Saturday, September 12, 2015

Another One That Deserves a Better Kit, A Cool Cat, On The Boat, and Ready to Rumble,

Tales of Misawa: The Scaredest I've Ever Been

As you all may remember (and Lord knows you should, since I've told you about it often enough!) I spent a considerable portion of my high-school days at Misawa AB in northern Japan. It was, all in all, a teenage boy's dream come true; no responsibilities other than school to worry about, a foreign country to explore, a motorcycle to explore it on, and, perhaps most importantly lots and lots of airplanes to look at.

Misawa during my time there (1962 until 1965) was home to the 39th Air Division and was charged with the protection of that end of Japan, among other duties (we aren't going to discuss the Other Duties the 39th performed that caused F-100Ds of the 531st TFS to rotate deployments out of South Korea on a regular basis), and until late 1964 the place was literally swarming with airplanes. The JASDF was there of course, with T-6Gs and C-46s from time to time, while the 39th was mother to the 4th FIS (F-102As), the 45th TRS (RF-101Cs), and, for the greater part of 1964, their very own pair of F-100D squadrons (the 416th and 531st TFSs). Add in a hefty dose of transients and you can well understand why a teenage kid who was hooked on military aviation and enjoyed building model airplanes was quite literally living the dream!

There was a serious side to it, though, since there was only one reason why we were there at all. The Cold War was ever-present, and a thermonuclear confrontation with those bad guys was quite literally just the push of a button away. My dad's assignment to Misawa began in October of 1962, and I'm going to presume I don't have to explain the significance of that particular month and year. We dependents led a relatively carefree life, but our fathers were quite literally on the front lines of The End of the World. Sometimes that reality came crashing home to us and gave even the most frivolous of us something to think about. At that point in my life (and in most others as well) I was frivolous, quite possibly to the extreme, but one night in 1964 came the closest to changing things away from frivolity that I've ever personally experienced.

Now that the stage is set, and before we get to The Good Part, I probably ought to explain that Drama is often in the eye of the beholder and/or participant, and one person's drama may well be another's amusement or, quite possibly, boredom. You get to pick whichever you prefer once you've finished reading, but I'm going to tell you right now, and without embarrassment, that I was scared that night; the most scared I've ever been in all my years on the planet. Here's what happened:

If you grew up on Air Force bases during the 1950s and 60s, you crew up with a phenomenon known as The Alert. That didn't mean all that much on training bases, but on a SAC, TAC, ADC, USAFE, or PACAF base it was an event often accompanied by high drama because of the ever-present possibility that the alert wasn't for practice but was in fact The Real Thing (I've personally seen people, women and children, nearly trampled when the alert horn went off in the BX on a SAC base), and there was no way to know which one it was, at least for a dependent, until after the whole thing was over and done with. It was a normal part of life.

That particular normalcy was an ongoing thing at Misawa in those days. Vladivostok was an easy flight away, as was North Korea, and alerts were an ongoing part of the adventure until that one night when the base siren went off in the wee hours. My dad, along with every other service member on base, responded to the sound by jumping out of bed, throwing on his uniform, and running out the door to get to his squadron area. All the racket woke me up, of course, and I lay there listening for The Good Part, because the 39th AD often launched the duty pair of "Deuces" when such festivities occurred and it was fun, if you liked airplanes, to listen to them get off the ground. That night wasn't a disappointment, but on that occasion there was a whole lot more to it than just a couple of F-102s getting into the air.

If you're around airplanes very much at all, you soon begin to recognize different types simply by their sound. The F-102s were unique in that respect, as were the RF-101s, and nobody who's ever heard a "Hun" launch can forget the sound it makes when it goes into burner, so it was relatively easy to figure out what was getting in the air that night, and when.

The 102s got off the ground first, as to be expected, and then there was a lull. It was just another alert, or at least that's what I thought until eight or ten minutes later, when a pair of "Huns" launched, followed by another pair, and then another, and then another. The air around the base was filled with jet engine noise as fighter after fighter was started, run up, taxied, and launched, mostly F-100s but with a 102 or two in the mix, along with at least one "Voodoo", and it quickly became abundantly clear that everything capable of getting airborne that night was being launched. It took a few minutes for the significance of it all to settle in, and I didn't go back to sleep until I heard the first aircraft recover an hour or so later.

My dad didn't come home the next morning the way he normally would have, but returned to our quarters around midday, for lunch. I was there too, and I asked what was going on the night before; his response was "you don't need to know". One of our neighbors was an armament and electronics type assigned to the 4th FIS, and he was the next adult I ran into as I left our house on my way back to school. My question to him got pretty much the same response I'd received from my dad, and he looked spooked when he told me not to ask about it. Similar questions to other GIs in my acquaintance got me pretty much the same answer and I still, to this day, don't know what happened that night. I do know that it brought home The Cold War, and my dad's part in the whole business, in a manner that nothing else short of nuclear conflict could have.

Why am I telling you this? Easy; because the incident drove home, to me at least, the reason those airplanes existed in the first place, and it brought clarity to the reason my dad, and all those other men and women, were standing on the wall every night ready to protect us all. That night clarified, as nothing before ever had, what those plastic models I loved to build actually represented. It was a wake-up call of sorts.

Let's raise a glass...

Kickin' It Old School Just One More Time

It's easy to get really spoiled with this hobby of ours, and it seems like not a week goes by without some new wonder kit hitting the shelves, or some new decal sheet, or some amazingly-detailed resin or photo-etched bits. It's all there, it's all for us and it's mostly all new. All we have to do is buy it, often for a pretty penny, but it's all worth it because it's new, right? Well, ok; maybe it's a re-issue and not exactly new, or maybe it's new but not exactly good---the current generation of UberKits come in all sorts of flavors, don't they? Today's flavor isn't a brand new kit, though. It's an old friend, at least to some of us: Monogram's 1/48th scale Lockheed F-80A. Originally released in 1977, it's a dinosaur to a great many of today's modelers, and a virtually unbuildable dinosaur at that; a kit characterized by poor fit and difficult assembly. It's a model totally unworthy of our attention, right? WRONG!

