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Louis Gardner
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Tamiya 1/48 F4U-1A Corsair flown by Major “Pappy” Boyington VMF-214 Blacksheep, on January 3rd, 1944

January 21, 2017 · in Aviation · · 37 · 10.4K

I just finished my first model of the new year. This is the final one of the three Corsairs that I started last year. These planes were from my very first posting here on Imodeler.

I want to thank my friend Jim Sullivan for his assistance with this build.

Much has been written about "Pappy", "Gramps", "Skipper", or just plain old "Greg" as his men often called him. Almost every modeled that is connected with Boyington is #86 "Lucybelle" (even though many decal companies still have it incorrect as "Lulubell"). To my knowledge he never flew #86 in combat. Instead "Lucybelle" was decorated with kill flags for the press (and in a hurry at that). This is why the kill flags on #86 are mismatched, and some are backwards. (You can see this in the second to last photo.) His name and rank were added to the side of the cockpit. I don't think that Boyington ever flew a plane in combat with kill markings on it other than the one he shared on occasion with McClurg.

The last picture shows "Lucybelle" #86 with the kill flags replaced. In this photo you can see the name reads "Lucybelle" instead of the more familiar "Lulubelle".

I wanted to do something different, while still honoring the man.

Major Boyington flew many different planes. VMF-214 did not have any planes assigned to it. Because of this they "shared" aircraft with another unit. I was torn between #740, and #883, that he often flew, or this one, number 915. I like to refer to photos of the actual plane that I am trying to depict when I build a model. I have not been able to find any of 915, so I had to make an educated guess as to how it "could" have looked.

I finally opted to build Bureau Number 17915, the plane in which Major Boyington was shot down in. On his final mission on January 3rd, 1944, Pappy claimed two more kills, which raised his "Official" score to 26. Then he and his wingman Captain George Ashmun were both shot down near Rabaul, while flying in a dogfight over the St. George Channel.

Ashmun's plane was reportedly on fire and it entered into a dive. He never recovered out of the dive and crashed into the water.

Pappy's plane was shot up pretty bad and he was wounded. In his book he stated that the Corsair exploded and blew him out through the canopy. Others now say that he ditched into the ocean. There is also controversy as to the number of kills he claimed. The problem stems from when he flew P-40's with the AVG in China.

Either way, Pappy was taken prisoner by a Japanese submarine crew, (number 181), as he was treading water while bleeding from his injuries in the shark infested waters, while Ashmun was killed.

Major Boyington spent the rest of the War as a POW.

Major Boyington earned the Medal of Honor for his actions and was promoted to Colonel. Several books have been written about him and a TV show was very loosely based on Pappy and the Blacksheep. As a former member of the Squadron 1st Lt. Henry "Hank" McCartney put it , "They got three things right on the TV show. The Squadron designation was 214, the Commanding Officer was Greg Boyington, and the airplane was the Corsair.".

Pappy Boyington actually made a special appearance on the "Baa Baa Black Sheep" TV show as a General. He was hired as a "consultant" on the movie set.

He also had a guest appearance on the TV show "To Tell the Truth" back in 1957.

Pappy died in his sleep in Fresno California, on January 11th, 1988, after a long fight with lung cancer. He had been a smoker for years and it finally caught up with him. He was 75 years old. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

This is quoted directly from Wikipedia: After the burial service for Boyington, one of his friends, Fred Losch, looked down at the headstone next to which he was standing, that of boxing legend Joe Louis, and remarked that "Ol' Pappy wouldn't have to go far to find a good fight."

Initially I was going to build this plane with the wings folded. But after studying many photos of VMF-214 planes, I only saw a few planes with the wings folded. So I decided to change things up mid stream and have the wings fully extended. This caused me a few problems with the joint at the wing fold. The seam was very visible and I didn't want that. After some filling, sanding and re-scribing work, I was able to tighten up the gap that I caused by changing my mind halfway through the project.

I was able to use the kit decals to fabricate the tiny bureau numbers on the rudder. I had to cut out the individual numbers for "17915" which is positioned just below the "NAVY" decal. For the White 915, I used "Yellow Wings" 48-024 Standard 12 inch numbers and Squadron Designators in white. The National insignia are kit decals.

I used the kit number 61061 which is a -1D version. I backdated it to an earlier dash 1A that #915 was. The parts are in the kit to do this. This kit also gives you the wider "Combat" propeller that was used on later dash 1 D's and often retro fitted in the field on earlier Corsairs.

