F4U-1 Corsair Vol. 1
By Dana Bell (2014)

Aircraft Pictorial #7
Classic Warships Publishing

Few aircraft have captured the imagination of historians, aviation enthusiasts, and scale modelers as the F4U Corsair.  This legendary airplane has been the subject of many books over the years, including two Detail & Scale titles (volumes 55 and 56).  Recently opened files at the National Archives and National Air and Space Museum came to the attention of aviation researcher and author Dana Bell, and material for new perspectives on the Corsair came to light.  Originally planned as a single book, Bell encountered such a treasure trove of information and never-before published photos that he decided to break up the material into two books.  Here, we’ll take a look at his F4U-1 Corsair Volume 1, which spans prototypes to the Birdcage Corsairs of WWII.

F4U-1 Corsair Volume 1 is a softcover book in 8.5” x 11” format, with pages printed on glossy paper.  The print quality is first rate. It might not seem like a particularly long book at 72 pages, but it truly packs in a great deal of information and never-before-seen material.  The text and captions are well written and edited.  The text is both concise and highly informative.  The main body of text opens the book, summarizing the history of the informal -1A designation, and moves on to review the basic history and primary features of the XF4U-1, Corsair Mk. I, F4U-1P, and F4U-2.  Salient details on airframe engineering and construction are covered, as are key points on the evolution of the radio masts.  Exterior and interior colors are reviewed, including the key characteristics, complexities, and confusion surrounding the use and development of the blue gray/light gray and the graded camouflage paint scheme.  Serial numbers and associated production changes are listed for all Vought, Brewster, and Goodyear Birdcage F4Us.

The photos, of course, are the heart of this illustration-heavy volume.  Many of the large-format figures (most are black-and-white while some are in color) are nothing less than spectacular in print quality and visual information.  Moreover, the pictures function more like a time machine, transporting a reader back some 70 years in ways that few books can achieve.  Scale modelers will find great value in the richly detailed and crisp images of the Birdcage Corsair’s powerplant, cockpit details, canopy and turtledeck variations, landing gear, tailwheel variants, wing fold mechanism, gun bays, and external stores including early drop tanks and bomb pylons.  Diverse Birdcage paint schemes are illustrated in a variety of black-and-white and some color photos of Corsairs in action throughout the Pacific theater, including some wrecked Corsairs that appear to definitively clarify some hotly contested details on Corsair paint schemes.  These photos are complemented by various original engineering drawings, and color profiles of various paint schemes.  Speaking of the color profiles, Bell’s research led to some novel conclusions on the complex evolution and even eccentric variations of Corsair paint jobs before the introduction of the overall glossy sea blue scheme on a few Birdcage Corsairs beginning the 1944 timeframe.

I can find no shortcomings in this book beyond the fact that many readers, including myself, would probably wish that it would have been longer yet still.

Dana Bell’s F4U-1 Corsair Volume 1 is a superlative volume on the F4U-1 – it is engaging, impeccably researched, and immensely informative.  It inspired me to open up my 1:32 scale Tamiya Birdcage kit and begin serious planning to start work on this model.  Corsair fans will find this book to be a highly valued reference, and scale modelers will find this book living on their workbench no matter what scale Corsair they’re working on.

You can find F4U-1 Corsair Volume 1 available at amazon.com, hopefully at your local hobby shop, and at Classic Warships website (http://www.classicwarships.com/) where you can also see their other titles.  

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale