ASM Review Articles


ASM Website Pages - Click on applicable Title below to visit that page.

 

ASM HOME ARTICLES MODEL PICS MEETING PICS CONTEST RESULTS POINT STANDINGS
MODEL OF YEAR CONTEST SCHEDULE NEWSLETTER MODEL DISPLAYS FIELD TRIPS ENTRY FORMS
MEETING LOCATION CONTEST GUIDELINES ASM BY LAWS ASM REVIEWS NM STATE FAIR WEBSITE UPDATES

 


 

ASM100.jpg (82854 bytes) ASM Reviews of Kits, Products, Books, Etc. ASM100.jpg (82854 bytes)

All kit & product reviews submitted by ASM members will be posted below with the most recent
article at the top of each category.  New categories will be added as required.  

Click on the links below to go to that category of reviews.

Aircraft Science Fiction / Real Space
Armor Ships
Automotive Books / Movies / Programs
Historical Articles  

 


Aircraft


 

 Colonel Fisher and his Skyraider

 By John Tate

A Shau Valley, Republic of Vietnam, March 10, 1966 - a U.S. Special Forces base was under attack from the North Vietnamese and USAF A-1E Skyraiders of the 1st Special Operations Squadron were striking the enemy. One of the Skyraiders was hit and crash landed at an airstrip at the Special Forces base, its pilot, Major "Jump" Myers, taking cover behind an embankment. Major Bernard Fisher, flying another Skyraider, made a quick decision to land his plane under intense enemy fire and rescued Major Myers. On January 19th, 1967, Major Fisher was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism, by President Lyndon Johnson.

   

I first learned of Major Fisher, who retired from the Air Force at the grade of Colonel in 1974, from a Caracal 1/48 decal sheet on the A-1E Skyraider, which had markings for his plane.  Wanting to know more, I read Colonel Fisher's 2004 autobiography, "Beyond the Call of Duty," which was a highly readable and enjoyable book about Colonel Fisher's career, Skyraider operations in Vietnam and the circumstances of the famous rescue.  I was hooked, so had to build a model of his plane.

When it comes to modeling options for 1/48 A-1E Skyraiders, there's only one game in town, the four-decades-old Matchbox kit, re-released by Revell in 2013. It was very much a creature of its times, with toy-like folding wings and rudimentary representations of ordnance. But the good news was, it was generally accurate in shape and the cockpit was OK, at least with the canopy closed. So I got to work. Since I wanted a completed model I kept AMS to a minimum but still made some basic fixes and corrections for the sake of accuracy. One thing I didn't do was effect the suggested wing swap surgery with a 1/48 A-1H Skyraider kit; that was never going to look right and was more trouble than it's worth. Here's some of the work I did to the kit:

* Added seatbelts to the kit's non-ejection seats, correct for this plane in 1966.
* Added a reflector gunsight to the instrument panel coaming.

* Added a prop, wheels and wing pylons from a Monogram 1/48 A-1H Skyraider kit.
* Added "iron bomb" ordnance, mostly 500 pounders, from the spares box.
* Added a variety of antennas to the aircraft spine, to match period photos of A-1E's.
*
Shortened the landing gear legs to give the model a proper "sit."
* Scraped and sanded the heavy side braces off the windscreen, which were not present on the real plane, and added internal braces.

* Added a scratchbuilt windshield wiper.

* Added a correct centerline tank and pylon from the Tamiya Skyraider kit.

                       

The biggest job was closing the folding wings but the task wasn't too bad, just tedious. When I got most of the work on the kit finished, I painted the model in an overall gray color, similar to USAF ADC Gray, which was correct for this early batch of Skyraiders, and added silver leading edges to the wings and horizontal stabilizers. Painting the "Blue Room" canopy was fun and easy.

The Caracal decals went on nicely, and were accurate for the plane, but make sure to check photos of real planes from the period to get placement correct.

I was proud of the model when I finished it, not because it's a contest-winner, but because I had to put some work into the model to get a nice replica, to honor a great aviator and American hero, Colonel Fisher, who passed away in 2014. With each year, the Vietnam War passes further out of human memory, and as modelers we can do our part to make sure history isn't forgotten. If you get a chance during the coming year, check your shelves for that Vietnam War model subject you overlooked, and like me, take a chance to learn something new about the story of the war and the men who served in it. 

 


 

North Korean Prop Fighters in the Korean War

By Mike Blohm

This article covers the model builds and a short history of two Soviet-built propellor-driven fighters that saw service in the North Korean Air Force in the Korean War. These include the Yakevlov Yak-9, NATO-reporting name "Frank" and the Lavochkin La-11 "Fang." Model kits involved include the 1/72 scale Encore Models Yak-9D and the MPM La-9 / 11. These models were intended for ASM's "Korean War 80th Anniversary" display at the 2020 New Mexico State Fair, which unfortunately was a victim of the covid virus situation that shut down all of our planned displays for 2020.  Since I did get both models eventually built for our club's Virtual Contests, I decided that doing an article on them would be a good counterpart to the "F-86 Sabre Aces of the Korean War" article that I did at the beginning of the year.

The North Korean Air Force - the Korean People's Air Force (KPAF) - had Yak-9s, La 9s, and La-11 aircraft in its inventory during the Korean War. This article includes short histories of the aircraft, their operational history during the war, and the builds of the two kits.

Aircraft Histories

The Yakovlev Yak-9 was a single-engine single-seat multipurpose fighter aircraft used by the Soviet Union in World War II and through 1950. It was the last in a line of propeller-driven Yakovlev fighters that included the Yak-1, Yak-3, and Yak-7. The Yak 3 was the favored mount of the French Normandie-Nieman Escadrille that flew with the Soviets during WW II. The Yak-9 started arriving in Soviet fighter aviation regiments in late 1942 and played a major role in taking air superiority over the Luftwaffe's Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and Messerschmitt Bf 109G fighters during the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943. The Yak-9D was a long-range version of the Yak-9. Further development of the design included the Yak-9U in 1943 and the Yak-9P in 1946. which was the most advanced. Some sources state that the Yak-9 was the equivalent of, or superior to the P-51D Mustang. The Yak-9 remained in roduction from 1942 to 1948, with 16,769 total built (14,579 during the war). Many of the surplus Yak-9Ps were supplied in 1949 to satellite nations in the Soviet bloc, including North Korea.

Yak-3 of the French
 Normandie-Nieman
 Escadrille
Yak-9Ds of the
Black Sea Fleet
Yak-9P of Post
WW II Soviet AF

The Lavochkin La-11 was an early post-WW II Soviet long-range piston-engined single seat fighter aircraft. The La-11 was the last of a long line of Lavochkin propeller-driven fighters. The La 5, La-5FN, and La-7 were flown by Russia's top ace (also the top Allies ace) Ivan Kozhedub with 62 victories. Of note, Kozhedub was later the commander of the Soviet's 324 IAD (Fighter Air Division) on the China - North Korea border during the Korean War, which flew MiG-15s against U.S. forces. Kozhehdub was not given permission to fly any combat sorties. The La-11 was developed from the La-9 prototype to be a long-range escort fighter. It is sometimes referred to as the La-9M. To create this long-range aircraft, the La-11's armament was reduced to three cannons and it featured increased fuel and oil capacity. The La-11 was found to be poorly suited for combat above 23,000 feet. La-11 production ran from 1947 to 1951 with 1,182 total aircraft built.
 
La-7 flown by Ivan
Kozedub in WW II
La-11 in Soviet
markings
Soviet La-11
in flight

Operational History During the Korean War

When I decided to do this article I went in search of source documents that I own and also articles on the internet to determine the propeller aircraft types that the KPAF had in its inventory at the beginning of the Korean War. I was specifically looking for info on the Yak-9, La-9, and La-11. Unfortunately my search came up short. I then thought that a good source on the subject matter would be Douglas Dildy, as he has written several books on the Korean War and the KPAF. These include Fury from the North - the North Korean Air Force in the Korean War 1950-1953 (Helion & Company) and F-86 Sabre vs. MiG-15, Korea 1950-53 (Osprey Books). These are great books and highly recommended! Doug was able to provide me with a lot of very good info, which I have condensed into the paragraphs below along with other material.

The Soviet Union's Far East Military District transferred 84 Yak-9s to the KPAF in May 1949. This included 12 original Yak-9s, 9 trainer Yak-9Vs, and 63 Yak-9Ps. At the beginning of the Korean War (25 June 1950), the KPAF had 79 Yak-9s total. 42 Yak 9Ps were in the 56th Fighter Aviation Regiment (FAR). Yak-9Ps attacked Kimpo Air Base (AB) on the first day of the war damaging a U.S. C-54 transport, the control tower, and the fuel dump. They also strafed the Republic of Korea Air Force's L-4 Grasshopper (Piper Cub) and Harvard (T-6) aircraft at Yan-do destroying seven. On the second day Yak-9Ps escorted Il-10 Sturmovik bombers that attacked the railway station at Seoul. All but one of the Yak-9Ps were lost during the North Korean invasion and the U.S. and United Nations counter offensive. This single Yak-9P was withdrawn to Yani air base in the People's Republic of China. The 56th FAR was reconstituted in September 1950 with 40 Yak-9Ps from the Soviet Union. The KPAF also received 40 La-9s and 2 La-9UTI trainers. 38 of the La-9s formed the new 58th FAR in December 1950 through January 1951 at Yani air base. The newly renamed 56th Guards FAR deployed to Antung air base in China and Sinuiju air base in North Korea. These two units fought against USAF F-51s and USN F4U Corsairs during 1951 until their aircraft were replaced with the MiG-15. 56th GFAR losses were so heavy that they received 10 new La-9s in July 1951. In November 1951 the 56th GFAR had 9 Yak-9Ps and 10 La-9s and the 58th FAR had 21 La-9s.
Damaged Yak-9P at
Kimpo AB in 1950
Damaged Yak-9P at
Kimpo AB in 1950
Damaged Yak-9P at
Kimpo AB in 1950
GIs guarding
captured Yak-9
Damaged Yak-9P at Kimpo
         
Boy standing on
destroyed Yak-9
Damaged Yak-9
in hangar
Yak-9 and IL-10
awaiting transport
Yak-9 testing at
Wright-Patterson
Yak-9 testing at
Wright-Patterson

The 56th GFAR was re-roled as the KPAF's first night fighter unit in June 1952 with 9 surviving Yak-9Ps and 14 new La-11 aircraft. The night fighter units initially intercepted USAF B 29 Superfortress night raids but the La-11 was ineffective because it was not fast enough, and this mission was switched to the MiG-15. The night fighter units also fought against the USAF's B-26 Invader and the USN's Tigercat and Corsair aircraft that had been conducting unopposed night interdiction operations against truck convoys and railroad trains in North Korea. The La-11s did escort Tu-2 bombers on several raids. The 56th GFAR and 58th FAR began training on the MiG-15 in October 1952 and their surviving 12 La-11s were transferred to the 3rd Night Bomber Regiment. The few surviving Yak-9Ps were transferred to training units. At the end of the Korean War the 3rd Night Bomber Regiment had 9 La-11s remaining. All the Yak-9s and La-9s had been transferred to 5th Air Division Fighter Training Regiment. This included 10 Yak-9Ps, 2 Yak-9Vs, 15 La-9s, and 2 La-9UTI (2 seat trainers).

Yak-9P in North
Korean museum in
 post-war scheme
La-11 in North
Korean markings in
China Aviation Museum
La-11 in PRC
markings in Beijing
museum

USAF victory claims over these and similar propeller aircraft were as followws:  Yak-3: 4;  Yak-9: 12;  Yak-18: 1;  La-7: 3; La-9: 7; unidentified prop: 3.  Since the Yakovlev types and the Lavochkin types are visually similar, the breakouts of these numbers could be suspect. Yak-3 claims are probably Yak-9s and the La-7 claims are probably La-9s, as these two aircraft types were not in the KPAF inventory.  La-9 claims could include La-11s.  Note that the first USAF victory of the war was against a Yak-11 two-seat trainer by an F-82E Twin Mustang on June 27, 1950 that was attacking Kimpo Air Base.  Two La-7s and three IL-10s were also downed that day. 

Based on the information above, did the KPAF have any Yak-9Ds in its inventory during the Korean War? The "original Yak-9s" aircraft mentioned in sources may have included Yak-9Ds but this is unknown, and probably unlikely. I had built my Encore Models Yak 9D in KPAF's markings earlier this year based upon schemes that I had seen before I received this information from Doug Dildy. I did look at the differences between the Yak-9D and the Yak-9P to see if I could modify the already-built kit into the P version. Unfortunately, there are some big differences that would require major surgery, if able to be done at all. The biggest is that the P does not have the large under nose air intake--it was removed and replaced by a raised scoop that runs along the top of the nose. The P also received an additional nose-mounted cannon across from the single cannon in the D. The easiest fix to make is a plexiglass-covered bay on the fuselage behind the cockpit that contained an ADF antenna. Based on all this, I decided to keep the D as is. It is accurate as "representative of the Yak-9s used by the KPAF" and will work in a Korean War display. AModel does have a 1/72 scale Yak-9P kit with North Korean markings, so I may look at building that in the future so we have a totally accurate model.

Yak-9D Build

The Yak-9 model is the Encore Models (Squadron) 1/72 scale Yak-9D kit molded in the Ukraine and packaged in the USA. This model had been started years ago for an ASM contest but had never been completed. I had been planning to get it finished for our June 5th, 2020 "Korean War" Special Contest, and when that turned into Virtual Contest #1, I pressed ahead with the build. According to the Scalemates.com website, this model started as an Encore Yak-9DD/T/K kit in 1998, and was later reboxed as a Yak-9D (the kit that I built). It does come with two fuselages--one for the D and one for the DD. It was later reissued by ICM and a company called Alanger. The kit comes with three decal choices--all for Soviet schemes in 1942-1944. To build a North Korean aircraft I went to my decal sheet stash and found an old ESCI Korean War sheet that did include a Yak-9. These sheets are
notoriously off-register, so it was a good thing that I had two copies in order to get six total stars and circles that looked good. Because I had started this kit years ago, I did not have in-progress pictures of the build. I do have a second Encore kit, so I was able to get pictures of the sprues for this article.

 

Kit instructions - 1 Kit instructions - 2 Spues & decal sheet Cockpit interior parts

Here are some comments on the Yak-9 build. The kit has decent sidewall detail in the cockpit, an instrument panel, floor board, control stick and a seat (actually the back portion of the seat attaches to a bucket seat on the floor board). There are no instrument panel or seat belts decals. It does have wheel well details on the inside of the top wings. The recessed panel lines are well done. There was some fit problems with the wings to the fuselage that needed some filler at both ends. The clear bullet proof panel behind the pilot's head needed some shaving to allow the canopy to fit over it. The canopy did not quite fit at the back end and needed some white glue to fill the gap. One hit on the kit is that the wings do not have the prominent air intake holes/ducts in the wing roots, and these have to be hand-painted on the model. I did a lot of looking at photos of North Korean Yak-9s to
determine what shade of grey to use on the model. There were some color photos of derelict Yak-9s destroyed on the ramp at Kimpo Air Base during the first year of the war (see pictures). I eventually chose Model Master Flat Gull Grey and painted the aircraft overall in that color. Although I did not use the kit decals, they look pretty nice. The old ESCI decals were a challenge. Panel lines were highlighted with a black wash. Ground artist pastel chalk was used for weathering and engine exhaust stains. Overall the kit was a good build and looks like a Yak-9D. There may be better 1/72 kits of the Yak-9D out there now than this Encore model. As mentioned above, AModel does have a Yak-9P kit.


Yak-9 Model Pictures



La-11 Build


The La-11 model is the MPM 1/72 scale Lavochkin La-9 / 11 kit. According to Scalemates.com, this kit was initially released as a new tool MPM kit in 1989 and was reboxed in 1994 (the kit that I built). The La-11 model build had also been planned for ASM's "Korean War Anniversary" display at the 2020 State Fair, but this was a new start this year. I wanted to make sure that we had enough North Korean aircraft in the display to go with a likely large number of US and Allied aircraft. I also had a Tupelov Tu-2 build planned, but that is another story to come. The model parts are on a single sprue, made in a very hard dark brown plastic that is difficult to sand. It has a clear, nicely detailed vacuform canopy--more on this later. The instruction sheet has a parts break down diagram of the sprue, and a single exploded diagram of all the parts with arrows showing what goes where. Usable but not great. It shows which parts to use if you want to build an La-9 or an La-11, the differences being the La-9 had a radiator scoop beneath the fuselage, a different cowl (no upper intake there), and an extra gun bulge on the fuselage. The La-11 had an upper intake added to the cowling, replacing the lower radiator scoop, and one less cannon. The kit decals include schemes for a Soviet La-9 in 1946 and a Soviet La-11 in 1947 both in overall gray, and a North Korean La-11 in a mottled dark green over gray in 1950. (As noted above, they did not get La-11s until 1952.) I ended up building an overall gray North Korean scheme using markings from the Siga Models La-9 kit, which I had originally considered building but passed up to go with the better detailed MPM kit.

Kit instructions - 1 Kit instructions - 2 Decal sheet Sprue & other parts

Here are some comments on the La-11 build. The cockpit is very sparse. There is a floor board, a seat and a control stick and a back wall that the seat fits against. This all sits up against a shelf that fits at the back of the cockpit cut-out. There is no side wall detail, but it has a nice instrument panel with recessed instrument details. There is no decal for this or seat belts, so I hand-painted the instrument panel and used some seat belt decals. There are no locating pegs or holes for any of this other than for the stick in the floor, so it was all fit-checking and gluing and a bit difficult to get it all straight when the fuselage was finally glued together. The floor board was too wide for the fuselage and had to be trimmed. It looks pretty good when finally put together (see pictures).

There were gaps after the fuselage was glued that had to be filled. The wing's trailing edges were too thick and had to be sanded down. The assembled wings did not fit well against the bottom of the fuselage. To fit the lower wing against the fuselage at the wing root without a huge step and gap, the fuselage needed to be cut back until the wing fit flush. This then left a pretty big gap that needed filling and sanding. After this surgery, all the fuselage and wing gaps were filled with Squadron White Putty and sanded (see pictures). The two horizontal tails had no attachment mechanisms (pins or holes) and were super-glued against the fuselage. These would be a problem later and needed to be re-glued several times during the painting process. The cowling's sprue attachment points were a problem and required careful cutting and then sanding. There were gaps when the cowling was glued to the fuselage. The gear doors had a lot of flash. The wheels did not have any mounting holes and were a flat gear end to wheel hub superglue job like the horizontal tails. The gear doors were provided in one piece and had to be cut into two pieces for a gear-down model. I mentioned earlier that the plastic was super hard and cutting through them was very difficult. And as would happen, the holes in the wheel wells for the struts were too small, and drilling them out was also difficult. The kit included a separate spinner piece in a different kind of plastic from what was on the big sprue because the original piece did not have the cut-outs needed for the propeller blades. That was probably a known mold flaw. This piece caused a problem later on.

Cockpit parts
painted
Cockpit parts
assembled
Fuselage to wing
fit & gap problemt
Assembled & ready
to paint - top
Assembled & ready
to paint - bottom

The La-11 had the same paint scheme as the Yak-9 but I wanted to have a little variation so I added some Model Master Gunship Gray to the Flat Gull Gray, and painted it overall with that mixed shade. The kit's North Korean star with circles decals were off-register, so I elected to use the decals from the Siga Models Yak-9 kit. These had stenciled red and blue lines (not solid) surrounding the stars, and provided another good variation between the two aircraft. MicroScale silver stripe decals were used for the two metal bands around the cowling. As I mentioned earlier, the kit had a vacuform canopy. I did fit check the canopy from the Siga Models La-9 kit, hoping that might work, but unfortunately it did not. All the pieces-parts went together well at the end until I tried to glue on the canopy and the spinner. There must have been a problem with the materials they were made of, because the
glue that I was using (Faller Super-Expert) would not work on them at all. Eventually I did get them to adhere, but the canopy did have gaps that needed filling with white glue, and a canopy re-paint was required. Washes and weathering were accomplished the same as the Yak-9. The model does look like an La-11 when it is finally all put together. Interavia also produces a 1/72 scale La-11 model but I do not know how good that kit is


                                                                  La-11 Model Pictures


Pictures below show side-by-side comparisons of the two North Korean aircraft from a couple of different angles.  Comparisons with the IL-10 Sturmovik (a KP kit) and the MiG-15 Fagot (a DML kit) are also shown.  Next, there are pictures of the Yak-9 with two of the USAF aircraft that encountered it during the Korean War--the North American F-51D Mustang and the Republic F-84E Thunderjet.  1Lt James Glessner, 12th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter Bomber Wing, downed a Yak-9 on November 2, 1950 flying F-51D FF-736 (54-11736) as depicted below.  This is the Matchbox kit.  1Lt Jacob Kratt, 523rd Fighter Escort Squadron, 27th Fighter Escort Wing, downed a Yak-9 (reported as a Yak-3) on January 23, 1951 flying F-84E FS-493-B (51-493) also depicted below.  This is the Heller kit.  He also downed two MiG-15s on January 23, 1951, the first double MiG kill mission of the war.  Kratt was the top F-84 scorer in Korea with three victories.  The MiG-15 depicted below is in the markings of the top Soviet ace who flew for the North Koreans, Yevgeni Pepelyaev, the commander of the Soviet's 196th Fighter Aviation Regiment.  Finally, there is a comparison of the aircraft with the North American F-86F-1 Sabre, which bears the markings of 1Lt Joseph McConnell, the top US ace of the war.  The pictures below taken on the runway base show the actual grey scheme colors of the two models better than the light blue background. 

   

    

With these two models completed, we now have a few more North Korean aircraft for our ASM display, if that ever happens. Perhaps the Korean War Anniversary theme might be a player for the 2021 NM State Fair.  Many thanks to Doug Dildy for the operational history information in this article!

