Navy Ace Guy Bordelon, VC-3 Korea, Minicraft F4U-5N Corsair
This is something that I have been wanting to do for a long time now…each year passes and I would miss it, so here goes.
Since today is Memorial Day here in the US, and in honor of our fallen veterans, I felt that this would be appropriate.
It’s about my all time favorite plane.
Exactly 77 years ago today.
29 May 1940:
The Chance Vought XF4U-1 Corsair took it’s maiden flight.
For the longest while I have been wanting to do something on this anniversary date of the first flight of the prototype, to honor the men who flew the Corsairs, the men who were supported by close air support provided by the F4U, and the plane itself.
The model I picked out for tonight’s article has a special place in memories with my Dad, who was a Korean War combat veteran serving in both Infantry and Armor units.
Let’s go back to the later 1990’s:
There was a restoration going underway at the New Smyrna airport, of a very historical plane owned by the Collings Foundation. The plane was a F4U-5NL Corsair that was operational in the Korean War, as a night fighter serving with VC-3. This was the second such restoration for this plane, as it had been “fished” out of the waters nearby offshore, (after an emergency ditching on a flight), not too long before our visit to the restoration hangar. This emergency water landing caused considerable damage to the just finished “First” restoration. Salt water and magnesium / aluminum parts do not mix very well…
Luckily the plane was destined to be restored a second time, and it can now be seen around the Country at various airshows…
My friends who worked at the restoration facility allowed my Dad and I the opportunity to get up close to the Corsair. I watched my Dad’s eyes as he looked at the plane, sometimes touching it, and a few times he even gave it an affectionate “pat” or two on the aluminum skins along the sides of the fuselage. While he was doing this, I tried my best not to let him know that I was watching. It was as if he had been transported back in time, which I’m sure he was… reliving some memories that were painful, and some that were good judging by his expressions.
I simply let my Dad have some time to himself with the Corsair…
Later on that same day, Dad opened up to me a little about some of his wartime combat experiences. He didn’t go into too many details, but he did talk about it some, which was a first with me.
He told me about how he ended up fighting with the US Marines at the Chosin reservoir in Korea, after his Army unit had been pretty much decimated. He also talked about being airlifted by a C-47 from an “improvised” airfield to a hospital in Japan. Then he made his statement about the Corsair… He said that he and many others like him, the “Frozen Chosen” owed his life to the Marine Corps pilots who flew ground support missions. He said that he saw Corsairs flying with so much ordnance under the wings, that he wondered how they could remain airborne, and guessed that they may have been able to get a top speed of around 250 MPH. He said that the Marine Corps close air support pilots were “Very Good”. Then Dad told me about how he and his buddies were going along the ridges on the mountain tops, following the little dirt road below, and how they would come across areas where the Corsairs had dropped napalm on the Chinese positions along the ridgelines.
Then he stopped talking, and didn’t go into details about this with me until much later in his life. Needless to say when he finally opened up to me, the things he told me were horrific. Dad went on to serve again with other US Army units in Korea after he convalesced from his injuries.
Shortly after this visit of the Corsair restoration with my “Dear Old Dad”, the local hobby store had this model on their shelves. I just had to take it home… It’s the Minicraft F4U-5 / 5N kit number 11617.
I built it pretty much right out of the box. Back then I didn’t have access to the internet and used the kit instructions for colors. Now many years later, I know that I made quite a few mistakes. This plane has survived several moves, has been repaired a few times and is starting to show it’s wear and tear…
The markings are for Guy Bordelon,
who was the US Navy’s only “Ace”, scoring 5 kills towards the end of the Korean War. He was credited with downing three La-11’s (or La-9’s), and two Yak-18’s during a two week period between the end of June and middle July 1953. “Lucky Pierre” as he was known by his friends, survived the War and went on to become an instructor during the Vietnam War teaching survival skills to pilots. He retired after serving 29 years in the Navy and also earned the “Top Gun” award. There are several achievements here that are notable, besides the fact he was the only Navy Ace during the Korean War. All of the kills were against prop driven planes, and scored by a propeller driven plane, all at night…
Commander Bordelon passed away in 2002.
The last few pictures are of the actual plane, and show the tragic ending of the famous F4U… a scrap heap at K-6 in Korea after it had been wrecked on take off by a Air Force pilot, who survived the crash. My guess is he suffered from torque roll on take off, and failed to step hard on the right rudder pedal…
Here are some pictures below, of the Corsair that I built shortly after my Dad and I visited the hangar, and got to see first hand a fantastic restoration underway. It was the last time my Dad and I ever got to do anything like this together. He wasn’t physically able to get around too well, and didn’t like to leave the house unless it was absolutely necessary.
As usual comments are encouraged.
14 additional images. Click to enlarge.