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Louis Gardner
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Navy Ace Guy Bordelon, VC-3 Korea, Minicraft F4U-5N Corsair

May 29, 2017 · in Aviation · · 39 Comments

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 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 , 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 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.

39 responses

  1. Nice tribute and build sir. Gotta watch those Air Force pilots.

    • Ha ha πŸ™‚ I hear you Bob... My hat's off to today's jet drivers though. I had an A-10 pilot clip the top section of my tanks radio antennae once, many years ago... It was missing several feet from the top section of the antennae after he / she "Buzzed" us. Real story.

      Thanks for the compliments my friend.

  2. An excellent build as usual, Louis...I was fortunate enough to see (and get some "walk-around" pics) of a -5N while under restoration some time back down in New Smyrna. Your build is an outstanding rendition (and an equally accompanying 'backstory' as well). Great pics, too... πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Craig !

      It's the same plane that you saw. I too have pictures from both restorations of it, the first and the last one. The Corsair also pops in from time to time to get annuals done on it. It's a -5NL version which meant that it was a night fighter and was "winterized" for cold weather use in Korea. I think there were a little over 100 of them built. They are some really good people down there at the restoration facility.

      I'm glad you enjoyed my Dad's story (and the photos). Thanks again buddy.

  3. Great piece, mi amigo! Interesting story with your Dad. If you made mistakes, they're well hidden!

    • Thanks Jeff. The faults are just well hidden using trick photography... πŸ™‚ I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Dad was one of a kind for sure...

  4. Very good posting Louis.

  5. well done as always.

  6. Nice job Louis. Nice story as well.

  7. Great story and model Louis! I think I've got a little dust in my eye...what a tribute sir. πŸ™‚

  8. Great tribute, Louis. I'm glad the kit has made it through the years.

    • Thanks David.

      I was going to re paint this one or dirty it up / chip some paint on it, during one of the more recent repairs, but decided not to touch it. I'm leaving it alone, since this is how it looked when I brought it over to show the finished build to my dad. He saw it the way it is finished now and really liked it. I ended up purchasing a Hasegawa version of this very same plane a few years ago... It's getting closer to the top of the build pile...along with some of my other Korean War stuff. Thanks again my friend. I'm happy to see that you liked the article.

  9. Always good to see a bentwing bird. Thanks for sharing some of your Dad's Korean war experiences. Hand Salute.

    • You're welcome my friend. It's good to hear from you. Like you I also have a spot in my heart for the F4U. Dad told me some other things about some of his experiences, but this really isn't the place to talk about them. I wrote them all down and keep them in a notebook. Horrible things mostly. Return salute Sir...

      • Louis, this seems an appropriate time to thank you and your family for your Fathers service. Particularly as he was in the Chosin campaign. That is an epic to rank with the Anabasis of Xenophon in the annals of Military History. And it's our history Marines, Army, Air Force. All arms, working together to stave off disaster.

  10. Very nice! I just added a -5N to my stash from a contribution to our club by the son of a deceased modeler. This will be my Korean War Corsair.

    • Thanks Greg. From what I can remember, this one built up OK. I may have added a set of aftermarket tires / wheels for it, but that's all. It builds into a good looking later model F4U in my opinion. I'd like to see your F4U build. Your Dauntless is amazing ! Maybe you could show it to the modeler's son once it was completed ? I'm sure that he would like that...

  11. The model looks very heavy on the first photo, tires bit bulging and all. Like the dark blue finish, the shade and shine are perfect. Thanks for story. Nice photos even if it is sad to see the real aircraft to be so bashed up.

  12. Thanks Stellan ! It does look heavy...

    Now that you mentioned this, I may have replaced the kit tires with aftermarket resin ones. Since I used these tires, it would look more appropriate with a full load of bombs / rockets / napalm hanging under the wings, (but not with the decals I used for this build). I plan on building another one as a dedicated ground attack plane in the future. When I found the pictures online of the crashed plane I knew that I just had to post them along with the article. It's a sad ending to a beautiful plane. Most of them ended up like this... I'm glad you enjoyed the story behind this one. Thanks again for the compliments.

  13. Louis, during Korea the VC squadrons used to do night attack work in addition to straight nightfighter work. So you can load it up with rockets and napalm tanks and bombs. The Marine mixed squadron with the F4U-5s and F7Fs, as well as the carrier based F4Us.

    • I'm going to build a few more Korean War era Corsairs, hopefully later on this year. I'll make sure that I load at least one to the gills with ordnance. I learned something new here. Thanks.

  14. Louis, I like it !, and thanks for the story and actual pictures. Well done !

  15. Great model, great pictures and a great story, what more could we want? A perfect posting.

    • I don't know about it being perfect, but thanks my friend for the compliments. I appreciate this. I'm also happy to see that you have liked the article too. Take care my friend.

  16. Louis,
    Very touching story your dad survived a very devastating and heroic battle and happily he returned home. Thank him for his service and you have to be proud of him. I went into USMC shortly after Korea so a lot of those I came into contact with were there also.
    Your model is very well done and with very noteable markings. Great job and great story.

    • Thanks for your service too, Frank. When I was in high school, my Dad and I had a barber who was also a USMC veteran at Chosin. Needless to say, but Dad and the barber became very good friends. I am very proud of my Dad. He is one of the reasons why I joined the Army.
      Thanks for the compliments.

  17. Excellent model from a not-so-good kit.

    So, your dad was in Task Force Faith? They got an undeserved "bad rap" for their performance, but in the past 10 years it's been recognized their actions kept two Chinese divisions from attacking the Marines in the reservoir, which would have changed history from "the breakout at Chosin" to "the surrender at Chosin." Wish I'd had a chance to interview him. If you're interested in some of this history your dad might have wanted to forget (very reasonably so!), you might check my book "the Frozen Chosen,"which tells their story in the light of the new interpretation of their importance.

    • Thanks Tom for the compliments.

      Yes Dad was in Task Force Faith. He was part of the 31st Regimental Combat Team east of the reservoir. I'll get a copy of your book. It sounds like a very interesting read.

      Dad told me some pretty horrific stuff, especially later on in his last two weeks of life when he was hospitalized. I hope that he was finally able to be at peace with himself when he passed away. He kept a lot of stuff bottled up inside over all of these years.

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