Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat

This F4 or “The Gavutu Wildcat” as it is known, was rediscovered in 2014 after a lead given us by a marine survey team conducting hydrographic surveys of the harbour.

She lies on a sandy bottom at 42m and is intact apart from the missing propeller which is assumed disconnected during the ditching into the water.

It is suspected (Yet to be confirmed by US Defence Dept) that this particular aircraft was piloted by 22 year old USAF Fighter Ace, 1st Lt James E Swett.

Earlier this year I dived the F4 with a visiting travel writer, Mr Rod Eime, who subsequently published a great article on the aircraft and its history.  You can read his full story by following this link .

The following is an exert from his story.  (Acknowledge and thanks to Rod Eime)


The circumstances of the ditching are remarkable in themselves. On 7 April 1943, a massive Japanese air raid took place on US shipping on recaptured Guadalcanal and Tulagi.

Aviation artist, Roy Grinnell's impression of that fateful day.

Aviation artist, Roy Grinnell’s impression of that fateful day.

This was 22-year-old Swett’s first day of service and during the torrid 15-minute air battle, Swett shot down seven attacking planes making him an ‘ace’ and Medal of Honor recipient on day one.

His ammunition expended and his plane shot up, Swett was forced to ditch but was rescued, recuperated and returned to service, surviving the war and passing away at the ripe old age of 88 in 2009.

I intend to follow up on this and will report any updates. In the meantime you can contact Raiders Hotel to arrange a dive on this exciting new find.

Here is Swett telling his own story with a very cool computer reenactment.

Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat Fact File:

Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat in markings of Lt. James E Swett VMF-221, Guadalcanal, April 1943

Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat in markings of Lt. James E Swett VMF-221, Guadalcanal, April 1943

The Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat was an American carrier- and land-based fighter aircraft that began service with both the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy in 1941. While not the fastest or most maneuverable aircraft in the sky at the time, the Wildcat could pack a punch. By the end of WWII, most units had been upgraded to Corsairs.

Top speed: 533 km/h
Range: 1,337 km
Armament: 6 x 12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns in wings
Crew: 1
Length: 8.76 m
Wingspan: 12 m
Weight: 2,674 kg (empty) 3,617 kg (loaded)
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 Twin Wasp 1,200 hp (895 kW)
Manufacturer: Grumman