I finally ran across the message I saw that discussed the removal of the F2A-3s from the carriers in early 1942. It was sent on 28 January 1942 from Vice Admiral Bill Halsey's headquarters (Administrative Office, Commander, Aircraft, Battle Force) to BuAer. The key sentences are:
"Disintegration fuselage self sealing fuel tanks F2A-3 planes has resulted in removal this model from carrier operations earlier than anticipated. Failure occurs along vulcanized seams inner lining. Believe fuel leakage around fittings attacks outside rubberized cover and passes into active material causing selfsealing tank to burst inward. Leading edge and fuselage tanks being temporarily blanked off from fuel system."
John adds the following note: The same thing happened to the Wildcat fuel tanks in spring 1942, resulting in the crisis on the YORKTOWN just before Coral Sea. Regarding the F2A's, they evidently replaced the tanks in the Marine squadrons ashore (including lucky VMF-221).
[In The First Team, John tells how three of VF-42's Wildcats were out of commission on 11 March 1942 as a result of leaky fuel tanks. By 10 April, seven of nineteen Wildcats were inoperable, and on 16 April they became eight. Yorktown had to divert to Tongatabu; replacement tanks were flown in from Pearl Harbor and installed, at a cost of 20 man-hours per plane. - Dan]