511 were used to support the landings at Balikpappen. After being used in support of operations against Okinawa in May, MCVG-2 and VMF-512 were used on airfield suppression missions at Sakishima Retto during June, before supporting the landings at Balikpappen. In July, MCVG-4 and VMF-35 L's Corsairs were used to provide support for minesweeping and strikes in the East China Sea, while MCVG-3 and VMF-5l3 arrived at Saipan late in July, and in August served briefly at Okinawa. On 8 June the last two Marine Corsair squadrons aboard a big carrier, VMF-112 'Wolfpack' and VMF-123 'Eight-Balls' on Bennington, carried out a final strike mission, bombing Kadena airfield on Kyushu with special 500lb (225kg) bombs. After this, Bennington sailed south for Leyte Gulf and home. The two squadrons lost thirty-one aircraft in combat and seventeen in operational crashes; eighteen pilots were killed, but fifteen others were rescued. (Bennington was the only one of the original ten Essex-class carriers not to be hit by the kamikaze, although none of

them were ever actually sunk.) That same day, the first flight of the F4U-4 model, from VMF-212, arrived at Kadena airfield on Okinawa by way of Clark Field. Two days later, the F4U-4s of VMF-212 obtained their first victory. On 14 June, sixty-four land-based orsairs rocketed, bombed and dropped napalm on the enemy entrenched in the hills on Okinawa, which was finally secured on 21 June. On 22 June, MAG-14 F4U-4s scored their ninth and last victory, and Captain Ken A. Walsh, now with VMF-222 as its operations officer, bagged a Zeke kamikaze IS miles (24km) north of Okinawa, to take his final score to twentyone enemy planes destroyed. The twelve USMC Corsair squadrons had by now shot down a total of 436 enemy aircraft; with VMF-323 getting the most, with 124 confirmed victories. Next came VMF-311 'Hell's Bells' with seventy-one, VMF-312 'Day's Knights' with 60 I/z-4-7, and VMF224 'Fighting Wildcats' with 55-3-0. Of the 1,900 kamikaze sorties during the battIe for Okinawa, only L4.7 per cent were effective. Even so, twenty-five US and RN ships were sunk, 157 were damaged by hits, and ninety-seven others were damaged by near m isses. Total USN casualties on board ships in the Okinawa campaign were 9,73 L, of whom 4,907 were killed. Most of them were attributed to the

kamikaze. On 30 June 1945, the Pacific Tactical Air Force numbered 288 F4U-s, thirty-six F6F-5Ns, 144 P-47s, twelve P-5Is, sixteen P-38s and two F6F-5Ps. During July the USN accepted 303 Corsairs from Vought (the highest of any month) and 180 from Goodyear, and the remaining carrierborne Corsairs in the Japanese home waters carried out strikes on Japan and against enemy warships. On 1 July, Okinawa-based Corsairs escorted Army B25s in the first medium bomber attack on Japan since the 0001 ittIe ra id, and on IS August two carrier plane strikes were sent against Tokyo, but were recalled when it was announced that Japan had finally and unconditionally surrendered. Lt Cdr Thomas H. Reidy, the acting CO of VBF83, who had nine air-to-air victories to his name, shot down a Myrt to make his score ten before the recall. Probably it was the last enemy aircraft shot down in World War II. Reidy returned to the Essex, but as he made his approach, he discovered that he could not get his flaps down. He remained aloft while the rest of his

708

squadron landed aboard, and then came in for a safe landing. He eased the throttle to taxi away from the landing area, but there was no response from the engine, and the prop just turned more and more slowly until finally it stopped. Reidy remarked, 'I guess the airplane knew the war was over" Japan was still thought to have 10,700 operational aircraft left, half of them ready for suicide attacks. If the Japanese had carried on fighting and the Allies had been forced to invade Japan, the losses would have been incalculable. On 2 September 1945, VJ Day, there were nine F4U Corsair squadrons on seven carriers in the area of Japan. Three more carriers were en route: Intrepid (CV-II) with CVG (Air Group)-IO, including thirty-six F4UlOs of VFB-IO; Boxer (CV-21), with Air Group 93; and Antietam (CV-36), with Air Group 89, including VF-89. In the Pacific, Corsairs were credited with the destruction of 2,140 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, for the loss of 189 F4U-s. Of these, USMC Corsairs claimed the lion's share, destroying 1,100 fighters and 300 bombers, for the loss of 14l F4Us. A further 349 USMC and USN F4Us were shot down by anti-aircraft fire, 230 were lost from other causes, 692 were written off on non-operational flights, and 164 were destroyed in crashes on carriers or airfields. A dozen squadrons in the Solomon Islands-Rabaul area of operations gained 64 per cent of all the USM victories. Some 903 of the victories were attributed to eight squadrons: VMF-I22, -124, -211, -212, -213, -214, -2L5 and -221. Land-based Navy Corsairs shot down 162 Japanese aircraft for the loss of fourteen F4Us, and destroyed another 578 at sea for the loss of thirty-four Corsairs in air-to-air combat. VF-17 'Jolly Rogers', the most famous USN Corsair unit, destroyed 152 enemy aircraft in the Solomons during its first tour, 27 October to J December 1943, before it converted to Hellcats for its second tour of duty. Some 64,051 operational sorties (54,470 from land bases and 9,581 from aircraft carriers) were made by Corsairs from 13 February 1942 to the end of the war. During that time the Corsair's total victory tally of 2,140 Japanese aircraft destroyed for the loss of 189 F4Us gave a victory ratio of 11.3 to I. It must have seemed to the majority, that September, that propeller-driven aircraft such as the Corsair would no longer be needed now that peace had

finally been achieved. By February 1945 Vought had delivered its 4,996 'h F4U. Du ri ng Septem ber 1945, Corsa ir production was severely reduced, with the Navy accepting only forty-one F4Us from Vought and sixty-eight from Goodyear; and after that, the Goodyear orsair production line was stopped. A contract for 2,500 FG-4s was reduced to twelve, then scrapped altogether. Before VJ Day, total Vought F4U-4 production stood at 1,912. Vought continued producing F4U-4s until April 1946, raising the total number of this model built to 2,357. The Corsair was kept in production with a further 397 F4U-5 models being built during L946-47, and the last (of a batch of forty-five F4U-5N conversions) was delivered to the Navy in September 195 L. orsair production ceased on Christmas

Eve 1952, with the last of ninety-four F4U-7s rolling off the production lines. In one of the longest production runs of all time, a total of 12,571 Corsairs had been built. Post-war, four months after demobilization, there were twenty-five Navy and twenty-one USMC fighter flying Corsairs. The Japanese surrender in 1945 created a vacuum in China, and the Communist and Nationalist forces took up opposing stances. The US tried to mediate between the two sides, and USMC squadrons were used in sporadic operations in northern China as tensions boiled over; a number of US personnel were killed. Among the air units involved were F4U-4s of VMF224 and VMF-311 in MAG-32, F4U-4s of VMF-323 and F4U-5N night fighters of VMF-542 of MAG-12, and F4U-4s of

109

VMF-115 and VMF-211 in MAG-H. VMF-224 and VMF-3I1 were withdrawn from China in June 1946 and VMF-32 and VMF-542 followed in September. VMF-I L5 and VMF-21 1 were among the last units to leave, in April 1947. In January 1949 the Nationalist Ch inese set up a government in exile on the island of Formosa (Taiwan), and in May the last of the US units left China. Tension in the area remained, and it was to spread to other parts of south-east Asia. Despite the subsequent decommissioning of many of the Corsair units and the advent of the jet fighter, as the 1950s dawned several Corsair squadrons would once again be required to fight a major war in the east.


CORSAIR MODELS

The Goodyear models were built without the wing-folding mechanism, and served with shore-based US Marine Corps squadrons. The water-injected, two-stage, two-speed supercharged R-2800-8W engine, capable of 2,000hp at 2,700rpm at sea level, was installed on 25 November 1943, beginning with Bu No. 17560, the I ,551st aircraft, and the modification was standardized on both the F4U-ID and the Goodyear FG-I D. The water-injection system mixes water with the fuel-air mixture feeding the engine. The water inhibits detonation in the engine's cylinders, which allows higher manifold pressures for extra power during ell).ergencies without detonating the ensltl.e to scrap. The F4U-I's water-injection system had three tanks totalling 10.3 US gal (391). The system was activated when the throttle handle was pushed past the throttle stop into the 'war emergency power' (WEP) position. Vought built 2,080 F4U-IAs.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Corsair Models In [he Navy Reserve in Birmingham we had F4U-4s - which were okay compared [() [he -5s - [hen F4U-5s, [hen we gO[ ADs. 1 had only flown [he AD [\Vo hours, and 1 liked [he AD bener [han 1 ever liked any Corsair. GFne Hendrix, 1951

Brewster-built Corsair III (F3A-1l JS491. via Philip Jarrett

Vought F4U-l/Corsair II Brewster F3A-l/Corsair III/ Goodyear FG-l/Corsair IV An initial production contract for 584 F4U-ls was placed on 30 June 1941. Although it proved to be unsuitable for use aboard US carriers, the F4U-I was more than useful as a land-based aircraft, and was issued to US Marine Corps squadrons where it replaced the Grumman F4F-l. Goodyear began delivery of the licence-built FG-l in April 1943. Brewster completed the first licence-built F3A-l model on 26 April 1943, and started deliveries of this version in June that same year.

F4U-1 with rocket installation under the wings; 25 October 1944. Vought

Brewster built just 735 F3A-1 models, 430 of which were Corsair 111s for the Royal Navy, before the factory was closed by the US Navy on 1 July 1944 because of the company's failure to meet delivery dates. Altogether, Vought constructed 4,699 F4U-l series Corsairs. The first Goodyearbuilt FG-I flew in February 1943, and the company continued Corsair production

Vought F4U-IB

until the end of the war. Altogether, Goodyear delivered 4,006 FG-I series Corsairs, with 929 being delivered to Great Britain, and sixty to the RNZAF as the Corsair IV. The Royal Navy had begun receiving ninety-five F4U-ls under the designation Corsair I by May 1943. Like the early US Navy F4U-Is, these were fitted with the ribbed 'birdcage' canopy. Some had their wing-tips clipped so they could be stowed in the smaller, low-ceilinged hangars on British carriers.

This designation was sometimes used to refer to British Corsairs that had clipped wing-tips to permit stowage aboard lowceilinged Royal Navy carriers.

Vought F4U-IC Beginning in July 1944 in response to a Bureau of Aeronautics request for cannonarmed Corsairs, Vought built 200 F4U1Cs armed with four 20mm cannon and nOrpg in the wings instead of the six .50 calibre machine guns of the F4U-ID that was built concurrently. (The Brewsterand Goodyear-built models did not have this modified armament.) Vought had first tested cannon-equipped wings in August 1943 using Bu No. 02154, the second F4U1, as a test platform. Briggs Manufacturing, a Vought subcontractor who built the outer wing panels for the Corsair, constructed 200 sets of cannon wings, which incorporated removable wing-tips, delivering the first of these on 15 June 1944. Outwardly, the F4U-IC appeared similar to the earlier Corsairs, the only difference being the wing cannon installation, but Vought introduced many significant internal improvements. To reduce the weight, the wing bomb racks and all provisions for towing aerial targets were deleted, and a Jack and Heintz electric starter replaced

Corsair IV KD300 pictured in October 1944. via Philip Jarrett

Vought F4U-IA/Corsair 11/ Goodyear FG-IA

Brewster F3A-1 (F4U-1) in flight. Just 735 F3A-1s were built between April 1943 and July 1944. Brewster

770

On 9 August 1943, a new cockpit canopy and a pilot's seat that was raised 9in (23cm) to improve forward vision was introduced on the 950th production F4U-I; this was designated the F4U-IA. Beginning with the 1,302nd aircraft on 5 October 1943, a centreline rack for a 178 US gal (6741) drop tank or 1,0001b (454kg) bomb was installed. The 689th F4U-l supplied to Britain featured a raised pilot's seat under a semi-bubble canopy. To denote the changes, in Fleet Air Arm service the 510 aircraft were known as the F4U-IA, or the Corsair II. A further 370 Corsair lis were also delivered to the RNZAF (Royal New ealand Air Force), which actually received 238 F4U-I As and 126 F4U-lDs.

F4U-1A Corsairs in formation. USN

771


CORSAIR MODELS

CORSAIR MODELS

the old starter cartridge system. The F4U-1 C also streamlined the installation of the hydraulic system in the fuselage and centre section. Vought built 200 F4U-ICs, the first seeing combat over Okinawa in the last days of the war.

-H Vought F4U-ID/Brewster F3A-ID/Goodyear FG-ID/Corsair IV F4U-1A Corsair with a 1,OOOlb (450kgl bomb on the centreline in 1942. Vought

~~'~'""'-..

Vought F4U-1A/Corsair II JT505 in flight. via Philip Jarrett

Corsair II JT259 in flight. via Philip Jarrett

The warer-injected Pratt & Whitney R2800-8W engine installed on the 1,551st F4U-I aircraft was standardized on both the F4U-ID and the Goodyear FG-1D, the first of a Corsair fighter-bomber version. Take-off power was 2,225hp, and the top speed of the F4U-ID was in the region of 425mph (684kmph) at 20,000ft (6,000m). Twin pylons fitted under the wings could carry two 1,0001b (454kg) hombs or 154 US gal (5831) drop tanks. The outboard internal wing fuel tanks were deleted, but a 160 US gal (6061) droppable tank could be belly-mounted. The last 600 aircraft built were fitted with hard points under the wings for eight 5in (l27mm) rockets. The first F4U-l D was accepted in April 1944 for the Royal Navy, and the last of 1,685 F4U-IDs was delivered on 2 February 1945. Bu No. 02625 was test-flown at Vought as the prototype installation of the raised cabin modification and R-2800-8W engine combination. Many Goodyear-built FGIDs became Royal Navy Corsair IVs. The D performed very well as a clive-bombing aircraft against surface targets using the forward-opening landing strut doors as dive brakes. All told, Vought built 1,685 F4U-IDs, Goodyear built a further i,997 FG-IDs, and Brewster completed 735 F3A-I0s. Four F4U-i Os were fitted with cameras and were used as F4UI-P photoreconnaissance models.

Vought Corsair I JT104 was one of seventy F4U-1Bs (JT100¡JT1691 built for the Royal Navy. via PhiliP Jarrett

F4U-1B/Corsair I JT118 in flight. via Philip Jarren

Specification - Goodyear FG-ID ngine

Vought F4U-2

Vought Corsair I (F4U-1BI JT104 in flight. via Philip Jarrett

112

A night-fighter version of the Corsair had been proposed as early as 7 August i941. A few months before, on 3 May, the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts institute of Technology had called for the testing of radar apparatus in naval aircraft, under the code-name 'Project Roger'. On 9 September 1941 the Bureau of Aeronautics requested that airborne intercept radar for

Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8W water-injection Double-Wasp, I ,650hp at 21 ,OOO(t (6,400m); fuel capacity 237-537gal (1,077-2,441\)

Dimensions

Length 33ft 4in (10m); span 41ft (l2.5m); wing area 314sq ft (29:;q m); height 16ft lin (4.9m)

Weights

Empty 8,6951b (3,944kg); gross 12,0391b (5,461 kg); max. 13, 120lb (5,951 kg)

Performance

Max. speed 425mph (684km/h) at 20,000ft (6,OOOm), 328mph (528km/h) at sea level; range 500 miles (804km); climb 3, 120ft (5,020m)/minute; service ceiling n/a

Armament

6 X .50 calibre with 2,400 rounds; 2 X 1,0001b (454kg) bombs, or 154gal (7001) drop tanks, or 8 X 5in rockets

113


CORSAIR MODELS

single-seat fighters, specifically the F4U, be developed. On 6 January 1942, Vought submitted Company Proposal VS-325 for a radar-equipped night-fighter version of the Corsair to the Bureau of Aeronautics, and on 28 January a mock-up of the aircraft designated the XF4U-2, was inspected by the US Navy. By this time the Navy, at NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island, had set up Project Argus (later Affirm) to test nightfighter aircraft and equipment, develop night-fighter tactics, and train officers, enlisted personnel and night-fighter directors. The Bureau of Aeronautics now wan ted Vought to produce the n ightfighter variant of the Corsair, but to do so, Vought would have to interrupt the production line, that was producing F4U-ls. To get around the problem it was decided that the Naval Aircraft Factory would convert thirty-two production F4U-l aircraft to F4U-2 standard. (Two additional F4U2s were created later by VMF(N)-532, using field modifications.) Bu No. 02153, the first production F4U-I, was converted to the XF4U-2, which, after completing Navy flight tests at NAS Anacostia, was transferred to the Naval Aircraft Factory at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here, certain modifications took place, as well as the installation of the Radiation Laboratory's experimental 3cmwavelength XAIA radar sets, and other refinements. The AlA radar weighed less than 250lb (l13kg), and had an 18in (46cm) paraboloid antenna mounted in an aerodynamically streamlined pod on the starboard wing panel, outboard of the guns. The pod did not affect the Corsair's flying characteristics, and only reduced the top speed by 2mph (3kmph). The A[A radar was accurate enough for blind gun aiming, and possessed a useful search range of two miles (3km) at altitudes of2,000ft (600m) and higher. The embryonic radar's minimum dependable range was about 500ft (150m). A 10ft (3m) scope for the pilot was mounted on the instrument panel. Exhaust flame dampers were fitted to the F4U-2's .50 calibre machine guns, the starboard outboard gun being deleted during the installation of the radar to permit a better weight distribUTion. Bu No. 02153 was the first F4U-2 to be delivered to the Navy: it was flown to Quonset Point on 7 January 1943, where it joined VF(N)-75, which was commissioned on 1 April with Lt Cdr W. J. 'Gus' Widhelm as commanding officer. In August 1943, VF(N)-75 was split into two

to create a second unit, VF(N)-101; each squadron was equipped with three F4U-2 aircraft apiece. [n September 1943 VF(N)75 began its deployment to the Pacific theatre with six F4U-2 aircraft, arriving at Munda, New Georgia, to combat 'Washing Machine Charlie' and other Japanese nuisance night raiders. On 2 October they became the first and only naval nightfighter squadron to be land-based. On the night of 31 October 1943, an F4U-2 of VF(N)-75 flying from Munda scored the first victory by a radar-equipped Navy fighter. Up until this time night fighters had always carried a radar operator to assist the pilot in any interception. In January 1944, four F4U-2s ofVF(N)101 were embarked aboard the USS Enterprise and a few were loaded aboard the USS Incre/Jid, to be used for fleet defence during the Pacific battles. Although the Intrepid's F4U-2s had to be re-deployed early in the campaign when that carrier was damaged by an enemy torpedo, the F4U-2s from the Enter/Jrise shot down at least five Japanese aircraft without loss. Commissioned on the same day as VF(N)-75, Marine night-fighter squadron VMF(N)-532 arrived at Tarawa on 13 January 1944 with its F4U-2s to begin night combat air patrols (CAPs). Based on Engebi, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, VMF(N)-532 notched up the USMC's first three night-fighter kills, on 13/14 April 1944. Beginning on 30 June 1944, VMF(N)-532 began using the F4U-2s' radar in the mapping mode for nightbombing missions, the first target being Wotje Atoll. The Marine Corps F4U-2s would follow the radar fix to the island, pick out a surface feature, and then head for the target. The mapping mode also enabled the Corsa(r to take off in the dark of night and arrive over a target at daybreak. The F4U-2 was phased out of service by January 1945 to be replaced by the Grumman F6F-3 and the -SN Hellcat equipped with new generation APS-4 and APS-6 airborne intercept radar. F4U-2 night fighters pioneered combat at night, and the lessons learned were carried on during the Battle of Okinawa when VMF(N)-542, -543, and -533, flying F6F Hellcats, destroyed sixty-eight Japanese aircraft at night. The F4U-2 also paved the way for the successful F4U-5 and F4U5NL Corsair night-fighter versions in the Korean War.

114

CORSAIR MODELS

Vought XF4U-3jGoodyear FG-3 On 14 June 1941, the Bureau of Aeronautics requested Vought to submit a proposal for an improved high-altitude Corsair fitted with a new, two-stage Birmann-type turbo supercharger developed by the Turbo Engineering Company of Trenton, New Jersey. This new device provided an increase in performance as high as 40,000ft (12,200m), and improved manoeuvrability at the higher altitudes. Vought submitted proposal VS-33 I, and in March 1942 it resulted in a Navy contract for two of the high-altitude versions using two F4U-IAs modified with the larger, more powerful Pratt & Whitney XR-2800-16C engine, turbocharger, and a four-bladed Hamilton Standard H ydromatic propeller. The turbo-supercharged XR-2800-16 could develop 2,000 continuous horsepower from sea level through to 25,OOOft (7,600m), while the F4U-I's water-injected R-800-8W powerplant was capable of 1,650hp at 22,500ft (6,800m). Apart from the new propeller, a recessed air inlet on the aircraft centrel ine just ahead of the lower cowl-flaps characterized both XF4U-3s Bu No. 17516 and Bu No. 49664. The XF4U-3s were the only Corsairs fitted with a turbo supercharger, but all subsequent model Corsairs used the four-blade propeller. Bu No. 17516 was powered by the XR2800-16 and was designated XF4U-3A. It flew for the fi rst time on 26 March 1944 with test pilot Bill Horan at the controls. Delays in delivery of the XR-2800-16 resulted in the second XF4U-3 being powered by the R-2800-14W turbo-supercharged engine, and Bu No. 49664 was designated XF4U-3B. A water-injection system that used the outer wing panel tank for a water reservoir was also installed. The water-injected R-2800-14W was capable of developing 2,100hp continuous, and 2,800hp maximum, at 28,500ft (8,700m). Bu 49664 flew for the first time on 20 September 1944. In December 1942 the Bureau of Aeronautics requested a third XF4U-3, and F4U-l Bu No. 02157 was selected; but this aircraft crashed at Stratford and took no further part in the programme. The XF4U-3A flew for the last time on 29 March 1945, and was subsequently turned over to the Navy for evaluation, while the XF4U-3B followed suit on 29 June. The type did not enter production, and neither did the Goodyear

version. In 1944 the Goodyear Aircraft Company had begun converting twentysix FG-ls to FG-3 standard, each using the turbo supercharger, and these were del ivered to the Navy at Johnsville between 3 and 7 July 1945. Like the Vought-built XF4U-2s, they were used purely for highalri tude test work. Two of the FG-3s, Bu Nos 92382 and 92383, were assigned to Patuxent River for electronics testing in July 1947. The last FG-3 was struck off on 31 July 1949.

Vought F4U-4XjXF4U-4j F4U-4

Vought XF4U-3B, which flew for the first time on 29 June 1945. The type did not enter production. Vought

F4U-4X Bu No. 49763, the first of two F4U-4X (the other was 50301 - both converted F4U-IAs) was flown by test pilot Boone Guyton on 19 May 1944. via Philip Jarrett

Specification - Vought F4U-4 Engine

Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W, or -42W with water-methanol-injection, 2,JOOhp; fuel capacity 273gal (I,241l)

Dimensions

Length 34ft 6in (l0.5m); span 4Jft 1l.7in (l2.8m); wing area 314sq ft (29sq m); height 14ft 9in (4.5m)

Weights

Empty 7,505lb (3,404kg); gross 12,5001b (5,670kg); max. take-off 14,0201b (6,360kg)

Performance

Max. speed 446mph (718km/h) at 26,20OÂŁt (7,986m); range 1,005 miles (l ,6l7km); climb 3,340ft (I,018m) per minute; service ceiling 41,600ft (l2,680m)

Armament

6 X .50 calibre with 2,400 rounds; 8 X Sin rockets, or 2 X 1,0001b (454kg) bombs, or 2 X 11.75in rockets

115

The F4U-4 was brought out in the spring of 1943, and was the result of a complete redesign of the Corsair (V-354). The new model, often referred to as the 'Ultimate Corsair', benefited from fifteen major modifications brought about by the lessons learned on previous models, and proved so successful that no fewer than 2,045 -4s were built. However, plans for Goodyear to build 3,500 more under the designation FG-4, at Akron, Ohio, were shelved in August 1945 after only about a dozen were built. The F4U-4 redesign was brought about by a Navy requirement to mate the Corsair with the new water-injected R-2800-18W and a new Hamilton Standard four-blade propeller. The -18W and the new propeller - at 13ft lin (4m) in diameter, 2in (Scm) shorter than those used on the F4U-ls - combined to seriously improve on the earlier Corsair performance. The R-2800-18W was capable of producing 2,lOOhp on take-off, and it gave the F4U4 a top speed of 451mph (726kmph), as well as a faster rate of climb and a shorter take-off roll than on previous models. Beginning on 20 May 1943, two F4U-1s (Bu Nos 49763 and 50301) were converted to F4U-4X (sometimes referred to as F4U4XA and -4XB respectively) configuration by the installation of the R-2800-18W engine and a four-bladed propeller. The new model had the carburettor air-intake scoops removed from the wing roots and relocated in the lower lip of the engine cowling, and the engine exhaust outlets were redesigned, while a new ducting arrangement was used for the downdraft carburettor. Among many other improvements, the intercooler intakes were enlarged, the cowl assembly was redesigned to accommodate the new powerplant, and the XF4U-4 received new electrical and


CORSAIR MODELS

CORSAIR MODELS

ings with 115/145-octane fuel, and at 2,300hp was capable of 200hp more than the -18W on take-off. A number of F4U4Bs were modified to launch and control a single radar-guided BAT glide-bomb, the world's first operational homing missile. The BAT bomb was successfully tested in combat on 23 April 1945, when one of the glide-bombs was launched from a PB4Y-2 Privateer of VPB-l09 against shipping targets in Balikpappan Harbour, Borneo. Although the bomb was test-launched and directed from F4U-4Bs after World War II, it was never used in combat again. F-4U-4 with 5in high velocity aerial rockets (HVAR). The F4U-4 first flew on 20 September 1944. Vought

fuel systems. The F4U-4 was fitted with 1971b (89kg) of armour r1ate, and was armed with six .50 calihre machine guns in the wings. Provision was made for two pylon-mounted I ,0001b (454kg) bombs, or eight Sin (l27mm) rockets. The first F4U-4X (Bu No. 49763) was flown by test pilot Boone Guyton on 19 May 1944. In an attempt to imrrove fuel capaci ty, experi menla I non-drorpable wing-tir tanks were fitted to the second F4U-4X for its short series of flights; however, these were not adopted on the production model. A six-bladed rropeller was also tested, hut it did not rrove entirely successful, and this modification was not adopted on rroduction models either. Though the new engine installation required many changes to the airframe, including a large increase in the intercooler area, there were no major problems with the R-2800-18W powerplant, and on 25 January 1944 Vought received a contract for 1,414 F4U-4 production models. Five of the new aircraft (F4U-I airframes Bu Nos 80759-80763) were designated XF4U-4. Fitted with an R-2800-18W engine, the first of these production rrototyres flew on 20 September

1944, and the Navy accepted th is on 31 October. F4U-4s began reaching units in the Pacific before the end of the war, and Vought continued to produce the F4U-4s in the immediate post-war years. About 400 F4U-4s were built up until 1947, and many saw operational service in Korea between 1950 and 1953.

Vought F4U-4B A change in the F4U-4's firepower from six .50 calibre machine guns and 2,400 rounds of ammunition to four M3 20mm cannons and 984 rounds led to a new sub-variant, designated F4U-4B. Like its rredecessor, the F4U-4B also carried eight Sin rockets, two 1,0001b (454kg) bombs, or two 11.75in rockets. In all, 297 20mm cannonequipped F4U-4Bs were built. Most were powered by the R-2800-18W engine, but post-war, F4U-4Bs had these rerlaced by the 2,300hp R-2800-42W engine. F4U-4Bs from Bu No. 97486 onwards, constructed after 16 August 1946, were built with the R-2800-42W as standard. Although similar to the R-2800-18W, the -42W developed higher rerformance rat-

Specification - Vought F4U-4B Engine

Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W, or -42W Double-Wasp, 2,100hp at take-off; fuel capacity 273gal (1,241\)

Dimensions

Length 34(t 6in (l0.5m); span 41ft I J.7in (l2.8m); wing area 314sq ft (29sq m); height 14ft 9in (4.5m)

Weights

Empty 7,5051b (3,404kg); gross 12,4001b (5,625kg)

Performance

Max. speed 446mph (718km/h) at 26,200ft (7,986m); range 1,005 miles (I ,617km); climb 3,340ft (1,0 18m) per minute; service ceiling 41 ,600ft (12,680m)

Armament

4 X 20mm cannon with 984 rounds; 8 X 5in rockets, or 2 X 1,0001b (454kg) bomb:., or 2 X 11. 75in rockets

116

Vought F4U-4N This was the designation given to F4U-4 Bu No. 97361 that was converted to accert the APS-6 radar, and which served as a test bed for the later F4U-5N and -5NL Corsairs. APS-6 marked a vast improvement on the earlier ALA radar as used in the F4U-2. Bu No. 97361 was accepted on 3 March 1946, and was retained at Stratford for testing. This aircraft retained the standard F4U-4 annament of six .50 calibre machine guns and eight zero-length rocket rails, four under each wing. In May 1947 Bu No. 97361 was transferred to the Electron ic Test at N AS Patuxent River, Maryland, before being reassigned, eight months later, to the aircraft pool at Cherry Point, South arolina. In March 1948, after just three months' usc, it was struck off charge.

19 January 1951. The F4U-4Ps saw extensive combat in Korea before being phased out of front-line service by mid-1951 in favour of the Grumman F9F-2P.

Goodyear FG-4 An order for 2,371 models was cancelled before production began.

Vought XF4U-S/F4U-S Despite the onset of the jet age, at the time of the Korean War there was still a US Navy/USMC requirement for propellerdriven aircraft in the close support and night-fighting roles. The F4U-5 was able to fi II both these roles, even though th is model had been conceived as far back as 15 March 1944. At that time, when the Bureau of Aeronautics had invited Vought to submit a proposal for the advanced model, the F4U-4 had yet to fly. Vought submitted design proposal V-351 on 27 Specification - Vought F4U-5 Engine

Pratt & Whitney R-2800-32(E) Double-Wasp with water-methanol injection, 2,850hp; fuel capacity 234-534 US gal (886-2,0211)

Dimensions

Length 33ft 6in (l0.2m); span 41ft (1205m); wing area 314sq ft (29sq m); height 14ft 9in (405m)

Weights

Empty 9,5831b (4,347kg); gross 12,902Ib (5,852kg); max. take-off 14,6101b (6,627kg)

Performance

Speed 462mph (743km/h) at 31 ,400ft (9,571 m), 403mph (648kmlh) at sea level; 190mph (306kmlh) cruising, 91 mph (146km/h) landing; range 1,036 miles (l,667km) normal, 1,532 miles (2,465km) max.; climb 4,230ft (l,290m)/minute; service ceiling 44, 100ft (l3,440m)

Vought F4U-4P This was the designation allocated to cleven F4U-4Bs converted to the 'Photo Four' armed reconnaissance version equipped with a K-25 aerial camera for low-level, post-strike reconnaissance photo work. The K-25 was carried in a rubber shock-absorbing mount in the belly baggage-compartment access door. The F4U-4P was fitted with a 90-degree lens prism that enabled the pilot to fire rockets, strafe or drop bombs, and then activate the camera during pull-out to record the rost-strike damage. During the Korean War, all the F4U-4Ps served with VC-61 and VC-62. VC-61 had aircraft detachments aboard the USS Valley Forge from 31 July through to 23 November 1950; and the USS Philippine Sea from I August to 28 March 1951. VC-62 flew F4U-5Ps from USS Leyte from 9 October 1950 to

July 1944, and were awarded a contract for five XF4U-5 prototypes on 21 December 1944, but a production contract for the F4U-5 was not awarded until 6 February 1946. The first two XF4U-5 prototypes were created by mating two F4U-4s (Bu No. 97296 and Bu No. 97364) with the R2800-32W radial engine. Bu No. 97296 was the first XF4U-5 prototype to fly, on 3 July 1946, with test pi lot Bill Horan at the controls. This aircraft was lost on 8 July when during a routine test flight Dick Bu rroughs unsuccessfu II y attem pted a dead-stick landing at Stratford: the aircraft was destroyed and Burroughs was killed. A third XF4U-5 (Bu No. 97415) was accepted on 18 July 1946. The first flight of a production F4U-5 (Bu No. 121796) took place at Stratford on 1 October 1947, with Bill I loran at the controls. The automatically controlled, twostage, variable-speed, supercharged R2800-32W radial engine was capable of 2,300hp at sea level, and gave the F4U-5 a lOp speed of between 462-470mph (743-756kmph) at 26,800ft (8,170m) and

Armament

4 X 20mm cannon with 924 rounds; 8 X 5in rockets, 01' I X 2,0001b (900kg) bomb; or 2 X 1,0001b (450kg) bombs; or 2 X 11.75in rockets

Specification - Vought F4U-5N Engine

Pratt & Whitney R-2800-32W Double Wasp, 2,300hp at 26,200ft (7,990m); fuel capacity 234-534gal (l,064-2,4281)

Dimen:.ions

Length 34ft 6in (I 0.5m); span 41 ft ( 12.5m); wing area 314sq ft (29sq m); height 14ft 9in (4.5m)

Weights

Empty 9,6831b (4,392kg); gross 12,9011b (5,852kg); max. take-off 14,1061b (6,398kg)

Performance

Speed 470mph (756km/h) at 26.800ft (8,170m), 379mph (610km/h) at sea level, 227mph (365km/h) cruising; range 1,120 miles (I ,802km); climb 3,780ft (I, I52m)/minute; service ceiling 41 ,400ft (12,620m)

Armament

4 X 20mm cannon with 924 rounds; 8 X 5in rockets, or I X 2,0001b (900kg) bomb, or 2 X 1,0001b (454kg) bombs, or 2 X 11.75in rockets

117

a rate of climb of 5,240ft (1,60001) per minute. To improve longitudinal stability and increase forward vision for the pilot, the engine installation was fitted with a 2-degree downward angle of thrust. The pilot was also given a power-actuated canopy, and the cockpit was redesigned for more comfortable operation: innovations included a new adjustable scat with folding armrests; and swing-down foot-brake pedals that could serve as leg rests on long flights. He had a Mark 8 gyroscoric gunsight, much improved cockpit consoles and, to further reduce rilot workload, the cowl-flaps, intercooler doors and oi I-cooler doors were now automatic. Finally, spring tabs were added to the elevators and rudder to assist the pilot during control movements, and these were especially useful at high speeds. For the first time on Corsair production, the outer wing panels, which had previously always been fabric-covered, were now all metal. Outwardly, the F4U5 was easily distinguishable from the F4U4 by the cowl air-inlet scoops, which were mounted in the cowl checks at the four and eight o'clock position. Four M3 20mm cannon, often fitted with flared-muzzle flash-dampers, were mounted in the wings. Electric heat for the guns and pitot system permitted high altitude oreration. Provision was made for carrying two 1,0001b (454kg) bombs, and some models were equipred with rockets. Altogether, 568 F4U-5s of all models were built, of which 223 were F4U-5s.

Vought F4U-SN Nightfighter This is the designation given to 214 F4U5 Corsairs equipped with AN/APS-19 or AN/APS-l9A radar, ordered on 19 July 1946. Deliveries from the Hartford, Connecticut plant began in May 1948, before production moved to Dallas, Texas, where deliveries of the remaining run began in May 1949 and ended in September 1951. The AN/A PS radar, that was mounted in a radar pod on the right wing, could be operated to aid navigation, to search (up to 100 miles), for airborne intercept (up to 20 miles), and to 'Aim' (to acquire and fire at an airborne target up to 1,500yd away). The F4U-5N was also equipped with an automatic pilot, and a gun camera with a light beam projector that emitted an 80-candlepower light to aid sighting of targets. Four M3 20mm cannon with 924 rounds were carried in


CORSAIR MODELS

CORSAIR MODELS

the wings, and either two 1,000 Ib (454 kg) bombs, eight Sin (l3cm) rockets, or two 1SO US gal (5701) drop tanks could be carried.

operated the F4U-5P in theatre while Vv 62 flew the F4U-5P from the USS Leyte, from October 1950 until january 1951.

Vought XF4U-6jAU- 1 Vought F4U-5NL (NightFighting Cold-Weather)

F4U-5N Bu No. 122039. Some 397 F4U-5 models were built in 1946 and 1947. and the last (of a batch of forty-five F4U-5N conversions) was delivered to the Navy in September 1951. Vought

This designation was applied to 10l F4U5N all-weather night fighters identical to the F4U-5N, but which received extra heating gear, de-icer boots on the outer wing panels, horizontal and vertical stahilizers, de-icer shoes on the propeller blades, and a windscreen de-icing system. The propeller and windscreen de-icing system used a glycol mixture to prevent ice from forming. Like the -5N, the -5NL was equipped with the AN/APS-19A, and it mounted four M3 20mm cannon with 924 rounds in the wings, and carried either two I,OOOlb (454kg) bombs, eight Sin rockets, or two I SO US gal (5701) drop tanks. F4U-5NLs were used extensively in combat in Korea, flying mostly with VC-3 and operating detachments from land bases as well as the carriers USS Boxer and USS Philip/Jine Sea. The only US Navy Korean War ace, Lt Guy P. Bordelon jr of VC-3, flew the F4U5NL on a number of his five kills.