As things turn out, that ancient old F-80 from Morton Grove just happens to be, Right Now This Very Minute, the most accurate F-80 kit available in any scale and guess what? It's perfectly buildable too! Yep; all those pieces that allegedly don't fit each other go together just fine, thank you very much; all you need to get the kit together is patience and a little bit of basic modeling ability. Just watch and see!

The first thing you'll need to do is deal with the fuselage halves, which are broken into right and left sides and forward and rear sections. The kit's designed that way so you can pull the fuselage apart and display the back half of the engine, which was once considered to have state-of-the-art detailing. That was Then---this is Now, and that engine just won't get it done any more, so let's ignore it as a display item and use it as a piece of structure instead. Assemble those fuselage sections front to rear, and make sure they're properly aligned with straight, flat mating surfaces. Let them dry thoroughly, and then sand them smooth (but don't putty the seam since there's one in that exact place on the real airplane!). Once all that's done, cut the tailpipe at the place shown in the photo above, assemble what's left of the engine, and glue it into one of the fuselage halves. Which one doesn't really matter very much; just make sure it fits and make equally certain those halves will go together without a gap. You may have to knock off some of the combustion chamber detailing on the engine in order to do that but it's nothing to be concerned about, since we're only going to use the engine to locate the tailpipe within the fuselage anyway---you won't be seeing anything of that powerplant this time!

See what I mean? The tailpipe you see is a piece of K and N brass tubing cut to length, using the now-removed kit part as a template for length. Cut your brass tube a little longer than it needs to be, treat it with some sort of brass-blackening solution (I used a model railroad product called "Blacken It", but pretty much any product of that nature will work), then wipe 5-minute epoxy inside the kit engine, shove the tailpipe up in there, and secure it until it cures. Make sure you've got that brass tube properly aligned (top-to-bottom and side-to-side) while the epoxy is setting, make sure the right amount of it projects outside the fuselage, and you're golden. One thing to watch for with this step---those brass blackening chemicals are all way past Nasty and can cause considerable harm to living beings, so read the instructions that come with them and follow them to the letter. Be especially sure to keep them away from short people if you have any of those in your household, and away from pets too. (A workaround for that particular product would be to airbrush the brass tube inside and out with some sort of metalizer meant for hobby use, and we heartily recommend that course if you have even the least concern about using the other stuff.) Fore-warned is fore-armed!

Monogram's F-80 is reputed to be a confirmed tail-sitter, but it's honestly no worse than any other tricycle-geared model airplane, and nowhere near as bad as any P-39 is to deal with, so let's get that out of the way next. See that little clear rod laying just behind the kit's wing? That particular doohickey is a prop that the manufacturer included for the modeler to use if they couldn't figure out how to get weight in the nose. We aren't going to need it, so turn it upside down and glue it into the appropriate hole from the back side of the wing (that's the part as shown, for those of you who tend to get confused by such things). When it's dry, clip off most of it so it won't hit the bottom of what's left of the engine, and clean up the other side of the wing---there won't be much to do there if you're careful, so be careful! Next you'll want to drill out those pylon holes in the wings, at least if you're doing a Korean War bird, and carefully dress the mating surfaces at the front and back of the wing center section. That area is one that's allegedly hard to make fit correctly, but it just ain't so IF you're careful with your cleanup and basic assembly.

At some point you're going to want to ballast this thing so it'll sit on its nose gear, so let's take a look at one way to do that. The first thing you'll want to do is build up the interior, because you're going to need it for component alignment in a few minutes. Correct the angle at which Monogram has you seat the instrument panel into place since it's not slanted back like that on the real airplane, and cut away all of the structure on the inside of the left fuselage nose---it's there so you can display the kit's poorly detailed gunbay, and we're not going to do that. (At least I'm not. You can do it if you want to, but you're going to have to figure out how to ballast it yourself if you decide to do things that way.) Glue the forward part of the interior into place since it also serves as part of the cockpit floor, and install the resulting assembly into the model once you've got things detailed the way you like them. Next, take the ballast agent of your choice and put it into place using 5-minute epoxy, making certain that you don't foul the depressions that are intended for your gun barrels! I used a .495 diameter lead round ball, with a .375 diameter ball added just to be sure, and watched over the whole thing while the epoxy set, just to be certain nothing shifted while the stuff cured. Next you'll want to deal with the gun barrels. The kit provides a set, sortof, but they're done with 1970s technology and aren't all that good. I had an extra set of 1/48th scale Tamiya P-47 blast tubes laying around from a recent project (I used Master Barrels on that particular "Jug" so the kit barrels were spares) and they proved to be perfect for use on an F-80---they were the right diameter, could easily be cut to length and, most importantly, already had a hole in each end thanks to Tamiya's use of slide-mold technology on that Thunderbolt kit, so there were no holes to drill! With all of that done, the fuselage could be assembled. Progress, as it were!

It's time to start putting the big pieces together and getting this thing to look like an airplane! In my personal world opened panels on models generally aren't (shown opened, that is), because I prefer the completed projects to look somewhat like a real airplane would appear when sitting on a ramp, so that gun-bay panel that Monogram so thoughtfully opened up for us has been closed and sanded smooth. Four of the six .50 machine guns (those Tamiya barrels) have been installed; the last two, the ones at the very front, will go in after the sanding of the nose is completed and any unit markings are painted. The kit's somewhat lumpy and inaccurate gun sight is now gone, to be replaced later on in the project with a resin component, and the fuselage halves have been carefully fitted together and assembled with Tenax---doing it that way means minimal sanding and a little bit of polishing, which will simplify your life considerably. So far only a tiny bit of putty has been used, and the only reason for its use has been to repair things that I gomed up as I was going along. The only thing that really bears watching is making certain that everything that needs to be inside the model is actually there before you close up that fuselage. Oh, and the interior is slightly modified from the one supplied by the kit. I could've done more (an Eduard Zoom set intended for That Other F-80, for example), but it's not a big cockpit and I wanted to try an Old School build on the thing. So far, the only items used that weren't in the kit to begin with are the tailpipe, the guns, and the ballast weights.

