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  F4F-4 Wildcat Bureau Number 12084  
USMC
MAG-12
VMF-221

Pilot  1st Lt. James E. Swett (survived) Seattle, WA
Ditched  April 7, 1943


Aircraft History
Built by Grumman Corporation in Bethpage, New York as a model G-36 with manually operated folding wings. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4F-4 Wildcat bureau number 12084.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) to Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12) to squadron VMF-221 "Fighting Falcons". No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On April 7, 1943 took off piloted by 1st Lt. James E. Swett on a mission to intercept incoming Japanese aircraft attacking Allied shipping in Tulagi Harbor. With wingman SSgt Jack Pittman, the pair fired on two D3A Val dive bombers, with Swett's observed to burst into flames and Pittman's observed to smoke and fall into the sea. Afterwards, the pair became separated and flew independently.

Next, Swett claimed two more D3A Val dive bombers, claiming both as shot down in flames, one exploding the other being fired on before and after it pulled out of its dive, then went down over Florida Island. Possibly, this was D3A Val 3041. Flying through American anti-aircraft fire, he sustained damage (or from defensive fire from the dive bombers) then encountered more bombers at 500' and claimed four more shot down and chasing another bomber to Santa Isabel, claiming it as damaged but his Wildcat was also damaged by defensive fire from the target's rear gunner. Returning from the mission, he ditched off Florida Island and was later rescued.

Afterwards, an intelligence officer, Lt(jg) Lewis, conducted a five day trip to the areas where Swett’s victims might have fallen and talked to natives and ground troops, and checked other sources of information, to verify Swett’s claims. His conclusion was that the claims were valid. A total of three D3A Val dive bombers were investigated on land.

Swett was credited with a total of seven aerial victories and earned the Medal of Honor (MOH). Several of his claims might have also been claimed by anti-aircraft gunners on the ground, aboard vessels in the harbor or other fighter aircraft airborne. Later, Swett told The Oregonian newspaper: “Actually I shot down eight of those Japanese dive bombers, I’m still mad at the Marine Corps for confirming only seven.” Using Japanese action reports listing aircraft lost, Swett's claims were most likely from 582 Kokutai and Zuikaku.

During November 2011, an intact F4F Wildcat was discovered during a sonar survey by HMNZS Resolution and confirmed. This F4F-F Wildcat is intact, with the engine broken off the mount and canopy open. Resting on a sandy bottom at 40m depth. Dubbed "The Gavutu Wildcat". This aircraft is yet to be verified by the U. S. Navy bureau number or other identifying markings. Possibly, this aircraft is F4F-4 Wildcat 12084.

Memorials
Swett passed away on January 18, 2009 in Redding, CA. He is buried at Northern California Veterans Cemetery at section 4, site 329.

References
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4F-4 Wildcat 12084
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List - April 1943 F4F-4 Wildcat 12084 VMF-221 1st Lt. J. E. Swett
Number 7 The Hard Way by Roy Grinnell
X Attack of I-Operation: The Anti-shipping Mission to the Guadalcanal-Tulagi Area on April 7, 1943 by Richard Dunn pages 2, 16, 32, 36, 43-44, 47-48
FindAGrave - James Elms Swett (photo, grave photo)
Historic Aircraft Wreck Found. Is This The Wildcat Of US Ace James E Swett? by Roderick Eime

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Last Updated
July 22, 2018

 

Tech Info
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