Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat “Black 53”
Pilot & Markings
Captain Joseph Foss — VMF-121, Guadalcanal, October 1942
Scale & Kit
1/48 Tamiya Model Airplane
Activated on June 24, 1941, Marine Fighting Squadron 121 (VMF-121) began combat operations flying the Grumman F4F Wildcat. This aircraft was the primary carrier-based fighter in the early stages of the Battle of the Pacific. The F4F-4 Wildcat was the definitive version which saw the most combat, including the Battle of Midway. It had six 50 caliber machine guns, a powerful engine, heavy armor and folding wings which allowed space for a maximum number of airplanes aboard aircraft carriers.
During World War II, the VMF-121 squadron downed 209 Japanese aircraft in aerial combat. The famed squadron also produced fourteen aces, more than any other squadron. Among these aces was Captain Joseph Foss, a Norwegian American who would become one of history’s most skilled Marine Corps pilots.
Before a prominent mission on October 23, 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Harold Bauer (Nicknamed “The Coach” because of his frequent pep talks with fellow pilots) declared: “When you see Zeros, dogfight ’em!” His instructions went against the warnings that most American fighter pilots had been given about the agile Japanese Zero fighters. However, Joe Foss’ success on that day seemed to vindicate Bauer. Twenty Zeros and two Bettys, including the four Zeros claimed by Foss, went down in front of Marine Wildcats. On October 25, Foss claimed 5 more Japanese aircrafts. He would end his flying career with 26 victories, earning the ace status.
I used Tamiya’s excellent F4F-4 Wildcat plastic model airplane kit to produce Foss’ “Black 53” and photo-etch seat belts for added realism to the cockpit. Enjoy the photos