the Night Shift
Cdr. Guy P. ("Lucky Pierre") Bordelon was the only naval aviator to attain ace status during the war in Korea. Piloting "Annie Mo," his F4U-5N night fighter version of the Corsair, Bordelon recorded five aerial victories. In so doing Bordelon became the last Corsair ace, and the last pilot to become an American ace while flying a propeller driven aircraft. Navy and Marine aviators were primarily focused on ground support and ground attack missions during the war, leaving the job of "mig killing" to the USAF. During three years of combat in Korea, naval aviators flew more than 250,000 combat sorties, delivering more than 326 million pounds of bombs to their targets. Naval aviation is generally credited with destroying 2,600 enemy vessels, 2,000 bridges, 250 tanks, and 74 aircraft destroyed on the ground. These missions were not without a price as more than 500 aircraft were lost to ground fire during the war. The U.S. Navy utilized a wide array of aircraft in Korea, as it transitioned from prop to jet power. In addition to the Corsair other prop aircraft included the Douglas AD-2, AD-3 and AD-4 Skyraiders, the twin-engine Grumman F7F Tigercat, the TBM and TBF Avenger, the Convair PB4Y Privateer, and the PBM Mariner. In the jet aircraft department the Navy's primary vehicle was the F9F Panther. F2H Banshees and Douglas F3D Skynights also saw service. Night attacks by North Korean forces on ground positions held by UN forces were referred to as "Bed Check Charlies" by the US pilots. In July of 1953 one of these Bed Check Charlie missions hit a fuel dump at Inchon, which resulted in the loss of five million gallons of fuel. The attack was made by slow flying Yak 18s which were difficult targets for the much faster jets. The Navy dispatched a pair of night fighting Corsairs from the USS Princeton under the leadership of Guy Bordelon to an airfield just south of Seoul. In a three week period Bordelon flew three night interdiction missions and bagged five Bed Check Charlies. Bordelon's Corsair, "Annie Mo" was left behind when his unit returned to the Princeton. Unfortunately, the aircraft was destroyed, and therefore did not survive the war. As depicted by Stan Stokes, in the artist's highly-detailed painting entitled Working the Night Shift, Bordelon's Annie Mo returns to the Princeton at daybreak after a late night mission in June of 1953. In the background can be seen a Sikorsky HO3S-1 which provided plane guard duties for returning naval aviators in Korea.
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