Young McPhail spent his youth in Tyler, Texas. Between classes and jobs he learned to fly at the Tyler Pounds Regional Airport, cutting the skies, and his teeth, in a piper cub. His draw towards aviation grew and he set his sights on the next best opportunity, flying fighters in the United States Marine Corps. He commissioned and went active duty 3 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Quickly his unit was graduated and the fleet of Grumman F4F Wildcats deployed to the Pacific theatre where they waited out the nerve-wracking aerial Japanese bombardments. His second deployment to Okinawa, now outfitted with the state-of-the-art F4U Corsair, focused on air to ground support and aerial combat. He received two confirmed kills in that 10-month deployment. In 1950, he was recalled and sent to North Korea to fight the Chinese and North Koreans in the unforgiving terrain of the Chosin Reservoir. He was awarded the distinguished flying cross and numerous air medals, and at 102 years old is the oldest living F4U Corsair pilot left. This is Part 1 of his story.
His wrap sheet is one of honor and courage, the medals on his chest prove that. After 4000 hours in combat flight and more than 400 combat missions in two wars, Joe McPhail, to this day, is the oldest living F4U Corsair pilot. Having served 2 deployments to the Pacific during WWII and one to the Korean War, McPhail’s two Distinguished Flying Crosses represent a legacy of fighting for American in the air. In Part 2, we hear about his close air support missions in Okinawa during WWII, and his return to Korea to support ground troops at the Chosin Reservoir. “I lost many friends,” he says, but he survived ten months and 100 missions in combat in his Corsair. After his service he continued to fly privately and accrued what would become 17,000 + hours flying.