Vought F4U-5P This designation applied to thirty photoreconnaissance versions of the F4U-5 fitted with one vertical and two obi ique K- J 7 or K-18 aerial cameras mounted in the lower mid-fuselage. The entrance to the camera bay was through the radio access door. The cameras were mounted behind closable doors that featured slipstream deflectors to prevent oil from fouling the camera ports. To accommodate the camera bay, the remote indicating compass was relocated to the vertical stabil izer. As well as the K-series cameras, the Photo Five could also accommodate the S-7S continuous strip camera in a rotating 'camera conversion kit'. Master switches mounted on the top of the right and aft cockpit consoles, and an intervolometer mounted through the instrument panel below and to the right of the gunsight, were used to control all cameras. Most of the F4U-5Ps built were used in Korea to photograph targets during strikes, and to provide post-strike intelligence. Deliveries began in May 1948, and in Korea, VC-60 and VC-61

F4U-5N in flight. Vought

F4U-5N. Vought

118

The Korean War ensured that an updated version of the Corsair design, which had been in continuous production for ten years, be created to meet a requirement for a low-level daylight close-support role. This version of the Corsair was at first named the XF4U-6, only later being designated the AU-I (meaning Attack, U [military designation for Vought], -I, first Vought attack aircraft). During F4U-5 production, the Vought plant was moved from Connecticut to a site near Dallas, Texas, and it was here that the Corsair ground-attack version evolved. The AU-I was therefore not built for high-altitude performance. Survi vabil ity from small arms and light anti-aircraft fire was the prime defensive objective, and so the AU1 was heavily protected by armour plate. As on the F4U-5, a flat, armoured-glass windscreen was fitted, and sensitive components were moved to less vulnerable locations on the aircraft. No cheek or chin gi Ils were used on the ring cowl of the A UI, and the oi I coolers were moved from the stub-wing inlets and relocated to inside the fuselage at the wing roots where they were surrounded by armour p\;1te. The inlet for the single-stage supercharger was moved aft, near the wing centre section, where it, too, could be protected by armour plate. Outwardly, the AU-I embodied the F4U-5, but the powerplant was changed to the single stage, single speed, supercharged Pratt & Whitney R-2800-83W A radial, that was designed for operations at lower altitudes. Though take-off power for the A U-I was rated at 2,300, speed was considerably slower than the F4U-5, with a top speed of 238mph (383kmph) at 9,500ft (2,896m). It was also more than 5,0001b (2,268kg) heavier than the F4U-5. The engine was capable of2,OOOhp at 2,800rpm at 3,OOOft (900m), but the power output quickly dropped off to 1,700hp at 2,800rpm at 16,000ft (4,877m). To meet the heavy punch needed by the USMC in Korea, the AU-l was armed with four M-3 20mm cannon, and up to ten Sin rockets or as many as four 1,000lb (454kg) bombs could be carried on wing hard points. Additional fuel or bombs could also be carried on the aircraft's cen-

Vought AU-1 Corsair in flight. Vought

Specification - Vought AU-l (F4U-6) Engine

Pratt & Whitney R-2800-83W Double Wasp, 2,300hp at lake-off, 2,800hp WE; fuel capacity 234-534 US gal (886-2,0211)

Dimensions

Length 34ft lin (lOAm); span 41ft (12.Sm); wing area 314s4 ft (29sq m); height 14ft lOin (4.Sm)

Weights

Empty 9,83Slb (4,46Ikg); gross 18,9791b (8,609kg); max. take-off 19,3981b (8,799kg)

Performance

Speed 438mph (70Skm/h) at 9,500ft (2,896m), 184 mph (296km/h) cruising, 83mph (134km/h) landing; range 484 miles (747km); climb 920ft (280m)/minute; service ceiling 19,5OOft (S,9S0m)

Armament

4 X 20mm cannon with 924 rounds of ammunition; lOX Sin rockets, or 4,0001b (1,814 kg) of bombs, or 2 X II. 7Sin rockets

treline pylon. F4U-5N Bu No. 124665 was converted to become the first XF4U6/AU-!. The first production AU-l flew on 31 january 1952. VMA-323 was the first to use the AU-I operationally in Korea, flying out of K-6 Airfield, Pyonglaek, South Korea; and VMA-3 12 flew AU-Is from K-3 Airfield, Pohang, Soulh Korea. Although heavily armoured, sixteen AUs were lost to enemy groundfire during the Korean War. In all, 11 I AU-Is were built. Twenty-five of these were used by the French Aeronavale in Indo-China during 1954 after they had been taken out of USMC aircraft stocks in japan. Six AU-Is were lost before a ceasefire was declared on 21 july 1954. The remaining AU-Is were returned to the USMC, which quickly phased them out of front-line service. They flew with reserve units until the type was finally phased out of US service in 1957.

119

Vought F4U-7 The F4U-7 first flew on 2 july 1952, and was essentially the result of an F4U-5 fuselage mated to an overhauled F4U-4 twospeed, two-stage, Pratt & Whitney R2800- I8W engine. The availability of war surplus R-2800-18W engines made the powerplant an economical choice for the US government when supplying aircraft under the Mil itary Assistance Programme (MAP). The lwo-stage supercharger produced a better performance at altitude than lhe AU-I, and the F4U-7 also differed from its predecessor in having a chin scoop in lhe front of the cowl. Like the A U-I, the F4U-7 had a flat, armoured glass windscreen, and five long, streamlined hard-points beneath each wing instead of the older two-point rocket holders used on previous Corsairs. The F4U-7 was speCifically built for France,


CORSAIR MODELS

CORSAIR MODELS

although they were obtained by the US Navy, and then transferred to the French Aeronavale as part of the United States' Military Assistance Programme (MAP). In all, France received ninety-four F4U-7s during 1952. When the last F4U-7 rolled out in December 1952, the Corsair ceased production - after fourteen years and 12,571 aircraft. Although the French did not operate the F4U-7 in Indo-China, France used them on ground-attack missions in Algeria up until the ceasefire in March 1962. In 1964 the Aeronavale retired its remaining F4U-7s and replaced them with the Vought F-8 Crusader. A few F4U-7s went to technical schools in France, and the rest were scrapped.

Goodyear XF2G-ljF2G-ljF2G-2 The F2G was designed to counter the threat posed by the japanese kamikaze suicide aircraft that rammed Allied ships in the Pacific as the US fleets neared japan. While the F4U-4 had a very good high altitude performance, the Navy needed an aircraft that could perform well at low altitude to shoot down the I<.amikaze before they could crash into surface ships. At sea level the FG-l D's top speed was around 328mph (528kmph), while the low altitude speed that could be attained by the F4U-4 was 381mph (613kmph); but the F2G's lowlevel airspeed was faster, at around 399mph (642kmph). At 16,400ft (5,00001), the F2G's maximum speed was 431 mph (694kmph). Power was provided by the 3,000 horsepower Pratt and Whitney R4360-4 Wasp Major. This monster of an engine (an XR-4360 mated to an F4U1WM) had its first ground-run on 23 May 1944. This massive radial's twenty-eight cylinders were arranged in four rows, earning it the nickname 'corncob' for this layout. The Wasp Major project had then been turned over to Goodyear. On 7 February 1944 a contract was recei ved to develop from the FG-l model, a land-based fighter (the F2G-l) and a carrier-borne air-superiority fighter (the F2G-2). Both had to have a high degree of interchangeability with the FG-1 and the F4U-1. Even so, Goodyear took the opportunity to improve the Corsair design, el im inating the fuselage turt1edeck, modernizing the cockpit layout, and adding a bubble canopy to improve all-round visibility. A sub rudder was added under the main rudder and con-

Vought F4U-7 of the Aeronavale in flight in 1953. Corsair production ceased on Christmas Eve 1952 with the last of 94 F4U-7s rolling off the production lines. In one of the longest production runs of all time. a total of 12.571 Corsairs had been built. Vought

Specification - Vought F4U-7 Engine

Two-stage supercharged Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W Double Wasp, 2,100hp at take-off, I ,950hp at 23,300ft (7,10001), 2,450hp with water injection at sea level; fuel capacity 273gal (1,2411)

Dimensions

Length 34ft 6in (10.501); span 41ft (12.501); wing area 314sq ft (29sq 01); height 14ft LOin (4.501)

Weights

Empty 7,5051b (J,404kg); max. 13,4261b (6,090kg)

Performance

450mph (724kmph) at 26,200ft (7,99001)

Armament

4 X 20mm cannon with 984 rounds; 2 X 1,000lb (454kg) bombs, or 2 X 11.75in rockets

Specification - Goodyear F2G-l (F2G-2) Engine

Pratt & Whitney R-4360-4 28-cylinder Wasp Major, 3,000hp at take-off, 2,400hp at 13,500ft (4,11501); fuel capacity 309-609gal (1,405-2,7691)

Dimensions

Length 33ft lOin (10.3111); span 41ft (12.501); wing area 314sq ft (29sq 01); height 16ft lin (4.901)

Weights

Empty 1O,2491b (4,649kg); gross 13,3461b (6,054kg); max. 15,422lb (6,995kg)

Performance

Speed 431mph (693km/h) at 16,400ft (5,000m). 399mph (642km/h) at sea level, 190mph (306kmfh) cruising, 92mph (148km/h) landing; range 1,190 miles (1,915km) normal, 1,955 miles (3,I45km) max; climb 4,400ft (1,340m)fmin; service ceiling 38,800ft (11 ,830m)

Armament

6 X .50 calibre with 2,400 rounds; 2 X 1,000lb (454kg) bombs or 8 X Sin rockets

nected to the flaps in order that the unit would deflect 12 degrees when they were fully lowered, to help remove some of the effects of torque from the engine and propeller. The F2G-2 differed from the F2G-

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1 in having a higher tail (the vertical fin was raised 12in (JOcm) to improve stability), and being stressed to hand Ie up to 4.7gs during a catapult launch. The F2G1 was expected to be faster, with a

maximum speed of not less than 428mph (689kmph) at 16,500ft (5,000m), while the F2G-2's maximum speed must not be less than 426mph (685kmph) at the same height. They were to be armed with four .50 calibre machine guns with 1,200 rounds carried in the wings, together with provision for two 1,600lb (730kg) bombs. On 22 March 1944, the Bureau of Aeronautics speCified a requirement for 418 F2G models, and stipulated that the first aircraft (Bu No. 14691) was to be delivered to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, in March 1945. Furthermore, sixty-two more F2Gs were to be delivered during the months of April to December 1945; and the balance of 355 aircraft in 1946. In the event, however, only seventeen F2G models were built, seven of them (XF2G-1) converted FG-1/lAs, the other ten, F2G-1/2 production aircraft. Almost immediately the F2G programme ran into problems, caused by production delays of the R-4360 engines to Goodyear. Donald Armstrong, Goodyear's chief engineering test pilot, carried out the first flight in XFG2-1 Bu No. 13471 on 26 August 1944. The second XFG2, Bu No. 13472, was used to complete tests on various propellers, the automatic oil cooler and automatic cowl-flap controls, and a variety of other tasks. The third XF2G-l, Bu No. 14691, was delivered to the Navy on 27 November 1944. Bu No. 14692, the fourth XF2G, was used to test new wing fuel tanks and a number of different rudder installations, and to fly the final dive tests for the Navy. Pratt & Whitney used the fifth XF2G, Bu No. 14693, to test the performance of a water-injection system. Bu No. 14694 was the sixth XF2G-l used for testing. The seventh and last model, Bu No. 14695, first flown on 4 December 1945, suffered hydraulic failure eight days later during an instrument shake-down flight, and test pilot Armstrong was forced to make a belly landing without flaps. He was uninjured, but the aircraft was later destroyed in a hangar accident when a mobile crane broke its back. By the time testing of the F2G was complete, the R-4360-powered Corsairs were being overtaken by new jet-fighter designs such the McDonnell Phantom, and the F2G never entered squadron service. On 8 May 1945, two months before the first production F2G-ls would roll off the assembly line, the Bureau of Aeronautics reduced the F2G order by 408 aircraft. Only ten production F2G-1 models were accepted, beginning on 30 june 1945, and ending with Bu No. 88463 on 7 February 1946.

Goodyear-built XF2G-1 Bu No. 14691 with Donald Armstrong, Goodyear's chief engineering test pilot. at the controls. on 29 April 1945. Armstrong carried out the first flight in XFG2-1 Bu No. 13471 on 26 August 1944. via Philip Jarrett

Goodyear-built XF2G-1. Only ten production F2G-1 models were accepted, beginning on 30 June 1945. and ending with Bu No. 88463 on 7 February 1946. via Philip Jarrett

Goodyear-built F2G-2. The F2G-2 differed from the F2G-1 in having a higher tail (the vertical fin was raised 12in/30cm to improve stability) and being stressed to handle up to 4.7g during a catapult launch. via Philip Jarrett

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TRUE TALES OFTRIAL AND TERROR

skidding to the right. I raised my nose a tad and lowered my left wing to correct it, but then got a wave-off at the last moment. Feeling I was roo low and slow, I added power quickly - and as it turned out, too quickly. Ever heard of 'torque roll'? In most American aircraft, the propeller turns clockwise if you're looking from the cockpit. As the blades push against the air, the air pushes back, trying to twist the prop counter-clockwise. This twisting motion is transferred back through the prop shaft, then through the engine, then to the fuselage and so to the entire airframe: as a result, the plane tries to roll to the left. If you are already low and slow, with the left wing down, and suddenly add a slug of power, the right aileron and right rudder take time to counteract the torque roll. I was too low, and my left wing hit the runway' I yanked off all power and got my left wheel on the deck, i.nstantly followed by my right wheel, and rolied to a stop. About 3ft (J m) of the outer left wing was bent upward. Other than my pride, I was not hurt - but I never torquerolled again!

CHAPTER EIGHT

True Tales of Trial and Terror Fred 'Crash' Blechman They say a cat has nine lives. 1 must be part feline, or 1 would not have survived my tour of duty with VF-14 in the early 1950s. Fred 'Crash' Blechman It was 8 May 1950, and I was scheduled for my first flight in an F4U-4 Corsair, commonly known as the 'Ensign Eliminator'. In fact I was not yet an ensign, but just a lowly 'Nav cad' - but this was still quite a jump. from the SNJ trainer I had flown for ,¡¡'O.ver200 hours in Navy basic flight trainillg. I had 'graduated' by making the required six arrestedlanclings in the SNJ at Pensacola aboard the USS Cabot light carrier (CVL-28), and was now at Corpus Christi, Texas, for 'advanced' training in Corsairs. All our flight training up to that point had been in the two-seat 600hp SNJ. Flying the single-seat 2100-horsepower F4U-4 was going to be a strictly new experience, primarily because there would be no instructor on dual controls. I read the manual and went through a blindfold cockpit check to be sure where the various controls were located and how to operate them: some went up and down, others forward and aft, and many rotated. I climbed into the cockpit of 81728 by way of the wing walkway, steps and handgrip on the right side of the airplane. Settling into the bucket seat where the parachute had already been put in place by the plane captain, I snapped the shoulcler straps, seat belt and parachute harness into the complex single-release restraint system. Following a nineteen-step procedure, I started the eighteen-cylinder, twin-row Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W air-cooled engine, and watched the giant four-bladed propeller churning in front of a nose that extended more than 15ft (4.5m) ahead of the cockpit. The deep-throated harumphharumph sound, and the vibration of the huge engine permeated the ground, air and airframe. This was power' After checking

the instruments for normal readings, I gave the plane captain a 'thumbs-up' sign for him to remove the wheel chocks, and then carefully taxied to the run-up area near the runway as the engine was warming up. With the huge nose blocking out all forward vision, I had to alternately turn left and right about 30 degrees, 'S-turning', to see what was directly ahead. I checked the engine oil and fuel pressures and the magnetos at 2,000rpm and the supercharger at 1,300rpm, all with the propeller control set at 'Take-off rpm'. Everything looked OK, so I completed the twenty-five-step take-off check-off list things like making sure the prop pitch was set to full rpm, mixture full rich, flaps 20 degrees down, rudder tab 6 degrees right, aileron tab 6 degrees right wing down, elevator tab I degree nose up, tail wheel locked, and so on. This done, I taxied to the beginning of the runway, and when I got my take-off clearance on the radio, I slowly pushed the throttle all the way forward, keeping the tail down with full back stick. It was immediately obvious that I needed right rudder to counter the left-pulling torque of this huge engine. As I quickly speeded up, I let the nose lower to a slightly 'up' position, and the Corsair simply flew off the ground. Now it was wheels up, milk up the flaps 10 degrees at a time, reduce power, and crank the fishbowl canopy closed. I don't remember anything else about this flight (except that I had to get rid of a big, unwelcome, powdery tan moth with long antennae), but I must have survived.

ings - but the approach to a runway is quite different from the approach to a moving carrier. So we had practised and practised by doing FCLP, using a marked field and an LSO waving his 'paddles', when we would come around low and slow, follow the LSO's paddle signals, and get a cut or a wave-off - and this was reasonable practice, even though the field wasn't moving, and the landing was touch-and-go rather than arrested. Of course, we had done FCLP in SNJs, but the SNJ was relatively slow, with a short nose, good visibility and only a few hundred horsepower swinging a two-bladed propeller. Low and

Two Down! F4U Corsair Carrier Qualification

F4U-4 Corsair of VMF-322 going overboard while attempting a landing on the USS

Sicily, October 1949. Vought

How I Downed Five Corsairs: One Down! Flying tail-draggers [the Stearman N2S and SNJ], we had been trained from early on to make nice, stalled, three-point land-

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Fred Blechman completing SNJ carrier qualification on USS Cabot lCVL-28) on 23 March 1950. Fred Blechman

slow was tricky, but controllable - but the Corsair was another story. The F4U-4 used a 2,000+ hp engine swinging a giant fourbladed prop, and had a nose extending 15ft (4.5m) in front of the pilot. When flying low and slow - which was necessary in a carrier approach with the old straight-deck carriers of the day - your nose was up 10 or IS degrees, and this completely blocked your forward view through the windshield. Thus the approach had to be in a constant left turn, looking out to the left of the windshield, and there was practically no 'straightaway' before the cut.

I don't recall if it was my first pass, but I know it was the first day of Corsair FCLP, 18 July 1950, at Bronson Field, near Pensacola CQTU 4, NAAS Corry Field. I came around [in F4U-4 62132], fighting the sluggish controls and the large amount of right rudder necessary at that low speed. To add to the fun, the ground we were flying over at this outlying FCLP field was marshy, which on hot days caused rising thermals, making the air very bumpy - and it was a hot day. My approach was almost good enough for a cut, but as I got close to the LSO I was getting too low and began

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After a Review Board Hearing, the Navy decided to let me continue toward getting my wings. Fortunately for me, accidents happen. So I went back to field carrier landing practice (FCLP), making something over 100 passes before the big day, when I would have to accomplish six arrested Corsair landings aboard the USS Wright (CVL-49), a light carrier used by the Training Command at that time. A small group of us took off from Pensacola early on the morning of 10 August 1950, to be over the Wright, leisurely cruising in the Gulf of Mexico, at 9am. After thirteen years of dreaming about becoming a naval aviator and earning my 'Wings of Gold', this was my 'final exam': making six arrested carrier landings in an F4U-4 Corsair would earn me my gold wings and EnSign's commission. I had no idea I was about to crash. We rendezvoused with the Wright as it churned along at approximately 25 knots through the waters near Pensacola. The sea was calm with only occasional whitecaps from the gentle breeze. The azure sky was punctuated with random cotton balls. All


TRUE TALES OFTRIAL AND TERROR

was serene. Life was good. This was the day I'd been waiting for, through so many episodes of 'trial and terror'. Our flight recei ved a 'Chari ie' land ing clearance, formed a righ t echelon, and streaked upwind by the starboard side of the ship at about 800ft [240m 1 as we peeled off to establish our landing intervals. This was 'busy time': wheels, hook, flaps, power settings, trim, setting the beam position and interval while headed downwind, turning

toward the carrier at the proper position, losing altitude, losing airspeed, spotting the LSO ['Landing Signal Officer'], responding to his signals, adjusting the aircraft's bank and nose attitude ... busy, busy time. This was the real thing, and there was no way that those FCLP hops at Bronson Field could accurately simulate landing on a moving carrier. Nevertheless, they were the best means available to practise flying low and slow, following the LSO's signals,

Corsair belonging to the Air Group Commander on the USS Coral Sea is flipped over on landing by the Ensign flying it on 2 August 1950. Vought/Art Schoeni

Fred Blechman training at Pensacola. Florida. in August 1950. Fred Blechman

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TRUE TALES OFTRIAL AND TERROR

and setting the proper speed and attitude for a carrier approach in the 'hose-nose' Corsair. My first four landings were normal, with no wave-offs, as we each in turn made our landings and rake-offs. After catching a wire, the barriers were dropped, and we made a deck-launched take-off. But I was getting tired, and my light summer flight suit was drenched with sweat. I had no way of knowing that the next landing, the fifth, was going to be very different ... 'Only two more landings to go,' I thought as I prepared for my deck launch. With a 10-knot surface wind and the carrier's forward speed, the wind over the deck was approximately 35 knots, so the take-off should be easy. I checked various settings: full naps; cowl-naps open; hook up; trim 6 degrees nose right, I degree nose up, 6 degrees right wing down. Tail wheel locked. Cockpit canopy open, and locked. Shoulder straps and scat belt tight; prop control full forward for maximum revolutions per minute (rpm); mixture 'auto rich'; supercharger 'neutral'; wings 'locked'; controls move freely. I watched the LCO [launch control officer] to my right give me the 'wind up' signal with his right arm as he pointed to my engine with his left arm. I advanced the throttle to 42in of manifold pressure, and appl ied full toe brakes by pressing down the tops of the rudder pedals. Above 44in [99cm] the wheels would start slipping on the deck, so full power could not yet be used. I held the joystick all the way back to keep the tail from lifting up and possibly digging the tips of the 13ft [4m] fourbladed propeller into the wooden flight deck. The 2100 horsepower, Pratt and Whitney R-2800-18W(C) Double-Wasp eighteen-cylinder radial engine roared, and the whole airplane shook with anticipation as I verified proper engine readings and signalled I was ready with a head nod (I dared not let go of the stick for a righthand salute, or the tail could come up!). The LCO threw his arm forward with two fingers extended, the signal for me to release the brakes and take off. Surging forwards, the Corsair picked up speed and rumbled down the deck. I added throttle to full power - approximately 54in of manifold pressure - and held a lot of right rudder to counter the torque of the huge engine and propeller sticking out 15ft [4.5m] ahead of me. Releasing

back-stick pressure, the tail lifted and I could finally see where I was headed. I aimed for the right side of the deck, lifting off easily before the ship slipped behind, with nothing but rippling water beneath me. A slight right turn cleared my slipstream from the plane landing behind me, as I climbed ahead of the ship at 125 knots to the 800ft pattern altitude. Since I was just going around to make another landing, I left the flaps and wheels down. At pattern altitude I reduced the throttle setting to 34in of manifold pressure, set the propeller to 2,300rpm, and reset the trim tabs for neutral stick pressure. About a mile ahead of the ship I made a 180degree left turn, descending to 200ft [60m] for the downwind leg. I dropped my tail hook, unlocked my tail wheel, and set myself up approximately 3,000ft [900m] abeam of the ship, fast approaching on my port side as it steamed upwind.

Landing Five Fred Blechman in the cockpit of his Corsair during FClP training at Pensacola. Florida. August 1950. Fred Blechman

The plane was flying smoothly with the canopy open and locked. The hot Gulf air and the roar of the engine blustered in from

Early wave-off for a Corsair attempting to land at Bronson Field near Pensacola during Field Carrier landing Practice. August 1950. Fred Blechman

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both sides of the windshield. Everything in the cockpit seemed A-okay, warm and comfortable as an old shoe, as I watched the ship slip past my nose and toward my left wing. As the straight deck of the light carrier Wright steamed upwind and its wake appeared ahead of my left wing-tip, I banked sharply toward the ship's stern and began slowing the airplane down to an approach speed of 90 knots. Check flaps down, wheels down, hook down, tail wheel unlocked. I shoved the prop control forward for full rpm, and reset the trim tabs to take-off settings in case of a wave-off. I set my rate of descent to about 150ft (45m] per minute, maintaining just enough throttle to hold the nose up approximately IS degrees, hanging on the prop. I checked my altitude by seeing where the clear, flat horizon crossed the sh ip's mast above the bridge, since that indicated exactly how high I was above the deck. At approximately the 90-degree position on the base leg I picked up the LSO with his coloured paddles on the port fantail. Now the challenge was to keep the ship from getting ahead of me, since it was churning away from me at roughly 60ft [20m] per second (including the surface wind that was trying to drag me even further behind). I watched the horizon crossing the bridge for altitude, and carefully controlled the power and nose attitude for holding around 90 knots - just a few knots above scali ing! 1 used a simple technique to properly intercept the ship: I put the left side of the orsair's nose on the centre of the deck at the aft end - and held it there! If I tried to judge my turn any other way 1 would invariably get sucked back behind the ship and have a straightaway to catch up - and then I'd lose sight of the LSO under the Corsair's long nose. There was no luxury of any significant straightaway in landing on those old straight-deck carriers when you were flying a long-nose Corsair in a nose-up attitude. You just couldn't see ahead of you, only off to the side, so essentially we pyloned counter-clockwise around the LSO in order to keep him in sight l As I got close in, I tried to keep the nose aimed toward the ship's centreline. This was not only affected by the ship's forward motion, but also by the wind over the deck. This wind was seldom straight down the deck, hut approximately 15 degrees to port, so the turbulence from the ship's stacks and bridge did not appear in the flight path of the landing planes. This


'I RUI: TALES OF TRIAL AND TERROR

TRUE TALES OF TRIAL AND TERROR

made for a very tricky approach and last few seconds ... At this slow speed, just a few knots above stalling, the approach took a lot of right rudder, even though you were in a left turn. And you didn't dare add power quickly, since the powerful engine turning that large prop could make the aircraft roll uncontrollably to the left in the dreaded 'torque roll'. It took a lot of back stick, considerable power, and right rudder to hang in there. As I approached the ramp in our left turn, the LSO's paddles and my own perception was that I was drifting to the right of the deck centreline. Too much right rudder, so I cross-controlled a bit and slipped to the left just as I approached the ramp, and got a 'cut', the mandatory command to cut my power and land. 'Ah, landing number hve,' [thought as [ relaxed, dropped the nose, and pulled back to drop the tail so my hook would catch an early wire - but [relaxed too soon! Perhaps I was more tired than I realized, but my wings were not level, and [ didn't pull back soon enough. The left main gear hit hrst, blowing the tyre, and the plane bounced back in the air. At this point the tail hook caught the No.3 wire and slammed the Corsair back onto the deck, and on this second impact the left wheel strut broke and the right tyre blew out! [ was thrown with more force than usual against my shoulder harness as the plane tilted to the left and settled on the deck. The carrier crash horn blew. Deckhands, some carrying fire extinguishers, scampered up from the catwalks and surrounded the airplane. Controlled pandemonium reigned as I was quickly unbuckled and helped out of the cockpit, since hre after a crash was always a danger. A Corsair zoomed overhead taking a 'fouled deck' wave-off - it was Midshipman John A. 'Jack' Eckstein, my roommate and good friend through most of flight training. He told me later he was so shaken by my accident right in front of him as he was making his approach for his hfth landing that it took him several more passes to get in his last two landings. (He got his wings, stayed in the Navy and retired as a captain.) I was not injured at all, except for my pride, but I was very concerned about being washed out of flight training, shattering a thirteen-year dream - and with only one landing to go! I had special reason to be concerned, since my previous accident had been only three weeks before, when I had torque-rolled

that Corsair on a wave-off during my hrst field carrier landing practice flight at Bronson Fie[d, and had crumpled the left wing. But no personal injury there, either, and even after this second crash, a Student Pilot Disposition Board allowed me to continue training.

Landing Six Five days after this crash I climbed aboard the same Corsair, 80893, now with new tyres and a new port landing gear strut, and successfully made five field carrier practice landings at Bronson Field: so I was now considered qualified to make that last arrested landing needed to get my wings. Three days later, on 18 August, [ walked aboard the Wright in port at 6am. The carrier steamed out into the Gulf of Mexico for that day's carrier qualifications. The first flight of Corsairs appeared at 9am and began their qualification landings. The first to complete his six landings was 'NavCad' Vince 'Rick' Ricciardi, whom I'd known since pre-flight. I congratu[ated him as he climbed down from his Corsair, 97 [68, and I clambered aboard. I strapped myself in with the help of a plane captain, checked all the power and control settings, and deck-launched. One landing to go. This was it! [f [ had too much trouble getting aboard, or crashed again, it was certain [ would be washed out. The takeoff and downwind leg were normal, but as I made the approach [ got more tense than usual as I considered the consequences of failing. This probably made me concentrate more than in previous landings, since I got a 'Roger' flag signal from the LSO all the way into the cut, and caught the No. 3 wire. I had done it l I had qualified to be a naval aviator! The ceremony for commissioning as ensign and receiving the 'Wings of Go[d' was held at Pensacola on 23 August 1950, and my mother flew in from New York to pin on my wings and bars. I've never done anything more difficultor of which I'm more proud - than earning those gold wings! And after over thirty arrested carrier landings, I learned to drive a car! [n early September 1950 I reported to VF-14, then stationed at Cecil Field, outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Like all red-blooded American heroes, I had requested west coast duty (since the Korean fracas had just begun), but the

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Navy, in their infinite wisdom, sent me instead to the east coast of Florida. The was Lt Cdr Robert C. Coats, now a retired captain living in Jacksonville. Skipper Coats took me under his wing, since I was the junior pilot in the squadron - a position I retained for over a year, until Ensign Gene Hendrix (now a retired lieutenant in Fort Walton Beach, Florida) joined the squadron. Most of the twenty-four pilots in VF- [4 were seasoned naval aviators, several having been called back to active flying duty from the Navy Reserve after serving in World War II.

o

The F4US: Some Questionable Engineering Improvements They say a cat has nine lives, so I must be part feline, or I would not have survived my tour of duty with VF-14 in the early [950s. The squadron aircraft was the latest model Corsair, the F4U-5, a jazzed-up version of the F4U-4 I had flown in advanced training. My first F4U-5 flight was on 20 September, though by that time I had become acquainted with some of the techno-whiz additions that had been designed into the F4U-5. [ mean, do you really need a cigar lighter, padded armand leg-rests, electric trim tabs, computercontrolled engine boost, gyro gunsight, automatic cowl-flaps, and such? The F4U4 was a good airplane - and the F4U-5 was no F4U-4! I found the F4U-5 to be heavier and more dangerous, primarily because of several 'improvements', some of which were potentially real killers, and some just plain annoying. The F4U-5 was intended to increase the F4U-4's overall performance, and it also incorporated certain changes suggested by many earlier orsair pilots. Thus it featured a more powerful 2,300hp engine with a fully automatic two-stage supercharger, and other 'improvements' were electrical trim control, automatic cowl-flaps, a gyroscopic lead-computing gunsight, and other automatic functions. But these and other changes made it 500[b [227kg] heavier than the F4U-4. Some improvements were worthwhile: for instance, spring trim tabs on the elevator and rudder reduced the formerly heavy control forces by about 40 per cent. The seat was adjustable, with padded armrests that would swing down, and the metal rudder pedals could swing back to expose some padding. Thus you would

Early wave-off for a Corsair attempting to land on the USS Wright (CVL-49l during carrier qualification, the final phase of flight training, August 1950. Fred Blechman

Jack Eckstein (Ieftl with Fred Blechman after the latter had made his final Corsair carrier qualification landing to earn the coveted 'Wings of Gold', August 1950. Fred Blechman

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stick your legs through the rudder pedal supports, rest your arms on the armrests, and light up a cigar, for relative comfort on long fl igh ts. However, other features weren't so wonderful - for example, electrical trim control. For this, two trim-tab setting switches were used. Rudder trim was accomplished with a centre-off left/right toggle switch. Elevator and aileron trim used a five-position centre-off 'joystick' switch for 'nose upl' or ' ... down l ' or 'wing left down/right down'. This was easy enough to use in place of the typical mechanical rotating-knob trim controls, but you had no trim knob 'feel' at all compared to the mechanical method. You had to get all the feel from the stick - and when the stick required no pressure, you were trimmed. But there was always a certain amount of inertia overrun when using electrical trim control, so when you released the trim-tah switch, the trim tab wouldn't stop right at that point. So you were constantly fiddling around, back and forth, until you got the 'neutral' position. That was bad enough, but the potentially deadly problem was switch contact welding. Every time you open and close an electrical switch there is some sort of arc. It might be too small to be noticeable, but eventually the arc can cause the contacts to wear, and unfortunately sometimes weld together - and this is the same as leaving the switch in the 'on' position. Several F4U-5 pilots were lost in divebombing practice. When you push over into a dive and the speed increases, the airplane nose wants to come up. So you are constantly feeding in 'nose down' trim to relieve the increasing forward stick pressure. As these guys were feeding in 'down' trim, they would release the switch ... but it didn't turn off! So they would continue to get full 'nose down' trim, and go right into the ground, and there was either no time, or they didn't have enough strength, to pull out ... although [ did hear of one pilot, a big, strong guy, who put his feet up on the instrument panel and pulled back on the stick with all his strength, and made it l So we were then told, 'Well, we have this little problem with the trim tabs. When you are up at 10,000 or 20,000ft [3,000 to 6,000mJ, before you start your dive, feed in 'nose down' tab to where you think it should be, so you don't have to


TRUE TALES OFTRIAL AND TERROR

touch iI' on the way down.' Basicall y the rule was, 'Don't touch the tri m tab on the way down in a dive.' We would have to hold a lot of back stick pressure before pushing over into the dive, then release the back pressure slowly, all the way down. This made for a lot of 'porpoising', and a terrible gun or bombing platform. The stick was rarely neutral force at the bottom of the dive, and then we had to fight the stick force back up to altitude as our speed decreased in the zoom. Needless to say, I did not like those early electrical trim tab switches! The F4U-5 was the lirst Corsair with automatic cowl-flaps. The cowl-flaps were tied in with the engine temperature and would open to cool the engine when necessary. This was fine unless you were in close formation and the cowl-flaps suddenly opened, adding drag, dropping you behind. Worse was when you were flying on somebody's wing and the cowl-flaps were partly open, and they decided to close, because then you would have to reduce throttle quickly to keep from overrunning your lead! Fortunately the cowl-flaps didn't have to be on automatic in the air, and could be controlled with an open/close toggle switch; though this, of course, meant watching the engine cylinder-head temperature. So we used automatic cowl-flaps except on formation flights. There was another automatic cowl-flap switch on the airplane, located on the left landing-gear scissors: whenever the wheel strut was depressed because of the weight of the aircraft, the automatic cowl-flaps would open fully for adequate engine cooling when the airplane was on the ground. That was a nice feature, because if you didn't open your cowl-flaps when you were on the ground, you would burn up your engine taxiing back to the ramp! However, because of the landing gear switch, which always seemed to work, it was easy when taxiing to overlook the fact that the cowl-flaps were closed. Basically, if that switch didn't work which rarely, but sometimes did happen the cowl-flaps didn't open, and the engine burned up. Another well meant improvement to the F4U-5 was the automatic power unit (APU), an 'automatic blower control'. On the F4U-4 and earlier Corsairs, a manually operated supercharger control would allow you to get an extra lOin of manifold pressure on take-off, and essentially maintain power at altitude. On the F4U-5, this

was all done automatically, with no manual override! The APU monitored manifold pressure, air temperature, atmospheric pressure, prop rpm and a number of other parameters, and these readings were fed into the APU's computer, which decided when it needed the extra power. Ilowever, it boiled down to the fact that we could not make formation take-offs in the F4U5 because nobody knew when his APU would cut in. And when making a carrier deck-run take-off, we could get off the end of the deck and be halfway down to the water before the APU would decide to cut in. On catapult shots, we didn't give our 'Ready' salute to the launch officer until the engine manifold pressure gauge showed the extra lOin! If we were in formation, we would have to split up at about 19,000ft [5,800ml going up, since the APU would activate our second-stage supercharger somewhere between 20,000 and 22,OOOft 16,000 and 6,600m] - but since we could not control when our blower would cut in, we had to separate a good distance apart. When all the blowers had engaged, each pilot would report in and then rejoin in formation. When descending from altitude we did the reverse, breaking formation at 23,000ft [7,OOOm] and reforming at 19,000ft [5 ,800m].

Gyroscopic Gunsight The F4U-5 also introduced the Mark 8 gyroscopic lead-computing gunsight. This gyro gunsight was created to simplify the lead 'deflection' shot. When attacking a target that is moving across your flight path, you have to 'lead' the target so that the bullets leaving your guns will follow a path that intercepts the moving target. The Mark 8 gunsight projected onto the windscreen an image that had six diamond-shaped 'pips' forming an imaginary circle. Twisting the throttle handle's knob clockwise made the circle smaller, and twisting it counter-clockwise made the imaginary circle larger. The object was to encircle the wingspan of the target within the imaginary circle. As you flew closer to the target and it got bigger, the idea was to turn the throttle handle slowly and steadily counter-clockwise to keep the target tightly encircled. You were also flying the airplane, moving the throttle forward and backward as necessary, as well as operating the rudders while moving the stick all over the

128

TRUE TALES OF TRIAL AND TERROR

place. After all, you were trying to home in on the target. At the same time you were supposed to be feeding in this information to the computer by turning the knob, telling it how close you were to the target aircraft, and your rate of closure. With this information, the Mark 8 'calculated' the deflection angle needed - and moved the circular image to a new IJosition on the windscreen! So, as you are flying the aircraft, this thing is floating around the screen. You are constantly adjusting and trying to hold your target in the centre. If you jerked the throttle a little bit, the whole thing would suddenly move up, down, or to the side. You would try and do it as smoothly as you could, but there is no way a human is going to function smoothly enough to do this! Actually, the idea was good, but putting a human in the control loop was not working. In the F-86 Sabre jets in Korea they let a small radar set in the nose determine the range and closure rate to the target; all the pi lot had to do was keep the target inside the slowly floating imaginary circle, and fire when within range. This was highly successful. There were other changes that were surprising. Why did they go from a retractable tail hook to one that had to be manually raised after a carrier landing? Why did they put the plotting board into the instrument panel with such a weak clip? Sometimes it would pop back into the pi lot's chest on a carrier catapul I' shot. And those nice, soft-backed rudder pedals would sometimes snap back on a catapult shot and the front metal part would smash onto the pilot's ankle. All in all, I preferred the F4U-4 ... and so did the Navy. During the Korean action, only some F4U-5N night fighters, and some F4U5P photo-reconnaissance versions were used. Plain vanilla F4U-5s were pulled back from the front lines and replaced with ... you guessed it ... F4U-4s!

How I Downed Five Corsairs: Three Down! I was assigned to VF-14, based at Cecil Field ncar Jacksonville, Florida, for my tour of duty in the fleet; as the junior ensign I was always the last to take off and land. I also had to get familiar with the F4U5 Corsair, that much-changed advanced model of the Corsair. It still had the long nose, which required 'S-turning' the

aircraft while taxiing to be able to see ahead of you: you would turn to the right so that you could see ahead by looking out to the left of the windshield, or turn left and look out to the right. When making a runway landing approach, normally your nose was down in your descent, and you could see straight ahead, but as you pulled up your nose to flare out for a three-point landing, forward vision disappeared. As soon as the plane was rolling down the runway and under control you could begin S-turning. One night [21 November 1950] we were practising night landings at Cecil Field, and as usuall was the last plane to land. As I was maki ng my approach to Iine up wi th the runway lights, I saw the Corsair ahead of me land and go rolling down the runway. However, as I pulled my nose up to flare out, I lost sight of the plane ahead. I was 'hot' - that is, coming in a little fast - so I touched down long on the runway, and was immediately concerned that I might be over-running the Corsair ahead. First I looked to the left of my nose, watching for him to appear on the turn-off taxiway, but as he didn't, I wondered if he had groundlooped ahead of me, and if I was about to crash into him. So even though 1 was still rolling out pretty fast, I began applying alternate wheel brakes to S-turn so I could see ahead: first right brake to swing the nose to the right, then quickly left brake to keep from running off the right side of the runway, then right brake again. Somewhere in that sequence I must have hit both brakes at once, or perhaps hit the opposite brake while the plane was still turning, causing forward motion ro suddenly decrease. In effect this meant that, given the enormous inertia of the heavy plane, the centre of gravity of the â&#x20AC;˘ aircraft was now rotating around the wheels, with the result that the Corsair nosed down and the tail rose about 30 degrees! All four blades of the prop bent back, the engine ground to a stop, and then the tail slammed back to the ground! Very embarrassing, since this was purely pilot error - but I never nosed-over again.

