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Marine Red. The story of a Marine and his Corsair.

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V8- 12/2009


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

In 1976, “Baa Baa Black Sheep” aired on network TV dramatizing Medal of Honor winner Gregory Boyington’s WW2 fighter squadron, VMF-214.

Looking back, as history, the show was sillier than George Washington’s air force.

But it least it had real, blue, bent-winged flying Corsairs! Ratatatatatatatatatm Eeeerrroooowww! KABLAM! My buddies and I watched it every week.

Later on, the show was renamed “Black Sheep Squadron.” Really, aside from the airplanes, the show is of modest entertainment value and not much more historical value other than reinforcement of the fact that the United States was at war with the Japanese in WW2. Ok, ok. Iʼm being harsh. Maybe. Not.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

We were just kids. Anything fast and heavily armed was amazing and Corsairs fit the bill. Years later, what they told me is this: “The Corsair was the best fighter ever.” Who are “they?”

“Iwa Jima 1945” by “CJ” c.2009 Crayon & pencil on copier paper

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Ginormous production run (1940-1952)

Well if “they” are historians and airplane nuts, they’ll talk Facts &

Nearly 40 years of combat service

12,571 built - more than any other piston-engined American fighter

Last combat: 1969 in the “100 hour” war between Honduras and El Salvador

Figures. *F4U-4

But there’s so much more to the Corsair story than statistics.

Beat the iconic P-51 Mustang*

Top speed: 460mph vs. 440mph Rate of climb: 3,800 fps vs 3,200 fps Payload: 4,000lbs + vs 2,000lbs + Engine: Radial vs. “one-shot” Inline

And to learn that, we have to find a

Plus, it can land on a carrier

different class of “they.”

Outstanding combat performance

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16,000 TONS of ordnance delivered in WW2 11:1 victory ratio in aerial combat


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Photo: VMF-216 Bulldogs, Guam, late 1944

The most credible “they” are the pilots who flew Corsairs in combat. Bear with me for a few pages while I attempt an overview of how the airplane came to be.

This is my buddy Claude Hone. He was a pilot with VMF-216 (V means ʻheavier than air aircraftʼ, or “fixed wing” depending on what point in time you check, M means Marines, F means Fighter). Claude flew from an island base in Guam and later on, the USS WASP once the Corsair was allowed back on carrier decks. At the time of this writing, he is JUST shy of 90 years old and can beat me at leg-lifts. I work out 4 days a week, too. Yes, thatʼs his original flight jacket.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

“Give me the right people, put them on the right jobs, pay them fair wages, and we will build a team that will lick any problem (s).”

The Corsair was a product of the Chance Vought company in response to a 1938 Navy RFP (request for proposals) that listed as major requirements:

A problem like these two jokers.

Fly 400 mph

Adolph Hitler: Time Magazine’s MAN OF THE YEAR 1938

Drop bombs

Hideki Tojo: Time Magazine’s NOV. COVER 1941

Take-off and land on ships

It nailed two of the requirements... But first, just for giggles, you might want to look at some of the faces and trivia of the time.

HT A

V OUG

T PORA INCOR T F IRCRA

ED

EISEL REX EBngineer Chief

Rex was 45 years old in 1938; his defining work, just ahead.

per-ca pita a nnual 1938 income NOT CL REPORT ASSIFI ED

for Am ericaabout for Gr 1,000U eat Br SD itainfor Ge abouT rmany360USD about for Ja 250USD pan- a bout 7 0USD

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Marine Red

1. For a moment in time, specifically October, 1940, the F4U was the fastest single engine production fighter on earth. It hit 405mph in level flight.

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

2. “Rivetless” construction was used wherever possible. “Drag” rises exponentially as speed increases. Removal of all those hundreds of Skittle® -sized speed-bumps was a true smooth-move.

3. The bent wings not only allowed for greater prop-to-ground clearance, the 90-degree wing attachments were aerodynamically more efficient than more traditional wing joints.

