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Help! Lt. Gordon Sterling Jr's P-36 at Pearl Harbor

Discussion in 'Pearl Harbor' started by Christopher Soltis, Feb 24, 2020.

  1. Christopher Soltis

    Christopher Soltis New Member

    Feb 24, 2020
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    Hey Guys,

    I'm looking for any info regarding Lt. Gordon Sterling Jr and what the P-36 looked like he flew at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th.
    Gordon H. Sterling Jr., Second Lieutenant, United States Army

    I've been contacted by Sam Watrous from ScaleBirds of South Eastern Connecticut. Him and his team are building a 55% scale P-36 and they'd like to pay homage to the Connecticut native, Gordon Sterling who lost his life that day on Dec 7th.
    Sterling (while being assigned to the 46th Pursuit Squadron) apparently jumped in the only available P-36 from the 45th Pursuit Squadron. So what did it look like? It's seemingly impossible to find any other paint scheme for Pearl Harbor P-36s other than:
    Philip Rasmussen's P-36
    Lt. Harry Brown's P-36
    New Images - Wing's Palette is fairly helpful with at least cataloging known profile images of all kinds of aircraft, but its still lacking. The ONLY kind of evidence for what Sterling's P-36 MAY have looked like comes from Jerry Crandall's painting: "Combat Over Kaneohe" which shows Sterling's P-36 in the same markings as Rasmussen's "86". I reached out to the artist and they weren't able to give me any information on the topic.
    A better picture of Jerry's painting is here:
    Combat over Kaneohe Pearl Harbor commemorative print

    1. So what did 45th Pursuit Squadron P-36s look like on Dec 7th? Were they silver? Green?

    2. Has anyone ever found Sterling and the wreckage of his P-36 off the Oahu coast?

    3. Does anyone have any viable contacts I could reach out to?
  2. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Apr 27, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Reading, PA
    Not really, no, it does not. The only other American P-36 that is shown clearly, is that of Lieutenant John M. Thacker(lead pilot, Rasmussen was his wingman).

    It is, shall we say, "artistic license." it is depicting two separate incidents as happening at the same time - Rasmussen's near collision with Fujita(foreground), and, shortly thereafter, Fujita's shoot down of Sterling in the 4-plane daisychain(background).

    A better resolution photo of the painting.
    Sterling's burning aircraft appears just above the national insignia on the wing of Rasmussen's P-36. The 4 aircraft in the background are top-to-bottom; Sanders(a/c barely visible), Fujita, Sterling(burning), Okamoto(burning - although I cannot confirm if it was burning/smoking or not, but Okamoto made it back to his carrier).

    At least from the Eagle-Editions image, the burning P-36 has a nondescript paint scheme, and can be taken as metal or olivedrab. As such, it offers no hint or clue as to Sterling's paint scheme.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2020

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