Cruising in the Mediterranean, 1951 The squadron was scheduled for a Mediterranean cruise early in 195 I aboard the Wright. Since we had only recently received the new F4U-5s, Skipper Coats'

main task was to get us all carrier qualified in the F4U-5. This meant many FCLP ('field carrier landing practice') flights to a nearby field that was marked out like a carrier deck, and using an LSO to bring us in for touch-and-goes. Although the 'deck' wasn't moving, it wasn't 50ft [15m] above the water, either - which might be considered an advantage - it was at ground level, and this meant flying very low and very slow, just above stalling speed, usually over marshy ground with bumpy air: in many ways, FCLP is more challenging than actual carrier landings. My logbook shows exactly 109 FCLP landings during the three months preceding that cruise. The squadron flew to Norfolk in late December and carrier qualified, both individually and as a squadron, by each pilot making six F4U-5 landings aboard the newly commissioned USS Oriskany (CV34), which was on its shakedown cruise off the Virginia coast. Our aircraft were loaded by crane aboard the Wright, and we left port on 10 January 1951, headed for Gibraltar. We only flew three days on the ten-day trip to the Mediterranean. After Gibraltar, we made the ports of Oran in Algeria, Augusta in Sicily, and Naples and Palermo in Italy. On Sunday I I February we left Palermo and headed for Suda Bay on Crete. We flew on the 12th and 13th. The flight on the 12th was uneventful. The flight on the 13th was almost my last one. The weather was bad on the j 3th as we were cruising through the Ionian Sea. Our intended mission was to practise divebombing a sl1"\311 island target off the west coast of Greece. The Greek government W;:lS very co-o\lerative, especially since our next port was on Crete. Meteorology assured Primary Fly that the weather over the target was perfect, and that the overcast above us was only a few thousand feet thick. Looking from the flight deck, it seemed like the world was coming to an end, the low stratus clouds seeming to be only a few hundred feet off the deck, with fingers of clouds reaching down to touch the water. Scud clouds slid by, and there were obvious rain showers in several directions. Eight planes were scheduled for this flight, two divisions of four planes each. The flight leader was Lt Cdr Felix raddock, the squadron executive officer. He was to lead the first division, and Lt (jg) A. G. Wellons (now a retired captain in Jacksonville) was to lead the second division, with Ensign J im Morin (now a retired rear admiral in Tallahassee, Florida) as his

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wingman. As usual, I was tail-end Charlie: the last plane in the last two-plane section of the last division. I was to fly the wing of Lt (jg) 'Doc' Mosshurg. The flight deck was heavily spotted with aircraft, so we were each launched in turn from the Wright's two hydraulic catapults. This was before the days of the slant-deck carriers with four powerful steam catapults and I, 100ft [335m] decks. The entire deck of the Saipan-c1ass Wright was only 600ft [200m] long. When my turn came, I unfolded my wings as I taxied forward, following the flight-deck crew's hand signals. When I reached the catapult area, I dropped full flaps and checked my wing-lock indicators. After tightening my seat belt and shoulder harness I set the trim tabs slightly nose-up, right wing down, and right rudder, to counter the left-turning torque of the giant fourbladed prop at full power. The propeller control was set to maximum rpm as I checked the engine instruments. I made sure my G-suit was plugged in, especially important since we were headed out for a dive-bombing mission. I also made sure my oxygen-flow indicator was working. While I was doing this, a deck crewman hooked up the caLapult shuttle to pull against the 'bridle', a steel cable that attached to a hook under each wing. At the rear of the plane another crewman attached a small steel ring to the deck and a short cable that grabbed a hook behind my tail wheel: this 'hold-back ring' was precision-manufactured to restrain the Corsair at full engine power, but break apart when the catapult shuttle added its force. These sometimes parted prematurely, leading to a 'cold shot' - off the bow with too little speed to stay airborne. Splash! Also, sometimes the bridle would snap partway down the deck during the catapult shot, throwing the aircraft off the side of the deck into the water. Nice things to contemplate while waiting for the signal to pour on the coal. The wheel brakes, appl ied by pressi ng the top of the rudder pedals, were no longer required once hooked up to the catapult and restrained by the hold-back ring. In fact, you certainly don't want to apply the brakes while being catapulted! The standard procedure was therefore to drop your feet off the rudder pedals so your heels were on the deck and your toes at the base of the pedals. I did this. Finally, the catapult officer gave me the wind-up hand signal to go to full throttle.


TRUE TALES OF TRIAL AND TERROR

TRUE TALES OF TRIAL AND I FRROR

As I advanced the throttle to the stop, I checked the engine instruments. It took only a few seconds for confirmation that the engine had powered up and sounded right, and that the instruments read normally. The Corsair's over 2,000hp was straining against the small hold-back ring, waiting for the force of the catapult shuttle pulling against the bridle to snap the ring and set it free. I saluted the catapult officer to let him know I was ready, and threw my head back against the cockpit headrest in anticipation of the launch jolt. I glanced out of the corner of my eye to sec when the catapult officer would drop his arm, which was the signal for the catapult operator to press a big red button to fire the catapult. The catapult officer watched the gentle pitching motion of the ship to make sure he was not going to fire me off with the ship's bow aimed at the water, and at the right moment he dropped his arm. Wham' I When the catapult fired, the hold-back ring ruptured, just as it was designed to do, and the aircraft lurched forward, completely out of my control for about three seconds. I immediately fcIt a sharp pain above my left ankle, but was too occupied to find out why. Off the end of the deck at barely flying speed, I was headed for the water. At times like this the damn APU was supposed to cut in and add about lOin of manifold pressure - enough power to remain airborne - but it had not engaged. As we have seen, the electro-mechanical APU used various sensors to look at the air pressure and temperature, engine RPM and manifold pressure, prop pitch, and who-knows-what-cIse to determine when to add the extra power boost, and this had replaced the manually operated supercharger in the F4U-4 Corsair: furthermore it was completely automatic, with no manual over-ride. I quickly retracted my wheels. It was bad enough to hit the water in a radialengine aircraft, which usually dug in and flipped over, but going in wheels down was even more likely to cause her to fl ip. I left the flaps full down and milked the nose up carefully. The flight deck was only a little over 50 feet [15ml above the water, but the slight drop had increased my airspeed. Just then, about 20 feet [6m] above the ,urface of the warer, to my huge relief, the APU cut in. I put the no,e in a climb, slowly raised the flaps, and adjusted the power settings and trim tabs to neutralize the controls.

I looked ahead to sec Doc Mossburg's Corsair disappear into the low clouds. No other plane was in sight, since they had all started up through the overcast. My ankle was still hurting, and looking down I found the cause. The heavy metal rudder pedals in the F-5 Corsair were designed with soft padding on their back, and were normally held upright with springs. A pilot on a long flight could pull the top of the rudder pedals toward him and stick his legs through the pedal supportS to rest his thighs. The left pedal had apparently busted a spring and it had fl ipped back from the force of the launch, and the metal part had slammed against the top of my foot. Not disabling, but certainly distracting. Intent on catching up with Doc for a snappy rendezvous on h is wing, I kept peering through the windshield for sight of him. But what I didn't realize was that I had also flown into this grey overcast, and so should have been flying on instruments; somehow the overcast appeared to be above me, and it seemed like I could see for some distance ahead. I was expecting to spot Doc's plane any second, and I felt like I was in a perfectly normal climb - in a Corsair, with a huge nose projecting over 15 feet [4. 5m] in front of you, you don't sec the horizon in a climb if you're looking straight ahead. I had been flying in this 'steady climb' for several minutes when I suddenly realized the engine sounded strange, like it was running faster than normal. A Iso, the wind noise in the cockpit sounded like I was flying much faster than in a climb. J glanced at the instruments - and if my hair could have stood up under my hardhat helmet, it would have' My artificial horizon showed that I was in a nose-down left turn, with my altimeter winding down furiously and my rate of climb indicator way in the negative. My turn ami bank indicator was almost pegged to the left, with the ball in the centre - a nicely balanced turn. My airspeed indicator showed over 220 knots, where 130 was normal climbing speed. The tachometer showed the engine rpm at over 2,900, with 2,550 normal for a climb. No question about it: I was in the well known 'graveyard spiral', a classical case of vertigo: if I had hesitated much longer, I wouldn't be writing this today. It was difficult to ignore my conventional senses and suddenly have to shift mentally into believing a bunch of instruments that ,eemed to be lying to me.

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times a day. Normally we just used a 'standard' code, starting at north and moving clockwise every 30 degrees. The letters were DWRKANUGMLFS, and we committed them to memory with these mnemonics: 'Did Willy Really Kill A Nasty Ugly German Man Last Friday Saturday' - though Capt Owen Dykema remembers it differently. He flew fortyseven Korean combat missions in Corsairs from the carrier Princeton, and he recalls a different set of mnemonics for the same default code: 'Did Willy Run Kate Around Naked Until George Made Love For Sheckles'! Those Korean guysl

I had heard a lot about vertigo in training, and had even experienced mild cases in Link trainers, but never like this. I knew that if I followed the instinctive action of pulling up the nose I would only tighten the turn. The first order of business was to scan the instruments and level the wings. I was at about 2,000ft [600m] heading down at 4,000ft [1,200m] per minute, so I had less than 30 seconds. I threw the stick to the right and added some right rudder to level the wings, reduced the throttle, then pulled back on the stick as I watched the altimeter and rate-of-climb indicator. I levelled off at 600ft [180m] altitude without ever breaking out of the clouds' I advanced power and went into a climb - this time on instruments. When I broke through the overcast at about 4,000ft [I ,200m] - it was much thicker than we had been told there were the other seven planes, all joined up in a gentle left rendezvous turn, wondering where I was. This was not my only 'close call', and on other flights there were other incidents. Once I had a loose oxygen mask and almost flew off over the horizon in a 30,000ft [9,000m] euphoria. I popped an oil-line pulling out of a dive-bombing run, and had to make a carrier landing with my windshield covered with oil. On one flight my wheels wouldn't come down, and they had to be blown down with an emergency COz bottle. Once my automatic cowl-flaps didn't open on landing and I almost burned out the engine. Then there was that night landing where my brakes seemed to lock....

carrier planes at that time did not have radar, and those that did, frequently had their radar fail. The solution was 'ZB/YE', also known by some as 'the Hayrake' because of the shape of the transmitting antenna on the ship. As I recall, ZB was the receiver in the airplane, and YE the low frequency, over-the-horizon ship transmitter. In the Sixth Fleet in the early 1950s we made several cruises around the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. We frequently flew over 200 miles [300km] from the carrier with nothing but water between us, and it was certainly a welcome sound (especially in bad weather) to hear the Hayrake signal coming in. The Morse Code letter received would tell us which of the twelve quadrants we were in, and we simply flew the reciprocal heading until we spotted the ship visually. If the letter received changed, we knew we had drifted from the proper heading, and adjusted accordingly. It was a great system. When on manoeuvers, the code was changed daily, and someti mes several

'Flying the Hayrake'

Corsairs on board the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1954. via Philip Jarrell

For many years, in the early days of flying, pilots 'flew the airways': this consisted of low-frequency radio signals sent out into four quadrants roughly 90 degrees apart. Adjoining quadrants each had a Mor,e Code A (dot-dash) or N (dash-dot) signal, and where the quadrants joined, the A and N signals combined to create a solid tone. The pilot simply found the solid tone - the 'beam' - and then flew inbound to the 'cone of silence', where the beams converged at a specified fixed location from the airport. But how could a pilot during World War II or the Korean 'police action' find his moving carrier from many miles away? Of course, if the plane had working radar it was relatively straightforward, but most

'Over the Rainbow': Spring 1951 It was planned to be a pretty simple hop, though as it turned out, I almost flew 'over the rainbow' to the Land ofOz! Myself and Lt Cdr Felix Craddock, the VF-14 executive officer (XO), were to be catapulted in

l.J~

... ~

F4U Corsair making an arrested recovery on board the USS Antietam (CVS-361. 14 February 1955. USN

737

our F4U-5 Corsairs from the Wright as it was steaming in the Mediterranean; I was to be Fel ix's wingman. We were to fly north for about 150 miles 1240kml, climbing to about35,000ft 11O,700m], and were then to turn back toward the carrier. The object was to test the abi Iity of the sh ip's radar to spot us coming inbound, and to determine our bearing from its own position, our altitude, and our groundspeed. This would be good practice for the ship's radar crew, and a big help in calibrating their system. No armament was loaded, since it was peacetime in the Med (although the Korean Action was in full swing in Asia). No special equipment was needed beyond our normal helmets, oxygen masks and liferafts, and we wore our G-suits as standard gear. The radios were checked out before we mounted our steeds - side-number 403 for the XO, and I was in No. 405. We climbed up and into the cockpits using the various toeholds and hand holds provided in the airframe for that purpose. (This took the strength and limber body of a young man, and I doubt I could accomplish that task today at sevent y-four!) Fortunately we weren't wearing our chutes at the timc; the plane captains had already placed them in our cockpits. As soon as we were sealed, we began strapping ourselves in. An adjustable safety belt and shoulder straps both fit into a quick-release safety buckle. The shoulder straps were attached with spring tension to an inertia reel behind the seat, allowing you to lean forward yet be protected from sudden manoeuvers or a crash landing when the inertia reel would lock the straps. You could also lock the shoulder straps independent of the inertia reel, which I normally did unless I had to lean forward to reach a control or switch. I plugged my microphone/headphone connector into the radio jack located on the bulkhead behind my right shoulder. The pigtail of the G-suit was plugged into a quick-disconnect fitting located on the aft end of the left-hand control shelf; whenever we pulled 2Gs or more in a manoeuver - even a tight turn - a valve would open and force air into the bladders in the legs, thighs and abdomen of the G-suit. This would help prevent blood from flowing out of the head into the lower body, and would allow us to pull an extra G or two without greying or blacking out. Next I plugged the oxygen mask into a tube at the bottom of the seat, put the mask to my face, adjusted the straps for a


TRUE TALES OF TRIAL AND TERROR

TRUE TALES OF TRIAL AND TERROR

snug fit, amI breathed deeply to check that the two oxygen flow indicators were blinking to indicate proper operation. The F4U-5 had a diluter-demand oxygen system with an air-valve lever on the left-hand control shelf that allowed the pilot to select 'normal oxygen' or '100 per cent' oxygen. I selected 'normal' for a maximum duration flight, as this conserved oxygen by producing a proper proportion that automatically increased until at 30,OOOft [9,OOOm] it was lOO per cent oxygen. (Th is latter selection was used on night flights for better vision, and was not usually used on shorter fl ights.) Normally we c.!idn't use oxygen at all below S,OOOft [2,500m] (5,OOOft/I,500m at night); but since on this flight we were going to high altitude, I left the mask on.

The Launch We were parked forward of the other aircraft on this relatively short deck, so we would both be catapulted; there was not enough room for a running deck launch. We each started up our engine, unfolded our wings, then checked to see that our wing-lock indicator (a small red metal tab that extended above the wing) pulled down into the wing to assure positive wing-lock. We then taxied forward, Felix to the port catapult and I to the starboard one. Following the standard procedure, the deck crew attached a steel bridle to hooks on the undersic.!e of each wing, with the front of the bridle looped around the catapult shuttle. At the rear of the plane the small 'hold-back ring', designed to break under the forward thrust of the catapult shuttle (but not to break until then, although the aircraft engine was at full power l ), was connected between the tail wheel and the deck. Felix was given the signal to apply full power. When he was satisfied with his engine instrument readings, he gave a snappy right-hand salute to the LO (the launch officer). When the LO was satisfied with the engine sound and the position of the forward deck in relation to the sea (since sometimes the deck would pitch forward in a rolling sea), he gave the launch signal. The catapult shuttle strained forward until finally snapping the hold-back ring, and Felix's Corsair shot forward and off the deck with a smooth launch. The same hook-up anc.! procedure got me off the deck and into the air about 15 seconds behind Felix, who was climbing in a gentle

left-hand turn so l could rendezvous with him by turning inside his radius, joining up, and then slipping under him to his starboard side, slightly below and behind him.

Formation Flying The whole process of formation flying, from rendezvous to holding position, is a learned technique. The rendezvous is accomplished by putting the leac.! plane in a position on your windscreen, and keeping it there; as long as the angle stays the same, you arc on a line of interception. As you begin to close in, you must adjust your rate of closure so when you get close to the lead plane you arc flying a similar path and speed to his, and don't need to make any drastic control changes to stay in position. Flying close formation is one of the most picturesque and challenging experiences of military aviation, since civilian pilots rarely fly in close formation. Watching the plane merely feet away from you moving slightly as you make tiny - and constant - adjustments to stick, rudder anc.! throttle to stay in position takes full attention and practice. In close formation you don't dare look at your instruments or anything else but the plane you're formed on. The lead plane must be smooth and not make any unexpected moves, especially into the wingman. And in the clouds or at night, with no outside visual clues, you can't be concerned about whether you are right sic.!e up or upsic.!edown: you follow your leader (wh ich also can be deadly).

The Rainbow We headed north over the boundless horizon, with nothing but the shimmering sea in every direction. The sky was cloudless, but ahead there were clouds above the horizon. We climbed at about I,OOOft [300m] per minute at l60 knots indicated a irspeec.! , reaching our assigned altitude of 35,000ft [lO,700m] and continuing outbound. At this point Felix passed the leac.! on to me, and he flew off my right (starboard) wing. Apparently a storm had taken place below and aheac.! to the left of us, and the placement of the sun and our position in relation to the mist in the air below created a beautiful rainbow extending from sea to sea. I was fascinated by this complete colour arch, with invisible ultraviolet becoming visible blue at the inside of the arch, then through all the other

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visible colours and shades to red and then into invisible infra-red at the outer limits of the arch. On we flew. 1 was feeling wonderful! What could be better than flying a Corsair at 35,OOOft and viewing this spectacle of nature? My radio was buzzing it seemed. Strange voices. Shouting. It made no sense to me. Suddenly I perceived that Felix had gone over to my left side (interfering with my view of the rainbow!): he was making strange gestures, then he pulled ahead and was flying zigzags. I thought, 'I guess Felix is bored, and is just having some fun.' More radio gibberish ... Was it training or intuition that made me think to glance at the oxygen flow indicator on the forward left console? Why wasn't it blinking? Must be bad, since I was feeling fine. But I knew there was a second oxygen indicator further back on the left console, near the trim tab controls: that wasn't blinking, either! l-lmrnmm. I knew that up to 4l,OOOft [12,SOOm] the indicator should blink when oxygen is being drawn. Could both indicators be bad? Or maybe / wasn't getting oxygen! I pushed the mask up against my face, took a couple of deep breaths, and the radio began making sense. Felix was having a fit on the radio: '405! 405! Where are you going? Let me have the lead. I have it!' We were way beyond the ISO-mile [240km] turnaround, and headed for Italy - without clearance during cold war tensions! I was heading us to the Land of ... I got on Felix's wing, and he turned us back toward the ship. Since 1 had flown us over 200 miles [300km] from the ship, it took us over an hour to get back, and after we landed aboard, 1 got hell from the XO - and deservedly! I should have been checking my oxygen indicator regularly, instead of watching a rainbow. My equipment had been working properly, but my oxygen mask straps were not tight enough, and with a demand oxygen system, it required the vacuum of your breathing in to open the oxygen valve - so I wa getting little, if any, oxygen. This resulted in a classic case of anoxia: feeling great, but with severely reduced faculties.

'Paddle Paradox' The following story has its funny side, though it might have ended in disaster. Fighting Fourteen was on a shorr Lantflex

(Atlantic Fleet exercise) cruise in the aribbean. We were the only full squadron aboard the USS Kula Gulf (CVE-IOS), a jeep carrier that was one of several carriers participating in this annual war-game exercise. One of the other carriers was a British carrier with several squadrons aboard, including a Corsair squadron. The Kula Gulf was cruising along that afternoon with a ready deck, fl ight operations on standby, trying to keep ahead of an approaching storm. I was one of the standby pilots in the ready room when the duty officer got a phone call that a flight of eight errant Corsairs - not from our carrier - were requesting permission to land. According to their radio transmissions, these were Royal Navy Corsairs whose ship was in the storm, and they needed to land somewhere, and they had found us! Since all our planes were parked forward on the straight-deck Kula Gulf, there was no reason we could not take them aboard. The LSO hustled to his aft port station with his two landing signal flags ('paddles'), while many of us went up to the 'Vulture's Nest' observation platform on the ship's island near the bridge. We wanted to watch the Brits land those F4U-4s, wh ich were earl ier, lighter orsairs than the -5 models that we flew. The British Corsairs, in two divisions of four each, made the standard upwind peeloff on the starboard side of the ship. Each established an interval as the pilot reduced rpm and manifold pressure, dropped the wheels and flaps, made a lSO-c.!egree rurn to the downwind leg while losing some altitude. They then turned toward the ship while adjusting the nose attitude, airspeed, altitude and bank, to position the orsair over the ramp with little or no straightaway. As we have seen, this lack of straightaway during the final approach was a necessary evil in a Corsair with a long, tilted-up nose, because if you wanted to keep the LSO in sight, you had to watch him from the left side of the Corsair's nose. Except for the 'cut' or 'wave-off, the LSO's signals were advisory, not commands: thus if you were OK, the paddles were held straight out for a 'roger'; and in the American book, if he held his paddles above the horizontal he was advising that 'you are high' and therefore should go lower; and if the paddles were held below the horizontal it meant 'you are low' and should get higher. There were also advisory paddle signals for approach speed and for lining up with the

centre of the deck. Based on the LSO's paddle signals, you adjusted your flight path accordingly, and you had to trust his signals since he was on the ship and could best judge the roll and pitch of the landing area as the carrier ploughed through uneven seas. However, as we watched the British orsairs approach, something was wrong. Starting with the first one, they all were turning okay, but their altitude control was a paradox. When they were getting a 'you arc low' signal, they went lower, and when they were getting a 'you are high' signal, they went higher! They all got wave-offs their first time around. Some got on board on their second try, but most took three tries, and eventually they did all manage it. 'Wow!' we thought, 'These guys must have had very little carrier landing practice.' But we were wrong. Actually, these pilots were excellent carrier pilots, but they were operating according ro their own English 'Batman' (their name for the LSO) signals. From conversations we had with them after they landed - and after they had stopped cussing '... that bloody crazy Batman!'it turned out that British paddle signals for altitude were exactly the 0P/Josite of ours. To them the arms-up paddles signal meant 'go higher', and the arms-down paddles meant 'go lower'! No wonder they were all over the sky until they figured it out ...

I raised the hook lever, hit the wingfolding contl'ol, and pushed the throttle forward ro get moving briskly. As I rolled over the barriers, I cut the throttle and started applying the brakes so as not ro plough into the aircraft parked just ahead. But the plane did not slow down. It appeared I had no brakes! Putting more and more pressure on the brake pedals until I was practically standing on them, and with the throttle completely off, I continued moving forward as if on ice! The plane slowed down as I skidded forward, but didn't srop until the stillturning prop chewed off the sheet-metal tai I-cone of the plane parked ahead of me! The propeller was not damaged, but the orsair ahead of me needed a new tailcone fairing before it flew again. Other than another blow to my pride, I was not hurt, but puzzled. What had causec.! this accident? Bad brakes? No, the brakes were fi ne. Too much throttle for roo long? In a way, yes l You see, while our division had been out on patrol, the ship had gone through a rainsrorm and the c.!eck was wet, and the rainwater, mixed with the typical oil and gas on the deck, made the surface very slippery. I should have been informed of this, but I wasn't - but it was still 'pilot error'. However, I didn't do that again.

How I Downed Five Corsairs: Four Down!

Five Down: 'Carrier Crash!' USS Kula Gulf, 7 November 1951

During the two years I spent in VF-14, we went on about twelve carrier cruises. Two were six-month tours in the Mediterranean with the Sixth Fleet, but several were Atlantic Fleet exercises (Lantflex) usually held in Caribbean waters. On one of these short cruises we were flying off a small CVE 'jeep' carrier, commonly called 'escort' carriers. Considerably smaller than CVL or V carriers, the jeeps had less landing area and fewer wires - but just as many barriers. n one flight I came back aboard normally enough, caught a wire, and watched the barriers in front of me drop. Following normal procedure, I allowed the arresting wire to pull me back so a deckhand could release the hook. Now it was up to me to quickly get ahead of the barrier locations so the plane behind me would have a 'clear deck'; it was always a matter of pride to make a snappy taxi forward to the parking area.

It has been said that the most dangerous time in a pilot's career is when he has about 600 flying hours. Prior to that he is very careful and deliberate, but after about 600 hours flight time he tends to be more relaxed - anJ gets careless. I had 666.2 hours of flight time, with 454.6 hours in F4U Corsairs, when I crashed on the deck of an escort carrier! It was a bright, clear c.!awn in the Caribbean on 7 November 1951 when eight of us in VF-14 were shot - they called it 'catapulted!' - from the escort carrier USS Kula Gulf (CVE-IOS.) Our F4U-5 Corsairs were part of an annual training exercise called 'Lantflex' (AtLANTic FLeet EXercise.) We were the Red Squadron, flying CAP (Combat Air Patrol) to protect our small task force from any Blue (enemy) raids. Nothing special happened. We just flew around in

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TRUE TALES OF -I RIAL AND TERROR

large, lazy circles in loose formation over the endless sparkling water, some distance from the carrier and its support vessels. I was flying F4U-5 122158, Squadron 405. After over two hours of occasional vectoring by the carrier CIC (Combat Information Centre), we headed back to 'home', flying in right echelon past the starhoard side of the carrier's island as we peeled off to port, setting our landing interval. We landed in turn without incident, and headed for the ready room. The Acey-Ducey ('Backgammon' to landlubbers) and card games came out, and we relaxed. I was not scheduled for any other fl ights that day after our early launch and relatively long 2.6hr flight. It was late morning when things changed suddenly 1 Our radar had spotted a 'snooper', apparently a Blue patrol plane approaching our ships. 'Pilots, man your planes!' was called for those scheduled on standby. Although I was not scheduled to fly, our deck was not spotted for the unexpected launch, so I went up on deck in case I was needed to taxi a plane to a new position on deck. It soon became apparent that some of our planes would have to be moved. [ climbed into the same 405 [ had flown earlier, just expecting to taxi around the flight deck as directed during re-spotting aircraft. I had on my regular flight gear - a hard hat, G-suit and parachute, standard procedure in case of a standby launch - but no plotting hoard, and no briefing. This was to be a four-plane search-anddestroy mission. Three got off fine, hut the fourth had engine trouble. All planes were heing catapulted since the wind over the short deck was not sufficient for a safe deck launch. (Not that cat shots were all that safe!) They took the sputtering dud orsair off the port catapult, put me on, hooked up the shuttle and cahle, and shot me into the gathering clouds' Equipped with an extra gas tank, we were off for a three-hour search flight. This turned out to be a long, boring, very tiring flight. The flight leader, to make things more interesting, put us in a 'tail chase' - and I was the last plane in this whipping tail as the leader performed mild aerohatics. The idea was to stay in position behind the plane ahead of you. Following was relatively easy if you were in one of the up-front positions in such a chase, but it got progressively more difficult if you were further hack in the stack. Because I was in position No.4 at the end

of the tail I was using a great deal of throttle, rudder, elevator and aileron movemen t, tryi ng to stay in posi tion (though this wasn't as bad as heing in the No.8 position in a tail chase, as I had been a number of times; but it was gruelling, nevertheless). The F4U-5, the heaviest in the Corsair series, did not have boosted controls, and didn't need them for normal flight, but it took a lot of physical effort to horse it around the sky. Also, we had gone up above the cloud layer, and the sun was beating through the bubble canopy. Combined with the natural high humidity of the Caribbean, the inside of that bird was hot and sticky! I recall popping the canopy back a few inches several times to try to cool off. Finally, after three hours, we were called back to land. There had been another unscheduled launch while we were airborne, so now the deck had been re-spotted again for our recovery. These were still the days of straight-deck carriers, when reshuffl ing of planes on deck was a common and necessary procedure between launches and recoveries. We spotted the Kula GlIlf, steaming ahead of its bubbling, churning wake, surrounded by several smaller support vessels and their smaller, shorter white tails contrasting against the shimmering sea. A rescue helicopter, always aloft during air operations, hovered nearhy. As we approached the landing pattern in right echelon formation, flying upwind along the starboard side of the carrier for the break-off, I reflected about how well I had been doing. [ mentally patted myself on the back for my good ordnance scores, and although there had been a rash of accidents on this cruise, so far my slate was clean. Landing an F4U-5 on a small escort carrier was inherently marginal. Escort carriers (CVEs) with a flight deck under 500ft [[50m] long were small compared to the larger 600ft I I80m] and 860ft [260m] light (CVL) and battle (CV) carrier decks. Escort carriers had fewer arresting wires (eight, compared to ten for CVLs, and thirteen for CVs), and their topheavy decks on small hulls had a much greater tendency to pitch, yaw and roll even in Iight seas. Every landing was a challenge. As I peeled off to the left and set my interval for the downwind leg, [ looked forward to getting down. I was very tired and sweaty. Getting back on deck, into a

134

shower, and then sacking out - that's what I was planning. [ dropped my wheels, flaps and hook on the downwind leg, throttled back to lose some altitude, and used the ship and its wake to judge my abeam position, direction and altitude. The ship was steaming upwind, and I was flying downwind, so it took no time at all before it was time to turn left onto the base leg. I pulled back on the throttle, slowly dropping altitude on the base leg by referring to where the horizon cut the bridge, finally settling at the approach altitude and maintaining just enough power to hold the nose-up attitude at about 90 knots, hanging on the prop. I put the left nose of the Corsair on the aft starboard deck for an intercept course and held it there. As the ship moved forward at about 20 knots, I pulled the Corsair around to the left, watching the LSO for paddle instructions. There was no luxury of any Significant straightaway in landing on those old straight-deck carriers when you were flying a long-nose orsair in a nose-up attitude. You just couldn't sec ahead of you - only off to the side. We essentially pyloned counterclockwise around the LSO in order to keep him in sight at his port fantail location. As [ got close in, I pulled the nose left toward the ship's centreline. This was affected by the wind over the deck, which was never straight down the deck, but ahout [5 degrees to port, so the turbulence from the ship's stacks and bridge did not appear in the flight path of the landing planes. This made for a very tricky last few seconds. At this slow speed, just a few knots above stalling, it took a lot of right rudder, even though in a left turn. And you didn't dare add power quickly - even if you thought you had to - since the 2,300 horsepower engine turning the 13ft 14m] diameter, four-bladed prop would make the aircraft roll uncontrollably to the left - the dreaded torque roll. It took a lot of back stick, considerable power, and almost all my right rudder to hang in there. As I approached the ramp in a left turn the LSO's paddles and my own perception was that [ was drifting to the right of the deck centreline. Too much right rudder. I crosscontrolled a bit and slipped to the left just as [ approached the ramp, levelled my wings, and got a mandatory 'cut'. 'Ah, home at last,' [ thought as [ relaxed, dropped the nose, and pulled back to drop the tail so my hook would catch an early wire. But I relaxed too soon l

Perhaps [ was more tired than I realized, and didn't pull back soon enough, or perhaps the deck lurched up at that time. Whatever the reason, my wheels hit the deck and bounced. [ was flying over the arresting wires, tail up, and drifting to the left! [ heard the crash horn just as [ popped the stick forward to get back on deck, and then quickly pulled back to get my arresting hook down. [ caught No.8 wire - but on this ship with a heavy orsair, the arresting cable pulled out just enough for the prop to catch the uplifted barrier cables. Strike two prop blades! And the moral of the story? Don't relax at the wrong time: the flight isn't over until the wheels arc in the chocks and the prop has stopped.

Epilogue I wasn't hurt in any of these accidents not even a scratched finger - and I never had another flying accident, although I gained a commercial pilot's licence after [ left the Navy. Four of the five accidents were carrier related - an especially accident-prone environment in the days of the straight-deck carriers - and all were in orsairs. Nevertheless I learned something from each accident - not a nice way to learn, but effective, as long as you survived ...

TOP: On 7 November 1951, Ensign Fred Blechman of

VF¡14 flying F4U-5 Bu No.12215a, crashed returning to the USS Kula Gulf (eVE-l0al. He hit the deck and bounced: the tail hook hit just aft of the No.1 crossdeck pendant (arresting wire), but the tail bounced back into the air, carrying the hook over the pendant. USN via Blechman MIDDLE: Yanking back on the stick, the tail comes

down and the extended hook is about to engage the No. a cross-deck pendant. USN via Blechman BonOM: Although the tail hook caught No. a

cross-deck pendant, the arresting wire pulled out far enough for the aircraft to engage the No.2 and No.3 barrier cables, bending two blades of the propeller. USN via Blechman

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WAR IN TilE LAND OF MORNING CALM

CHAPTER NINE

War in the Land of Morning CalDl Puckcr Ull, pu;h hcr ovcr and salvo your load, Fircwall that old U-hird and Ict'; hit thc road. Thc commic; arc firin~ and thc Oak is ri~hr black, Bur wc'rc all dctcrmincd thm wc'rc ~oin~ to ~cr hack.

[n [945 the Soviet Union took the surrender of japanese forces in Korea north of the 38th parallel, while the United States handled the enemy surrender south of the dividing line. For a while, everything was peaceful in the land of the morning calm. But five years later, early in the morning of Sunday 25 june 1950, that calm was shattered when the North Korean Army, using the (alse pretext that the South had invaded the North, crossed the 38th parallel, completely wrongfooting the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army and its American advisers. On 27 june, Martin Mariners of VP-47 at [wakuni in japan began patrols off the Korean coast, while VP-6, equipred with Lockheed P2V Nertunes, was ordered to Korea. The Navy rlanes had their work cut out, since the peninsular of Korea is 600 miles (965km) long, j 35 miles (220km) wide, and with an area of 86,000sq miles (222,740sq km). On 28 june the first US ground troops were ordered to Korea; however, they were not flown in until 2 july. North Korean Air Force (NKAF) Yak 9P fighters and !I'yushin 11-10 Shturrnovil< attack aircraft bombed and strafed airfields near the carital Seoul, and Kimpo, and quickly established air superiority over the whole country. The NKAF entered the offensive with only about 162 aircraft, all of Soviet manufacture, and all of them piston-engined. Mostly the fighter and ground-attack regiments consisted of Yak3 and Yak-9 fighters, and !I-lOs. On parer the NKAF had no chance against the UN forces, but the USAF aircraft available for war in Korea were ill suited to 0rerate in

a close air support and interdiction campaign. They needed paved runways 6,000ft (2,000m) long, and these only existed in japan, which meant that air operations over Korea were restricted to no more than a few minutes. For the most part the British and Commonwealth carriers would operate off the west coast of Korea in the Yellow Sea, while the US carriers would operate off the cast coast in the Sea of japan. Flying from flat-tors, Navy and Marine units could operate in the Sea o( japan and be sent off at a point about 70 miles ([ lOkm) from the coast of Korea (the shallow sea bed off the east coast o( Korea prevented them from getting any nearer). Fortunately for the men aboard the carriers, the North Koreans lacked the capability to strike back at the UN fleet off its coasts. They also had no jet aircraft that could take on the American frontline aircraft. The USN was in a state of transition, with the first jet fighters joining the more numerous piston-engined air-

craft aboard its carriers. American air superiority during 1950 meant that Korea was an ideal hunting ground for both the slower Corsair fighter-bomber and the Skyraider attack aircraft in which to operate in the ground attack and interdiction roles. The 'Bent-Winged Bird' was still in production, and it was one of several wartime tyres still in frontline service at the outbreak of the Korean War. In january 1950 a carrier's air group (CVG) composition had been changed from three fighter and two attack squadrons, to four fighter squadrons (VF) - namely two F4U-4 orsair and two Grumman F9F-3 Panther jets - and one attack (VA) squadron (AD4 Skyraiders). Each group comprised ninety aircraft, or eighteen in each squadron. While jets were about 100mrh (160kmph) faster than Corsairs or Skyraiders, the early jets could not haul as great a war load over a long distance, and they were also slow to respond from the

F4U-4 '405/M' of VF¡24 preparing to launch from the USS Philippine Sea off Korea. The huge, four-bladed variable-pitch propeller and Double Wasp powerplant permitted fast acceleration aboard the carriers, while the early jets, though 100mph (160kmphl faster than Corsairs, were slow to respond from when the throttle was advanced to the time the engine 'spooled up' sufficiently to accelerate the aircraft. Corsairs could also haul a greater war load over a longer distance. Roland H Baker

136

point when the throttle was advanced, to when the engine 'spooled up' sufficiently to accelerate the aircraft. This delay could prove fatal if a jet had to be waved off a landing at the last moment. Corsairs, with their huge variable-pitch propellers and Double Wasps, permitted fast acceleration, and they could also carry a more formidable war load than the Grumman F8F Bearcatj besides, although the latter had replaced the F6F Hellcat in twenty-eight Navy squadrons during 1945-49, it did nor serve in Korea. The F4U-4's eight Sin (l27mm) high velocity aircraft rockets (HVARS), two 1,0001b (450kg) bombs, or two 11.75in (298mm) rockets would be used to great

effect to destroy road and rail bridges, fortified positions and airfields on land, while at sea, strafing and bombing using napalm would prove equally effective. During the first ten months of fighting, Corsairs would fly more than four-fifths of all Navy and USMC ground-support strikes in Korea. Later, their main role shifted to attacks on troop concentrations and supply lines. When it was realized that the more conventional rocket projectiles simply bounced off the Soviet-built T-34 tanks used by North Korea, specially developed ATAR (anti-tank aircraft rocket) 'Ram rockets' with a 6.5in ([65mm) funnelshaped charge attached to the standard HVAR were used to great effect.

Two 5in HVAR (high velocity aerial rocketsl and two longer, modified with 6.5in diameter anti-tank (ATARI'Ram rockets' for penetrating the T-34 tanks used by North Korea, are fitted to the underwing of an F4U-4. The standard 5in warhead was found to be too small to damage the Soviet-built tanks used by the Communists. Roland H Baker

USS

berthed in Japan during the Korean War. During Philippine tour of duty off Korea from 5 August 1950 to 15 February 1951, VF-113 and VF-114's F4U-4s were embarked. Roland H Baker Philippine Sea

Sea's first

137

Sailing with Task Force 77 TF- 77 comprised Valley Forge, which had sailed from the Philippines, and the light fleet carrier HMS TriumfJh, with two cruisers and eight destroyers; these were in position by 12 july, and were the only UN ships in the Western Pacific to begin operations against North Korean targets. CVG-5 was the carrier group embarked on the 'Happy Valley', and comprised VF-51 and VF-52 flying F9F-2 Panther jets, VF53 and VF-54 flying F4U-4Bs, VA-55 flying AD-2 Skyraiders, and VC-61 with F4U-5Ps. Valley Forge arrived on station on 3 july [950, and at 0600 hours the first strike went ahead, with sixteen of VF-53 and VF-54's F4U-4s and twelve AD Skyraiders of VA-55. CVG-5's Panthers became the first jet fighters in the US Navy to go into action when VF-51 provided top cover for the Corsairs and Skyraiders. The attack aircraft concentrated their strikes on North Korean lines of communications, bombing and rocketing railway bridges, rail yards, airfields and roads near the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, while F9Fs shot down NKAF Yak-9s that tried to intervene, and destroyed others on the ground. Aircraft from Valley Forge continued their strikes on North Korean targets on 18 july with strikes on Pyongyang and Onjong-ni, and on the 19th they attacked Yonpo airfield. These two strikes resulted in the loss of thirty-two NKAF aircraft destroyed on the ground, and another thirteen damaged. Valley Forge left Korean waters at the end of the month and sailed to Okinawa, japan, for rest ::md replenishment. Its place was taken by the fast attack Essex-class carrier Phili/J/Jine Sea (CV-47), with Air Group II (CVG-II) embarked, commanded by Cdr W. 'Sully' Vogel jr. VF-Il [ and VF-112 were equipped with the F9F-2, VF-113 and VF-I14, F4U-4s, VA-liS with AD-4B Skyraiders, and detachments from Composite Squadron 3 (CV-3) were equirred with F4U-5N nigh t-fi gh te rs/pho to- recon n a issa nee models. VC-ll wi th A [)-4 Bs, VC-61 wi th F4U-4s, and VC-35 were also embarked. Phili/J/Jine Sea joined TF- 77 on 31 july 1950, arriving in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, on 1 August to begin work-ups for attacks on Korea from the Sea of japan. Once again it was time to send for the 'Flying Leathernecks'. In july, Marine Air Group 33 (MAG-33) and USMC ground troop reinforcements left for Korea.