Ok, back to the Corsair. It truly represented the vanguard of aeronautical engineering at the time.

4. The Corsair needed the biggest propeller fitted to a fighter. Remember - a propeller are essentially wings that “lift” the rest of the airplane through the air. The P&W R2800 engine was so powerful, it needed the mass and “bite” of the big blades to operate effectively. Kind of like why drag racers use such fat grippy tires. 13’ 4”

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5. Landing gear retracted fully behind flush fitting doors. (a big deal in 1940).


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

But the airplane struggled with earning its “sea legs” - which are rather important considering the NAVY ordered the thing!

Hmmm. How shall I describe this...?

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

NoT

HOW TO: LAND AN F4U-1 CORSAIR ON A CARRIER not to scale

2. about a mile out, turn and line up on the carrier 3. Gear down, flaps down, 79-80 mph - watch the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) as he mimics your wings with big red paddles.

1. downwind approach about 170 mph

4. Looking good! The LSO signals you to cut engine, stick back, stall (75mph) and drop so the tail hook catches the arresting cable...

6.. *ERRRRKKK* 5. *BOING*

You bounced past the cables?!?

What?!?!

7.. *CRUMMPH!!* (sound of tearing metal, crunching wood, the smell of trickling gasoline...

Fast-moving crew pull you out of the wreckage. You get the nickname, “Lucky.”

Carrier traveling 25-30kts

8. Bouncing around on crowded carrier decks was unacceptable to the Navy. But so was throwing the baby out with the bath water. © John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

No doubt about it, the Navy needed the wrinkles ironed out of their

1. I Laundry list 2. R ncrease aise Tailw of F4U 3. B pilot Chang heel A L es: H A s E N e IGHT 4. A djustCE landi at the w ng gea l r s o in w5. W atch speed st g to sof truts ten al what the B ls ritis h do.

Corsairs. But pilots in the Pacific needed something victorious to wear, now*.

So, the Navy gave their Corsairs to the British. And...

*In 1942, the Japanese held the performance edge on combat aircraft performance, especially fighters.

As part of the Lend-Lease program of WW2, Allied nations “lent” each other material where needed. The Brits were very much in need of Navy aircraft and brought Corsairs, bounce and all, into their fold. While the Americans waited for engineered solutions, the British learned adaptive landing and deck-handling technique to mitigate the Corsairʼs landing quirks.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

...to the pilots who weren’t constrained by carriers, The Marines!

The Marine aviators quickly realized

own hot d s g e” ein ayat ne b 4 “H irpla 8 a i e K th nese ing, Japa nder o a w s i re

their Corsair was a solid dogfighter

se y In ca

ou’

AND a brilliant bomber. The Marines on the ground really, really, really appreciated the support they got from their aerial brothers.

Let’s take a time-out and meet some famous cloud-bound Marines, ok?

Movie tidbit: In the movie “Letters from Iwo Jima,” the bombing & strafing scene shows Marine Corsairs.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

KNOW YOUR WW2 U.S. MARINE FIGHTER ACES!

JOE FOSS - 26 victories Joe’s plane is the Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat as he flew with VMF-115 at Guadalcanal, circa 1942

JAMES SWETT - 15.5 VICTORIES Swett’s plane is the Vought F4U-1 Corsair as he flew with VMF-211 from the Bunker Hill, circa 1945

BRUCE PORTER - 5 VICTORIES Bruce’s plane is the Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat as he flew with VMF(N)-542 from Okinawa, circa 1945

Certainly Foss and Swett qualify as Heroes by virtue of their Medal of Honor awards. Of course, “Black Sheep Squadron” c/o Gregory Boyington also earned the Medal of Honor. But I want to highlight Bruce Porter for two reasons - one, I’m rather proud of my art of his Hellcat. It took me a long time to get the Schenley’s Whiskey bottle on the nose right. Two, Bruce was an absolute hoot to interview; a showman and personality from the get-go. When I asked him why he named his Hellcat night fighter “Black Death” he growled, “Cuz I wanted something that sounded mean!”

