Scott McCusky and his wingman, Bill Leonard, crash-landed their two F4F-3's on the beach near Cape Henslow on the southeast coast of Guadalcanal on the evening of May 4, not May 7, 1942. The best account of this incident is in John Lundstrom's excellent volume, "The First Team". There is no indication of the markings of the plane McCusky flew on May 4, but at that time VF-42 had a large black aircraft number centered on the vertical fin. The squadron number (42) had been painted out by this time, leaving just an 'F' and plane number on each fuselage side, just below and aft of the cockpit. Their aircraft had national insignia in six positions, and thirteen red and white stripes on the rudders.
Since I first read Lundstrom's book years ago, I've always wondered if those two Wildcats are recoverable, but the surf probably battered them to pieces after a few weeks.
Both volumes of the "First Team" are exceptional and I am re-reading it as we speak. If I knew the side number I would have what I need.
It seems that there are lots of decal options to do his May 8th bird, but not the earlier one.
I have had the same thought regarding the fate of those planes, but I suspect you are right about them. The surf would have destroyed them in no time. That area is referred to as the "weather coast", so you can imagine the waves coming in from open Pacific.
Interestingly, I was on Guadalcanal about 12 or so years back and I ended up at the Point Cruz Yacht Club for the anniversary celebrations of the landings. I ran into a gentleman named Sam Cooke who apparently was Bill Leonard's wingman during his later time with VF-11 in early '43. He was there with his family for the ceremony and we ended up at their table. His grand kids were quite surprised when I pulled out the Osprey Wildcat Aces book and showed them where their Grandad had been part of the most successful Wildcat squadron of 1943. Suddenly Grandad's old war stories were a bit more real.
I stood at the end of the dock and Mr. Cooke pointed out to me where he had "dropped a couple of Bettys" (his words) into Iron Bottom Sound right in front of us. A nice evening!
I have an understanding wife who also happens to be the grand daughter of a Guadalcanal vet. We had our honeymoon there. I did see a fair bit of wreckage and certainly got an appreciation of the difficulties of fighting there. We walked most of the Henderson perimeter, flew the slot, went to Kennedy Island, Munda, etc. Amazing stuff! Walking in the footsteps of Boyington, Sakai, Nishizawa, VF-17, Carlson's raiders, etc. Seeing the Cookes was especially fun and as you say, interesting to see it with a vet to point it out.
Check out John Lundstrom's Book "The First Team"...
July 17 2012, 9:51 PM
Check out John Lundstrom's book, "The First Team" Pearl Harbor to Midway. In the appendices there is a great deal of information about F4F markings. That should give you what you are looking for. Besides, it's a really great read as well.
I am re-reading it again for about the 5th time, actually. The problem is that all of the available information is on his May 8th plane. I agree, if I had a side number I could figure it out. The BuNo gives what I need for the cowling and other variations by production batch, but I need a side number.
From Nouméa where I was living then, to Efate, then to Guadalcanal, went to the same yacht club in Point Cruz, had two dives on the Jap freighter sunk during the reinforcement convoy, then flew to Bougainville, Keita, Rabaul, had a couple of neat dives there, exploring the old Japs airfleilds, and back the same way. It was in 1979 and Boy did I enjoy myself! Best regards from France.
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