III


WAR IN THE LAND OF MORNING CALM

A red-shirted armourer carries a bomb to a waiting Corsair on board the

Philippine Sea. Roland H Baker

A brown-shirted plane captain smiles for the camera while attending to a F4U-4 on board the USS Philippine Sea in Korean waters. Roland H. Baker

At work on a VF-24 Corsair on board the USS Philippine Sea. Roland H. Baker

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WAR IN THE LAND OF MORNING CALM

MAG-33 arrived at Kobe,Japan, on 31 July and proceeded to Itami for maintenance and testing. On 2 August 1950 the carrier Sicily (CVE-118) arrived in Tsushima Strait with F4U-4Bs of VMF-214 'Black Sheep', and began rocket and incendiary attacks on Chinju near the south coast. Sicily was joined on 6 August by the Badoeng Strait (CVE-116) with F4U-4Bs of VMF-323 'Death Rattlers' embarked. VMF(N)-513 remained at Itazuki, Japan, where its F4U-5N Corsairs were assigned to the 5th Air Force for night defence duties. VMF(N)-513 moved to K-9 at Pusan, Korea, and flew its first combat missions on 22 January 1951. In February, VMF(N)-513 moved to K-3 at Pohang, and then to K-l at Pusan, where it absorbed the F7F-3N Tigercats of VMF(N)-542. CVG lIon board Phili/J/Jine Sea launched its first attacks on 3 August when Lt Cdr William T. Amen led VF-l11 in attacks on airfields at Mokpo, Kwangju and Kusan, while eight F9F Panthers ofVF-112 and twelve Corsairs of VF-114 hit rail and road bridges in the Mokpo-Kwangju area. The F4U-4s destroyed a bridge and damaged two dams south of lri before strafing warehouses, sampans and junks on the way home. The F4U-4s of VMF-214 flying off the Sicily bombed Chinju and Sinban-ni, while VMF-323 from the Badoeng Strait (CVE-116) flew close air support (CAS) missions for 8th Army units, attacking vehicles, supply dumps, bridges and railway lines. VMF-214 and VMF-323 flew on average forty-five ground-attack sorties a day during the fierce UN counter-offensive around Pusan. Between 7 and 13 August, Phili/Jpine Sea supported the UN counter-offensive in the Masan Sector as the North Koreans attempted to break through the Pusan Perimeter. On the first day, VF-I13 lost two F4U-4s, which collided during a strafing run when 15 miles (24km) south of Kunsan while providing close air support and interdiction of enemy supply lines. Ensign J. F. Kail was killed, while Ensign C. T. Farnsworth nursed his damaged Corsair out to sea where he ditched; he was picked up that same afternoon. Next day, one VF113 pilot pressed home his attack at such low altitude that his Corsair took major damage from his own bomb blast, but he made it back to the Phili/Jpine Sea and carried out a safe landing. On 9 August Cdr W. 'Sully' VogelJr, CAG 11, flew with VF114, leading a strike against the Riken Metal Company factory in Seoul. Using

500lb (227kg) bombs and rockets, Vogel's flight hit the target 'very effectively'. Later during the day, the Corsairs of VF-I14 and AD-4 Skyraiders of VA-lIS teamed up to blast the marshalling yards and the Standard Oil Company warehouses in the capital, leaving the latter burning. They also accounted for several boxcars and a locomotive on tracks nearby. Meanwhile, Corsairs of VF-l13 bombed, strafed and rocketed a factory at Inchon, setting it on fi reo Vogel led another VF-114 strike on 13 August, this time against targets near Pyongyang. On 16 August, after replenishing in Japan, Phili/J/Jine Sea sent its aircraft over Korea again with strikes on key bridges near Seoul. Next day, VF-l13's Corsairs caught a twenty-truck convoy with a cargo of artillery on the road south of Songjin and obliterated it. On the 19th, thirtyseven F4U-4s and AD Skyraiders from the Phili/Jpine Sea and Valley Forge, escorted by Panthers, made attacks on the bridges near Seoul again. Eight direct hits were scored on the large steel Han River railway bridge west of the capital; this bridge had withstood days of heavy bombing by B-29s of the 19th Bomb Group, including one strike that saw fifty-four tons of bombs explode around it. Eight of the Corsairs were from VF-114 on the Phili/Jpine Sea, and were led by 'Sully' Vogel. While the four-plane CAP element encountered no enemy aircraft, the four strike aircraft hit a bridge span with one 500-pounder on the first pass. Sully Vogel came round again for a second pass, but enemy anti-aircraft fire hit his Corsair and set it on fire. The Pacific combat veteran bailed out of the burning Corsair and pilots saw his chute stream, but it did not open and his body hurtled to the ground. Vogel was a little under a month short of his 36'h birthday; he left a widow and five children. General George F. Stratemeyer, C-in-C, FEAF (Far East Air Force), had promised a case of Scotch whisky to the first crew to destroy the Han bridge. The spans of the bridge fell into the river that night before B-29s of the 19th Bomb Group could drop their special 2,000 and 4,0001b (900 and 1,800kg) bombs the following morning but the honours were declared even, with the 19th and CVG-ll both receiving cases of whisky I Philip/Jine Sea cleared Korean waters on 20 August, and next day, as the CV-47 lay anchored at Sasebo, a memorial service was held for Cdr Vogel, and also for Ensign C. L. Smith ofVF-l12 who died

when his Panther crashed and burned near Sari won. Phili/J/Jine Sea completed her replenishment at Sasebo on 25 August, and returned to the east coast of Korea. On 27 August, CVG-ll attacked shipping in Wonson Harbor, damaging what pilots claimed as a 'destroyer escort' with rockets and cannon fire, and two 'gunboats', by strafing. Between 29 August and 4 September, CVG-11 pilots claimed destruction of a 'fleet-type minelayer' and four patrol craft at Wonsan. They conducted emergency CAS in defence of the Pusan perimeter, and destroyed key bridges along the North Korean lines of communication. Philippine Sea's pilots also discovered the enemy's major staging base at Kangge, and photographed Inchon prior to the amphibious landing there.

Deep Support at Inchon On I September, the North Koreans made an all-out attempt to pierce the Pusan perimeter, and the Corsairs of VMF-323 and the Far East Air Force fighters and bombers were used to repel the attacks. At night the F4U-5Ns of VMF(N)-513 and USAF B-26s flew numerous night interdiction missions, while at sea, squadrons

from Task Force 77 added thei r stri ki ng power to the counter-offensive operation. All this activity attracted the attention of the Soviets, who had a naval air base at Port Arthur on the tip of the Liaotung peninsular. On 4 September 1950 a VF53 Corsair from Valley Forge on CAP shot down a twin-engined Soviet aircraft that approached the task force. Next day the North Korean People's Army (NKPA) offensive had petered out, and on 11 September the breakout from Pusan began. (Corsair - The F4U in World War Two by Barrett Tillman). On 10 September, USMC Corsairs from Sicily and Badoeng Strait carried out a preliminary series of raids on targets in the Inchon area, the first against Wolmi-do Island and neighbouring Sohni-do. Three days later the pre-invasion sea bombardment began, and then, on 15 September, General Douglas MacArthur launched Operation Chromite, using amphibious landings behind the enemy lines at Inchon. During 12-14 September, F4Us and Skyraiders provided the majority of the 'deep support' from Valley Forge, Philip/Jine Sea and Boxer (CV-21). Boxer had recently arrived on station with CVG-2, comprising sixty-four F4U-4Bs of VF-23, VF-24, VF-63, and VF-64

A02 John B. Robinson pushes a bomb dolly loaded with 100lb (45kg) bombs past a partially loaded F4U Corsair on the flight deck of the USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) as planes make ready for a strike on targets in Korea. 6 September 1950. USN

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'Freelancers'. In addition it also had AD-2s and AD-3s embarked, along with VC-3 (Detachment 'George'), and VC-6I detachments of F4U-5Ns and F4U-4Ps respectively. US Navy and USMC fighterbombers strafed and bombed positions along the Inchon waterfront prior to the main landing. The UN forces enjoyed total air superiority, and by midnight on the 15th the 1st Marine Division had secured the port of Inchon and, with the Army's 7th Infantry Division, moved on Seoul and Kimpo airfield, severing Communist supply routes to the south. The North Koreans fell back in the face of the offensive, and the Navy pilots went in search of interdiction targets behind the 'main line of resistance' (MLR) and over North Korea. CVG-5 from the Valley Forge discovered a North Korean convoy of trucks in open terrain at Taejong 6 miles (lOkm) east of Inchon, and destroyed no fewer than eighty-seven of these. On 17 September, Kimpo airfield fell into American hands and prepared to receive MAG-33 aircraft. On the 19th, Corsairs of VMF-212 'Devil Cats' and Tigercats of VMF(N)-542 arrived from japan. On 20 September, Corsairs of VMF-323, operating from the Badoeng Strait, provided CAS for the 1st Marine Division when the NKPA tried to take Hill 118. Late on 27 September, Seoul was recaptured, and when another American amphibious landing went ahead at Wonsan on the east coast of Korea on 10 October, the Marines were supported by aircraft from Boxer, Leyte (CV-32), Phili/)/)ine Sea and Valley Forge. Black-and-wh ite checkerboarded Corsairs of VMF-312 from Kimpo attacked a large column of North Korean trucks and troops 39 miles (63km) southeast of Wonson, and the unit, which had become famous as 'Day's Knights' in World War II, destroyed most of the vehicles in a series of merciless bombing and strafing runs. By 28 September the Communists were in full retreat. But the North Koreans rejected a surrender ultimatum, and MacArthur had no choice but to continue the war north of the 38th Parallel, and march on the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. On 13 October, the Corsairs of VMF214 and VMF-323 and the F4U-5N nightfighters of VMF(N)-513, commanded by wartime Corsair ace Major Hunter Reinburg, took up residence at the repaired Wonson airfield. The F4U-5N night fighters flew daylight missions until runway

lighting was installed at Wonsan, after which they resumed their night intruder operations. Corsairs of VMF(N)-513, VMF-214 and VMF-323 supported the 1" Marine Division when it was finally able to go ashore at Wonsan on 24 October. By the end of the month the North Korean capital of Pyongyang had fallen, and the war seemed to be won. The carriers of TF-77 were relieved, and retired to Sasebo, japan, while the USMC squadrons moved up to Yonpo airfield to carryon CAS missions for the ground troops pursuing the remnants of the NKPA to the Yalu River that bordered Communist China. On 14 October, MacArthur's intelligence staff had reported a total of thirtyeight Chinese divisions in Manchuria, but it was believed that none had entered North Korea. In fact six Chinese armies began storming across the border at night, and by the end of October aImost 300,000 Communist 'Chinese People's Volunteers' were deployed for battle with the UN forces. Only small groups of Chinese troops were identified, and the majority remained virtually undetected. Again, American forces were caught on the wrong foot. On 1 November American aircraft were confronted by the MiG-IS for the first time, and an area 100 miles (l60km) deep between Sinuiju on the Yalu and Sinanju on the Chongchon River would soon become known as 'MiG Alley'. On 6 November TF-77 was recalled to Korean waters. For three consecutive days, beginning on 9 November, F4Us and AD-4s from Valley Forge, Leyte and Phili/)pine Sea, protected by F9Fs flying top cover, hit bridges on the Yalu and supply concentrations in Hungnam, Songjin and Chongjin. Because of political considerations, the Navy pilots were only permitted to bomb the southern end of the bridges. Skyraiders flying in formations of eight, supported by eight to sixteen Corsairs on flak suppression duty, destroyed a road bridge at Sinuiju and two more at Hvesanjin, 200 miles (320km) upstream. Up above, as many as sixteen Panther jets kept an eye on proceedings, flying top cover for the bombers.

From Across the Yalu Though outclassed by the MiG, the superior experience of the Panther jet pilots gave them the edge. On 10 November a Panther from Philip/)ine Sea was the first US

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Navy jet to bring down another jet aircraft when Lt Cdr W. I. Amen, CO of VF-ll1, destroyed a MiG-IS near Sinuiju. For the next nine days the Corsairs and Skyraiders continued their attacks on the bridges across the Yalu. On the 17 October 1950, aircraft from Philip/)ine Sea and Leyte dropped both bridges across the Yalu and Hyosanjin, but by using pontoons, the Chinese were able to cross the river; and when in late November the Yalu froze over, the Chinese were able to cross almost at will. This build-up of its forces led to the first real confrontation on 28 November, when heavy fighting broke out between the Chinese forces in the Hagaru-ri and Yudam-ni areas and the 1st Marine Division. The 5t h and 7th Marines became cut off from the rest of the division, and were forced to withdraw to the rugged terrain around the Chosin Reservoir. All available land-based and carrierborne aircraft were thrown into the battle, and also the evacuation from Hungnam. Valley Forge had departed the area for a much-needed overhaul, and the light carriers were involved in ferrying replacement aircraft to the USMC squadrons in the battle zone. Leading the way were USN and USMC close air support Corsairs and Skyraiders, protected by USAF F-86 Sabres flying top cover. From Yonpo airfield came the Corsairs ofVMF-214, VMF323 and VMF(N)-513 and VMF-212 'Devilcats' and VMF(N)-542's Tigercats. At Kimpo there were the Corsairs ofVMF312, which during the Chosin breakout flew almost 2,000 hours in the air, losing four Corsairs and one pilot. On 1 Decembet the USMC breakout of Chosin began, but by this time the fast carriers Leyte and Philippine Sea were on station, and they were soon supported by the Bawan (CVL-29) and Badoeng Strait On 5 December the task force was strengthened still further by the arrival of the Princeton (CV-37), with CVG-I9 consisting of two F4U-4 Corsair squadrons VF-l92 and VF-193 - also one F9F-2 squadron, and one ADA squadron. On 7 December the Sicily arrived on station with VMF-214's Corsairs flown in from Yonpo. On 16 December the light carrier Bataan arrived with VMF-212, and next day the Corsairs covered the Hungnam evacuation. On 23 December the Valley F01'ge again took up station in the Sea of japan after its much needed overhaul. The Marines who were holed up in the Chosin Reservoir were given around-the-clock

protection by fighters and fighter-bombers, who often ended up flying in and around the treacherous mountainous passes in appalling weather conditions. The weather in this region is one of extremes: while the summers are hot - so hot that many pilots in fact considered these conditions to be worse than those endured in winter - Korean winters are freezing, with sub-zero temperatures being the norm. The 10-mile (l6km) long Funchilin Pass was particularly dangerous, while some of the others were around 4,000ft (l,200m) and experienced temperatures that dropped to over 32 degrees below zero.

Medal of Honor Winner On the morning of 4 December, Lt (jg) Thomas j. Hudner and h is wingman, Ensign Jesse L Brown, the first commissioned black American Navy pilot, and two other F4U pilots of VF-32 from the Leyte (CV-32) were on an armed reconnaissance mission north of the Chosin Reservoir. Hudner's flight group was covering the marines' escape, looking for more Communist forces advancing from the north. Hudner, a graduate of Annapolis in 1946, had been with VF-32 since receiving his wings. He and jesse Brown, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, were good friends, and Hudner considered Brown to be an inspiration to all blacks. Flying above the snow-covered mountains,

they saw no sign of enemy troops - but jesse Brown's F4U-4 was struck by anti-aircraft fire, and he reported that he was losing oil pressure and would have to crash-land. Brown put his Corsair down in a clearing on a heavily wooded mountainside, but such was the force of the impact that the engine broke off, and the fuselage twisted at a 45-degree angle near the cockpit. The three other Corsairs circled overhead, and on the second pass they saw Brown open his canopy and wave - but he did not get out. Hudner then saw smoke corning from the nose and spreading back toward the cockpit, and he realized immediately that the F4U would catch fire at any moment and the trapped pilot would be burned alive. The flight leader called for a rescue helicopter, but Hudner knew that by the time it arrived, they might well be too late. He radioed the others that he was going down to help Brown. Hudner released his rockets and auxiliary fuel tanks, selected his flaps, and tried to put his Corsair down as close as he could to Brown's wrecked Corsair: he hit the side of the mountain hard and skidded across the snow - but his Corsair was safely down. He leaped out and ran to Brown's wrecked F4U, and found that the pilot was indeed trapped. The fuselage had broken at the cockpit, pinning his leg at the knee, and he was in bad shape. Brown had taken off his helmet and had removed his gloves to try to unbuckle his parachute harness, but the freezing cold (the snow was 2ft (60cm)

deep, and it was 25 degrees below zero) had frozen his hands solid. Hudner rushed back to his Corsair to grab a wool hat and scarf he always kept for emergencies; he put them on Brown and tried to pull his friend free, but the Corsair's cockpit was too high off the ground for him to reach. He then tried to climb up the F4U's inverted gull wing, but it was too slippery with snow, and he just kept sliding off. Finally he grabbed the hand holds in the side of the fuselage and pulled himself up to tbe cockpit, from where he reached down to try and lift Brown. But it was hopeless. Finally Hudner returned to his Corsair and radioed his flight leader Lt Cdr Richard L Cevol i, to send a rescue hel icopter wi th fire extinguishers and an axe. As he waited all Hudner could do was throw handfuls of snow onto the still-smoking nose, stopping now and again to talk to Brown to try and boost his spirits. Hudner suspected that Brown had internal injuries, but the trapped pilot never once said that he was hurt and he remained calm throughout the ordeal. Finally, a USMC rescue helicopter piloted by Lt Charles Ward arrived and landed on the mountainside. He brought out his axe and fire extinguisher and joined Hudner in trying to get Brown out of the wrecked Corsair; but they were unable to make any headway. The axe made no impression on the tangled metal pinning Brown's knee and the tiny fire extinguisher had no effect on the smoke

President Harry S. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Lt (jg) Thomas J. Hudner of VF-32. the fourth F4U Corsair pilot to receive America's highest honour. and the only carrier pilot so honoured during the Korean War. for his actions flying from Leyte on 4 December 1950. Hudner deliberately made a wheels-up landing behind enemy lines to go to the aid of downed wingman Ensign Jesse L. Brown (the Navy's first black aviator). who was trapped in his burning F4U-4; but his valiant effort was in vain. USN

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and flames. As the Iight began to fade so did Brown's sririts, and his words became fewer and fainter. Ward knew that he and Hudner had to get out of the crash spot before dusk because the hel icopter had no night-flying instruments, and trying to fly among the mountains at night could be fatal. Realistically Ward told Hudner, 'You can stay here if you want, but I can't see that either of us can do any good.' Hudner knew Ward was right. The only way they could have got Brown out was to have chorped off his leg at the knee with the axe, but neither was prepared to do that because the shock would more than likely have killed him. All they could do was return to base for better metal-cutting equipment - though in their heart of hearts, they knew that by the time they returned Brown would be dead. Hudner told Brown they were going to have to leave him and get heir. But Brown must have known thar he was dying, because he mumbled a last message to Hudner for his wife Daisy. As lludner and Ward left, he slipped into unconsciousness. The helicopter reached the Marine base at nightfall, and Iludner remained snowed in there for three days. When he finally returned to his carrier, the cartain, Thomas Sisson, called him to report to the bridge. Hudner recou!lled the events of 4 December, and waited for the reprimand that he thought would surely corne for acting without orders. But instead Sisson nominated him for the Medal of Honor, and President Truman at the White House duly decorated him, on 13 April 1951. Hudner was the only Corsair pilot to receive the supreme award during the Korean War. Ensign Jesse Brown was the first black naval officer to die in combat in an American war. After the successful completion of the Chosin breakout, achieved mainly due to the total Navy and Marine air support, the USMC squadrons were evacuated from Yonpo, beginning on 7 December. VMF124 went ahoard the Sicily, and VMF-312 was embarked on the Bataal'l on 12 December. (The 'Checkerboards' were ordered to Bofu Air Base in southern Honshu.) Two days larer, VMF(N)-513 and VMF(N)-542 were moved to Japan. Philippine Sea and Leyte completed their operations in the Chosin Reservoir area on Christmas Day 1950; they had been on the line for fifty-two consecutive days, and departed for rest and replen ish ment in Japan, arriving m Sasebo and Yokosuka on

F4U-4 Corsair '418/M' of VF-24 taxies away after landing on the USS Philippine

Sea off Korea. Roland H. Baker

Severe winter conditions aboard the USS Philippine Sea off Korea. Roland H Baker

Grinning and bearing it in the winter conditions aboard the USS Philippine Sea

26 and 28 December respectively. But their departure was followed by a Chinese New Year offensive on 31 December, and on 5 January 1951 the Chinese recaptured Seoul, and the UN forces were soon in headlong retreat. On 8 January the Sicily and the Phili/)/)ine Sea, together with Valley Forge, were on station off Korea again. After days of concerted and unremitting attacks, the hinese advance was finally stopped on 15 January. An incident of the most remarkable character also occurred on this date: Ensign Edward J. Hofstra, J 1', of VF-64 aboard Valley Forge, was strafing coastal roads when his F4U-4 struck the ground flat on its belly, shearing off its belly tank, napalm bomb and wing bombs. The engine was also stopped when the propeller made contact with the ground. But following impact, the Corsair bounced back into the air, and the remaining inertia carried it about 1,000 yards further forwards, and 500 yards out to sea where Hofstra was able to ditch it and gel into his life raft. He was rescued by a Sunderland flying boat about three hours later. A ircraft from the Phili/)/)ine Sea attacked enemy positions until 1 February, when the carrier replenished in Japan; then it was in action again from 12 February to 13 March. Four days later, Phili/)/Jine Sea and Valley Forge returned to Yokosuka, and an exchange of air groups began. CVG-II disembarked, and three Corsair squadrons - VF-24, 63 and 64, and VA63 with AD Skyraiders - and the usual CompOSite Squadron detachments, were embarked from CVG-2 aboard Valley Forge. Philip/)ine Sea rejoined TF-77 on 4 Arril, and her Corsairs and Skyraidcrs resumed operations in the Sea of Jaran until the 8th, when CV-47 and her screen sailed for Formosa to counter Red Chinese threats against the island. After a show of force off the Chinese coast and over the northern part of Formosa between II and 13 April, CV-47 returned north, giving surrort to UN ground forces between 16 April and 3 May, and returning to Yokosuka on 6 May. The North Korean spring offensive, however, soon pulled the Phili/)pine Sea back to the line, and during the period 17-30 May 1951 she furnished close air support for the hard-pressed UN forces. Finally on 2 June 1951 she detached from TF-77 and departed for California for a complete overhaul.

Night-Fighting Corsairs Other Corsair units off the west coast of Korea at this time included VMF-212 'Devilcats' aboard the Bataan, now assigned to TF-77. On land in February 1951, USMC squadrons returned to bases in Korea, with VMF-214, -311, -312, -323 and VMF(N)-513 being deployed to K-3 airfield near Pohang. Night interdiction missions against troop and truck convoys now entered a new phase, with the Navy F4U-5N/NLs detached by VF-3 and VC4, and F4U-4P post-strike reconnaissance orsairs detached by VC-61 and VC-62. In addition, land-based F4U-5Ns operated alongside the F7F-3N Tigercats in VMF(N)-513 and VMF(N)-542 'Flying Nightmares'. The first USMC Corsair night victory occurred on 12 July 1951 when Captain D. Fenton of VMF(N )-513, flying an F4U-5N, shot down a Polikarpov Po-2 biplane 'night heckler' over Seoul. On 7 June 1952 1st Lt John W. Andre, also of VMF(N)-513 flying an F4U-5NL, shot down a Yak-9. The squadron's eight night victories after this were all in F3D2 Skykn ights. In all, 468 F4U-5s were built. Of these, 351 were F4U-5s, forty-five were F4U5Ns, and seventy-two were F4U-5NLs. The twelve F4U-4Ps built served with VC-61 and VC-62 before they were replaced aboard the carriers by the rum man F9F-2P jet. The F4U-4P was fitted with a 90-degree lens prism that enabled the pilot to fire rockets, strafe or drop bombs, and then activate the camera

F4U-5N lin fl ighI. USN

off Korea. Roland H. Baker

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during pull-out to record the damage done by his and previous attacking aircraft. VC61 had F4U-4P detachments aboard Valley Forge from 31 July to 23 November 1950; on Boxer from 24 August to II November 1950; and on Philip/)ine Sea from I August to 28 March 1951. VC-62 flew F4U-5 Ps from Leyte from 9 October 1950 to 19 January 1951. At night, the Navy and USMC Corsairs were used on 'Firefly' missions in conjunction with flare-dropping aircraft such as the PB4Y-2 Privateer, which would orbit and illuminate a target area for the Corsair rilots to then bomb and strafe with their deadly fusillades of rockets, bombs and napalm. Night fighting in Corsairs in this manner was particularly dangerous work for the pilots, because of course the flares not only illuminated ground targets, they also lit up the strafing Corsairs for the Communist anti -a ircraft gunners. On 13 February 1951, Lt (jg) David A. McCoskrie of VC- 3 was shot down and killed flying an F4U-5N near Yontee-ri. Seven nights later, Lt Bernard F. McDermott of VC-61, flying an F4U-4P, took a light AA shell hit in his oil cooler while on a low-level reconnaissance mission near Wonsan Harbor. The F4U4P was not fitted with an oil cooler shutoff, and quickly lost oil pressure as McDermott tried to nurse it back to the coast. The engine finally died over Wonsan Harbor and he had to ditch, though fortunately he was immediately picked up by a small craft launched from a destroyer. On 21 March 1951, Maj Scott


WAR IN TilE LAND OF MORNING CALM

G. Gier of VMF-212, who was flying an F4U-5, was brought down by enemy AA fire during a CAS (close air support mission). He made a successful crashlanding, but was killed later that day by ommunist ground troops. On 7 April, 2nd It Alan Beers of VMF212 was ki lied on another CAS over Korea; and six days larer, Captain John E. Van Housen of VMF(N)-513 was lost in an F4U-5Nl ncar Pyongyang. This unit's losses continued to mount during 1951. On 20 May 1951 Capt William lesage was shot down flying an F4U-5Nl on a 'Firefly' mission ncar Yang-gu. Seven days later apt Arthur Wagner was killed flying an F4U-5N ne:lr Mayhon-ni Kunwha. On 13 July, 1st It William K. Garmany and 1st It Arnold Olson were killed during napalm dropping missions at Hanp'o'ri and Namchon-jom. By the end of the war, about thirty night-fighting Corsairs had been lost and many more written off in landing accidents. The 'Flying Nightmares' finally received F3D-2 Skyknights in June 1952, and these slowly replaced its F4U-5N Corsairs and Tigercats.

WAR IN THE LAND OF MORNING CALM

F4U-4 '410' of VF-24, its wings folded upwards just after landing aboard the flight deck of the USS Philippine Sea after another strike over Korea. Roland H. Baker

The Day War Continues On 15 March 1951 Seoul was back in UN hands, but the continued presence of Chinese troops in South Korea meant that reinforcements were needed, and the wholesale reactivation of naval reservists began. By 27 March, Air Group 101 embarked on Boxer was composed entirely of recalled reserve squadrons, and included VF-884 (Olathe) and VF-791 (Memphis) equipped with F4U-4 Corsairs. From 5 March VMF-312 was deployed on the Bataan; on 4 April the CO, Major D. P. Frame, was killed in action. His replacement, Major Frank H. Presley, was wounded in action on 20 April, but he remained in command of the unit {or the remainder of the tour, unti I 6 June 1951.

F4U-4 '211', flaps down, alights on the flight deck of the USS Philippine Sea after another strike over Korea in the spring of 1951. Roland H Baker

On 21 April the F4U-4s of VMF-312 flew forty-two sorties over Korea. Four of the 'Checkerboard' Corsairs were led by the executive officer of VM F-312, Captain Philip C. Delong, a World War II F4U1/-4 ace credited with 11.166 victories, a probable, and two enemy planes damaged. This formation, flying in support of the 1st Marine Division, had an eventful mission. The division split into two sections, and aL 0645hr, 1st It Godbey in the second section was forced to bail out after suffering engine problems. He was rescued by South Korean forces and returned to the Bawan after being airlifted out by helicopter. Near Chinnampo on the Yellow Sea, four NKAF Yak-9 fighters attacked the first section. Delong's wingman was 1st It llarold Daigh, who spotted the enemy fighters first. He recalled: 'We were fully loaded. I had two 1,0001b [450kg)

TOP: F4U-4 'Yvonne III' of VF-884 from the USS

Boxer during April 1951, flown by Lt R. Pitner, circles a burning Communist bridge that he has just attacked. USN MIDDtE: F4U-4 '115' of VF-64 taking off frol11 the

Philippine Sea for a strike over Korea. Roland H Baker RIGHT: F4U-4 '113' of VF-64, with empty weapons

racks and wings folded upwards, taxies down the flight deck of the USS Philippine Sea after another strike against North Korean targets. Roland H Baker

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bombs on board and a drop tank and five rockets.' At first Daigh thought the Yaks were Mustangs due to a similar incident that occurred earlier, but after seeing the aircraft's markings he and Delong dropped their stores and Daigh called the break as Delong's Corsair began taking hits. Delong told Daigh to 'start shooting'. Daigh saw 'big red balls as large as baseballs' going over his wing, and he, too, 'figured it was time to shoot.' Delong took evasive action and Daigh scored hits on one of the Yaks, which started down in flames. Delong destroyed two more Yaks, while Daigh got hits on the fourth fighter, which left the scene smoking and was credited as probably destroyed. Capt (later Col) Delong flew a total of 125 combat missions in Korea and was awarded the Silver Star, an Air Medal, a strikefOight DFC and eight strike/flight Air

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Medals. Daigh eventually flew 118 missions before departing Korea in December 1951. He was to recall: 'We had very little air-to-air combat in Korea because the Air Force took care of the MiGs up and around the Yalu and we simply never got up there.' After he returned from Korea, Daigh joined VMF-124 at El Toro flying F9F-5s before leaving the USMC in 1954. Next day, 22 April, the Chinese launched a major offensive in the Hwachon Reservoir area, and on the morning of the 23rd, YMF-323 and VMF-214 launched all their available Corsairs for a counter strike. Altogether, the 'Flying leathernecks' flew 205 wrties in support of the ground forces, 153 of them being close air support along the 'main line of resistance' (MlR). That night the Chinese attacked the Marines at Horseshoe Ridge in force, but the 'grunts' held out, and at daylight on 24 April the CAS aircraft returned to strafe and bomb the Communists as the troops withdrew. orsairs were proving one of the most successful aircraft in the Korean conflict. Despite the privations of climate, enemy action and constant operational usc on a number of different missions, serviceability remained high. Furthermore, some o{ the F4Us were 'retreads', previously used in the war in the Pacific in 1945! The only usc of aerial torpedoes during the Korean War occurred on I May 1951, when eight Skyraiders and twelve Corsair escorts from Princeton attacked the Hwachon dam. The ADs breached the dam, releasing a flood of water into the Pu1chan River, which prevented the Communist forces {rom making an easy crossing. Attack and counter-attack continued for weeks, until on 31 May Operation Strangle, an air interdiction campaign using the 5th AF, 1st Marine Air Wing and Task Force 77, was mounted against road and rail routes and bridges in northeast Korea. To enable more effective close air support (CAS), MAG-12's forward echelon moved from K-16 airfield outside Seoul, to K-46 at Hoengsong, about 15 minutes' flying time from the main line of resistance (MlR). Known as the 'Kansas line', it ran from Panmunjon north-east to Chorwon and Kumhwa, then cast to the 'Punchbowl', and finally northeast to the Chado-ri area of the Korean coast. With reaction time much improved, and the air support as near to the ground troops as possible, Corsairs of VMF-214 and VMF-323 were able to carry out the


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First Combat On 2 May 1952, twenty-three year old Ensign Owen W. Dykema, a Corsair pilot in VF-I92 aboard Princeton, flew his fi rst combat mission of the war. He recalls: I was in the third division of the 'Golden Dragons'. Actually, after VF-I92 appeared in the movie 'The Bridges at Toko-Ri', doing all the flying, we began to call ourselves the 'World-Famous Golden Dragons'. We elected to have a special division patch made up to commemorate the farcical police action in which we were involved. We were the Keystone Kops of the UN Police Department. USN Pantherjets circle for landing aboard the USS Princeton on 16 July 1951. The Corsairs are spotted aft

We more or less followed a group from the

on the flight deck of the 'Sweet Pea', part of TF.77 off Korea. USN

Valley Forlre on the rail strike, so they could show us how it was done. We circled and

first of many CAS missions from Hoengsong with great success. Late in July, MAG-12 moved even further forward to better improve the reaction times for CAS missions and increase their longevity, relocating to K-18 on the east coast ncar Kangnung. The move also brought interdiction targets in North Korea closer, and permitted longer armed reconnaissance missions to be flown. In August 1951, the Essex (CV-9) arrived on station with CVG-5 to join TF-77. On board were F4U-4/-4Bs ofVF53, and a VC-3 F4U-5NL detachment, as well as two squadrons ofF9F-2s and one of F2H-2 Banshees, and Skyraider units of various types. On 18 August, aircraft from the task force attacked twenty-seven bridges and rail lines running to the cast coast. Samdong-ni to Kowon was soon christened 'Death Valley' by Navy aviators, who grew to respect the enemy AA fire in the area. During 1951 the aircraft aboard TF-77 flew 29,000 interdiction missions over Korea: their contribution to the war effort was immense. One of the most important contributions was the USN and USMC Corsairs, which were never far from the front line action. VF-63 for instance, which operated from the Boxer and the Valley Forge from 15 September 1950 to 2 June 1951, flew over 1,000 sorties and was credited with the destruction of over 2,000 enemy troops killed, fifty-seven vehicles and twenty-seven gun positions destroyed or damaged, and one tank destroyed. Added to this they also accounted for 18 supply and fuel dumps, 1,156 troop shelters, 4,590 buildings, 1 locomotive, 1,246 rail cars, 45 bridges, 16 warehouses, 114 oxen and horses, and 5 junks!

USS Rainier (AE-5) pulls away after replenishing USS Antietam (CV-36), her flight

observed. A longs ide the track there was a small

deck crammed with F4U-4 Corsairs aft and F9Fs forward, and USS Wisconsin

hill and a relatively he<lVY AA installation. One

(88-64) in Korean waters, February 1952. USN

of the Valley's divisions went after the hill to silence the gun. They strafed and dropped 'grass

F4U-4 Corsairs of VF-713 on the flight deck of the USS Antietam (CVS-36) on 15 October 1951. USN

F4U Corsairs and F9Fs on the hangar deck of the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) in Korean waters, 15 November 1951. USN

746

Late in 1951 the Navy made several farreaching changes to the composition of its carrier forces. On 15 October CVG-15, the second all-reserve air group, arrived in the Sea of Japan aboard the Antietam, with five reserve and four regular Navy units. Four of the five reserve units - VF-713 (Denver), VF-653 (Akron), VF-83 I (New York) and VF-837 (New York) - were equipped with Corsairs. VF-653 soon joined ATG-l, the Navy's first Air Task Group, which was formed that month to bring together all the USN's experienced F9F-2, F4U-4 and AD squadrons from regular carrier groups. ATG-l was embarked on Valley Forge and the Corsairs ofVF-653 were joined by VC-3 (Detachment 'George'), flying the F4U-5N. Throughout the winter of 1951-52, the war in Korea reached stalemate on the ground. In the air the Navy and USMC squadrons continued their interdiction and close air support strikes against North Korean targets. At sea, Task Force 77 could afford to rotate its carriers on a fairly regular basis. Eight carriers took their turn in the Sea of Japan, and normally four US carriers were on station at anyone time. After an overhaul, Philip/Jine Sea rejoined TF-77 on 3 February with CVG-ll including the Corsairs of VF-I13 and VF-114. Essex, Antietam, Boxer (with CVG-2 -VF24/63/64/65 and three detachments), Princeton (with CVG-19 -VF-191/192/ 193/195 and four detachments), Bataan (with VMA-312's Corsairs embarked), Valley Forge (with ATG-l -YF-52/l11/

194/653 and four detachments) and Bariolw (CVE-115) were the other carriers. In March 1952 Operation 'Saturate' was launched, a sustained offensive aimed at short sections of railway line to deny their use to the enemy. TF-77 and its aircraft groups and the Marine squadrons ashore were part of this offensive. During March and June 1952, the Marine Corps changed its VMF designation to VMA to reflect the Corsair's true attack role, a feature of operations ever since the war in Korea had started. By April 1952 the USMC had six Corsair day fighter squadrons in Korea, withVMF-115,-311 and-121 basedatK3 Pohang, and VMF-212 and VMF-323 'Death Rattlers' at K-6 Pyontaek, while VMA-312 operated aboard Bataan. The AU-l ground-attack version of the Corsair now began to be delivered almost exclusively to the USMC, beginning with VMA-323 at K-6, Pyongtaek, and VMA312 at K-3, Pohang. During the period February to October 1952, the Marines received 110 AU-Is. Although heavily armoured, sixteen AU-Is were lost to enemy groundfire during the Korean War. VMF(N)-513 continued to operate a mix of F4U-5N Corsairs and Tigercats until these were totally replaced by Skyknights. During June, 1" Lt John W. Andre, an F4U-5N pilot who had destroyed four enemy aircraft in World War II, became an ace when he despatched a Yak-9; in doing this he became the first Marine Corps ace in Korea.

747

cutters'. These were hombs with a radar fuse, set to explode just a few feet off the ground. They were specially constructed to shatter into zillions of little, bullet-sized fragments, to sweep the surrounding area. They literally 'mowed the grass', Of course the AA crew had reinforced tunnels to hide in, and as soon as the bombs stopped going off, they leaped out and fired at the planes going away. In the midst of all this one of the Valley's pilots came on the air and matter-of-factly announced: 'Red One, this is Red Four, Red Three was hit on that last run and went straight in. No chance of survival.' Despite all the destruction on the hill, the AA team got him. A healthy, reasonably happy naval aviator, probably with a wife and kids, just like my own - and there he was, just smashed into small pieces on the side of a little hill halfway around the world from his family. What a way to start an eight-month tour of such nonsense.

[On 6 May Ensign Owen Dykema flew on an early morning strike from Princeton. I On 6 May the skipper went on the pre¡dawn 'heckler' hop with VC- 3 (the night fighters), and we launched just after dawn. When we reached the coast the skipper and the three VC boys had a convoy of seventeen trucks cornered on a winding mountain road. We asked per..

mission from the strike controller to direct our strike to the trucks. There we were, only 10-15 miles from the first really worthwhile targets we've seen sincc wc got hcrc, loadcd down with a couple of tons of high explosi\'es and ammo apiece. We could have spent a couple of hours destroying 20-30,000 dollars' worth of vehicles

,


WAR IN TilE LAND OF MORNING CALM

WAR IN TilE LAND OF MORNING CALM

'111d supplies. But the conrroller s'lid nix, homh

They were hoth in pretty steep bank> and pulling

right on the railmad lies smcked along rhe right

the rails, and ,enr three mberahle jets over

'Gs', and hoth were rrying to avoid cra,hing into

of way - I guc~~ the idea was to

there with 200lh of bomhs apiece. They only

(I) each other; (2) rhe already assemhled for-

of useahle tic, do lhey couldn't repair rhe rail

got one truck and a bulldozer. By the time we

mmion (u,); and 0) the water. Ir wa, '111 excit-

cuts so fast. The hig homh, would fragment

flln

them out

homhed the track> and hustled over there to

ing ,cene all right, even powerfully heautiful'

them and our napalm would hum up rhe frag-

:-.lra(c, there wasn't a truck or person III ~ighl,

The clouds were black and angry, with ,cud

ments. I saw ,ome of the biggie, hit and, man,

except the one the jet; hit. Ir was sltung off the

occasllll1ally hanging down mal OOft 130ml or

was rhat impreSSive' It was a fairly humid day

mad covered with green foliage for camouflage.

so off the weather, and rain falling in ",me are,,,.

and the big bomh, set up a ,hock wave rhat you

We strafed it like mad, bur Clluldn't ,et it afire.