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Marine Red

This particular Corsair - an F4U-1 flown by Lt. Claude Hone of VMF-216 - is typical of hard working Corsairs of 1943-44.

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Some Corsairs had problems with fuel leaking from the fore-mounted gas tanks. White tape was used to keep the fuel and fumes from seeping out. “696” didnʼt have that problem, so no tape.

Hot, tropical sun blanched the “tri-color” camouflage to the point where the darker upper surfaces bleached into the medium-blue sides. By 1945, virtually all Corsairs were painted glossy dark blue.

The Corsair retained fabriccovered rudder, elevator and wing surfaces - not unlike the Sopwith Camels of 1917.

By the end of WW2, the Corsair was known as one of essential tools of victory.

Five years later, the Corsair would be in combat again. In Korea.

“696” is a stark contrast to the wild names and paint jobs found on Air Force aircraft, especially in Europe.

The notch in the tail was for the hook used to catch the arresting wires on an aircraft carrier. The Marines removed these hooks, saving the fuel-sucking weight.

Marine squadrons didnʼt often personalize aircraft or paint victory markings on the side. VMF-216 was no exception. “696” is likely the last 3 numbers of the Bureau Number (BuNo, or serial number).

Coral and/or dirt were the basis of Marine runways. This combination played havoc on the white undersides!

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Remember when I wrote that “they” think the Corsair was the best airplane that every flew? It’s time to meet another one of “Them.”

This guy.

He knows a bit about Corsairs. Two wars’ worth, in fact.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

n! h o J o l l e H In 2007, a young woman in San Francisco found out that I interviewed combat pilots and drew their planes. She wrote me a letter. And asked told me to call her grandfather.

pa! m a r G y wm e i v r e t n i to You need S! R I A S R O He flew C N! A M T A E R G A s i E And H o! o t , e n a l p air s i h w a r d You should ay! d o T ! m i Call h Jenna!

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Not actual letter.

So, let’s meet the man!


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Red hair gave him the nickname “Red.”

June 2, 1922 was a perfect birthday for future Corsair pilots. And Eugene James was born with all

✓ Excellent eyesight ✓ Quick reflexes

the innate qualifications for the job.

✓ High intelligence

Of course, he didn’t know it at the time. Neither did his folks.*

✓ ...and will be about 20 years

of age when WW2 starts. *Think about it - moms & dads all over the world had no idea they were raising battle fodder. George McGovern told me that wars should be fought by old people. I reminded him that he was one. He replied something to the effect that he was ready to go but only after a nap. Suffice it to state, he made his point.

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Marine Red

Jennaʼs grand father flew Corsairs in WW2 and in Korea. This is a Korean bird - an F4U-4

And of course, as Jenna noted, Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

This pencil sketch took me MAYBE a minute. But, it helps me understand proportion. I really screwed this up - the cockpit and nose are too big, the tail too small and the wing too weenie-like.

Iʼm not quite sure why the Navy and Marines went to painting their airplanes dark blue all-over. I can tell you this, however - itʼs a miserable color to try and reproduce in artwork.

ended up flying Corsairs and she wanted me to draw his airplane. An airplane drawing is just a representation of a moment in time. But when you want to know history practical stuff based around reality that moment in time can become something significant. It can represent a life - at least if you take the time to be curious and figure out what made that life tick.

So, let’s get back to Red.

In Korea, Red flew with VMF-312 “The Checkerboarders” - they painted their nose in a particular white check pattern. I was not thrilled about getting all of those little squares right.

Korean-era “star and bar” markings showed a red stripe through the bar.

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Korean Corsairs flew from both land bases and carriers. With the “bounce issue” long solved, hooks were retained on all F4Us.


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

These are some drawings Red did when he was a little kid. I think it’s pretty cool to hold 70 year old drawings. Back then, coloring books didn’t grow on trees. Most times, you had to make your own lines.

