Book Review: Corsair by Barrett Tillman

Topic & Content

A history of the development and operational service of the Vought F4U Corsair in WWII, Korea, and a few other wars. The book is organized as follows:

  1. Bent-wing legend
  2. Cactus Corsairs
  3. The upper Solomons
  4. The backwater war
  5. Commonwealth Corsairs
  6. With the fast carriers
  7. Corsairs against Japan
  8. Korea
  9. Other wars

Thesis

Tillman’s basic thesis is to not only inform the reader of the operational record of the Corsair but also to elucidate the reasons behind its delayed service aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers (since it was originally designed as a carrier-based aircraft).

Author’s Background

Barrett Tillman is a prolific writer on the topics of military/naval aviation in World War II. Other books he’s written also cover the histories of the F6F Hellcat, the SBD Dauntless, and the TBF/TBM Avenger in similar formats to this book.

Critical Observations

Positives

This book covers a wide breadth of content from the design and development of the Corsair to its variants and operational history in WWII with the U.S. Marines, and eventually, the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy. Following WWII, the Corsair’s service in the Korean War and later wars with foreign militaries, such as the French Aeronavale, and the Honduran and El Salvadorian Air Forces are also examined.

Tillman’s writing is very straightforward and unpretentious. Bearing in mind that I’m no expert in aviation, this book serves as a good introduction to readers who may not be familiar with military aviation or WWII warplanes.

Negatives

While the book covers a good amount of material related to the Corsair’s service, it’s not the most technical of books, and at times, it does seem like it’s going over the material in a very cursory manner. While I’m not expecting a full technical manual on the Corsair, or a day-by-day breakdown of its operational history, I do feel like there’s a lot more that could be written about it, but it just gives you a taste of the history.

Another criticism I have is that this isn’t the most scholarly of works. There are end notes and a bibliography with what appears to be mostly secondary sources, and Tillman’s writing itself seems more aimed at the layperson. In general, what would make this book much better is if it was longer and went into more detail about the aircraft and its use.

Evaluation (Does the content support the thesis?)

Overall, this book does a decent job of covering various aspects of the F4U Corsair and its service history. It has very accessible writing and doesn’t delve too deeply into technical jargon. However, the cursory manner in which it covers so many topics can easily leave a more detail-oriented reader wanting more information. While not the most scholarly of works, it serves as a good introduction to the aircraft.

Rating:

3.5 out of 5

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