The F4U Corsair proved to be one of the most-enigmatic air frames of World War Two. Developed as a carrier-launched fighter, its initial design was supposedly rejected by Navy pilots because the "birdcage" canopy provided poor visibility during carrier deck landings, and the enormous torque of its powerful Double Wasp engine made it unstable and likely to bounce. But according to the new Classic Warships Publishing
book by aviation historian Dana Bell
, it was supply chain considerations and the Navy's desire for a single carrier-based fighter that diverted the Corsair to the Marines. Flying off Pacific island airbases, USMC pilots loved the Corsair, both as a fighter and a fighter-bomber. Its speed made it vastly superior to anything the Japanese had, and it could handle heavy loads of ordnance. While the Navy fighter squadrons continued flying F6F Hellcats. the Corsair would return to carriers in the later "bubble top" or "raised cockpit" version covered in the second volume of the series.
The book opens with a three-page overview of the F4U's development and features, followed by a one-page range of serial numbers for Vought-, Brewster- and Goodyear-built aircraft. I confess I didn't know that Brewster build the F4U, so this was interesting, and of course, vital for those who want to model a particular air frame.
From p. 6-8 has photos of the prototype and early production models. After that comes an array of "off beat" Corsairs, including night fighters, a FAA plane, a Pratt & Whitney "test bed" aircraft for their Wasp Major engine (adding what looks to be another foot or more to the length of the nose), a Westinghouse jet test bed aircraft.
By p. 13 we're into photos of the Double Wasp (also known as the "Twin Wasp"), including a sharp, clear photo of the tubing and cylinder heads. We then work our way back through the accessory compartment (p. 15), the cockpit, windscreen and bombing window (pp. 17-25), than to the "turtle deck" (the domed panel behind the pilot seat), pp. 26-27, right through to the internal radio gear (p. 31).
Pages 32-33 are some vivid color drawings of the original Blue Gray upper and Light Gray underside scheme, followed by two pages of radio gear photos. Then it's back to two pages of color drawings showing the plane's more-common tri-tonal camo schemes of Sea Blue, Intermediate Blue and White.
Bell spares no details, including a full-page photo (p. 38) of the airplane's inflatable life raft. Then it's closeups of the two tail wheel variations and tail hook. While most Birdcage Corsairs served on land, the aircraft was first and foremost property of the US Navy.
Pages 40-41 are two color plates in crisp detail and stunning clarity, followed by two pages of tail wheel and wing framing details. This might seem like overkill to the casual kit builder, but having this information in one handy volume is an excellent investment for serious Corsair fans. The "geek squad" shots of the framing lead into a section on the plane's wings, flaps, landing gear doors, etc. Because the Corsair was intended for carrier operations, it had folding wings. Pages 46-48 have detailed photos of the fold points and all the "plumbing" associated with folding wings, including the wing fuel tank vent and tie-down rings.
Pages 49-50 cover the wheels and wheel wells, while p. 51 begins a section on armaments, from the six Browning .50 caliber machine guns to the 100 pound bombs intended to "suppress shipboard antiaircraft fire." A bonus is a spectacular, clear close-up of a Mark 41-2 bomb rack, and another photo of drop tanks with sway braces.
Bell has found a boatload of fresh Corsair photos, a number in original color, and the next part of the book has views of planes with their wings folded, Corsairs with their cowling panels removed to show off the engine, wrecked planes, one in British service, and a fine image of Medal of Honor winner Captain Ken Walsh taxiing on Marsden Matting (p. 63). The book ends with five more pages of interesting wrecks and three pages of quarter scale line drawings.
The Corsair was a mainstay of the USMC flyers in the Pacific, and the plane has gotten a lot of interest among modelers with Tamiya's outstanding kits in 1/32nd scale recently. I sorely regret that I didn't have a copy of it when I built my Birdcage, and I can't imagine building the "Bubble Top" variant in my stash without Volume Two of this series.
Thanks to author Dana Bell and CW Publishing for providing this review copy. Be sure to tell them that you saw it reviewed here on Aeroscale when ordering your copy. Volume Two is reviewed here.