Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat of Fighting Squadron 5 (VF-5) 


A U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat of Fighting Squadron 5 (VF-5) during a flight out of Guadalcanal. VF-5 had been based aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3). Most of her air group was flown to Guadalcanal after the carrier had been torpedoed on 27 August 1942. VF-5 operated 24 Wildcats from Guadalcanal but, after five weeks, only five aircraft remained operational. (Wikipedia)


How to paint my Wildcat?

Hard to tell the right shade of blue when you start searching on the Internet.


But I think Plane Dave has the answer…

F12 would be how I want my vintage Monogram F4F to look.


F12 was flown by Pug Southerland who was on this group picture.


Collection Richard Harmer (courtesy Tom Harmer)


Pug Southerland

At the beginning of the Battle of Guadalcanal, August 7, 1942, American forces shelled Guadalcanal and neighboring Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. Soon after the attack began, 27 Japanese bombers and an escort of 17 fighters took off from Rabaul, Japan’s stronghold and strategic base in the South Pacific. Their mission was to bomb the ships that were supporting the American attack.

Lieutenant Southerland commanded a group of eight American Wildcats aboard the USS Saratoga as a part of VF-5. Due to planning errors and the loss of planes to a recent training exercise, this was the only fighter cover available to patrol the landing area. Southerland (flying Wildcat F-12) and his flight took off to intercept the Japanese bombers before they could reach the American ships.

Southerland shot down the first Japanese aircraft of the Guadalcanal campaign, a G4M1 “Betty” bomber of the 4th Kōkūtai, under the command of Shizuo Yamada. After shooting down a second bomber, Southerland was engaged in a dogfight with an A6M2 “Zero”, piloted by Yamazaki Ichirobei of the Tainan Kōkūtai. He lined up the Zero in his sights only to find his guns would not fire, probably due to damage from fire by the tailgunner from the second bomber he had downed.

Although he was now defenseless, Southerland had to stay in the fight. Two more Zeros engaged him, as Kakimoto Enji and Uto Kazushi joined Yamazaki’s assault, but he successfully outmaneuvered all three of them. Southerland analyzed their tactics. Two fighters worked their runs from opposite flanks, while the third waited to take its turn. He coolly and carefully executed his defensive maneuvers. The dogfight was spotted by Saburo Sakai. Sakai also joined the battle. These Zeros finally shot down Southerland’s Wildcat, striking it below the left wing root with his 20mm cannon. Yamazaki, Uto and Sakai shared Southerland’s Grumman kill. Southerland later wrote:

My plane was in bad shape but still performing nicely in low blower, full throttle, and full low pitch. Flaps and radio had been put out of commission…The after part of my fuselage was like a sieve. She was still smoking from incendiary but not on fire. All of the ammunition box cover on my left wing were gone and 20mm explosives had torn some gaping holes in its upper surface…My instrument panel was badly shot up, goggles on my forehead had been shattered, my rear view mirror was broken, my plexiglass windshield was riddled. The leak proof tanks had apparently been punctured many times as some tuel had leaked down into the bottom of the cockpit even though there was no steady leakage. My oil tank had been punctured and oil was pouring down my right leg.At this time a zero making a run from the port quarter put a burst in just under the left wing root and good old 5-F-12 finally exploded. I think the explosion occurred from gasoline vapor. The flash was below and forward of my left foot. I was ready for it…Consequently I dove over the right side just aft immediately, though I don’t remember how.[1]

As Southerland bailed out of his doomed Wildcat, his .45 caliber automatic pistolcaught in the cockpit. He managed to free himself, but lost his pistol, leaving him weaponless, wounded, and alone behind enemy lines. Suffering from eleven wounds, shock and exhaustion, Southerland struggled through the brush, carefully evading Japanese soldiers. He finally reached the coast, where he was found by some natives, who at the risk of their own lives, fed him and treated his wounds. With their assistance, he eluded Japanese ground forces and returned to American lines. Southerland was evacuated from Guadalcanal on the first patrol boat to land at Henderson Field, on August 20, 1942.

On February 14, 1998, the wreckage of Southerland’s Wildcat was found, including his pistol. Investigation of the remains confirmed these accounts of the dogfight.

Source Wikipedia

About the original caption under the group picture…


Original caption

Tom Harmer told me he did not know who wrote the caption. It’s most certainly not his father when you look at the original caption!

Whoever wrote it, Tom told me I could edit the caption.


Half of these men died in the battle…?

I know this is not true. I know how many died.



Lieutenant (Junior Grade ) Donald A. Innis


Ensign Robert L. Price


Lieutenant (Junior Grade ) Charles A. Tabberer

Two more would die later over Guadalcanal when VF-5 pilots would join the Cactus Air Force.




Ensign C.E. Eichenberger
(arrived 11 September, 1942, killed in crash after combat 12 September, 1942)


Ensign G.J. Morgan
(arrived 11 September, 1942, missing in action 2 October, 1942)



One thought on “Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat of Fighting Squadron 5 (VF-5) 

  1. Ensign G. J. Morgan’s name is mentioned here.

    What happened to George Treptow between the squadron’s scramble and return to base may never be fully known. Historian Lundstrom states that Treptow “chased the main body” of the Marine force, and was “climbing alone” to the fight.[2] His aircraft may have been suffering from engine trouble; at least four other pilots, including Marion Carl, complained of similar trouble. The Wildcats’ breathing apparatus was notoriously faulty; oxygen deprivation may have slowed his reflexes and made it impossible to reach altitude. Whatever the cause, George Treptow was missing. So was his squadron leader, Major Galer; so were Major Smith, Bill Lees, and 2Lt. Charles Kendrick from VMF-223, and a Navy pilot, Ensign G. J. Morgan. The dismayed pilots only claimed four Japanese shot down.

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