Here's the other side of the assembled fuselage, mostly to show you what that side looks like. There's a tiny L-shaped pitot-thingy molded up under the nose and so far it's still there. We'll see how long that lasts, I suppose, but for now everything is pretty much where it should be. It's beginning to look a little bit like a Shooting Star, isn't it?

The horizontal stabs and elevators really show their age on this kit, but there's nothing there that's insurmountable. Each part has a pair of sink marks that require filling and sanding, and the port-side piece has a copyright mark and the letters MMI that need to be sanded off, but that's about it. Clean 'em up, polish 'em, and set 'em aside for a while!

Here we have an assembled wing, painted, sort-of, and in some respects ready for installation on the airframe, even though we aren't going to do that just yet. Instead, we're going to let the paint (Floquil Old Silver) dry for a few days to make sure it's good and hard, and then polish it out with a soft cloth. Once that's done it'll be time to go back with low-tack masking tape (or, more likely, Post-It notes), and mask the few areas of the airplane that are in contrasting shades of natural metal so we can address that part of the painting process. The holes for the kit's wing pylons have been pre-drilled but the pylons themselves won't go on the airplane until after the under-wing decals have been applied, since the pylons were installed over the markings on the real airplane. Doing things this way will simplify life as well as reduce the profanity level in your workshop. One more thing before we leave the bottom wing assembly; Korean War F-80s often had an additional set of pylons inboard of the "normal" ones to allow rockets to be fitted to the aircraft in addition to bombs or napalm. The kit doesn't provide them so you'll have to decide for yourself whether you want to scratch-build a set or not---they're not always there, but they're really obvious when they are. One final note: Those little doohickeys on the aft center-section of the wing are supposed to represent the hooks used to mount RATO bottles to the aircraft. It's entirely likely that this particular model will have those bottles attached (stolen from the F-84 kit of my choice) and that simple act will hide the fact that the kit's hooks really aren't, but if you're after a super-detailed F-80 and don't plan on mounting RATO, it might be worth-while to replace those little bumps with actual hooks. That's your choice, isn't it?

And this is what we've got after ten or fifteen hours of on-and-off work on the F-80. The wings still aren't attached since I haven't painted the anti-glare panel or nose markings yet and life will be far easier if I don't have to contend with a set of wings sticking out of the sides of the airplane when I do that. The paintwork looks pretty crummy in this shot but in theory it won't be that way for long since everything will be polished with the afore-mentioned soft cloth once the paint has completely cured, after which a handful of selected panels will be painted in a contrasting shade of metal (or maybe treated with Rub-N-Buff, who knows?) before the anti-glare panel, radar cover, and unit markings are applied. The horizontal stabs have been pre-fitted and will not require putty, so they've been painted too and will go on the airplane once all the other paint-work and decaling have been completed. It's beginning to look a little bit like an airplane, isn't it?

Let's take a break from the modeling side of things and take a look at a couple of real F-80s, just to keep your interest up! 49-1849 was built as an F-80C-10-LO and was in her prime in Korea when this photo was taken in 1952. The ID on the original photo says she's from the 49th, but the style of nose marking makes it far more likely she's actually from the 25th FBS of the 51st. She's got Misawa tanks under the wings and a command stripe on the aft fus, while her wing pylons are carrying 500lb GP bombs. We suspect the photo was taken fairly early in 1951, but reader comments are welcomed (as is additional photography!).   Kerr Collection

Here's another view of 1849, probably shot on the same day and showing her taxiing past a T-33A from the 16th FBS. The flaps are lowered in this view and she's probably just about ready to turn off onto the active, although we have no way of knowing for sure. It's a murky shot, but it gives a feel for the operational conditions encountered by the USAF during that Spring of 1951.   Kerr Collection

Speaking of murky shots, here's another one that's absolutely tantalizing from the collection of Bob Esposito. 49-0739 is another F-80C-10, this time from the 25th FBS/51st FBW. She was damaged by ground fire in March of 1951 (always a threat to F-80 operations) and could possibly be undergoing repairs here, although we doubt it. A couple of things of note in this photo include her empty gun bays and resulting "sit", her extensive mission markers, and her name, which appears to be "Night Take Off". If you've got clarification or additional photography to share, that address is, once again,   .  Spammers need not apply!    Esposito Collection via Kerr

Just How Cold IS It?

Plenty cold, at least if you take this image into account:

The squadron is VP-41 and the place is the Aleutian Islands, where we find this PBY-5A being bombed up prior to another mission. P-5's paintwork and markings place her solidly into the 1942 time period and she's heavily secured to what passes for the ramp in this shot, and there's no doubt that this is anything but desirable duty! One thing of interest, and yet another question for our eagle-eyed readers: If you look carefully along the leading edge of her port wing (that's the one on the right in this photo) you can make out what appear to be a series of red and white poles sticking upright out of the ground and extending up above the wings. We've never seen this particular thing before---maybe you have?   National Archives via Rocker Collection

At any rate, this photo could be THE photograph describing the hardships our guys faced during the Second World War, particularly since things are obviously so lousy and they aren't even in combat! It makes you think, doesn't it? Many thanks to Bobby Rocker for the image, and to those guys in the picture for being there when they were needed the most. Let's raise a glass!

One Man's Camera

Jim Sullivan is an old friend, one that's been around since the very beginning of the original print Replica in Scale project. Mostly you've seen photos from his collections of  historical Navy and Air Force images (they don't call him Mister Corsair for nothing!), but it's a known fact that he's also a superior photographer in his own right, as these images prove:

It's January of 1989 and Jim's aboard the USS America doing photography. The object of his affections (and considerable talents) is an F-14A of VF-33 coming aboard in a textbook trap. Like all military aircraft, the Tomcat eventually got old and became a little bit of a maintenance pig in the process, but she was in her salad days when Jim took this photo. Fly Navy!   Jim Sullivan

That same shoot offered Jim this gorgeous shot of VA-85's 161231 taking the wire aboard the America. 231 was a well-used Intruder, and her wear and tear make her an ideal subject for the scale modeler, but wear and tear has relatively little to do with capability. The A-6E underwent significant upgrades and improvements throughout its service life and was capable right up until the end.   Jim Sullivan