The model is typical Tamiya. It was a very nice trouble free build until I decided to change things from a folded wing to an extended wing. That's when I caused my head aches. If you are building one of these, do yourself a favor and install some sort of plastic shims on the inside of the wing fold area. This will give the wing more surface area to glue and help alleviate any gaps.

Overall I'm quite pleased with how this one turned out. It's a plane that I have been wanting to build for a long time. Eventually I will build the other two I mentioned earlier, numbers 740 and 883. I just have to get the proper decals in order...

I recently found a picture of what I believe was the Corsair in which Captain Ashmun was shot down in. It was bureau number 02723. I may build his plane too. I thought it would be a fitting tribute for both men.

You can't have too many Corsairs.

As usual, comments are encouraged.


Reader reactions:
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33 additional images. Click to enlarge.

37 responses

  1. You just can't go wrong with a Tamiya Corsair, whatever scale.
    'nuff said.
    Louis, great work, as usual. Pappy would be proud.

  2. Nice work. It is possible to put some Evergreen sheet inside the wingfold to give more support.

  3. Hello Louis...I echo Bernard's comments above and am pleased to see your finished Corsair. I think your decision to go with the wings extended was a good one. Nice job on that bird.

    • I agree that it looks more like a VMF-214 plane with the wings extended. I want to thank you again with your help. I'll keep you posted with my other upcoming F4U builds. I appreciate the compliments my friend !

  4. Nicely done, my friend...I've built several of these and Bernard's right - can't screw the pooch on this kit (very "user friendly"). Nice pics as well.

    • Thanks buddy. I'm glad you liked this one. The Tamiya Corsair is a fine model. It's user friendly for sure... until you decide to change things up mid stream... all my fault.

  5. Beautiful Cosair


  6. Very nice Louis, great job all around

  7. Great job ! Excellent info.

  8. Nice work Louis. I like the 3 tone (not as easy to do as some may think). I have to voice my opinion and say the Tamiya Corsairs are probably the best Corsair kits out there in all 3 scales. Thanks for the write up too. Interesting stuff.

    • The three tone version is my favorite for the Corsair as well. I want to build one of Ira Kepford's #29 with the fade between Dark Sea Blue and White. That should be challenging too.

      You're absolutely correct about painting the 3 tone camouflage. I had to go back several times to get rid of a little over spray between the colors. It's not that easy...

      The Tamiya Corsair is a fine model. User friendly as Craig put it. I like the Hobby Boss in 1/48 too.

  9. Louis, have you ever come across any information on Boyington having flown a natural metal Corsair. I was watching a aviation program that featured several of Pappy's squadron mates and one of them claimed that he had taken the paint off of one plane to attract the attention of Japanese pilots in hopes of increasing his kills?

    I like the grunge on the Corsair. It the right amount of grime.;)

    • Thanks for the compliments Stephen. The show that I think you're talking about is "War Stories with Oliver North" if I'm not mistaken. 1st Lt. Ed Harper said "he had all of the paint taken off his airplane once so that it was silver and easier to see. And he (Pappy)said if I can't find them, then maybe they can find me ."

      As far as anything else the only other Corsair that I have heard about that was silver was one that was built up out of parts of other wrecked planes. It was a dash 1D named "Sally" from Service Squadron eleven "SS-11". Later on when SS-11 moved to Peleliu this silver Corsair was repainted black. Then it was used to fly recon missions. Hope this helps. Unfortunately I don't know of any other silver War time F4U's.

  10. Thank you for the great write-up, Louis, very well researched and a beautiful looking model, building an actual aircraft seems to pay dividends.

    • You're welcome George. I'm glad you enjoyed the article as well as the plane. I try to do my homework before I build something so it can be as accurate as possible. Before we had access to the internet, I had to rely on books. Now I have found that a lot of my earlier builds are not as they should be. A lot of new information has come to light since I started building my current collection.

      Building a model of a particular aircraft can be a double edged sword. If you don't get it just right... you know the deal.

      Thanks my friend for the compliments. Take care.

  11. Great story and model Louis, a good start to the new year. Good research too, notice that though USMC, that the aircraft were Navy. Interesting little detail I might of overlooked. Great job, I will finally may get to building one of the Tam's Corsairs later in the year looking forward to it. Thanks again for sharing. Fly Navy

    • Thanks Chuck !
      I'm very pleased that I have been able to finish the 3 Corsairs now. I hope that things continue like this throughout the rest of the year... I might get some models built.

