By the time VMF 121 received their F4U Corsairs, they had already established a reputation as one of the Marine Corps most feared fighter units. Since their formation in 1941, equipped with F4F Wildcats, they had played a major role as part of the 'Cactus Airforce' in the defense of Henderson Field, the vital airfield on the island of Guadalcanal.
With the arrival of the new F4U in April 1943, the pilots of VMF 121 fought their way aggressively up through the Solomon Islands - the sky above New Georgia, Bougainville and Rendova soon becoming familiar aerial battlegrounds, VMF 121 fought to the end of the war, amassing 209 enemy aircraft destroyed, with 15 of its pilots making 'Ace'.
In his spectacular painting, Nicolas Trudgian portrays the Corsairs of VMF 121 providing close air support to the US landings on Rendova, June 30, 1943. Fiercely contested, the invasion force was heavily attacked by Zero fighters and Mitsubishi G4M1 'Betty' bombers, flying from their base at Rabaul.
Dogfighting at treetop height, VMF 121 Corsairs rip into a bunch of Betty bombers as they try to make their escape following their attack on shipping.. On fire, the Betty in the foreground is doomed, and will shortly become one of 19 Japanese aircraft accounted for by VMF 121. Other Marine fighter units brought the total this day to a staggering 58 enemy aircraft destroyed.
An edition featuring the Vought F4U Corsairs of VMF121 during the assault on Rendova in the Solomons, June 30, 1943.
Colonel Robert M. Baker USMC
Bob Baker joined the Marine Corps in 1941 and first saw combat in the Pacific Theater in February 1942. By the summer of 1943 he was flying F4Us with VMF 121 over the Solomons. On June 30 he downed three Zeros in one fight. Two days later he and three of his flight were attacked by a large force of over 40 Zeros, Baker shot down two in the action to become an Ace. For these actions he was awarded the DFC. He fought at Rendova, also Guadalcanal and Munda.
Colonel Robert Bruce Porter USMC
After a tour in the Pacific, Bruce joined VMF 121 in 1943 at Guadalcanal and soon downed 4 Zeros. He served tours with VMF (N) 511 (first all-Marine carrier squadron), and later VMF (N) 533. He helped lead that squadron on one of the longest over-water flights of WWII for a single engine aircraft - flying from the Marshall-Gilbert islands to Saipan-Iwo Jima. On June 15, 1945 he scored a double night victory at Okinawa, making him an Ace. He was probably the only Marine pilot to gain two or more kills in both the Corsair and Hellcat; and became only one of six Marines to score a double or triple kill in one mission.
Colonel James E. Swett USMC
Jim Swett became one of the top-scoring F4U Aces, with 15 ½ victories in 94 missions in the Corsair, but he had already earned himself the Congressional Medal of Honor piloting the F4F Wildcat before switching to the F4U. Leading a four-plane section with VMF 221 on April 7, 1942 he shot down no fewer than 7 Japanese Val dive-bombers in an engagement over Tulagi Harbor, before taking a hit himself, and ditching in the sea. In all Jim Swett flew 211 combat missions, 94 in F4U Corsairs, made 120 carrier launches and recoveries, and in addition to his Medal of Honor, were awarded 6 DFCs and 2 Purple Hearts.
Overall print size: 36" wide x 22 1/2" high.