The Bent Wing Bastard

The day the "Bent Wing Bastard" was born....

May 29th, 1940, the first flight of the XF4U-1, the prototype of the iconic F4U Corsair was made with Lyman A. Bullard, Jr. at the controls. The maiden flight proceeded normally until a hurried landing was made when the elevator trim tabs failed because of flutter.

Perhaps one of the greatest aircraft of the Second World War, and most surely, one of the most recognizable aircraft of all time. Infantrymen nicknamed the Corsair "The Sweetheart of the Marianas" and "The Angel of Okinawa" for its roles in these campaigns, and to Navy and Marine aviators, she was known as "Ensign Eliminator", "Bent-Wing Eliminator", Bent Wing Bird", and "Bent Wing Bastard". To the Japanese, she was known simply as "Whistling Death"

The iconic Gull Wing design was built to accommodate a folding wing the designers considered retracting the main landing gear rearward but, for the chord of the wing that was chosen, it was difficult to make the landing gear struts long enough to provide clearance for the large propeller. Their solution was an inverted gull wing, which considerably shortened the required length of the main gear legs.

The F4U was also responsible for inspiring the first incarnation of the Jolly Roger on January 1, 1943, at NAS Norfolk, as VF-17, flying the F4U Corsair. Inspired by the fact that the Corsair name was derived from the French Privateers better known as Pirates, VF-17's commanding officer Tommy Blackburn selected the Jolly Roger as the squadron's insignia.

U.S. figures compiled at the end of the war indicate that the F4U and FG flew 64,051 operational sorties for the U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy through the conflict, with only 9,581 sorties flown from carrier decks.

F4U and FG pilots claimed 2,140 air combat victories against 189 losses to enemy aircraft, for an overall kill ratio of over 11:1. The aircraft performed well against the best Japanese opponents with a claimed 12:1 kill ratio against Mitsubishi A6M and 6:1 against the Nakajima Ki-84, Kawanishi N1K-J and Mitsubishi J2M combined during the last year of the war.

The Corsair bore the brunt of U.S. fighter-bomber missions, delivering 15,621 tons (14,171 tonnes) of bombs during the war (70% of total bombs dropped by U.S. fighters during the war).

During the Second World War, St. Louis Cardinals manager Billy Southworth received a unique handwritten request from a USMC Corsair Squadron. 

It seems that a commander of a Marine fighter squadron in the Pacific made an offer to Southworth that he could not refuse. If the St Louis Cardinals sent baseball caps to his squadron based in the South Pacific, he and his pilots would guarantee to shoot down one Japanese fighter for each cap received. 

Southworth agreed and sent a box of 20 caps to the island of Vella Lavella.  By early 1944, Southworth learned that the Marine Squadron had splashed 48 Zeros, and that number was still climbing.  The Cardinals manager later discovered that the Commander that made the request, was none other than Maj. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington and the squadron were no less than the famed VMF-214 "Black Sheep Squadron."



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