 


    

Sabre Aces of the Korean War

Modeling the F-86 Jets Flown by the Top U.S. Aces

 by Mike Blohm
 


This article is an incentive for ASM members to finish their builds for the "Korean War" Special Contest that is currently scheduled for June 5, 2020 and also for the ASM display at the 2020 New Mexico State Fair in late August. The article covers the model builds of the top five United States Sabre aces of the Korean War. It also includes a brief history of each of the ace's service in the war and their later careers. These models were completed for the Aces Gallery at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the builds for these five particular models range from 1975 to 2001. All the kits used are in 1/72 scale with a wide range of kit manufacturers. These include Hasegawa, Fujimi, Testors, Heller, Matchbox, Hobby Craft, and Academy. I have not yet built the new Airfix F-86 kit, but that is in my stack. Comments will be made on the kits used in the builds below. For me, the Fujimi kit is the most accurate of this assortment. F-86 decal sheets in 1/72 scale for Korean War aces have unfortunately been minimal. Microscale put out six sheets in the mid 1970s that covered a few of the top scorers sprinkled in with other Korean War or Vietnam aircraft schemes. You can sometimes find these on eBay. Eagle Strike Productions and Print Scale have both produced a sheet recently, but unfortunately they repeated schemes already available and did not cover some high-scoring pilots that definitely should have been included. Some of the F-86 model kits in 1/72 scale do come with decals for aces (Fischer, Jabara, Moore, and Jolley). But I have had to do a lot of hand-painting and decal-bashing of codes and serial numbers to get models of the 41 Korean War aces built. Of note, the Fujimi kit has four different USAF schemes and therefore you get a nice set of properly sized numbers to cut and paste with. Getting back to the subject of this article, the top five Sabre aces are covered below. Between them they scored 72.5 total victories.  Refer to captions below based upon picture numbers.

1     2     3     4

5     6     7

1. F-86 Sabres of the 51 FIW on the ramp at Suwon Air Base (K-13) near the end of the war.
2. "MiG Alley - 200 Miles" sign at the gate to the 4 FIW flight line at Kimpo Air Base (K-14).
3. Map showing "MiG Alley" in northwest corner of Korea adjacent to China and the Yalu River.
4. Photo of restored F-86 and MiG-15 at 2013 Planes of Fame airshow showing similar profiles
and relative sizes that prompted the U.S.to employ ID bands.
5. F-86s from 335 FIS "Chieftains" of the 4 FIW, highest scoring squadron (218.5) in the war.
6. F-86 flight from the 25 FIS of the 51 FIW. Red tail stripe on vertical fin denoted the 25 FIS.
7. "MiG Maulers" poster showing the Sabre aces of the Korean War ranked by their number of
victories, except for Charles Cleveland whose fifth victory was not confirmed until April 2000.

 Joseph C. McConnell, Junior

 

Starting from the top, the highest scoring U.S. ace in the Korean War was Captain Joseph C. McConnell Jr. with 16 victories over MiG-15s. He is the 33rd-ranking American ace (tie), and 27th in the USAF (tie). He was the 27th U.S. "jet ace" with his 5th kill on Feb 16, 1953. His age at that time was 31. He served with the 39th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) of the 51st Fighter Intercept Wing (FIW). He scored all his victories in a five month period in Jan - May 1953, including three victories in two sorties on May 18, 1953. His jet was hit in combat on April 12, 1953 by a Soviet-flown MiG-15 (per some sources) that he eventually downed, and McConnell had to bail out over the Yellow Sea. He was immediately picked up by a USAF Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw helicopter--there is a famous picture of that rescue (see below). He was withdrawn from Korea after scoring his 16th victory on May 18 and had flown 106 missions at that time. Of note, McConnell was a B-24 navigator during World War II and flew 60 missions with the 448th Bomb Group in the ETO. He had wanted to go to pilot training but was instead sent to navigator training. McConnell was killed in a flying accident while testing the F-86H Sabre at Edwards AFB, CA on Aug 25, 1954 due to a controls malfunction. You might remember that a similar tragedy occurred with Major Richard Bong, the top U.S. ace in World War II, who was killed during a flight test of the P-80 Starfire at Burbank, CA on Aug 6, 1945. A movie--The McConnell Story (1955)--and book--Sabre Jet Ace (1959)--came out after his death, and McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas was named for him (and his brother Thomas, also a USAF pilot and veteran of WW II). 

8     9     10     11     12     13

8. Captain McConnell in flight gear next to checker-tailed 51 FIW Sabre
9-10. McConnell during publics relations photo shoot after 16th victory
11. McConnell after mission. Note 39 FIS "Cobra" and 51 FIW patches on his flight jacket.
12. McConnell being rescued from the Yellow Sea by a H-19 Chickasaw helicopter.
13. McConnell's F-86F FU-910 "Beauteous Butch" on the ramp at Kimpo Air Base

McConnell's F-86F-1 model depicts his scheme in May 1953 (see pics 14-18). This 1975 build was a modification of a very early Hasegawa kit that was available at that time. Called the "F-86F" it is actually an F-86F-40 that was flown by the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, and had an extra one foot length at the wing tip added to the "6-3 wing." To resolve this, the rounded wing tips were cut off, the appropriate amount of wing removed, and the wingtips glued back on. A relatively minor piece of surgery to get the F version flown in Korea. I think that I may have used some tips in an IPMS/USA Quarterly or Update on this procedure. For 1975 this was a pretty decent F-86 kit, but it had minimal interior detail. Also, the external tanks had different fins and pylons that were not the type used in Korea and these had to be modified. There is no engine detail down the inlet and no exhaust pipe--basically it was see-through end-to-end, so that was corrected. What I did not catch in my limited reference material back then--I built this when I was stationed at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand--was that the jet should have had small wing fences added on the leading edge of each wing. The newer F kits do have these fences. This was a "hard wing" bird without leading edge slats, which provided a better turn radius at high Mach numbers and allowed the F-86 to turn with and inside the MiGs. The model was finished in overall natural metal (silver) with light gray interior and wheel wells, and black instrument panel and ejection seat. The decals were from Microscale decal sheet 72-103 F-86E Sabre Aces. I believe the Korean Theater (Far East Air Force) yellow identification stripes on the wings and tail were hand-painted, as was the blue nose flash on each side of the intake. The checkered tail indicates the 51st FIW, and the yellow tail stripe the 39th FIS. This jet and several previous were named "Beautious Butch" after his wife Pearl "Butch" (Brown) McConnell. It originally had diving red MiG-15 silhouettes for the kill markings (see profile at top of this section). After his 16th kill the jet was repainted for public relations purposes and the silhouettes were changed to red stars and the name incorrectly misspelled as "Beauteous Butch" as shown on this model.  Note that the Eagle Strike Productions sheet 72-059 includes this scheme.

14     15     16     17     18     19

14-17. Model of McConnell's F-86F-1 Sabre "Beauteous Butch" using the Hasegawa kit.
18-19. 39th Fighter Interceptor Squadron patch and 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing patch.
The 39 FIS was the fifth-ranking squadron in the war with 101 victories.

James J. Jabara

Major James J. "Jabby" Jabara was the second-ranking U.S. ace in Korea, with 15.0 victories over MiG-15s. He served two tours with the 334th FIS, 4th FIW. He also scored 1.5 victories (Fw 190s) in World War II during two tours and 108 combat missions in the ETO flying the P-51 with the 382nd Fighter Squadron (FS), 363rd Fighter Group (FG) and the 355th FS, 354th FG. He also had 4 probable victories and 5.5 Ground kills. His overall victory total of 16.5 makes Jabara the 29th ranking U.S. ace (tie), and 24th ranking USAF ace (tie). Jabara was the first U.S. jet ace of the Korean War and the first jet versus jet ace, scoring his 5th and 6th victories on May 20, 1951. His age at that time was 28. He scored these two victories while he had a hung fuel tank still attached to his wing, for which he should have avoided combat and returned to base. He was ordered back to the U.S. at that time as "too valuable to risk in combat" after scoring 6 victories in just 3 months. He returned for a second tour in Feb - Jul 1953, where he scored an additional 9 victories. His score included four "doubles." After the war Jabara held various squadron commander positions and in 1958 he flew combat missions over Taiwan in the F-104 Starfighter. He later flew the B-58 Hustler in the 43rd Bomb Wing and flew at least one combat mission in Vietnam in the F-100 Super Sabre. Jabara was killed in an auto accident on Nov 17, 1966 while serving as 31st TFW commander at Homestead AFB, where he was flying the F-100. He was the youngest colonel in the USAF at that time. An airport just northeast of Wichita, Kansas was named the Colonel James Jabara Airport in his honor. 

 20     21     22     23     24     25

20-21. Jabara standing in the cockpit and near the tail section of an F-86
22. Jabara deplanning after a mission. Not the cigar - he was also known as "The Ceegar Kid."
23. Jabara being carried by squadron members after his 5th and 6th victories.
24. Jabara pre-flighting F-86A FU-257 on his first tour.
25. Jabara deplanning from an F-86F on his second tour.

Jabara's F-86A-5 model is the Matchbox F-86 kit and depicts his scheme in May 1951. F‑86A coded FU-259 was his personal jet during his first tour. This kit was built in1997 and was the only 1/72 scale F-86A model kit at that time and might still be. The canopy interior and wheel wells are very sparse. Instrument panel and seat belt decals were therefore found and added. The kit does not have any wing tanks. One issue of the Matchbox kit did come with Jabara's exact scheme of FU-259 but unfortunately I did not have that one. However, most of the kit decals could be used to make Jabara's scheme. These include the black and white ID stripes used by the 4 FIW at that time--based upon the D-Day invasion stripes of WW II--before the yellow ID bands became the Far East Air Force standard in early Spring 1952. I wanted the model collection to have some A models with the black and white stripes, and not be made up of just yellow wing bands. Of note, there was a period of time when the 4 FIW was changing to yellow band that they retained the black vertical tail stripe, and also when they had nothing on the vertical tail at all - just wing and fuselage yellow bands. The correct number codes and serials for FU-259 were made using a Superscale or Aeromaster letters and numbers decal sheet and the winged-star name plate was hand-painted. The model was painted overall with Model Master Aluminum Plate (Buffing) paint with a light gray interior and wheel wells. During his second tour Jabara often flew an F-86F-1 that was coded FU-857, which was also flown by ace Manuel Fernandez. Microscale sheet 72-245 Korean War Sheet #3 has decals for Jabara's final F-86F-30 coded FU-513 that he flew in Jul 1953. This scheme is also in the Hobby Craft F-86F-25 Sabre kit. Note that this F-86A model was used in the Korean War portion of ASM's year-long "50th Anniversary of the USAF" display in 1997 at Kirtland AFB before it went on display at the USAF Academy.

 26     27     28     29     30     31

26-29. Model of Jabara's F-86A-5 Sabre using the Matchbox kit.
30-31. 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing patches.
The 334 FIS was the second-ranking squadron in the war with 142.5 victories.

 

Manuel J. Fernandez, Junior

 

Captain Manuel J. "Pete" Fernandez Jr. was the 3rd ranking ace in Korea, scoring 14.5 MiG-15 kills. He was the 26th U.S. jet ace, scoring his 5th kill on Feb 18, 1953. His age at that time was 28. He served with the 334th FIS, 4th FIW from Sep 1952 - May 1953. Fernandez scored mostly single victories but he had 2 "doubles" and one 1.5 kill sortie. Fernandez competed for top scorer with Jabara and McConnell. Fernandez enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and received his wings in Nov 1944 but was an instructor in the U.S. and saw no combat. He re-enlisted in the USAF and provided air cover for the cargo planes with the 23rd FS, 36th FG during the Berlin Airlift in 1948-1949. Prior to wrangling an assignment to Korea, Fernandez was an advanced instructor at the Nellis Air Force Base Gunnery School in Las Vegas, Nevada and was an expert at deflection shooting. Fernandez was ordered home from Korea at the same time as McConnell. Fernandez won the Bendix Trophy Race in 1956 flying an F-100. He retired from the AF Reserves as a Major in June 1963. Fernandez was killed in a flying accident on Oct 17, 1980 near Grand Bahama Island

32     33     34     35     36     37

32-33. Fernandez in front of and in cockpitt of an F-86. Note colors of his flight gear.
34. Fernandez boarding his F-86F, likely FU-857. Note 334 FIS patch.
35. Fernandez being congratulted by Jabara after Fernandez's 5th and 6th victories on
Feb 18, 1953. Note exposure "poopy" suit worn by Fernandez.
36. Fernandez deplaning from a mission.  Note back-pack parachute.
37. McConnell and Fernandez meet President Eisenhower in May 1953 after returning to U.S.

Fernandez's F-86E-10 model coded FU-830 was his first aircraft and depicts his scheme in March 1953. This jet was wrecked while Fernandez was on R&R in Japan. This model was built in 1975 at the same time as McConnell's using the early Hasegawa F-86F-40 kit. The same surgery was performed on the wings and external tanks, depicting an E model with the leading edge slats. The model was painted overall natural metal (silver) with a light gray interior and wheel wells and black instrument panel and ejection seat. The decals were from Microscale decal sheet 72-100 F-86 Sabres, Korean War. I believe the Korean Theater yellow ID stripes were also hand-painted on this model. Some sources showed the background color of the 334th FIS patch as gold instead of yellow--as the decal came--so I painted that gold. Note that the 4th FIW's Sabres had their squadron patches painted on the fuselage sides below the cockpit. The 51 FIW's Sabres had a different colored rudder stripe for each squadron, and not squadron patches. Fernandez also scored 6.5 victories flying an F-86F-1 that was coded FU-857. 

38     39     40     41     42     43

38-41. Model of Fernandez's F-86E-10 Sabre using the Hasegawa kit.
42. Fernandez's F-86E FU-830 taxis out for mission at Kimpo Air Base.
43. Fernandez with Bendix Trophy that he won on Aug 31, 1956 flying an F-100.
 

George A. Davis, Junior

 

Lieutenant Colonel George A. "Curly" Davis, Jr. was the 4th ranking U.S. ace of the Korean War with 14 victories - 11 over the MiG-15 and 3 over Tu-2 bombers. Davis was also an ace in World War II with 7 victories, flying with the 342nd FS, 348th FG "Kearby's Thunderbolts" in the Southwest Pacific Theater. His total score of 21 victories make Davis the 17th ranking American ace (tie) and 13th ranking USAF ace (tie). Davis is a member of the "Inner Seven" made up of pilots who were aces in both WW II and Korea. Major Davis served with the 4th FIW and became the 334th FIS squadron commander in Oct 1951. His 14 victories were scored in a 4 month period from Nov 1951 to Feb 1952. Davis scored his kills in groups, with a "quadruple" on 30 Nov 30, 1951 when he downed three TU-2 twin propeller-engined bombers and one MiG-15 making him the 5th U.S. jet ace of the war. His age at that time was 31. He also scored 5 "doubles" that included 4 kills in 2 back-to-back sorties on Dec 13, 1951. Davis was killed in action during aerial combat on Feb 10, 1952 when he was outnumbered 6-to-1 but still engaged the MiGs in order to protect a B-29 formation. He downed 2 MiG-15s but was himself shot down. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this action, the only Sabre pilot so honored in the Korean War. Davis was the leading USAF scorer at the time of his death. He was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. More details on Davis, his WW II history, and his model build are available in an article that was previously published in the August 2019 ASM Newsletter and is posted on the ASM Website on the ASM Kit Reviews webpage.   

 44     45     46     47     48     49

44. Major Davis next to F-86. Note 334 FIS patch on his helmet.
45. Davis in front of F-86A after his 4 victory mission where he became the 5th U.S. "jet ace" on
Nov 30, 1951. The F-86's four victory markings were scored by Maj Richard Creighton.

46. Davis standing in F-86 cockpit indicating a two-vicory mission.
47. Gun camera footage for one of Davis's MiG-15 victories.

48. 1st Lieutenant Davis in his P-47D Thunderbolt in late 1944.
49. Captain Davis in his P-51K Mustang in early 1945 in the Phillippines.
 

Davis's F-86A-5 model coded FU-225 is the Matchbox F-86 kit and depicts the aircraft he was photographed with after his 4 victory mission on Nov 30, 1951. This aircraft was actually the usual jet of Major Richard Creighton, who made ace on Nov 27, 1951. This build occurred in 2001 and is the same kit as described in the Jabara build above. The model was painted overall with Model Master Aluminum Plate (Buffing) paint with a light gray interior and wheel wells. The light gray nose cone is the actual color of those parts without paint. Davis's early 4 FIW scheme with the black and white ID stripes could almost be completed using just the kit decals, needing only a small change to the code letters and serial. An Aeromaster letters and numbers decal sheet was used for the correct numbers. Some pictures of FU-225 show red star kill markings, which were Creighton's victories.

50.     51     52     53     54     55

50-53. Model of Davis's F-86A-5 Sabre using the Matchbox kit.
54-55. F-86A FU-225 on the flight line at Kimpo Air Base and taking
off on a mission to MiG Alley.

  

Royal N. Baker

 

Colonel Royal N. "The King" Baker was the 5th ranking U.S. ace in Korea with 13 victories including 12 MiG-15s and 1 La-9. Baker also scored 3.5 victories in WW II. His total of 16.5 victories make him the 29th ranking American ace (tie), and 24th ranking ace in the USAF (tie). Baker was the 21st jet ace with his 5th kill on Nov 17, 1952. His age at that time was 34. Baker commanded the 4th FIG from Jun 1952 to Mar 1953, flying 127 combat missions. He was the leading Korean War scorer for much of his tour. His biggest day was Dec 7, 1952 where he scored 1.5 victories. During WW II he flew Spitfires with the 308th FS, 31st FG in the Mediterranean scoring 2 Fw 190 and 1 Bf 109 kills. He later flew P-47 Thunderbolts with the 493rd FS, 48th FG in the ETO scoring 0.5 Bf 109 kills. Amongst his assignments after Korea was director of testing for the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB in 1957. Baker was later the 7th AF Vice Commander in Vietnam in 1968 and he flew 140 combat sorties, piloting every kind of USAF combat aircraft based in Vietnam. He was 17th AF Commander in Germany from Jul 1969 - Feb 1971, and retired as a Lt General in Aug 1975. Baker died in Apr 1976.

56     57     58     59     60     61

56. Colonel Baker in the cockpit of his F-86. Note the "Crown" painted on his helmet.
57-58. Official photos of Baker as a Colonel and as a Major General.
59-60. Baker's F-86E "Angel Face & the Babes / The King" on the ramp at Kimpo Air Base.
Baker downed several MiGs flying this Sabre.
 
61. Baker with his crew chief A2C Holland and his F-86E the afternoon of his 13th victory.

    

Baker's F-86E-10 model is the Heller F-86F kit and depicts his jet in Feb 1953 when he had scored 10 victories. This is a pretty good kit with decent detail without the wing fences and has two types of tanks, nice wheel wells, and open speed brakes. There is a Luftwaffe box top kit and a USAF "MiG Mad Marine" box top kit. The decals for John Glenn's scheme is in both, but the Luftwaffe kit does not have the yellow ID stripe decals. The USAF kit does, but unfortunately they have the incorrect shade of yellow (too orange) and those will need to be sourced elsewhere. This kit was built in 1997 in Baker's F-86E scheme. Like the other builds, the model was painted overall with Model Master Aluminum Plate (Buffing) paint with a light gray interior and wheel wells and black instrument panels and ejection seat with seat belt decals. Decals for his scheme came from Microscale 72-244 Korean War Aces #2. These have been included in both the later Eagle Strike Productions 72-059 Wings Over Korea sheet and the Print Scale 72-079 American F-86 Sabre sheet. The name on his jet is "Angel Face & the Babes" after his wife and children and is located below the gun troughs (ports). His aircraft has the patch of the 336th FIS "Rocketeers." Baker also had a large crown surrounded by a blue ribbon with "The King" (his nickname based upon his first name "Royal") located on the side of his jet behind the canopy. Microscale 72-244 shows this crown on both sides of the jet and that is how I built it. However, the recent Eagle Strike Productions 72-059 and Print Scale 72-079 sheets both show the crown on only the left side. I have seen lots of pictures of the left side of his jet, but none of the right side to confirm this. This F-86E model was also used in ASM's "50th Anniversary of the USAF" display in 1997 before it went on display at the USAF Academy

 62     63     64     65     66      67

62-65. Model of Baker's F-86E-10 Sabre using the Heller kit.
66. F-86 flight from the 336 FIS "Rocketeers," third-ranking squadron with 116.5 victories.
67.
335 Fighter Interceptor Squadron "Rocketeers" patch.

I hope this article has spurred you on in your Korean War builds, as well as providing some historical background on the men and aircraft that fought in that conflict. The USAF Academy display currently has 13 Korean War aces in the collection with 12 Sabres and 1 Corsair night fighter. I am working on F-86 models flown by Lt Col George Ruddell (8 victories in "MiG Mad Mavis") and Major James Hagerstrom (8.5 victories in Korea in "MiG Poison" and 6 in WW II, another member of the Inner Seven). I hope to have those done for the June contest and the State Fair. There may be a follow-on article later this year that covers additional aces from the Korean War. I recommend the following sources that I used for further reading on the Korean air war. 

Sources:

1. Stars & Bars - A Tribute to the American Fighter Ace 1920-1973 by Frank Olynyk, Grub Street, London, 1995.
2,
MiG Alley - Air to Air Combat Over Korea by Larry Davis, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1978.
3.
Korean War Aces by Robert F. Dorr, Jon Lake and Warren Thompson, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #4, 1994.
4.
F-86 Sabre Aces of the 51st Fighter Wing by Warren Thompson, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #70, Osprey Publishing, 2006.
5.
F-86 Sabre Aces of the 4th Fighter Wing by Warren Thompson, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #72, Osprey Publishing, 2006.
6.
F-86 Sabre in action by Larry Davis, Aircraft Number 33 / 126 (revised), Squadron/Signal Publications, 1978/1992.
7. Multiple Wikipedia articles on the Korean War aces in this article.


     

Cobra Cage Match: Who Kits the Best P-39?

 by John Tate

There are three 1/48 model kits of the iconic WWII P-39 Airacobra fighter plane, from Monogram, Eduard, and Hasegawa. How do they stack up? Having built all three, here's what I found.

Monogram. Although forgotten today, this was the first 1/48 super-kit, an accurate replica with open panels and a detailed cockpit. Released back in 1967, it marked the transition in 1/48 scale from toys to detailed models. I remember as a kid building one of these kits in the late 1960s and it was impressive - a load of detail and options. Monogram re-released the kit several times, finally with a ProModeler update in the late 1990s, and its successor Revell did a final reissue in 2011, based on the ProModeler version. This is the reissue I'd recommend.

As a model it's easy to build and accurate, but with enough correctable issues to give you a chance to use your modeling skills. I upgraded my model to a Russian P-39N, using extra parts from the Hasegawa kit, but I'd recommend building the model the way it was intended, as a P-400 with open access panels -  follow this strategy and you'll get a nice replica with a minimum of trouble.