The ,ea wa, a dark blue-grey, with wave, reach-

could clearly ,ee, a whitish circle rapidly

The skipper had hir the ncar one, knocked it

ing 10 to 20ft 13 m 6ml in the air. And there were

expanding away from the hit. The pile of ries

off the mad and rolled it down into the valley.

the two dark hlue Corsairs, seen nearly head on,

basically disappeared. I wonder what rhe eco-

Actually (of course) the >trike controller"

showing the pmmlnenr inverted gull wings and

nomic trade-off was

decl>ton was pmhahly correct. The hest weapon

the monster spinning 12ft 14m 1prop', coming at

hundred railmad tics!

again"'l tfucks Oil a winding road was ...trating

us at ahout 200 kn<m.

There were so m,my fires we couldn'r assess

The heautiful twin cities of llamhung and

With explmive (20mm) ammo, which the jels

a 2,OOOlh homb for a

rhe damage fm the smoke. I guess we clobbered

had and we didn't. We jusr had solid 50 calihre

Ilungnam were not far nhcad, and they were

it good, rhough. Just like we got Puckchoni the

chunk- of met,d As we saw, we could pour those

clear of clouds. Time to get ready for the attack.

day hefore, hig mass stnkes of thirry m forry

rounds tnto the truck> fore,¡er, and perhaps

Ensign Owen Dykema of VF-192 in his Corsair at Moffett Field, California, just

We were just beginning m appmach Ilungnam

plane,. I heard rumours thar the MiGs were also

damage them severely (we had a hard t lI11e

before his war cruise to Korea, 18 February 1952. Owen Dykema

when the long-range flak hegan to appear: It was

down our way during lhe nighl .

MiG Alley TF-77 now prepared for strikes in concert with the US 5th Air Force, on the North's four principal hydroelectric plants, at Fusen, Kyosen, Choshin and Suiho on 23 June. The big generating plant at Suiho was the most dangerous target, situated in MiG Alley less than 40 miles (65km) from Antung where 250 MiGs were based; this would be attacked by fighter bomhers from TF-77 and the Fifth A ir Force. Meanwhile, Fifth Air Force Mustangs would bomb Nos 3 and 4 plants at Fusen, while USMC Panther jets raided Choshin's Nos 3 and 4 plants. A short time after, Skyraiders, Corsairs and Panthers from Boxer, Princeton and Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) would attack

apparent t har rhe defences would he fairly

tellmg), hUI usually we couldn'r set them a!lre like the exploding 20mm Clluld. Once on hre

heavy, as expected. Because of thi" we phmned

the whole truck would go, cargo and all.

to dmp all of our ordnance in a single pass and then get the hell our of rhere. Whde setting up

In all, Ensign Owen Dykema flew six missions in the two weeks before R&R in Japan. The one on 12 May was a 'special hop':

fm the allack, and all the while 11 lasted, the

flllk

of all kmds - wa, pretty heavy, and Siruce took what seemed then to he a minor h,t m the engine an,'H.

I set

,111 my ordnance on ,alvo, mlled mto my

dl\'e (adrenalm pumping freely) and Imed up on

You bet it was special. It seemed thai our mtelItgence guys had a direct observer of some sort

my two tiny huddmgs, firing all guns

IIwolved in a big meeting of all the North

All the way down rhe orange halls were floating

,I>

J went.

Korean and Chine,e intelligence communit y. It

up and the hlack puffs of ,moke were magically

was being held in a small mwn well up the coast

appearing on all ,ides. At 2,500ft 1760ml I

from the homh line (the frond, m a hlg hudd-

Rocket-armed Corsairs of VF-192 on the way to the beach. Ensign Owen Dykema

released my whole load and hauled out of there.

ing like a resort hotel in rhi, ,mall town. They

is flying No. 214. Owen Dykema

No wonder 1didn't see (or care) If I hll or not, I was already gone and clawing for ever-mme dIS-

even professed to knoll' the exaCt moms where the intelltgence hig wigs were hilleted, and the

In the event, ollr Ilflvig.Hion \\'as fb\\'lcs~. We

exact schedule for hreakfast. Our joh was to sur-

did the pull up and pop over thing, and there

was pmhahly less than one minute. One pass,

gmund. Once again, miraculously, everyone

prise them just afrer first lighr and hefore thel

was the huildmg' The sun was Just up and

and surprise was gone, so back hotTIe

survived the attack and got joined up. 1jockeyed

got up to go to hreakfa", pmhahly just when

shining fmm behind us on the Side of the build-

they were m rhe head for their \1Hlrt1lng 'ahlu-

mg. I could easdy Identify my personal ,,'mdow

liOns" and hlast them all.

and it looked exactly as hriefed. We strung our

In the hrlehng for the ,trike we were shown

a liltle hit to avoid conflicting with one another

good pictures of the huilding, a large two-storey

and went . . traight on in. I was numher ~ix in

cad, of liS was assigned a windo\\', We

and I could see rhe leaders' napalm going right

Joh, and

were ...uppo...cd

(0

throw our napalm right

aSSigned II'mdoll'. We didn't thmk

It

our

mm and directly amund those wmdo,,"s. By the

would make

time I gnr up close I had Just ahout lost sight of

111

much difference If we hit the window or not,

my window in the smoke and flames fmm the

hecause at 250- 300 knots thai napalm was going

earlier hit,. Nevertheless, I think I gnr mine

go thmllgh the wall no matter where It 1111.

right in there. I cleared the mof of rhe huilding

We took just two di,¡isions (eighl), and II'l'

by only ahout 20ft 16ml, and gm a clear, close-

10

launched m the darkness just before dawn. We flew In to the heach right on the water, at 50ft

was

Wl'

went.

apparent11

complete.

I was Sixth In, so th1l1gs hadn't dctenor;lted too already stepped down off thc leader hI' ahout

115ml altitude or "', to avoid radar detection.

Nnrhing was ,tirnng in the town, and no AA

50ft [15ml, and only ahour 150ft [45ml off the

Navigation wa"'lricky

responded. On circling hack we could sec that

w,Her. After that I ju" sucked in right to my

ttl

hCCClUSC

we were . . uppo...cd

.11111 right al the beach, pull up at the coast,

tance and altitude hI' rhe rime my load hll the

amund and looked over Struce's pLlI1e prellI'

Princeton was back on station in the Sea of Japan on 2 June, and VF-I92 recommenced strikes on North Korea. Ensign Owen Dykema flew his seventh mission on 5 June, against rail targets near Wonsan, and on the 8th, VF-192 launched twenty-three Corsairs under a 200(t overcast for a strike on Hungnam. He recalls:

much when I slid into place. However, we were

up view of rhe whole thmg. Our surpnse

tallltOps and headed in until rhe first napalm hit

carefully, hur other than a posSlhle thm haoe of :-.mokc Of oil ~lre(\Ining hack from

hiS

englnc,

everythmg ,eemed okay. I don't know for ,ure If I knocked my targer; out - a pair of,wrage huildings

hecause we didn't go hack

w look, hut 1

tried. They were such riny huildmgs ' Then we had Wlel down rhmugh the soup agam, to return wthe ship. Made it okay, rhough.

On 16 June 1952, aircraft from TF-77 pasted Kowon, supported by an effective rope chaff cloud to 'snow' enemy radar-controlled AA guns. Two days later, VF-I92 (rom Princeton struck at rail targets again, as Ensign Owen Dykema remembers:

the huilding was lOtally l'ngulfed in flames. If all

leader (Struce) and tried to occupy as lit tiL-

scemeJ to he, the

space as posSlhle, and out of the corner of my

We went way up norrh and bomhed the devd

eye watched the rest come in.

out of another little railmad rown. We used

pop over the mountain range, and find ourselves

of our info was as correLt, as

bOring right down on rhe buddmg. Any ml>-

Nonh Kmean and Chmese mtelilgence com-

take, and we would gIve rhem rime to get out of

munity pmbahly suffered Its largest Single loss in

At one r01nt there werc two C:orsairs coming

napalm fm the !lrst rime. Some of the guys had

F4U-4s and Skyraiders on the crowded flight deck of the USS

the huilding and into the bomb shelters.

hisrory. Fmm the time we cleared the moun-

in too steeply, one ,lightly hehind the other.

2,OOOlh 1900kgl homhs. They rried to dmp them

to a strike over Korea. Roland H Baker

148

It

149

Philippine Sea prior


WAR IN TI IE LAND OF MORNING CALM

WAR IN THE LAND OF MORNING CALM

Fusen's Nos 1 and 2 plants. Finally, when darkness fell, B-29s would hit the Nos I and 2 plants at Choshin using radarbombing techniques. For the initial strike on Suiho, thirty-five AD Skyraiders and thirty-five flak-suppression F9F Panthers, from Boxer, Princeton and Philip/)ine Sea, with eighty-four USAF Sabres as top cover, would be involved. A second strike, consisting of seventy-nine F-84s and fortyfive F-80s, would go in an hour later. Bad weather delayed the start of the operation, which went ahead at 1400 hours. Ensign Owen W. Dykema was one of the VF-192 Corsair pilots from Princeton at the time of the operation. He recalls:

The problem began, however, when damage reports late on Monday indicated that, while we

in the strike

fly nightfall we were all really upset. Word

dUlll

to demonstrate cowardice in

the eyes of my own personal world. So I was

finally came through thar we would indeed strike

had torally destroyed two of the plants, the

the Choshin plant the next day, first launch, hut

between a rock and a h"rd place, which simply

Suiho and the Kyosen, and pretty well damaged

unfortunately thar still would give the Commies

dictated that I go out ,md get killed, if that was

a third, at the Fusen Reservoir, the fourth, the

all night to prepare their hest reception. And as

to be my fate. There was no way out. The morning

W"S

bright and clear - cheery,

big hydroelectric plant at the (famous) Choshin

luck would have it, I was indeed assigned to thar

Reservoir, was still operating. We all immedi-

strike. As the evening wore on we began getting

actL",lIy. I kept looking around to savour the

ately hegan clamouring to launch a second

reports from the night pilots who had heen

,¡iew. As we approached the target rhe AA

massive strike as soon as possihle, at least as

scouting the area that every road and railroad

began appearing. In true form, the skipper flew

early as possihle Tuesday Illorning, to knock

they could see had convoys of lights, all con-

up "Iongside rhe r'lI'ger, p"st it "nd began cir-

that plant out before they could beef up the

verging on Choshin. We fully expected that by

cling hack, to line everyone up in the circle sur-

defences. This was the last significant remain-

Tuesday this would be the most strongly

munding the target. Good tactics, the trouble

ing source of electric power for all of North

defended target we had hit to date. The ship's

was thar the skipper and I (and a few orhers)

Korea, and the element of surprise was gone. A

operations people were estimating 10 per cent

were sitting up there like ducks in a shooting

child of six could predict thar this remaining

losses (acceptable). So I was looking at a I-in-I 0

gallery, for whar seemed like hours (just a few

plant would soon be the most heavily defended

chance of getting killed the next dayl

site in the world. Since I was one of the fell'

I don't think I slept at all Monday night. Lying

The end of June 1952 was an exciting, even his-

who had not flown on Monday's strike I was

there in my sack, I was never so scared or lonely

tory-making time in TF-77 in the Sea of Japan.

assured a place on this second strike.

in my life. I kept thinking how this might be my

minutes). The AA was extremely heavy, with white and hlack (the heavy stuff) puffs appearing all around, and orange rracers drifting by from all qu"drants. AI' times the big stuff was close enough to hear the sharp 'crack" over the

UN allies had ruled out attacks on the electric

Down safely, a F4U-4 Cotsair is arrested on board the USS Philippine Sea off Korea, and the yellow-shirted LSD ('landing signals officer'j returns to his station.

power system and network in North Korea as

Roland H Baker

prohahly within 50-100ft 115-30mJ of us.

As those of us in the trenches under>tood it, the

noise of the engine and the wind. That was I was scrunched up inro as small" b,,11 as pos-

long as there was a chance that we might have the way down, so the enemy gunners tended to

sible, there in the cockpit, looking over at the

ended up taking it over. However, hI' June 1952

Ia~[ night, my la~r few hours on earth, and I \Vas

it had hecome amply clear that we were going

spending it lying there "lone in a bunk on a ship

keep their heads down, from the time the first

skipper and silently screaming at him to 'Go,

to settle for some kind of armistice that left

far from home in rhe Sea of Japan. The ship and

guys (the skipper and I) started firing until the

man, go" Bur he just kept calmly (unafraid' -

everything north of the 38th parallel to the

the squadron were already fully anticipating the

last, tail-end Charlie pulled out of his dive. In

hardly) flying around the target, looking over

Communists. So the High Command decided

loss of several pilots tomormw and they were nor

addition, if they were firing back at us during our

his shoulder to be sure everyone was in his

that that was an appropriate time to take out all

p"rticularly concerned that one of these might

dives, they h"d to keep rorating their aim as we

proper posirion for the attack. So far there were

generating capacity up there.

be me. They were already geared up to perform

c"me in fmm all parts of the compass.

no losses th"t I could see; rhough I failed to see

The power plants were the only remaining

the necessary norifications of next of kin, to

The re"lIy sensitive parts of the attack were

why not. 11011' could they have missed us in thar

targets of any significant, concentrated value in

adjusr the squadron roster to fill in the empty

just before and after our defensive firing, jusl

shooting gallery I However, it was at this time

all of North Korea, and so, as you might expect,

spots (my place), and to go on operating "s

before the first plane went in, when everyone

that one of the A Ds from VF-195 had his rail

they were heavily defended, with all sorts of

though I had never existed.

was close in and surrounding the target but no

shot off - fortunarely the pilor gO( out, though how or where I never found out.

anti-aircraft guns, of all types. Our hope was

As advertised, we were up very emil' Tuesd"y

one was yet into their dive, and just after the

that, after a couple of years of ignoring them as

morning (who slept/). I really felt rotten, and

last guy pulled out, when the ground defences

Fin"lIy the skipper seemed satisfied, waggled

targets, the North Koreans might have hecome

so did everyone else on the strike. Nobody

could safely pop up out of their bunkers or

his wings and went in. I dutifully followed, with

complacent, and might actually have diverted

talked about it, though, or shared their fears. As

tunnels and fire at everyone going "way. Of

an enormous sigh of relief, at least to get

some of the idle defences elsewhere. The plan

far as I could tell, I was the only one so scared.

course, gun emplacements off to the sides of the

moving and defending myself. We rolled into

was to hit them all at once, throughout all of

By 0430 we were in the cockpit and ready to

target area would he firing all the time.

the dive and I began concentrating on the

F4U-4s at launch time on board the USS Philippine Sea in Korean waters. Roland H Baker

target, lining it up, putting the proper lead into

go. Unfonunately, the weather over the target

The skipper "nd I were expmed to the firsl

massive strike. They got four carriers on the line

was poor so we were put on hold. For 3 th incrcd~

sensitive period the longest, as we led everyone

it, and firing all guns almost continuously. It's

on Sunday, the 22m!, and that single massive

ible hours we s"t there, strapped in the cock-

else into diving position around the target. The

hard for me to believe th"t I was doing all this

strike went out on Monday the 23rd.

North Korea, and knock them all out in a single

pits, fidgeting, worrying, panicking (isn't the

skipper was a real professional and I knew he

while nlcked with such fear. Apparently fear is

Although they launched almost every avail-

waiting always the worsr?). I could just see hun-

would do it just right regardless of the danger.

not necessarily paralysing. Fin"lly I reached the

ahle plane from the four carriers, I somehow

dreds of AA guns "rriving at the plant, setting

We were exposed to the groundfire at closer

proper altitude and everything seemed right on,

failed to get on the schedule. In particular the

up, stockpiling the ready ammo, firing a few

rcHlgc, and for a longer time than anyone else

so I dropped my bombs.

guys who went way up north, to hit the Suiho

checkout rounds, getting ready for me (not us,

in the strike was. Who more appropriate than

But just then my windshield exploded into "

plant on the Yalu river, had an exciting time.

me). Finally, around 0800, the word came:

the skipper and I to number among the 'accept-

million fragments of Plexiglas, hlown back into

This plant was only ahoul 40 miles 160kml from

'Launch all aircraft!' - sink or swim, survive

able' 10 per cent losses'

the cockpit by a 400 mile-an-hour wind coming

the hig MiG hase at Antung, across the river in

not, here we come!

Of

Nevertheless, I knew without" doubt th"t I

through a large hole. I thought: 'So this is what

Manchuria. F9F-2 Panthers from VF-191 were

Due to a number of other pilors being ill, I

would fly my wing position and do my best to

it is to die" However, I seemed to be srill flying,

flying high cover on thar raid, hut no one really

ended up flying on the skipper's wing. The strike

hit the target, regardless of the fear. Anything

though still hurtling eanhw"rd at" great rate. I

expected that they would he capable of shooring

consisted of about fony planes, from all of the

less would rate as 'cowardice in the face of the

paused a moment (a few milliseconds/) to thank

down any MiGs. Air Force F-86s were up there

PrincelOn squadrons. Our skipper led the strike,

enemy', and I knew I would never be able to

God, first that I was still (apparently) alive and

for that. flut the surprise worked

the anti-air-

so I was number two onto the target. We made

live with that shame - I would never again be

in no pain, and second thar I had followed

craft defences were heavy, but many were caught

the kind of attack where we all lined up gener-

able to look my fellow pilors, my friends or even

squadron doctrine and lowered my goggles as we

napping, and it wasn't all thelt had - and alll<l2~

ally in a circle around the target and peeled off

my family in the eye. Perhaps most important,

"pproached the target. The shattered Plexiglas

ingly enough, no Mi(Js showed up. I don't

into our dives like in an Esthet Williams' movie.

I realized I would nor be able to look myself in

rained all over me and over my goggles, right in

helieve there were any losses from those raids.

Everybody fired their guns at the defences on

the eye, ever again. It was preferable to be killed

front of my eyes, but cut nothing'

F4U-4 lifting off from the USS Philippine Sea off Korea. Roland H. Baker

150

151


WAR IN THE LAND OF MORNING CALM

WAR IN THE LAND OF MORNING CALM

I even had the presence of mind to waggle

H,\lf a dozen times I had that bridge lined up

the stick from side to side to sec if I still had

in my sights, and waited till it nearly filled the

control, and it seemed that I did. Next I had to

windshield (maybe 100 yards out) before firing.

find out if I was going to be able to pull out of

Each time the rocket zoomed off in some kind

the dive. I was already going down too fast and

of crazy 'death spiral'. One rime it plunged into

wns ron low to have much chance of baling ouL

the bank nearby (too nearby). Another went up

Rut the nose came up nicely and I ,,"as soon past

into the air and ovcr the bridge, and once into

horizontal. c1imhing out of the target area and,

the streambed not too far out in front of me -

especially, out of that shooting gallery. The

each time with the terrific bang of a hundred

plane seemed to he flymg normally. App<ltenrly

pounds of dynamite' (They said these rockets

I had only the hole in the windshield and no

were stored horizontally since World War II,

other significant damage.

and the solid propellant may have imperceptibly packed down more tightly on one side or

And that's what it turned out to be. What a reliefl I was off the target, still alive, and with

the other, giving it the asymmetrical thrust). I

nothing more than a scratch, a hole ahout Bin

should ha\'C fired from further out to minimize

120cmj

chances of picking up shrapnel, but then I

in

diameter

in

the

windshield.

Apparently something had gone through the

might have missed the hridge! It's a wonder that

outer, streamlined windshield and bounced off

one of the rockets didn't boomerang completely around and shoot me down from behind!

the flat plate of hullet-proof glass just hehind it. It had then apparently bounced up and over the

A yellow-shirted flight director indicates the way for an F4U-4 Corsair that has

A drop tank filled with napalm is manhandled out to a waiting F4U-4 Corsair on

cockpit and the plane, causing no further

just landed on the USS Philippine Sea off Korea. Roland H. Baker

board the USS Philippine Sea. Roland H Baker

Then I tried a run with just my six. 50s. I hit the bridge all right, hut tracer> were ricochet-

damage. What a relief to sec that same fine

ing all over the place, and I had to pull up

morning and know that I again had a chance

abruptly to avoid them. On closer inspection

of seeing many more' I had this howling wind

the 50 calibre slugs didn't seem to have affected

in the cockpit, but that was no problem at all.

the integrity of the bridge in any way. Score

Without further ado we flew back to the ship,

another eminently successful afternoon for No.

and I brought it aboard, hole and all, in a Roger

2 Keystone Kop of the UN Police Farce!

pass (no signals required from the landing signal

On I August, VF-I92 were out again, and I

officer). Just taxi that hog back into a con\'C-

was one of the pilots. On this day we hit

nient parking spot and get out. What a day!

anothcr powcrhousc, way Lip in the mountains.

Despite it all, there I was, still alive and on the

All the buildings around the main powerhouse

way back to Yokosuka for a few days of R&R.

just disappcared, and thc main one was gutted, too. We had four Corsairs and four ADs from

Did J need that R&R or whar'

the Essex along with us. When we got to the target we found that it was already so damaged

Applying Pressure

that the Reds had basically given up defending

The attacks on the hydroelectric plants were followed on 11 July 1952 by Operation Pressure PumJ) , the largest air attack so far, which saw massive UN strikes on thirty high-level targets in Pyongyang. CVG-19 on board Princeton, and CVG-7 aboard Bon Homme Richard, combined with USAF and RN and Commonwealth squadrons to wreak havoc over the North Korean capital. Aboard Princeton Owen Dykema, who was grounded with ear trouble and finding life 'dull as a clipped wing bird', missed the strike. He recalled:

ably a 20mm, a little off to the left of the

it; there was just one heavy machine gun, prob-

Today the whole ship, except for three planes thar were down, flew on a big combined raid on Pyongyang. Our planes had targets just 200 yards from a PoW camp, and hit so well that not a single bomb fell outside the target area, much less ncar the Glmp. The weather was terrible around the ship so it was a bit hairy getting in and out.

bombing run. Our leader decided that, since it was so lightly defended, we would each make four (dive-bombing) runs, dropping one bomb

Armourers replenishing F4U-4s aboard the USS Philippine Sea during a break in

A flight director aboard the USS Philippine Sea signals take-off for an F4U-4. Roland H. Baker

each time. That way we could identify problems

combat operations off Korea. Roland H. Baker

Some 1,254 sorties were flown, beginning at 1000hr on 11 July and ending the next morning, for the loss of just three aircraft - a Corsair, a Panther and a Thunderjet. (On 29 August an even bigger force, including USMC Panthers and F4Us and Navy Corsairs from Boxer and Essex, returned to devastate the capital.) On 12 July PhiliJ)J)ine Sea completed her second Korean deployment and sailed for San Diego and re-classification as an attack carrier (CVA-47). When she sailed for Japan on 15 December 1952, embarked aboard were CVG-9 from Essex with VF91, -93 and -94, VA-95, and detachments from VC-3 (F4U-5N), -11 -35 and -61.

152

on the first drops (crosswind, and so on) and correct on the later runs. This was standard on

ried that would hurr a bridge was one 500lb

So 'thar I wuz\ on a quiet FriJay afternoon,

1230kgl bomb. (Nearly every hop we flew now

all alone (basically), zooming along at about

lightly defended targets, and better assured that

they gave us a hunch of armouf,piercing rock#

250mph

we really hit it hefore we were through.

ets in place of bombs, and they weren't worth

above a dry creek bed way up inside North

The trouble was, that that one heavy gun was

'squat'; all they were good for were tanks and

Korea, having the time of my life' The

firing like there was no tomorrow, and seemed

to feel the thrust of power, and to loft into the

locomotives and suchlike. The fragmentation

trees were whipping by on eithcr side, the

reasonably accuratc as well. I began fuming that

big blue. And to think they actually paid us to

and rockets were not designed for bridges.) I had

bridge looming up in the distance. I set the gun-

if we took our deliberate time on this target,

fly these planes' Struce and I ended up on a hop

only "ix armour#piercing rockets on the wings

sight pipper right on the middle of the SP<1I1 - a

and gave him forty-eight clay pigeons to shoot

pretty much alone, on road recco up north. He

and 3,600 solid (non-explosive) 50-calibre

little elevation. Now it got bigger. This

at, twelve planes in four runs each, he was going

was again feeling pretty punk, so he let me lead

machine-gun rounds - clearly not the best ord-

was about as close in as I should have gotten -

to hit one of us. So, I took it upon myself to

and just followed along hehind. I spotted a very

nance for bridge busting. However, since there

Fire! Flash' Zoom! Through the trees nearby-

drop all my bombs on my first run and to use

Ensign Owen Dykema returned to flying on 23 July. He recalled: It was great to hear the roar of that engine again,

1400kmphj

just

2O-30ft

16-9ml

small railroad bridge, over a dry creek bed. It

was no one in sight and no apparent grounJfire

Bang' - out in the open field beyond I Back

the remaining three runs to duel with that gun.

looked like it had never been touched by the

of any kind, I elected to go right down inw the

around again - down into the bed. There

On my second run, then, I came around a little further and, in my dive, lined up on the gun.

war, and there appeared to be no defenders

stream bed, below the level of the trees along

was the bridge coming up: I'd get it this

around to shoot at me. So I left Struce orbiting

the banks, to bore in close and fire one rocket

time. Flash - Zoom' - up and over the bridge

He had not been ducking down before because

above the bridge and went down alone, to see if

at time. It should have virtually assured one or

and off into the distance' ..

cveryone else was ignoring him, so as I came

I could knock it out. The only ordnance we car-

more hits, right' Wrong!

so forth.

. And so on, and

down he was firing directly at me, and I was

153


WAR IN TJ IE LAND OF MORNING CALM

firing all six 50-calihre guns b,lCk at him. Ilis big orange balls of fire came floating up at me,

lumber mill. Ensign Owen Dykema recalls this sortie:

passing over me and to the right about 50ft, and my smaller red balls streaked down at him. Near

Oddly enough we didn't set off many fires,

the cnd of my divc I walked my rounds right

though we hit all the buildings. I guess it took

into his, and he went a little wild and stopped

incendiaries or napalm to get them going.

firing.

Anyway, it was now a matchstick factory, or

As I pulled out, though, I could see him firing

maybe toothpicks. We had a little different

again, at our next man. So on my third run I

kind of excitement, however. Sevcral days

startcd hitting him carll', from way high up, and

before we had gotten word that M iGs had been

held it in there pretty well. Parrway down,

coming down into our area and causing a little

howcver, I gor a little miffed at him hecause he

havoc. Generally they were single planes. They

was still missing me pretty badly, ahove my

would sit up there vcrI' high and watch us go

right wing and still out about 50ft. What thc

back and forth to the beach. From time rn time

heck, isn't he any beltcr than that' I remcm-

when we, they ,md the sun were properly

bered that I had color film in my gun camera.

aligned, they would swoop down and knock off

(This hop was a good indication that I, at least,

one plane, usunlly our tail-end Charlie. They

had been opcrating too long: I was getting blase.

would come from above and behind at high

There was a movie

~pl'ed,

C(1t11CrcI

mounted

Oil

the

right \Ving~r()ot of our planes. Every time we

fire at one guy, and continue on down

and ",vny, bnck to Manchuri'1- We wcre so

fired our guns the camera would capture all thc

much slower nnd therefore could turn so much

action, usually in black and white, and wc used

fnstcr that if we could spot them coming they

hack LIp damage assessments and to diag~

could never get us; though of coursc, neither

nosc aiming and firing problems.) It was getting

could we get them. The key was in spotting

this in living colour, but he was too far off to

them first.

it

tl)

make it especially dramatic. So I adjustcd my

So we were flying recco up the beach when

divc and f1cw up closer to his rising strcam of

wc got an advisory from one of the ships that

orange fireballs until they were just passing over

there were MiGs in the area. Our leader wisely

my right wing, just above my gun camera' What

noted that our time \\'a~ just about up anyway,

a shot! Cut' Take' Print'

so he started a turn out to sea. But just as we got

And I carricd it lowcr than usual, and poured

inrn the turn we "(lotted the MiG, coming down

my six 50s right into his bunker. To my satis-

out of the sun. He had already been into his run

faction, the orange halls essentially wcnt away.

on us before we started our turn, but even our

Hc did firc again, but by the way he tired it

rel,ltively gentle turn was too steep for him to

looked like I hadn't killed him, I had just

follow. When I saw him he was standing verti-

damagcd his gun. Hc would fire off a few bursts,

cally on one wing, pulling vapour trails off the

poorly aimed, and stop a while, thcn fire (lff

wing;tips trying to turn with us and keep u~ in

some more. The final fUll \Va:, anti~c1illlactic.

his sights. He was firing that big old cannon he

He didn't cven challenge me. Lors of adven-

has in his nose, but the rounds were curving off

ture, and lots of jackass gambling: for evcry one

behind us. If we hadn't srarted that turn when

of his orange fireballs that I could see, there

we did he could well have gotten one of us.

were five non-tracers that I couldn't see. Where

However, as he passed underneath, tail;end

were thcy going! Clearly I W;,s getting jaded, I

Charlie - an 'Enswine' from 195 flying a hig old

was an accident waiting to happen. I needed a

AD - pulled up and over in a half-barrel roll

rest.

and fired at him 'from the hip', upside down and

as he went away - and nearly got him!

Princeton's Air Wing spent a break at Fujiya, but returned to the line again on 18 August. On 20 August the target was near Pyongyang, and on the way back, Dykema and his fellow pilots were 'exhausted and emotionally spent'. Next day, VF-192 went after factories wi th bombs and rockets. And after a break on the 22nd, it was back to the war again on 23 August, when VF-l92 were ordered to strike supply targets south of Wonsan near the front lines. The weather, however, was so bad that the Corsairs were diverted further north, near Chongjin, to hit a

Everyhody applauded loudly in the cockpits. What a coup if he had shot him down - the duty 'Enswine"

The rest of us slunk home

quietly with our tails between our legs.

By 17 September Ensign Dykema's tour was over, or so he thought. He had flown forty-one missions; the skipper, the late Wes Westervelt, had completed 100, and his successor, Butzen, 104. On 20 September Princeton docked in Japan, but on I October the carrier left for the war zone once again. For Dykema it was the start of his fifth tour in Korean waters.

154

WAR IN THE LAND OF MORNING CALM

Corsair MiG Killer

LEFT: On 10 September 1952 the Corsair became the

first and only US Navy propeller-driven aircraft to

On 1 September 1952, TF-77 despatched the largest naval air strike of the war when twenty-nine aircraft from Essex, sixty-three from Princeton and fifty-two from Boxer destroyed the synthetic oil refinery at Aoji in north-eastern Korea. MiG-ISs had never posed too much of a threat to USN or USMC fighter-bombers, but at this stage in the war, Chinese MiGiSs now began to harass CAS Corsairs, and MAG-12 had to formulate tactics and bricf its pilots on how to counteract the jet threat. Being much more manoeuvrable, Corsair pilots were urged to turn inside the faster, better climbing MiGs and present them with less effective head-on passes. On 10 September 1952 the Corsair became the first and only US Navy propeller-driven aircraft to destroy a MiG in the air over Korea. Captain Jesse G. Folmar and his wingman, 1st Lt Willie L. Daniels, both of VMA-312 'Checkerboards', flew their F4U-4Bs off the Sicily, and set course to attack a formation of 300 encmy troops on the south shore of the Taedong river. As they neared their target, Folmar and Daniels were jumped by four MiG-iSs, which attacked in pairs near the mouth of the ri ver. The enemy jet pilots were evidently not as experienced as the two Corsair pilots, who immediately went into thc wellrehearsed defensive weave, each pilot covering the tail of his wingman. After avoiding the first two MiGs, the two Corsair pilots were confronted by the second pair - and these made a fatal error. They flew a slow, climbing turn to the left, right in front of Folmar, who seized on thc lapse to fire off a Ssec burst of 200101 cannon shells into the enemy jets as they passed. One of the MiG-iSs was hit and began trailing black smoke, pitched down, and the pilot ejected. But now, four more MiGs appeared, and with the odds thus stacked against them, Folmar and Daniels knew that it was time to leave, and dived for the safety of the sea. Daniels was able to chase one of the MiG-iSs off Folmar's tail, but a second jet pumped 370101 cannon shells into the American's port wing. Folmar could no longer control the Corsair, and he baled out near the US-held island of Sock-to. Daniels radioed air-sea rescue, and circled while Folmar bobbed around in the water. The downed airman was soon rescued by a USAF SA-16 Albatross amphibian and taken to safety.

destroy a MiG in the air over Korea when Capt Jesse G. Folmar of VMA-312 'Checkerboards' fired a five-second burst of 20mm cannon shells into the enemy jets as they passed him. One was hit and began trailing black smoke. pitched down, and the pilot ejected. USMC BELOW: Ensign Owen Dykema poses for the camera

prior to boarding his Corsair on board Princeton. Owen Dykema

Folmar's remarkable victory was the sole Corsair MiG kill in the Korean War.

\ ,

Final Tour for YF-192 On 4 October 1952, VF-I92's Corsairs flew a close air support mission. Ensign Owen Dykema recalls: As usual we had to fly clear acrnss Korea to the

Yellow Sea, over near Seoul, Panmunjon, and so on. We only had time left for one run on a small, heat-u(l hill infested with troo(ls, mortars and guns. Chazz put two of his rockets into an ammo hunker, with a spectacular display of fireworks resulting. Pieces of cxploding shells went flam-

ing into the air, trailing a dense whitc smoke. I put my hombs in the trenches, but missed with my rockets. As long as I hit the area I aimed at,

I was satisfied; but coming aboard, after ,,) couple weeks getting rusty, I got two wave;offs - as many,lS I'd gotten all cruise' I just couldn't get set up right commencing my turn. Finally, third

time around I made a long, wide, looping pass and got a 'Roger' all the way' Good landing, too.

This final tour on the line was expensivc, though, because we lost Connie Neville. No chance of survival. lie was on another close air support mission down around thc bomb linc. The way I heard it he was pulling out at the

bottom of his run, just about horizontal and going at ahout 300m ph 1500kmph\, when a round of some kind of heavy AA caught him right in thc wing root, and blasted his whole wing off. With just one wing, and going at that

155

~

.......


WAR IN TilE LAND OF MORNING CALM

WAR IN THE LAND OF MORNING CALM

speed, he spun like a [Op and went straight in.

wanted to approach the target at 15,000ft

nevertheless I knew that if I flew into that cube

order to draw the Reds out in the open, where

No chance that he could have gotten out, he

14,500ml - oxygen altitude - letting down

[0

there was a good chance t11at I would run into

we could strike them. I guess it worked, but we

was too low. He must have been glued in his

12,000ft [3,600ml at the 'push-over point', so

a lot of falling metal, and not make it out the

lost a lot of guys - and how much did they lose)

seat by the centrifugal forces o( that rapid

we'd have lots of speed. We had s/Jeed all right,

other side.

spin anyway. One can only hope that the blast

so much that three of 193's planes lost a big

So I rolled the plane over hard and pulled for

that got his wing (just 7(t/2m or so away (rom

section of engine cowling' I had 375 knots, or

all I was worth. I managed to get it turned away

him) got him as well, rather than for him to

well over 400mph 1650kmphl, at the borrom of

just in time, just before entering the cube. Then

have to endure those last few seconds o( spin-

my run - indeed so much speed, for a Corsair,

I found myself plummeting for the deck, with

ning terror.

it felt like it would (all apart! Speaking of

only a few hundred feet altitude remaining. So

I flew a strike on 5 Octoher, on a little supply

VF-193, John Shaughnessey was also wiped out:

once again I rolled it hard, back to level and

area. We hit the target and split into divbiol1S

I didn't hear any particulars, but apparently it

pulled for all I was worth. One more time (in

to 'rccco' an area. All at once I \Va:, alone, with

was another 'no chance of survival' situation.

the last few seconds of the whole cruise) I just

two guys following me wherever I went. Some

Another combat loss, anorher Ensign gone.

feeling. Coming back, the old clunker kept

INext day, 15 October 1952, Ensign Dykema

managed to get it I'ulled out, ending up just above the wave tops, high-tailing it (or disulOce

grunting, puffing smoke (a little) and throwing

flew his forry-seventh and final Corsair mission

to seaward. My last flight in Korea and I came

oil allover the windshield. When I got in the

of the Korean War.1

about as close as I did all summer to getting

Princeton sailed for Yokosuka to replenish and off-load her planes, before heading east to Hawaii, and finally Alameda, on 3 November. On 16 October, 144 pilots and about twenty crewmen received awards. Dykema received an Air Medal, a Gold Star for the Air Medal in lieu of a second award, and the Navy Commendation Medal with the combat device. A total of thirteen officers and three enlisted men, just about 10 per cent of the pilots in the air group, had been killed. Two days later Princeton's remaining Corsairs were flown off to Atsugi NAS before the carrier docked. Ensign Owen Dykema recalls:

groove the sun was just so it glared on the

A II the wheels, even the captain, told us

water and on the oil on the windshield, so I

there was to be an amphibious landing ncar

Our to sea was the bnding force, many, many

couldn't sec the LSO. So I made another

WOl1San. The night hefore, the skipper of the

ships of all sizes and descriptions. The ground-

'hccHJ our of the cockpit' pass, and got aho;lrd

ship gor on the PA system and gave a stirring

pounders were already in their landing craft,

fir>t try.

speech ahout the upcoming amphihious assault

heading out for the beach. I saw myself as a

Ilad a hig strike on 7 Octoher, on a very

- just like in your best John Wayne movies:

witness to history, witness to the second major

it off. It felt really (unny taking of( with no load

meagre target: a couple dozen of our planes, and

'The boys on the heach will have no defences

amphibious assault of the Korean War. But man,

- I was flying he(ore I passed the island structure. And landing on a runway - rhe first time

killed. What irony'

So I manned a Cor"lir (m the last time, and flew

seventeen from the Kearsage. Boy, were those

hut yOll, the planes and men of carrier aviation.

I had just gotten a clear view of what was

Kearsage planes ever fouled up! We all launched

Give it your all ahove and beyond the call.

waiting for them! We mhited out to sea a little

in 7'12 months - was really hairy! I hit hard on

at the same time, yet we had to circle just off

Clear the way for them. You can save hundreds

way, waiting to sec if we could assist anywhere.

the wheels and hounced way back into the air.

the heach to wait (or those crumhs, a smaller

of lives.' I was touched, and so were we all. As

We were out of bomhs and rockets hut we still

That last flight was actually kinda sad. It turned

strike than we were. Then they were supposed

a result we all flew h'Hd, and took more than

had lots of 50-calihre ammunition. The troops

out to be the last flight I would ever make off a

to go in on their target ahead of us, while we

the average risks, more than were sensible. We

looked so defenceless in those little hoats'

carrier, although not my last flight in a Corsair.

hit one a couple miles north of their>, after they

figured the lives of a bunch of doggies depended

Everyhody was still ready to give their all

were clear. They got started, but drove 10 miles

on our knocking out the guns on the beach, so

them out.