That was fine because, as you can see, Red had no problem making his own lines. I recognized that Red’s rendering of Mickey Mouse was closer to the way artists drew the

That’ll come in handy as a

first one - skinny and bendy - and looked into

fighter pilot, eh?

it further. Anyway, Mickey’s first film was

✓ Self-sufficiency.

called “Plane Crazy” (circa 1930) and is about Mickey being inspired to learn to fly by most little boy’s hero of the day, Charles Lindbergh.

Crayon images provided courtesy Crayola LLC, used with permission. © 2009

Notice the similarity between

Red’s airplane rendering and Mickey’s from the movie.

Crayola. Crayola™, Serpentine Design™, Binney & Smith™

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The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Marine Red

Self-sufficiency is key to making the split-second decisions that tend to be common in combat (heck, life!).

0 ool - 194

High sch

In 1940, the United States Govt. was just about ready to make a decision on instating a draft. Red saw it coming and made one of those self-sufficient, quick decisions. “I trust this Country, but I don’t trust a Draft Board! I’m enlisting.”

Navy C

adet - 19

42

$5,882.90 Do you have any friends that are worth six grand?

- 1943 Marine pilot

It may not be necessary for flying a Corsair, but if you want to be

“And I’m going to be a pilot, too.”

Red made a good friend while learning to be a Naval aviator - EB Reade. Somehow, EB got it into his head that being a MARINE aviator was better than being a NAVY aviator and decided to transfer. Red decided to stick with his friend, but not without a price - the Marines charged Red $450 for new uniforms. According to U.S. Government figures, that $450 then was worth $5,882.90 in 2008 dollars.

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someone people trust, you should have a bit of: ✓ Loyalty.


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Dorothy, I am afraid I’ll never get to do the job I signed up to do.

Red’s transferring

That’s just fine with me, Red.

days weren’t finished, however. The map at right is a summary - a few locales were omitted for space consideration. For a guy who wanted to ensure his own destiny, the Marines

I like you alive.

sure gave him a goose chase!

Along those lines, will you marry me?

2. Oct. ’42 - Athens, GA - basic training 3. Jan. ’43 - Gross Ile, MI - primary flight training 4. Oct. ’43 - Pensacola, FL - Wings of Gold! 5. Dec. ’43 - Jacksonville, FL - Corsair training 6. Jan. ’44 - Cherry Pt., NC - joined VMF 511 - the first carrier-based Marine Corsair squad 7. Feb. ’44 - New Bern, NC - Gets engaged 8. May ’44 - Key West, FL - Joins “Project Danny” 9. July ’44 - Mojave, CA - Carrier practice 10. Dec ’44 - Santa Barbara, CA - Carrier practice Red circa 1944, Jacksonville, FL

11. Feb. ’45 - Cherry Pt, NC - Leave 12. April ’45 - Honolulu, HI - Get ready...

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Curtiss SB2C shown

1. Sept. ’42 - Huntington, WVA - induction

Project Danny was an idea to have Marine fighters hunt Nazi “Vweapons” using a rocket-missile called the “Tiny Tim.” The idea was scrapped because the job ended up being a lot less difficult than previously thought.


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

June, 1945, Red finally got his chance to fly combat. He arrived as a replacement pilot for VMF-311 based at Chimu Airfield on an island of Okinawa.

Okinawa is an island group south of Japan. The largest island of the group is called “Okinawa Island” and about 600 miles from Mainland Japan.

VMF-311 arrived in the Pacific Theater of Operations in October of 1943 but didnʼt fly combat missions until March of 1944 when they attacked Japanese installations in the Marshall Island chain. Here, the “Hells Belles” pioneered the intentional use of the Corsair as a dive bomber.

