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  F4F-4 "Junior" Bureau Number 5192 Tail Number F-12
USN
USS Saratoga
VF-5


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M Claringbould 2008

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M Claringbould 1998

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Justin Taylan 2003

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Justin Taylan 2006

Pilot  James "Pug" Southerland II (survived) Narberth, PA
Crashed  August 7, 1942


Aircraft History
Built by Grumman as a model G-36 with manually operated folding wings. On April 1, 1942 delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4F-F Wildcat bureau number 5192.

Wartime History
During early April 1942, assigned to USS Saratoga CV-3 to squadron VF-5 "Fighting Five". This Wildcat was assigned the tail number F-12. VF-5 was the only Navy squadron to retain the letter F designator. Nicknamed "Junior" in small black letters beneath the cockpit by pilot Ensign Mortimer Kleinmann, Jr.

Mission History
On August 7, 1942 took off from USS Saratoga CV-3 at 12:03pm on a mission to intercept the first Japanese air raid against U. S. transports in Sealark Channel (Iron Bottom Sound) off Guadalcanal. In the rush to intercept, James "Pug" Southerland tooked off piloting F4F-F Wildcat 5192 assigned to Ensign Mortimer Kleinmann.

Around 1:18pm, Southerland shot down a G4M1 Betty bomber of the 4th Kōkūtai, under the command of Shizuo Yamada, the first Japanese aircraft shot down of the Guadalcanal campaign.

After shooting down the bomber, he was engaged by A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai, including Saburo Sakai. Following a lengthy dog fight, this Wildcat was hit by both 7.7mm machine gun then 20mm cannon fire and severely damaged. Southerland managed to bail out just moments before the damaged aircraft exploded before crashing.

After shooting down this Wildcat, Saburo Sakai made a solo attack against a formation of SBD Dive Bombers, mistaking them as more fighters. As he closed to attack, the dive bomber's rear gunners opened fire and hit his Zero and severely wounded him. Although wounded, Sakai managed to fly back to base, blinded in one eye in his heavily damaged Zero.

Officially, this Wildcat was not removed from the Navy list until September 30, 1942. This aircraft was the first American aircraft shot down during the Guadalcanal campaign. The dogfight when it was lost is documented air combats of the Pacific War, as both pilots survived to record their experiences.

Fate of the Pilot
After bailing out, Southerland bailed out and parachuted to the ground unhurt. He was met by Solomon Islander Bruno Nana who helped him to reach American lines. On August 20, 1942, Southerland was evacuated from Guadalcanal on the first PBY Catalina to land at Henderson Field. He later returned to combat and became an ace himself, and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

Wreckage
This Wildcat exploded at low altitude moments before impacting the ground. The wreckage landed in a ravine covered with dense jungle. Most parts have been well preserved by thick foliage protection. Black stenciling is visible on both sides of the fin "NAVY 5192", and a stencil on the inside of a cowl flap "5192". Parts of the left elevator still had intact camouflaged fabric on them. Three Browning .5 caliber machine guns were located, as was the engine, with two cylinders cleanly removed through combat damage, and bullet holes in the prop.

Michael Claringbould adds:
"On February 14, 1998 I was led by a Solomon Islander to the scattered wreckage of a Wildcat fighter. Markings on the wreckage confirm that the aircraft was Bu 5192 flown by "Pug" Southerland II, shot down by Japanese ace Saburo Sakai on August 7, 1942, the date of the Guadalcanal US landing. I was substantially assisted in my research by John Innes, expert on Guadalcanal battlefields, and New Zealander Ewan Stevenson. The aircraft is arguably the most historic U. S. Navy aircraft wreck of World War II"

Justin Taylan adds:
"I visited this wreckage twice. The first time Claringbould's help in 2003 and the second time with a documentary crew in 2006. The second visit appears in the documentary Dogfight Over Guadalcanal, that aired on PBS . NOVA Secrets of the Dead."

Memorials
Southerland attained the rank of Commander. On January 12, 1949 he disappeared in a jet training accident during a take off accident from a carrier off Florida.

Relatives
Sheridan John Southerland (son of James "Pug" Southerland II)

References
New York Times "Flier Fights 31 Japanese Planes; Has 11 Wounds When He Bails Out" March 15, 1943
FindAGrave - CDR James Julien "Pug" Southerland, II (photo)
"Fighter Pilots in Aerial Combat" No. 6 Fall 1982 by John Lundstrom
Samurai! by Saburo Sakai pages 160-162 recollections of the dogfight
The First Team And The Guadalcanal Campaign pages 48-55 and 552-3
Winged Samurai pages 59-71 (reprint of Lundstrom's 1982 article)
Ozoru
Pacific Ghosts CD-ROM documents F4F Wildcat 5192
PBS/NOVA Secrets of the Dead "Dogfight Over Guadalcanal" 2006
Thanks to Sheridan John Southerland and Michael Claringbould for additional information

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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