[16km] right past the target and never saw it'

we risked our hutts and c10hbered the area.

tl1

help

Then about 100yd or so (rom the heach - I couldn't helieve my eyes - in unison, all the

where it was, and said that we would attack

had said they could see lights on the roads all

first, to mark the location. We made a run on

over Korell, of supply columns and weapons car~

landing craft made a J BO-degree (11111 and headed back ow co sea' Eventually, the tmops all

the target and they followed us in - hut then

riers converging on the beach area just south of

c1imhed back ahoard the ships and the whole

came diving (hrough our planes that were climh-

Wonsan (reminiscent of the Choshin Reservoir

fleet disappeared over the horizon! We were

ing out of the target, and dropped their load in

power plant strike). We could sec the heach

dumbfounded' And when we got back aboard

an empty stream bed north of the larget! A II

defences being strengthened by the hour. Oh

ship, the powers that he actually had the gall

this time their jet cover mistook us for their

man, somebody was going to get clobbered. So

to tell us it was all a very realistic exercise! Were they telling us that they were just acting,

planes and were husy covering

although

we really went after them. That was about as

even that was screwed up and ineffectual.

aggressively as I flew throughout the whole

that the captain o( the ship gave thm emotional

They'd heen out here nearly a month, hut the

cruise.

speech over the PA system as part of a 'realis-

LIS,

tic exercise'l

0,. did the 'powers that be' above

difference hetween us was thar we were fight-

And the defences on the beach were horren-

ing this war as professionals, not as a hunch

dous' Intelligence had warned us that the Reds

of 'flash-in-the-pan' amateurs or glory seekers.

had a new AA technique, and this time they

not tell their troops thm? I could sec nothing

We just operated efficiently, every day, hit our

had the guns

hut cynicism and/or duplicity in the whole

tl1

do it. They would aim all their

our 'powers that he ' run it as an exercise and

target good, and kept it all orderly, safe and well

guns to cover a fixed cube of sky. Then as we

operation. Man, I wished they had been in the

disciplined. I was proud to he a naval aviator,

flew into it, on command, everybody fired

cockpit with me as I squirmed to avoid getting

a memher of Air Group 19, and a memher of

everything, all at once, into that cube. On my

shredded out of the sky' I thought once again

VF-192!

very last strike we made our very last run to the

that it was probably a very good thing that we

We had a twelve-Corsair strike on the 14th,

cast intending to recover out over the ocean,

had more or less decided not to make this our

on a bridge in the vital railroad junction at

and be gone. I pulled out of my dive low and

full-time career.

Kmvon. There was a terrific wind, ahout 30mph

was climbing out heading out to sea as fast as I

I learned after the war that the whole oper-

150kmphl, hlowing right across the target, so it

could get that old U-bird going. All of a sudden,

ation had heen planned and I'ut in motion hI'

was very difficult to homh. Eric Schloer

as if by magic, the cube of sky right in front of

General

managed to get a hit on it, by using an almost

me just suddenly blackened, with perhaps 100

ohserved that the Reds were getting very clever

Matthew

B.

Ridgeway.

lie

had

absurd wind correction. Alii did was plough up

bursts of AA, neatly filling out the cube. You

about keeping their trool'S and supplies out of

the riverbed a hit. The skipper of 193 was

could almost see the sharp edges and corners.

sight during the day. His idea was to plan, hut

leading the hop, and for some fool reason

They had fired at my huddies ahead of me, hut

not execute, a major amphibious landing in

156

After all the chaos, hard work, tension and fear, the whole thing was over. No doubt ahout it,

For the past several nights the night fighters

Finally the skipper called up and told them

F4U-4 Corsair returning to the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-311 after a strike on warehouse and railway marshalling yards in Korea in October 1952. USN

this cruise would forever remain the single most exciting, adventurous period of my life.

Final Strikes Armistice talks faltered in October 1952, and despite attempts by new president Dwight D. Eisenhower to end the war, the conflict spilled over into 1953 with no end in sight. Bitter fighting took place during late March around a series of USMC outposts collectively known as the 'Nevada Cities' complex, and it was only strong air support by Panther jets, Tigercats, Skyraiders and the Corsair fighter-bombers ofVMA-212 and -323, and VMF-115 and -311, that retrieved the situation, albeit temporarily. Bitter fighting broke out along the MLR in May-June 1953, and the ADs and Corsairs ofVMA-212 and VMA323 were again called upon to dislodge the enemy troops attacking Marine ground forces. Finally, the ground forces were forced to abandon the Marine outposts, and the decision was made not to retake them: to have done so would have cost too many lives, and the peace talks, that had resumed on 26 April after being recessed

F4U-4 Corsairs. F9Fs and ADs warming up on the deck of the USS Bon Homme

Richard (CV-311 for another strike on Thanksgiving day. 27 November 1952, against targets in Korea. 000

An F4U Corsair makes a napalm strike in Korea. USNA

157


WAR IN '11 II' LAND OF MORNING CALM

WAR IN THE LAND OF MORNING CALM

for 199 days, were by now progressing, albeit slowly. But there was no let-up as the Communists tried to regain lost ground prior to a negotiated cease-fire agreement. During the last few weeks of the war, most of the ground battles lOok place between the ROK army and the Communist forces, as the latter tried lO land a final knockout blow. TF-77 was called upon to lend CAS and interdiction support for I and II Corps in the field. It proved to be the Navy's last great all-out offensive of the war. For seven days during June 1953 aircraft from Boxer, Phili/)/)ine Sea, Princeton and Lake ham/)!.ain flew round-the-clock missions in support of the 1st ROK Corps' attacks to regain 'Anchor Hill'.

Corsair Night-Fighter Finale During this time the NKAF carried out some successful night 'heckling' missions against UN supply dumps. The North Korean 'Bed Check Charlie' pilots flew piston-engined Lavochkin La 9/-1 Is, YakIS trainers and Po-2 biplane aircraft that were too slow for USAF F-94 Starfires and USMC F3D Skyknight jet fighters to effectively intercept. (An F-94 succeeded in shooting down a Po-2 by dropping its flaps and landing gear and throttling right back, causing the Starfire to stall and crash immediately afterwards). Even now, at this late date, the Corsair was once again required to take centre stage. On 17 June VC-3 onboard Princeton, the Navy's only all-weather combat fighter squadron at that time, loaned two of its F4U-5Ns under the command of 31-year old Lt Guy P. Bordelon, to the Fifth Air Force at K14 airfield ncar Seoul to intercept Communist night hecklers. VC-3 detachment transferred lO K-6, the big USMC airfield at Pyongmek, 30 miles (50km) south of Seoul, which was better able to service the F4U-5Ns. Bordelon took off in F4U-5N Bu No. 124453, named 'Annie Mo' after his wife, at 2235 hours on 29 June, with another Corsair flown by Lt (jg) Ralph Hopson, after ground radar tracked had picked up a hostile aircraft in the Asan-Man area of Seoul. The other F4U-5N experienced problems with its radar but Bordelon had no such problems. Even though he carried radar, Bordelon's orders were to make a visual sighting before firing, just in case the bogey was a friendly aircraft. Luckily it was a bright moonlit night so he stood

a good chance of sighting the enemy aircraft's exhaust flames. Bordelon homed in on his prey and when in visual range he correctly identified it as a Yak-IS. He was ordered to fire, and he did: immediately the Yak-IS pilot banked hard right and his rear gunner returned fire wildly. These were futile acts of desperation. Bordelon locked onto the Yak and blasted it out of the night sky with a fusillade of fifty-sixty rounds of 20mm high explosive incendiaries. Shortly after, ground control radar vectored Bordelon onto a second target, which he identified as another Yak-IS. The American pilot closed in from behind the fighter, and at once the rear gunner opened fire on the Corsair; but he was firing in the wrong direction. Bordelon fired a long, raking burst of 20mm cannon into the intruder and it caught fire. The wing came off, and the plane exploded on the ground. Bordelon returned to Pyongtaek at midnight and was credited with two night victories. Bordelon took off again on I July at 2130 hours in 'Annie Mo', to chase more bandits reported north of Seoul. He was vectored by JOC (Joint Operations Center) onto an enemy aircraft, but when he was able to make visual contact he saw that there was not one, but several aircraft. He turned onto the rear of an LaII, and shot it down before taking up the chase with another. By now he was over North Korea, and was being fired on by enemy anti-aircraft. Undeterred, Bordelon pulled in closer, and when the La-II finally levelled out, he gave him a long burst of cannon fire from not more than 200yd, and the plane exploded. Bordelon now needed one more confirmed air-to-air kill to make him the Navy's only ace of the war. His chance came a few nights later, on the night of 16/17 July. He was heading north to Seoul when one of his fellow pilots reported that he had a bogey. Shortl y thereafter he reported that his radar had gone out, and Bordelon was vectored in to take over. lie picked up the target and gave chase until, finally, he got on his tail. Despite the Stygian darkness Bordelon was able to pick up the enemy's exhaust pattern, which identified it as an La-9 high-performance fighter. The wily Lavochkin pilot led Bordelon right over the anti-aircraft guns at Kaesong ami they began firing, although their shells were exploding more to the rear of the La-9

158

rather than the Corsair; so Bordelon pulled in closer to the enemy machine. Bordelon then pulled up and began firing at the fleeing Lavochkin. He pumped around 200 rounds into the machine, which turned to the right and exploded. The blast destroyed Bordelon's night vision and he had to reach up and switch on the auto pilot, which he had pre-set so that it would come on easily. Bordelon was so overjoyed that he could have gi ven the autopilot a kiss! He flew around until his night vision returned and he saw the enemy plane burning on the ground. With that he headed back and landed in the early hours of 17 July. The Air Force officially confirmed all five of Bordelon's night victories, and his actions earned him the Navy Cross.

while on a scheduled flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong. VF-S4's AD Skyraiders destroyed a Chinese Lavochkin La-7, and a VC- 3 Corsair flown by Lt Cdr E. B.

Salsig, and the A Ds were cred ited wi th a second La- 7. VC-4 had the honour of being the last unit to fly the F4U in frontline service: it retired the last of its F4U-

Peace Returns to the Land of the Morning Calm Even with the signing of the armistice just days away, the Communists continued their ground action right to the wire. On 27 July, the last day of the war, four ofTF77's carriers - Lake Champlain, Boxer, Phili/)/Jine Sea and Princeton - were operating off the cast coast, while off the west coast the Bariolw, with Corsairs of VMA312 and VMA-332, was on station. Altogether, 649 sorties were flown this day, and the USMC squadrons, too, were active over Korea. Then on 27 July, the Communists signed the Armistice, and the thirty-eight month war was over: peace reigned once again in the 'Land of the Morning Calm'. Korea was the crowning glory for the Corsair. No fewer than seven USMC and twenty-eight Navy squadrons flew Corsairs during the conflict. They were credited with ten air-lOair victories, but unquestionably, their most crucial contribution was the unstinting and unrelenting support given to the ground troops, often in the most appalling weather. Korea was also the Corsair's swan song. Newer jet types gradually entered service, and by the end of 1953 only three USMC and seven USN squadrons were still equipped with F4Us. In 1954, only VC- 3 and VC-4 were still equipped with Corsairs. VC-3's Corsairs on board Phili/)/)ine Sea were among the aircraft used during the 'Hainan Turkey Shoot' on 26 July 1954, following the shooting down of an Air Cathay airliner four days earlier

F4U-5NL night-fighter Corsair of VC-3 all-weather combat fighter squadron, fitted with an APS-19 radar intercept scanner in a housing on the starboard wing. In July 1953, Lt Guy P. Bordelon Jr and a fellow pilot of VC-3 aboard the USS Princeton, were despatched to K-6 airfield south of Seoul to try to counter 'heckling' missions flown by NKAF Yak-18 training aircraft, which were proving more than just a nuisance to USMC operations. (For example, on the night of 16/17 July a NKAF Yak-18 bombed a fuel dump at Inchon, destroying five million gallons of fuel.) In three night missions over a three-week period, Bordelon destroyed five 'Bed Check Charlies', as they were known, to become the only Navy ace in Korea. Apart from night air-superiority sorties, F4U-5s often guided Skyraiders to their targets, dropping flares and leading the attack. VC-3 detachments served aboard nine of the twelve carriers that operated off Korea. Roland H Baker

159

5Ns on 31 December 1955. Several Corsairs soldiered on in the USMC and USN reserves, the last being retired in mid-1957.


KOREAN NIGtIT-FIGIITER CLOSE AIR SUPPORT

We checked in with the combat ground con-

CHAPTER TEN

troller by radio, Iike all day-fighter squadrons, and were directed to place our bombs on some suspccrcJ cnemy~occupieJ warehouses, to caUM~ as

much damage as possible. Our rockets hit some

Korean Night-Fighter Close Air Support

camouflaged trucks and tanks with gmx! visihle results, and our cannons mopped up the same targets. We felt very gratified that no AA fire was detected, and that we were finally ahle to help

J. Hunter Reinburg, USMC

our ground troops. Strangely enough, it also felt gOlxl to he back in combat after a five-year lull. For night operations, four sectors were laid

The enemy «lI1t1l1ued to fire and I

II',,, ahle to

locate their muzzle fl,,,he, on Ihe ho'l tie 'Ide of

out to cover both sides of the Korean Naktong narrow Japanese roads, evcn with thl' wings

fighter, W,,, to ,tay at Itaml for air defence of Ihe

Front, and individual Corsairs were assigned to

folded.

each sector. At sundown, the four of us who assigned sectors, and quickly proved that night-

the Fron!. I urcled clo,er, then 'taned 'ome

So .It ahout lOam the next day Wl' dOlked at

I""e. Th" d"apl'olnted me. Fru"trated that my :-.quadron would not Immedl(uely g~t Into aClIon

glide-homh1l1g run,. After three dl\'lng ,macb,

Kobe, and off-h,ad1l1g of the airlraft com-

o"er Kme<l, I ,cheduled nlght-tlymg tr;1Inmg

flew the afternoon strike went out to work our

drol'1'1I1g a 2651h fmgmentatlon homh each

menced. When ahout half of our F4U, werl'

exerc"e', hut \\'a, told that nIght flymg \\'a,

time, Ihe Nonh Koream qUII d"turh1l1g the peace.

,itting on the dock, a US Navy Adll1ltal led 1m

dangeroll~ 111 thl~ mountainous Clr~a'.

staff aboard and entered the caplaln\ cahln.

Major j. Ilunter Reinhurg CO, VMF(N)-51),

Less than an hour latcr, orders wen: givcn to

keep four alen I'I<lne, at the end of the run\\'<lY on a t\\'enty-four-hour-a-day ha,i, m ca,e of an

hoi,t all plane, hack on hoard, and early the

air <lnack. After making a vi,it to a USAF nlght-

'Man, it's blacker than the inside of a cow's

next morning

fighter ,quadron at ltazuki, on the north "de of

helly up here,' I mumbled to myself as I piloted

Sea (betll'een nonhern Shikoku and "'Ut hem

KYlhhl1 1,I<lnd, MacArthur\ he'lllqu<lrter, re-

my Corsair night fighter north toward Kore<l. I

Homhu) and

quested the 'en'lee, of my 'quadnm

july

III

4 Novcmher

After the end of World War !I, Major J. Hunter Reinburg flew an exchange tour with the RAF, flying Mosquito night fighters with No. 29 Squadron. When the North Korean Army invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, he was immediately recalled to the US, and upon arriving back at El Toro, California, was appointed commanding officer of VMF(N)-513. It was the only Marine Corps night-fighter squadron sent to Korea with the first contingent of forces, in July 1950. Major Reinburg recalls: I

w,,,

liT

"l<1I1

,,"led hack Into the InL1I1d hegan to launch ,lIrcraf!. My

F4U was 111 the foremost Cllilpulr pO~lt\()n, ~o I \\'a' ,hot off first. In JU'l ovcr <In hour all Cor'<lm \\'ere ,ucce"fully launched \l'llhout mCldent, and our I<lndmg, at It<ln1l Air B<I,e near ()saka were routine Clnd ~ilfe.

The tll'O day-hghter squ<ldron' \\'ere a"lgned to aircraft carriers, hut my l'iqlladron of night

time close air support could be flown successfully and safely. (We preferred the night missions, because enemy anti~aircra£t fire

WRS

helpless then without modern radar for aiming.)

F4U-5N Corsair in flight. Voughl

Fukuoka

had just taken off from ltazuki, and it was a few

Ion Kyu,h'd. The next morning, 20 Augu,t, lied

hours past dark - actually, it was 2300hr. Night

recoil was Iwice thal of a 50-calibre machine

t\\'e1vc F4U, to Fukuob. In the afternoon, four

operations required all external lights on the

gun, :md hecause we were not at war (before

by the blind-flying gauges, I was able \() recover

of LJ~ w~nl on a £amiliari:ation strike over the

fighter to be out when over or near enemy

june 1950, that is), testing was lax. As soon as

from the beginning of a kx)p. In spite of having

at

pilot, so I flipped it off right away. Then, guided

Naktong Front, each carrymg one 500lh 1226kgj

territory, so to prevent collisions, we had to fly

we staned com hat missions over Korea and fired

previously encounterccl thi> difficulty, it still

homh, eight high-velocity aircraft rocket' (IIVAR,) \\'ith 5in II )cmj \\'arheall>, <lnd a full

alone either at different altitude leveb, or in

,til four can nom at once, we discovered that the

took several minutes for my pube to calm down.

assigned sectors. In my ye<lrs of night-fighter

violent recoils hroke radar parts in the radome.

Damn! Our manufacturers had a long way to go

luad of 20l11m machine cannon ammunition.

operations, I had been spoiled with the luxury

Fortunalely Ihere were factory representatives

toward beller reliability of these electronic

and safety of flying twin-engine aircraft wilh a

in japan, and they went right to work on the

gadgets before I'd trust my life to them the same

radar operator. Now it was b<lck to work on my

prohlem. (Suh,equent missions taught us the

way I did with this single-engine airplane.

own, because my new squadron was equipped

hest ordnance to use. Rockets were not good

While letting my nerves senle down, I gazed at

with the same Corsairs [F4U-5Ns] as were used

night weapons hecause their burning tail flame

the dark Korean sky around me.

in World War II, and these required the pilot

tended to upsel our night vision, and machine

Returning my attention to the radar-mapping

to do everything: fly, navigate, and operate the

Gmnon lI'acer bullets were discarded for the

mode, I could sec South Korea etched on the

told th,1I t11'0 day-hghler 'quadmm ,1I1d

a 111ght,hghter ~qll<ldr(ln

'100

I had to

heing ~L'nt to

radar, too. Fortunately a mechanical autopilot

same reason. Furthermore, the glowing trails of

scope. Then I looked outside to the right and

Korea a, fa't a, 1'0"lhle. I lI'a, al", Illid that

had been added to help 'fly' the plane while the

both mis,i1es and tracer bullets also indicated to

observed how illuminated Pusan was. Our men

I lI'a, the only qualtfied «Itrler night-fighter

aviator operated the radar and/or did the

the enemy our secret location in the black

were working down there night and day to keep

cOlllm,1I1der on Ihe h,,,e, and that I 'lI'ouldn't

navigating. And besides being able to detect

nigh!.) I hoped the new gun-fix would keep the

our troop, sufficiently supplied so that the

\\'l'I"L'

hcing sent ovcrseas again so soon.' I

other airborne aircraft, our new-type radar had

radar working tonight. It seemed to be operat-

enemy would not succeed in pushing us off the

satled on Ihe alrcmft carrier IBaduen/( Strait

two other features: it could map the surface of

ing okay at the moment. There was the island

peninsula. The front lines along the Naktong

(CVE-116)1 a fell' d,ly,' I'ller. Our order, were

the earth ahead for as far as 80 miles 1130kml,

of Tsushima on the scope, about IS miles

River were not far from Pusan, our last harbour

to ny our Cor,,"r, olf the ,hlp when we

and could also detect a specially installed

125kml ahead. Il wa, ,omewhere below the

in Korea, and if the enemy did hreak through,

were one day oul from j a 1"111 , And thai day

ground beacon as far away as 100 miles

island that the famous japanese Admiral Togo

they would push our ground troops into the sea.

turned out to he the la,t day 01 july 1950.

[160kml, thereby furnishing azimuth as well as

sank the Russian Fleet back in 1906.

Fortunately il appeared Ihat OUI' people could

Illllld

Durtng the ten-day voyage ,len", the Paufic,

distance information. The radar antenna and

I stopped my reminiscing to level the plane

hold the lines, and I felt that my night-fighter

our plane,s had rema1l1ed ch,"ned to Ihe deck,

some of its sensitive parts were in a plastic

off at 9,500ft 13,000ml and engage 'Iron Mike',

squadron was making helpful, although small, contributions.

hut lI'e did lI'arm up the engines every day. The

radome housing located in the leading edge of

the autopilot. Then I was able to concentrate

captaIn, in the 1I1Iere't, of what he called ,afely,

the right wing, almost out to the wing-tip; it

on tuning the radar. As soon as the intercept

My night vision wa, now well adapted as I

ignored our order, to fly off the ,hip, and plead-

looked like the front half of a small homh stick-

mode stahilized, I kept my eyes glued to the

passed over the land area. I could sec the

ing hy we three squadron commanders was to

ing out ahead of the wing.

scope, hoping to lOCale a blip, which might be

Naktong river that formed the From, winding

no avail. Then I ,,,ked him how he planned

III

Another modification to these planes was

an enemy airplane that I could shoot down. My

northward. Moving fanher inland, I descended

get our F4U, off hi> ,hlp. lie amwered, 'We'll

that four 20mm machine cannons replaced the

concemrarion was suddenly interrupted with a

to 7,000ft 12,000ml, and noticed thar our side

pUI them on the dock at Kohe and you'll have

popular guns of World War II: six 50-caliher

feeling of heing crushed into my seat, which I

of the From was much more lit up than the

General Clifton B. Cates, commandant of the USMC, pins the Silver Star on Lt Col

machine guns. Nobody had given much thought

instantly knew was caused by a violent change

enemy's side. Until my gang of night fighters

change his m1l1d, although I pointed oul thai

J. Hunter Reinburg at HQ, USMC, Washington DC, for Reinburg's achievements

about what effect the 20mm cannon recoil

of direction. The suspected culprit causing the

entered the Korean fray, both sides were almost

our plane, were IllO large for the ,mall and

during the Korean War. DoD/USMC

might have on the delicate radar: the jolt of the

excessive G-Ioads on my body was the auto-

equally illuminared every night, and this had

to tow them

III

the ,mpon.' lie ,ttll would nm

160

161


KOREAN NIGIIT-FIGI n ER CLOSE AIR SUPPORT

KOREAN NIGIIT-FIGIITER CLOSE AIR SUPPORT

Vought AU-1 Bu No. 133843 of the USMC in flight. Vought

F4U of VMA·212 in Japan at the time of the Korean War. USMC I heard my call sign over the radio agam, and

horizon! I was awarc of atmospheric refraction,

days Imer, the enemy was in full and rapid

lights wa, only on the northwest SIde (Chinese

was enough to make me forget my electrol1lc

caused when hright stars were low on the

ret real. On 12 Octoher, my night fighters were

Manchuria) of the Yalu Rlvcr. Agam, rhere was

trouhles. 'Hello, Bateye One. Th" is Flash One

horizon, and of course I had been getting sleepy

movcd out of japan and onto the newly cap-

no AA greeting, so I turned north-cast and fol-

again, That artillery has come all\'e from

agam, which

why that bright light had awak-

tured airport al Kllnpo ncar Seoul, the capital

lowed the IlIle of Itghts, makmg sure to sray on the south-cast side of the fiver. After gOl11g past

made it easy to find and hIt targets. But It dIdn't

continuous circling and watchmg, I radIoed,

take the enemy long to reake that they h,ld

'Flash One, Bateye One, Looks lIke they've qUIt

It

better ,,,e 'blackout' p[<Jellces, and now, If \\'e

shooting. What do you thmk" 'Bateye, tim "

spotted hghts, they were usu,llly extingu"hed as

Flash One. The sound of your bomhs seemed to

IS

another area. Can you help us one more time!'

ened me with such a jolt. Half an hour later, I

city of South Korea. We were all amazed at the

Gunfire scattered across no man's land' made

'This is Bateye One. I'll go look for some other

The voice sounded fired. 'Bateye to Flash.

was safely on the field at lta:uki.

rapid advance of our ground noops into North

the illuminated area, I selected a south-cast

it easy to locate the Front; sporadic machine-

tmgets, and come hack in a little while.' I

RighI', I'm commg hack. J have three homhs

Korea. On 14 Octoher we moved again, this

course unt il reaching the Sea of japan at

gun tracer bullets arced back and forth across

decided to reconnoiter some other enemy areas,

left.' Each of the three bombs was dropped on

soon as they heard our aircraft engine

IlUI\CS.

I

be in the tight mea. Thanks a lot'

Following the instant succe" of our night Sl

rikes, I set up a regular schedule to have my

time to the newly captured airport al Wonsan

Ilungnam, Fifteen minutes later, I was huzzing our airport at Wonsan: this was

signal for my

the river in dispute, The muzzle flashes of heavy

and manoeuvred accordingly, While being care-

a separate fla,h area, and I also emptied my

night fighters airborne over Korea every night

on the eaSl coast of North Korea, north of the

artillery flickered often, I reported in by mdlo

ful not to fly into the h,ml-to-see mountains

C<lnnon ammunition on the same sites; this I

covenng all hours of darkness, Some of our

38th parallel. The airport had three usahle

men to light up the sand ,md gasoline flares

to the radar ground statllm responsihle for

after a strafing run on some suspIcious hghts I

reponed to my friends on the ground. My gas

pdots were doubtful at first of just how much

runways milLie o( concrete, but no runway

along the runway.

supply allowed a stay of forty minutes, and soon

good we could accomplish between sundown

lights. The hulk of my squadron's maintenance

The next day, I hnefed my pdots and then

men and c411lpmcnt was ahoard an armada

scheduled one pdot off evcry hour on the hour, startl11g at sundown. I took the last flIght, whIch

control of all fflendly ,lIrCr,lft over the combat

had spotted, I levelled off and checked the radar

iI

after depaning for home hase, sleep was hard to

,md sunnse each night, hut after trying these

for targer", of

four 20mm machine cannons had hUfl the tube,

put off, I opened the canopy part way and the

tactics, they became enthu,iastlc, and with each

scheduled to attl\'e on Wonsan's heaches on the

opportunity. In a week of night strikes over the

The picture was und"turbed dutlng and after

cool nIght mr was rejuvenating. Upon levelling

pasSIng night we hecame more proficient. ThIS

28th of the month. Consequently, we pdots and

was scheduled early in the mornl11g, at 0400.

a skelewn force of other maintenance person-

The course was the same as thc prcvious night,

zone; the mdar operator saId that he had no speCific targcts, so

I should "caTch

,cope to sec if the temfic recoil poundmg of the

Naktong Front, we had found out that our mere

the firing run, so it looked hke the latest gun-fix

off at 7,OOOft [>,OOOm], I relaxed. While

was ohvious from all the messages we recelvcd

presence over the lInes ,hd a lot of good, m a

had better shock mounting hecause the radar set

approaching Pusan I checked my gauges and

I'tom our ttoOpS, telling us how much we were

nel (flown In hI' transpon planes) kept the

and the results were the same until leaving the

passive way: the enemy seemed to think that

continued to work.

position. My watch read 02:52hr.

helping them. The gooks were frequently help-

Corsairs running. For night operations, we

Yalu nver area. By then, the first hght of dawn

ful hI' heing slow to turn out their lights as we

made torches

a hright light that seemed really big when I dis-

dived in. Also, muzzle flashes and tracers fired

empt y cans with sand and gasoline.

we had a super electronic means of detecting their every move, so they kept their lights out

But the next strafing run was just too much for the delicate radar mechanism to take, and

I was suddenly hrought out of my trance by

«)

outlIne one runway by filling

was crackmg, As I approached rhe north end of Changjin Reservoir, there wa."

i.1

moving Ihay'

As squadron commander, I always flew every

wagon heing driven hI' one person ,md pulled

and stopped all movements and activity when

the scope went blank - and repealed manipu-

covered it hehind me with my rear-view mirror.

hI' them helped us pinpoint their positions.

they thought we were around. Further, the

lations of all radar controls failed to bring the

It looked like the large headlight of a train. My

When our eyes got accustomed

the darkne",

newly created m"sion, so on 17 October I

by two oxen. Back when we were supponing

morale of friendly forces was considerably bol-

gadget back to life, Damn l These electronic

immediate thought waS that an enemy aircraft

we could sec quite a bit by starlight - and when

hlasted off an hour after Slllldown. I was alone,

the Korean War, hc!'lfe the Inchon landings, many of these 'hay' wagons were used by the enemy to secretly transport people, ammunition

«)

that we were covering them

wonders were great in peacetime operations,

was after me, and was using a searchlight to

the moon was out, we had a real picnic. We tried

hecause comhat formation at night had high

every nIght. SImply cruising over enemy lines

but they weren't worth a damn under wartime

track me down. I made a violent climbing left

uSIng flares, hut they were hard to place over

colliSIon posSlhdities, I set a north-west course

each night, all night long, seemed to he an

conditions, I wouldn't be able [() receive our

turn, reversing course to face the light head on,

exact spots, and hesides, the glare rUllled our

whde cltmhl11g to 10,000ft 1>,OOOm]. No enemy

and supplies, so I ImmedIately set up a strafing

It seemed to be about a mile away, and I cursed

night vision for quite a while afterward. And

antl;aircr,lft guns shot at me over Pyongyang,

attack

that was unsafe i( mountains were nearby.

so I selected a more northerly route. It was

the load really were hay, the dnver and oxen

~tcrcd knOWing

excellent deterrent to our foes.

beacon signal at ltazuki to help me get home.

«)

come in from the SIde, figunng rhat if

Upon approaching the northern end of the

If we'd been equipped with ADFs ('automatic

myself for being out of cannon ammunition.

Front, I observed the flashes of an ;millery duel

direction finding' radios) like all the Air Force

That reminded me of the time I faced enemy

difficult to sec helow because everything was

would not he hurt. But as my first 20mm hullets

in progress, The enemy continued to fire and I

planes, we could home in on anyone of the

aircmft in World War II with all my ammuni-

completely hlacked out, but in a very few

dug into the hay, a tremendous explosion

was able to lOCale their muzzle flashes on the hos-

many transmitters located in japan ,md south-

tion expended. I stared into the light and con-

minutes I could sec ground lights growing in

destroyed the wagon, lhay', driver and two

Flying from Captured Enemy Airfields

intensity up ahe;lli. When I was almost over the

oxen. The gruesome facts mot ivatcd me to

lights, they resembled a peaceful city, except

search (or more lhay' carts; however, no

that they stretched to the north-east for over

were located, so I headed hack to Wonsan.

tile side of rhe Front. I circled closer,then sUlfled

ern Korea. But now I had to fly by whal I was

cluded that it was nO( getting any closer. I was

some glide-bombing rum, After three diving

able to see on the ground and hI' what the mag-

ahout to 'dive away and live to fight another

attacks, dropping a 2651b [120kgl fragmentation

netic compass read - so it was a Jarn good thing

day' when it began to lose some of its intensity

At dawn on 15 September 1950, the United

bomb each time, the North Koreans quit dis-

the weather was still okay so I could identify

- and then I realized what it was: the planet

Nations armies surprised the North Koreans

20 miles DOkml, and were ahout a mile wide.

with the Inchon amphibious landings, Four

Closer scrutiny revealed that the long line of

turbing the peace. After

,1

few more minutes of

landmarks in the darkness below.

162

Venus that had just come up over the eastern

163

t110rC

Two weeks Imer, the Chinese entered the war in force.


KOREAN NIGIIT-FIGIITER CLOSE AIR SUPPORT

CHAPTER ELEVEN

War and Peace lie went past my P-51 like a freight train passing a hum. Mustang race pi1m Jescnhing 'Super Corsair' pilm Cook ClclanJ's winning streak in the 1947 Thompson Trophy Race.

Vought F4U-4 Corsair of VMF·323 'Deathrattlers' in Korea. USMC

USN/USMC F4U Corsair Aces World War II/Korea (Air-to-Air)

Name and rank

Squadron

Victories *

Notes

1st It Robert M, Hanson MoH

VMF-214NMF-215

25

2 with VMF-214. KIA.3 .2.44

Maj Gregory G 'Pappy' Boyington

VMF·214

22

PoW 3.1.44. Total score 24

Capt Kenneth A. Walsh

VMF-124NMF-222

21

1 with VMF-222, 22.6.45

Capt Donald N. Aldrich

VMF-215

20

KIFA 3.5.47

Capt Wilbur J. 'Gus' Thomas

VMF·213

18.5

KIFA 28.1.47

Lt (jg) Ira C. Kepford

VF-17

16

Capt Harold l. Spears

VMF-215

15

KIFA 6.12.44

Capt Edward O. 'Bud' Shaw

VMF-213

14.5

KIFA 31.7.44

Capt Philip C. Delong

VMF-212NMF-312

13.166

inc. 2 Yak-9s with VMF-312 in Korea

Maj James N. Cupp

VMF-213

12

Lt Cdr Roger R. Hedrick

VF-17NF-84

12

3 with VF-84

Capt Harold E. Segal

VMF-221NMF-211

12

2 with VMF-211

Maj Archie G. Donahue

VMF-112NMF-451

12

It Cdr John T. Blackburn

VF-17

11

It Cdr Thomas H. Reidy

VBF-83

10

It (jg) John M. Smith

VF-17NF-84

10

Maj Donald H. Sapp

VMF-222

10

7 with VF-84

*victories flying F4Us: KIA: Killed In Action. KIFA: Killed In Flying Accident. PoW: Prisoner of War

164

Korea was not the only troublespot where the Corsair operated in the 1950s. France was trying to reassert its pre-World War II colonial influence in Indo-China, which in World War II had been overrun by the Japanese. Indo-China was composed of the French colonies, Laos and Cambodia, and three provinces (Tonkin, Annam and ochin China) that made up Vietnam. After World War II, France regained control of Southern Vietnam, and she was determined to 're-colonize' the remaining provinces. Fighting against the ommunist-backed Viet Minh started in 1946, and by 1953, with the war in Korea coming to a close, France was fast losing control of Indo-China. Now, in March 1954, with no land wa,r to fight in Korea, Red China sent a steady stream of munitions and material across 500 miles (800km) of jungle and mountains to the battlefront to enable the Viet Minh to sustain a major offensive against the French. Just as in Korea, the suppl ies were moved by night, and French aircraft were unable to stop the flow of 16,400,000Ib (7,440,000kg) of supplies and munitions reaching Dien Bien Phu in north-west Tongking, 170 miles (Z75km) from Hanoi, where French paratroop battal ions were surrounded. French air support throughout the Indohina conflict was composed mainly of second-hand, ex-USN types such as the F6F Hellcat, and these were used aboard three former US Navy carriers by the Acronavale (Aeronautique Navale). The only new aircraft in its inventory were one hundred F8F Bearcats and ninety-four F4U-7 Corsairs. The F4U-7, which first flew on 2 July 1952, was an ideal economical aircraft to be supplied to France for fighter-bomber operations. The airframe

was almost identical to the AU-I, and the R-2800-43W engine used on the F4U-4 powered it. The F4U- 7s were obtained in 1952 by the US Navy, and then transferred to the French Acronavale as part of the United States' Military Assistance Program (MAP). Acronavale pilots meanwhile began training on the F4U- 7 at NAS Oceania, Virginia, in October. The last F4U- 7 was produced in December 1952, bringing Corsair production to an end after fourteen years and 12,582 aircraft. Meanwhile, the situation in Indohina was becoming ever more desperate, and reinforcements of any kind were badly needed. In the spring of 1954, 14 Flotille, a French squadron based at Karouba, Tunisia, was airlifted to Tourane (later Da Nang) by USAF transport aircraft, while the Sai/)an (CVL-48) delivered twentyfive AU-I Corsairs from MAG-12 stock on Japan. On 26 April USMC pilots flew the AU-Is into Tourane, and these orsairs became operational at the French Armee d L'Air base at Bach Mai, near Hanoi. On 30 April the French aircraft carrier Arromanches was relieved by the newly arrived Belleau Wood (CVL-24), loaned by the United States to the French Navy for service in Indochina, and manned by a French crew. It brought from France 14 FJotille commanded by Lt Menettrier and eighteen F4U- 7s. 14 Flotille was to take over from the F6F Hellcats of II Flotille, which unit had been decimated during four months of combat. Time was fast running out for the defenders at Dien Bien Phu, surrounded by almost 150 field pieces and at least thirty-six Soviet heavy flak guns among the numerous anti-aircraft batteries on the ridges around the mountainous outpost. On 6 May the French were able to put up their largest single strike formation yet. Eighteen Corsairs, forty-seven B-26 bombers, twenty-six Bearcats, sixteen SB2C Helldivers and five Privateers carried out flak suppression at Dien Bien Phu, as C-119s flown by American Civil Air Transport pilots attempted yet

165

another supply drop. The Corsairs could only contribute limited support before the garrison surrendered the next day, 7 May, after fifty-six days of bitter resistance. By the end of the battle, sixty-two aircraft had been shot down or badly damaged over Dien Bien Phu. The fighting in the rest of the country continued until 21 July 1954, when a negotiated withdrawal of French forces in Indo-China was agreed. At the Geneva Conference on IndoChina, the French agreed to partition Vietnam along the 17th Parallel, and Ho Chi Minh assumed absolute power in the North. The Corsairs were returned to the US Navy in the Philippines, although some were refurbished and returned to the French for usc in Algeria. In November 1953, 14 Flotille personnel returned to North Africa, as fighting in French Algeria reached new heights.

Corsairs in Confrontation in North Africa Full-scale war broke out in Algeria on 1 November 1954 when the Moslem Front de Liberation Nationale (National Liberation Front, or FLN) began a series of attacks on French targets. The revolt was put down by February 1955, but a new FLN campaign began in 1956, and in 1958 the F4U- 7 Corsairs of 15 Flotille and 17 Flotille flying from Karouba, Hyeres, and later Telergma, Algeria, were used in the ground-attack role against villages ncar M usl im terrorist troublespors. Algeria finally gained independence from France inJuly 1962. Meanwhile on 26 July 1956, France and Great Britain faced another major problem in Africa, when President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal. Once again third world nationalism was making a challenge to the accepted post-World War II order. The canal was vital to Britain and France's economic interests in the Middle and Far East, and Africa and beyond, and the two


WAR AND PEACE

European nations decided to invade Egypt and regain control of the important waterway; so in August 1956, French and British nationals were evacuated from the country. On 29 October, Israel launched an attack on Egypt, and on 1 November, Britain committed her land-based air power from Cyprus and Malta. On 5 and 6 November the British and French naval forces went into action. Operation Musketeer, as it was called, involved Anglo-French landings in the Suez Canal zone, using five British and two French carriers, with airborne strike and helicopter assault operations being made against Egyptian airfields and military installations. On board the French carrier Arromanches were F4U-7s of 14 Flotille, and embarked on La Fayette (the loaned Independence class carrier, USS Langley) were Corsairs of 15 Flotilie. Together they formed a quarter of the carrier strike force, and flew as many as four sorties a day during the two-day air campaign. The Aeronavale attacked the bridge at Damietta, and other targets of opportunity in the Suez and Port Said areas. The Corsairs, each painted with black and yellow recognition stripes on the wings and rear fuselage, flew close air support and air defence sorties. Among their contribution they claimed to have sunk an Egyptian torpedo boat. Though the Egyptian Air Force numbered Soviet-built MiG-ISs and 1I-28s, the Anglo-French forces quickly established total air superiority over the Canal zone. Losses generally were Iight, but two Corsairs were lost before a UN resolution brought the incursion to an abrupt end: one of these was written off in an accident, and the other, piloted by the CO of 14 Flotillc, was shot down by AA fire over Cairo. The F4U-7 and AU-l Corsairs remained in the French Aeronavale inventory until 1964 when they were replaced by the Vought F-8E Crusader aboard its carriers. Others operated on ground-attack missions in Algeria up until the cease-fire in March 1962. A few F4U7s went to technical schools in France, and the rest were scrapped.