Eduard. This kit also made a splash when it was released in 2000, and I built "Air-a-Cutie" from it not long afterwards. The kit had extra parts allowing construction of any P-39, from a P-400 to a P-39Q. It was accurate and detailed and even came with a nifty nose weight. Decals were first-rate. However, it had some problems when constructed, notably the wing trailing edges being too thick. But with some work a nice replica could be obtained, and with Eduard re-releasing this kit many times over the past twenty years, it's easy to find and affordable.

Hasegawa. This kit was supposed to be the final word in Airacobras when it was released in 2006 and it was very nice in the box, with finely detailed parts and options in various releases to accurately build every P-39 version. Building it, though, uncovered the classic Hasegawa conundrum - the parts guy didn't talk with the fit guy, resulting in a troublesome build. If you stick with it you can get a nice replica but be prepared to come up with fixes to fun problems like the canopy being too skinny for the fuselage coaming. I made it work, though, and finished it as a red-nosed Russian P-39Q, using a Print-Scale decal sheet. Be forewarned: finding these Hasegawa P-39 kits is not easy and even second-hand they can be expensive.

So which kit comes out on top? I'd choose the Revell/Monogram kit for an early P-39, the Hasegawa kit for a late P-39 (Q or N), and the Eduard kit for the best overall value. Each of these kits is buildable and worth your time, so don't shy away from them if you have them in your model kit stash. With the aftermarket and decal options available now for 1/48 P-39s, you can't go wrong with any of them. With these kits, it's a lucky three-way tie with the modeler as the winner.


 

Jackie Cochran's Seversky Racer

 By Mark Vaughn

Through IPMS and the Cavalcade of Wings, I volunteered to make a model of Jackie Cochran's Seversky Racer for Steve Owen at the Western New Mexico Aviation Heritage Museum. This museum is primarily devoted to the TAT arrows and airmail beacons, having relocated a beacon with buildings to the Grants-Milan Airport. It also has several aircraft models of local historic crashed planes as well as some actual recovered parts.

  They have an exhibit about Jackie Cochran's record breaking flights that doubled back over New Mexico, which needed a model of her 1938 Bendix aircraft. Her career achievements are incredible and worth investigating (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacqueline_Cochran). She flew a Seversky AP-7 racer which was basically a P-35 with a more powerful engine. 

The P-35 was a prewar fighter with the USAAC. Some were sold to Columbia, Sweden, Russia, and Japan(!). When Major Seversky was thrown out of his own company, it was renamed Republic. The P-47 was a larger direct descendant of the Seversky racers and P-35, via the P-43.

Steve had a Williams Bros 1/32 P-35 S-2 (1970 tooling), which we rejected due to some issues such as cavernous sink holes, raised, inaccurate panel lines, and--most important--no appropriate decals. Also, it is slightly different from Jackie's plane. By happenstance, I had a 1/48 HobbyCraft kit of the 1938 Cochran AP-7 Bendix racer, complete with the appropriate decals, so we went with the more modern (but smaller) kit. Originally tooled in 1993, the kit is basically a hybrid between the Seversky racer and the P-35. The fuselage is slightly too long, the canopy too high, and the dihedral too sharp; all basically impossible to fix without major surgery. One of the great things about building for normal folk and museums is that the vast majority don't know or care about such "glaring" errors, like we do. I cannot stress how fulfilling it is to build for museums. They are universally grateful for whatever you can give them. Furthermore, your models get far more "views" than just sitting on your own shelf. And you end up with more shelf space.

I did fix a few of the easier issues. Jackie (and Major Seversky, an amputee) entered through a side window/door in the fuselage aft of the cockpit. The seat back folded down to permit this. The interior of the model fuselage is thus visible, since I polished and "Futured" the side window plastic. So I made a floor out of scrap as well as continued the internal longeron/frame structure aft.

The interior of the racer and the P-35 was unpolished bare aluminum. The racer had far less instrumentation than the P-35, resulting in a comparatively bare cockpit. I have no photos of the aft interior but a racer would have little or no equipment there.

There were a surprising (frustrating) number of sink holes and ejector pin marks. I missed one, as you can see. I polished the exterior plastic to remove as many blemishes as I could prior to the bare metal finish. I hate bare metal finishes since they always seem to make otherwise good models look toy-like, to my eye. I chose not to "enhance" the cockpit, due to the small scale and the closed canopy.

The canopy is quite a birdcage, requiring extensive masking for spraying. Assembly was typical for a kit of this vintage with gaps, sinks, and misfits. The wheel spats are especially ill-fitting and required surgery to get them to look this good (less bad). The engine was well detailed but basically invisible. According to my reference photos, the Bendix plane had no landing lights (these came later) but did have a ring antenna and radio behind the pilot’s head, not included and faked from my spares (the box art shows them, though). Also, the rear faces of the propeller blades were not blackened on Jackie's plane, for no known reason (a "glaring" oversight?). Later racers and fighters did.

The bare metal finish, Model Master buffing, looked okay to me. I hate bare metal finishes Here's the finished item (above).

Did I mention that I hate bare metal finishes? I left well enough alone and did not blacken the panel lines. At over ten mils, in 1/48 these are a half inch wide! The decals really perked it up for me. I left everything pretty glossy as the racer actually was constantly well buffed, see below. I figured most folks viewing the model would not understand the doped fabric control surfaces versus bare metal, so I left them matching, although I still twitch a little. The nice thing about the Racer is that it was brand new and meticulously cleaned for racing--no need for weathering!

Jackie painting her infamous number 13 right before the Bendix race. Shiny surface.

I was aided in the details by two books: Sever the Sky, by Edward Maloney; and Thunderbolt, from Seversky to Victory, by Warren M. Bodie. The former has several errors, but has a lot of good photos. The latter has a little on the racer but takes it through the P-47. If you would like to learn about an amazing pilot, Jackie Cochran the Story of the Greatest Woman Pilot in Aviation History by Maryann Bucknum Brinley is a quick read. I was ignorant of her amazing career--I had thought Amelia Earhart was the big deal in women's aviation. Cochrane was the first woman to break the sound barrier, and founded and headed the WASPs. Her list of aviation records is incredible. All the while she headed a very successful cosmetics company. She saved LBJ from dying and often hosted Ike at her ranch.

It was not all smooth for Jackie. In the 1938 Bendix race, she all of a sudden had fuel feed problems from one of the wing tanks, causing severe balance issues. She rocked her wings, and tilted the plane which eventually decreased the problem, still finishing first. A wadded up piece of paper was found in the tank, blocking the outlet. Accident or misogyny, no one will ever know. Well, get the book if you want to know more.

Steve was well satisfied with the model and kept offering payment, which was refused, of course. I did accept the Williams kit. Since it’s an S-2 racer I'd have to do the metallic green Frank Fuller racer (did I mention I hate bare metal finishes?). I may also do the Cochran racer with the later P-47 style landing gear (and landing lights) with the part kit I have left, or just make one for me. The model is on display at the museum 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Saturdays--check before you go (http://www.cibolahistory.org/airway-heritage-museum.html). 

    


  

Wingnut To Mengnut

By John Tate

On April 17, 2020, the scale modeling world received shock news that Sir Peter Jackson's top-flight Wingnut Wings model kit company was closing down, with its staff laid off and assets to be sold. The Wingnut Wings website remained online but no new orders were being taken and, as the weeks dragged on without additional news, it appeared the worst was confirmed--they were gone forever.

Predictably, eBay prices for Wingnut kits began to creep into the stratosphere as hobby outlets sold off existing stock and the realization set in that those Wingnut kits hidden away in modelers' kit stashes were likely to be the last ever seen of these legendary kitsets. Today, it's not unusual for some of the more desirable model kits to sell for $500 or more.

There was speculation that another model company would buy out the Wingnut Wings operation and release its kit line at some future date but given the state of the world economy that was starting to look unlikely, at least in the short term. Therefore, it was a surprise to see Hannants' announcement on June 20 that Meng would release a 1/32 Fokker Triplane model from a Wingnut Wings future-release kit mold, as Meng was to have done the plastic parts for the kit.

   

That raises some interesting questions--what about the other blockbuster future kit releases announced by Wingnuts, such as the 1/32 Handley Page O/100 and O/400 WWI bombers, and the two Avro Lancaster kits? These would be major undertakings for any model company and even Meng might have difficulty marketing them; in contrast, the popular Fokker Triplane is a small kit in 1/32 and much less of a risk. So the future remains unknown not only for Wingnut Wings future releases, but their large existing kit range as well. Stay tuned--this is the most interesting story in the hobby world right now and promises to get even more interesting in the months and years ahead.

 


  

     

 

 

Modeling the F-86A Sabre of George Davis

4th Ranking Sabre Ace of the Korean War

   By Mike Blohm

Lt Colonel George A. "Curly" Davis, Jr. is the 17th ranking American ace (tie), 13th ranking USAF ace (tie), and 4th ranking U.S. ace of the Korean War, with 21 total victories.  Davis joined the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing (FIW) in Aug 1951 and became 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron commander in Oct 1951.  In Korea he scored 14 kills between Nov 1951 and Feb 1952, with victories over 11 MiG-15s and 3 Tu-2 bombers.  Davis scored his kills in groups, with a "quadruple" on 30 Nov 1951 (3 Tu-2s and 1 MGg-15 destroyed, and 1 Tu-2 damaged), making him the 5th U.S. jet ace.  He also scored 5 "doubles": on 27 Nov and 5 Dec 1951, and 10 Feb 1952; and then 4 kills in two back-to-back sorties on 13 Dec 1951 (2 on each sortie).  Davis was killed in action during aerial combat on 10 Feb 1952 just south of the Yalu River at Sinuiju, North Korea, when he was outnumbered 10-to-2 but still engaged the MiGs in order to protect friendly fighter-bomber operations.  He downed 2 MiG-15s but was himself shot down.  He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for this action, the only "Sabre" pilot so honored in the Korean War.  Davis was the leading USAF scorer at the time of his death.  He was promoted to Lt Colonel on 15 Apr 1953 while still missing in action.  There is controversy surrounding his last engagement on whether Davis had "MiG Madness" and disregarded a deteriorating situation where he got slow in an outnumbered fight in order to try to score a victory.  There is also controversy on the North Korean side of the engagement, over which pilot really shot down Davis and if there were several MiG-15s mistakenly downed by their own pilots and claimed as F‑86s, including Davis.  See Aviation History magazine, March 2017. 

        

Davis is also a member of the "inner seven" - an ace in two wars.  He flew the P-47D Thunderbolt and P-51K Mustang as a 1st Lieutenant and Captain with the 342nd Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group "Kearby's Thunderbolts" in the Southwest Pacific Theater from Aug 1943 to Apr 1945, where he scored 7 victories.  He had two "doubles": on 10 Dec (2 Tonys) over Negros Island; and on 24 Dec 1944 (2 Zekes) northwest of Clark Field, in the Philippine Islands.   His World War II score included 3 Zekes, 3 Tonys and 1 Val, all accomplished in the P-47D. Photos below show Davis in his P-47D (left) in late 1944 and in his P-51K (right) in early 1945 in the Philippines.     

    

The model of George Davis's F-86A/5 Sabre is the Matchbox kit in 1//72 scale, and depicts his F-86 at Kimpo Air Base, South Korea in 1951.  This was the only F-86A kit available at the time of this build for the USAF Academy (Nov 2001) and it may still be.  The model is accurate enough, but it is not near the Fujimi F-86F kit, also boxed by Testors.  The big seller is this kit had the early F-86A canopy with a V-shaped windscreen.  Later F-86E and F models had a flat windscreen.  The Matchbox canopy interior and wheel wells are very sparse.  Instrument panel and seat belt decals were therefore found and added.  Most of the kit decals could be used to make Davis's scheme.  The kit's call number (FU-251) was modified to Davis's scheme (FU-255) with some Aeromaster 1/72 scale numbers decal sheets.  The model wears the 4 FIW's black and white recognition stripes (kit decals) - modeled after D-Day invasion stripes - that were used before the 51st FIW's yellow stripes later became the U.S. standard in Korea.  The light gray nose cone is the actual color of those parts without paint.  The model was painted overall with Model Master Aluminum Plate (Buffing) paint with a light gray interior and wheel wells.

                   

    


 

Modeleing the Aircraft of

Ken Walsh, USMC - The First "Corsair Ace"

   By Mike Blohm

Captain Kenneth "Ken" Walsh , US Marine Corps (USMC) scored 21 aerial victories in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  Walsh is the 18th ranking U.S ace (tie).; 4th ranking in the USMC. the first "Corsair ace" and also the top "Corsair ace."  Walsh was originally a aircraft mechanic and radioman for two years before being accepted for flight training.  He served five years in scout and observation squadrons on the carriers Yorktown, Wasp and Ranger before being assigned to fighters with VNF-121.  He joined the VMF-124 "Checkerboards" in Sep 1942, the first unit to fly the "Corsair" in combat.  VMF-124 and arrived at Guadalcanal Island in Feb 1943.  He became the first "Corsair Ace" on 3 May 1943 when he downed two Zekes off the Russell Islands and would become the squadron's top ace.  Walsh would score 12 victories in 19 days (12-30 Aug 1943).  These included 4 victories on 30 Aug (4 Zekes) north of Ranongga Island and three "triples": 1 Apr (2 Zekes & Val); 13 May (3 Zekes) off the Russell Islands; and on 15 Aug (2 Vals & Zeke) near Vella Lavella.  Walsh flew 3 combat tours with VMF-124.  Walsh was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on 15 and 30 Aug 1943 by President Roosevelt on 8 Feb 1944.  Walsh then served as an instructor at Jacksonville until he joined VMF-222 for an additional combat tour, flying fighter-bomber missions in the Corsair in the Philippine Islands and Okinawa.  He scored one additional victory, his final, on 22 June 1945 (Zeke) off Okinawa.  His victories included: 17 Zekes, 3 Val dive bombers, and 1 float biplane. His awards included 5 Distinguished Flying Crosses.  Walsh flew strike missions during the Korean War with VMR-152 from Oct 1950 to July 1951.  He retired from the USMC as a Lieutenant Colonel in Feb 1962, and died in July 1998. 

                   

 

The model of Ken Walsh's F4U-1 "birdcage" Corsair is the Hasegawa kit in 1/72 scale, built in early 2001.  It is depicted on Guadalcanal Island in May, 1943 when Walsh was a 2nd Lieutenant and had scored five victories.  This is an accurate kit but the interior detail is lacking, having just a floor panel with consoles and an instrument panel that get instrument decals applied, and a basic seat.  The model is finished in Testors Model Master enamel paints  Intermediate Blue FS35164 on the upper surfaces and Dark Gull Gray FS36231 on the lower surfaces.  Walsh's markings came from MicroScale sheet 72-314.  All of Walsh's Corsairs were coded "13." 

 

            

 

 


    

Kit Review

Building the Blue Thunder Prototype 01

By Ken Piniak

The movie Blue Thunder (Columbia Pictures, 1983) follows the testing and ultimate destruction of the Blue Thunder helicopter prototype number 2. No mention is ever made of prototype number 1. This, then, is the story and model build of prototype number 1.

       

Sometime before the events portrayed in the film, #1 was involved in an accident and returned to the manufacturer for repair. I could find no information as to the cause of the accident, the condition of the pilot, or the extent of the damage to the aircraft. After repairing the damage, the manufacturer opted to retain the aircraft for additional upgrades and testing, based on field reports from testing the two aircraft in an urban environment. The aircraft proved to be under-powered, so they upgraded the engine, transmission, and rotor assembly. The engine went from 590HP to 650HP. The strengthened composite rotor blades were much stiffer than the originals, which had a pronounced droop when stationary. The belly armor was replaced with a new, lighter composite armor, 3/4 inch thick. The electronics and surveillance equipment received major upgrades. New communication equipment was added to connect to more databases, which resulted in a new antenna array. The rear cockpit configuration was changed, with one monitor unit removed, and other units and the keyboard relocated. Initial testing showed that it was desirable for the observer to be able to control all of the various sensors as well as the gun turret when the pilot cannot. Since the aft cockpit is not configured to use the Harrison Fire Control system, a joystick was added in the old keyboard location--the observer can use it to operate all of the sensors as well as the gun if it is not being used by the pilot. Lastly, operating the helicopter in an urban environment revealed a serious hazard of wire/cable strikes. Wire cutters were added to cut through power lines, telephone lines, etc. Since the aircraft would most often be used at night, a very dark blue over black paint scheme was applied. After testing out the new upgrades and modifications, the manufacturer turned the aircraft over to the Los Angeles Police two months after the second prototype was destroyed in a collision with a train. It was used by the City of Los Angeles for many years, and was often loaned out to the DEA, Border Patrol, and Customs. It was heavily used in the weeks after 9/11. After 27 years of service, Blue Thunder was officially retired in 2010. Its final fate is unknown.

I originally built the Monogram 1/32 scale Blue Thunder helicopter back in the 1980s, when I was much younger and less experienced. I did an okay job on it, but I can do a better one now that I am older and wiser (?).  So I decided to have another go at it. Digging through the spare parts box, I found the original cockpit, canopy, rotor, tail boom, and other small parts. The main fuselage, landing gear, and gun turret were missing. I had never painted it (I liked the blue plastic) or added decals, but the decals were missing. I would need a new kit to work with. There are two 1/32 scale kits of Blue Thunder; the original Monogram kit and a copy made by Kitech, out of China. The Monogram kit is long out of production, but can be found at swap meets, sales, or on the internet (eBay is my friend), at prices ranging from really low to crazy expensive. At the time I could only find a Kitech kit, which was really cheap at about fourteen bucks.

I had heard that the Kitech kit was a reboxing of the old Monogram kit; it is not. It is a low-quality copy or "knockoff" of the original, and definitely inferior. It has much less detail than the Monogram kit, and has major fit issues, which are aggravated by severe warping of many of the parts. The decals are awful, and the clear parts are not clear. Nevertheless, if you are willing to put in some work, it can be made into a nice model. Since the Kitech decals are crap, and I had lost the original Monogram decals, I ordered a great set form Fireball Modelworks (unfortunately, these are no longer in production).

                   

Once I had everything together, I laid it all out to see just what I had. While the Kitech kit is definitely inferior overall, some of its parts are equal to or even better than the Monogram parts. The instrument panel, rear cockpit bulkhead, and engine are great!  The cockpit tub and gun are decent. The main rotors are okay. My original cockpit looked good, but not very accurate; back then references and photos were impossible to get. Today, however, a quick search of the internet brings up all kinds of photos and information. From this information, I learned that I could not use my parts (or even the entire new kit) to build the helicopter as it looked in the movie. The  Monogram kit was based on the short-lived TV show, with a number of differences to the aircraft, especially in the cockpit. The decal set by Fireball included alternate decals to make prototype #1, so I decided to build that instead of the movie bird.

                       

Starting with my original Monogram cockpit, I added wires, boxes, and a joystick to represent the "new upgrades" added by the manufacturer's engineers. I also added a fire extinguisher (missing in both kits) to the rear bulkhead. The observer's seat swivels, and I added shoulder harnesses. The Monogram kit includes a nice hexagonal pattern in the molded on "belly armor" that I like. The Kitech kit includes this under the main fuselage, but not on the tail boom. So I removed the tail from the Kitech body and grafted on the Monogram tail in its place. Ironically, I liked the Kitech tail fan better, so I cut out the Monogram fan and added the Kitech unit. I installed the cockpit and the transmission and glued the body together. Because of the warping of the Kitech parts; I started with the tail (Monogram, no warping) and slowly worked my way around the belly, top, and nose, clamping as I went. I was going to graft the Monogram engine to the top, but the Kitech engine was just as good, so I kept it. The landing gear was warped, and did not fit the mounting points on the body. It took lots of work, super glue and epoxy putty to get it all lined up and cleaned up. The curved front plate (behind the gun turret, shown on the previous page) had huge gaps all around. It required lots of styrene strip, epoxy putty, and more super glue to blend it in. Because of all that warping of the fuselage, neither the Monogram nor the Kitech canopy fit well. I went with the Monogram part because you can see through it (the Kitech canopy can be fixed by polishing it out) and I had cut open the side hatch to show off the cockpit. Again, this piece had to be glued a little bit at a time. I ended up with a slight gap at the front which had to be filled in with styrene strip. The "engine intake" parts, engine cover, and the "camera surveillance unit" parts are Monogram, the "Nitesun" searchlights, shotgun microphones, and gun turret parts are Kitech. The rear synch elevators and "ammo belts" for the gun are a combination of both kit parts. The new antennas and wire cutters are from the parts box. I used an MV lens for the landing light. The decal set by Fireball Modelworks is complete and accurate, with every marking and stencil seen on the aircraft in the movie. They are even readable! The paint is Testors Copenhagen Blue Metallic, which came out darker than I expected. Worse, when I added a flat clear (to match the matte look of the real bird) the paint turned almost black! I had to go back to a gloss/semigloss finish to bring back the blue. The belly armor is Model Master flat black. The observer's helmet is from the Kitech kit, the pilot's "Harrison Fire Control Helmet" is from a 54mm pilot figure. With the hatch in the open position, she sits ready, waiting for the crew to jump in and take off after the bad guys!

       


    

Kit Review - Airfix 1/24 Scale Hurricane Mk I

By John Tate

First released back in 1973, the big-scale Airfix Hurricane is not unknown to modelers but like many large airplane model kits, is seldom built.  However, when ASM VP Tony Humphries traded the kit to me late last year, I decided to give it a try to see how it went together.  I'm happy to say it's a great kit.

First off, this is''t a generic Hurricane; it's a metal-winged, eight-gun Mark I with a bulbous Rotol spinner and prop.  This fighter type was a mainstay of the RAF during the Battle of Britain so I decided early on the markings I would use, from an excellent Techmod sheet, for 303 Squadron ace Josef Frantisek.  For more on his life and wartime career, check out this BBC link:

 https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-45516556

I knew of a problem with these Airfix 1/24 scale kits - the cowlings didn't fit once the engines were installed; I experienced this when I built their 1/24 Stuka a number of years ago.  So I decided to leave out the engine and seal up the cowl panels; I'm glad I did, it greatly simplified construction and the rest of the build went smoothly.  I did the same with the wing panels, closing up the wing gun bays, and was pleased to find they fit well.