“So what?” you ask. Well, Iʼm not here to sermonize, but I think itʼs rather fascinating to learn how often - in military, business, life - improvisation plays pivotal roles defining future intention.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

A quick bit about Okinawa. When Red arrived in June, the island was virtually steaming from the heat of human blood. The fighting started in April and was finally mopped up around July 1. The Americans suffered 49,151 casualties. Of that number, about 12,500 were killed. The Japanese on the other hand, surrendered about 7,400 soldiers. No one knows for sure but official U.S. Army stats estimate 110,000* soldiers killed. *Want a perspective on 110,000 people? Imagine a meteorite hitting Billings, Montana, vaporizing everyone. What?! You donʼt know anyone in Billings? Well, you should. My mom was born there and so was my buddy Dave (whoʼs a Marine, btw). *Casualties = wounded + killed

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

After Okinawa, everyone knew that the Japanese mainland was next and people feared a landing on the Mainland would make Okinawa and Iwo Jima seem like a grade-school Christmas play by comparison. When this photo was taken, Red didn’t know that in a few weeks, the Atomic

B

bombs would effectively end the war.

Red logged 35 combat missions - mostly “Combat Air Patrol” (CAP) looking for the onesy-twosie Kamikazes that never showed up on Redʼs watch. He did manage a few missions over Japan (Kyushu), strafing and bombing ground targets.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

When the war ended, Red didn’t go I remember seeing this photo when I was probably no more than ten years old. 3 decades later, Iʼm holding it in my hand. Strange how things work, eh?

home. Instead, VMF-311 was transfered to Yokosuka, Japan as an occupation force. This photo is of VMF-311 as it cruises past Japan’s Mt. Fuji. Picture this - over 3 and a half years of full-on war, going from the beating at Pearl Harbor to Parade Formation over the enemy’s icon. Can you imagine the thrill of victory?!

Red can. Heʼs flying the Corsair marked by the arrow. I asked Red how the Japanese treated him, now that he was a victor on conquered land. He said they were “polite, docile.” Another friend of mine, an Army Medic, also had Occupation Duty. Interestingly, he used the same words to describe the vanquished citizens - “polite and docile.”

This is my friend Dr. John Forrette, Sr. His job was to process American prisoners of the Japanese back into freedom. Photo: Courtesy Marcine Forrette

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Well, I did it. Combat. Well, you also came home!

By Fall, 1946, Red was on his way home, eager to put the war behind and move forward.

Red and the lovely Dorothy were Let’s go to California and start our lives.

married in 1947.

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Ok!


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Hey! I joined the Marine Reserves!

Ahh. Peace.

(sigh) Well...

Got each other, got life, got the future... ...all is right with the world. ...if you enjoy it...

Babies? Sure! Let’s have a bunch!*

*aka: The Baby Boom.

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I get FREE Corsair time!


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Hey honey! Any good mail today? Uh. No. Well...

Red racked up Corsair hours in The Marine Reserves, tried his hand at selling insurance... Dorothy took on the role of rearing two

Uh, there’s a letter on the counter...

beautiful kids... Then on June 25, 1950, the Communists started a Civil War in Korea.

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Oh.


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

That “letter on the counter” couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time for the James’s.

Let me summarize: Dear James, Eugene N.: You’re going to Korea. Sincerely, The Marines

In case youʼre curious, this is what “Military Orders” look like. For my taste, theyʼre so retentive, theyʼre almost unintelligible.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Will you be home for dinner?

I’m honoring my commitment.

This time, Red wasn’t a barely-

Where you going, dad?

Kids, listen to your awesome mom.

man of 22. He was a husband. And a dad. I’ve never been in combat, but I am a dad. This had to suck.

Diann James

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Richard James


The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Marine Red

PROS & Red had to redirect his mind to the

CONS

tasks at hand. Land-based Corsair Squadron

Carrier-based Corsair Squadron

Red in Grumman F9F Panthers*.

+ No stormy carrier landings

- Have to land on a moving, bobbing and rolling runway

When they noticed Red’s 1,200-odd

- Nifty WW2 surplus sleeping bag

+ Hot breakfast, lunch and dinner

- Sturdy burlap tent

+ Table cloths, china, silver cutlery

- Combat helmet doubles as a sink for shaving

+ Hot water & sink for shaving

- Enjoy North Dakota-like weather

+ Heating and air conditioning

- Might get to experience an artillery attack

+ Laundry service

Originally, the Marines wanted to put

hours in Corsairs they knew such experience couldn’t be wasted. “Red, we’ll give you a choice. Corsairs on Surf or Corsairs on Turf?”