The Bad Thing on the Block

Every neighborhood's got a tough guy, the junkyard dog you just don't mess around with. When Scott Wilson sent this photo a few months ago there was no doubt that it portrayed that junkyard dog thing to a tee:

Some airplanes just cry out for a theme song, and in this particular case the song probably wouldn't be a nice one (Rose Tattoo's Butcher and Fast Eddie comes to mind in that regard, but who are we to say?) Scott caught F-4E 67-0250 from the 347th TFW taxiing out in March of 1982, armed for the air-to-air mission and apparently carrying at least one live AIM-9. It's probably just the mood we're in today, but everything about this photograph seems to say "come on if you think you can"! It's quite possible that the F-4 was never the best at anything, but it was always a great deal more than Good Enough for every mission it was given. Scott caught her minutes before she crashed to destruction on the 19th of March, 1982, over the Panamint Valley. The crew got out safely, but as for the airplane, well...  Scott Wilson

Sometimes even the tough kid can't pull it off. 0250 entered an unrecoverable spin to the left and went in hard, writing off the aircraft. The aircrew ejected safely, but there wasn't a whole lot left of the airplane. Nobody ever said it was safe...    Scott Wilson

And, to put the wrap on the story, here's Scott's account of the incident:

Right after I went on active duty in February 1982 and was assigned to George Airplane Patch in California, I found a road alongside the taxiway where I could park and get a few photos of jets taxiing out. I shot one of 67-0250 on a cold blustery day. I actually threw this slide in the garbage because I didn't think it was worth keeping, but heard that day that 250 had crashed so I fished the slide back out of the garbage. A week later the accident investigation was completed and I was "volunteered" to help clean up the wreckage. When we arrived at the site I immediately took some photos of the wreck. 

  A couple years ago someone sent me a scan of a photocopy of the accident report which confirmed a rumor I'd heard. The rumor was that a C-141 navigator from Norton AFB had been camping in the desert near the accident site. The site was on a hillside in the Panamint Valley between China Lake and Death Valley. It was many miles to the nearest town, way out in the desert wilderness. Anyway, I'd heard he got photos of the jet coming down and talked to several people who claimed to have seen them. I never saw them, but a composite of his photos was attached to the accident report. It's very difficult to pick out the airplane as it spun in and the parachutes at the top, hopefully you can find them. (We aren't running the accident report here, and Scott's right about the poor quality of the photos.)

Happy Snaps

It's been quite a while since we've run anything in this department, which means it's time to break the fast!

A-7B 154452, with VA-203, in flight over the Dry Tortugas on 12 August, 1981. The Bravo model of the "Fruit Fly" wasn't too far from obsolescent when Rick shot this photo, but it was still a viable platform for the basic attack mission even at that. Photos like this one tend to belie the true purpose of the airplanes depicted, but flight is flight and this is a beautiful image. Thanks as always to Rick Morgan for sharing it with us.

The Relief Tube

Letters; we get Letters:

First off, in the We Shoulda Known Better Department, comes a letter from Ken Holston regarding a photo we ran a few years back of an Air Force A-1E pilot who was unknown to us at the time. As it happens, the individual in the photograph was a remarkable aviator and warrior, and you need to know more about him.

This isn't the photo we originally ran, but it's the same guy; Earl Trimble. Let's let Ken, and a couple of other folks, explain it for us:

I'm a retired modern-era (1990-2012) USAF C-130H pilot whose passion is USAF Skyraider history.  I came across the photo of the unknown pilot in your June 2010 blog and got this answer from the Skyraider Assoc:

"The Skyraider pilot was identified as Earl Trimble.  One of the guys who recognized him was at Udorn with the 602nd in '67."
You might enjoy these links:
Ken Holston
Atlanta, G

Thanks, Ken, for helping provide us with insight on an amazing individual. A quick visit back to June of 2010 (use the little-known "search" function at the bottom of this page) will show you the original photo.           USAF Photo

We ran a really neat air-to-air shot of a late-1940s Navy Reserve Corsair an issue or two back and received this comment from David Collier, a man who was there:

You comment on the rocket rails shown on a VMF-323 Corsair. The Corsair was equipped with rocket launching capability during late WWII. The photo shows the an early rocket launcher mounted on the Corsair, officially known as the "Aircraft Launcher Mk 5 Mod 1". The rail is actually part of the "Adapter, Aircraft Launcher Mk 6", which is attached to two post rocket rack. The adapter allows the aircraft to carry and fire the 2.25" Sub-caliber Aircraft Rocket used in training. The bare metal showing on the bottom side of adapter was the the lower half of the rail that was made of stainless steel. The metal was kept coated with a light coat of grease since a rocket being jammed on the rail after firing could spoil your whole day.

Having worked on the F4U-4 for a couple of years i can tell you that it was a hard plane to keep clean, in fact I think this aircraft's Plane Captain was doing a great job.

Notice #6 A/C behind the moving plane has a some paint missing from the forward edge of its right wing just above the landing gear. That is because most of the ground crew would get up on the wing by standing on the tire and then boosting themselves onto the wing. The climb up to the cockpit involve using the cutouts on the right wing flap and fuselage but the climb up the oily wing incline was usually avoided by those fueling the aircraft or working on its wing guns. 

Thanks, David, both for your comments and for your insight into a remarkable era of American military aviation!

And that's it for this time. In theory we'll be a little further along with that F-80 project the next time we convene and there's lots of other neat stuff waiting in the wings as well, so stay tuned! Be good to your neighbor until we meet again!


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Flying!, Something Out of the Ordinary, Pirates, Hold That Tiger!, Charlie in Kentucky, and Some Scary Days

Tighten Up!

You'd never know it just by looking, but in theory this project is one heavily related to scale modeling, so scale modeling is what we're going to talk about today, or at least we're going to talk about one aspect of it---getting better at doing it.

Scale modeling is one of those learn-as-you-go things. No amount of reading the modeling boards, buying the overpriced how-to-build-the-whatever-it-is books, or buying the most expensive kits and tools can make up for a lack of basic skills. Nope; the only way you're going to learn how to build good models is to build until you acquire the skill-sets necessary to get you where you want to go. As a corollary, you're going to have to build "crummy" kits, or short-run kits (often the same as "crummy", in case you were wondering about that) as well as the latest whiz-bang marvels from the "good" manufacturers in order to develop the skill sets necessary to become a journeyman or expert modeler. There's no substitute for time in the saddle on this one---you have to put in the time to become a good modeler.

