By Tommy H. Thomason

Friday, November 16, 2018

Birth of a Legend, McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II

I've been perfecting my latest and very likely last monograph/book for almost as long as my first, U.S. Naval Air Superiority. At some point, however, you have to either declare victory or surrender if the material is to be shared with those of a similar interest. That time has come for me. Birth of a Legend will be published by Ginter Books ( and should be shipping in mid-December, just in time for Christmas.

I recommend that you order directly from Ginter Books. It isn't much of any extra cost to you but benefits Steve significantly, enabling him to stay in business, releasing excellent monographs on subjects that the big publishers won't take a chance on. (If you like this one, order my XFL-1 monograph (; it's pretty good if I do say so myself and he still has lots.)

As the title suggests, Legend is limited, so to speak, to a detailed history of the genesis, design, development, and initial training squadron use of the F4H-1. It is soft-cover, 8 1/2 by 11 inch, and 184 pages (more than 20 in color). It includes at least one picture of each of the first 47 F4H-1s, at least two of which were very hard to come by, as well as a summary history of each one from its first flight to the circumstances of its withdrawal from service. A description of each of the flights that resulted in records and two that tragically didn't is included.

Some of the content is fairly well known but some significant events, like the desk-top evaluation of competing designs at the Bureau of Aeronautics in mid-1954, the redirection of the program from a general-purpose fighter to a fleet-air-defense fighter, the incorporation of boundary-layer control, and the Navy's evaluation/acceptance tests are described in far more depth (and more accurately) than previously. (The fly-off against the Vought F8U-3 was previously covered in detail in Ginter's Naval Fighters No. 87 but is summarized here.)

As is customary in aircraft development programs, changes had to be made as a result of both problem resolution and mission "creep". This is described with numerous illustrations and a configuration summary. A summary of the differences between the 47th F-4A (the redesignation of the first 47 F4H-1/F4H-1Fs) and the 1st F-4B is also provided, with two, the engine inlet and the inflight refueling probe, covered in detail.

Like most Ginter monographs, there is a short modelers section that lists the few kits and conversions that are available for the early Phantom IIs. However, the detail provided in this one will be essential to creating an accurate model of one of the first 47.

However well you know the F-4, I'm sure that you will find information within these pages that you did not know or were misinformed about and pictures that you have not seen before.


Aleksander Ermakov said...

But why "last"?

cjw_1954 said...

I hope it's not the last one but if it is then what better way to bow out. A much needed volume. Looking forward to it immensely.

Bill Spidle said...

Congratulations Tommy! With the thoroughness of your research I am sure this will be a keeper!

Pat Donahue said...

Great news to finally have a book on the First Phantom
Sad news about it being maybe your last monograph, we will all be the poorer for it.
Pat D

Unknown said...

Hello Tommy!

Why do you write it will be likekely your last book? I sure do hope to read more from you! I especially think the history of the Kaman Seasprite is not adequately described for now and who's going to do it right if you don't do it?

My best wishes for you and have a nice day


JPK said...

Finally, a comprehensive document on the very first Phantoms. All the versions from the 4B up through the 4S have been well served in publications but the early airframes have been virtually ignored. Thanks Tommy, I will be ordering my copy soon.

Anonymous said...

Tommy I have a few of your books and they are excellent in every way. Now with your Phantom publication do you go into detail about the F4H-1 that was loaned to General Electric and had a J79 installed with a large cone stuck in the exhaust section. Again great works on naval aviation and more than likely will get your latest offering.

Tailspin said...

I only mention the plug-nozzle IR suppressor in passing (a caption and two photographs, but one is in color) because it was peripheral to the Phantom II development. However, I'm sure that there is much more in the monograph that will be new to you...

JPK said...

Hey Tommy. Just received your book from Steve and while I have only thumbed through it, your book is far more comprehensive than I thought it would be. The history of the lead up to the beginnings of the Phantom is a book in itself. Lots of info in there. Can't wait to get down to an in depth read.