*Panthers are featured in the movie, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” though the pilots in the James Michener book (from which it’s based) flew F2H Banshees. Regardless, if you haven’t seen the movie, you should. Especially if you know someone in the service that leaves their family behind.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Welcome aboard, Red! You’re a Checkerboarder now VMA/F-312 aboard the USS Badoeng Strait and the USS Bataan!

Did you know the Marines’ token colors are gold and red? Oh - a “Checkerboarder” is a nickname given to pilots of VMA/F-312 to note the white squares painted on their airplane noses.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

KNOW RED’S AIRCRAFT CARRIERS!

USS BADOENG STRAIT CVE-116 First set sail in 1945 About 550 feet long Top speed: about 25 miles per hour The “E” in CVE means “Escort” and basically, that meant these carriers were slower and less armed than a Light Carrier or certainly a Full-size Carrier.

VMA-312 flew from both these carriers. Notice the size - of course theyʼre bigger than ski boats, but if you can imagine yourself walking around on that deck, theyʼre really not that big, especially when you consider landing a 5-ton+ fighter plane on top. In fact, the “full size” carriers were just about twice as big as these two. The Badoeng Strait is a pass of water in Indonesia and interestingly, the site of an early WW2 American defeat by the Japanese. Bataan is a province of the Philippine Islands and, interestingly, the site of another WW2 American defeat by the Japanese. Vengeance has a strange sense of humor.

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USS BATAAN CVL-29 First set sail in 1943 About 620 feet long Top speed: about 35 miles per hour The “L” in CVL means “Light” carrier. These were almost as fast as the regular carriers even though they were much smaller in size 99% sure Red was on the ship when this photo was taken in 1952.


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

The sketch at left shows what Redʼs typical mission looked like - flying fast, hitting low. The photo at lower left showing the results of a Navy raid against a North Korean train. The photo below shows Red climbing aboard a Checkerboarder F4U-4. Notice the flight suit. Redʼs not a big guy. The NASA-like bulk was a reminder that the waters surrounding the carrier

The Checkerboarders mission wasn’t all that different than Marine squadrons in WW2 - hitting ground targets. Go in low, fast...and hope against the salt-shaker sized projectiles screaming back at 1,500 feet per second. “The puff that got you was the one you didn’t see.”

This salt shaker is pretty close to the actual size of a 37mm anti-aircraft head.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

The first puff Red didn’t see was on November 27, 1952. 312 was tasked with attacking a bridge near Chinnamp’o to give the Communists a harder time of passing ammo to the front.

This is a spread out of Redʼs logbook This is the page prior to the one shown here. Notice the red printing; November was a busy combat month for the Checkerboarders.

• Notations in RED indicate a combat mission • Recorded: Day, Aircraft model, (serial) number, type of mission, length of time, cumulative flight time, single engine or multi-engine, number of carrier landings and a teeny space for “remarks.”

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Marine Red

The story behind “18”

Red got to lead a flight of 4 into the attack. “Pushing over” from about 8,000 feet altitude, his Corsair took a hit in the oil sump pump. This is a cheesy sketch

Red’s airplane started losing oil.

• Red lines up on a convoy attempting to cross a bridge • 37mm anti-aircraft shells are fired at the Corsairs • Speed? About 350 mph

He completed the attack run but knew

• Ammo? 2 500lb bombs and about 2,000 rounds of 50cal bullets

he wasn’t going to make it back to the carrier.

This is Chinnampʼo • In 1950, it was the end-of-the-line harbor for American troops being pushed out by the advancing Communists. By 1952, the place was a staging area for the Communist military forces.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Red put his leaking Corsair down on a beach at a place called “Cho-Do” - an island a few miles West of the target. The tide was low so sand was firm and dry. How’s that for a lucky landing

This is another cheesy sketch

spot?!