Corsairs in South America Three countries in South America Argentina, EI Salvador and Honduras received Corsairs under the Military

WAR AND PEACE

The French Aeronavale used Corsairs in confrontations in Algeria and Indo-China, and in the Suez Crisis of 1956. This F4U-7 is taxiing out at Karouba, Tunisia. via Philip Jarrett

F4U-7 133654 of 15 Flotille of the Aeronavale on the deck of the Arromanches. via Philip Jarrett

The Soccer War

F4U-7 133708 of 14 Flotille of the Aeronavale on the deck of the Arromanches. via Philip Jarrett

F4U-7 of the Aeronavale in flight. Vought

Aid Sales (MAS) programme during the 1950s and 1960s. In May 1956, Argentina acquired ten F4U-5 and -5NL Corsairs with Commando Aviacion Naval Argentina (CANA). In 1957 a further

166

sixteen F4U-5 and -5NL aircraft were received, with a few additional non-flying Corsair airframes for spares. All Argentina's twenty-six Corsairs, serialled 0374-0395 and 0432-0435, were operated

aboard the carrier ARA lndependencia (formerly HMS Warrior) and at the shorebased Punta de Indio. All of Argentina's Corsairs were used solely for patrol duty, and none saw combat action. However, the same could not be said about the Corsairs supplied to both Honduras and El Salvador' Under

the terms of the Mutual Aid Program, the Fuerza Aerea Hondurena (FAH) received ten USN surplus F4U-5/-5N/-5NL Corsairs early in 1956. Three years later, ten more were received from the US warbird operator, the late Bob Bean, as trade-ins for five P-38 Lightnings and four Bell P-63 Kingcobras.

167

In 1957 meanwhile, the neighbouring El Salvadorian air force had acquired fifteen flyable, Goodyear-built FG-l D Corsairs under the Military Aid Sales programme for service with the Fuerza Aerea Salvadorena (FAS). In October 1959 the Government of El Salvador received five non-flyable F4U-4 Corsairs to be used as spares. Ironically, US military mission advisers, concerned about the fragile balance of power in South America, objected to the sale of fighter aircraft to the region, but their objections were dismissed. Nevertheless their worst fears were realized in the late 1960s, when tension between Honduras and EI Salvador reached a new high. EI Salvador's acute shortage of land resulted in an exodus by tens of thousands of landless peasants into Honduras, and by 1969 illegal immigrant refugees accounted for over 12 per cent of the Honduran population. The flow of refugees continued unchecked, and matters reached a f1ashpoint in June 1969 when El Salvador and Honduras were drawn in a World Cup football qualifier. The first match was to be played in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on 8 June, with the return game to be played on 15 June in San Salvador. Radio Honduras broadcast ar1ti-EI Salvador propaganda up


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to and after the first game, which the Honduran national team won 1-0. EI Salvador claimed that its players had been poisoned. Tensions were further heightened when EI Salvador emerged as the victors in the second game. With 'honours' even, the two teams then met in a decider in Mexico City, which the EI Salvadoran side won. On 26 june, Honduras and EI Salvador broke off diplomatic relations, and on 14 july, 12,000 EI Salvadoran troops invaded Honduras. What became known as the 'Soccer War' lasted two weeks, and during that time Corsairs were used against Corsairs over Honduras and EI Salvador. Fuerza Aerea Salvadorena ground-attack Corsairs and their P-51 D Mustang escorts attacked the Fuerza Aerea Hondurena main base at Tocontin near Tegucigalpa. Honduran Corsairs attacked an EI Salvadoran oil refinery and set it on fire. On another occasion, an FAH Corsair pilot shot up an EI Salvadoran C-47 Dakota, while in another incident, a pair of FAH Corsairs from San Pedro Sula destroyed forty EI Salvadoran buses filled with soldiers heading for the battle area. Early on 17 july, FAH pilot Captain Fernando 'Sotillo' Soto, Aying an F4U-5N, shot down an FAS Mustang. Later that same day he and his wingman aptain Edgardo Acosta were en route to bomb San Miguel, EI Salvador, when they espied a pair of FAS FG-I Ds. Soto jettisoned his bombs and climbed to height to gain altitude advantage over the Salvadoran Corsairs before making his attack. He singled out one of the FG-Is, and destroyed it with bursts of gunfire: the Corsair went down in Aames, the FAS pilot parachuting to safety. Acosta had become embroiled with two other FAS fighters, but undeterred, Soto made a solo attack on the second FAS Corsair, which exploded, killing the pilot. These three victories were the only aerial victories of the two-week 'Soccer War', which had cost the lives of 4,000 people, mostly civilians. Next day both sides accepted the Organ ization of American States' (OAS) peace plan, although fighting continued off and on until the mid-1980s. The FAS Aew its last orsair in the summer of 1971, while the FAH replaced their Corsairs with North American F-86 Sabres during the 1970s. The final air-to-air combat over South America had Aamboyantly brought the remarkable Corsair's long and distinguished record of war service to an end .

F4U-5Nl(Ex-CANA (Argentine Navy) {3-A-2021. displayed on a pole at Trelew. Argentina. CONAM

Corsair Air Racers Ever since the end of World War II, Corsairs have enjoyed a colourful career on the racing circuit and as air show performers. With the end of World War II, the famous pre-war National Air Races made their reappearance, with the announcement that the Bendix Trophy Race, a transcontinental speed dash from Van Nuys Airport, Los Angeles, to Cleveland, would take place on the 1946 Labor Day weekend, 28-30 August. Paul Mantz Aying a Mustang won the event, wh ich included a FG-l D among the twenty-two entrants; and Mantz won again the following year. Although the orsair could not compete with the Mustang in the Bendix races, it more than held its own in the Thompson Trophy Races, a IS-mile (24km) closed course event that took place at Cleveland after the Bendix race. FG-I A Bu No. 13481 NX69900 'Lucky Gallon', Aown by Cook Cleland, a World War II SBD Navy pilot, was one of a dozen aircraft that took part in the 2 September 1946 Thompson pylon racing meeting. P-39 'Cobra II' Aown by Tex johnston won with an average speed of 373.908mph (601.734kmph). Cleland finished sixth in racer 92 with an average speed of 357,465mph (575.161kmph). Air racing was by now a serious business. Late in 1946, US Navy pilot Cook leland bought three surplus F-2Gs for between $2,818 and $1,250, with the intention to modify and race them in the

168

September 1947 Thompson Trophy speed-dash event. All three of Cleland's 'Super Corsairs' were ready in time, and each was painted in a vivid colour scheme. His personal racer, Bu No. 88463 NX5577N (Race 74) was in overall dark blue with a white chequered cowling. Bu No. 88457 NX5588N (Race 84) was also finished in a dark blue scheme, and would be Aown by Tony janazzo. Bu No. 14693 NX5590N (Race 94) was painted in a redand-white scheme, and would be Aown by Richard M. Becker, a former Navy ensign whom Cleland had met while assigned as a test pilot at Tactical Test, Naval Air Test Centre, Patuxent River, Maryland. A fourth Corsair, Bu No. 14694 NX91092 (Race 18), 'Miss Port Columbo', owned and flown by Ron Puckett, was also entered in the twenty-lap race. Puckett, who paid just $1,250 on 19 March 1947 for the Corsair, could not get his R-4360 engine started, but he did eventually join the race, only to have to drop out in the nineteenth lap with a damaged engine. Of the thirteen racers, only seven finished. joe Ziegler bailed out of his XP-40Q after the engine exploded, and a P-38 Lightning and three P-51 Mustangs had to make emergency landings during the contest. All of these pilots survived, but Tony janazzo died when his F-2G crashed into the ground near pylon two at full throttle and exploded in a ball of Aame. A later accident investigation speculated that janazzo had been overcome by carbon monoxide fumes in the cockpit and had

blacked out. (As a result, racing pilots began to wear oxygen masks during contests.) The contest was won by Cook leland in NX5577N with his throttle jammed fully forward (a P-51 race pilot saw Cleland passing him 'like a freight train passing a bum'). Cleland crossed the finish line with an average speed of 396.lmph (637 .3kmph), and Dick Becker came second in F2G NX5590N with a 390mph (628kmph) average. ook Cleland emered two of the 'Super orsairs' in the 1948 Thompson Trophy Race event. In an effort to increase the top speed of the aircraft, his personal machine, NX5590N (Race 94) had 18in (45cm) removed from each outer wing panel, and the engine used a new type of fuel mixture. However, Cleland and Dick Becker's 'Super Corsairs', both of which used the new fuel, were forced to retire when engine combustion problems blew their improvised upper carburettor airintake scoops loose as the Corsairs passed the 410mph (660kmph) mark. Cleland and Becker got their Corsairs down safely. Not satisfied with the speed increase achieved by removing 18in (45cm) from each outer wing panel on NX5590N, leland removed an additional 4 1hft (104m) from each wing panel for the 1949 cornest. This, coupled with a 14in (35cm) diameter propeller, adversely affected stability to such an extent that he had to install wing-tip plates to help the roll rate. leland also fitted a hydrogen peroxide injection system to the R-4360 to increase power to over 4,OOOhp at 2,800rpm. In all, four 'Super Corsairs', including XF2G-l N91092 'Miss Port Columbo', Aown by Ron Puckett, were entered for the 1949 contest. Dick Becker was forced to withdraw Race 74 after developing engine problems winning the qualifying heat (achieving a speed of 415mph/668kmph). The rules did not permit an engine change. Altogether, ten racers started the fifteen-lap comest: Cleland, in Race 94, was the favourite, but Bill Odom in his highly modified P-51C 'Beguine' was expected to give him a run for his money. Ben McKillen's F2G-l Bu No. 8854, Race 57, took an early lead, but he was passed by Cleland and Puckett on the third and fourth lap. The three F2Gs came home in first, second and third place, leland winning with an average of 397.lmph (639kmph), and Puckett averaging 393.527mph (633.185kmph). Odom's highly modified Mustang stalled

around a pylon and the P-51C crashed into a house, killing Odom and two other people. This tragedy, and the onset of the Korean War, signalled the demise of air racing at Cleveland, and it was not until 1964 when Reno began air racing again, that unlimited air racing was successfully revived. Corsairs competed against Bearcats, Mustangs and Sea Furies without much success, but speeds increased with the advent of the highly modified Air Museum's Planes of Fame 'Super' Corsair. This aircraft (M31518), an F4U-l, was modified to F2G configuration at Chino, alifornia in 1982, with a 3,000hp R-4360 engine replacing the R-2800 powerplant, and a four-baled propeller fitted. At Reno in 1984 and 1985, five F4U-4/7FG-lD orsairs and a 'Super' Corsair took part, and at the latter's Unlimited Gold Race, Steve Hinton set an average race speed record of 438.1286mph (704.9489kmph) in the 'Super' Corsair. The record stood for two years.

Corsair Warbirds With the end of air racing and the onset of the Korean War, some of the Mustangs were smuggled abroad to join foreign air arms - but there was no market for the orsairs. Ben McKillen's Corsair Race 57 and Race 74 were just left to rot. However, eccentric collector Walter Soplata rescued both Super Corsairs, and trucked the two aircraft to his property in Ohio where they joined dozens of other discarded airframes.

Sam Goldman of Chesapeake Airways bought Puckett's Super Corsair, sold the engine, and had the plane burned as a fire practice drill. Cleland gave Race 84 to a local fire department, and it was also burned many times before the charred remains were buried. In the late 1940s, potential 'warbirds' were being sold off by the military for as low a price as $1,500, but few people wanted the task of keeping them and restoring them to airworthy condition. Then the market took an upturn, values began rising, and year by year restorations increased. One notable warbird collector was the late Bob Bean of Hereford, Arizona, who approached the Honduran government in the early 1970s with plans to trade a number ofP-38 Lightnings and Bell P-63 Kingcobras for over twenty of the surplus F4U-5NL, -5N and F4U-4 aircraft in its inventory. In Honduras the Corsair had been phased out in favour of the F-86 Sabre. Hollywood Wings purchased nine ex-FAH Corsairs, and a multitude of spares. Late in 1979 six of these were Aown to the US where they eventually found their way onto the warbird market. Meanwhile a seventh machine, Bu No.124724 F4U-5NL, the last of the F4U series built, which had also left Honduras, crash landed in Bel ize on its delivery flight. It was repaired and continued to the US, and was bought in the mid-1980s by Ralph C. Parker, of Wichita Falls, Texas. Then in 1986 jean-Baptiste Salis bought it for his collection.

F4U-1D Super Corsair Bu No. N31518 of the Planes of Fame. CONAM

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Race 57: Bu No. 88457 F2G-1 Bu No. 88457 N5588N was bought by Bob Odegaard of North Dakota in the spring of 1996, and restored to flying condition. It now flies as 'Race 57', in its original red-and-white late 1940s' racing scheme. The SOHIO motif stands for eccentric collector Walter Soplata of Ohio, who acquired the abandoned racer following R. W. McKilien's victory in the 1949 Tinnerman Trophy Race at Cleveland, which he won. Race 57 sat abandoned at the old Euclid Airport in Ohio for several years, and was eventually parked in a lot at Chardon, Ohio, its condition steadily deteriorating. Cleveland Tool and Die of Chardon then obtained it; they had plans to restore the aircraft and place it in their antique automobile museum. However, in 1964 Race 57 was disassembled under the supervision of former race pilot Dick Becker and shipped to Pennsylvania for restoration. In 1984, with the aircraft still not restored, it was bought by the late

Harry Doan of Daytona, Florida. In 1989, Race 57 passed to Don Knapp of D. K. Precision, Fort Lauderdale. In 1990 the Super Corsair was acquired by the Lone Star Flight Museum, of Galveston, Texas, and then sold to two individuals who planned to cut it up and use various components to restore a partially completed FG-1 D that had last been used as a wind machine in Kansas! Fortunately Odegaard saved Race 57, and the plane made its public debut at the Reno Air Races in 1999. In fitting testimony to the aircraft's longevity, survivability and superb restoration, Bob Odegaard received first prize at the First Annual National Aviation Heritage Invitational, a trophy sponsored by Rolls-Royce and partners. Race 57 was judged the most historically accurate and authentically restored of the fifteen vintage aircraft that participated.

Goodyear FG-1 D Bu No. 92468 N9964Z of the Confederate Air Force, taxiing out with ex-FAH614, F4U-4 Bu No. 96995 '37' IN4908M) at Harlingen, Texas, in 1986. At the time Robert L. Ferguson and Howard E. Pardue at Breckenridge, Texas, owned Bu No. 96995. In 1989 N4908M was sold to Siegfried Angerer's Tyrolean Jet Service, at Innsbruck, Austria, where it flies as 'USN/BR37'. Author

F2G-1 Bu No. 88457 N5588N, the former Cleveland racer bought by Bob Odegaard of North Dakota in spring 1996 and restored to flying condition. Graham Dinsdale

Eventually, ex-Argentinean and French Aeronavale Corsairs appeared on the market and, like several other surplus Corsairs, were soon snapped up. In 1974 no fewer than sixty-two Corsairs were reported to be still in existence; five years later fifteen were reportedly being nown on a regular basis, and others were airworthy but not nown. In 1976;) whole new generation of Corsair lovers appeared, just as they had in 1951 when John Wayne new 'VMF-247 Wildcats' Corsairs in RKO Pictures' Flying Leathernecks. when Blac/< SheeJ) Squadron

appeared on American TV using seven FG-I D, F4U-4 and F4U-7 Corsairs. The series was supposedly based on the explOits of Pappy Boyington's famou~ World War 2 VMF-214 Squadron, and ran for thirty-five episodes before it was cancelled in its second season. Since then Corsair sale prices have rocketed - like most warbirds - and now more than cover the cost of rebuild; some have even permitted restorers some welcome profit. When parts cannot be found, they have to be made; the complex wooden ailerons are amongst the trickiest

170

items to manufacture: these are built up from hundreds of pieces of wood, with no two ribs being alike, skinned in plywood and then covered in fabric. On the US warbird market the F4U became second only to the Mustang in numbers available, and by the start of the nineties, thirtythree Corsairs were in flying condition, another eighteen were being restored, and four were in storage. Corsairs are now featured in museums and collections throughout the world, in the US, New Zealand, Britain, France and South America.

Goodyear FG-1 D Bu No. 92529 N62290. Planes of Fame East. Minneapolis. MN. Flies as USS Essex! 'S-VF-63 301'. CONAM

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TOP: Ex-Aeronavale (722) Vought F4U-7 Bu No.

133722 N1337A, retired from French service in 1964 and used as an instructional airframe at Toulon. In 1974 the F4U-7 was bought by Gary Harris and shipped to his facility at Half Moon Bay, Oakland, California, for restoration. Its first post-restoration flight was on 22 August 1976. In 1981 the aircraft was bought by lindsey Walton, who operated it for eleven years. Author ABOVE: Goodyear-built FG-1 0 Bu No. 88297 G-FGID

of The Fighter Collection on finals to Duxford. Author LEFT: The Fighter Collection FG-1 0 Corsair Bu No.

88297, in No. 1850 Squadron FAA scheme, flown by Jack Brown, in formation with TFC's Spitfire XIV Vought F4U-4 Bu No. 97286 N5215V, painted as Bu No. 972861'Angel of Okinawa', pictured at Weeks Air

over Cambridgeshire. This FG-1D flew with the US

Museum, at Tamiami, Florida, in March 1992. The museum was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew on

Navy in 1945 and saw combat in the Marianas

24 August 1992. Author

Islands, operating from the USS Atau. Author

772

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The Story of Bu No. 92399 Bu No. 92399 was delivered to the USN in July 1945. Between May 1950 and 30 July 1964, it flew 1,450 hours from land stations

by Charles Osborn's Blue Sky Aviation in Louisville, Kentucky; it was then sold to David Jeansonne's Vintage Fighters Inc. at

in New Orleans, Willow Grove and Jacksonville; in November

Sellersburg, Indianapolis. In May 2000 Bu No. 92399 was

1964 it was registered to Queen City Salvage in Charlotte, North

acquired by Paul Morgan of Brixworth, Northamptonshire,

Carolina. In July 1969,92399 crashed on take-off at NAS Norfolk,

and shipped to Southampton, England, where it was towed

Virginia, and was stored as a wreck until it was bought by the

to Eastleigh Airport and flown to its permanent home at

late Harry S. Doan in May 1970; Doan restored the Corsair and

Sywell, Northants. Paul Morgan flew the aircraft from

sold it to John Hooper of Harvey, Louisiana, whose family

Sywell, Northants, before his untimely death in a Sea Fury

owned it until 1994. In July that year the aircraft was restored

in 2001.

Corsair Marine's Dream at Reno, Nevada, September 2000. Graham Dinsdale

Six Corsairs in formation from Oshkosh in 1994. The nearest aircraft is FG-1 D Bu No. 92468 (N9964Z) '13/USS Essex' of the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum, Midland, Texas. Next is FG-1D Bu No.

Goodyear, Akron-built FG-l D Bu No. 92399 N448AG in the colours of Lt Cdr Roger R. Hedrick of VF-17 'Jolly Rogers' in formation with P-51D 'Hurry Home Honey' and P-47D 'Big Ass Bird'. Tom Smith

92509 '611' (N3PP) of the Kalamazoo Aviation Heritage Museum. Tom Smith

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WAR AND PEACE

WAR AND PEACE

Gareth Simons looked after The Fighter Collection's FG-l Ds for many years, and has clear recollections of the airplane: It retains its 2800-8 engine, minus intercoolers and warer-injection sysrems. The carburettor on rhis version is of an updraft design, thus leading to great intake fires it overprimed. Sitting between the exhaust are three flame traps, which relieve the pressure on backfire. I have been privileged to start and groundrun it on a couple of occasions - and no, there weren't any fires! Ir's a very 'stock' air~ craft, still retaining the fahric outer wing panels, centreline drop tank mechanism and forward radio mast. Apart from a modem radio and a few instruments, the rest ot the cockpit is still in stock condition. The zero length rocket rails were removed when repainted. Stephen Grey didn't want too much ot a bomber! Over the period we removed the outer wings tll overhaul the tolding system and to carry out a complete undercarriage overhaul; no corrosion was tound. The centre section is Ot almost unbreakable design, and the rear fuselage has spot welds instead Ot rivets. Climbing aboard can be daunting. If the flaps are up and there is hydraulic pressure, depress the fuselage footstep; this will lower the flaps via a cable connection to the flap lever.

Performing at Air Shows Brian Smith, a display pilot with the Old Flying Machine Company, describes flying the OFMC Corsair, the sale survivor of the batch of around 400 that went to the Royal New Zealand Air Force: Two things spring to mind when you first see the Corsair close up: firstly its size; and secondly, however do you get up to the cockpit the seating position is a good 10tt [3m] oft the ground! Closer inspection reveals a series of hand- and footholds let into the wing flaps and tuselage structure, so providing you get the correct toot in the correct aperture in the correct sequence, the task is comparatively easy. Walking around the machine reveals a very clean, all-metal construction. The elevator and rudder arc tabric-covered, but the ailerons arc finished in ply and feature servo tabs. The wing centre section contains the induction and oil cooler inlets, the flow through the latter being controlled by variable exit doors. The outer wing fl::lncls cOllt:::lined the main armament in the form of six .50-calibre machine guns, mounted adjacent to the wing break. The wing folding mechanism has been retained, and can be used to great eftect ar airshows when taxiing into seemingly inadequate parking slots.

Although the landing gear length has been reduced from that of the first examples, it still is a tairly large lump of metal. The massive Double Wasp engine is open to the clements at the front, giving a clear view of the tront bank of cylinders, as well as the ignition distributors and propeller governing assembly. Variable gills surround the rear circumference of the cowling and control the cooling Ot the engine - just open the gills tor maximum cooling on the ground, and shut them in flight' I-laving scaled the wing and tusclage to the cockpit, you end up sitting on top of the aeroplane with a reasonable view in the ground angle. Unlike the Mustang, there's no floor, so you look down on some pretty massive control rods and torque tubes, as well as the usual maze of wiring looms, pipes and lines. The wingtolding controls are situated by your left elbow, and consist ot a spring-loaded fold/spread selector together with a handle that is mechanically connected to the locking pins. Wing-locking tor flight is confirmed by lights, as well as two mechanical indicators on top ot the wing. I find starting these brutes more harrowing than actually flying them. The thing to avoid is over-priming, which at best will flood the engine and at worse cause a backfire that can remove the induction manitold. The object ot the exercise is theretore to start a fire, but

preferably in the cylinders' Once you've got up to at least 40 degrees oil temperature and 120 degrees on the cylinder heads, the engine power can be varied, and so taxiing can commence. Forward visibility is obviously limited by the long nose, so a gentle weave needs to be maintained - and gentle it must be, because the castoring tail wheel and the large amounts of weight behind the wheels can combine to produce a significant swing. Once lined up, pretake-off checks include setting six units of right rudder trim and locking the tail wheel. The trim setting is quite sufficient to cope with the 45in manifold pressure the OFMC limits the take-off power to - and according to the handling notes, this setting is also sufficient to cope with the military setting of 54in. Once airborne, acceleration continues apace, and having given the toe brakes a quick stab, you reach down and raise the gear. This takes between ten to fifteen seconds to SOrt itself Out - the wheels have to rotate through 90 degrees during the retraction cycle in order to stow cleanly within the wing. Power is reduced to 34in/2,400 rpm for the climb at 140mph [225kmphll. At this point it becomes apparent that you are not flying a deranged monster, but rather a veritable pussycat. Visibility in the

cruising attitude is excellent, and with threeaxis trim available, hands-off flying is easily achieved: thus cross-country flying is a relaxing experience conducted at around 220mph [J50kmphj burning just under 60gal [nOI] per hour. Stick torces in pitch are lighter than in a Mustang, and although the load increases with airspeed, one hand is all that is required to cope comtortably with a 6min air show routine. The ailerons seem to get lighter the taster you go, courtesy no doubt at the various tabs, and this is probably the root cause at the 330mph [530kmph] speed limit for tull aileron deflection. On some aircratt you can struggle to apply an)' aileron at such speeds, let alone go to the stops! The rudder is also comparatively light, and because of a slight inherent instability in yaw, you need to keep your feet firmly on the pedals to avoid 'tramping' ar high speeds. In addition, the massive propeller sets up all sorts of gyroscopic precessions when aerobatting, so a beady eye needs to be kept on the sl ip ball when pulling up into manoeuvres. Acrobatics are straightforward, and with the engine set at around 2,500rpm/40in, the aeroplane seems content to loop all day tram 270mph [430kmph], the trick being not to pull

The Story of 'Josephine II' On 11 April 1949, thirty-three Corsairs were declared surplus and put up for tender by the War Assets Realization Board (WAR B). In May 1949, thirty-two of these aircraft were bought by Mr J. Asplin, a Hamilton garage proprietor. Among these was NZ5648 (which, sources say, was Bu No. 92044, Bu No. 88391 never having been allocated to the RNZAF). All but three of the Corsairs were subsequently broken up and melted down by 1962. During the early 1960s, after spending many years standing at the side of Asplin's garage, '5648' was restored to static condition as NZ5611 [Bu No. 88104) 'Josephine 11'. The Waikato Aero Club, Aviation Firms based at Rukuhia, Mr Asplin, and several others who were interested in seeing the aircraft preserved, put many hours into its restoration, obtaining missing parts from various sources. One of those involved, Frank Bish, was a pilot who flew the aircraft in the Pacific. In 1966, when the restoration work was complete, Bish was at NZ5611 's controls when Rukuhia was officially opened as Hamilton Airport, and he made several high-speed, tail-up taxiing demonstrations along the runway. From 1966 the Corsair was left parked in the open at Hamilton Airport and vandals damaged the rudder. In 1968 'Josephine' was removed and taken to the Museum of Transport and Technology (MoTaT) at Western Springs, Auckland, for preservation and display. Asplin Supplies sold the fighter to American Ed Jurist in 1971, and it was shipped aboard the

Amalric, bound for Los Ang'eles. En route, the ship was diverted to Vancouver, Canada, after a dock strike on the US West Coast. At Vancouver the aircraft was unloaded and transported by barge to be bonded on Sea Island where it was parked outside the hangar of West Coast Air Services. Jurist then ran into trouble with the Canadian authorities who declared it an 'article of war'! The aircraft was moved inside West Coast Air Service's hangar and languished there for nearly two years as the bureaucratic wrangling continued. In 1973 Ed Jurist sold 'Josephine II'to Messrs Jim Landry and Pat Palmer. Landry later bought out Palmer's share in the aircraft. After much negotiation, the Canadian authorities released the aircraft, and it was transported to the United States. By now 'Josephine II' was in a sorry state, having suffered from the heavy handling and transportation. An eleven-year restoration project involving 40,000 man hours and approximately $300,000 began. NZ5611 'Josephine II' flew on 17 July 1982 from Paine Field, Everett, Washington USA. During 1985-88 the FG-1D was resident at the Lone Star Flight Museum and was based at Houston Hobby Airport, Texas, until purchased by British collector, Doug Arnold in 1989 for his Warbirds of Great Britain Ltd collection. Shipped to Biggin Hill Airport, the fighter was reassembled, made occasional flights and the odd public appearance. In 1991 the Old Flying Machine Company Ltd purchased the aircraft. FG-l D Bu No. 88391 N55JP of the Old Flying Machine Co. in RNZAF scheme Bu No. 92044 'NZ5648¡. Author

176

177

too hard. The wing is nOt particularly tapered and theretore the induced drag is quite high; the only advantage at pulling much more than 3g is to get some pretty trails breaking from the wingtips, given reasonable humidity. Whatever you're doing, it's costing you around 170gal [770Ij of fuel per hour at this power setting, so you'll probably not be doing it tor long' Slow flight produces tew surprises. The aeroplane exhibits classic qualities ot pitch break combined with mild wing-drop at the stall, increasing in severity with increased flap angle. The Corsair is not a good aeroplane to stall with full flap, 10ft [Jm] above the runway. Equally, there appears to be no shortage at roll or yaw authority at low speeds; applying go-around power at low speeds is quite containable, provided control input matches the rate of power increase. For landing, the first thing to do is to get rid of the speed, and with a relatively high limiting speed (220mph/350kmph) available for the gear, and up to 20 degrees of flap, lite here is made a little easier. The major difficulty is continuing to get rid at speed whilst losing height. It is not good practice to close the throttle on big radial engines to the point where the airflow, rather than the engine, is driving the propeller, so the trick is always to maintain


WAR AND PEACE

more boost than rpm until the last couple of hundred feet. You should see around IOOmph

The other thing to watch out for is crosswind, for apart from stalls and spins, a crosswind

1160kmphl on the clock as you come over the

is one of aviation's deadliest enemies, as any

hedge. It helps if a small amount of power is left on, to enhance the airflow over the e1evators-

Jodel pilot will tell you. The Corsair can cope reasonably well with anything up to 15 knots

down - and even that experience proved that

the

across the runway, providing half flap or less is used. However, much above this value and

having come as close to a night carrier landing

wing

and

flaps

(especially

if using

50 degrees) tend to blanket the back end in the three-point attitude. Best aim for a taildown wheeler rather than a full-blown threepoint touchdown, unless you are well in practice, in view of what I mentioned earlier about stalling.

you've got your work cut out keeping straight and ensuring the wind doesn't pick up a wing. The Corsair is a gentle giant that grows on you the more familiar you become with it. This particular aeroplane has flown all over Europe,

earning its keep in the OFMC stable: other than a complete hydraulic failure, caused by a minute hole in a pressure return line, it has never let me

APPENDIX I

the emergency hand pump system works' But

US Marine Corps Corsair Squadrons

as I want to, when landing at dusk on a glider airstrip near Stuttgart, I was reminded of the skills that were needed to fly these aeroplanes operationally. You can't help but respect the aviators of half a century ago - ami the engineers who produced such potent aeroplanes.

VMA-312 VMA-323 VMA-324 VMA-332 VMO-154 VMO-155 VMF-1l2 VMF-113 VMF-114 VMF-ll5 VMF-121 VMF-122 VMF-123 VMF-124 VMF-211 VMF-212 VMF-213 VMF-214 VMF-215 VMF-216 VMF-217

778

VMF-218 VMF-221 VMF-222 VMF-223 VMF-224 VMF-225 VMF-235 VMF-236 VMF-251 VMF-311 VMF-312 VMF-313 VMF-314 VMF-321 VMF-322 VMF-323 VMF-331 VMF-332 VMF-351 VMF-422 VMF-451

VMF-452 VMF-461 VMF-462 VMF-471 VMF-481 VMF-482 VMF-511 VMF-512 VMF-513 VMF(N)-513 VMF-521 VMF-522 VMF-523 VMF-524 VMF(N)-532 VMF-542 VMF-911 VMF-912 VMF-913 VMF-914 VMF-922

779

VMF-923 VMF-924 VMFT-l0 VMJ-l VMP-254 VPM-354 VMT-l VMBF-931 VMSB-931 VMSB-933 VMSB-934 FASRON-3 FASRON-5 FASRON-6 FASRON-8 FASRON-9 FASRON-ll FASRON-691


US NAVY CORSAIRS

US NAVY CORSAIR SQUADRONS

APPENDIX II

US Navy Corsairs Model

Number Built

Bu Nos

XF4U-1 F4U-l F4U-IA FG4/-IA F3A-1 F4U-1C

1 734 2,080 2,010 735 200

F4U-1D

1,685

FG-1D XF4U-2 F4U-2

1,997 (1) (34)

XF4U-3 FG-3

(2) (26)

F4U-4X XF4U-4 F4U-4

(2) 5 2,045

F4U-4B

296

F4U-4N F4U-4P

(1) (11 )

FG-4 XF4U-5 F4U-5

(2,371) (3) 223

F4U-5N

214

F4U-5NL F4U-5P

101 30

1443 02153-02705, 02706-02736, 03802-03841, 17392-17456, 18122-18141, 18142-18166 17457-17516,18167-1819"1,17517-18121, 49660-50349,55784-56483 12992-14991,76139-76148 04515-D4774,11067-11293 57657-57659,57777-57791,57966-57983, 82178-82189, 82260-82289, 82370-82394, 82435-82459, 82540-82582, 82633-82639, 82740-82761 50350-50659, 57084-57566, 57570-57776, 57792-57965, 82190-82259, 82290-82369, 82395-82434, 82480-82539, 82583-82632, 82640-82739, 82762-82852 67055-67099, 76149-76739, 87788-88453, 92007-92701 02153 (converted F4U-l) 02243, '02432, 02434, 02436, 2241,02441, 02534, 02617, 2622, 02624, 02627, 02632, 02641, 02672, 02673,02677,02681,02682,02688,02692,02708, 02709, 2710,02731, 02733, 03811, 03814, 03816, 17412,17418,17423,49858,49914,18038 (converted F4U-lsl: 17516,49664 (converted F4U-IAs) 76450,92252,92253,92283,92284,92300,92328, 92232, 92338, 92341, 92344, 92345, 92354, 92359, 92361,92363,92364,92367,92369,92382,92383, 92384, 92385,92429, 92430, 92440 (converted FG-Is) 49763, 50301 (converted F4U-IAs) 80759-80763 80764-82177, 96752-96765, 96767-96797, 96799-96810, 96812-96817, 96819-96850, 96852-9685, 96857-96891, 96893-97083, 97085-97390 62915-62919,62921-62949,62951-62961, 62963-62989, 62971-62989, 62991-63009, 63011-63019, 63021-63029, 63031-63049, 63051-63069, 63071- 96826, 96851, 96856, 96892, 97084, 97409-97486, 97488-97506, 97508-97526, 97528-9753 97361 (converted F4U) 62970,62990,62962,63010,63020,63030,63050, 63070, 97507, 97487, 97527 (converted F4U-4Bsl (Cancelled) 97296,97364,97415 (converted F4U-4sl 121793-121803, 121805-121815, 121817-121831, 121834-121851,121854-121871, 121875-121890, 121894-121911, 121916-121931, 121937-121951, 121958-121972, 121979-121994, 122003-122014, 122023-122036, 122041-122044, 122049-122057, 122066, 122153-122166 121816,121832-121833,121852-121853, 121872-121874, 121891-121893, 121912-121915, 121932-121935, 121952-121955, 121973-121976, 121995-121998, 122015-122018, 122037-122040, 122058-122061,122175-122206, 123144-123203, 124441-124503, 124523, 124710-124724 24504-124522,124524-124560,124665-124709 121804, 121936, 121956-121957, 121977-121978, 121999-122002, 122019-122022, 122045-122048, 122062-122065, 122167-122174 124665 (converted F4U-5N) 129318-129417, 133833-133843 133652-133731, 133819-133832 13471,13472,14891,14692,14693,14894,14695 (converted FG-ls) 88454-88458 88459-88468

XF4U-6 AU-l F4U-7 XF2G-1 F2G-l F2G-2

(1)

111 94 (7) 5 5

180

OTU-VF-l OTU-VF-2 OTU-VF-3 OTU-VF-4 OTU-VF-5 CQTU-4 ATU-VF-l ATU-l-VF ATU-4-VA ATU-5-VA AES-12 VA-IA VA-3A VA-7A VA-14 VA-74 VA-13A VA-24 VA-134 VC-3 VC-4 VC-11 VC-61 VC-62 VC-190 VF-1B VF-1L VF-2A VF-2B VF-3 VF-3B VF-4A VF-4B VF-5 VF-5A VF-5B

VF-6B VF-l0 VF-l0A VF-l1 VF-12 VF- 13A VF-14 VF-14A VF-17 VF-17A VF-18 VF-18A VF-21 VF-22 VF-22A VF-23 VF-32 VF-33 VF-34 VF-41 VF-42 VF-44 VF-53 VF-54 VF-55 VF-58 VF-61 VF-62 VF-63 VF-64 VF-74 VF-75 VF (NI-75 VF-81 VF-82 VF-83

VF-84 VF-85 VF-89 VF-92 VF-94 VF-95 VF (N)-101 VF-103 VF-104 VF-ll3 VF-114 VF-122 VF-131 VF-133 VF-152 VF-192 VF-193 VF-653 VF-671 VF-713 VF-783 VF-791 VF-821 VF-871 VF-874 VF-884 VF-916 VBF-l VBF-3 'VBF-4 VBF-5 VBF-6 VBF-l0 VBF-14 VBF-15 VBF-17

181

VBF-19 VBF-20 VBF-74 VBF-74A VBF-74B VBF-75 VBF-75A VBF-75B VBF-81 VBF-82 VBF-83 VBF-85 VBF-88 VBF-92 VBF-93 VBF-94 VBF-95 VBF-97 VBF-98 VBF-99 VBF-100 VBF-150 VBF-151 VBF-152 VBF- 153 VFO-1 VFO-2 VRF-2 VRF-3 VRF-12 VT-4 VT-6 VX-3


ROYAL NAVY FLEET AIR ARM CORSAIRS

ROYAL NAVY FLEET AIR ARM UNITS ALLOCATED

APPENDIX III

Royal Navy Fleet Air ArID Corsairs Model

No. Built

RN No.

