Dave Hansen’s Answer About F4U-2 paint schemes

Dave Hansen told me I could use what he wrote me.


I stand by my work…

About F4U-2 paint schemes

Here’s what we know. Much of this comes from aviation historian and author Dana Bell, who is a specialist in paint schemes, and has spent countless hours in the National Archives, conducting original research on the Corsair paint schemes.

The F4U-2 arrived at a time of transition within the Navy to what is generally referred to as the “Graded 4 Tone Scheme”, consisting of Non Specular Sea Blue, Intermediate Blue, Semi Gloss Sea Blue, and White. Most of the 34 F4U-2s arrived at the Naval Aircraft Factory in the Earlier ANA Sea Gray over ANA Light Aircraft Gray paint scheme, and were repainted at the depot level. This was prior to flying to the East Coast for deployment to the Pacific. The possible exceptions to this are the very late F4U-2s (which may have arrived for conversion already in the now-fully-defined Corsair paint scheme we all are familiar with), the 2 -2 conversions that were done in-theatre with F4U-1A airframes, and the very first F4U-2.

The earlier F4U-2s featured a very high degree of blending of the Non Spec Sea Blue with the Intermediate Blue. It was a difficult scheme to apply in practice, and no two aircraft looked exactly alike. The few photos I have seen of VF(N)-101 aircraft display this very high degree of blending between colours.

Later F4U-2s, such as those delivered to VMF(N)-532, seem to be a mix of Corsairs with the heavily blended fuselage sides, and some that had much broader (and much more clearly defined) swaths of Intermediate Blue on the fuselage flanks (Like “Black George”). Very late F4U-2s, such as Everett Vaughn’s “Shirley June” (which may have been the second -2 to have that name) featured the very clearly delineated separation between the Non Spec Sea Blue, Intermediate Blue, and White on the fuselage that we all have in our mind’s eye when we think of a three-tone Corsair.

The one possible exception to this paint scheme is BuAer 02153. This was the very first F4U-1, and the first F4U-2 conversion. It appears to have carried its Sea Gray over Light Aircraft Gray paint scheme for its entire life. It was written off following a ground accident with another Corsair at NAS Barbers Point, TH. I need to look at the photos again, but I’m  not sure if it was re-painted in the three tone scheme or not. The Corsair it crashed into was in the Sea Gray over Light Aircraft Gray scheme.

Getting back to VF(N)-101…..

The few photos taken of these planes were shot from oblique angles with black and white film, mostly from the Island of the carriers INTREPID and ENTERPRISE, looking down. My best guess is the VF(N)-101 planes either had the very highly blended scheme where the Non Spec Sea Blue blends very broadly with the Intermediate Blue, or the intermediate blue sides were overpainted, probably with semi gloss sea blue or Fresh Non Spec Sea Blue. There is definitely a change in colour between the flanks of the fuselage and the “spine” of the fuselage and people have differing opinions what may cause this. Semi Gloss Sea Blue is actually a darker hue than Non Spec Sea Blue, and Navy BuAer specs call for most of the wing upper surfaces to be painted this colour (F4U, F6F, SB2C, TBM, etc.). It stands to reason that carrier maintenance units had stocks of this colour on hand.

One thing that is certain is the Darker Sea Blue extends very far down the fuselage sides and the intermediate blue region on the sides of the forward fuselage and engine cowling is very narrow, but it’s there. My personal opinion is that the fuselage sides were repainted in some shade of Sea Blue, and definitely not black as some researchers and authors have proposed.

However, having said that there is the old joke that history is, “Argument without End”.

Dave Hansen


About his model, this is the first thread in a forum. (source here)

Bob Brunson demonstrated a skill for instrument flying while in advanced training, and was eventually assigned to VF(N)-75, under the command of Gus Wilhelm. He was then detached to VF(N)-101 aboard USS ENTERPRISE, after the squadron was split in half, when INTREPID was sidelined after a torpedo hit. Under the command of “Chick” Harmer, VF (N)-101 was present for the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”, and its complement was able to complete its combat tour in the F4U-2, achieving 5 kills, and without losing a single pilot.

The same cannot be said about VF(N)-101s planes. The squadron didn’t do a whole bunch of night flying to start with (ENTERPRISE was not yet at this time a dedicated night operations carrier), and operational attrition reduced the number of serviceable aircraft to a low number rather quickly. Up against a lot of resistance to round-the-clock operations, having to write the rules as they went along, and stuck with a temperamental, first-generation Radar, VF(N)-101 managed to “Plow the Road” and make things easier for the up-and-coming F6F-5N squadrons to follow. Bob wrote an excellent article for THE HOOK a few years back, which stimulated my interest in night fighters in general.

