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1/48 Academy F4U-4B

Jesse Folmar’s Korean Corsair

by David Thompson

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History of this aircraft

VMA-312 pilot Capt. Jesse G. Folmar was the first American to shoot down a jet fighter with a propeller-driven aircraft.   Jesse recently passed away in July 2004.  The following extracts of his jet encounter come from the Flight Journal website:

Capt. Jesse G. Folmar: "On September 10, 1951, we were scheduled to fly a strike mission against a heavy troop concentration up in the Chinnampo area of North Korea . Crossing into hostile territory, I glimpsed two MiG-15s about to set up a firing pass on us."

At medium to high altitudes, conventional aircraft did not stand a chance against the fast MiG. But, if you could drag a MiG down to a much lower altitude, the playing field became more level. In numerous clashes between Mustangs and MiGs, the Mustangs' most successful confrontations were below 4,000 feet. The Corsairs could turn on a dime down where the air was heavier, and the MiGs' fuel consumption rate was horrendous at that altitude.

"The MiGs were in loose echelon at the time, so I steepened my bank and turned sharply into them as I jettisoned my ordnance and external tanks. I told Lt. Daniels to fly a much tighter weave and not to let them out of his sight! Seconds later, I saw two more closing rapidly from my eight-o'clock position. At this point, I turned hard to the left trying to bring my guns to bear on them before they opened fire. No such luck; their closure was so fast that when they opened fire on us, the tracers from their cannon overshot us, so I reversed my bank to the right and turned inside one of the MiGs just as he started a climbing left turn. I pulled up and got him in my gunsight, giving him about a 20mils lead, and then triggered off a five-second burst with my 20mm cannon."

The MiG-15 was armed with two 23mm cannon and one big 37mm cannon. Although its rate of fire was slow, a couple of well-placed rounds into any aircraft could cause lethal damage. Only the F-86 Sabre was evenly matched with the MiG at any altitude, and there are numerous accounts of the MiG's cannon blowing off most of a Sabre's vertical stabilizer or putting a hole in the wing that a man could stand up in. One slip-up by a Corsair pilot could spell disaster against this firepower!

"I could tell that I had him bore-sighted by the blinking flashes that hit along the left side of his fuselage. A gray trail of fuel vapor began to stream from the MiG, and this quickly turned into billowing black smoke. It nosed over slightly and seemed to lose acceleration. Seconds later, its pilot ejected and tumbled through the air in what appeared to be a ball of smoke. When his parachute opened, I could see his G-suit burning from head to foot. I glanced down and saw the flaming MiG hit the water in a vertical position."

"Just after the MiG hit the water, I saw four more strung out in a loose column of two sections. I did not like the odds and decided to break it off. Radioing my wingman, I told him to break hard left and down! As I picked up airspeed, I noticed fiery balls of tracer rounds passing the left side of my cockpit, then I felt a severe jolt and explosion in my left wing!  My aircraft began to shudder as if in a high-speed stall. I glanced over and noticed that the left aileron and four feet of my left wing were gone! The top of my wing was gutted to the side of my inboard gun. My Corsair tried to roll left, although the stick was in a full right position. This led to my decision that it would be too hazardous to attempt a landing on the carrier, so I decided to bail out."

As Capt. Folmar transmitted the SAR distress signal, another MiG-15 made a firing pass on him with all cannon blazing, but not a round hit! The situation was deteriorating by the second, and there was only one possible course of action.

"At about three thousand feet, I rolled out of the right side of the cockpit and fell clear. As I pulled the ‘D-ring,' I heard an ear-splitting sound, and as I looked around, I saw a MiG come by me with his guns firing at my spinning Corsair. By my count, seven MiG-15s were in the area. Fortunately for me, they departed, and I hit the water about a quarter of a mile southeast of a small island. Lt. Daniels circled my position; the rescue plane arrived quickly and, if I remember correctly, I was in the water less than eight minutes before I was rescued!"

