Text: Richard Plos


When Operation Watchtower was launched

on August 7, 1942, a “green hell” was waiting

for the men of the 1st Marine Division

under the command of Maj. Gen. Alexander

Vandegrift on Guadalcanal. Though only 2,000

Japanese stood against 6,000 Marines, their

fanatical determination did not waver even

after fighting for 36 hours, when American

forces had captured most of the island,

including the airfield under construction. The

landing was strongly supported by naval and

air forces, with the USS Enterprise’s pilots

making 237 combat sorties that day, others

added by the pilots from the USS Saratoga.

After the Enterprise withdrew from the area,

the aerial support weakened and the Marines

on the island suffered intense bombing.

No wonder they were eagerly awaiting the

arrival of the fighters. Those arrived on

August 20, when VMF-223 Wildcats landed

at Henderson Field.

Air combat and on-site accidents quickly

reduced the numbers of aircraft and just

ten days after arrival there were only five

of the 19 Wildcats left. Even later, after the

arrival of reinforcements, the numbers of

airworthy Wildcats were rapidly decreasing.

The pilots had no choice and no Wildcat from

Guadalcanal can be attributed to a particular

pilot. In the case of the GUADALCANAL

Limited kit, we solved this in a jokey way:

Where possible, we assigned a specific pilot

to the aircraft he flew in a known event.

The third most successful fighter of the

campaign, Capt. Marion Carl, would certainly

March 2023

Illustration: Adam Tooby

Graphic design: Jan Zdiarsky

deserve “his” marking in the kit. But

concerning the Wildcat often attributed to

him, it’s complicated.

The aircraft with the number 2 on the

fuselage and nineteen kill marks under the

cockpit (marking F) was most likely one he

ever flew with. According to the testimony

of historians who spoke with the famous

ace, Carl said that this aircraft in the wellknown photographs was in fact an “hangar

queen” pulled out of the hangar at Espiritu

Santo to be photographed with the hero by

the media. For this purpose, the nineteen kill

mark stickers were applied. The media then

reportedly took a lot of pictures of Marion

Carl at “his” Wildcat. But ...

No matter how much you are searching,

you won’t find a proof photo of Carl with this

aircraft. Which is strange. In one famous

photograph, a man is squatting on the wing,

half undressed, wearing a crumpled cap.

It’s said to be Marion Carl. But would a pilot,

an officer, present himself to the media like

that? Hardly ... In several other photos, sitting

in the cockpit or standing on the wing is Tech

Sgt R. W. Greenwood. The photo of him in the

cockpit was published in Stars and Stripes

magazine during the war. Firstly with the

caption “unknown soldier in the cockpit of

a Wildcat on Guadalcanal”. When the editors

found out who it was through a letter from a

sergeant’s fellow, they published the photo

again, this time with his name. The mention

of Guadalcanal remained and according to

the sergeant’s son, his father never disputed

that fact. But historians say this Wildcat

never made it to Guadalcanal! But the picture

with Greenwood shows the kill marks were

worn out and the surroundings on the photo

of the whole aircraft looks like Henderson

field rather than Espiritu Santo airfield.

What’s more, even the official US Navy

archive dates the photo to February 2, 1943.

At this time Carl was gone from Guadalcanal

for some four months! So, there are many

questions regarding this aircraft. It is

sometimes also attributed to the CO of

VMF-223, Maj. John L.Smith, because he

achieved nineteen kills, which corresponds

to the number of kill marks. But he was also

no longer on Guadalcanal in February.

We may never know the full truth about the

Wildcat with number 2, but that uncertainty

makes it an attractive option as well. We

have, however, chosen other Wildcats for

the boxart. The one in the background was

“Swede” Vejtasa’s personal mount (marking

A). For the foreground we have chosen an

aircraft that was only marginally related

to Guadalcanal, as it was used by 1/Lt. S.

B. Folsom shortly after he left the island

(marking H). But there are not many Wildcats

with such a nice nose art, so it was an

obvious choice. The author of the Wildcats on

the boxart of the kit 11170 is Adam Tooby and

he did a great job, which is supported by the

graphics by Jan Zdiarsky. Twelve markings

and two complete kits are what is waiting for

the modeler inside the box ...

INFO Eduard