• Red “gives his Corsair the gas” • The tide is coming in • The Brits wave goodbye

Wait. It gets even luckier.

• Red roars off, letting a rain squall clean his oil-smeared canopy.

Imagine Red’s surprise when he was greeted by a British engine mechanic who could fix his engine using a sump

This is Cho-Do island (about)

pump they’d removed from a prior

• Right now, itʼs a North Korean naval station.

wreck!

Back in 1952, it was a nice little island managed by a company of British soldiers.

2 hours later...

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

...Red was airborne and heading back for the USS Badoeng Strait. Just in time, too. The tide was coming in and the sand would soon be to waterlogged to support the weight of a fighter plane. Red radioed ahead that his beach was no longer a suitable runway. Sure enough, a Corsair on a later Flight

Red found out later that his warning about the beach tide wasnʼt passed on by the Commanding Officer*. He made sure the C/O got this message:

was knocked out and tried to make the

“You killed that boy!”

same landing. Red never let that act of thoughtlessness be

But that pilot didn’t get the memo. The airplane’s landing gear went into

forgotten.

And now, you wonʼt either.

the sand like ice picks. His Corsair flipped over and started to

Leadership isn’t much

burn. The trapped pilot didn’t have a

without a sense of...

chance.

✓ Responsibility *He shall remain nameless.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

The second puff that Red didn’t see was on January 4, 1953. He was part of a strike on the railroad station at Chông-ch'on.

If a target is worth attacking, it’s also worth defending. Chông-ch'on was definitely defended.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Red was about to pull out of his bombing run when the “bulletproof” windscreen suddenly blew apart. Red cut his airspeed, got control of his airplane and radioed...

This is the last cheesy sketch (promise) • Red takes a hit near his cockpit • The “bulletproof” windscreen shatters

“You guys all go ahead.

• 300 mph wind and shards of plexiglas blast Red in the face

I’ll land last. This could get messy.” This is Chông-ch'on. • Unfortunately, I wasnʼt able to get a hold of official combat records on what the target at Chông-ch'on really was. Red writes of 7 “rail road cuts” so Iʼve made a logical assumption based on this record.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Thank you to Dave Powers of LOGBOOK Magazine. Wow. What a read!

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Want to help me out? The officer shaking Redʼs hand is obviously a Naval officer (by uniform.) The back of this photo indicates a “Captain Cameron.” But USS Badoeng Strait didnʼt have a Captain Cameron of record at the time - just the Marine Lt. Col, Robert E. Cameron who happened to be the commander of VMA-312. So, can you help me learn more about the Captain in the photo?

The experience of 300+ carrier The photo at left shows Red receiving his

landings paid off. Red brought’er in

purple heart from Naval Captain Cameron of the

just fine.

Badoeng Strait. Red thought the Purple Heart was rather undeserved.

“They pulled me out of the cockpit, carried me to the doc and he picked the bits out of my head.”

Red was flying again on the 8th.

Jan 27, 1953 Official U.S. Navy Photograph

“Alright. The dramaʼs over. Back to work, Checkerboarders.”

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

And he kept flying until April 30, 1953 when he completed his 101st mission. Typically, Marine attack pilots were limited to flying 100 missions. You can imagine the superstitions and mysticism attached to such a number. So, Red decided to tempt fate and sneak (yes, literally) an extra mission.

Sometimes you just have to “do it.” ✓ Fearless.

The squadron flight surgeon was not impressed with Red’s antic but what was he to do? Ground him?

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Marine Red

Purple Heart Awarded for being wounded or killed in service

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Distinguished Flying Cross Awarded for Heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight

Air Medal Awarded for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight

Red left Korea with a bunch of medals that he thought were given to him simply for doing his job. Truth be known, he was just happy he had the job of husband and dad waiting.

The military conserves resources! Instead of issuing a whole new medals every time itʼs awarded again, the Navy simply added a star.

