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F4U Corsair — Greatest Piston-Engine Fighter Ever?

Both the short & long answers are no.

But it was one of the best for what it was designed for.

Note: besides the P-47, the Hellcat & later Bearcat also used the R-2800 engine, albeit different sub-types, as did the B-26 Marauder.
 
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One of my uncles was a Marine Gunny maintenance section chief for Corsairs stationed on Guadalcanal. They worked on aircraft mainly during day, and if available tried to watch a movie shipped from the states at night. Problem was the movie and/or your sleep were usually interrupted by the almost nightly Japanese air raid.

My uncle and those in current times who have gone TDY to Guadalcanal dispel the myth of some island paradise. It is hot, humid and stinks like heck. Don't go.
 
After it's problematic introduction to the fleet, in which it was beached, the Marines, and land based Navy squadrons made their presence known but QUICK.
Once the bouncing issue was solved it really made its presence known on ship.
But, best ever is subjective, it, and it's variants were produced longer than it's competition, the last F4U's were built in the 50s, and they were finally retired in the late 60s after fighting it's last war in South America.
I know the Marine Corps loved them, but in the attack role it was replaced by another truly great bird, the Douglas A-1 Skyraider.
She was the best we had at the time we needed her, and it was the first Naval fighter to outperform it's airforce competition.
 
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The Brits figured out the best way to land a Corsair on aircraft carriers due to the long nose, the USN/USMC adopted that technique, and as mentioned, they fixed the landing gear issue.

Later, in Korea the USMC Corsairs also regularly operated off of the smaller light (CVL) and escort (CVE) carriers.
 
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I still remember watching Black Sheep Squadron on tv when I was a youngin
With my hero, Sgt Micklin (aka Red West, member of the “Memphis Mafia”).
 

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As "performance" depends very much (and sometimes entirely) on the nature of the mission, when has it ever been relevant to advocate for the supremacy of any airplane, tank, rifle or canteen?
I don't recall the Corsair distinguishing itself as an escort for long range bombers. P-51's were not the go-to choice for CAS, Mosquitoes & P-38's contributed little to the defense of Britain during the Blitz. Inexplicably, they were not selected for the interception of Yamamoto's junket. Arguing for one's favorite aircraft as being just the bestest ever diverts discussion from aspects that are actually relevant.
 
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The first YP-38 pre-production prototype flew in September 1940. The first Lightning I arrived in the UK in March 1942.

The P-38 Lightning had no chance of fighting in the Blitz (Sep 7, 1940 – May 11, 1941)


The Mosquito didn't enter service until November 1941.


Perhaps you mistook their (Mosquito) use during the later Buzz Bomb (V1) attacks.
The point is not the chronology of events or introduction of types, rather it's the pointlessness of even trying to proclaim a GOAT when performance is dependent on the mission it has been designed for (or assigned to).
The thing that makes the Corsair so relatively "long-lived" was that there was a mission it could still perform even as the jets were off fighting amongst themselves. There is no perfect instrument, only the correct instrument for the job at hand.
 
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