That said, here's a little trick that will help you more than you can possibly imagine in your ongoing search for improved skills: Change your modeling philosophy! That's right---change the whole way you look at the hobby.

To get to the point, most of us build unified models, for want of a better word, detailing them as we go along but always working on the philosophy that the model is the model and everything else goes into it or on it. It's one. It's a Whole. It's a model, but what's that model made of?

What if, instead of building a model, one each, of the object of your affection, we built a whole bunch of little models instead, and then put them all together in the big model? What if we made the cockpit a model, a project in and of itself, and then did the same thing for the gear wells, the gear doors, the landing gear, the wheels and tires, or anything else that's part of the greater assembly that becomes what you see on the shelf as a completed project? What if we built up a pair of 250lb GP bombs for our P-47 and made them models in and of themselves, stand-alone bomb models, properly assembled, painted, decalled, and weathered and capable of being added to said Thunderbolt, laid on the ground beside it in a diorama, or just displayed separately?

What if, instead of building an interior, we made the seat a stand-alone model that could be displayed outside the aircraft if desired? What if we did the same thing to the control stick that goes in that interior?

What if we did that with each and every subassembly of the model, in essence creating a scale model made up of many smaller scale models? Holy cow! That's revolutionary! Then again, maybe it isn't.

The simple fact of the matter is that those guys and girls who win the contests, most of them anyway, use that technique and pretty much always have. There's a reason those folks build models that look better than yours or mine; they're putting in the time to build up everything that's going to be seen when the model is finished and they're doing it one step at a time, as a series of mini-projects. You can call it super-detailing, and a lot of people do, but at the end of the day all those folks are really doing is building up a bunch of little models to the highest standard they're capable of and then installing them in the object that will become the completed model. That's it. That's all there is to it.

Of course, you're still going to have to learn all the basic skills in order to do things that way, and that takes us right back to the learning curve we were obliquely discussing at the beginning of this ramble. There's no getting around that one. On the other hand, that simple change of approach we just discussed will make things happen a lot more quickly for you as you progress with the hobby. It'll make you a better modeler, and it'll make you better faster than any other way we can think of. It's a win/win, if you catch my drift.

I rest my case!

Just For the Fun of It

Our first image for the day comes from Rick Morgan, who sent it out to a consortium of people with the comment that there was once a time when a military aviator could, within reason, jump into an airplane and just go flying.

And here's what that looks like! The airplane is a well-worn Reserve F4U-4 from Los Alamitos, the time period is 1948-49, and the pilot is to all appearances just enjoying the day! To be fair about things, it would appear that there are practice rockets on the wing stations so it's entirely reasonable to presume that he's heading out to the range to make smoke and noise, but we wouldn't be too surprised if he didn't have a cigarette en route or maybe on his way back to the home drome while enjoying a gorgeous day in the air. In any event, this photo is one of those that embodies the spirit of flight and we're grateful to Rick for sharing it with us.   Navy via R Morgan

A Little Known Invader

A while back we ran a couple of B-26C images from John Horne's collection that were of a variant unknown to a lot of folks; the RB-26C. Some 46 aircraft of that sub-type were available to the USAF's tactical recon wings at the start of the Korean conflict and were used extensively for night reconnaissance work therein, and more than a few went in hard in that most dangerous of occupations. The antenna suite of those aircraft make them unique among the Invader family, and John's been kind enough to mark up a photo of an 11th TRS bird to help us understand what's going on there.

 The airplane is 44-35825, built initially as a straight A-26C-50-DT and subsequently converted to RB-26C configuration. The 11th TRS was operating her out of Kimpo when this image was taken, and it depicts the aircraft's antenna suite in sufficient detail to allow us a pretty good idea of what's happening in that regard. Also of interest is the exhaust staining on the aircraft's nacelles; it's very typical of the A-26 and therefore an essential component of an accurate scale model of the type.   John Horne Collection

Here, also from John's collection, is a shot of the AN/APA-17B:

Many thanks to john for taking the time to dig up the AN/APA-17B image, and for marking up that view of 44-35825, so we could better understand the airplane.   John Horne Collection

I Wish We Knew

As has been mentioned a great many times before, Bobby Rocker is a constant contributor to this project. Most of the photography he provides to us is well-documented, but every once in a while he comes across images that aren't. That's the case today, as we look at several PB4Y-1 Privateer shots. Bobby doesn't know the unit or location, although we suspect they're stationed somewhere in or near Morotai or the Philippines in early 1945 (although that's an educated guess!). If you know what's going on, we'd like to hear from you! That address is, as always (just ask any of those spam dudes!)  .

Let's start off with "Doc's Delight". Besides that classic artwork, check out the names of crew member's wives and sweethearts painted adjacent to their respective locations in the aircraft. A nice touch, we think!   Rocker Collection

And here's "The Snooper" for your edification. Also of interest in this shot is the internal detail of the bomb bay doors, the aux fuel tank in the forward bomb bay, and the extraordinarily coarse tread on that nosewheel tire. The background information on this photo says "Morotai" so there's a good chance that where it was taken, but then again maybe not. Bobby wasn't any too certain so we're not either!   Rocker Collection

And here's "Reputation Cloudy". The artwork is a little rowdier on this aircraft, and there's a fair amount of over-painting of side numbers on her nose.   Rocker Collection

Here's our final image, "Rugged Beloved". We get another look at the forward bomb-bay fuel tank installation in this shot, as well as an exceptional depiction of the way the bomb-bay doors rolled upwards on the Privateer and Liberator families of aircraft. We all know about the exploits of the PB4Y-1's younger brother, the PB4Y-2, but the -1 did yeoman service in the Pacific and is well worth investigation and documentation.   Rocker Collection

Thanks again to Bobby for his unselfish sharing of the images of one of the most remarkable periods in our history!