BuNos

F4U-1 B/Corsair I F3A-11 Corsair II

70 334

F4U-1A/Corsair II

465

JT100-JT169 JS469-J S554 JS555-J S802 JT170-JT194 JT195-JT219 JT220-JT244 JT245-JT269 JT270-JT280 JT281-JT305 JT306-JT330 JT331-JT355 JT356-JT380 JT381-JT405 JT406-JT424 JT425-JT494 JT495-JT529 JT530-JT564 JT565-JT599 JT600-JT634 JT635-JT669 JT670-JT704 JS803-JS888 JT963-JT972 KD161-KD560 KD561-KD867 KD868-KD917 KD918-KD942 KD943-KD967 KD968-KD992 KD893-KD999 KE100-KEll7 KE31O-KE349 KE350-KE389 KE390-KE429

04689-04774 08550-08797 17592-17616 17697-17721 17552-17776 17847-17871 17952-17962 18082-18016 55839-55863 55944-55968 56049-56073 56164-56188 56279-56297 50080-50149 50230-50264 50325-50359 50460-50494 50575-50609 57109-57143 57215-57249 11067-11152 11153-11162 14592-14991 76139-76445 87949-87998 88134-88158 88269-88293 88404-88428 92171-92177 92178-92195 92386-92425 92546-92585 unallocated

F4U-1 D/Corsair II 70 F3A-1 D/Corsair III FG-1, FG-l D/Corsair IV

96 937

182

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

1830 1831 1833 1834 1835 1836 1837 1838 1841 1842 1843 1845 1846 1848 1849 1850 1851 1852 1853

June 1943-July 1945; embarked Illustrious July-December 1943 and November 1944-August 1946; embarked Slinger, Pursuer, Glory and Vengeance July 1943-July 1945; embarked Illustrious July 1943-0ctober 1945; embarked Khedive and Victorious August-November 1943 and December 1944-August 1945; embarked Premier August 1943-0ctober 1945; embarked Atheling and Victorious September 1943-August 1945; embarked Begum, Atheling and Illustrious October 1943-September 1944; embarked Begum and Atheling March 1944-0ctober 1945; embarked Smiter, Formidable and Illustrious April 1944-0ctober 1945; embarked Rajah, Formidable and Illustrious May 1944-December 1945; embarked Trouncer and Arbiter June 1944-0ctober 1945; embarked Puncher, Slinger, Formidable and Victorious July 1944-July 1946; embarked Ranee and Colossus July-November 1944; embarked Ranee August-December 1944; embarked Reaper August 1944-August 1946; embarked Reaper and Vengeance September 1944-August 1946; embarked Thane, Venerable and Vengeance February-August 1945; embarked Patroller April-August 1945; embarked Rajah

183


APPENDIX IV

APPENDIX V

World War II: Monthly Acceptances of Corsairs

Surviving Corsairs

Vought

1942 July August September October November December

1943 January February March April May June July August September October November December

1944 January February March April May June July August September October November December 1945 January February March April May June July August September October November December

Goodyear

Brewster

2 9 13 31 55 68

2 9 13 31 55 68 178

39 75 77 113 132 156 171 176 186 195 230 235 1,785

2 7 16 22 30 77 63 78 82 377

2 3 0 8 27 28 68 136

39 75 77 115 139 174 196 206 271 285 336 385 2,298

224 225 256 230 254 169 300 220 210 217 197 163 2,665

150 147 222 220 220 160 170 168 180 182 145 144 2,108

61 78 100 119 122 102 17 0 0 0 0 0 599

435 450 578 569 596 431 487 388 390 399 342 307 5,372

118 152 268 279 302 300 303 210 41 31 21 21 2,046

103 178 262 205 195 179 180 151 68 0 0 0 1,521

184

I i

Totals

221 330 530 484 497 479 483 361 109 31 21 21 3,567

Type

Reg No.

F4U-1A F4U-1A F4U-lD XF4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4

Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu

NO.17799 No.17995 NO.50375 No.80759 NO.81164 NO.81415 No.81698 NO.81857

F4U-1D F4U-lD F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4B F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-4 F4U-5 F4U-5 F4U-5

Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu

NO.82811 No.82850 NO.96885 No.96995 OE-EAS NO..97142 N3771A NO.97143 N713JT No.97259 N6667 NO.97264 N5218V No.97280 N49092 NO.97286 N5215V NO.97288 N4907M No.97302 N68HP NO.97320 NO.97330 N5222V NO.97349 N4802X NO.97359 N240CA NO.97369 N5214V NO.97388 NO.97389 NO.97390 N47991 NO.121794 NO.121859 N4993V NO.121881 N43RW

F4U-5 F4U-5 F4U-5P F4U-5N F4U-5N F4U-5NL F4U-5NL F4U-5NL

Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu

NO.122179 NO.122184 NO.122189 NO.124447 NO.124486 No.124541

II

F4U-5N F4U-5NL

Bu NO.124692 Bu NO.124724 F-AZVJ

III

F4U-7

Bu No.133693 N33693

,

I'

History N83782 ZK-FUI

N5014 N5219V N53JB N5081

N179NP N65WF N100CV N49068

Bu NO.124569 N4901W

The Air Museum, Chino, California. Alpine Fighter Collection, Wanaka, New Zealand. 'Sun Setter 56' NASM, Washington, DC. New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks, CT. Robert J. Odegaard, Kindred, NO (restoration project). Korean War Museum, Seoul, South Korea. Displayed as Marines/WR-22. John MacGuire, Santa Teresa, NM. Flies as Marines/JM. Crashed NALF Charlestown RI, 21 January 1950. Hulk recovered by New England Air Museum in 1977. Rebuilt to fly by Robert Odegaard. CAF Virginia Beach, VA (restoration project). Walter Soplata Collection, Newbury OH. Earl Ware, Jacksonville, FL. Restoration project. Siegfried Angerer/Tyrolean Jet Service, Innsbruck, Austria. Flies as 'USN/BR37'. USMC Museum. Loaned to Pima Air Museum, Tucson, Arizona. Joseph Tobul, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. EAA Aviation Foundation, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Chuck Hall/C. Harp, Ramona, CA. Rebuilt to fly. World Jet, Ft Lauderdale, FL. Painted as Bu No.97286/Angel of Okinawa. Weeks Air Museum, Miami, FL. Crashed 7 June 1981. Repaired. Joseph Bellantoni, Port Chester NY. Breckenridge Aviation Museum, Texas. Flies as 'VMF-223/HP68'. John Roxbury, Princeton, MN. Rebuilt to fly. Crashed, destroyed 2 August 1991, Chilquin, Oregon. US Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, Florida. Displayed as '97349/WR-18'. Ex-Old Flying Machine, Co. Duxford. Flies as RNZAF 'NZ5628'. USMC Museum, MCAS Quantico VA. Gerald S. Beck, Wahpeton, NO. Flies as 9492/Bu NO.97338. Stored dismantled, Tucson Airport AZ. Yankee Air Corps, Chino, CA. Rebuilt to fly. Ex-CANA (Argentine Navy) 0384, displayed Bahia Blanca Air Base, Argentina as '3-A-211'. Registration reserved. Ex-CANA (Argentine Navy). To Lone Star Flight Museum, Galveston, TX, 1990. Flies in the markings of F4U-5N 'Annie Mo', Guy Bordelon's Korean War Corsair. Flies as 'USN/NP-9'. Exec Aviation Inc, Cincinnati, OH. Flies as 'VMF(N)-513/WF-6'. USMC Museum, MCAS EI Toro, CA. USMC Museum, MCAS EI Toro CA. Richard Bertea, Chino, CA. Flies as '1·24453/NP-21 Annie Mo'. Ex-CANA (Argentine Navyl (3-A-204). Museo Naval de la Nacion, Rio Parana Delta AB. Ex-CANA (Argentine NavyI13-A-202). Displayed on pole at Trelew, Argentina. Ex-FA Hondurena. David K. Burnap, Dayton, OH. Flies as 'RF-12/0Id Deadeye' (FAA also quote this aircraft as Bu No.124560). Ex-FAH. Collings Foundation, Stow, MA. Rebuilt to fly by Tom O'Reilly at KiSSimmee FL. Ex-FA Hondurena FAH600, later owned and flown by Ralph C. Parker (N4901E) and now owned and flown by the Jean Salis Collection, France. (Formerly F-AZEG.l Ex·Aeronavale (6931. Used as an air racer. Crashed and destroyed near Brown Field, San Diego, CA, 10 May 1987.

185


-'. SURVIVING CORSAIRS

F4U-7 F4U-7 F4U-7 F4U-7

Bu Bu Bu Bu

No.133704 No.133710 No.133714 C-GWFU No.133722 N1337A

FG-1A FG-1A FG-1D FG-1D

Bu Bu Bu Bu

No.13459 No,14862 No.67070 No.67087 N11Y

FG-1D FG-1D FG-lD FG-1D FG-1D FG-lD

Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu

No.67089 No.76628 No.88026 No.88086 No.88090 No.88297

FG-lD FG-lD

Bu No.88303 N700G Bu No.88368

FG-lD FG-1D

Bu No.88382 Bu No.88391 N55J P

FG-lD

Bu No.92013 N1978M

FG-lD FG-lD FG-1D FG-lD FG-1D FG-1D FG-1D FG-1D

Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu

No.92050 No.92081 No.92085 No.92095 No.92106 No.92132 No.92246 No.92399

FG-1D FG-1D FG-1D FG-lD FG-1D FG-1D FG-1D FG-lD FG-1D FG-lD F2G-1 F2G-1

Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu Bu

No.92433 No.92436 No.92460 No.92468 No.92471 No.92489 No.92508 No.92509 No.92529 No.88368 No.88454 No.88457

F2G-2 F4U-1

N97GM N7171 K N63382 G-FGID

N194G N4719C N67HP N6897 N3466G N766JD G-CCMV N3440G C-GCWX N9964Z NX773RD N46RL N3PP N62290 N4324 N5588N

Bu No.88463 N5577N Bu No.N31518

USS Alabama Memorial Comm, Mobile, AL. Displayed as 'Marines/LD-15'. Ex-Aeronavale. USMC Museum, Quantico, VA. Ex-Ainonavale. Ex-N33714. Blain Fowler, Camrose Alberta, Canada. Flies as 'Alberta Blue '. Ex-Aeronavale (722), retired in 1964 and used as instructional airframe at Toulon. In 1974 was bought by Gary Harris and shipped to his facility at Half Moon Bay, Oakland, CA for restoration. First postrestoration flight was on 22 August 1976. In 1981 was bought by Lindsey Walton, who operated the aircraft for eleven years, before selling the F4U-7 to Jack Erickson of Medford, Oregon. Flies as Aeronavale '133722/15F.22' USMC Museum. Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton. John Roxbury, Princeton MN. Under rebuild. CC. Corporation, Paso Robles, California. Flies in the markings of Lt (jg) Earl May of VF-17, Bougainville, early 1944. In May shot down 8 Zeros. Painted to represent 'Sky Boss' of VF-53. Gary Meermans, Chino, CA. Kevin M. Hooey, Corning, NY. (Restoration project.) Walter Soplata, Newberry, OH. Museum of Flight, Tamiami, FL. Ross Jarratt, Ardmore NZ (stored). The Fighter Collection, Duxford. Flies as 'RN 130' in No. 1850 Squadron FAA colour scheme, previously '88297/29' in Ira Kepford's personal markings. Larry D. Rose, Peoria, AZ. Flies as 'VMF-115/WA-22'. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Charleston, SC. Displayed on USS Yorktown, Mt Pleasant SC as '21'. Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA. Static restoration at Twin Falls 10. Old Flying Machine Co. Duxford. Flew as '17640/Big Hog' from 1989. Now flies in its original RNZAF scheme as Bu No.92044I'NZ5648'. USNAM, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC. Displayed as 'Big Hog' T of VF-17, the wartime mount of Lt Cdr Tom Blackburn. James R. Axtell, Denver, CO (Race No. 94). James 1. Lambert, Clarksdale, MS. Selfridge ANGB Museum, Selfridge ANGB MI. Displayed as '92085/1.0l/LE-09'. Evergreen International Airlines/747 Inc. McMinnville; or Stored Twin Falls 10, pending restoration. 'Frisco Kid'. Owned by Henry Schroeder, Danville, Illinois. Under restoration to fly. US Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, FL, displayed as '92246/86'. (Formerly N448AG), the late Paul Morgan, Sywell, Northants. Flies as '17' in VF-17 markings, as flown by Lt Cdr Roger R Hedrick. Sale reported, Addison, TX. Canadian Warplane Heritage, Mount Hope Ontario. Flies as 'KD658/X-115'. Ex-FAS, donated to Sikorsky Memorial Airport, Bridgeport, CT, displayed on a pole as 'USMC/217'. Confederate Air Force, Midland, TX. Flies as '13/USS Essex'. Owned and flown by Ray Dieckman as 'Marine's Dream'. Frank Arrufat, Los Angeles, CA, under rebuild. Dee Ring Inc, Dallas, Texas. Flies as 'Marines/L-46'. Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum, Kalamazoo, MI. Flies as USN '92509/611'. Planes of Fame East, Minneapolis, MN. Flies as USS Essex/S-VF-63 301'. (Also quoted as Bu No.92629). Patriots Point, Mt Pleasant, SC. Champlin Fighter Museum, Mesa, Arizona. Flies as 'NATC/454'. Former Cleveland racer and ex-Lone Star Flight Museum, Glaveston, Texas, bought by Bob Odegaard of North Dakota in spring 1996 and restored to flying condition. It now flies as 'Race 57', in its original red and white late 1940s' racing scheme. Walter Soplata Collection, Newbury, Ohio. Planes of Fame (F4U-lD Super Corsair).

186

Bibliography Abrams, Richard F4U Corsair At War(lan Allan, 1977). Alexander, Jean Russian Aircraft since 7940 (Putnam, 1975). Allen, Hugh Goodyear Aircraft (Cleveland, Ohio: Corday & Gross, 1947). Andrade, John M. US Military Aircraft Designations and Serials Since 7909. (Earl Shilton, Leicester, England: Midland Counties Publications, 1979). Angelucci with Bowers, Peter The American Fighter; The Definitive Guide to American Fighter Aircraft from 7977 to the present. (Foul is, 1987). Berliner, Don Unlimited Air Racers: The Complete History of Unlimited Class Air Racing, 7946 Thompson Trophy to 7997 Rena Gold (Osceola, Wisconsin: Motorbooks International, 1992). Blackburn, Tom and Hammel, Eric The Jolly Rogers (Pocket Books, 19891. Blechman, Fred Bent Wings; F4U Corsair Action & Accidents. True Tales of Trial and Terror. (Libris 1999). Editors of the Boston Publishing Co Above and Beyond: A History of the Medal of Honor from the Civil War to Vietnam (BPC, 19851. Brown, David Carrier Fighters 7939-7945(Macdonald, 1975) Brown, Eric Wings of the Navy: Flying Allied Carrier Aircraft of World War /I (Janes, 1980). Chapman, John & Goodall, Geoff Warbirds Directory (Edited by Paul Coggan). Chance Vought Aircraft Corsair IV (Stratford, Connecticut: 1944). Cressman, Robert The Fighting Phil Sea. Cook, Lee The Skull & Cross Bones Squadron; VF-77 in World War 2 (Schiffer, 1998). Dean, Francis H. America's Hundred-Thousand: US Production Fighters of World War Two (Schiffer Military Aviation History, 1997). Dienst, John and Dan Hagedorn North American F-57 Mustangs in Latin American Air Force Service (Arlington, Texas: Aerofax, 1985). Doll, Thomas E. USN/USMC Over Korea: US Navy/ Marine Corps Air Operations Over Korea 7950-7953 (Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1988) Dykema, Owen W. Letters From the Bird Barge (Dykema Publishing Co., Roseburg OR: September 1997)

Flintham, Victor Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present (New York, New York: Facts on File, 1990). Foss, Joe and Mathew Brennan Top Guns: America's Fighter Aces Tell Their Stories (New York: Pocket Books, 1991). Futrell, Robert F. The United States Air Force in Korea 7950-7953 (Washington D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1983) Green, William US Navy and Marine Corps Fighters (New York: Arco, 19771. Guerlac, Henry E. History of Modern Physics 7800 to 7950. vol. 8 (Los Angeles, California: Tomash Publishers/ American Institute of Physics, 1951). Guyton, Boone T. Whistling Oeath: The Test Pilot's Story of the F4U Corsair (New York: Orion Books, 1990). Hallion, Richard The Naval Air War in Korea (Baltimore: The Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America, 19861. Hanson, Norman Carrier Pilot (PSL, 1979). Hull, Robert September Champions: The Story of America's Air Racing Pioneers (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1979) Huntington, Roger Thompson Trophy Racers: The Pilots and Planes of America's Air Racing Glory Days 7929-7949 (Osceola, Wisconsin: Motorbooks International, 1989) Jackson, Robert The Royal Navy in World War /I (Airlife, 1997). Jackson, Robert The Red Falcons: The Soviet Air Force in Action 7979-7969 (Clifton Books, 1970). Johnsen, Frederick A. (New York: F4U Corsair Wing & Anchor Press, 1983). Kinert, Reed Racing Planes and Air Races Various volumes (Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, 1972) Larkins, William T. US Navy Aircraft 7927-7947 and US Marine Corps Aircraft 7914-7959 (New York: Orion Books, 1988). Larsen, Jim Oirectory of Unlimited Class Pylon Air Racers (Kirkland, Washington: American Air Museum, 1971). Leckie, Robert Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War /I (Viking, 1995). Maloney, Edward T., and Feist, Uwe Chance Vought Corsair (Fallbrook, CA: Aero).

187

Mikesh, Robert C. Japanese Aircraft Code Names & Designations (Schiffer, 1993). Miller, Nathan The Naval Air War 7939-7945 (Conway Maritime Press, 1980). Moran, Gerard P. The Corsair, and other Aeroplanes Vought, 7977-7977(Terre Haute, Indiana: SunShine House, 1978). Morrison, Samuel Eliot History of United States Naval Operation in World War /I Vols VI, VII, X, XII (Boston: Atlantic, Little, Brown, 1951). Musciano, Walter A. Saga of the Bent-Wing Birds Corsair Aces in the Solomons (New York: Aerofile.) Ogden, R. The Aircraft Museums and Collections of North America (West Drayton, Middlessex, England: The Aviation Hobby Shop, 1988). Olynyk, Frank Stars & Bars; A Tribute to the American Fighter Ace 7920-7973 (Grub Street, London, 1995). Robertson, Bruce British Military Aircraft Serials 7887-7987 (Earl Shilton, Leicester, England: Midland Counties Publications, 1987). Schoeni, Arthur L. Vought: Six Oecades of Aviation History (Plano, Texas: Aviation Quarterly, 1978). Sherrod, Robert History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War /I (Baltimore: The Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America, 1987). Smith, Peter C. Task Force 57: The British Pacific Fleet, 7944-45 (Kimber 1969). Sturtivant, Ray The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm (Kent, England: Air Britain (Historians) 1984). Fleet Air Arm at War (Shepperton, Surrey, England: Ian Allan, 7982). Sullivan, Jim F4U Corsair in Action (Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 19771. Styling, Mark Corsair Aces of World War 2 (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 8,1995). Swanborough, Gordon and Bowers, Peter M. US Navy Aircraft Since 7977 3rd ed. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990). Sweetman, John Tirpitz Hunting the Beast: Air Attacks on the German Battleship 7940-44 (Sutton, 2000). Tegler, John Gentlemen, You Have A Race (Severna Park, Maryland: Wings Publishing, 19841. Thompson, Julian The War At Sea (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1996).


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Thompson, Sir Robert (Cons Ed.) War In Peace: An Analysis of Warfare from 7945 to the Present Day

(Black Cat, 1988). Tillman, Barrett Corsair: The F4U in World War /I and Korea (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1979) Trimble, William F. Wings for the Navy: A History of the Naval Aircraft Factory, 7977-7956 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990). Pilot's Handbook for

Navy Model F4U-5 Aircraft, AN 01-45HD-1, including Appendices III (F4U-5PI and IV (F4U-5NLI, 1947. The Campaigns of the Pacific War (United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific). Naval Analysis Division. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 19461 US Navy. United States Naval Aviation 7970 to 7980 (NAVAIR 00-80P-1 Washington, D.C: US Government Printing Office, 19811.

Veronico Nicholas A. with John M. and Donna Campbell Warbird History F4U Corsair Motorbooks (Osceola WI, 1994). Westinghouse Integrated Logistics Milestones Logistics in Military History (1991). Support Division.

Index Aces 164 Air Group 101 144 Air Group 89 108 Aldrich, Capt Donald N. 37,164 A Igeria IZO, 165 Allingham, It Cdr Peter DSC RNR 76 A Iward, Major Everett 94

Amakusa 89 Amen, It Cdr William T. 138,140 American Volunteer Group 31 Andre, I/ltJ. W. 143,147 Antietam, USS (CV-36) 108, 146-147 Argentina 166-168, 170 Arnold, Major Gen Henry 'Hap' 14 An-omanches 165,167 ATG-I 146-147 Attacker, HMS 78 Axtell, Major George C. Jr. 107 Badoeng Stmit, USS (CVE-116) 138-140 Bailey, Major Stanley R. 100 Baker, Ensign R. W. 39 Balikpappen 108 Ballale Island 31 Barioko, USS (CVE-115) 147,159 Bataan, USS (CVl-29) 140, 142-144, 147 Barrie of the Solomon Sea 40 Beacham, It Shelton R. 33 Becker, Dick 169 Beers, 2/lt A Ian 144 Beisel,RexB.IO-II,17 Bell P-39 Airacobra 10 Bell XFl-I 10 Bell, It Thad 33, 65 Bellanca Aircraft Corp 12 Bellanca, Guiseppe M. 12 Belleau Wood, USS (CVl-24) 165 Bendix Trophy Race 168 Bennington, USS 93-95,98, 102, 106 Blackburn, It Cdr John T. 24-25,28,32-33, 37-38,40-41,65,164 Blechman, Fred 7, 122-135 Block Island, USS (CVE-106) 93,107-108 Bollmann, Capt Howard W. 70 Bon Homme Richard, USS (CV-31) 146,149,152, 157 Bonner, It Joel E. Jr 70 Bordelon, It Guy P. Jr 118,158-159 Bougainville Island 29,32,34-35,38-40,64, 66 Boxer, USS (CV-21) 108,118,139-140,143-144, 146-147,149,152,158-159 Boyington, Major Gregory 'Pappy' 31,44, 59-60, 63, 164 Breton, USS (CVE-23) 105-106 Brewster Aeronautical Corp 14,19,21-22,70 Brewster F3A-I 12, 22, I 10, I 13 Britt, Major Wade H. 30 Brown, Ensign Jesse L. 141-142 Buin Harbor 29-30 Bullard, lyman A. Jr. 9-10, 13-14 Bunker Hill, USS (CV-17) 25,27-29,37,39, 93-95,98,102,106-107 Burriss, Ensign Howard M. 'Teeth' 25,39, 65-66

188

Cabot, USS (CVl-28) 122 Caldwell, Cdt H. H. 24 CalJe Gloucester, USS (CVE-109) 93, 108 Cates, General Clifton B. 160 Cevoli, It Cdr Richard L. 141 Ceylon, HMS 82 Chance Vought Corp 8 Charger, USS (ACV-30) 25-27 Charlton, It Cdr P. N. RN 79 Choshin 149-150 Chromite, Operation 139 Cleland, Cook 165,168-169 Clifton, It Cdr Joseph c. 'Jumping Joe' 23-24 Coats, It Cdr Roberr C. 126 Cole, Major Frank 68 Colossus, HMS 85 Coral Sea, USS 124 Core, USS (CVE-13) 24 Cork, It Cdr R. J 'Dicky' DSO DSC 79, 81 Corsair models 110-121 Crimson, Operation 83 Cummings, Shailer 'Catwalk' 25 Cunliffe, Capt 79 Cupp, Major James N. 164 Daigh, lilt Harold 145 Daniels, lilt Willie l. 154-155 Davenporr It (jg) Merl W. 'Butch' 25,40 Day, Major Richard M. 106 Delong, Capt Philip C. 144-145,164 Dennis, It 106 Dien Bien Phu 165 Doan, Harry 170 Dobbins, It Col John 70 Donahue, Capt Archie G. 30, 106, 164 Dorroh, Major Jefferson D. 107 Duckworrh, Capt Hugh S. 70 Dykema, Capt Owen W. 131,147-154, 155-158 Eckstein, Midshipman John A. 'Jack' 126-127 Eisenhower, President Dwight D. 158 EI Salvador 166-168 Eldridge, 2/lt William 106 Empress of Scotland, RMS 76 Enterprise, USS 24, 70, 101, 107, 114 Erickson, It (jg) Roy D. 'Eric' 93,95-104, 106 Espirito Santo 31-32, 81 Essex, USS (CV-9) 31,37,93-95,98,102,106, 108,145,147,152-153,171 Evans, USS 107 Everron, Col loren D. 'Doc' 68 F3A-ID 70 F3D-2 Skyknight 144 Farnsworth, Ensign C. T. 138 Farrell, lilt William 107 Fast Carrier Task Force 58 94-95 Fenton, Capt D. 143 Fiddes, It Cdr D. B. M. DSO RN 76, 79 Fleet Air Arm Squadrons: 1830 Squadron 76, 79, 87 1831 Squadron 76, 79, 89 1833 Squadron 76,79,82,86-87 1834 Squadron 76,79,87

189

1836 Squadron 79,87 1841 Suadron 80, 87 1842 Squadron 87 1846 squadron 89 1850 Squadron 89 1851 Squadron 89,91-92 Folmar, Capt Jesse G. 154-156 FOl1nidable, HMS 80-81, 87--89 Formosa 143 Foss, Major Joe 59,62-63,69 Frame, Major P. 144 Franklin, USS 95,98-99, 101 Freeman, Col Calvin B. 69 French Navy units I 1 Flotille 165 14 Flotille 165-166 Furious, HMS 79-80 Fusen 149-150

Gambia, HMS 82 Gambier Bay, USS (CVE-73) 70 Garmany, lilt William K. 144 Gier, Major Scorr G. 143-144 Gilbert Islands, USS (CVE-I07) 93, 108 Gile, It (jg) Clement D. 'Timmy' 28,33,39 Gise, Major William 22, 24, 30 Godbey, lilt 144-145 Goldman, Sam 169 Goodwood, Operation 80-81 Goodyear Aircraft 14-15,70 Goodyear F2G-1 70, 120-121, 168 Goodyear F2G-2 120-121 GoodyearFG-I/-IA 12,73-74,110 Goodyear FG-I D 70,95, 110-111, 113, 167-168,170-171,173 GoodyearFG-3114-115 Goodyear FG-4 I 17 Goodyear XF2 120-121 Gray, It Robert Hampton RCNVR VC 89 Green Island 75 Grumman XF5F-1 9-10 Guadalcanal 23-24, 30-31, 44, 47, 68 Gutenkunst, It (jg) Doug H. C. 66 Guyton, Boone T. 13-14 'Hainan Turkey Shoot' 159 Halford, It James A. 32 Han Bridge 139 Hancock, USS 95, 108 Hansen, Major Herman 'Hap' 43-44 Hanson, lilt Robert M. MoH 37,66,164 Hanson, It Cdr Norman 76-78,86 Harmer, Cdr Richard E. 'Chick' 70 Hastings, Johnny 79 Hay, Major Ronnie RM 86 Hedrick, It Cdr Roger R. 25,33,36,38, 39,65,94, 164 Hill, It (jg) Robert 39 Hill, It John S. 32 Hinton, Steve 169 Hofstra, Ensign Edward J. 143 Holden, It (jg) R. F. Jr 70 Honduras 166-168 Hope, Bob 72 Hopson, It (jg) Ralph 158


INDEX

I-loran, Bill 114, 117 Hospers, Jack 22, 32, 69 Hudner, Lt (jg) ThomasJ. MoH 141-142 HlIKh W. Hadley, USS 107 HVAR rockets 137 Hyland, Cdr 102 Iceberg, Opcration 86, 94 IllustriOllS, HMS 76-77, 79, 81 -85,87-88 Implacable, HMS 88-89 Inchon 139-140 lndefQligable, HMS 80,83-87,89 Independence, USS 37 Independencia, ARA 167 Indo-China 119,165 lndomirable, IIMS 83-85,88-89 Intrepid, USS 63,95,98, 101 102, 107-108, 114 IwoJima 94 Jackson, Lt (jg) Hal 39, 103-104, 106 Jagger, Ensign F. A. 'Andy' 28 Janazzo, Tony 168 Jensen, Lt Alvin J. 31 Johns, Lt Ruhcn L. 32 Johnson, Tex 168 'Josephine II' 176 Kahali 29,31-32 Kail, Ensign J. F. 138 Keith, Lt John H. 33 Kepford, Ensign Ira 'Ike' 25,32-33,36,38-40, 66,68, 164 King George V, HMS 84 Kleinman, Lt John M. 33, 39 Klingman, Lt R. 107 KlIla Gulf, uss (CVE-108) 133-135 Kyosen 149-150 La Fayette 166 Lake Champlain, USS 158-159 Langley, USS 166 Lanthier, Ensign Raymond V. Jr. 102 Lencil, Operation 83 Lerch, Lt (jg) Alfred 106 Lesage, Capt William 144 lexingtOn, USS 108 Leyte Gulf invasion 83 Leyle, USS (CV-32) 116, 140-142 Light, Operation 83 Lindbergh, Charles A. 69 Logan, Lt Sam 30 Long Island, USS 95 MacArthur, Gen Douglas 139-140 Malang 82 Manz, Paul 168 McCormick, Harold F. 7-8 McCoskrie, Lt (jg) David A. 143 Mcf)ermorr, Lr Bernard F. 143 McKillen, Ben 169-170 Meridian I, II and Ill, Opcrations 84-85 Millet, Operation 83 Missouri, USS 89 Mitchell, Major Gcn Ralph 44,46 Mitschcr, Adm Marc 102, 107 Monk, Lt Cdr H. A. DSM 76 Montcith, Suh-Lt D. RN 81 Moran, Lt 102 Morgan, Paul 175 Mount Surihachi 94 Mullancy, Cdr 107 Munda, New Georgia 39,44-45, 114 Musketeer, Opcration 166 Nabob, HMS 80 Nagasaki 89 Nasscr, Abdel 165 Newcastle, HMS 82

Nigeria, HMS 82 Nixon, Richard Milhous 73 Northrop XP-948 8 O'Keefe, liLt Jeremiah 'Jerry' J. 107 O'Neill, Lt Hugh D. 'Danny' 32 03U Corsair 8 Odegaard, Bob I 70 Odom, Bill 169 Okinawa 75,88,93,101-102,105-107,114,137 Olson liLt William 144 Ondonga 32-33,39 Oriskany, USS (CV-34) 129 Outflank, Operation 83 Palcmbang 84-85 Pangkalan, Brandan 83,86 Parduc, Howard E. 171 Parker, Ralph C. 169 Patuxent River NAS, Maryland 16, 18, 115-116. 121, 168 Pearson, Capt John 69 Penner, Lt Charles L. 32 Phili/JpineSea,USS(CV-47) 116,118,136-140, 142-145,147,149,151-153,158-159 Philippines 75 Phoebe, HMS 82 Pitner, Lt R. 144 Pladjoe 84-86 Popp, Wilbcrt P. 39 Port Blair 82 Prcsley, Major Frank H. 144 Pressure Pump, Operation 152 Prince William, USS 32 PrincetOn, USS (CV-37) 140,146-147,149-150, 152,154,158-159 Puckett, Ron 169 QlIeen Elizabeth, HMS 82 Rabaul 29,36,39,42,60,65-66 Ravager, HMS 79 Rawic, Lt Cdr Wilmer E. 104 Rcidy, Lt Cdr Thomas. H. 108,164 Rcinburg, Major Huntcr J. 44-58, 140, 160-164 Rendova 30-3 I Reno 169 Renown, HMS 82 Rcusser, Capt Kenncth 107 Riche/iell 82 Ridderhoff, Col Stan Icy 22 RNZAF 42-43,93, 110 Robson, Operation 83 Romme, William S. 7 Sabang 83 Saipan 70, 93 Sai/Jan, USS (CVL-48) 165 Salis, Jean-Baptiste 169 Salsig, Lt Cdr E. B. 159 Sangamon, USS (CVE-26) 16 Sapp, Major Donald H. 164 Saratoga, USS 24,81-82 Sawrate, Operation 147 Segal, Capt Harold E. 164 Serongei Gerong 84-86 Shangri La, USS 106, 108 Shaw, Capt Edward O. 'Bud' 164 Sicily (CVE-118), USS 138,140, ISS Simons, Gareth 176 Simpson Harbor 40 Sisson, Thomas 142 Sitkoh Bay, USS (CVE-86) 106 Slinger, HMS 78 Smecton, Lt Cdr R. M. RN 17-18 Smith, Brian 176-178 Smith, Ensign C. L. 139 Smith, Lt (jg) John M. 164

790

INDEX

'Soccer War' 167-168 Soplata, Walt 170 Soto, Capt Fernando 'Sorillo' 168 Sourabaya, Java 82 Sovik, Lt Edward A. 70 Spatz, Lt Donald 70 Spems, Capt Harold L. 37, 164 S, La, USS 73 St Valcntine's Day Massacre 29 StrCIl1K'e, Operation 145 Straremcycr, Gen George F. 139 Srrcig, Lt (jg) Frederick 'Jim' 39-40 SU-I Corsair 8 Suiho 149-150 Sumatra 83 Taclohan 73 TF38 88,93,101,107 TF77 137, 140, 143, 145-147, 149-150, 154, 158 TG 58.1 102 TG 58J 102 TG 58.4 102 Thomas, Capt Wilbur 'Gus' 164 Thompson Trophy Race 168-169 Thomson, Wallace B. 24, 34-36, 59-68 Tirpitz 79-80, 89 Tomkinson, Lt Cdr Chris RNVR 79 Torch,Opcration 25 Transcom, Opcration 82 Trillon, Lt Cdr A. M. DSC RNVR 76, 79 Tromp 82 Truman, President I-larry S 140, 142 Trum/Jeler, HMS 78,80 Ulithi Lagoon 93, 100, 106 US Marine Corps units 4th Marine Air Wing 66,68 FASRON-II 179 FASRON-3 179 FASRON-5 179 FASRON-6 179 FASRON -691 I79 FASRON-8 179 FASRON-9 179 MAG-24 66, 109 MAG-12 165 MAG-12 73-75,109,145 MAG-13 66 MAG-14 69,75,106 MAG-21 71 MAG-22 66, 107 MAG-31 66,106 MAG-32 109 MAG-JJ 137-138,140 Marinc Carrier Divison 27 93 MCVG-I 93 MCVG-2 93, 108 MCVG-3 93, 108 MCVG-4 108 VA-liS 137 VA-55 137 VA-63 143 VA-95 153 VBF-IO 95,98,100,102-104,108 VBF-5 95 VBF-6 95, 108 VBF-83 93, 95, 98, 106, 108, 164 VBF-85 106, 108 VBF-86 93,95 VBF-94 108 VC-II 137,153 VC-3 118,140,146-147,153,158-159 VC-35 137,153 VC-4 143,159 VC-61 116,137,140,143,153 VC-62 116, 143 VF(N)-IOI 63,70 VF(N)-75 30-32, 114

VF-IO 70,95,106 VF-III 137-138,140, 147 VF-112 137-138 VF-113 137,139,147 VF-114 137-139,147 VF-12 24 VF-14 126,128,131 VF-17 24-29,32-33,36,38-39,40, 4-66,103,108,164 VF-18 29 VF-191 147 VF-I92 140,147-149,154,156 VF-193 140,147 VF-194 147 VF-195 147 VF-23 139 VF-24 136,139,142-143,145,147 VF-3 143 VF- 301 70 VF-32 141 VF-33 39 VF-51 l37 VF-52 137, 147 VF-53 137, 139, 145 VF-54 137, 159 VF-63 139,143,146-147 VF-64 139,143-144,147 VF-65 147 VF-653 (Akron) 146-147 VF-713 (Denver) 146 VF-791 (Memphis) 144 VF-82 101 VF-831 (New York) 146 VF-837 (New York) 146 VF-84 93-95, 107 VF-884 (Olathe) 144 VF-89 108 VF-91 153 VF-93 153 VF-94 153 VMA-212 147,158,162 VMA-312 147,154-155,159,179 VMA-323 119,147,158,179 VMA-324 179 VMA-332 159, 179 VMBF-93 I 179 VMF(N)-212 140 VMF(N)-513 138-140,142-144,147, 160-164,179 VMF(N)-531 32,40,68 VMF(N)-532 30,63,70, 114, 179 VMF(N)-533 114 VMF(N)-541 74 VMF(N)-542 114,140,142-143 VMF(N)-543 114 VMF-III 44, 54,68 VMF-112 30,101-102,106,108,93-95,179 VMF-113 68,107,179 VMF-114 71,179 VMF-115 74-75,109,147,158,179 VMF-121 30-31,44,71,147,179 VMF-I22 30-31,44,51-52,58,71,108,179 VMF-123 31,93-95,101-102,108,179 VMF-124 22-24,29-31,93-95,108,142,145, 179

VMF-211 24,34,40,59,63,66,74, 108-109, 179 VMF-212 40,66,75,140,143-144,147, 179 VMF-213 30-31,40,93-95,108,164,179 VMF-214 31,42,59,63,95,98-99,100,108, 138,140,143,145,164,179 VMF-215 32,40,64,66,108,164,179 VMF-216 42,64,71,93-95,179 VMF-217 71,93-95, 179 VMF-218 66,74,179 VMF-221 30-31,40,63,93-95,102,107-108, 179 VMF-222 66,75,108,164,179 VMF-223 42,66, 75, 179 VMF-224 106-109, 179 VMF-225 71, 179 VMF-235 179 VMF-236 179 VMF-25 I 75, 179 VMF-311 105-106,108-109,143,147,158,179 VMF-312 106-108,142-144,179 VMF-313 74, 179 VMF-314 107,179 VMF-321 64,179 VMF-322 106-107, 179 VMF-323 105-106-109,138-140,143,145, 147, 179 VMF-3J I 42, 179 VMF-332 179 VMF-351 93,108,179 VMF-422 59, 107, 179 VMF-441 106-107 VMF-451 93-95,102,106-107,179 VMF-452 95, 179 VMF-461 179 VMF-462 179 VMF-471 179 VMF-481 179 VMF-482 179 VMF-511 93,107-108,179 VMF-512 93, 108, 179 VMF-513 93,108,179 VMF-521 179 VMF-522 179 VMF-523 179 VMF-524 179 VMF-542 109,179 VMF-911 179 VMF-912 179 VMF-913 179 VMF-914 179 VMF-922 179 VMF-923 179 VMF-924 179 VMFT-IO 179 VMJ-I 179 VMO-154 179 VMO-155 179 VMO-251 75 VMP-254 179 VMSB-93 I 179 VMSB-933 179 VMSB-934 179 VMT-I 179

797

US Navy units CV-3 137 CVG-IO 108 CVG-II 137-139,143,147 CVG-15 146 CVG-19 140,147 CVG-2 143, 147 CVG-5 137,140,145 CVG-7 152 CVG-81 93, 95 CVG-82 93 CVG-83 95 CVG-84 93, 102 CVG-9 153 Valentine Capt Herbert J. 107 Valianr, HMS 82 Valley Forge, USS 116,137,139-140,143, 146-147 Van Housen, Capt John E. 144 Vella GlIlf, USS (CVE-III) 93, 108 Venerable, HMS 89-91 Vian, Rear Admiral Sir Philip 83 VicwriollS, J-1MS 79-81,83-84,86,89 Vogel, Cdr W. 'Sully' 137-139 Vought AU-I 119,147,165,168 Vought F4U-1 73, 110 Vought F4U-IA 18,28,110,112 Vought F4U-1 Bill Vought F4U-IC III Vought F4U-ID 70,73,113 Vought F4U-2 30,70, 113-114 Vought F4U-4B 116, 155 Vought F4U-4N 116 Vought F4U-4P 116, 143 Vought F4U-4X 115 Vought F4U-5 117,126-128,131,133,166 Vought F4U-5N 117,138,143-144,147,153, 158-164, 168-169 Vought F4U-5NL 118,143-144,146,166, 169 Vought F4U-5P 118 Vought F4U-7 119-120,165-166,170 Vought SB2U-I Kingfisher 9, 12 Vought XF4U-1 10,13-14 Vought XF4U-3 114-115 Vought, Chauncey Milton 7-8 VPM-354 179 Wagner, Capt Arthur 144 Walsh, 2/Lt Kenneth A. 30-31,108,164 Ward, Lt Charles 141-142 Warrior, HMS 167 Wasp, USS 93-95, 101 Wayne, John 170 Weissenberger, Major Greg 30 White, Major R. O. 106 Witonski, Major Stanley J. 74 Wonson H"rbor 139 Wright, Cdr T. K. 'Kip' 70 Wright, USS (CVL-49) 123, 125, 127, 129-131 Yamato 102-104, 106 Yorkwwn, USS 108


Vought F4U Corsair  

American aircraft, WWII, history

Vought F4U Corsair  

American aircraft, WWII, history

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