Korea – Marine Corsairs

Gallery Article by Mark L. Rossmann on July 27 2013

Korean War Armistice Date July 27th 1953



There was no sizable force of Marines in the Far East when the war broke out. Reaction time was quick as MAG-33 was ordered to embark on “Badoeng Straight” in early July of 1950, to Kobe Japan. Its first combat missions were flown on August 3 by VMF-214 “Black Sheep”, VMF-323 “Death Rattlers” and VMF(N) -513 “Flying Nightmares” all famous WWII units. In September MAG-12 arrived with VMF-212 “Devilcats” and VMF-312 “Checkerboards” 

6 different types were used in Korea, the F4U-4, -4B, -5P, -5N and AU-1, the -4 though with its large availability of numbers bore the brunt of bringing the war to the communists. 

Ordinance loads were quite varied and served Corsair units well, General Purpose Bombs, five-inch high-velocity aerial rockets, .50 cal and 20 mm guns, loaded with High Explosive Incendiary, Armor Piercing and standard rounds and on occasion the 11.75 inch “Tiny Tim” rockets.

Lack of Accurate maps of the North hindered operations, the Marines utilizing F4U-5P with only 4 qualified pilots. Its immediate concern was to photo coverage the NKPA movements around the 40 mile perimeter of Pusan. Each sortie was directed by the USAF, the resulting photos were sent daily to the UN Supreme Commander in Tokyo, General Douglas McArthur. MAG-33’s detachment two F4U-5P’s were tasked with the mapping of Inchon for the September 15th assault. It was imperative to get sound information on the 32 ft. tides for the planners. Photos were taken at varying times of low and high tides, both pilots flew 8 missions over a 4 day period, with time over the target of about 20 minutes, flying a precise box pattern at 2500 ft on all cardinal compass headings. During these missions flown by TSgt. Glowser and Capt. Dykes, they were escorted by two F-82 Mustangs and four F-80C’s.

The most pronounced event of the early conflict, besides Inchon, was the heroic retreat by Marine ground units fighting through tens of thousands of Chinese troops from the Chosin Reservoir. US Air Force, Navy and Marine units pounded Chinese positions. Philippine Sea, and Leyte were joined by Princeton and Valley Forge flying round the clock interdiction missions, including Marine Corp. units, TF 77 fielded ten Corsair squadrons by Christmas of 1950. 

Several dogfights occurred with a Mig-15 claimed by Capt. Jesse Folmar in September of “52”, whilst flying with VMF-312 the “Checkerboards”. This was the exception from WWII, as battles in the Pacific raged over vast expanses of ocean. This “war”, “Police Action” the Marines had relatively short distances to fly to the front, either from escort carriers USS Sicily, Badoeng Strait, Bataan, Rendova, Bairoko and Point Cruz or land bases “Kimpo K-14”, “Kangnung K-18”, and others as well as into North Korea at “Wonson” and Yonpo K-18”. These North Korean bases were shared with F-51’s, the only two UN type aircraft to ever be stationed in North Korea.

Night fighting Marine Units consisted of VMF(N)-513, flew F4U-5N’s, had an early impact in the war, flying from Itazuka in Japan. This unit was land based through the whole war. Eventually moving to Korea they ranged deep into North Korea, utilizing there advanced radar to detect aircraft, “map” terrain up to 80 miles and detect ground based beacons providing azimuth and distance for almost 100 miles. Most Corsair Night fighter pilots worked closely and effectively with the USAF C-47 “FireFly” flair ships from Kimpo. These C-47’s carried hundreds of 1,000,000 candle power Magnesium flairs. These C-47’s dropped flares at low levels providing the Marines Night fighter great success working over the trucks, credit is given to these C-47 pilots. The Marines phased out the F4U-5N soon after the F3D’s arrived in 1952, by war’s end they were only operating “day” models of the Corsair.