Shark Mouthed Cats

Those of you who are fans of naval aviation are probably well aware that VF-21 flew the Grumman F11F-1 Tiger operationally before becoming the East Coast RAG for the type. Rick Morgan recently came by a couple of fascinating photographs courtesy of naval aviation photography and historian Bob Lawson, and is sharing them with us today. Here are his comments about the photos:

Phil- a couple of shots for the blog. I got these through Bob Lawson; they show VF-21 F11Fs on Forrestal during a 3-month period with CVG-8 in Forrestal (CVA 59) off the East Coast in 1958. They were filling the ‘day fighter’ role within CVG-8 for this at sea period with VF-82, flying F3H Demons, holding the ‘night fighter’ slot. Within a few months the “Mach Busters” would be moved to the new Replacement Air Group, RCVG-4 and become a training squadron for east coast F11Fs and redesignated VF-43.

Pretty maids all in a row! Bet you've never seen this many Tigers on a boat at one time, have you? The F11F was a gorgeous airplane no matter how you looked at it, and Fighting 21 flew the prettiest markings (as well as the most aggressive!) of them all.  Lawson via R Morgan

The F11F was unique in so many ways, it's easy to lose track of them all. One look at this photo shows one of the more obvious anomalies; the wings folded downwards instead of up and, if memory serves, they were manually folded. The vertical stab had a small fuel cell in it to facilitate taxiing without having to use up precious JP-5 from the main tanks (few 1950s jets could boast of much in the way of range, and the Tiger was quite possibly the worst of them all---video killed the radio star and short legs did in the prettiest of the Grumman fighters), and the arresting hook folded forward into the fuselage, upside down, rather than aft. It was an innovative design to say the least!   Lawson via R Morgan.

There's so much more we could say about the Tiger, but today's not going to be the day. Stay tuned, though; you just never know what might show up on these pages!

And We Thought We Had It Figured Out

It wasn't all that long ago that we were showing you a couple of straight up F-101C Voodoos that were serving with the Nevada ANG. That was an amazing thing because Nevada never officially flew the Charlie (their 101s were all of the converted RF-101H variety) and we duly published the photos at hand and moved on, saving another batch of photos for another day. We should've looked a little more closely at the photos, because there was another "real" F-101C lurking in the stack! Without further ado, but with a little bit of embarrassment, is an image of that aircraft:

Holy cow, ya'll! Where'd that come from! Kentucky's 165th TRS/123rd TRW was a National Guard outfit that was tasked with the photo recon mission and that, much like those Nevada birds, never had a tactical fighter mission with the 101, which makes F-101C-40-MC 54-1488 that much more of an oddball. We suspect she was in the same situation as those Reno birds, marked for the unit prior to conversion but never actually operated in the fighter role while there. She's not much for markings, just a pilot's name above the U.S. AIR FORCE logo on her nose and the word "Kentucky" on her vertical, but that state name is enough to make her stand out. She ended up at MASDC in the early 70s, as did so many of her sisters but was around long enough to provide us with a unique image to treasure while she was active.    RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And in the spirit of Better Late Than Never, Doug Barbier was apparently on line when we pushed the Magic Twanger to publish this edition of the blog---he came back almost immediately with an obvious answer to the reason those two ANG units had straight-up fighter variant F-101Cs on strength. Let's let him explain and spare everyone the wait for another edition and its Relief Tube entry!

Phil, If I had to guess, those F-101Cs assigned to Nevada were there for proficiency trainers while the fleet was converted to the H model. The Michigan Guard had half a dozen plain jane F-84F models at Detroit Metro back in the late 1950s for the same reason - there just were not enough of the recces available so they drove the basic fighter versions around just to get some flying time. And speaking of just jumping in and going - that is exactly the way it used to be. In interviewing one of our old Michigan Guard pilots, he told me that in 1949 he came out to interview with the squadron commander, was hired on the spot & the boss told him to go downstairs, grab a parachute, pick out a Mustang on the flight line & get himself current again. No paperwork, no verification, no I.D. badge, no nothing - just pick one & go. Even through the RF-101 era in the early 70s, we used to keep at least one RF-101C parked on the Guard ramp at O'Hare for our airline pilots to fly. Rather than get in off of a trip & have to go over to Detroit, there was a Voodoo sitting there waiting for them. When it was time for the UTA weekend, they flipped a coin to see who got to fly it over to Detroit. On Sunday, maintenance would have another jet ready to go back. It was a different time.... Doug

Thanks, Doug!

Where Were You in '62?

October of 1962 was one of the scariest times in American history, a month in which the Soviet Union and the United States looked each other in the eye, each waiting for the other to blink. There's a lot to that story, far more than we're able to cover in this modest effort, but we can show you a couple of pictures you probably haven't seen before that date back to that time and, more specifically, to The Cuban Missile Crisis. The possibility of Armageddon came in many forms in the Fall of 1962.

 Cocked, locked, and ready to rock, these Boeing B-47Es from the 307th BW sit loaded on the ramp ready to go. The B-47 was such a pretty aircraft that it was easy to overlook its original purpose. The type finished out its career as a weather and ELINT platform, but there were still quite a few bombers around in 1962 that were on active duty when the call came.    USAF via Mark Morgan

That sign in the foreground is telling would-be kibitzers to stay away from the airplanes or get shot. The fate of the world hung in the balance during that terrible month, and the guys in the blue suits weren't taking any chances!   USAF via Mark Morgan

Here's 52-0417 on the ramp, ready to go. The 307th dispersed to various civilian fields throughout the CONUS during the crisis in order to complicate targeting for the other side, resulting in one instance in an aircraft commander of the wing paying for fuel with his personal credit card. A quick visit to the 307th Association's web site (  ) can provide some interesting details of this period in the wing's history.   USAF via Mark Morgan

Let's go out the way we came in, with a ramp shot of a 4-ship det from the 307th sitting in the sunshine in what could have been the last days of peace. We can all be grateful to the guys in the wing for being there when they were needed the most, and equally glad that the call never came!   USAF via Mark Morgan

The Relief Tube

We've received several comments of interest in the past few weeks and it's time to share! First up is a clarification from reader Tom Smith:

