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One of the most sophisticated US warplanes in the Pacific – the Chance Vought Corsair

Posted in America, Aviation, Bravery, Historical articles, History, Weapons, World War 2 on Wednesday, 27 June 2012

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This edited article about the Chance Vought Corsair originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 742 published on 3 April 1976.

The Chance Vought Corsair, picture, image, illustration

The Chance Vought F4U-1A Corsair by Wilf Hardy

A plane which created havoc among the Japanese towards the later stages of the Pacific operations in the Second World War was the Chance Vought Corsair.

This was a formidable fighting machine. Although it was designed primarily for operating from aircraft carriers, it spent most of its wartime service making strike sorties from land bases.

Because of the enormous extent of the Pacific Ocean, the war against the Japanese was largely a naval one, and in the great fleets which were assembled aircraft carriers were of vital importance.

In April, 1945, the British aircraft carrier Formidable joined the British Pacific Fleet in operation south of Okinawa. On board this powerful ship was a young Canadian Fleet Air Arm pilot, Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, D.S.C.

Lieutenant Gray first came to England in July, 1940, for training with the Royal Navy, and he eventually obtained a commission in the Fleet Air Arm. His first taste of action came when he took part in air strikes against the German battleship Tirpitz which was trying to hide in a Norwegian fiord.

In the Pacific, however, Lieutenant Gray’s bravery and flying skill were to earn him Britain’s highest award for valour – the Victoria Cross. Already mentioned in despatches, and the holder of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Canadian fighter pilot pressed home his attacks on enemy warships with courage and determination.

Later, with No. 1841 Squadron on the carrier Formidable and flying American-built Corsair fighter-bombers, Lieutenant Gray made strafing attacks on airfields in the Tokyo area. He also led a strike force of Corsairs to the Inland Sea area where he attacked two seaplane bases, an airfield and damaged a merchant ship.

Then, on 28th July, 1945, Lieutenant Gray set out on the sortie which was to earn him the VC and which was to cost him his life.

Flying again to the Inland Sea, he made a low-level attack on a Japanese destroyer, scoring a direct hit with a bomb. The ship was later reported sunk, but the gallant Canadian was shot down by anti-aircraft fire from the warship.

A point of interest is the unusual colour of the identification roundels on the plane. This was to avoid confusion with the Japanese red disc markings. All red was removed from Fleet Air Arm and R.A.F. markings in South East Asia Command from 1943 onwards.

Another carrier-borne plane which helped to defeat the Japanese was the Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat. This and the Corsair were nicknamed the Terrible Twins because of their success in the hands of daring pilots. One such was Lieutenant J.G. Ira C. Kepford of the U.S. Navy who shot down 16 Japanese planes over the Pacific.

Japan’s surrender in 1945 brought the activities of these planes and their pilots to an end and their daring exploits became part of the legends of history’s greatest war.

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