Review: Carrier Pilot: One of the greatest pilot’s memoirs of WWII – a true aviation classic.

I knew that in WWII the US Navy considered the Vought F4U Corsair was considered too dangerous to fly on and off of aircraft carriers and was relegated to ground basing. It was nicknamed “Ensign Eliminator” and “Bent-Wing Eliminator” due to it requiring a lot more training with corresponding crashes as a result. Having stood next to one of them at an air show I can see that landing one on a pitching deck of an aircraft carrier while looking around that massive engine would at the very least be problematic. Besides with the F6F Hellcat being deployed, the US Navy didn’t need to force the issue.

But the British didn’t have the same choices. They put a tail hook on a Spitfire, renamed it the “Seafire” and things were dandy until it was realized that the Seafire didn’t have the range or bomb/torpedo carrying capabilities required for airplanes based on aircraft carriers. So they looked to their allies and ended up with Corsairs. Yes you would have to chop eight inches off the wings to fit them into the hanger decks and they would be flying them off of smaller carriers than the US had, but the offer was accepted.

Besides cutting the wings a tad  shorter no other modifications were required unlike the Mustang which required a completely different power plant. And the British made the aircraft work developing new ways to fly towards the carrier for landing and in other ways of changing things around to utilize the aircraft better and safer. Things like changing the shape of the canopy and how the airplane landed were important modifications making it more suitable for carrier use.

This is all interesting background but it did not in any way diminish the bravery of the author. The book is written in the typical tone of many books by British servicemen and women in an almost lighthearted way. Perhaps the passage of time has diminished the intensity of the moments he faced. But reading some of the sections made my pulse race at the sheer terror which must have been gripping him.

It isn’t just chair clamping combat but a look at a prewar USA as he had flight training in the US among other things like leaves, training and travels to the Pacific on an aircraft carrier.

All an all, gripping account of the war from a different perspective. A very well written book by a pilot who was there, saw combat, lost many friends yet did his duty with honor.

Very highly recommended!


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