Dear Phil, I just recently discovered the Replica in Scale blog and could not be happier. I am one of those "of a certain age" who remembers the original magazines as I bought them new at the local hobby shop. Finding the blog is like coming upon a long lost family heirloom. The medium has changed, the content is refreshingly familiar. I spent some time looking through past blogs and came upon a picture that brought a bit of a smile to my face. In the September 16, 2014 blog there was a picture from the archives of John Horne showing an A-26C on the ramp at Iwakuni AB circa 1951, tail number 44-34535. The name on the nose was "Noop Gnat II". Your description referred to the "Gnat". Don't know if anyone else commented on the name but it actually refers to one of the primary sources of inspiration for military men wherever they are (the order of these inspirations change depending on the then current situation). Take the name Noop Gnat and reverse the spelling for each. QED.    Tom Smith

Here's the photo in question:

Thanks for explaining this one, Tom! I'm a little embarrassed to say that you're the first one to catch this, or at least the first to write in about it. It gives a whole different spin to that old National Geographic article "Fun Helped Them Fight"!   Photo via John Horne Collection

Here's a clarification we received a couple of weeks ago regarding that photo of "Little Sir Echo"that might be of interest:

About "Little Sir Echo" - this P-39 was flown in New Guinea by Lyndall Tate, a friend of my father's in the 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group. I have been editing my father's diary and researching the history around it, and can add this to the discussion: Tate's wife was named Echo. (Back to Greek mythology: Echo was a nymph who was cursed by Zeus's wife Hera so that she could no longer speak except to repeat words. . . . I don't know why she was named Echo, but she was.) This makes the name on Tate's warplane of a piece with the names for the rest of the squadron (Maxine, Ruby etc). Tate may also have had a daughter named for her mother. I have read your blog before, while working on the diary, and it has been helpful. I do not know if the message that I posted (above) made it to your blog page, so if you can put it up, maybe other readers will be interested. The Pacific Wrecks speaks of two victory flags being painted on this aircraft, but I do not think Tate made any such claims or was awarded any victories. The earliest victory for the 82nd Squadron was by Delta Graham, in I think December 1943. (I think you have posted, or Robert Rocker has collected, a photo of Lt. Graham standing beside his P-39, "Maxine.) Tate stayed in the Air Force after the war, and eventually retired as a colonel or lieutenant-colonel. He was on a champion skeet-shooting team in the European area in 1956. In the earlier 1950's, they were at air bases in Texas, and in the 1960's in and around Bakersfield. Tate died in 2008. Echo I have not been able to trace but she may have died much earlier.   Thanks, Allen Boyer

Thanks for the insight, Allen, and for your kind comments regarding the blog!

Every once in a while we'll receive a request for information from a reader that we can't field. Here's one such inquiry, regarding a post-War 49th FG P-51D:

Hi Phillip,.....I'm looking for some photographs of P-51s in the 49th from April 30, 1947 to May 27, 1948. My Dad's P-51 (from the 40th FS, 35th FG) was transferred to the 49th during that time frame. In May of 1948 it was sold/given to the IDF and served there till it was really obsolete. Long story but it is NOW being restored in CA. I visited it a month ago, it's in pieces but about 70% original. I want to give the owner some options of the final markings of his a/c. I have photos of it while in the 40th FS....but none while it was in the 49th FG. I don't know which squadron it was assigned to in the 49th. My Dad was in the 7th FS of the 49th FG from late '48 to early '50 but was flying the F-80 then. Anyway....any assistance or advice you could give would be much appreciated. 

Here's the history card of the Mustang in question.

The comings and goings of any and all of the 5th AF units during the immediate post-War period is of considerable interest to us as well. If you can help, please drop us a line at  . Spammers need not apply!!!

And one final note before we go: We're constantly on the lookout for previously unpublished F-104 material around here, and have recently had an inquiry regarding testing of the AIR-2 Genie missile on an F-104A bailed to the NAV at NAS Point Mugu. Photos would be great, but any information at all would be of considerable help. By now you surely know the address...

That's it for this thrilling installment, but with any luck we'll see you again soon. Until then, be good to your neighbor!


Saturday, July 4, 2015

An Enigma, An Unusual Voodoo, Georgia Hogs, Able Mabel, Bugsuckers in the Corps, Oopsie, and Some Mystery Meat

A Very Long Time Ago

Some of us are survivors, and it's recently occurred to me that I am him. A survivor. Not quite older than dirt but not far from it, if you catch my drift; a man with occasional perspective. For the purposes of this blog, most of my perspective tends to lead me towards comments regarding something or other I've read on one of those modeling sites I'm always talking about, but today's going to be different, sortof, because today I'm going to ramble on in an entirely mindless way about certain of the cherished model airplanes of my past. Please feel free to come along for the ride if you'd like, or jump right to the next section if you'd rather not do that.

We've already discussed my very first I Built It Myself plastic model airplane, that Me109-Something-Or-Other that my mother bought for me way back in 1956. It was a game-changer for me in terms of setting the stage for an interest in Things Polystyrene, but it was far from the only model I ever "put together" back in that childhood of the 1950s, so we'll leave it in the back pages of Replica and go on to other things. With any luck we'll get you thinking about the old models in your own lives.

After that first seminal plastic kit there were others, and a great many of the earlier ones had "Aurora" printed on the box. Those Aurora kits were really something if you were a little kid in the mid-1950s, because they had few pieces, were molded in colors, and could be put together and subsequently played with in the space of an hour or less. My very first Aurora kit was their infamous Yellow Zero, and I honestly can't remember a whole lot about it except that after it was completed I showed it to my dad, a man who had first-hand experience with wrecked Zeros on the ground at Buna and Lae, and who promptly told me he couldn't remember any yellow ones but anything was possible since the ones he'd seen were all shot to pieces and it was hard to determine the colors. That modest success and parental acceptance led me to my next yellow airplane, an Aurora SNJ, which turned out to be a tough date in comparison to the Zero because it had a lot more pieces to put together, a few of which were beyond the capabilities of a budding six-year-old modeler. At the end of the day it did get assembled, mostly, but my recollection is that it was by and large a collection of glue shapes rather than plastic parts.