 The cockpit is well-detailed, a match for any current model kit, and once installed, I found the only addition necessary was a set of PE seatbelts for the Sutton harness.  A cautionary note- make sure the rear bulkhead is flush with the fuselage halves; the armor plate should stand a little proud of the bulkhead.

 There was a gap when I attached the wings but once they were on and aligned with the fuselage, I sealed the gap along the join lines, leaving a surface line for accuracy.  The overall alignment of the model - wings, fuselage and horizontal stabilizers - was good.  I'd read reviews that said the kit wings were too thick but I didn't find this to be the case- they looked accurate and in-scale.

 Next came the landing gear.  I used a Scale Aircraft Conversions (SAC) white metal gear set specifically designed for this kit and found it fit well.  Of special note is the kit's tail wheel strut, which needs replacement by the SAC item as it isn't strong enough to support the weight of the model.  The kit wheel wells are boxed-in, well-defined and accurate.

 The kit tires are rubber and unfortunately have a circumferential seam line.  However, I was able remove it by hardening the seam with CA glue and sanding it off.  Once fixed, the tires fit well and when placed on the finished model provide some shock-absorbing protection.

                   

 Painting was easy as the dark earth, dark green and sky camouflage used by the RAF in 1940 is a dream for modelers- easy to paint, good coverage and tolerant of weathering.  This particular aircraft was painted in a Type A scheme.

 My only nitpick with the kit was the spinner - not shaped correctly and too big, which mars an otherwise excellent model.  So I used a Trumpeter 1/24 Mark I spinner as a guide and carved down and sanded the Airfix spinner until it looked right.  Turned out the thickness of the kit spinner made this an easy job, and the result was a huge positive difference to the finished kit.  BTW, the Trumpeter spinner?  Too small for the Airfix model, so cross-kitting won't help you here.

 What has me perplexed is why Airfix hasn't done anything to upgrade this kit over the past 46 years.  Surely it would be a simple matter for them to retool the kit's Rotol spinner, then maybe throw in a new-tooled De Havilland prop and spinner, and a tropical air filter, to increase the versatility of the kit and boost its appeal to modelers.  Just as perplexing is the slight interest shown in the kit by aftermarket companies- there are literally thousands of resin doodads available for everything with wings but this lion of a kit has been practically ignored.  Go figure.

 All in all, this was an enjoyable build and the finished model is an accurate replica of a Hurricane.  You have a real sense of accomplishment when you complete a model this big.  If you have time, dedication to subject and standard modeling skills, give this old-timer a try- you'll be rewarded with an excellent model of the unsung plane that stopped the Luftwaffe in its tracks and saved Britain and the world, nearly 80 years ago.

         

 


 

Modeleing the Aircraft of

Ken Walsh, USMC - The First "Corsair Ace"

   By Mike Blohm

Captain Kenneth "Ken" Walsh , US Marine Corps (USMC) scored 21 aerial victories in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  Walsh is the 18th ranking U.S ace (tie).; 4th ranking in the USMC. the first "Corsair ace" and also the top "Corsair ace."  Walsh was originally a aircraft mechanic and radioman for two years before being accepted for flight training.  He served five years in scout and observation squadrons on the carriers Yorktown, Wasp and Ranger before being assigned to fighters with VNF-121.  He joined the VMF-124 "Checkerboards" in Sep 1942, the first unit to fly the "Corsair" in combat.  VMF-124 and arrived at Guadalcanal Island in Feb 1943.  He became the first "Corsair Ace" on 3 May 1943 when he downed two Zekes off the Russell Islands and would become the squadron's top ace.  Walsh would score 12 victories in 19 days (12-30 Aug 1943).  These included 4 victories on 30 Aug (4 Zekes) north of Ranongga Island and three "triples": 1 Apr (2 Zekes & Val); 13 May (3 Zekes) off the Russell Islands; and on 15 Aug (2 Vals & Zeke) near Vella Lavella.  Walsh flew 3 combat tours with VMF-124.  Walsh was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on 15 and 30 Aug 1943 by President Roosevelt on 8 Feb 1944.  Walsh then served as an instructor at Jacksonville until he joined VMF-222 for an additional combat tour, flying fighter-bomber missions in the Corsair in the Philippine Islands and Okinawa.  He scored one additional victory, his final, on 22 June 1945 (Zeke) off Okinawa.  His victories included: 17 Zekes, 3 Val dive bombers, and 1 float biplane. His awards included 5 Distinguished Flying Crosses.  Walsh flew strike missions during the Korean War with VMR-152 from Oct 1950 to July 1951.  He retired from the USMC as a Lieutenant Colonel in Feb 1962, and died in July 1998. 

                   

The model of Ken Walsh's F4U-1 "birdcage" Corsair is the Hasegawa kit in 1/72 scale, built in early 2001.  It is depicted on Guadalcanal Island in May, 1943 when Walsh was a 2nd Lieutenant and had scored five victories.  This is an accurate kit but the interior detail is lacking, having just a floor panel with consoles and an instrument panel that get instrument decals applied, and a basic seat.  The model is finished in Testors Model Master enamel paints  Intermediate Blue FS35164 on the upper surfaces and Dark Gull Gray FS36231 on the lower surfaces.  Walsh's markings came from MicroScale sheet 72-314.  All of Walsh's Corsairs were coded "13." 

            


 

Modeling the Aircraft of

Major John B. England - Yoxford Boys Ace

  By Mike Blohm

Maj John B. England, US Army Air Force, scored 17.5 victories in the Eurporean Theater of Operations and is the 26th-ranking American ace (tie), and the 20th-ranking USAF ace (tie).  He was the 2nd-ranked ace of the 357th Fighter Group (FG) "Yoxford Boys" and the 362nd Fighter Squadron (FS).  The 357th was the first 8th Air Force group to fly the Mustang in combat – on 11 Feb 1943.  Only the 56th FG scored more total aerial victories, and the 357th had the highest rate of victories for the last year of the war.  England made "ace" on 24 Apr 1944, and scored his victories in bunches.  He scored a "quadruple" on 27 Nov 1944 (4 Fw 190s) south of Magdeburg, Germany; a "triple" on 24 Apr 1944 (3 Me 110s) south of Munich; a “2.5” on 13 Sep 1944 (2.5 Bf 109s) south of Nordhausen; and a "double" on 6 Oct 1944 (2 Bf 109s) west of Berlin.  He commanded the 362 FS from Aug 1944 to Feb 1945 and was promoted to Major on 4 Dec 1944.  After WW II, England transferred to the USAF and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 20 Feb 1951. He served a short tour in Korea, flying six missions in the F-86E "Sabre" with the 16 FIS, 51 FIW, claiming a damaged MiG-15 on 25 Jan 1952.  England became commander of the 389 Fighter Bomber Squadron in Oct 1953.  He was killed on 17 Nov 1954 in an F-86F flying accident  at Toul-Rosiere Air Base, France.  Alexandria AFB in Louisiana, England's home state, was renamed England AFB in his honor. 

            

The model of England's P-51B "U've Had It!" is the venerable Monogram 1/72 scale P-51B Mustang kit, depicted in June 1944 at the 357th's base at Leiston, England when he held the rank of Captain.  The model was built in Nov 2001 and is finished in Model Master aluminum plate (buffing) enamel paint for the undersurfaces and sides.  The upper surfaces are Model Master Olive Drab (FS34087), which was added to their bare-metal ponies when the 357th expected to soon be operating out of airfields on the continent after D-Day.  England's markings are decals from a Super Scale decal sheet.  The P-51B wears complete D-Day stripes markings, which are from the Super Scale P-51 D-Day Stripes decal sheet.  England also flew a P-51D named "Missouri Armada" that was completely olive drab on the upper surfaces.

               


  

 

Modeling the Aircraft of

Capt Frederick Christensen - Thunderbolt Ace of Zemke's Wolfpack

  By Mike Blohm

Captain Frederick J. Christenson Jr. scored 21.5 victories during World War II and is the 16th-ranking American ace (tie), and 11th-ranking USAF ace.  He was the 4th-ranking ace of the 56th Fighter Group (FG) "Zemke's Wolfpack" behind Francis Gabreski (28), Robert Johnson (27), and David Schilling (22.5).  Christensen attended Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the Army Reserves   He transferred to the 62 Fighter Squadron (FS) of the 56 FG in Aug 1943, where he flew 107 combat missions, all in the P-47 Thunderbolt.  Christensen scored his first victory on 26 Nov 1943 over a Bf 110.  His biggest day was on 7 Jul 1944 when he downed six Ju 52 transports caught in the landing pattern at Gardelegen Airdrome.  He scored three "doubles": on 15 Mar (2 Fw 190s) near Dummer Lake; on 16 Mar (2 Fw 190s) near St Dizier; and on 15 Apr 1944 (2 Bf 109s) near Altona.  He scored 1.5 kills on 20 Feb 1944 (1 Ju 88 and 0.5 Do 217).  Inactivated in Nov 1946 as a Major, he then served in the Massachusetts Air National Guard from Nov 1947 to Aug 1961, rising to the rank of Colonel and 102 FG commander.  Christensen passed away in Aug 2006.  His awards included a Silver Star, 7 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 3 Air Medals. 

               

The model of Christensen's P-47D-25 "Miss Fire / Rozzie Geth II" is depicted at Boxted, England in July 1944.  This is the Hasegawa 1/72 scale P-47D bubbletop kit, which is an easy straight-forward build.  The kit came out in the early 1980's and does not have a lot of cockpit details or options like lowered flaps or open canopies as in more recent kits from Tamiya and Academy.  As a 56 FG “old-timer,” Christensen retained the “LM-C" code (“C” for Christensen) on all his aircraft during his tour.  His P-47D-25 was unusual in that kill markings were displayed on both sides of the fuselage in two different styles.  This build took place in 2001, before there were any decals of Christensen's aircraft available in 1/72 scale.  Therefore, the aircraft names, nose art, and pilot identification blocks were all hand-painted onto clear and white (for the nose art) decal sheets and then applied.  The codes and serial numbers are from Super Scale and Aeromaster numbers and letters decal sheets with the victory markings sourced from other sheets.  The stars and bars and tail stripes are from the kit's decals.  The P-47 was painted with Model Master aluminum plate (buffing) enamel paint with an Olive Drab (FS34087) anti-glare panel.  The nose was painted Insignia Red (FS31136) for the 56 FG and the rudder Insignia Yellow (FS33538) for the 62 FS, both over a white undercoating.  Christensen's P-47D carried both the under fuselage and under wing D-Day markings retained in July 1944.  These came from the Super Scale P‑47 D-Day Markings sheet.  Christensen's markings are now available for his P-47D Bubbletop in 1/72 scale from Lifelike Decals 72-010 Republic P‑47D Thunderbolt Part 3; and for his P-47D Razorback in 1/48 scale from Lifelike Decals 48-008 Republic P-47D Thunderbolt Part 1. 

           

 


 

Modeling the Aircraft of

Bill Harris - Lightning Ace of the Southwest Pacific

 By Mike Blohm

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Harris is a little-known ace who flew P-38 Lightning's in the Southwest Pacific, eventually becoming the top P-38 ace of the 13th Air Force.  Harris is the 32nd ranking U.S. ace (tie) and 27th ranking USAF ace (tie), and was the top ace of the 347 Fighter Group (FG).  Harris had served in the US Navy from 1936-1940 as a radioman on the USS Houston.  When the U.S. entered WW II he wanted to fly instead of returning to the Navy, so he joined the Army Air Corps.  From his Navy experience he did not want to fly over water, but he ended up serving two combat tours in the Pacific.  The first was with the 339 Fighter Squadron "Sunsetters" of the 347 FG, scoring 15 total victories flying the P-38G and H between Jun 1943 and Feb 1944 in New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and New Guinea.  His victories included a "triple" (Zekes) on 15 Feb 1944 at Vunakanau air strip, and 4 "doubles."  He had 10 kills in a 5 month period (Jun-Oct 1943), including 3 total in two sorties on 10 Oct 1943.  He joined the 18 FG in Nov 1944 for a second combat tour flying the P-38J in New Guinea and the Philippines.  He scored one additional kill on 22 Jun 1945 (Oscar) at Mandai Airdrome in the Celebes (Indonesia).  He served as 18 FG commander from 1 Aug 1945 to the end of WW II.  13th AF P-38 units were relegated to airfield and rail attacks during the invasion of the Philippines, effectively limiting their opportunities for additional victories.  After the war Harris went back to a logging business that he had stared in 1940, and then became a rancher.  Harris passed away in May 2012.  He was inducted into the Oregon Aviation Hall of Fame on 7 Nov 2015. 

The model of Harris's P-38 is the 1/72 scale Hasegawa P-38J/L kit.  The model depicts Harris's aircraft in August 1945 at Zamboanga Airfield on Mindanao in the Philippine Islands.  The model goes together well but needs sanding along the booms for a smooth join.  It is finished in Model Master aluminum plate (buffing) enamel paint.  Harris's markings were fairly minimal, and were bashed from Super Scale and Aeromaster numbers and letters decal sheets with the victory markings from a P-38 sheet.  His name plate was hand-painted.  The "OX with Bar" on the nose of his P-38 is his ranch's cattle brand. 

                

           


 

Modeling the Aircraft of

Hellcat Ace Lt Patrick D. Fleming

   By Mike Blohm
    

August 31, 1943 was the first use of the F6F Hellcat in combat, so this August 2018 article is on little-known Hellcat ace Lieutenant Patrick D. Fleming who scored 19 total aerial victories.  Fleming is the 22nd-ranking American ace (tie), and the 4th-ranking US Navy ace (tie).  He initially served on the cruiser USS Cincinnati until entering flight training in Nov 1942.  He then served as a flight instructor from Dec 1943 to Mar 1944, when he joined VF-80 (Fighting Squadron 80 "Vipers") aboard the USS Ticonderoga.  During 2 combat tours with VF-80 he scored 10 victories, including 5 kills on 14 Dec 1944 (4 Zekes and Oscar) in the Philippines; a "triple" on 3 Jan 1945 (2 Oscars and Tojo); and a "double" on 25 Nov 1944 (2 Frances).  He then transferred to VBF-80 (Bombing Fighting Squadron 80) as the Executive Officer, where he continued his multi-kill missions by scoring 9 kills in 2 days: 5 scored on 16 Feb (5 Zekes) and 4 on 17 Feb 1945 (4 Nates) during the carrier raids on Tokyo.  Fleming took command of VF-80 in May 1945.  He was awarded a Navy Cross, 2 Silver Stars, and 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses. 

Fleming resigned from the Navy in Jan 1947 and joined the newly formed USAF as a Major.  He flew the B-29, B-50 and B-47 and rose to the rank of Colonel.  Fleming was killed in a B-52B crash on 16 Feb 1956 while serving as the 93rd Bomb Wing's Deputy Wing Commander.  The model of Fleming's Hellcat is the Heller 1/72 scale kit depicted in Nov 1944 aboard the USS Ticonderoga.  The model is finished overall in Model Master enamel paint Dark Sea Blue (FS15042).  The markings were kit-bashed from Super Scale Hellcat decal sheets.  Of note, of the 6,477 Japanese aircraft that were claimed destroyed in the air by US Navy pilots, the Hellcat was responsible for 4,947 of them (76.4 per cent). 

                   

 


 

Syrian MiG-21

 By John Tate

Syria has been in the news lately so here are some shots of a Revell 1/32 scale MiG-21MF I completed late last year, in current Syrian Air Force markings. The inspiration for the build came from a 2016 video clip I saw from the Russian media site RT, which reported on Syrian air operations in the midst of their civil war, using 1970s-era Soviet military equipment.

Researching these aircraft, it appears they wore a "Hungarian"-style camouflage of mustard brown and bright green, with light gray or light blue undersides. No roundels were carried, just the national flag on the tail with Arabic aircraft numbers. These warbirds were worn and weathered to an extent you would not see on peacetime in-service aircraft; it's amazing the Syrians were able to keep them in the air at all, but MiGs of that era were designed to be rugged and easy to maintain. Nevertheless, it was quite a feat for Syrian pilots to strap one of these on for a combat mission, especially since certain death awaited them if they ejected over rebel territory.

Although the MiG-21 was originally designed as a supersonic interceptor, its use in the Syrian civil war has been as a bomb truck, so no air-to-air missiles were carried—just Russian or locally-made bombs.  There were only two scale bombs in the Revell kit, so I ended up borrowing some from the Trumpeter MiG-21 kit, along with many other odds-and-ends, to improve the appearance and accuracy of the Revell kit, especially in the cockpit. It was the labor of a year to complete but looking back it was a rewarding build and gave me a chance to learn more about the MiG-21. If you have one of these kits, they are well worth building if you don't mind some old-fashioned scale modeling, which means a lot of surgical accurizing and borrowing of parts, but just like the original, the model is a tough old bird that can stand a lot of handling.

                       

 



Modeling the Aircraft of

American Volunteer Group Ace David "Tex" Hill

 By Mike Blohm

 

David L. "Tex" Hill was the second-ranking ace  of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) "Flying Tigers," and is the 39th ranking U.S ace, and the 29th ranking USAF ace.  Hill initially flew TBD Devastator torpedo bombers with VT-3 on the USS Saratoga and then SB2U Vindicators dive bombers with VB-4 on the USS Ranger, before resigning his commission in March 1941 to join the AVG.  Hill was a wingman and flight leader before becoming commander of the 2nd Pursuit Squadron (PS) "Panda Bears" April 1942.  Hill  made "ace" in January 1942, scoring his first kill on 3 January (I-97) and then "doubles" on both 23 January (2 I-97s) and 24 January (bomber and fighter).  He scored another "double" on 28 April 1942 (2 Zeros) flying the P-40E.  Hill had a total of 10.25 aerial victories and 2 ground victories with the AVG.  Hill opposed the "pilot's revolt"--the refusal to join the USAAF--and extended his AVG contract for 2 weeks and accepted a commission in the USAAF and command of the 75 Fighter Squadron.  Hill scored 3 kills with the 75 FS before he returned to the U.S. in November 1942, ill with malaria and dysentery.  He returned to China as the 23 Fighter Group (FG) commander, serving from November 1943 to October 1944.  He scored 1 additional kill on 6 May 1944 (Hamp) for an overall total of 15.25 victories.  After WWII, Hill was the 412 FG commander from September 1945 to January 1946, flying the P-80 "Starfighter."  Hill resigned from the USAF in June 1946 and joined the Air National Guard, rising to brigadier general and commanding the 58 Fighter Wing.  He later joined the AF Reserves, serving until 1968.  Hill passed away in 2007 at age 92.  The pictures below show (left to right):  AVG and 2 PS emblems; Tex Hill with the 2 PS in front of a Hawk 81-A2 in 1942; Hill's Hawk 81 #48 after it was lost in an intercept mission in December 1941; Hill (2nd from left) with other members of the 75FS; Hill in front of a 23FG P-51B; and Hill as the commander of the 23 FG.

                           

The model of Hill's Hawk 81-A2 was built in January 2008 using the Academy Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk kit in 1/72 scale.  This is a fairly old kit and it is not as accurate as those available today (Trumpeter and Airfix), but it was the best at that time.  Hill's aircraft carries  a "cowboy" version of the "panda bear" insignia (see picture below) and the "China Blue" tail stripe used by the 2nd PS. Each squadron aircraft had a slightly different version of a panda bear.  The 2nd PS used aircraft numbers 34 through 66.  The outline of the shark mouth was initially painted in the China Blue but this faded badly and they were over painted with black.  The "Flying Tiger" insignia and lapel pins designed by the Walt Disney studio did not arrive in theater until March 1942, so Hill's aircraft did not carry one at the time depicted by this model, which is December 1941.  The Hawk 81 is finished in standard RAF paints of Dark Green and Earth Brown on the upper surface and Duck Egg Blue on the under surface.  Model Master enamel paints were used.  There is great debate over the lower surface color as to whether it was really a light grey.  The AVG Hawks in the Aces Gallery collection (four at this time) were started with duck egg blue, so they have been continued as such. 

                       

 


 
American Aces of World War I

by Mike Blohm
  

 Douglas Campbell

1st Lieutenant Douglas Campbell made history as the first American-trained ace in WW I, accomplished flying with the 94th Aero "Hat in the Ring" Squadron.  Assigned to the 94th in March 1918, he claimed his first victory on 14 April 1918 flying the Nieuport 28 "Scout".  This victory, and Alan Winslow's near-simultaneous claim, were the first victories for the squadron. Four U.S. squadrons (27th, 94th, 95th, and 147th) of the 1st Pursuit Group were equipped with the Nieuport 28 in 1918 before sufficient SPAD S.XIII's became available.  Note that SPAD stands for Societe Pour L'Aviation et ses Derives, the company that built them.  Campbell became the first American-trained ace with his fifth victory on 31 May.  He had  six kills before he was wounded on 5 June, continuing an air battle despite shrapnel from an artillery round in his back.  Campbell went back to the USA, returning to France to rejoin the 94th shortly after the armistice.  Campbell received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with four oak leaf clusters, the French Legion of Honor, and the Italian Croix de Guerre with two palms.  His victories included four Rumpler C and two Pfalz DIII aircraft.  He joined Pan American Airways in 1935, becoming vice president in 1939 and then general manager in 1948.  He was with Pan Am for 24 years before he retired in 1963.  Campbell died on 16 Dec 1990 at the age of 94. 

 
                       

 Nieuport 28 Model

 The model of Campbell's Nieuport 28, serial N6164, white 10 of the 94th Aero Squadron depicts the aircraft that he was flying when he scored the first U.S. trained victory of World War I, located at Toul, France in May 1918.  This 1/72 scale model is the Revell Nieuport 28 kit from the 1960's.  It was built in April 2005 and is finished in Model Master colors.  This kit has been reissued many times over the years, and some issues have had Campbell's markings.  The kit is an easy build--besides trying to mount the wings--and looks fairly good.  It has no interior, so a seat, seat belts and instrument panel were built.  Aircraft rigging wires were added using stretched sprue.  Note that are several wires mounted alongside each other from the wing at the top of the outboard strut to the fuselage, which makes it look like it is too thick, but that is the actual construction of the aircraft.  The Third Liberty Bonds poster shown at far right above was pasted on to the top wings of many of the aircraft in the 94th Aero Squadron, but photographs show that Campbell's #10 did not have it.   

