Corsair Markings and Nose Art of VMF-512


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Starting in Dec 1944 the unit was based at Santa Barbara where each plane had large letters and numbers such as 'EE54' on the fuselage (they may have been that way in Mojave).  The squadron embarked on the USS Gilbert Islands in March 1945 and the EE markings survived at most a few weeks after which the 18 Corsairs and 2 F6Fs of VMF-512 were numbered (arguably) in the sequence 10 - 29 with 19 and 29 being the 2 F6Fs.  Nose art took hold and then, most likely in July, white recognition stripes were added in accordance with new regulations.  In their final livery the 18 Corsairs were all-blue with white recognition stripes and nose art on most.  Here's #13 'Miss Nellie' dressed up like this.  I have no information about the markings when VMF-512 was based at Pollocksville and Mojave, i.e., before their days in Santa Barbara.

Images on this page are thumbnails... please click on one to view a larger version.

Large EE markings 
VMF-512 moved to Santa Barbara in December 1944 where this photo of EE54 was taken.  It shows the large fuselage marking in fresh looking paint.  Evidently some previous markings were painted over.  The crash photo from Santa Barbara dated Jan 1945 shows EE66.  

What were the other numbers?  There were 18 Corsairs in the carrier squadron and EE54 - EE66 covers 13 aircraft.  I don't know for sure the first and last sequence numbers but I know one of the F6Fs was EE70.  Since the 2 F6Fs joined VMF-512 late in Santa Barbara perhaps EE70 was the last or next to last in the sequence.   My best guess is the 18 Corsairs were EE52 through EE69 and the 2 F6Fs EE70 and EE71 or perhaps EE51-68 with the F6Fs as EE69-70.

These large markings were seen on the carrier for a little while.  Here's a photocopy of a page captioned at the National Archives "the first catapult launch..." and dated March 10, 1945 showing EE55.  The subject of the next photo, EE62, is the set-up for the formal portraits of the pilots in the cockpit but is not dated.  Another undated image from the carrier shows Ron Spjeldet with Hard Hearted Hanna where an EE marked plane can be seen in the background.  Ron remembers his Hanna might have been EE62.  These numbers were repainted at least once - note the Santa Barbara pictures have solid letters while the ones from the carrier are done with a stencil. 

Small number markings 
The large EE markings disappeared to be replaced with smaller numbers painted on both sides of the vertical stabilizer and cowl as well as the forward-facing landing gear doors.

What was the range of numbers?  I have  photos where the Corsairs are from 11 to 28.  The Hellcats were numbers 19 and 29, perhaps selected at random but I doubt the Marines did things that way.  Noticing that half the Corsairs fit between 19 and 29 I think the other Corsairs were numbered 10-18 thus placing an F6F at the ends of the two sequences 10-18 and 20-28 thereby accounting for the 18 Corsairs.

The transition date to the small markings may be estimated from a few dated photos taken by the USN photographers.  Major Mueller's Corsair crashed on May 23, the first day of combat for the Gilbert Islands.  The large EE marking is gone.  The USS Gilbert Islands sailed from San Diego April 12 and so the changeover to the small numbers happened within a few weeks, perhaps even before the carrier left San Diego April 12 for the Pacific.

Data markings
Very few of these seem to have been applied.  The prop blades have the usual Hamilton ovals while the vertical stabilizer has the standard 2 line marking... 'NAVY' over the bureau number.  The rudder has one line, undoubtedly the mandatory marking for aircraft type in this case either 'F4U-1D' or 'FG-1D'.  A few pictures show a white stripe on the fuselage under the canopy.  Other than these I didn't see anything in the photos.

Aircraft bureau numbers (BuNo)
I have some bureau numbers from their days on the carrier but not before.  Once aboard the carrier all planes lost whether by accident or in combat had the BuNo written in the War Diary of the USS Gilbert Islands which I obtained from the National Archives.  My archival copy covers the first flights during work up in San Diego in March 1945 and goes to October 30, 1945.  A few more numbers were obtained from Tom Liggett's May 1945 log book page.  Lts. Liebich and Leidecker of VMTB-143 flew a few hops in 512 Corsairs as recorded in their pilot logs which I have copies of.  And Lt. Spjeldet sent a copy of his pilot log from April - Dec 1945 from which bureau numbers not found elsewhere have been complied into the table.  I used Joe Baugher's site at to ID the specific types.  The photos in the vicinity of the vertical stabilizer are not good enough to see the BuNos on individual planes except for 82732 on number 22. 

Please note the 3 FG-1As were flown by Lt. Spjeldet during April 21-23 while he was on land in Oahu.  These BuNos were not seen in his days on the carrier.  I believe they were not on the carrier. 