“Official photograph, U.S. Navy” Nice pants there, Colonel. Get to the gym much?

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Though he stayed on in the Reserves for a bit longer, in June of 1956, Red left the Marines for good.

He was paid $2,084.16 for his service.

This an enlargement of Redʼs separation papers. “Official photograph, U.S. Navy”

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The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Capt. C. W. Huff. (US Army)

Marine Red

Red considers his $2,084.16 paycheck to be getting-off-easy.

Korean War Stats: Number of combatant casualties: 1,200,000 + Number of civilian casualties: 2,500,000 +

And theyʼre STILL saber rattling today.

By the way, the Korean War has never been officially ended.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Anyway... Deciding on an airplane to represent Red’s service was easy - it had to be a “Checkerboard” F4U-4 circa 1952.

In fact, Corsair BuNo 97349! Why? Because F4U-4 BuNo 97349 was hanging in the Naval Air Museum about 20 minutes away from Red’s home and lookie here...

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Marine Red

The ingenuity, leadership and energy of the people at Chance Vought Aircraft.

What are the odds?!

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

The foresight of Naval military leaders to be vigilant about national defense.

The positivity of the British pilots to make-do without complaint.

People will exchange liberty with their lives. And you can interpret that any number of ways.

The demands upon a woman to raise a family without a father...

The stress of kids who wonder when their life will seem whole again.

But to me, BuNo 97349 isn’t just about an amusing quirk of fate. It’s the story Why one needless death on a beach seems especially unjust during a war that killed hundreds of thousands.

of decades of interconnected thoughts, choices and behaviors.

Itʼs better to be well prepared than well planned.

Yeah, I may be over-analyzing. But when you go to the next page, I

Everybody needs to get paid.

Getting awards for things we should be doing anyway may be silly, but they end up mattering to someone.

hope you see something more than just a blue airplane.

“18” Chance Vought F4U-4 as flown by Eugene “Red” James, VMA-312 How an ordinary person can do something quite extraordinary and yet call it “duty.”

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

“18” Chance Vought F4U-4 as flown by Eugene “Red” James, VMA-312

This may be the most controversial illustration Iʼve ever done. First, the Corsair hanging in the museum is was restored in the 1960s and may be the composition of a number of Corsairs. BuNo 97349 was attached to the airplane during restoration. Second, the squadron notation should probably read VMA-312 instead of VMF-312. Thirdly, the markings on the Corsair hanging from the museum do not show the BuNo placement and red Korean Service stripe across the insignia, mine does. I chose to render 97349 in markings based on 1952 official standards verified by photographs and the advice of historians far smarter than me. Fourth, there were likely a couple of “18s” that ended up with checkerboard cowl markings. Lastly, if you have access to a time-machine, could you please snap a few pictures for me?

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

When I look at Red, I see more than just

✓ Excellent eyesight ✓ Quick reflexes

that blue airplane - I see her pilot, too.

✓ High intelligence ✓ Self-sufficiency ✓ Loyalty ✓ Fearlessness (at least give the appearance of) ✓ Responsibility

And Jenna, you were absolutely right about your grandfather. © John Mollison - all rights reserved except where noted. johnmollison.com I like email: office21@mac.com


Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

Red & Dorothy know that so many other pilots & crew will never have their service known the way his has been. To that end, they ask that you think about all the sons, daughters, moms and dads who went into combat in the hope of serving their Nation well. Especially of the ones that didn’t return. And to you, Red... This whole presentation has been one huge exercise in the fact that we do indeed “stand on the shoulders of giants.” Thank you, Sir.

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Marine Red

The story of a Marine and “his” Corsair

I think everyone should study history to learn why people did what they did. The past will be more understandable, the present clearer and the future brighter. Well, it CAN be brighter. If we do the “study and learn” part.

And the good work of guys like Red James will grow.

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Marine Red - the story of a Marine and his Corsair  

This is the story of my artwork of Eugene "Red" James' F4U Corsair as it hangs in NAS Pensacola, FL. I hope you like it!

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