  

               

  
Frank Luke, Junior

2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke is known as "the Arizona Balloon Buster."  He is the 2nd-ranking American ace who was in the U.S. Service in WW I.  He is the 18th ranking Air Force ace (tie) and 23rd ranking American ace (tie).  Luke was assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron in July 1918.  Luke was a controversial and aggressive "lone wolf" pilot who disregarded orders and was known to break formation.  But for his flying skills, success at attacking balloons, and a forgiving commanding officer, he would have been transferred out of the unit.  Luke scored 18 victories in 10 days between the 12th and 29th of September (he was sent on leave on the 20 through 27th).  Of these victories, 4 were aircraft and 14 were balloons that were heavily defended by both AAA and aircraft.  During this short period Luke scored 5 victories on 18 September in a 30 minute period (3 aircraft and 2 balloons); had two "triples" on 15 and 29 September (all balloons); and had three "doubles" on 14, 16, and 18 September (5 balloons and 1 aircraft).  Many of these missions were flown with his friend Lieutenant Joseph Wehner (6 victories) who flew cover while Luke attacked the balloons. much like Don Gentile and John Godfrey in World War II.  Wehner is shown in the far right picture below.  Wehner was shot down and killed during the 18 September mission.  Of note, Luke brought back five SPADs damaged beyond repair.  Luke's  last mission occurred on 29 September after he had been grounded by his squadron commander for insubordination.  Luke disregarded the order and took off  anyway, receiving after the fact tacit approval by the group commander.  Luke was killed in action during this mission where he downed 3 balloons near Avocourt, France.  In this action he was wounded and his SPAD disabled by ground fire.  He crash-landed near Murvaux, after strafing troops in the town.  There is controversy about what occurred after he crash-landed and was approached by German troops.  It is likely that he was in a state of shock from his mortal wound when (or if) he fired at the troops and that he probably died from loss of blood.  Luke was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions, the only pursuit pilot to win the award during the war.  He was also awarded the DFC with one oak leaf cluster and the Italian Croix de Guerre.  Luke, 21 years old, was posthumously promoted to 1st Lieutenant.  Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona is named in his honor. 

 
           
           

 

SPAD S.XIII Model
 

 The model of Luke's SPAD S.XIII, serial S15202, black 26, of the 27th Aero Squadron "Fighting Eagles" depicts his aircraft in Rembercourt, France in September, 2018.  This 1/72 scale model is the Revell SPAD XIII kit, also from the 1960's, was built in October 1998 and is finished in Model Master colors.  This kit has also been reissued many times over the years and some have included Luke's markings.  The markings used, however, are from an aftermarket decal sheet (Pete's Decals 72-08) that was the best available in 1998 but it is likely no longer available.  Print Scale has two decal sheets 72-046 and 48-047 "SPAD VII to SPAD XVII Fighters" that include Luke's markings.  This is an easy build--again besides mounting the wings--and looks fairly good.  Like the Nieuport, it has no interior, so a seat, seat belts, instrument panel, control stick, and windshield were built.  Aircraft rigging wires were added using stretched sprue, which is a total pain in 1/72 scale, especially on a SPAD, which has about 30 wires.  My next SPAD project will use the Eduard kit.  The Eduard SPAD XIII Profipack in 1/72 scale and the Weekend Edition in 1/48 scale both include Luke's markings. 

 
   
           



Of note, there are four American aces that served only in the Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force during WW I who scored between 20 and 18 victories (Frederick Gillet with 20, Wilfred Beaver with 19, Harold Kullberg with 19, and William Lambert with 18), only behind Edward Rickenbacker's score of 26.  These aces are virtually unknown to the American public.  Models of these aces are in my planning.

Sources:
USAS 1st Pursuit Group by Jon Guttman, Osprey Publishing Aviation Elite Units #28, 2008
American Aces of World War I by Norman Franks, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #42, 2001
U.S. Air Service Victory Credits World War I, USAF Historical Study No. 133, Historical Research Division, Aerospace Studies Institute, Air University. June 1969

 


Yamamoto's Guardian

by John Tate

Seventy-five years ago this month, with a small air group in a far-off corner of the world under primitive conditions, the US Army Air Force achieved the impossible -intercepting and shooting down, with split-second timing at extreme long range, an enemy aircraft carrying the most capable admiral of the Japanese fleet. The story of this mission - Operation Vengeance - is well-known to most scale modelers interested in the Second World War; some have even built models of the P-38G Lightnings and G4M1 Betty bombers that were the focus of that event. But with a 1/32 Zero on my workbench, I thought I'd tackle a less well-known subject: the escorting Japanese fighter planes that tried but failed to stop the shoot-down of Admiral Yamamoto.

The kit was the 21st Century Toys 1/32 A6M3 Type 22 Zero, a plane I didn't know much about when I picked up the kit recently from a local thrift shop. But once I started researching the plane, I realized it wasn't a "generic" Zero but a special long-range version (fewer than 600 built) heavily employed during the Solomons campaign. It also appeared to be the fighter type used to escort Admiral Yamamoto -six Zeros from the 204th Kokutai at Rabaul. Delving further, I learned that the mission pilots were highly skilled, including Kenji Yanagiya (eight victories) and Shoichi Sugita (seventy victories). On the day of Yamamoto’s flight - April 18, 1943 - these six Zeros flew at the Four O'clock high position in two vic formations above and to the right of the two G4M1 bombers. As the flight was approaching their landing fields at the southern tip of Bougainville island, they were attacked by the 16 P-38Gs of the intercept mission and, although the Zeros dived on their opponents, they were quickly overwhelmed and the two G4M1s downed by the Lightnings. Yanagiya (pictured below) swore to get one of the enemy and turned southeast, where he found one of the P-38s returning to base and shot it up over the sea - probably the aircraft flown by Lt. Raymond Hine, who did not return from the mission.

The Zero pilots all landed in Bougainville without loss and then returned to their base at Rabaul. It was clear a tragedy had occurred that would have an ominous effect on the future of Japan in the war, but the Zero pilots weren't held responsible - it was understood they were outnumbered in the attack.

It was a dramatic story, so I decided to build one of the escort fighters; not much information was available on markings until I discovered an instruction sheet profile from a Hasegawa 1/72 A6M3 kit, which illustrated aircraft flown on the mission by Kenji Yanagiya and Shoichi Sugita. Fortunately, markings were simple - just tail codes - with a standard IJNAF Zero camouflage scheme. Replicating the tail codes was easy so I was able to finish the model as Yanagiya's aircraft (T2/169). As for the model itself, it is a curious hybrid of a toy and a detailed replica, but I found it well worth building and forgiving of rough handling. The model went together easily with CA glue and seam lines were filled without much trouble. The only issue I had with the kit was the lack of wing dihedral; I had to shave some plastic off the wing and wing root join surfaces to get the proper angle. However, the model went together easily and I was happy with the final result. The only "inaccuracy" I discovered after the build was that these escort Zeros likely did not carry radios; I had installed a standard radio mast and aerial wire on the model but because I liked the look of it, I didn't remove it.

What I found rewarding about this build was that even after many decades of building WWII models, there was still something to learn about that conflict through scale modeling. In this 75th Anniversary year of the midpoint of the War, take some time to research a well-known event and discover something you didn't know, and model it. So much occurred in 1943 - Stalingrad, Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, the Dams Raid, the Ploesti Raid, the Solomons, Tarawa and Kursk - that with a little research there's a good chance you'll discover a new and interesting model subject right in your kit collection.

                   

        `       

   


 

Hellcat Aces of VF-27

by Mike Blohm

Modeling the Aces of VF-27

 This article covers the men and models of the top three Hellcat aces of VF-27, including  Lieutenant (Lt) James A. "Red" Shirley (12.5 victories), Lt Carl A. Brown (10.5 victories), and Lt Richard E. Stambook (10 victories).  VF-27 deployed on the light carrier USS Princeton (CVL-23) from May to October 1944 with F6F-3 and -5 Hellcats.  The squadron had perhaps the most famously marked Hellcats in the US Navy, totally in violation of official Navy policy, with a distinctive "hellcat shark mouth" that was designed by three of the VF-27 pilots (Stambook, Brown, and Robert Burnell) during their training at Kahilui Naval Air Station in Hawaii in March - April 1944.  During this deployment the squadron scored 136 aerial victories, with the majority occurring on three days.  These included 30 aircraft destroyed on June 19 during the "Marianas Turkey Shoot" that involved four Japanese air strikes against Task Force 58.  Stambook scored 4 victories (3 Zekes and 1 Judy) during this action, Shirley scored 2 (Zekes), and Brown scored 1 (Tony).  On September 21, VF-27 led a carrier aircraft sweep over Manila, where 38 aircraft were downed.  In this action Stambook shot down 3 (2 Tonys and 1 Zeke), Shirley downed 4.5 (3.5 Zekes and 1 Tony), and Brown downed 2.5 (1.5 Hamps and 1 Tony). 

The final big action was on October 24 during the interception of a Japanese formation of 80 aircraft attacking Task Force 38 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.  VF-27 downed 36 aircraft, with 5 victories each by Shirley (3 Tojos, Zeke, and Nick) and Brown (5 Zekes).  Two other VF-27 pilots also became an "ace in a day" in this battle: Lt (jg) Eugene Townsend and Ensign Tom Conroy.  Unfortunately a lone Judy was missed and it dropped a bomb on the flight deck of the USS Princeton, which was gutted by fire and explosions, and sunk by a torpedo from the light cruiser USS Reno seven hours later.  Nine VF-27 pilots and Hellcats (out of 24) were still airborne when the Princeton was hit, and they landed aboard other carriers.  Few pictures exist of VF-27's "shark-mouthed Hellcats," as they went down with the ship.  One famous surviving photo shows a damaged F6F-5 (White 7, with 164 holes) flown by wounded Carl Brown landing on the USS Essex while the Princeton can be seen burning in the background.  White 7 - named "Paper Doll" - was actually Ensign Bob Burnell's aircraft.  On these new carriers, the hellcat shark mouths were painted over within a few days. 

VF-27 was reformed and served aboard the USS Independence in July - September 1945.  Shirley later commanded VF-82 in 1955-56, was promoted to captain in 1962, and retired in 1968.  Stambook served with VBF-98 from November 1944 to September 1945, and then transferred to the Reserves, serving there until 1959, and became a TWA pilot.  Brown served in multiple leadership roles until he retired in the rank of commander in August 1962. 

 Pictures of VF-27 Hellcats and Insignia: 

               

1.  Pilots of VF-27 in front of a "Hellcat-Mouthed" F6F-3 at Maui in May 1944 prior to deploying,  Shirley is in back row,
first from right. Stambook is in back row, 4th from right.
  Brown is in front row, 5th from right.

2.  Insignia of VF-27 showing "Hellcat" superimposed over F6F cowling

3. & 4.  Lt Carl Brown landing damaged F6F-5 White 7 on the USS Essex with USS Princeton burning in the background

5.  Profile of Hellcat Mouth depicted on F6F-5 Hellcat (overall FS 15042)

 Pictures of USS Princeton (CVL-23):

                       

1.  USS Princeton underway on shakedown cruise in May 1943

2.  USS Princeton underway with Hellcats and Dauntless aircraft on stern deck

3.  USS Princeton burning after the 24 Oct 1944 air attack in Leyte Gulf

4.  Bow view of burning USS Princeton with USS Birmingham alongside. 

5. & 6.  VF-27 Hellcats parked at bow of the burning ship

7.  Damage to midship area of the carrier. 

My three VF-27 Hellcat models in the Aces Gallery display at the USAF Academy are a mix of Hasegawa, Italeri, and Revell kits, all in 1/72 scale.  Decals are either numbers pieced together from Microscale/Superscale Hellcat sheets or from the kit.  Hellcat "White 23" is Shirley's F6F-3 aircraft.  "White 17" is Stambook's F6F-3 aircraft.  These F6F-3's had the tri-color paint scheme of Dark Sea Blue (FS 35042), Intermediate Blue (FS 35189), and Insignia White (FS 37875) on the undersurfaces.  "White 9" is Brown's F6F-5, which was one of six F6F-5 replacement aircraft received by VF-27 prior to the Leyte Gulf campaign.  These aircraft were Dark Sea Blue (FS 15042) overall.  Note that on these replacement F6F-5's that the eyes did not have the blood-shot streaks included (although the kit decals have them), or the red drops of blood below the corners of the mouth, as they did not show up from a distance and were too hard to paint.  All paints used were from Model Master. 

Pictures of Lt Shirley and model of his F6F-3 Hellcat "White 23"

           

1.  Lt James "Red" Shirley

2. - 4.  Three views of "White 23" on 24 Oct 1944

 Pictures of Lt Brown and model of his F6F-5 Hellcat "White 9"

           

1.  Lt Carl "Brownie" Brown, Jr.

2. - 4.  Three views of "White 9" on 24 Oct 1944

 Pictures of Lt Stambook and model of his F6F-3 Hellcat "White 17"

           

1.  Lt Richard Stambook

2. - 4.  Three views of "White 17" on 24 Oct 1944

Sources:

Markings of the Aces - Part 2 U.S. Navy, by Richard Hill

U.S. Navy Fighter Squadrons in World War II, by Barrett Tillman

Hellcat Aces of World War II (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #10), by Barrett Tillman

Stars and Bars - A Tribute to the American Fighter Ace 1920-1973, by Frank Olynyk

 



Tales from the Shelf of Doom

AH-1Q Cobra

Part 1

By Ken Piniak

Over the past several months I have noticed from reading various magazines, club newsletters, and online forums, that there has been a lot of interest in finishing models from the "Shelf of Doom;" that is to say, models that were started some time ago but never completed. So this my oldest model from that dreaded "Shelf of Doom."  This model of an AH-1Q using the classic 1/32-scale Revell kit goes back to at least 1982.

Background

The inspiration for building this was an AH-1Q that I saw (and photographed) on my base in Schweinfurt, Germany in 1981. I didn't know it at the time, but the "Q" model was a somewhat rare and short-lived interim model of what became known as the "TOW Cobra."  This would prove to be a problem later, as good, factual, and reliable information and photos of the "Q" are hard to come by. I am not sure exactly when I started working on this model, but I know I was building it in 1982. I may have started it in late '81, but I simply do not recall for sure.

               

My original attempt to build it

At this time aftermarket stuff basically did not exist. So I really had no choice but to use what came in the box and scratch build/kitbash the rest. The cockpit was basically the kit cockpit, with a lot of additions and modifications by me. All in all, I did a pretty good job on it; considering the experience level of that very young and inexperienced version of me, I did an awesome job on it!  I hand-painted the instrument panels and seats. I added the armor plates for the seats from sheet styrene. The air conditioning hoses were from the "ratlines" on an old sailing ship. I modified the rear bulkhead and added insulation quilting from tissue. I added parts to the pilot's sight to make it more accurate, and his collective control. I added the pull handles for the canopy removal system, and a fire extinguisher from a race car model. I also did a fairly decent, if basic, job on the engine. My original intent was to display it with the kit "engine hatch" open; it was only later that I found out how inaccurate this hatch is and changed my mind about using it.

                   

It was at this point that I ran into the main stumbling block to this build. I just could not figure out how to create the anti-strela missile engine modification (the funnel/toilet bowl/sugar scoop thing on the engine exhaust), and the TOW missile sighting unit on the nose. Over the years I did make several attempts to resurrect this kit, and overcome the problems I had with it, but couldn't. At one point, I even added an electric motor to operate the rotor, and a flashing LED for the anti-collision light (these actually looked pretty good!). Mostly, it just sat in the box, gathering dust. It also got moved around a lot, as did I, moving to a new base every couple of years.

Resurrection

Flash forward to 2014. I finally got around to building a Huey Cobra model. Digging through my stash, I found that I had enough kits/parts for at least two Revell AH-1 models, so I went for two: One a Vietnam-era bird and the "Q."  By this time the aftermarket had caught up with the old Revell kit. Eduard had produced a photoetch set for it (currently out of production), Cobra Company had several sets, including a cockpit, new stub wings, rocket pods and gun mounts. Fireball Modelworks made decals and rocket pods, along with the anti-strela kit (the toilet bowl) that included a corrected tail. Werner's Wings produced a beautiful vacuform canopy. But most important for this build, MRC produced a 135-scale model kit of the AH-1W Supercobra which included the sighting unit and the TOW missiles. Verlinden and Eduard both produced update sets for the MRC Supercobra. Now I could finish this.

Since I would be building two different models of the Cobra, I could mix and match parts as needed to best complete each one. But first I had to see what I had left of the original model to start with. When last worked on, I had gotten as far as putting the fuselage together, adding the landing gear, and the stub wings. But time had not been kind to the old bird - the fuselage had come apart, the landing gear broke off, and the worst was that the stub wings had broken off, tearing large holes in the fuselage sides. So I would have to use a new body. Getting the cockpit out of the old model broke the rear bulkhead and tore the tissue insulation. There were also a number of other parts broken and missing. But most of the cockpit was intact. That was my new starting point.

           

I cut off the remainder of the bulkhead, and replaced it using a piece from an MRC UH-1 that had the insulation molded in. I added an electronic box and first aid kit from the Verlinden set. Many pieces, including the seats, instrument panels, and fire extinguisher, had broken loose. These were cleaned up, repainted where needed, and reattached. One of the "ear pieces" for the pilot seat armor was missing; I replaced it with sheet plastic. The "ratline" air conditioning hoses were replaced with Verlinden resin parts. I also used Verlinden parts for the circuit breaker panel and the small instrument to the right of the pilot sight. I built a better gunner's instrument panel using one from Cobra Company, the Verlinden TOW sight, and decals by Airscale. I left it off for now, so it does not get broken.

My original engine and transmission were okay, but the mount was broken. I freed the parts from the old mount and added them to a new one. I also added a particle separator from the MRC UH-1 to the front of the engine, and added a drive shaft from aluminum tubing. In order to make room for the coming modifications, I had to cut off the engine exhaust pipe.

           

In 2015 circumstances forced me to make the other (Vietnam era) Cobra model a top priority, so the "Q" once again went back on the "shelf." I started working on it again this summer.

Adding new parts

Before I could put the main body together, I had to do some surgery to get the fuselage ready for the upgraded parts. Following the instructions from Fireball, I cut off the tail and the rear of the engine compartment, along with the nose. I painted the engine compartment zinc chromate yellow, then added the engine and cockpit to the left fuselage. I knew that all that resin added to the rear would make this bird very tail-heavy, so I added weights to every nook and cranny I could find in the front of the aircraft. Then I glued the body together. Knowing the MRC Supercobra had a different shape, and at 1/35 scale was a bit undersized, I cut the nose off a little long, then trimmed and sanded until I had the correct fit. The Revell AH-1 kit was first released in1969, and unlike modern kits requires lots of work to clean up the seams. Once the bottom seam was done, I added the landing gear. Once again following the instructions from Fireball, I installed the new tail and engine cowling, followed by the kit engine hatch. Then more work filling seams.

At this point, the main part of the model is built. Most importantly, I have fixed most of the problems that I encountered all those years ago. The last area that needs to be addressed is the TOW missile launchers. Now you will notice that I have not finished this yet. The idea is that by going public with this, I will force myself to finish it off. Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, it will be completed.


Tales from the Shelf of Doom

Part 2

By Ken Piniak

I had wanted to get this finished up by the December 2017 ASM club meeting, but that didn't happen. I did take what I had as a Work In Progress display.

The helicopter itself is basically done. The fuselage is complete, and the stub wings are in place. If I was building this to the standards of 1982, it would be done by now. But I am building it to my standards of 2017, which are now much higher. And perhaps I am a bit of a glutton for punishment, as I keep adding things that I would not even have thought of in 1982.

First up is the chin turret. In the '80s I had improved it a little bit, but looking at it now it was just not good enough. I took the guns from the old turret, and using a resin piece from Cobra Company as a guide, built a whole new one. It may not be quite as good as the one from Cobra Company, but it is a whole lot better than the original kit part, and it still moves! The stub wings are from the kit, but I cut off the end pylons and replaced them with the pylons from the Supercobra, to fit the TOW missile launchers.

               

 More cockpit details:

I made a new canopy removal system pull handle using strip styrene and a "T" handle from Verlinden. The tubing is wire. In 1982, seat belts were not even a consideration; I was going to have the pilots in the seats. Remember the motor for the rotor? That has changed. I used seat belts from HGW, in the Czech Republic. These are printed on a micro-weave fabric, with photoetch hardware. They are small, complex, and a royal pain to work with, but are very realistic. I used a real belt as a reference to get the "right" look.

 TOW missile racks:

At first I planned to just use the stock missile racks from the Supercobra kit. But helicopters in Germany usually flew with empty racks, and the MRC kit has full racks for Desert Storm. Foolish me, I decided that to do it right, I need empty racks. The MRC kit does not have the parts to show empty racks. The Eduard PE set does, but they would have you build it all using brass. I don't know about anyone else, but I have never been able to bend, fold, roll, curve, or otherwise massage all those little brass pieces to do what Eduard says they should do. So I combined the Eduard brass with MRC plastic along with some creative styrene bits to make something that at least looks like some TOW missile launchers. At this point they don't look half bad, and certainly look better than anything I could have scratch built back in the 1980s.

Canopy:

Now the only major obstacle to finishing this thing is the canopy. Again, this was not even a consideration back in 1982. Then, the only option was to use the kit canopy (hey, it's not that bad). Today, there is another option; Werner's Wings makes a beautiful vacuform canopy. Unfortunately, vacuform canopies can be difficult to work with. But they do look sooo good in place. I already messed up my first attempt to use one of these and had to get a new one. So here goes round two.

Stay tuned...


Tales from the Shelf of Doom

The Final Chapter

By Ken Piniak

Well, December and January turned out to be really bad months for model building. Besides a number of personal issues, the usual family and holiday commitments, and just the real world intruding into my modeling time, I had two problems combine to temporarily shut down construction. First off, my air compressor died. Not fixable, I tried; so I had to shell out for a new one (those things ain't cheap, either). Then my trusty old Aztec airbrush broke. I had inherited a couple of old Paasches (an H and a VL) from my dad, so I dug them out. It took a while to figure out how to get them to work, and even longer to figure out how to use them. The Paasches work quite differently from my old Aztec, and even differently from each other. But I am finally starting to get the hang of it. So now back to modeling.

