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  F4F-3 Wildcat Bureau Number 2531  
USN
USS Yorktown CV-5
VF-42

Pilot  Lt(jg) Leslie L. B. Knox, O-083148 USNR (MIA / KIA) Brisbane, Australia
MIA  May 7, 1942


Aircraft History
Built by Grumman Corporation in Bethpage, New York as a model G-36 with manually operated folding wings. Delivered to the United States Navy (USN) as F4F-4 Wildcat bureau number 2531.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U. S. Navy (USN), USS Yorktown CV-5 to squadron VF-42. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On May 7, 1942 took off from USS Yorktown CV-5 during the Battle of Coral Sea piloted by Lt(jg) Leslie L. B. Knox as one of seven Wildcats led by Flatley on a dusk Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over the carrier.

The first section included flight leader Flatley with Ens. John Baker and Ens. Harry Gibbs. The section section included Brainard Macomber and Edgar Bassett. The third section included Lt(jg) William Woollen and Ensign Leslie L. B. Knox. At 6:08pm while flying at 2,000' at a heading of 240° roughly 30 miles south of the carrier they descended into rain clouds and spotted action below.

Spotting six aircraft emerge from the clouds in the opposite direction that were at first believed to be friendly Wildcats from VF-2 but were then identified as enemy aircraft.

Without orders, Ensign Knox left formation to attack and was followed by Woollen and attacked a formation of six B5N Kates led by Lt. Tatsuo Ichihara from Shokaku. During his first pass, Knox claimed one shot down and broke up the formation into two sections with both pilots chasing them individually into bad weather.

When Knox failed to return, he was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). He likely shot a second Kate before being hit by defensive fire or becoming lost due to radio or Zed Baker homing beacon failure.

Memorials
Knox was officially declared dead May 8, 1943. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. He earned the Navy Cross, Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.

Navy Cross citation:
"For extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron FORTY-TWO (VF-42), embarked from the U.S.S. YORKTOWN (CV-5), in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea. On that evening, as one of the fighters launched to oppose enemy Japanese aircraft in the vicinity of his ship, Ensign Knox attacked a formation of seven enemy aircraft, shooting down one and assisting in the action which resulted in dispersing the others. In this engagement he displayed unusual skill and devotion to duty, carrying out his mission with determination and aggressiveness against great enemy odds and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. He failed to return from this action. His outstanding courage and determined skill were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

References
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4F-3 Wildcat 2531
"2531 (VF-42) lost May 4-8, 1942, Battle of Coral Sea. From carrier Yorktown downed Zero May 8, 1942 and low on fuel landed on damaged carrier Lexington and sank with her."
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List May 1942 - F4F-3 Wildcat 2531 VF-42 Knox
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Leslie L. B. Knox
FindAGrave - LtJG Leslie Lockhart Bruce Knox (tablets of the missing)
AviationHeritage - Leslie Lockhart Bruce Knox (Navy cross citation, photo)
AWM Commemorative Roll - Leslie Lockhart Bruce Knox
Albright College "Leslie Knox ’38: Australian Pilot at Coral Sea"
Navy Cross Citations U.S. Navy - World War II - KNOX, LESLIE LOCKHART BRUCE
"Citation: The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Leslie Lockhart Bruce Knox, Ensign, U.S. Navy (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron FORTY-TWO (VF-42), embarked from the U.S.S. YORKTOWN (CV-5), in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea. On that evening, as one of the fighters launched to oppose enemy Japanese aircraft in the vicinity of his ship, Ensign Knox attacked a formation of seven enemy aircraft, shooting down one and assisting in the action which resulted in dispersing the others. In this engagement he displayed unusual skill and devotion to duty, carrying out his mission with determination and aggressiveness against great enemy odds and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. He failed to return from this action. His outstanding courage and determined skill were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Born: November 7, 1916 at Brisbane, Australia
Home Town: Hillside, New Jersey"
The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway pages 54, 212-213, 218, 539 (index)

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Last Updated
July 22, 2018

 

Tech Info
Wildcat

MIA
MIA
1 Missing
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