Night Victory

By Tally One Assistant Editor P. Wilhelm

Night Victory” by Roy Grinnell* is an excellent example of how art, science, and history can be married in one beautiful painting of the Chance Vought F4U Corsair.  With the advent of the Airborne Intercept (AI) radar mounted in a radome placed outboard on the starboard wing, the F4U-5N became one of the most effective night fighters for the United States Navy and Marines.

During the Korean war, the U.S. Air Force F-86 Sabers dominated the air destroying 857 Mig-15s in nearly three years of aerial combat.  There was one mission that fast jets couldn’t handle, however – the defense against slow-moving Soviet prop-driven bombers and nuisance aircraft that flew between dawn and dusk.  To combat the slow movers, the U.S, Navy loaned Fifth Air Force a detachment of radar-equipped F4U-5N Corsairs from Night Composite Squadron Three (VC-3).  Flying from K-16, 30 miles south of Seoul, just past midnight on 17 July, 1953 detachment commander Lt. Guy P. Bordelon was scrambled to relieve one of his pilots whose radar was inoperative.  Vectored to the target by the Joint Operations Center, he curved behind a Soviet-built La-11.

As Bordelon described it, “I gave a “tally-ho” and reported that the contact was definitely an unfriendly aircraft.  JOC gave me the clearance to fire, just as the enemy aircraft began to turn hard aport.  Just as we passed Kaesong, he suddenly rolled level and I gave him a long burst of 20MM HEI cannon fire.  I saw a wing coming off and pulled left as he blew with a tremendous explosion.  Then, turning right and circling, I could see the bright splash of fire on the ground where the La-11 impacted.”  With that victory, his fifth in 18 days, Guy Bordelon became the only Navy ace, and the only night fighter ace, in the Korean War.

Night Victory” is hand signed by Korean War Corsair Ace Guy Bordelon, VC-3.  This image depicts Lt. Bordelon’s Fifth Victory, July 17, 1953 over Imjim River North of Seoul, Korea.  He had five confirmed victories.

Roy Grinnell, born in Santa Barbara, California, has been drawing airplanes ever since he can remember. When he was not drawing them, he was building plastic models, a hobby he still passionately enjoys. When Roy graduated from Santa Barbara High School he decided to join the Navy where he was stationed in Guam. Thereafter, he attended the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles where he graduated with honors. He moved to NYC where he was an Illustrator on Madison Avenue for several years. Later on, he decided to become a free lance artist. This decision has led him in several interesting directions!

As the Official Artist and Honoree of the American Fighter Aces Association, Roy has completed close to 50 original paintings for the AFAA, accurately portraying the aerial combat of aces from WW1, WW2, Vietnam and the Korean War. These paintings are based on the oral history of the aces involved, and as close as they can be to what really occurred as if someone was taking a photograph of the action.

Roy has won numerous art awards in both aviation art and western/Native American art. As a western artist, he was invited to join the Cowboy Artists of America. Roy’s original paintings are displayed in museums and private collections including The Museum of Flight – Kenneth H. Dahlberg Center for Military Aviation History, Seattle, WA; CAF Airpower Museum – Roy Grinnell Art Gallery, Midland, TX; The George Lucas Collection, The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation; National Museum of the US Air Force – The National Aviation Hall of Fame, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH; National Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, FL (where Roy was the proud recipient of the R. G. Smith Award for Excellence in Naval Aviation Art in 1999); The Pearce Museum at Navarro College, Corsicana, TX; Normandie-Niemen Memorial Museum, Les Andelys, France; Polish Military Museum, Warsaw, Poland; Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center, Pueblo, CO; Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville, GA; Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, Cheyenne, WY; Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, Albuquerque, NM and others.

The Chance Vought F4U Corsair was a carrier-capable fighter aircraft that saw service primarily in World War II and the Korean War. Demand for the aircraft soon overwhelmed Vought’s manufacturing capability, resulting in production by Goodyear and Brewster: Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A. From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured by Vought, in 16 separate models, in the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history (1942–53).

The Corsair served in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, Fleet Air Arm and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, as well as the French Navy Aeronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the 1960s. It quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II. Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of World War II, and the U.S. Navy counted an 11:1 kill ratio with the F4U Corsair. As well as being an outstanding fighter, the Corsair proved to be an excellent fighter-bomber, serving almost exclusively in the latter role throughout the Korean War and during the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria.

The F4U incorporated the largest engine available at the time: the 2,000 hp 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial. To extract as much power as possible a relatively large Hamilton Standard Hydromantic three-blade propeller of 13 feet 4 inches was used.  In order to accommodate such a large propeller, landing gear struts, and folding wings, the only solution was an inverted gull wing.  Another issue was the placement of the cockpit aft of the wing to solve center of gravity issues.

As with all airplanes, pilots starting tagging the Corsair with names like “hog” and “hosenose”.  But the name that seems to have stuck the most is the “bent-wing widow maker”.  Infantrymen nicknamed the Corsair “The Sweetheart of the Marianas” and “The Angel of Okinawa” for its roles in these campaigns.  We are trying to verify that it was with the delivery of the F4U to the Marines, the Marine pilots started wearing camouflage helmet to show their solidarity with the troops on the ground.  The claim has been made that the Japanese called the Corsair the “Whistling Death.

General characteristics

Crew: 1 pilot

  • Length: 33 ft 4 in
  • Wingspan: 41 ft 0 in
  • Height: 16 ft 1 in
  • Wing area: 314 ft2
  • Empty weight: 8,982 lb
  • Loaded weight: 14,000 lb
  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8 radial engine, 2,000 hp

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 417 mph
  • Range: 1,015 mi
  • Service ceiling: 36,900 ft
  • Rate of climb: 2,890 ft/min

Armament

  • Guns:
    • 4 × 0.50 in AN/M2 Browning machine guns
    • 2 × 0.50 in AN/M2 Browning machine guns
  • Rockets: 4 × 5 in High Velocity Aircraft Rockets and/or
  • Bombs: 2,000 pounds

* Tally One does not receive, nor does it asked for, any compensation from artists or art galleries.  We do, however, ask for permission to use their copyright protected material before publishing their work.

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