Weapons stores and TSU: I finished up the TOW racks and painted them Model Master Olive Drab. The 19-shot rocket launchers are resin pieces by Fireball Modelworks. They needed just a tiny bit of cleanup, then paint. Again, MM OD, with silver for the ends. Decals are from the Monogram kit. The Telescopic Sight Unit (for the TOW missiles) is the resin piece for the Supercobra from Verlinden. I painted up the optics with Tamiya metallics, and a touch of clear blue in the day sight. Then I added the clear cover and photoetch covers and painted it all with more OD. To attach it to the nose of the aircraft, I drilled out the sight turret and its mount, and used a piece of wire, which allows it to rotate. The wire I used is an old bit of actual Army Tripwire, used for setting boobytraps. So there is an actual piece of Army hardware in this model.

Paint: With the cockpit finished up, I sealed it up using an old kit canopy. Then primer, and paint. The body color is MM Helo Drab. I let that dry for several days, then used Tamiya clear in the spray can as a base for the decals.

Decals: Here I ran into another problem. I had planned to use the excellent set of AH-1S TOW Cobra decals from Fireball. Unfortunately, early in 2017 Fireball Modelworks ceased all production of aircraft-related products to focus on model car parts. This included decals. Oops! So now I had to come up with my own decals. I had a set of Vietnam Cobra markings from Fireball, the kit decals, the decals from the MRC Supercobra, along with some others in my stash. Using bits and pieces from all of these, plus a few custom ones I printed up myself, I was able to make it look how I wanted.

Weathering: Once again, this would not even have been a consideration in 1982. Back then I would have just put on the base coat and called it done. One interesting note; looking at the paint on my old original chin turret, I was actually painting it the correct Helo Drab color.

Once the decals were on, I sealed them with a coat of clear gloss. Then I tried out something new (for me), dot filters. I also added some subtle highlights and shadows. Then I sealed it with a coat of clear flat. Then came some pastels (Shep Paine's term for what they now call "pigments"). I am trying to keep the weathering subtle, but I am having as hard time with it; as much of the work just disappears against the dark Helo Drab.

Canopy: The final obstacle to declaring this done is the canopy. This is only the second time I have tried using a vacuform canopy, dipped in Future. The other time was my other Cobra. Looking through the huge windows on this thing really shows two of the distinguishing features of the TOW Cobra, the Helmet Sighting System (HSS) and the Det. Cord around the windows. As prominent as these are, they were once again not even a consideration back in 82. I did not even know they existed. These are all scratchbuilt, using instructions and templates I got from Fireball Modelworks. The Det. Cords (part of the canopy removal system) are .032 solder. The HSS is wire and bits of styrene strip. Once installed at the top of the canopy, they look pretty good. To show off all the work and detail I put into the cockpit, I decided that I needed to open up the canopy. Boy, I just keep piling on the extra work, don't I?

               

Rotors: My original main mast was still usable, so I added the kit hub and blades to it. The tail rotor is from an MRC UH-1C, the shaft fit the tail better, and it is much more detailed than the kit part. Following the example of Floyd Werner, I did a multi-layer paint scheme of silver, zinc chromate, OD on top and flat black on the bottom, and yellow tips. Then I sanded the blades to reproduce the worn paint at the tips.

       

Conclusion: With the canopy and rotors installed, it was essentially done. Finally! I still need to build a nice base for it, and I want to add a couple crew figures to it; otherwise, that’s it! And it looks damn good too!


Kit Review - Special Hobby 1/72 Scale

P-40F Warhawk - Short Tails over Africa

by Mike Blohm

 

This kit review is on the Special Hobby 1/72 scale P-40F Warhawk - Short Tails over Africa kit.   It has markings for  the 64th Fighter Squadron (FS) and 66th FS of the 57th Fighter Group (FG) and the 86th FS of the 79th FG.  This may be the only "short tail" P-40F kit available in 1/72 scale.  It has been included in a couple of 2-In-1 kit boxings with other P-40 versions.  MPM does have a long-tail P-40F/L kit.  Sword has both P-40K and Warhawk III short-tail kits. 

Overall this Special Hobby P-40F kit has an accurate outline for a short tail and should have been an easy build.  However, there were some issues that got in the way.  The problems were all resolvable, but this took some trouble-shooting and time to get the build completed.  The sprues, canopy parts, photo-etch, and decals all come in separate plastic bags (pictures 1-2).  The plastic is gray in color and fairly soft.  The instructions leave a lot to be desired on how things are supposed to be assembled - more on that later.  There are no part numbers on the sprue - you need to refer to a diagram in the instructions.  The marking are covered in a separate color insert, which is nicely done. 

1     2

The interior is pretty detailed.  There are side wall panels, a photo-etch instrument panel with an instrument placard (attaches behind it), a seat with photo-etch belts and straps that can be used.  There are a lot of fiddly-bit parts for the belts and straps if you want to use them, but surprisingly no throttle lever or other side panel parts.  There is a nice cut-out in the instrument panel for a reflector gun sight, but no gun sight is included in the kit. 

 The side panels, seat and floor were all detailed and ready to go (pictures 3-4) when the first obstacle hit.  The instructions show the rudder panels hanging down from behind the instrument panel, but the instrument panel and firewall behind it are one solid piece going all the way to the cockpit floor.  My workaround was to cut off the rudder pedals and glue them to the bottom of the instrument panel (see picture 5).  Close enough. 

3     4     5

The next obstacle was getting the interior parts assembled within the fuselage.  The instructions indicate (sort of) how the panels and the front firewall (behind the instrument panel) and the wall behind the seat are supposed to fit onto the fuselage sides.  However, if you try it that way, the back wall (with the headrest) does not sit flush with the end of the canopy (pictures 6-8).  It took a bunch of trial and error to sort out how it should (could) fit.  The rear panel should be flush against the canopy cut out, and the front panel should be positioned that the (scratch-built) sight is up against the glare shield.  Note that when you do this, the floor is then not long enough to cover from the firewall to the rear panel.  After initially lining the floor up at the front panel, I ended up gluing the floor towards the rear and added a piece of styrene to cover the see-through hole up by the rudder panels, which probably would not be seen anyway (pictures 9-10). 

6      7     8     9     10

The fuselage needed some filler behind the cockpit, below the cowl, and where the wings mated by the cowl flaps.  The tail planes needed some cutting to fit flush to the fuselage.  The part numbers for these is switched on the instructions, but the tabs only fit on the side they go on.  Getting the canopy parts on was a huge challenge.  While accurate in shape, they are too large and the center moving canopy and side window edges had to be shaved off to make it fit together.  The front panel was the only part that was OK.  The side windows stuck out past the rear wall of the cockpit.  Unfortunately there is no open canopy option with the kit parts.  There is a nice interior to be seen straight out of the box.  There is no pitot boom included, so I scratch built that.  I elected to leave off the drop tank.  You have to use photo-etch parts to support it, including drilling holes in the tank.  Too hard to do.  A plastic parts option for tank supports would have been nice.  The gear and gear doors were added, as were the photo-etch backup iron ring and bead sight in front of the canopy.  Most painful in 1/72 scale.  The last items at the very end of the build were the three wire antennas from the wingtips and behind the canopy up to the vertical fin using stretched sprue.  Those are probably the most fragile item on the model at this point.  I managed to break one of them when I brought it to the November contest and replaced them for the photos used in this article. 

 My scheme for the build was the P-40F-1 flown by 1Lt Roy "Deke" Whittaker, top ace of the 57th FG in World War II, for my Aces Gallery Collection at the USAF Academy.  This model build was part of Tony Humphries's "75th Anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein" project in the November ASM Newsletter, so I wanted to depict the aircraft that Whittaker used during that battle.  He scored the first three of his eventual seven victories during this time period, flying bomber escort and ground attack missions. 

This particular aircraft presented a big challenge as the 57th FG P-40s were painted in "desert pink" and there are no decals available specifically for Whittaker's scheme (that I am aware of, which is surprising since he is the third-ranking P-40 ace in the Mediterranean Theater).  There is no "desert pink" color available, so I referred to multiple profiles and pictures, and ended up using a mix of Model Master 2110 Italian Sand and Testors Flat Light Tan 1170.  I used Model Master FS36270 Neutral Gray for the undersides.  I did pre-shading using Model Master Aircraft Interior Black on both the under and upper surface (see pictures 11-16).  The pre-shading shows up darker on the real model than it does in these pictures.  The interior was painted Model Master 1734 Green Zinc Chromate and Aircraft Interior Black.  Steel was used for the seat.  Instrument panel highlighting was done by dry brushing with white.  Model Master Stainless Steel was used to paint the antenna wires. 

 11     12     13     14     15     16

When I was researching Whittaker's scheme I found several profiles that all differed in separate books and also on-line.  I ended up using photographs to nail the scheme (see pictures 17-21).  Picture 21 shows Whittaker in the cockpit of his May 1943 P-40F, which had seven victory markings.  Building Whittaker's Oct 1942 P-40F took hand-painting and five different decal sheets.  The US stars, aircraft identification panel marking, and "US Army" on the lower wing came from the kit decals.  The fuselage's "4-3" markings came from a similarly-marked 79 FG aircraft on the Kits-World sheet KW172060 P-40 Warhawks.  The "4" on Whittaker's aircraft had a horizontal bar that extended out to the right of the vertical bar, so I had to cut off a section of a "2" on the sheet to make that addition to each of the "4s."  I also used the British fin flashes from that sheet for the tail fin.  All US fighters had that RAF fin flash for recognition purposes. 

This is a good point to mention that red spinners were another recognition marking of the Allied fighters used in the Western Desert Air Force.  The spinner was therefore painted using Model Master FS 31136 Insignia Red with a white undercoat.  The "Miss Fury" aircraft name was hand-painted onto clear decal sheet, as were the three "lightning bolts" on each side of the tail fin.  The bolts and the "A" on the tail were A Flight markings used by the 65th FS.  The "A" came from Super Scale decal sheet 72-228 US 60 Degree Letters and Numbers.  The 65th FS "Fighting Cocks" emblem on both sides of the nose are from the EagleCals EC-104 P-47D Thunderbolt decal sheet.  These emblems were a bit too large, having been painted on a P-47 cowling and not on a P-40, but they were close enough to use for this build, instead of trying to hand paint them.  The patch had an outer white ring and a green interior when they were on P-47s, so I had to paint over the white to make them a solid green instead.  The three victory markings (see picture 18) are from the Kits-World KW172007 P-51 Mustang Numbering/Lettering/Kill Markings sheet.  Note that Whittaker's aircraft had swastikas within white circles for the victory markings, even though they were over Italian Mc.202 and CR.42 aircraft.  I used coatings of Model Master Gloss Clear Lacquer Finish before the decaling and in between, and then Flat Clear Lacquer Finish after the decaling (see picture 22).  The finished model is shown in pictures 23-27. 

17     18     19     20     21

22     23     24     25     26     27

Overall this is an accurate and detailed P-40F short-tail and looks nice when completed, but be prepared for some workarounds to get it put together.  It is a fairly expensive kit for 1/72 scale (around $30) but Squadron Shop occasionally has them on sale, which is when I picked up several of them.  You can likely find them on-line for reasonable prices as well.  Recommended. 

Here are pictures of the model on the Display-Only table at the December, 2017 meeting.

       

Two excellent reference books on North African P-40 Warhawks are:

P-40 Warhwak Aces of the MTO by Carl Molesworth (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces # 43)

57 Fighter Group - First in the Blue by Carl Molesworth (Osprey Aviation Elite Units)

 


US Marine Corps Aces at Guadalcanal Island

by Mike Blohm

This article commemorates the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Guadalcanal Island in August 1942. This article is about two of the US Marine Corps (USMC) aces that flew in the battles over Guadalcanal and models of their F4F-4 Wildcat aircraft: Major John L. Smith, who was with the original "Cactus Air Force" in August - October 1942; and 1st Lieutenant James E. Swett, who served there beginning in March 1943. But first, here is a bit of history on the invasion and the situation they flew in. Pictures are included below.

Operation Watchtower

The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower, was a military campaign fought between 7 August 1942 and 9 February 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal. On 7 August 1942, the First Marine Division landed on Tulagi and Guadalcanal at Lunga Point, capturing the partially completed Japanese airfield and marking the first counter-offensive taken by the Allies during in the Pacific Theater. More construction work began on the airfield immediately, mainly using captured Japanese equipment. On 12 August, the airfield was renamed Henderson Field, for Major Lofton R. Henderson, who was the first USMC pilot killed during the Battle of Midway. Henderson Field was ready for operations on 18 August.

On 20 August, Marine pilots from Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 23 with eighteen F4F Wildcat fighter planes of VMF-223 led by Major John L. Smith, and a dozen SBD Dauntless dive bombers of VMSB-232 led by Lt. Colonel Richard Mangrum, flying from the escort aircraft carrier USS Long Island, landed at Henderson Field, and these warplanes were conducting combat missions on the next day. They were joined on 22 August, by the US Army’s 67th Pursuit Squadron with five P-400s (export version of the P-39), and on 24 August by eleven SBD dive bombers that came from the USS Enterprise because they were unable to land on their own carrier, with battle damage sustained during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.

At the end of August, these warplanes were joined by nineteen more Wildcats from VMF-224 under Major Robert E. Galer, and twelve more SBD dive bombers from VMSB-231, also part of the MAG-23. This group of Marine, Navy and Army pilots and warplanes was the beginning of what became referred to as the "Cactus Air Force."  Cactus was the allied code name for Guadalcanal Island.

                       

From 3 September to 4 November 1942, the Cactus Air Force claimed 268 Japanese planes downed in aerial combat. Six USMC aviators won the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions in the Battle of Guadalcanal, including Smith and Swett. The great majority of the Japanese aircraft were from Imperial Japanese Navy air units. The fifteen Marine combat squadrons that fought on Guadalcanal during this time had 94 pilots killed or missing-in-action, with another 177 evacuated with wounds or with sickness, especially severe malaria.  USMC pilots depicted in the far right photo above include: Maj John L. Smith, Maj Robert E. Galer, and Capt Marian E. Carl (left to right).  Carl's Wildcat, White 2, is depicted in the fifth photo from the left. 

Major John L. Smith

Major John L. Smith was the commander of VMF-223 "Bulldogs" from May - December 1942 and led the squadron to Guadalcanal on 20 August 1942. Smith was originally a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army but resigned that commission to accept the same rank in the USMC and completed training as a Naval Aviator in 1939. Smith was the second-ranking ace at Guadalcanal (behind only Joe Foss) and scored nineteen victories - half of them Zeros - between 21 August and 10 October 1942. He scored four kills on 30 August 1942 (all Zeros) over Guadalcanal, and also had four "doubles." His victories included instances of six kills in two days (29 - 30 August), and six kills in four days (10 - 13 September). He was shot down once on 2 October, bailing out and returning immediately. VMF-223 was relieved on 12 October and returned to the United States. The model of his Wildcat - White 16 - depicts the aircraft he flew on at least two of his victory-scoring missions. This is the 1/72 scale Hasegawa kit. Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt on 24 February 1943. The wording of his citation included:

"Repeatedly risking his life in aggressive and daring attacks, Major Smith led his squadron against a determined force, greatly superior in numbers, personally shooting down sixteen Japanese planes between August 21 and September 15, 1942. In spite of the limited combat experience of many of the pilots of this squadron, they achieved the notable record of a total of eighty-three enemy aircraft destroyed in this period, mainly attributable to the thorough training under Major Smith and to his intrepid and inspiring leadership."

               

Smith was later the only USMC ace to command a Marine Air Group (MAG-32) and to receive a Legion of Merit in WWII. During the Korean War he commanded the 1st Marine Air Wing from July 1953 - February 1954. He retired in September 1960 as a Colonel, and worked for both Grumman Aerospace and Rocketdyne (North American Rockwell), and died in 1972. Smith is the 21st-ranking American ace (tie), and 6th-ranking USMC ace.

1Lt James E. Swett

Lt James E. Swett became a Naval Aviator in April 1942 and was a member of the VMF 221 "Fighting Falcons" when it deployed to Guadalcanal Island on 16 March 1943. On 7 April 1943, Swett scored seven kills and one damaged (all Vals) in fifteen minutes during his first air combat, before being himself shot down by either the rear-gunner of the eighth Val he attacked (and believes he did shoot down) or by friendly anti-aircraft fire, and having to ditch. This seven-victory feat earned Swett the Medal of Honor. The model of his Wildcat - White 77 - depicts the aircraft he flew on this mission. This is the 1/72 scale Hasegawa kit. Swett flew three combat tours with VMF-221 at Guadalcanal in March - November 1943, during which he scored 14.5 victories - seven in the F4F and 7.5 in the F4U-1 Corsair. He had 2.5 kills (two Betty bombers and 0.5 Zeke) on 30 June, and a "double" on 11 July (Betty and Zeke). Swett was presented the Medal of Honor on 9 October 1943 by Maj Gen Ralph Mitchell, the Commanding General of Marine Corps Aviation in the South Pacific. His citation included the wording:

"In a daring flight to intercept a wave of 150 Japanese planes, First Lieutenant Swett unhesitatingly hurled his four-plane division into action against a formation of fifteen enemy bombers and during his dive personally exploded three hostile planes in mid-air with accurate and deadly fire. Although separated from his division while clearing the heavy concentration of anti-aircraft fire, he boldly attacked six enemy bombers, engaged the first four in turn and, unaided, shot them down in flames. Exhausting his ammunition as he closed the fifth Japanese bomber, he relentlessly drove his attack against terrific opposition which partially disabled his engine, shattered the windscreen and slashed his face. In spite of this, he brought his battered plane down with skillful precision in the water off Tulagi without further injury."

               

Swett returned to combat in 1945, again with VMF-221, flying from the USS Bunker Hill. He scored one more victory, a Jill, on 11 May. VMF-221 saw action in the strikes on Tokyo in February 1945 and the Iwo Jima and Okinawa landings, before the Bunker Hill was put out of action by kamikazes on 11 May. Swett was airborne when that attack occurred and had to land on another carrier. Swett left active duty in 1945, and rose to the rank of Colonel in the USMC Reserves. He retired in 1970 and died in 2009. Swett is the 34th-ranking American ace (tie) and the 8th-ranking USMC ace.

F4F-4 Model Build

The Hasegawa 1/72 scale kit of the F4F-3 or F4F-4 Wildcat is a fairly easy build, and accurately depicts the aircraft. There is not much cockpit detail: an instrument panel with decal, a combination floor and side consoles (no decals), a seat, and a stick. I used an F4F-4 instrument panel and seat belt decal from a ProModeler decal sheet in each kit. The one fiddly area is the landing gear, trying to get the support arms to all line up. Both models were finished with Testors Model Master Navy Blue Gray (no FS or ANA number) on the upper surfaces and Flat Gull Gray FS36440 on the lower. The aircraft serial numbers were put together from Aeromaster numbers and letters decal sheets. The name on the rudder of Swett's Wildcat - "Melvin Massacre" - was done with individual letters from a model railroading dry transfer decal sheet, and was quite a challenge on a 1/72 scale model. There were no decal sheets available in 1/72 scale on these heroes when I built these models.  Print-Scale has since come out with a F4F Wildcat and Martlet Aces sheet (PS720266) that includes Swett's White 77 scheme.

The other USMC aces that received the Medals of Honor for actions during the Battle of Guadalcanal include Maj Robert E. Galer, Capt Joseph J. "Joe" Foss, Lt Col Harold W. Bauer, and 1Lt Jefferson J DeBlanc. An article on these pilots and their aircraft will be forthcoming. I will be trying some builds with the new Airfix F4F-4 kit to replace models in the USAF Academy Aces Gallery collection built with the old Revell kit from the 1960s.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guadalcanal_Campaign

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cactus_Air_Force

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Smith_(flying_ace)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_E._Swett

 


  
Remembering Midway

by John Tate

This month is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, one of the two most critical battles in US history, the other being the Battle of Gettysburg. Had either of those battles gone the other way, this is not a country we would recognize today. Unfortunately, the American public has largely forgotten Midway, a tiny atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and as air/sea battles leave no trace of combat, there is no National Military Park that can be visited easily, as is the case with Gettysburg. So we, as modelers, can have a small part in commemorating the guts, skill, luck, and sacrifice of Navy, Marine Corps, and Army personnel who stopped cold the onslaught of Imperial Japan back in 1942.

Midway was a clash of aircraft carriers, and the American planes that decided the battle were SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers, whose courageous Naval aviators were able to plant 1000-pound ship-killing bombs squarely on the flight decks of the Emperor's best flat-tops - Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu. There are some good kits of the Dauntless out there, from Trumpeter in 1/32 scale and Accurate Miniatures in 1/48 scale, but my favorite is the Hasegawa 1/48 Dauntless, which is accurate in outline and the easiest of the three to build.

It's been a number of years since I built the Hasegawa kit but I recall it being a breeze to construct, the only attention spot being the dive flaps, which are molded integrally with the wings and lack perforations. However, rather than removing the kit dive flaps and replacing them with photoetch, I drilled out each perforation with a sharp No. 11 X-ACTO knife, before assembling the wings. It took some extra time but wasn't too difficult and any imperfections were corrected with a little putty and sanding. This method allows the integrity of the wings to be maintained and also provides a more accurate representation of the real aircraft; I’ve never been a fan of open dive flaps, since this configuration was seen only during maintenance, or when the aircraft dived.

Decal markings for aircraft that participated in the battle are not exactly plentiful but fortunately a new sheet by Starfighter Decals, No 4808, was just released and includes markings for two of the most important Dauntlesses from the battle, both from Enterprise (CV-6): Dick Best's Bu. No. 4687 from VB-6, which killed Akagi, and Bu. No. 4618, flown by Wade McClusky, CAG Air Group Six, who made the fateful decision to follow the wake of a Japanese destroyer that led his dive bombers to the Japanese carriers. I can't imagine a better choice of markings for Dauntless builds.

If you have some models in your stash that would fit a Midway theme, give some thought to building one this month, and take the time to do some research and learn about the battle; this hobby is at its most worthwhile when it gives us pause to remember our fallen, and what they accomplished for us on June 4, 1942, should never be forgotten.

               

           

 


Kit Review

Revell 1/28 Fokker D.VII

by John Tate

 

Wingnut Wings revolutionized WWI aircraft modeling with their excellent 1/32 kit line but it wasn't that long ago that modelers who wanted replicas of Great War flying machines had to make do with whatever kits were available,  which was especially true of big-scale biplanes.  One of these was Revell's 1/28 Fokker D.VII, Kit 4665, released in 1996 and the last of Revell's well-known line of 1/28 biplanes dating back to the 1960s.  Although the Fokker D.VII kit was widely panned after its release, due to hard-to-correct wing and fuselage shape issues, this out-of-production kit can still be a fun project and is worth the effort if there's one hidden away in your model stash.