Joe Baughner's
BuNo Date Aircraft Lost   Comment
F3A-1 11257 16-Mar-45   Lt. Reichwald crashed at sea, rescued
FG-1A 14031     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book (21Apr45 at Oahu) 
FG-1A 14306     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book (23Apr45 at Oahu) 
FG-1A 14535     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book (22Apr45 at Oahu) 
F4U-1D 57526 12-Jun-45   Lt. Steeb forced landing Okinawa, escaped
F4U-1D 57820     Capt. Liggett 24-May-45 log
F4U-1D 57821 23-May-45   Lt. Miller crashed at sea, killed
F4U-1D 57855 23-May-45   Maj. Mueller's crash on deck, rescued
FG-1D 76545     Capt. Liggett 23-May-45 log
F4U-1D 82732     Photo of number 23
F4U-1D 82737     Capt. Liggett 29-May-45 log
F4U-1D 82792     Capt. Liggett 7-May-45 log
F4U-1D 82819 6-Jun-45   Lt. Windham crashed at sea, rescued
F4U-1D 82842 23-May-45   plane hit by Maj. Mueller
F4U-1D 82846     Capt. Liggett 29-May-45 log
FG-1D 87792     Lt. Liebich log 8-Sep-45
FG-1D 87794 25-Jul-45   Capt. Liggett crashed at sea, rescued
FG-1D 87853     Capt. Liggett 9-May-45 log
FG-1D 87853     Capt. Liggett 30-May-45 log shot down a Dinah
FG-1D 87864     Lt. Liebich log 9-Nov-45
FG-1D 87886     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book
FG-1D 87913 8-Jun-45   Lt. White shot down and killed
FG-1D 88030     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book
FG-1D 88038     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book
FG-1D 88040     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book
FG-1D 88049     Lt. Liebich log 30-Oct-45 
FG-1D 88085     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book
FG-1D 88112     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book
FG-1D 88124     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book
FG-1D 88127     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book
FG-1D 88128     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book
FG-1D 88241     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book
FG-1D 92021     Lt. Leidecker 1-Nov-45
FG-1D 92043     Lt. Spjeldet Log Book

White recognition stripes
 Maj. John Elliott USMC (ret) published a beautifully done series of books The Official Monogram US Navy and Marine Corps Aircraft Color Guide.  In volume 2 on p.121 he says the technical order directing carrier-specific recognition stripes to be painted on the planes aboard the CVEs was issued June 2, 1945.  On the USS Gilbert Islands they were not painted on right away as in June the planes were pounding targets in the Sakishima Gunto.  I don't have enough dated Corsair pictures so I infer the paint-on dates from the TBM markings of VMTB-143. 

During the Balikpapan operation June 30 - July 3 the TBMs don't yet have the stripes.  The earliest dated photo with stripes is this photo of P87 over the edge, dated at the National Archives Aug 13.  Between July 7 and July 29 the carrier's planes were on land at Tacloban where the CVE recognition markings must have been painted on.

Some of the vets refer to these as invasion stripes.

Photos of the individual planes 
Photos are presented in the order the planes were numbered.  I could find no images of 10, 14, 17, and 20.  There's at least something on the other fourteen even if it's just an image of the uninteresting port side.  Beautiful and creative nose art was on most planes.

There's evidence that some of the Corsairs were renumbered since the photos of numbers 11 and 26 both show The Mad Cossack.  My 2 photos of Susie Q show a 6 portside and a beginning 2 on the starboard side.  I'm listing Susie Q as 16 to avoid conflict with The Mad Cossack 26. 

Click here to see a slide show of just nose art close ups.

No photo

11 The Mad Cossack
 Note plane 26 has this art too. 

No artwork seen on starboard or port. Number 12 is the third plane in the the Marpi Pt. lineup.

13 Miss Nellie
No art on port side as determined from Marpi Pt lineup where 13 is the fourth plane in.

No photo

No artwork on either side.  For starboard see the carrier deck photo under 12.  For port see the worship service photo. Number 15 is in the background of a VMTB-143 squadron photo where a crudely written note can be seen under the cowl. 

16 Susie Q
Susie Q has art on both sides.

No photo

No art on port side (see photo under 21).

19 F6F

No photo

21 The Brooklyn Butcher
This one has art on both sides.

22 Grand Slam
Grand Slam is the only one showing mission marks... 21 bombs under the starboard wind screen.  It's also the only one where a BuNo is visible on the tail, in this case 82732.

23 Man O War!

No photo of starboard.  No art on port side.

25 Semper Fi
The take-off photo has no artwork - it must have been added later.

26 The Mad Cossack
One of the more entertaining schemes, it's on both sides but slightly different.

No art visible on port side

No art visible on port side

29 F6F

Also, one was named Hard Hearted Hanna.  Pilot Ron Spjeldet says this was the other Corsair destroyed when Maj. Mueller crashed on May 23. The War Diary records its BuNo as 82842 but I don't know its small number. 

By my count 9 Corsairs show nose art (using The Mad Cossack twice).  Numbers 12 and 15 are the only two with both the port and starboard views showing no art indicating 9 of 11 have nose art with no information for the other 7 planes.

Note to modelers and artists: if you do one of these please send photos of your work.  

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