Free to view

The Men Who Flew the Vought F4U Corsair

06 Jun 23


(Pen & Sword Aviation – £25.00)

ISBN 978 1 52670 580 8

304 pages

The subject of this book immediately appealed to this reviewer, as I have a deep interest in naval aviation. The Vought F4U Corsair served with distinction in the Second World War, Korea, and as the book explores, other conflicts in the 1950s and 1960s. From a British perspective, notably, it was the Fleet Air Arm that first operated the Corsair from aircraft carriers during the Second World War, as the US Navy had deemed the aircraft “not suitable for carrier operations”, given particularly its challenging landing performance. The author, Martin W. Bowman, is an experienced aviation historian, who has written extensively on a wide range of topics, particularly regarding the Second World War.

In The Men Who Flew the Vought F4U Corsair, Bowman seeks, across nine chapters, to tell the story of both the aircraft and the men who flew it in action. The first chapter, ‘A Dream is Born’, provides a detailed, but accessible account of the development of the Corsair, which proved more challenging than anticipated and led to the US Navy’s decision to replace it as a shipboard fighter with the F6F Hellcat. The following chapters cover the Corsairs’ operational use, first as a land-based aircraft serving with the US Marine Corps in the Solomons, then subsequent action across the Pacific, its use as a night fighter, its service with the Royal Navy, and contribution to the Battle for Okinawa and final actions against Japan.

The penultimate chapter covers the Corsair’s service in the Korean War, including the story of Jesse Brown, the first black aviator in the US Navy, and the subject of the 2022 film Devotion. The Corsair was also the only US Navy piston-engined aircraft in the Korean War to shoot down a MiG-15 fighter jet, as recounted on p. 248. The final chapter covers briefly the Corsair’s service in the French Navy, which included service in Vietnam, Algeria, and alongside the Royal Navy, at Suez. As Bowman describes, the Corsair saw its final action flying with the air forces of El Salvador and Honduras, which fought a brief war in 1969; the Corsair flew its last missions with the El Salvadoran air force in the summer of 1971. The Corsair’s post-war career in air racing concludes the book.

The Men Who Flew the Vought F4U Corsair is well-written and features an excellent selection of photographs. It warrants highlighting that as the book draws on the recollections of those who flew the Corsair, that some of the language used to describe, for example, the Japanese, is of its time. This book will particularly appeal to those with an interest in naval aviation, and especially the Corsair. The accounts of sorties over Japanese-held islands, or over Korea, provide first-hand insights into air combat and are highly readable. In all, this was an engaging and enjoyable read. Recommended.