in the bent-wing
One of the most identifiable aircraft of WW II, the Corsair fought teething problems
and the Japanese at the same time. However, from the very beginning, it was a force
to be reckoned with and the Marines loved it. Come along as three successful USMC
Corsair pilots tell their tales of Pacific combat. By James P. Busha
Archie G. Donahue, Colonel USMCR (Ret.)
As a child in Texas, I took my first airplane ride when I was eight
years old. Right then and there I knew I would be a pilot someday—I
just never realized it would be at the controls of a red-hot fighter
known as the F4U Corsair! —Archie Donahue
I graduated from the Navy cadet program three days before
the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7,1941, and
quickly joined the Marines. Although I started out in biplanes
and wound up training in Brewster Buffalos and Grumman
Wildcats, I loved every aircraft I flew. But as far as I was concerned, the Corsair was on the top of the list because it was far
better than any Japanese aircraft I flew against. In mid 1942,
I was placed with VMF-112 (Wolf Pack) and assigned to a far-off place called Guadalcanal. We were known as the “Cactus
Air Force” and only had Wildcats at the time. I wasn’t able to
tangle with many Japanese fighters with it, but once we got
Corsairs, I felt very confident that we were all going to make it
out of the war OK.
The Corsair was a marvelous airplane—it was fast and maneuverable, much larger than the Wildcat, and it offered more
protection. The Corsair had larger gas tanks, and the six . 50
calibers carried a helluva a lot of bullets! If you found yourself
in a tangle with a Zero, it was critical to keep your speed up.
You could survive and win the fight as long as you didn’t slow
down and attempt to turn with them. The Zero could turn
tighter at lower speeds but it didn’t have the protection of self-sealing tanks and heavy armor plating to protect the pilot like
our Corsairs did. The Zeros would blow up in great big fireballs
when our rounds tore into their fuel tanks!
On May 13, 1943, I was on one of my first combat missions
in a Corsair flying top cover just west of the Florida Islands.
I was leading a flight of other Corsairs, just circling around
archie Donahue stands in front of his beloved F4u while stationed on Guadalcanal.
(Photo courtesy of author)
waiting for something to either come down on us or try to
sneak up from below. We were up at 12,000 feet doing left-hand turns until we were dizzy. Suddenly, there was a large
group of A6M3 Zeros (Hamps) that showed up and came down
on us. The pack of them were trying to attack Guadalcanal and
we weren’t about to let that happen. There was a lot of twist-