      I have to give Mr. Tamiya the credit for the "NAVY" decal since it was included in with my Birdcage model. It looks like the Tamiya team did their homework with that.

      I have looked at quite a few "birdcage" and early "raised cabin" F4U photos, and none of them had the "MARINE" wording on the fin if my memory serves me correctly.

      Having said that now, someone may find a photo... Murphy's Law.

      I'm not 100 percent sure, but I don't think that the wording "MARINES" came into play until just before the Korean War on the dash 4 and dash 5 versions. Then it was in larger white lettering on the side of the fuselage by the unit designator, ahead of the bureau number (which was located just under the stabilizer).

      Go for it and build the Tamiya Corsair. It's a marvelous kit and I'm sure you would be happy with it.

      I'm happy that you enjoyed the article as well as the build. Unfortunately I was not able to find a picture of #915, so I had to base how it looks on speculation on how the other VMF-214 planes did at the time .

      Thanks again my friend.

  12. Excellent build! I'm glad you went with wings extended - although I appreciate the joy of super-detailing (panels, wheel wells, etc), I prefer to see aircraft in the shape most approximate to where they belong - in the air!

    • Thanks Greg. I appreciate the compliments my friend.

      I have several Corsairs built with folded wings. I think they look good as long as the model depicted was a carrier based unit, and would have routinely been observed with the wings folded. They also have the advantage as far as storing the completed project, since they take up much less room. (and you can build more of them !) 🙂

      However, since VMF-214 was a land based unit at this time during the two tours in the Solomon's during 1943 to January '44, I feel that the Corsair looks more like it should with the wings extended.

      Thanks again buddy.

  13. Great job Louis! Love the job you did, the build, the weathering, the whole presentation. Make the build a lot more meaningful, when it's based on research of the specific aircraft. Excellent work

    • I really appreciate the compliments Frederick.

      Unfortunately I didn't have a picture to go by for this one. I resorted to using various other photos of VMF-214 planes during the time frame that #915 existed.

      These planes were pretty beat up and filthy judging by their appearance in the photos. This makes perfect sense when you consider the environment that they operated in, plus adding in the fact that these planes were being shared with another Squadron.

      I do plan on building at least two other Corsairs that were flown by Pappy in combat, numbers 740 and 883 respectively. Now I have some very nice pictures to go by for these two planes, so I can try to duplicate all of the paint patch work and taped seams that these planes had.

      The weathering is the hard part. Trying to duplicate the faded look from the exposure to the elements and grease / grime from hard use takes some practice and time to try and get it just right. I also added a little bit of splash mud on the undersides to make it look like it may have blown up some muddy water with prop wash or taxied over a small mud puddle. These planes operated from crushed coral air strips so the color would have been light.

      Anyhow, I'm very pleased that you enjoyed the article and the plane.

      Thanks again my friend.

  14. Excellent weathering.

    • Thanks Christian. It was one of the last things to do with the model. It also had me worried the most, as any mistakes could have ruined to look I was going for. In the end I am very happy with the results. I'm glad you liked it. Thanks again !

  15. Superb build and a great read !
    Well done my friend !

    • Thanks for the compliments Bernd. I'm happy to see that you enjoyed the plane and the written article. I try my best to keep the article as interesting as the model is. Thanks for liking this one. I appreciate that my friend. Take care buddy.

  16. Louis, this is another outstanding work of art. I enjoy the write-up as well. Pappy was one of my childhood heroes so I'm happy to see another awesome F4U done in his memory. I ESPECIALLY appreciate it when modelers like you include actual photos along with their other pictures. Truly outstanding!

    I remember the "Baa Baa BlackSheep" show well. It was one of my very favorites. My Dad flew Navy during WWII (fighter escort, torpedo/bombers, & Air-Sea Rescue) and like you mentioned, he said the show glossed over (and created) the facts ... but was still a show we watched together faithfully. I also remember the episodes where the "real" Pappy, as a General flew in on his lovely C-47. Excellent!

    • Thanks for the great response. Like you that show was one of my childhood favorites... My Dad and I would watch it religiously each week. There was a man named Harry Doan who had a hangar nearby who owned and was restoring several real F4U's. One was an early dash 1A, bureau number 17995. My Dad would take me over to the hangar regularly so I could watch the progress on "my" plane...and I could snap some pictures along the way. I guess that's one of the reasons the F4U is my favorite plane still to this day.

      Thanks again my friend.

  17. dude, that looks awesome! nice work on the weathering!

  18. What a great way to start the year... A beautiful model & a fascinating tribute to a great pilot!

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