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Questions/comments on Ike Kepford's second Corsair

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After reading several references and studying relevant photos I am still uncertain about the colour of the prop hub of the often photographed Corsair flown by Ike Kepford.  There is a large b&w air to air view on pages 50-51 of F4U Corsair at War by Richard Abrams.  This same photo can be found on the title pages of The Skull & Crossbones Squadron:  VF-17 in World War II by Lee Cook.  According to written sources this squadron painted propeller hubs various colours to denote various flights (some say four, others five aircraft per flight).  Tommy Blackburn's flight colour was red, Hendrick's flight colour was white. 


My question is, what would be the colour of the prop hub of Kepford's well known #29?  In the above mentioned photo the colour appears too light to be red, and too dark to be white.  My guess would be some shade of blue.  Has there ever been a clarification as to what colour it should be?  I have art work and decal references indicating black, red and natural metal.


Another question has to do with the colour of the upper port wing star and bar.  While the fuselage star and bar appears to be a fresh, clean shade of dark (insignia blue) blue, the upper wing markings appear very weathered and faded.  In fact it almost seems to be a painted over earlier marking when it had been outlined in red then painted over in insignia blue but not matching the faded blue of the original star and bar.  


The leading edge of the vertical tail also appears to be quite weathered or chipped.  Am I interpreting this correctly?


One last observation.  When comparing the above mentioned photo with others it appears that this aircraft had a whip antenna in place of the original post antenna, with two antenna wires, both starting at the top of the rudder with one connecting to the starboard fuselage and the other leading to the tip of the starboard horizontal stabilizer. 


I would enjoy hearing from anyone who can help clarify the above questions/observations.

Edited by Brian J
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Well, I can help with some of this....


1) The prop hubs and part of the prop blades were painted when they arrived in the war zone; it was to denote flights within the squadron, easier grouping in-flight. However, it was quickly found to be impractical. Even the rigors of normal flight operations, to say nothing of combat ops in primitive conditions, means there are always "down" aircraft for servicing, maintenance, battle damage, etc, with replacement aircraft coming from any available flight to cover downed aircraft. So, pretty much whenever a flight went out even if it was the correct pilots the aircraft they flew on any mission were often mis-matched, nullifying the intents of the painted prop hubs/blades. I suspect it may have ended before Kepford's second bird, so it may very well have had an unpainted prop hub. 

The good news is nobody seems to know. I tried to find that very thing out about 15 years ago and came up empty. 


2) Closeup examination of the insignia on the left wing of #29 does indeed suggest it was originally a red-surround star & bar, with the red overpainted in blue; it does not seem to match the color of the rest of the disc/circle, possibly due to prior sunbleaching or simply the fact that it's older paint.


3) Yes, definitely chipping/paintwear on the leading edge of the tail, in fact ALL wings/tailplanes. Operating from crushed coral runways with the prop effectively sandblasting all this back over the airframe was absolute hell on the paintwork. 


4) No idea on the radio fit; that's beyond my specialty. 


EDIT: Okay, I see what you mean about the radio wires. Yes, it looks like several VF-17 birds had no radio mast on the spine, #29 included. Definitely at least one wire running from top of tail to starboard side fuselage just aft of cockpit...and it looks like a second wire is dangling, unconnected, on the right-side view photo of the plane parked...maintenance I'm guessing? I'd think both wires would run forward.



Edited by Andrew D. the Jolly Rogers guy
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Here's my 1/72 build of Kepford's bird I did as part of my Jolly Rogers complete history build (30 aircraft, took about 8 years): It shows many of the things you asked about including the insignia. 

If I had to change anything, I'd make the bulkhead surrounding the headrest black; I think that's what it should be, maybe all the way down to the upper levels of the side consoles.



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Thanks for your informed comments, Andrew D.  A couple of comments and another question if I may.  On page 55 of F4U Corsair at War  by Richard Abrams there is an often published photo of Kepford's second Corsair.  It is taken from the starboard side and you can make out an antenna wire from the top of the rudder to the outer tip of the horizontal stabilizer.


Another often reproduced photo inflight photo of this second Corsair can be found on pages 50 and 51.  If we agree (and I do) that the upper port star and bar originally had the red surround that was painted over in blue wouldn't that mean that this air frame had been assigned to the squadron for some time, then it was issued to Kepford with his a/c number and kill markings applied.  If that was the case, is it possible that this air frame had been assigned to another pilot, possibly from another flight or for that matter the same flight Kepford was assigned to?  My point has to do with the colour of the prop hub.  If it was an older air frame might it have had an original coloured (blue) prop hub?  That prop hub does not look natural metal to me.


And now my question.  It appears that the gun ports were also painted in a circular fashion.  Could they have been the same colour as the prop hub?


I'd enjoy hearing opinions on the above.


Oh, by the way, nice job on that 1/72 build-up!  

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Thanks Brian!


I think the second antenna wire is just dangling, unconnected, the angle making it look like it's connected to the horizontal stabilizer. Granted I could well be wrong, but I'd love to hear from some of the deeper F4U gurus if that was ever a true configuration. My true specialty is the Jolly Rogers aircraft lineage in general.


On the prop hubs, until new evidence is uncovered, I think it's just going to come down to making the best guess with what little we have. Personally I'd enjoy seeing a blue hub!


Tough to tell on the gun ports; I originally wondered, years ago, if they were stainless steel for blast protection, or if they wore the paint away from firing a lot, or what. But I think the best answer so far is that it's remnants of tape and tape residue. For many WW2 fighters when they had been reloaded/rearmed, the gun ports were taped over, and then just fired through by the opening salvoes. 



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There were a few different configurations of the antenna wire used.  One had it going to the left wingtip vice the forward mast, and another did have the wire go from the fuselage to the fin to the right stab tip.  Kepford's 29 (with 16 kill markings) definitely had the wire go from the fuselage to the fin to the right stab tip, and it did not carry any antenna mast either forward or behind the cockpit.  The aft mast was replaced by a whip antenna in that location.  The airplane also had the original, short, tailwheel strut.


As for the prop hub, I'd go with intermediate blue.  VF-17 installed Hellcat props in place of the original narrow-chord Corsair versions, and an intermediate blue hub on tri-color Hellcats seemed to be somewhat common.  The color definitely isn't dark enough to be black or sea blue (sea blue has also been seen in color photos of tri-color Hellcat props).

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Many thanks for taking the time to comment on my questions.  I am still undecided as to how to interpret the gun ports.  I found a couple of photos on pages 53 and 73 of The Skull & Cross Bones Squadron:  VF-17 in World War II by Lee Cook that show taping of the gun ports.  There is distinctive signs of the use of straight edged tape and in the case of the photo on page 53, multiple layers of tape, which makes sense in a combat zone.  


That in flight photo I keep referring to suggests to me a clean, circular shape, maybe a bit lighter in shade then the prop hub but not white like the colour of the white skull and crossbones on the unit insignia on the cowling.  I may be missing the obvious and again, would enjoy reading comments from other Corsair fans.

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