The F4U Corsair was flown by both the Navy and the Marines and was known as “The Angel of Okinawa.” However, to our enemies, it became known as the “Whistling Death.”
Robert Klingman was in the Civilian Military Training Program in the Great Depression. He learned what it was like to be in the military while at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After leaving the program there, he went into the Marine Corps.
Once his four years were over, he left the military to return home. He opened his own diner but did not like living a civilian life. His brother recommended that Klingman return to the military.
He re-enlisted, but instead of the Marines, he went into the Navy. He was to head to the USS Tennessee, but first, he needed to go to San Diego for training.
Klingman made it to California in time to see everything change. His first day was December 7, 1941. He worked hard while training and went into pre-flight school.
He became an aviation cadet and worked hard through flight school but had to make a decision. He had to choose between the Navy and the Marine Corps.
Klingman went to Okinawa with the Marine, where they were dealing with Japanese kamikazes.
Klingman noticed that whenever the reconnaissance planes flew over, they made two full passes. That was because they were taking photos so they could assign a pilot to each ship.
Klingman made it his mission to take out those planes. The Japanese were flying Kawasaki Ki-45 “Nick” planes. The planes could fly at high elevations.
Marines With a Plan
The Marines knew that if they could get high enough, they could take out the Nicks. When they reached 13,000 feet, the pilots released their drop tanks, reaching 20,000 feet.
They shot .50 caliber rounds at the Japanese planes, which helped to further lighten the planes. The Corsairs flew higher, but two out of four began to freeze up and had to head home.
Klingman tried to fire, but his guns were frozen. He chose to use his plane as a weapon instead, hitting the Japanese plane with his propeller. He tore up the enemy plane but also damaged his Corsair in the process.
He ran out of fuel at 10,000 feet and coasted the F4U to the runway. He earned the Navy Cross for his endeavors.