The Marines deployed only six Corsair units to the conflict, the last at conflicts end in July of 1953, was VMA-332 , the Flying Polka Dots arrived June of “53”, aboard the Point Cruz, which took over the aircraft of VMA-312. (By 1952 the VMF designation was changed to VMA.) 

In the end these squadrons became legends with dedication to protecting ground troops. 315 Corsairs were lost to all causes, with 260 lost from August 1950 to July 1952. Here are just a few examples:

#1- 8/8/1950 – VMF-323 lost an F4U-4B by another aircraft that jumped a landing barrier. Pilot slightly injured.

#100 – 5/2/1951 - VMF-214 F4U-4B hit by AAA, pilot bales and is repatriated during Operation Big Switch

#200 – 12/5/1951 – VMF-312 F4U-4B destroyed when hit by a crippled AD-4L landing at K-18.

#300 – 2/8/1953 – VMA-312 hit by small arms fire, crashed and burned north of Yonch-On. Capt. Joseph Januszewski was listed KIA, his remains were later recovered.

#315 -7/24/1953 – VMA-332 F4U-4 Ditched at takeoff from USS Bairoko 
Lt. Arthur Beasley rescued by helicopter.


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Models and Markings:
The models are all 1/48 scale and are from Academy and Hasegawa. Each has their strong and weak points, but provide a great lineup of Korean Corsairs. Overall painting was done with Testers Deep Sea Blue and Tamiya Black spray cans. Kit and aftermarket decals were used.

#1: AU-1 of VMA-212 “Devilcats”. Tail Code LD, at Pyongtaek(K-6), May of “53”. The ultimate Corsair for full ground attack, with R-2800-83W engine, extra pair of rocket rails giving 10 and heavier armor to protect the pilot. Only 111 were built. (Hasegawa)

#2: F4U-4B of VMA-332 “Flying PolkaDots”, Tail Code “MR”. onboard USS Point Cruz(CVE-119). This was the last Marine squadron to be deployed with the Corsair, from June through December of “53”. (Academy)

#3: F4U-4B of VMF -214 “Black Sheep”. Tail Code “WE”, Carrier USS Sicily(CVE-118) 8/50 – 11/50), deployed to Yonpo(K-27) December of “50”. This aircraft crash landed in North Korea at Koto-ri on December 9th. It was captured by the enemy after airstrip was abandoned. (Hasegawa)

#4 : F4U-5N of VMF(N)-513 “Flying Nightmares”. Tail Code “WF”, at Pusan (K1) flown by Capt. Eugene Derrickson. Marine Night fighter aircraft were painted “matt” black” in the spring of “51”and their codes painted dull red by 1952. (Hasegawa)

#5: F4U-4 of VMF-312, “Checkerboards”, Tail Code “WR”, on board USS Bataan(CVL 29) June 1951and at Kimpo(K-14). The last arial victories credited to a Marine Corsair was that of Capt. James Folmer of VMA-312 deployed at Pyongtaek(K-6) in September of “52”. He shot down one of two Mig-15’s that bounced him and his wingman, but in turn was shot down by four more Mig’s and was rescued by a USAF SA-16. (Hasegawa)

#6 F4U-4 of VMF-323, “Death Rattlers”, Tail Code “WS”, on board USS Badoeng Strait (CVE-116) July 1950 to March 1951(Flying at Inchon) and at Pyongtaek(K-6). It is noted that the “Rattlesnake” motif gradually faded from use as the war continued for fear of the communist possibly ill treating captured pilots. VMA-323 was the only other unit to fly AU-1’s in Korea. (Hasegawa)

This is but a small history of the Korean Marine Corsairs. You can read much more detail about them as follows:


  • Vought F4U Corsair – Warpaint Series #70 by Charles Stafrace.

  • F4U Corsair Units of the Korean War – Osprey Combat Aircraft #78 by Warren Thompson.

  • Decal Sheets: SuperScale No: 48-758, 48-121. MicroScale 48-289 

  • Instruction Sheets.

Thanks to Steve for his great site.

Mark L. Rossmann

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Photos and text © by Mark L. Rossmann