I picked up my Fokker kit from the legendary Goodman Collection local estate sale back in 2008, a never-to-be-equaled adventure in scale model rummage & salvage.  The kit box was in poor condition but the parts were intact and it looked like a simple build, so why not put it together?  I was aware of the useful article by Frank L. Mitchell in the January 1999 issue of FineScale Modeler, which highlighted the necessary surgical fixes for the model, but in the spirit of my "rescued" kit I opted instead for an out-of-the box build.

               

Overall, I found it an easy model with no surprises; everything fit together with a minimum of work.  The cockpit had simplified detail but with careful painting it looked OK.  Likewise the kit engine and machine guns, which lacked the kind of detail one would expect in a large scale, but cleaned-up and painted they looked the part and fit well.  The wing struts were a bit thin and I was worried they wouldn't hold up the wings but they did their job and lined-up well.  Rigging was a breeze, as the real D. VII only had bracing wires for the undercarriage and control wires from the fuselage to the upper wing, elevators and rudder.

The kit had only one marking option, for a red & white Fokker D.VII from Leutnant August Raben's well-known Jasta 18 circa Summer 1918, which I was happy to apply to my model.  Later I learned that many Fokkers from this unit had their wing undersides left in the original lozenge pattern, but no decals for this were included in the Revell kit.  The decals in my kit were in terrible shape from exposure to the elements but with some careful work I was able to revive them and apply them to the model, a testament to the toughness of Revell's decal sheets.  Since I built my model, the reconstituted Copper State Models (same product range, now based in Latvia, www.copperstatemodels.com) has marketed a 1/28 lozenge decal sheet for this kit, which will be helpful no matter what scheme you choose.

               

I was happy with the finished model as it was big and menacing and looked the part of the deadly Fokker biplane fighter from the last year of WWI.  The "upside down" top wing might be noticeable to us airplane enthusiasts but not to the casual observer and I found I could live with it on a display model.  The other dimensional issue, the too-deep/too-wide fuselage, is less noticeable and if a modeler really feels the need to hack away at the kit, I'd say fix the wing but don't worry too much about the fuselage.

 These kits are hard to find today, but if you get one or have one, give it a try, with or without the corrections- it's well worth building and with a minimum of work you can end up with an impressive replica.

  


 

Kit Review

Heller 1/72 T-6G Texan

by John Tate

 

Here's another golden oldie- the Heller 1/72 T-6G Texan.  This kit is about 40 years old but there isn't a lot to choose from in 1/72 if you want to build a T-6 Texan, so fortunately with a little work this kit will still build-up into a nice model.  Understandably, Heller kitted airplane subjects to appeal to their domestic market, so this particular version was intended to represent an Armee de l'Air COIN bird used in France's colonial war in Algeria during the 1950s. Conceivably a modeler could make other versions of the Texan from this kit, but building the model out-of-the-box produces an eye-catching replica of a warrior Texan.

Just like the real plane, Heller's Texan is simple and rugged, with no surprises during construction.  Unsurprisingly for a model this old, some work is required to fill seams and ensure a good wing/fuselage fit, but nothing too taxing.  The cockpit has reasonable detail so all that was added was a pair of seatbelts to bring some interest to this area.  The canopy looks nice after polishing and fit well, although painting the greenhouse frame can be a chore for airplanes of this type.  Add the landing gear and underwing stores, and voila! - a French T-6.

One kit shortcoming was the poor decal sheet, but fortunately an excellent substitute is available, Berna Decals' "North American T-6G in Algeria," No. BD 72-85, with colorful markings for six different aircraft.  The decals are nicely printed and set down easily; using them really made all the difference to the finished model.

This is a simple kit that can be built into a nice replica and is worth the time invested.  Thanks to new decals, it can be turned into a unique model of an old prop job that saw plenty of action in Africa through the 1960s while military technology elsewhere was moving headlong to fast jets.  Recommended.

 

           

 


Kit Review

FROG 1/72 Vultee Vengeance

by John Tate

    

At the January meeting, club president Mike Blohm asked for reviews on old kits for our website and newsletter so here's a model that's so old it's almost prehistoric- FROG's early 1970s-vintage Vultee Vengeance.  Conveniently, I finished the model in December and it's a good example of how an old kit can be given new life through transplanted parts from a newer kit of the same airplane, in this case, the Special Hobby 1/72 Vultee Vengeance.

 As for the real plane, the Vengeance was the hardest-working WWII plane you never heard of, successfully employed by the RAF bombing Japanese positions in the jungles of Burma and fulfilling a variety of second-line duties such as training and target towing.  However, it never found favor in the country of its origin, as the USAAF saw no need for a vertical dive bomber when fighter-bombers were coming into vogue and considered the Vengeance obsolete and lacking performance.  Hundreds were produced, however, from Vultee's plant in Nashville, TN, and they saw service from French Morocco to Australia.  BTW, that unusual cranked wing?  No, it wasn't a secret dive-bomber design trick, it was an effort to correct a center-of-gravity problem, one of the many fixes made to this plane during its fairly short service life.

           

 I liked the FROG kit because the outline is more or less correct, it's a tough model that can take a little abuse during construction, and was engineered to be built quickly.  Detail ranges from questionable to non-existent but that's where the fun is, correcting it.  When tackling the kit, the two things that must go are the oversized and ridiculous rear guns, and the lump of semi-clear plastic that is intended to be a canopy.  Then replace the engine and prop (spares from a B-25 work nicely), add larger exhausts, and lengthen the landing gear struts.  As for the interior, you can add seatbelts and a pilot's gunsight but otherwise don't waste too much time here because even under a new greenhouse canopy not much can be seen.  Fortunately, Special Hobby's vacuform canopy (two come with the kit) fit perfectly to the FROG kit, as did the Special Hobby kit's resin exhaust tubes.  The decals from the Special Hobby kit were the finishing touch, which I used to depict a Vengeance from No. 45 Squadron RAF based in India in 1943.

 It took a few months to correct and fix the FROG kit but it was an enjoyable build and I'm happy to have a unique model of a little-known WWII dive bomber.  Someday I'll finish the Special Hobby 1/72 Vengeance as a comparison model but since it's a limited-run kit it probably has its own quirks and problems- the FROG kit might be the way to go as long as you have the Special Hobby kit to use as a guide and parts source.  So don't pass up an old kit if you're curious about building it- it can still provide plenty of scale modeling enjoyment and compare nicely to more recent kits as long as you don't mind borrowing from newer kits to accurize it. 

 


 

History Lost and Found -  General Giller and the Millie G

By John Tate

For scale modelers, what can be more exciting than the story of a pilot who flew P-51D Mustangs in the ETO during WWII?  Since we were kids and first drawn to this hobby, fighter pilots have been our heroes, so when Albuquerque Scale Modelers member Glenn Bingham alerted the club via email on June 30 that the Albuquerque estate of Major General Edward B. Giller was being sold, I did not want to miss it.  I was not immediately familiar with Maj. Gen. Giller, but I discovered that as modelers, all of us were familiar with the plane he flew - the famous "Millie G" from the 55th FG, 343rd FS, 8th AF, depicted on dozens of model kits and decal sheets and even a restored warbird, thanks to a series of well-known 1944 air recognition photos (picture 1 below).

I was fortunate to obtain from the estate sale one of Maj. Gen. Giller's WWII photo albums, which documented his time at Wormingford irfield in England, including many shots of his fellow pilots and squadron mates. Inside I found several pictures of his Mustangs as well as photos of P-38s he flew, but one of my favorites was this one - his squadron's WWII briefing room (picture 2).  We have seen this setting in a hundred WWII movies, but this is the real thing - how many of us have imagined ourselves seated before a mission map just like this, ready to take on Berlin, while gluing together our plastic P-51s?

Being a fighter pilot was not all work and no play, however - here's the bar at the "new" officer's club at Wormingford. (picture 3). To have been a fly on the wall and to have heard some of those flying stories...

Here's a great shot of Ed Giller in Spring 1944, in the cockpit of a P-38, the plane his squadron flew before exchanging them for P-51Ds later that summer.

Giller ended the war as a Lt. Colonel and group commander, but his career really took off after WWII, when he enrolled at University of Illinois and obtained a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. He was assigned to the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, in charge of the radiation branch, and then to Albuquerque to the Air Force Special Weapons Center, and involved in nuclear testing throughout the 1950s.  Remember those famous pictures of suburban homes being blown apart by a nuclear blast?  Those were the projects he was involved in, before going to work for the CIA and the Atomic Energy Commission and, along the way, managed Project Blue Book, the famous USAF UFO study; he retired from active duty as a Major General in 1972 but continued working as a civilian with a defense contractor, Pacific Sierra Research, in Washington, DC, until 1990, when he retired and returned to Albuquerque. That's quite a career - now you know how these gentlemen ended up being known collectively as the Greatest Generation.

As it turns out, Maj. Gen. Giller also crossed paths with IPMS/USA. In a prominent place in the General's living room was a display case containing four in-flight models of the Millie G, representing the four different P-51Ds he flew from 1944 to 1945.  I was fortunate enough to pick up the display during the last day of the estate sale, thinking perhaps a modeler from ASM might have built it for him, years ago. When I brought the display to our club meeting on July 8, veteran ASM member Jack Morris recognized the display immediately but pointed out, to my surprise, that the models were not presented to General Giller by ASM, but by IPMS/USA, at the 1968 National Convention in Washington, DC, where General Giller was a banquet speaker. Sure enough, Jack was able to locate an IPMS Quarterly, Vol. 4 No. 2, from 1969, which contained an article on General Giller and the Millie G, as well as some photos of General Giller receiving the four P-51 models at the banquet. The models were constructed from the Hawk 1/48 P-51D kit, which in 1968 was the best model available of the P-51D in that scale; Jack told me they had been built by IPMS modeler Tom Mitchell, from Texas. Those models were part of IPMS history as well as General Giller's history, and I felt fortunate that just by accident, I was able to rescue the display (pictures 9-16).

When I discovered the story behind the display models, I contacted Jim Pearsall, IPMS/USA historian and Publications Director, who kindly arranged for re-publication of the 1969 IPMS article in our club newsletter (pictures 5-8). It gives a good account of the WWII story of General Giller and his P-51D Mustangs, but keep in mind when reading it, of the difficulties of researching and publishing back in the pre-IT days; the article was prepared and set by hand.

I learned a few things from my experience with General Giller's legacy; that this is a better hobby if we collaborate and share information, that old hands still have sharp memories, and that it is important to act quickly and decisively to preserve history. But most of all, that those gentlemen whom we present models to at IPMS functions, really do appreciate our handiwork and our efforts to capture the history those models represent. Remember this the next time an opportunity presents itself to build and present a model to a veteran at one of our events; this can be more rewarding than all of the trophies and awards we will ever win at competitions. And if you're looking for a worthy P-51 modeling project, give some thought to the Millie G; as modelers, there's no better thank-you to Major General Giller for his lifetime of service to this country, than by preserving his memory with a beautiful replica of his sleek Mustang.

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

 

 


 

Kit Review

Great Wall Hobby's Handley Page Victor B.2

 By Larry Horyna

Retired from active service in 1993, the Handley Page Victor was the last of the British "V" bombers (the Vulcan and Valiant being the first two). Removed from the strategic nuclear bombing mission in 1968 due to the discovery of fatigue cracks, many Victors were modified to fly strategic reconnaissance missions. After the nuclear deterrent role was handed over to Polaris missile carrying submarines of the Royal Navy, the Victor found new life as an aerial refueling tanker. In this capacity, the Victor saw service during the Falklands War refueling Vulcan bombers on the long range "Black Buck" missions. The 1991 Gulf War saw the Victor in its last use in wartime before being retired.

Great Wall Hobby has recently released a 1/144-scale kit of the this historically important Cold War British aircraft.

Given the scale, the kit is very well detailed. The casting is clean and crisp with very little fit issues. There were a few ejector pin marks in places that were a bit of a hassle to remove, most noticeably on the tiny fuselage intake doors near the tail. Nose weight is required to get the model to sit on the gear (very little though, three grams as I recall). The large wing leading edge intakes pose a bit of challenge as there is a seam running right through the middle of it (but, hey, isn't that just a fact of life for "jet guys?"). Careful filling and sanding will get rid of what was the only seam issue on the kit.

                       

One other very small gripe. There are several antennas on the fuselage. Three are very small blade antennas. Two have to be glued on but for some reason, one is molded on the fuselage top center, making it a certain victim of covering the fuselage seam. After accidentally sanding it off I made a simple replacement from plastic card. I just thought it was strange that Great Wall elected to mold that antenna on the fuselage when the other two would not have been in the way. That's about it for assembly! Everything else was a breeze as far as fit. The real challenge was the paint scheme. The leading edges of the wings and tail had a slight wraparound, which required a lot of masking. In fact, I would say that I spent half the time on this model masking! The result was well worth it, though.

Paints were Tamiya acrylics following the same techniques I use for larger scale models. I start with a black pre-shade, followed by base colors and then a highlight using the base color with a little white mixed in. This is the third model I have used post-shading on and I like the technique very much. I keep a bottle of a particular mix for this. It is made up of Tamiya black and red brown thinned about 75% with Tamiya thinner. I spray this in shadowed areas as well as on the demarcation lines between the camo colors. There is a very good tutorial on Hyperscale.com where Brett Green demonstrates the technique.

                   

 I used Future for the clear coat followed by the decals. The kit decals went down without a problem and reacted well with only a few coats of Micro-Sol. Next came a panel wash using MIG dark brown followed by Testor's clear flat mixed with just a little semi-gloss. I wanted a tiny bit of sheen but not much because of the scale. Lastly, the landing gear were added. Here there is one little glitch in the instructions. The instructions have you add the gear doors before the gear struts. This is a little unusual but it works fine for the main gear. If you follow the instructions for the nose gear you will have a problem. The doors will interfere with the strut going into the bay. You will want to attach the gear and then the doors. Otherwise, this was a very nice little kit and a very enjoyable build. Highly recommended.

 


 

Kit Review:

Eduard 1/48 Siemens-Schuckert D.III

with Brassin accessories

 By Larry Horyna

Near the end of the First World War, Siemens-Schuckertwerke's D.III was one of the last late war German aircraft designs to see action. The airplane was basically build around its 160 hp Siemens-Halske bi-rotary engine. This engine featured a propeller and cylinders that rotated opposite to the crank-case. This offset the typical rotary engine torque and allowed a slower propeller speed for the same power. The initial design was similar to previous ones in that it featured a large two blade propeller and long landing gear struts. After noticeable ground handling problems, a shorter four blade prop and shorter undercarriage struts were added. Rate of climb proved outstanding and the little fighter showed great promise, outperforming both the Fokker D.VII and Albatross D.V in rate of climb.

Unfortunately, Voltol mineral oil was used in place of the diminishing supplies of Castor oil and this proved problematic. The engines began overheating and seizing after just ten hours of operation. This was also partially due to the cowlings not offering enough open space for cooling. The aircraft were withdrawn from frontline service (only about forty examples had been delivered by May of 1918). After redesigning the rudder and cutting away much of the cowling to improve engine cooling, the type was re-introduced near the end of July. Another forty were produced for a total of eighty aircraft by war's end. One of the most famous aces to fly the aircraft was Ernst Udet, although it is not known for certain if he actually flew the aircraft in combat. There is a well documented photo of Udet sitting in the aircraft with his signature "Lo!" marking just behind the cockpit.

Eduard's new release of the SSW D.III in 1/48 is a complete re-tool of their previous release from the early '90s. The molding is very clean and crisp, just like any of their new toolings. Eduard's Brassin line makes a resin and photoetched Siemens-Halske engine as well as Spandau guns. Eduard also produces a very nice set of fabric seat belts. This particular kit itself (8256) is a "Profi-Pack" edition with a very nice photoetched fret that includes rigging anchor points and turnbuckles (and they are small!). The decals are excellent and quite complex, featuring separate rib tapes for the lozenge camouflage. This is most certainly the complete opposite of a "weekend edition" kit!

Assembly was fairly straightforward. The only tricky part is on the interior attaching the bar that supports the shoulder belts. There are two internal braces that attach to the cockpit sidewall as well as the floor. This is a bit difficult as the floor is attached to the lower wing and fits up into the fuselage. To help fit these parts, I glued one side of the fuselage to the lower wing and then attached the other fuselage half to this assembly. That made it a little easier to deal with the tricky internal parts.

               

Fit was superb on the entire model. Of special note are all of the struts, which fit into their designated holes perfectly and provided plenty of rigid support. Everything aligned quite well too. I did not need to use my biplane alignment jig to attach the upper wing. As far as building a biplane is concerned, this was quite simply one of the easiest to assemble I have ever done. It was pretty much like building a tiny Wingnut Wings kit! And it is tiny! The beautiful little Brassin engine is a gem, but be forewarned, you're not going to see too much of it! The Spandaus are equally nice, with more than a dozen parts each!

The decals went down with no major problems. I first painted the entire airframe flat white and then sprayed a coat of Future floor polish. The wing rib detail is very pronounced and it did take several treatments of Micro Sol to get them to completely conform. To add to that, the separate rip tapes took even more. But in the end, the rib detail is still visible! I was pleasantly surprised. Eduard supplied a small piece of extra lozenge which I did need for the upper wingtips. Otherwise, the decals fit perfectly. The only thing I decided not to try (partially wimping out and partially because I liked the look more!) I opted to not use the lozenge decals for the interplane struts. I think they would have been very tricky but when considering how well the rest of the decals went on, they probably would have worked. The real aircraft commonly had lozenge fabric wrapped interplane struts but I liked the renditions of Udet's airplane with the red ones (funny enough, Eduard's initial release of this kit featured Udet1s on the box cover as well, but with red interplane struts!).

                   

Now the rigging. I have a fair amount of experience rigging biplane models, but this was a bit of a challenge. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that I have pretty much converted to 1/32 for my own WWI aircraft models. It's a bit easier when you have more room to work with and line that you can see! I used Uschi van der Rosten's fine elastic rigging line. It worked quite well with the photoetched turnbuckles and anchors. I attached the anchor points to the upper wings with one end of the rigging attached. After attaching the upper wing, I attached the loose ends to the turnbuckles, which I glued in place before attaching the wing. The turnbuckles can easily be bent slightly to align the line straight to the anchors.

                   

                   

The most difficult part was the attachment of the rigging lines between the cabin struts. These attached to a small photoetched part and let me tell you, there was not much room to work in there!

All in all, this was a very pleasurable build (except for where I temporarily lost my eyesight after rigging!). I would definitely categorize biplanes as a bit more challenging than most monoplanes. But in the end, it's mostly a matter of needing to take a little more time, nothing more (and don't drink coffee before you try rigging!). I highly recommend this kit for anyone interested in 1/48 WWI subjects!

               

           

 


 

 

Kit Review: Revell 1/32 Spitfire Mk.II

By Larry Horyna

The Supermarine Spitfire is one of the all time iconic fighters to come out of the Second World War. While the model is well represented in every scale, a good modern tooling of the early variants has been lacking in 1/32.  Revell of Germany attempted to "come to the rescue" with their new offering of the Mk.II. Revell did indeed spend some time researching this aircraft but unfortunately, as most everyone has now heard and figured out, they measured and copied an extant example that was something of a "hybrid," having parts from other variants on it. In the end, what they ended up with is much closer to a Mk.Va than anything. I don't know where the propeller came from on the aircraft Revell measured--it does not look like any propeller the Spitfire used, De Havilland or Rotol.

I decided to do what I will call an "economy" build and correct the major problems myself (although several companies now offer corrected resin aftermarket parts) and do a simple backdate to Mk.I standards.

This required making the ailerons look like fabric-covered ones instead of metal. To simulate the fabric ailerons, I first filled the metal rivet holes in the kit ailerons with Tamiya putty and sanded them smooth. I then added strips of plastic, cut them to length, and sanded them down.

The oil cooler had to be modified to make it the earlier half-round shape, and this was bit more tricky. I cut the kit one in half lengthwise. The tricky part of this is in the way the part is broken down. You end up with a notch in each side that I filled in with cardstock and putty. You also end up with a gap all the way around the cooler, which I filled with Apoxie Sculpt and added the rivets with a pounce wheel.

The seat needed to be reshaped a bit and have the back padding added, as well as a Sutton harness. The curiously-missing pilot armor behind the seat had to be fabricated.

Although the radiator is not completely correct (it lacks the front and rear ramps) I decided to leave it alone as the overall shape is close enough. The wheels are a little odd looking, but not so much that did anything to them. I also decided to reshape the spinner and propeller blades to get them as close to a De Havilland look as I could. The spinner is still way too short, but in the end the model looks like an early Spitfire.

Overall construction was straightforward and offered very little in the way of fit issues. You will need to take a little time when fitting the wings to ensure there are no gaps, especially under the fuselage at the trailing edges. Again, careful fidgeting will result in very little to no filler being required. Revell uses a pretty soft plastic which usually results in sinkholes and there are few that need filling, mostly along the forward fuselage joint.

The cockpit is a little sparse, but not bad. I added a little wiring and made a new oxygen hose out wrapped wire. The back pad on the seat was made from Apoxy Sculpt and the Sutton harness was make from scrap RB Productions material with buckles from the photoetch scrap box. The instrument panel ends up pretty nice using the kit-supplied decals. The pilot armor is a pretty simple shape cut from cardstock. I also dug through the spare decals box and found some unused stencils at threw a few in the cockpit.

                       

With the major mods out of the way, I was ready to paint. I decided to do this airplane in top Battle of Britain ace Eric Lock's markings. I wanted to make a pretty beat-up looking Spitfire, so I went with the "hairspray" method for heavy weathering. I first sprayed the areas to be heavily worn with decanted Tamiya Silver Leaf spray paint. Tamiya's Silver Leaf is a great, durable metal finish, and goes on like a dream through the airbrush. Next, the silver areas were sprayed with Aqua Net hairspray, also decanted (you can buy this stuff in a pump bottle and just pour it into your airbrush, no thinning required). I let the hairspray dry overnight before commencing with the paint work.

The model was pre-shaded with Tamiya flat black, then the bottom color was applied.