Thanks to Aptivaboy, I was able to get in touch with Bob and we had some very good conversations about the early Corsairs. I’d sent him some pics of my 72nd, 48th and 32nd scale Corsairs and he was pretty impressed.

After careful consideration, i decided I’d build an F4U-2 for him. The 32nd scale Tamiya kit made a lot of sense, because it’s the best Corsair out there, it’s a fun build, and its large and impressive enough that a lot of detail can be seen without being too hard on the eyesight. I also had one lying around in my stash, and my memory was still fresh from just completing my Goodyear FG-1.

After reviewing some memoranda Bob had sent me and discussing of his experiences, i decided on Bu Aer No. 02710, Modex “10”. This was the Corsair Bob crashed in, coming aboard ENTERPRISE at night.

His plane looked a little something like this…


Corsairs # 10, #9, and #11 aboard USS Intrepid

Short version of the story is, one of the position lights on the wings was burned out, giving the LSO an erroneous indication of the planes lateral orientation. When Bob received the “Cut” Signal, Bob was too far to starboard, and in the “dip for the deck”, struck the island superstructure, flipping the plane upside down. Bob escaped with only minor scratches, but “Number 10” was deep-sixed.

This subject is sort of controversial. The Navy F4U-2s were not as well-documented as the Marine land-based ones. Over the years disagreements have existed as to the colour of the fuselage sides. After asking Bob about it, i believe the fuselage was re-painted in either one of two ways:

1) The fuselage sides were over-painted with semigloss sea blue (which is a darker colour than Non Spec Sea Blue) or a fresh batch of Non Spec Sea Blue which had not yet begun to “chalk” due to sun exposure.

2) If the plane was re-painted into the graded 4 tone scheme at the depot level (Like NAS Norfolk, Philadelphia, or San Diego), the Non Spec Sea Blue was extended very low on the fuselage sides with just a minimal amount of Intermediate Blue transition.

As Birdcage Corsairs go, there are several other worthy items of note….

1) The plane appears to have had the upper cowl flap modification installed very late in the game, as it has not yet been painted. Also the common problem of fuel tank leakage is evident, and Squadron engineers felt a few more pieces of tape would be useful, resulting in the Hyper-Dodecahedron-esque tape treatment on the fuel tank cover.

2) Unlike Marine aircraft, these planes were not fitted with the MK XLI bomb racks under each wing.

3) The radio antenna installation was much simplified over antenna installations we’re used to seeing on Corsairs. A single antenna wire attached to the leading edge of the right hand horizontal stabilizer, ran up to the rubber tensioner, and then down to the ceramic insulator fitted to the fuselage just behind the canopy. There are Radar Altimeter Antennae fitted to the fuselage keel as well as a transponder antenna (not visible). A single whip antenna on the fuselage spine completes the antenna configuration.

4) If you look closely, you will see that the armored glass has been removed. This was somewhat of a mixed blessing, since it improved visibility at night, but made stern attacks much more dicey in light of tail gunners aboard Japanese G4M “Betty” bombers.

5) The canopy appears to have been retrofitted with additional armor plate (The unmentioned “Part E23” in the Tamiya kit).

6) The inboard right wing root shows an unusual degree of exposed, bare metal. Not at all uncommon to see this, since many access doors were on the upper right hand side of the Corsair fuselage. This is an extreme case.

7) Finally, although it’s a Birdcage Corsair, the plane has been fitted with the taller tailwheel post, no doubt to improve visibility over the nose. The Corsair went thru a protracted evolution of the tailwheel assembly in an effort to improve visibility over the nose, and reduce the tendency to “swing” on landing due to Gyroscopic Precession.

If you get a chance to build a model of a plane for the guy who actually flew it, take the opportunity while you can. Bob just turned 94 and is sharp as a tack and still in good enough health to appreciate the kind of work we do. But people like Bob are perishing fast. He’s one of the few surviving Birdcage Corsair pilots.

Construction of my second 32nd Birdcage has begun. Watch this space.



One final note.

Dave also shared this from Dana Bell and Jim Sullivan.

This is the official Navy BuAer painting spec on the graded 4-tone scheme for the Corsair. This diagram was adopted and sexed up with a colour version in Dana Bell’s book, but this is still the authoritative document:


Credits Dana Bell and Jim Sullivan