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F4U-1A Corsair

In the afternoon of April 23, 1944 a F4U-1A 'Corsair' of VMF-311 crashed into the lagoon at Kwajalein Atoll while on a training flight.

 

1st Lieutenant Frederick C.Hawkes was flying in column with another Corsair, flown by 1st Lieutenant Harold Mehaffey. They were engaged in a simulated rescue exercise with a crash boat, east of Ennylabegan (Carlos) Island. Mehaffey and Hawkes were flying at an altitude of 550 feet, at 110 knots, when Mehaffey dropped a life jacket which was to simulate the victim. 

 

In attempting to turn around the falling life jacket to keep it in sight, Hawkes lost airspeed in the tight turn, stalled his plane, and spun in from an altitude of between 400 and 500 feet. His plane made contact vertically with the water, rose to the surface, and sank within 30 seconds.

 

Mehaffey immediately began circling the crash site at an altitude of 300 feet, but saw no signs of life. The crash boat arrived on the scene within minutes, and searched the area for the next hour and a half, but all that was found was an oil slick and a few pieces of fabric.

 

1st Lieutenant Hawkes was subsequently declared dead. Neither his plane nor remains have yet been found. The Kwajalein MIA Project will launch a search for the plane at the earliest opportunity, and once found, the position of the wreck will be reported to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for further action.