After masking, the first top color was applied. I masked off the second top color with poster tack and Tamiya tape. Here is where I ran into a dilemma. To achieve the chipping effect with the hairspray, I had to go through two colors where the second top color was applied. When I applied water with a brush to start the chipping on the green, the brown came through first before the metal and it was difficult to not have any brown showing on the green where the chipping was. I was able to accomplish the effect, but in future I will rethink this on multiple layers. I know there are some good articles out there on multi-layer chipping which I believe involves chipping a color, sealing it, then applying hairspray again followed by the second color and repeating the process. The effect was also used on the propeller and spinner.

                       

In the end, I was very happy with the result and would recommend this technique for heavily weathered subjects.

After the chipping was finished I clear-coated the model with Future Floor Polish and added the decals. This is where the kit shined best! The kit deals were simply fantastic. With a few applications of Micro Sol, the roundels looked painted on! No edging, so silvering, and all the rivets were visible. The only trick is on the bottom wing as the roundels go over the large cooling vents. I had to cut and touch up the roundels there. Even the stencils went down with no silvering, which I typically find common on stencil decals. Unfortunately, to get the codes and serials for Eric Lock's airplane, I used decals out of a Pacific Coast Hurricane kit. These did not perform nearly as nicely as the kit decals. I had to modify some of the code letters to make what I needed. The "B's" are made from two "R's" and the "Q's" are modified "D's."

After the decals were dry I applied an enamel wash using MIG Pigments dark brown wash.

This was followed by an airbrushed post-shade using a mix of Tamiya flat black and red brown thinned about 80%. The post-shade was applied between the camouflage colors and streaked along the wings in the direction of airflow. I also used the post-shade color for initial cordite stains around the guns and shell ejection ports. This was followed by pastels to further accentuate cordite, exhaust, and oil staining on the bottom of the airplane.

                   

All that was left was final small details and adding the middle canopy section. This is where I am most disappointed in this kit. What is the point of offering a sectioned canopy when the middle section does not fit at all in the open position? Revell is, of course, not the only company guilty of this, but it really does astound me that so many manufacturers cannot get that right. To get it at least close, I applied a little Testors clear parts cement to the rails and carefully pressed the canopy down and secured it with Tamiya tape until the cement dried. It's not all the way down, but it's close enough to not bother me that much. It is one of my biggest "pet peeves" with airplane kits. The side door is a bit thick and the detail is a bit heavy as well, but I left it. The antenna wire is made with Uschi's fine elastic thread (this stuff is great as well, by the way. It comes in three sizes; standard, fine, and extra fine).

So, in the end, I am happy with the results for the economy of the kit. I found my kit on sale for $20.00 and other than time, paint, and glue, I didn't spend anything else on it. For that, this kit is a great value for the money. It would have been amazing without the silly errors Revell made measuring a pieced-together museum airplane. The only thing I would truly recommend buying for this model is a corrected aftermarket propeller.


 

Kit Review:
 
Classic Airframes De Havilland Sea Hornet NF.21
 
By Larry Horyna
 

  
 

Pushing the limits of wooden combat aircraft design based on the success of their earlier Mosquito, De Havilland aircraft company introduced the Hornet toward the end of the Second World War. Initially designated the DH.103 Hornet, the aircraft would equip postwar RAF Fighter Command day fighter units. With its excellent low speed characteristics and pilot visibility, it was a natural choice for the Fleet Air Arm in developing a carrier-based fighter. The NF.21 Sea Hornet was the night fighter variant of the Sea Hornet.

Adding a seat just aft of the wing trailing edges for the radar operator/navigator and elongating the nose to accommodate an ASH rotating dish in a "thimble" radome, the Sea Hornet certainly attained the look of sleek design modified to look a bit ungainly! The design was very successful, however odd looking, and remained in FAA service until 1954.

The Classic Airframes kit of this unusual aircraft is welcome addition to any FAA collection. The kit is molded in gray plastic and comes with resin cockpit details, exhausts, and wheels. The moldings are very clean. As is typical with many short-run kits, there are no alignment pins. The kit also includes two clear vacuform canopies and windows for the radar operator/navigator's hatch.

Assembly is fairly straightforward. The  kit is tooled to make a standard Hornet with the resin nose requiring some cutting to graft to the forward fuselage. Fit was pretty good with only a little filler required. My only disappointment with the interior was a lack of seat belts. Usually resin seats have molded-on belts, but for some reason Classic Airframes did not do that, nor did they supply any photoetched ones. I elected to use an Ultracast Tempest seat that had molded-on seat belts, since I had a couple lying around.

The resin cockpit fit great! I was actually a bit surprised as just how nicely this kit went together. I would say this was the best-fitting Classic Airframes kit I have built next to their Model 239 Buffalo. One structural weakness was the wings and tail surfaces. As I mentioned, there are no alignment pins and nothing to support the wings, which are essentially shoulder-mounted. I made brass wire spars which worked great. I also made brass wire alignment rods for the tail surfaces. The resultant model is quite robust. The wing root joint required a little adjustment/filling to get everything nice and even but, again, this was minimal.

The model was pre-shaded and painted using Tamiya acrylics mixed to match the specific colors. The model was then clear-coated with Future floor polish and decaled. The kit decals worked quite well with just a little Micro Sol. An enamel wash was applied followed by a very subtle post shade using a mix of Tamiya flat black and red brown thinned about 80%.

The vacuform canopies fit great. The landing gear fit without any problems as well. The propellers on the Hornet series were “handed,” meaning they rotated in opposite directions to offset torque. This requires making sure you use the correct propeller blades for port and starboard engines. For a limited-run kit, this was actually a pleasure to build. I will be doing the standard F.3 Hornet in the near future and am now looking more forward to it!


Kit Review - Dragon Ju 88 A-4

By Larry Horyna

 Undoubtedly one of the most iconic medium bombers of the Second World War was the Junkers Ju-88.  An extremely versatile design, the Ju-88 served admirably in many roles, from level daylight bomber to anti-shipping and night fighting.  This build represents the standard A-4 series daylight bombing configuration and is done in the markings of well known Ju-88 exponent "Hajo" Hermann.

Dragon's kit in 1/48 scale offers a good representation of this excellent airplane. The kit is cleanly molded, with very nice clear parts and fairly nice detail built right from the box.  As this was for a client, and one who really loves interior detail, I used Eduard's color etched detail set and a few scratch built bits to enhance the cockpit area.

The build was very straight forward and did not exhibit any fit problems.  The fuselage construction is a bit different than most standard aircraft kits in that the vertical stabilizer was a separate piece and not molded to the fuselage.  This was obviously done for the sake of producing other variants with different shaped tails. The forward cockpit area was also molded separately for the same reason.  However, neither of these separate sections provided any difficulty of fit. I used very little filler on this model.

I can't explain exactly why I chose not to buy an aftermarket canopy mask when there was so much glass to mask on this airplane.  I suppose some of it had to do with the recent debacle I encountered with Great Wall's P-61 masks.  It was also a bit due to the fact that all I could find was a "generic" mask that was supposedly for all the 1/48 Ju-88 kits.   was a bit suspect of that since the glass cannot be the same on all of them.  So, I went ahead and masked the glass myself.  My particular method is very time consuming but for me, the most comfortable.  I really don't like to put tape on the part then trim it with a knife.  Invariably, I slip and cut a nice line right into an area that shouldn't have a line in it.  To avoid this, I cut fine strips of Tamiya tape and outline each section of glass. T hen I fill the sections in when finished.  It takes some time, but it works really well.

Being a standard Luftwaffe daylight scheme, the camouflage was a "splinter" scheme of RLM 70 and 71 on the upper surfaces and RLM 65 on the lower. Hermann's markings were fairly straight forward, with a white fuselage band and the KG 30 unit badge on the nose.  There were no aftermarket decals available for this particular aircraft at the time I built it (I am sure someone did them at some time as Hermann was a pretty well known Ju-88 pilot) so I had to piece them together from a couple of different sheets.  Splinter camouflage is fairly straight forward and not terribly difficult to mask but it is time consuming.  One of my references offered a very nice schematic of the standard pattern.  I like to pre-shade my models so after outlining the panel lines with flat black I applied the bottom RLM 65, masked the bottom and them applied the RLM 70, being the lighter of the two upper colors.  This is where pre-shading runs into a bit of a problem.  After applying the first color on the entire airframe, you lose some of the pre-shade on the second color. A fter masking the RLM 70, I pre-shaded the areas to be painted RLM 71 again.

Here is where I ran into trouble!  I have been using acrylics on my models for years now and I very rarely have problems with adhesion.  I clean my models well before assembly and use Polly Scale plastic prep or alcohol to clean again before painting.  I used Testors Acryl (my favorite is Tamiya, but they don't make these particular RLM colors and I didn't feel like mixing them, which I usually do).  After painting the RLM 71 I carefully removed the Tamiya masking tape and...arrggghh! The RLM 70 lifted in several places! This is a real pain in the butt to fix. You have to wet-sand the area, remask and repaint. After I did this I carefully lifted the tape again and...nooooooo!  The RLM 71 lifted!  Now I had a choice, strip the whole thing and redo it, or try one more time to wet sand, remask and repaint.  I chose the latter and thankfully, it worked. I have no idea why the paint lifted.  I do not know how old the Testors paint was, it was given to me by a fellow builder and for all I know it was very old.  However, the bottles had not been opened and didn't look odd when I thinned it so in the end I simply determined that the modeling gods were just not with on this one (in case you don't know, there is an entire pantheon of modeling gods covering fit, glue, paint, etc.  It's just the paint god that wasn't with me, everyone else cooperated).

After removing the mask I clear coated with Future floor wax and applied the decals.  Next I applied a wash with MIG pigment brown followed by Testor's Acryl clear flat.  For those of you who have not tried MIG pigments, I highly recommend them.  I used to make my own oil washes with artists oil thinned with terpenoid.  I was always a bit of a pain to have to constantly thin the oil pain.  The MIG washes are basically a pre-thinned oil based wash that works like a charm over acrylics.  I have found that it saves me lots of time in doing washes.

All that was left to do was add the landing gear, bombs and small details.  The end result is a very nice representation of what I would simply call "a really cool airplane."  This was a very enjoyable build (except for the painting adventure, which of course was no fault of the kit!) and I would highly recommend it to any fan of Luftwaffe subjects.

                   

 

                   

 

                    

 


Kit Review - Flashpoint Fighters

A Pair Of 1960s Warplanes From Hobbycraft

by John Tate

There have been a lot of great model kits released during the past twenty years, so many that it's easy to overlook some decent, low-end kits in favor of the latest-and-greatest, high-tech models from the premier manufacturers.  But tucked away in our model closets are some real jewels that, with a little work, can be turned into fun, worthwhile projects.  Hobbycraft kits are a good example-their later-issue models are affordable, easy to build, passably accurate, and have some great decal choices.  Here are a couple of good, solid kits by Hobbycraft, their 1/48 Sea Fury and MiG-17F, that most modelers can turn into decent replicas while picking up a little modeling experience at the same time.

   

The Hobbycraft 1/48 Hawker Sea Fury was initially released circa 1990 but had some shortcomings, which were addressed by Hobbycraft when they re-released the kit several years later.  The retooled Sea Fury was released in three different versions, all of which contained excellent decals, nice box art, and useful color profiles on the bottom of the kit box.  One of these was the "Bay of Pigs" Sea Fury which had interesting markings for Sea Furies from Fidel Castro's Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria (far), which played an important role in defeating the CIA-led Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961.

The kit builds into a nice representation of the Sea Fury right out of the box, is accurate in outline and goes together with a minimum of fuss.  I used some aftermarket resin details, from a variety of sources, to replace the wheels, propeller blades, bomb racks and cockpit and added a vacuform canopy; these extra parts helped add some realism to the model.  However, it's possible to add detail just from the odds-and-ends in the spares box and still get a nice replica.  The kit decals went on flawlessly-Hobbycraft has some of the best decal sheets from any manufacturer, and I've used plenty on other projects over the years.  I was happy with the final result and a Bay of Pigs Sea Fury makes for an eye-catching and historically significant model.

       

Like the Sea Fury, the Hobbycraft 1/48 MiG-17 was initially released circa 1990 but later retooled and rereleased several years later, with nicer box art and new decals.  I liked this kit release because of the interesting "small air force" subjects on the decal sheet, which highlighted the MiG-17's use as a widely-exported Soviet fighter jet during the 1960s.

Like the Sea Fury, the retooled Hobbycraft MiG-17 went together without too many problems.  The model had some questionable contours in various places but when it was finished it looked like a MiG-17, which was good enough for me.  I added some cockpit detail, a corrected ejection seat and extra sway supports for the drop tanks-the kit only provides one per tank, while the real plane had two.  But nitpicks were secondary to what was a fun, quick build.  I modeled mine as a Nigerian MiG-17F from the Biafran Civil War, circa 1969 - 70.

So if you're interested in some quick builds that can also help hone your modeling skills, keep an eye out for overlooked models like these "black box" Hobbycraft kits-with a little work you can end up with a decent replica, usually of an interesting and historically-significant model subject.  As sticker shock increases with all the $200 mega-kits hitting the shelves, it might be a good idea to return to the basics, tackling affordable kits that can be fun to build and completed in just a week or two.  In fact, that might make a good theme for a future club contest-models built from kits that cost $25 or less.


Kit Review - Great Wall P-61B Black Widow

By Larry Horyna

 

Great Wall models of China has recently released their long awaited and hopefully corrected 1/48 P-61B Black Widow kit.   Following on their flawed P-61A, Great Wall has taken steps to correct cowling and other general shape errors in hopes of releasing a better received kit.   The first overall impression of the kit shows that they have indeed done the majority of their homework and produced a far more accurate rendition of the United States' first designated production night fighter.

What is in the box:  The kit comes with many items that would have to be purchased as separate aftermarket features if one wanted to detail up the model.  Photo etched ignition wiring, weighted main gear and canopy masks are the main features of additional detail.  Separate instrument decals coupled with a finely molded instrument panel help the modeler create an instrument panel that rivals any photo etched aftermarket accessory.  The injection molded parts are finely cast in grey plastic.  Some of the smallest parts require extreme care to remove from the trees (and even with extra care and some precision sprue cutters I managed to break a few things!).  In fact, for some of the finest details, such as the forward crew access ladder and fuselage exterior antennas, I had to use a photo etched razor saw and very carefully cut the parts from the tree.  The interior is ambitious and fairly busy.  I am not sure why they chose to mold a representation of the upper turret cylinder (it is not visible in any configuration of open panels that the kit provides) as that only complicates getting the fuselage halves together.  All I added in the end was a bit of extra wiring to the cockpit.

Construction:  Again, fairly straight forward.  The fuselage halves fit reasonably well.  The four under fuselage cannon made the alignment of the fuselage halves a bit tricky.  It would be much simpler to cut the cannon barrels off and put them in at the end.  Also, the kit instructions call for installation of the landing gear during the main airframe assembly.  I have never been a fan of this as it is a pain to mask the gear off and not damage them during the sanding and painting process.  You do not have to put the gear in as you assemble the airframe.  It was no problem to install the gear at the end.  Overall fit of parts was good and very minimal putty was needed to fill any gaps.  All of the clear parts fit well and they are very cleanly molded.  I was a bit nervous about the wing roots because there really is not much support for them.   There are no spars or large tabs to guide the wings, only a small ridge round the fuselage wing root.  However, the fit not only proved to be good, the tail booms added plenty of support and the overall airframe ends up quite stout.  The only little thing that just looked funny to me was the position and height of the pilot's control column.  It looks very high and way too close to the pilot’s seat.  I simply glued it in forward of the hole that it was designed to go it.

       

Painting and decals:  Here is where a few problems crop up.  Firstly, the canopy masks.  Frankly, I would not use them.  Many do not fit the panes in outline; the compound curve areas do not stick well at all and in the end, the areas that did stick, stuck too well!  The masks left a gummy adhesive mess that was very difficult to remove.  All in all, it would have been easier to mask them myself given the time it took to clean the clear parts up after removing the masks.  Great Wall also completely forgot to make masks for the too farthest aft windows at the radio operator's compartment.  Given the quality of the mask, this ended up being merciful!  Secondly, the decals were not good.  The register is slightly off, leaving a very thin white outline on some parts, and they did not react to solvent.  I started with micro sol, which is what I use 99% of the time.  When nothing happened I broke out the old Solvaset, which also did nothing!  The decals did adhere well enough in the end, but they did not sink down into the panel lines much.   Also, these decals are very unforgiving of a rough surface texture.  I gloss coat pretty liberally but once in a while you end up with an area that is not perfectly smooth even though it has a nice glossy sheen.  If these decals end up on anything like that, they will silver.  I have found that really nice decals are bit forgiving of this, so long as the surface is shiny.  So to reiterate, mask the canopy yourself or get a better made aftermarket mask and use aftermarket decals!

       

Finish and detailThe last bits of the kit went on without a hitch.  The gear are plenty stout.  You will need to make sure you add as much weight to the nose as you can.  I did not put the radar in the nose since this version had a solid painted nose, and I was still a bit tail heavyI ended up having to add some more weight to the engine nacelles to get her to sit on her nose.   Having said that, I used crumpled lead foil for weight, which is not space efficient.  Make sure you use something like lead shot, especially if you have the radar in the nose.  The kit engines are beautifully detailed, but I will say they are a bit of a chore to assemble.  This was a commission build and my customer wanted one engine exposed.   All I added was one little oil drain line coming out of the gear reduction housing.  The rest of the engine is all from the kit.  Because the kit engine includes all of the exhaust pipes, great care in aligning the two cylinder rows in crucial to getting the pipes to fit correctly.  Take your time here and test fit a lot, and you should have no problems.

       

Conclusion:  This kit will certainly make a nice representation of the P-61B right out of the box (excluding the kit decals).  Because this was a commission build, time was of the essence in terms of efficiency in construction and detail.  Nothing "bogged" me down (except cleaning the gunk off of the canopy that was left by the masks) and overall, this kit was a pleasure to build.  It is certainly light years ahead of the old Monogram kit.  I would recommend the kit to anyone interested in a 1/48 model of this unique and fascinating airplane.


Capt Danny Roberts - New Mexico's Fighter Ace

by Mike Blohm

 

 

This article was originally written in September 2012 to coincide with ASM's "New Mexico Centennial of Statehood" theme contest.  It is republished now for the "Danny Roberts Memorial - Best P-38" Sponsored Contest being held at the November 1st, 2013 ASM meeting 

Capt Daniel T. "Danny" Roberts Jr. is a little-known but fairly high-ranking fighter ace born in Tucumcari, New Mexico.  At the time of his death in November 1943 Roberts was one of the top-scoring aces in the Pacific theater with 14 aerial victories.  He was barely behind Dick Bong and just ahead of Tommy McGuire in scoring. 

Roberts was born on 20 Sep 1918 and graduated from New Mexico Highlands University with a degree in music and became a music teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He joined the U.S. Army Aviation Cadet Program and was commissioned as a second lieutenant and rated a pilot on 16 Sep 1941.  He initially served at Mitchell Field in New York, but after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor he was sent to the Pacific.  Due to his quiet nature - he never drank, smoked or uttered a strong curse - he almost ended up being assigned as a base commander out in the desert.  However, he was able to influence a general that was passing through and instead joined the 80th Fighter Squadron (FS) "Headhunters" of the 8th Fighter Group (FG).  The unit was equipped with the P-400 (export P-39) Airacobra which was not much of a dogfighter but Roberts used it to gain his first two victories.  Roberts was involved in a surprise attack on Milne Bay early on the morning of 26 Aug 1942.  The 80 FS caught the Zeros of the 2nd Wing just as they had just begun their takeoffs and Roberts scored a "double" and 1 damaged.  He scored another "double" over two Vals on 11 Apr 1943, at that time flying the P-38G Lightning. 

8th Fighter Group 80th Fighter Squadron 475th Fighter Group 432nd Fighter Squadron 433rd Fighter Squadron


Roberts joined the 475 FG "Satan's Angels" when it was formed in May 1943 as the first "all P-38 squadrons group".  He initially served in the 432 FS "Clover squadron" as the Operations Officer and scored 5 victories in Aug - Sep 1943 while flying the P-38H.  Roberts was unusual as a fighter pilot because of his meticulous habits and gentle speech and manner.  He easily won the trust and affection of his comrades and showed a knack for leadership.  Roberts was the commander of the 433 FS "Possum squadron" from Oct - Nov 1943 and knew how to get the best from his men by fully understanding them and leading them with the example of his hard work.  Roberts quickly impressed the pilots with his enthusiasm for their survival as well as maximum efficiency in accomplishing the mission.  "Stay together like a pack of wolves" he would repeat to his men.  During his short time as squadron leader the 433 FS was credited with fifty-five victories against the loss of only three P-38s.  Roberts himself downed five Zekes in one week, including two "doubles" on 17 Oct and 23 Oct 1943. 

Roberts was killed in action on 9 November 1943 during an escort mission of B-25 Mitchell bombers hitting Japanese airfields at Alexishafen on the northern coast of New Guinea.  Roberts had scored one kill - a Hamp - and was engaging an Oscar at low altitude when Roberts own wingman collided with him during a hard turn, destroying both P-38s.  He was posthumously promoted to major.  Roberts is buried in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial on Luzon in the Philippine Islands.  Roberts credits were 14 destroyed, 1 probable, and 1 damaged.  Various sources credit Roberts with 15 victories but the official USAF Historical Study No. 85 and Air Force Aerial Victory Credits: WW I, WW II, Korea, and Vietnam documents both list him with 14.  His awards include a Distinguished Service Cross and three Distinguished Flying Crosses. 

Had Roberts not been lost in this accident, he may have become one of the top-scoring aces and fighter leaders in the Pacific theater, such as Charles MacDonald, who commanded the 475 FG from Nov 1943 to Aug 1944.  Overall, Roberts is the top-ranking ace of the 433 FS (tie), the 9th-ranking P-38 ace (tie), the 38th-ranking American ace (tie), and the 33rd-ranking USAAF/USAF ace (tie). 

Roberts neither swore nor drank, but is still remembered affectionately today as "The Quiet Ace."   

Sources:

Stars & Bars - A Tribute to the American Fighter Ace 1920-1973 by Frank Olynyk

Attack & Conquer - The 8th Fighter Group in World War II by John C. Stanaway & Lawrence J. Hickey, Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1995

 Possum, Clover & Hades - The 475th Fighter Group in World War II