Aircraft Pictorial #7 - F4U-1 Corsair vol.1
Reviewed by Rato Marczak (1/2015)

- Dana Bell
Description:  - Softcover. A4 format. 72 pages. Text, photos, profiles and drawings. English. Color. 
- Classic Warships Publishing
- $18.00 USD 
- 978-0-9857149-7-0
- Recommended

Here is a short review of a book about my favorite aircraft, written by one of my favorite authors. The seventh book in Aircraft Pictorial series is about the F4U-1 Corsair. During the last year, Dana Bell disclosed that he was researching the F4U on archives and collections for his newest book. By the end of the year he told that he had gathered enough material about the birdcage version to fill a complete volume, the F4U-1A would made another volume. Even better...

I always complained that aircraft like the Messerschmitt Bf-109 or the Focke-Wulf Fw-190 have a far more comprehensive technical literature available than many of the planes which helped to win the WWII, supposedly having plenty documentation available. That's not exactly that way. Reliable description of structural, accessory and powerplant changes during the production, subcontracted parts details, painting specs and development, among many other things, are only possible with very hard, almost forensics authorship since many primary sources are long gone - even in countries like USA.

As an aviation historian, Dana Bell doesn't need any introdution. I like his academic style in researching a subject, and he went over 
several sources during the preparation of this book. Since many original documents seem to be gone for good, and the Brewster archives are probably destroyed, quite a few questions regarding the history and development of the Chance Vought F4U Corsair remain unanswered. So Dana ingeniously went after BuAer memos and US Navy contracts looking for some answers. He found some, as well as new facts, but some will remain unanswered for now. In particular, this book put straight a bunch of 'facts' about the Corsair published and re-published over decades, taken for granted but, now we know, incorrect.

If you don't know Aircraft Pictorial series, they look like Squadron In Action books, but the subjects are coreved in far more detail and depth. The book is nicely printed in high quality paper, alternating B&W and color pages. 

It starts by describing general aspects, including carrier suitability, materials, radio masts, camouflage and serial numbers. Then it discusses more particular details of the Corsair through photos, many published for the first time. I'm not going over each topic. Instead, I hope my review sparks your interest in knowing so many new things about this formidable fighter.

How many times we saw scale models of the Corsair with the accessory section open, showing the details? How do you know they are right? Are the components the same for the birdcage and the raised cabin version? What color are the landing gear struts on early Corsairs? What is the deal about so different radio mast and aerials configurations? Did the F4U-1 and the 1A use the same tail wheels and doors? You think you know the answers? Better to think again...

A few years ago Morrissey and Hegedus' Modellers Datafile book brought to light the 4-tone camouflage, instead of the well known 3-tone. I never was really convinced, but Dana tries to prove the point. I'm still not buying the idea, however apparently his claims are backed by a few BuAer and Vought documents. He also comments on the camouflage colors hastily applied at NAS Norfolk. More than that, he explains the 3-tone camouflage without the Intermediary Blue color! Now that is new info...

Post script (sept/2015): Later, re-reading Ian Baker's Aviation History Colouring Book #32, USN Aircraft Camouflage & Insignia, 1941-47, I found out that the 4-tone scheme was mentioned on pages 5-7, including drawings based on documents dating from 1943. Apparently, Consolidated Catalinas and possibly a few Grummans used the scheme as well... The book is dated from 1997, so I'm no longer claiming who was the first to re-discover the 4-tone paint scheme.

Cockpit details and the cowling flaps are discussed next. I was amazed to read about stall horn, flaperons and the various canopies used. Radios is another subject seldom seen on books. By the way, did you know that some Corsairs had retractable radio masts? Yep, retractable.

Another thing: the Corsair was approved and considered suitable for carrier operations like any other fighter. Forget that bouncing problem as the reason for not being initially deployed to carriers...

The book also discusses the guns ammunition arrangement, and some improvements developed by VF-17. I'm not talking about the bomb rack... Did you know that the Corsair carried external fuel tanks on the outer wings?

Do you know something about the kit delivered by Vought with their Corsairs? What are the internal colors of the wing fold? And no, the book don't discuss the Salmon primer...

The questions above are all discussed in more or less detail in this volume. Dana doesn't cite the references for each claim, but then this is not a dissertation. The book has some nice color photos, including a couple of spetacular ones - great find, Dana! To me, the greatest highlight of this volume is the real purpose of the so common sealing tapes on the panel joints around the fuel tanks. Forget everything that you read before about it. The truth is another one... one that makes sense now, by the way.  

Reading this book served me for two things. First, many things that I thought I knew about my favorite aircraft were proved wrong. Dana Bell denied legends and incorrect explanations which we took for granted for decades. And second, made me want more. So, hurry up with the vol.2 Mr. Bell, my new Tamiya Corsair has just arrived.

If you are marginally interested in the F4U Corsair, you can't miss this book.

Rato Marczak 2015