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Sunken F4U-1A Corsair Hawaii 1945

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F4U-1A Corsair Bureau Number 49668


Aircraft History

Built by Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1 Corsair bureau number 49668. Disassembled and shipped to Oahu.


Wartime History

Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Wing 1 (MAW-1), Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12), Marine Fighting Squadron 215 "Fighting Corsairs" VMF-215. No known nickname or nose art.


Mission History

On April 17, 1945 took off from Molokai Field on Oahu piloted by 2nd Lt. William H. Holden a ferry flight bound for Ewa Field. Twenty minutes during the flight, this Corsair was at a bearing of 85° ten miles off Diamond Head, when he noticed his engine rpm fluctuating. Soon afterwards his oil began to spray on his windshield and his engine lost all power. His engine was wind milling when he stalled into the water in a three point attitude at approximated at 90 knots at 4:15pm, weather was ceiling and visibility unlimited (CAVU) with a 13 knot wind.  Location at time of ditching was 85° roughly four miles off Makapu'u Point on the southeastern corner of Oahu.



During the ditching, Holden was cut slightly over the right eye climbing from the floating plane and was later rescued. Afterwards, Holden reported all engine instruments registered correctly, except the cylinder head temperature which was broken before takeoff. The cause of the accident was deemed to be 100% caused by the engine.



This Corsair has been known since at least the middle 1980s and is a popular SCUBA dive site. The aircraft is upright at a depth of at a depth of 105'-110' on a flat sandy bottom with the wings partially covered by sand. The upper propeller blade is bent backwards slightly from the ditching and the cockpit canopy is open. During the middle 1980s, the radio aerial on the nose was still intact.


During 1985, Belisarius Productions / Glen A. Larson Productions shot underwater dive footage of this Corsair this aircraft is at a depth of 105'-110'. He then swims up to the Corsair, swimming up to the cockpit, looking inside then touching the propeller blade and ascending. In this footage, the Corsair radio aerial is still attached and soft coral growth is on the tip of the upper propeller blade.


Project start

Since seeing a PBY that had crashed on the beach in Diego Garcia half submerged, while I swam out and explored the wreck the scene was strait out of a WW2 movie. Since then I thought this would make a great diorama. After looking at the size of a 1/48 scale PBY and scaling out the diorama scene it would take up more space than I have to display it. So I started looking at other WW2 underwater aircraft wrecks there were many to choose from. I was intrigued by the F4U off the Hawaii coast.







Construction considerations

The F4U is at 110ft on the sea floor the idea I have is to make a section of the ocean 12”x12” either round mould or square.

I did a test pour using craft resin 1:1 ratio on a 3”x3” block tinted to test colour transparency using alcohol ink made for resin. What I didn’t expect was the exothermic reaction I could feel the temperature spike within a few min of poring the resin into the mould. I quickly inserted a temperature probe and logged it maxing at about 300 degrees. I placed a plastic whale in it and suspended it with a stick and tape to see if the heat would effect it. For the first test it went rather well I have read and watched many videos of deep pours I quickly discovered that off the shelf craft resin was never meant for this type of application. I found that dipping the cured block in future gave it more clarity.


The proper resin is in the commercial applications for artists doing river tables and the like. There are many choices so making a selection is a personal preference.


I will need to do a small mock up using all the same materials, paints and adhesives I will use in the full 1/48 scale pour. The mock up using plastic from the company a Tamiya plastic barrel in this case will allow me to test how the commercial resin will react with the materials now is the time to see what works and what fails. This is not a cheap endeavor and once poring starts you cant go back so I need to know how to handle any possible problems from overheating to mould breakout.



Handling resin is difficult in itself I have learned a lot over the last few months doing dozens of pours about curing, trapped air bubbles, thermal reaction and tint layering.


The big day of the actual pour a few months away will take all day as the resin is tinted it needs to be pored slowly in layers allowing it long enough to release gases but not long enough to cure then pouring additional layers. The layers must bond without creating a seam or line I am going to 6” depth which is the max only a few brands can handle that depth. A lot can go wrong at $400 in resin I need to be sure what I am doing.


I am using Tamiya’s 1/48 Vought Corsair no need to get to crazy on the kit. I will be cutting away and grinding out most of the fuselage and scratch building the frame and stringer structure as depicted by the photos. I purchase a few aftermarket kits for the exposed engine everything will have to be severely corroded and at that depth as you can see there is no color.



I plan to use florist foam as it sands and shapes like a dream and accepts paint. The scale of the foam is like super ultra fine sand at 1/48th. Ill burry the wing root into the foam and give it that current swept built up effect in the sand. For the coral I am using model railroad foliage dried and fixed in place, everything will be painted in several shades of gray.



I expect this project to take me the rest of the year hope you all follow along and please if you have experience in resin weigh in. If this project works out and I have come up with a process I would like to do other aircraft like a German Stuka and other aircraft lost at sea. I am excited to tackle this challenging build look forward to the completed display piece. 





Edited by Night Owl Models
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Quite a ambitious project and historically interesting. I’m looking forward to your progress and thank you for bringing this story to light. 


Best of luck and take care,


Mr. Happy



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