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Construction

I got this kit in Bali .  It sustained nearly as much damage as Jesse’s aircraft on the way home in the hold, with major cracks in the fuselage & starboard wing and many small pieces snapped.  Still, the plastic was incredibly brittle and I snapped many more intact small parts removing them from the sprue.

I did some scratch building to improve this basic kit including:

·      Removed wing and cowl flaps & replaced with items built from Vodka-Lemonade can metal;                                                                                                                 

·      Added cockpit detail including various levers, weapon selection boxes, gunsight from sprue/card, seatbelts from masking tape with scratchbuilt buckles from Evergreen U-shaped rod, opened up bulkhead behind seat;

·      Cut open tail wheel well, detailed & re-built tail wheel structures;

·      Thinned fins on bomb, added wire sway-braces;

·      Thinned funs on rockets, added fuses;

·      Added hydraulic lines to wheel wells and landing gear from stretched sprue;

·      Built hinges & actuating rams for main gear doors from sprue/fuse wire;

·      Added fuel filler caps to main & drop tank & sway braces to drop tank.

The fit was reasonable, but after cutting off flaps, getting the wing to mate with fuselage was rough.  I used soda-can strips bent into an L shape to cover the topside wingroot gap (they’re about 2x over-scale!) and much plastic card/Tamiya putty underneath.

Painting & decals

All major markings were masked and sprayed, except decals on rear fuselage which were kindly sent from Canada by ARCer Jim Birchfield.  Masking each ‘9’ took about 15 tiny pieces of Tamiya tape – madness, I’ll find decals next time.

Choosing a blue was confusing.  Dark sea blue was a common suggestion, but after experimenting, it did not match colour photo’s of VMA-312 aircraft.  Then I saw an Italeri Corsair in the hobby shop which recommended Gunze Blue Angel Blue, so I went with that.  Out of the pot, it was too glossy/sparkly so I flattened with Tamiya flat base & it looked spot on.  The model was pre-shaded with gloss black & I went with ARC feedback & faded some areas & sprayed a few panels in different shades to replicate replacements.

Cockpit was painted a mix of Model Master USMC Green & Interior Green, then drybushed with interior green and a pastel sludge wash applied.  Instrument panel was sprayed flat black, drybrushed with light ghost grey to bring out dials etc.

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Pictures of real VMA-312 aircraft showed extensive heavy light grey exhaust stains – bliss, I love filthy aircraft.  Weathering consisted of:

·      Pre-shading;

·      Faded Gunze Blue Angel Blue by adding a little white;

·      Light grey/red brown pastel sludge wash in panel lines;

·      Thick exhaust stains sprayed on with mix of dilute white/grey, slowly built up with short bursts from the Aztec;

·      Fuel spill discolouration with very dilute light grey airbrushed down masked fuselage (artistic license here);

·      Oil leaks with pastel sludge mix;

·      Paint chips with silver pencil;

·      Used Swanny’s salt crystal chipping technique on the bomb for first time to give paint colour variation – worked well except air-brush blast blew off some crystals.

Finally, I added the tricky-looking two-piece antenna wire.  I sprayed some stretched sprue with Tamiya AS-12, then drilled a locating hole in tail fin & CA’ed in one end of sprue.  The other end was CAed to the antenna mast, with some slack in the line.  A locating hole was drilled in the fuselage side and another piece of sprue CA’ed half way down the first, then pushed tight into the fuselage hole and a tiny drop of CA added to secure.  The main line was too loose and too far to port, so fearfully, I reached for the heated wire.  Risky, I’ve snapped heaps of rigging this way, but it worked, with the main wire tightening up beautifully, pulling the fuselage wire up tight with it.

My hardest build yet, due to the poor quality kit and over-enthusiasm cutting off major bits, but in the end, I’m very happy.

A few near-OOBs are now in order if I can just break the scratching habit!

David

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Photos and text © by David Thompson

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