First Corsair Combat Mission 1943

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A Corsair from VMF-124 lands aboard USS Essex in 1945.

The first Vought F4U Corsair combat mission was flown on 11 February 1943. VMF-124 flew 12 aircraft from Guadalcanal to escort a PB2Y to pick up a downed pilot at Vella Lavella. The mission was uneventful.

Entry of the Corsair into the Pacific theater gave Navy and Marine Corps fighter pilots an aircraft that could exceed 400 mph in level flight, but it also entered with problems that would make it a hand full for any pilot to control. The first production models had a pressurization problem that led to engine failure at high altitudes. The visibility from the original birdcage canopy was poor. The aircraft was very dangerous to bring aboard an aircraft carrier. Eventually most of these problems would be solved or alleviated and the Corsair would go on to help win the war in the Pacific. During its thirty month tour of duty, the F4U Corsair would dispatch more than 2000 Japanese aircraft and produce a plethora of aces (fighter pilots with  more than 5 kills).

The most successful Corsair pilot in the Navy or Marine Corps was Marine Lt. Robert Murray Hanson of VMF-215 with 25 kills – all made between August 1943 and February 1944.  Lt. Hanson shot down twenty Japanese aircraft in a 17 day period, five in one mission. He was last seen February 3, 1944, when his plane crashed into the sea while he was flying an escort mission over Rabaul, New Britain. Lt. Hanson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Marine Corps Ace and Medal of Honor Recipient, Robert M. Hanson

He was the  son of missionaries, and was born in Lucknow, India. On a bicycle trip in pre-war Europe, he was in Vienna in 1938 when the Nazis took over. He attended Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Read the diary of a Marine pilot in VMF-124 here

Watch here the start and f light demo of a Vought Corsair…

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