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          The Reef Corsair          

Reef Corsair from boat: engine/nose. Copyright P. Scannon, 1993.Approximately two miles from Babeldaob and about 200 yards inside Aiyasu Reef (the outer barrier reef), sits the remains of a Corsair in less than 3 feet of water (at low tide). This aircraft was lying, wheels up, in a southerly direction. The tail section of the plane, from the rear of the cockpit back, was completely missing but the forward elements of the cockpit, the wings, engine and propeller were still present in one piece with the exception that the propeller, a three-bladed Hamilton Standard, appeared to have been ripped out, probably on contact (Pictures 19 and 20). Both wings were intact, and right over where the three .50 caliber machine guns would be, on each wing, grew bright orange corals (due to rust from the guns?); perhaps nature put the machine guns to good use.

Reef Corsair port wing. Copyright Chip Lambert.The canopy was missing and the cockpit area was heavily encrusted with coral. Attempts to find an identification plate were unsuccessful due to the coral overgrowth. Amazingly, despite over fifty years of pounding surf, the control stick and the rudder pedals remained intact. The control stick appeared to be fixed in a rearward position, suggesting that the aviator may have flared just before landing to make a wheels-up landing. Because of the proximity of the Corsair to the outer barrier reef and its southerly heading (in the direction of the US airstrip on Peleliu at that time), the aviator appears to have had sufficient time/altitude to get the plane down near the outer reef edge, where US Navy amphibian aircraft (called "Dumbos") could and did routinely land in the nearby deep water (even under continued enemy fire) to pick up aviators shot down over Babeldaob.

This Corsair has not yet been identified. My review of all after action reports of Corsairs shot down over the Palaus during World War II limits the number of possibilities to five candidates. I am currently interviewing surviving Marine aviators to determine if the list can be further narrowed. Although difficult to see, there may be residuum of a white band around the forward edge of the cowling, which would identify the plane as belonging to VMF-114 which narrows the list even further. Work remains in progress.

Swamp Corsair                           Ridge Corsair