At that point in things I was one for one (if we don't count that very first 109) and ready for another challenge, albeit something a little simpler to build than that botched-up Texan, so I got an Aurora P-40E. That P-40, in common with most of Aurora's other single-engined WW2 fighters, was a simple kit so my confidence in my own abilities was somewhat restored, which is probably why my next effort was a Lindberg Ju87. That green "Stuka" was a quantum leap ahead of any of the Aurora kits I'd built previously, but it had a lot of pieces, several of which were involved with the construction of the flaps and bombs. You can guess the rest, I suspect, but at the end of the day it really didn't matter much in the world of backyard dogfights, and I was happy, more or less, with the results.

Next up was a revelation---my first Monogram kit. That silver Invader looked better than anything else I'd built up to that point, and was easy to get together. It was just the sort of reassurance I needed in order to continue building, and was a sight easier to put together than the tan Revell B-24 ("Buffalo Bill", remember?) that followed it into my "collection".

Another favorite kit was the Hawk SBD/A-24 (the SBDs were molded in blue and the A-24s in silver, but they were both the same kit). Easy to assemble and relatively sturdy, they were the queens of the fleet in those swirling backyard dogfights we all indulged in back in those days. In that same vein, the Hawk SNJ (yellow) and T-6 (silver) were also favorites with the added bonus that the Hawk SNJ could be a Japanese airplane too, since it was yellow just like the Aurora Zero. That made it a multi-threat kind of a model, just what a Little Kid needed for his air force.

There were two game-changers in all of that, kits that took all of us way past our simplistic starting places. The first came in 1958, when Monogram released their mostly 1/48th scale TBM. It was a challenge to build since every single thing on it that could work did work, which made assembly tough for a kid, but the end result was amazing. That kit was, simply stated, an epiphany; a model that took those of us who were interested into an entirely different world of modeling.

The other game changer came in 1962 when Revell added a 1/72nd scale B-17F (the "Memphis Belle") to its then-limited catalog of same-scale airplanes (as opposed to the previous box scale that was where they hung out). That kit had it all if you were a kid; it was relatively big (although not quite as big as Lindberg's older 1/64th scale B-17G) and was relatively easy to build. In addition to that, the model drove me to discover Revell's new (thanks to Revell GB) line of 1/72nd scale fighters. I was already a devoted modeler by then, but after 1962 there was absolutely no turning back for me.

There were other kits in between that primordial 109 and the "Belle", of course; Revell P-39s and B-57s, Strombecker Temco TT-1s, Monogram C-47s and Blue Angel F11F sets, an Aurora P-51H, the big Aurora bombers, and a myriad of tiny Comet kits to flesh things out. There were Hawk and Aurora biplanes too, although in my world they all ended up being monoplanes until Revell made it easy with their little Sopwith Camel.

The point to be taken here, if indeed there is a point, is that most of my life has been spent with polystyrene in it in some way or another. I built when I was a kid, when I was in high school, and when I was in college; not every day, of course, but the hobby was a constant in my life. It still is, right up to and including This Very Moment, and I can't say enough good about it. All those kits taught me patience, and how to think things through. They honed my motor skills, and led me to a life-long passion for history. They introduced me to serious photography and ultimately led me to an assortment of friends that I wouldn't trade for all the money in the world. Like any good hobby, modeling made me a better person as well (or at least I think so; your mileage may differ in that regard!).

There's a nascent movement afoot in our modeling world these days, one that involves the assembly and painting of vintage kits for use as display models on stands, as they were originally intended to be way back there in the late 40s and early 50s. That movement is called Retro-Modeling, I think, and it looks like a lot of fun to me. A cleaned-up, painted and decalled Aurora P-38 would look awfully nice on a plinth, sitting here on my writing desk.

I think I'm going back
To the days I knew so well in my youth.

I truly do love this hobby of ours!

OK; What IS That Stuff?

Back in the late 1960s a San Antonio friend of mine, Bob Angel, and I used to play a game we called Stump the Champs. It was a simple game---all you had to do was correctly identify the airplane in a photograph or recall and recite some sort of aviation trivia---and it's one that leads us to today's first photo.

A couple of things are obvious in the photo---we think the airplane is an RA-24B (we say that because of the data block presentation under the windscreen, although it could also be an SBD-5 or -6), and it's in a somewhat atypical scheme whichever type it may be. Of more interest to us, however, is that pod attached to the center section (which is presumed to be for some sort of camera installation) and those bulges on the upper cowling. Our first thought was that it might be a weather research aircraft, or maybe a chase plane of some sort (although the SBD was far too slow to be much good at that sort of thing!). In any event it's a Mystery Ship of the highest order and one that we're interested in. If you know what's going on here why don't you drop us a line at and let us know what we're looking at?   Rocker Collection

And the electrons were scarcely dry on the page when I started receiving explanations of the "mystery gear" on that Banshee. The most comprehensive answer came from Our Man in Argentina, Pablo Ziegler, so that's the one we're going to include to explain what's going on here:

Dear Mr. Friddell, I have been scratching my head looking at that Dauntless picture. I didn't know anything about the purpose of the ventral pod or the cowling bulges, but after a while I came across this, now I know the aircraft is 42-6783, and the picture is from the early 50's. A little more research lead me to (a link that states) "QF-24A-DE Dauntless c/n 1538, originally A-24A-DE 42-6783 was re-manufactured as drone aircraft, redesignated RA-24A in 1948." I get more information from another source: "One A-24A-DE (42-6783) was modified at Wright field as a radio-controlled drone and designated RA-24A-DE. This aircraft was still in service in 1948, when the A designation category was dropped by the USAF. At that time, the aircraft was redesignated QF-24A-DE (in the fighter sequence) and given a new serial number of 48-044." So, may be I can be proven wrong, but it seems the mystery is solved! Warmest regards from Buenos Aires, PZ

Please note that Pablo had provided links to the first two web sites but for whatever reason I couldn't get them to properly copy and paste here---if you want to try them for yourself drop me an e-mail and I'll send them to you.

Many thanks to Pablo, and also to Mike McMurtrey and Norman Camou for writing in as well.

Bet You Haven't Seen This Before!

On the face of things it couldn't be easier---the 192nd TRS/152nd TRG of the Nevada ANG operated McDonnell RF-101Gs and Hs beginning in the late 1960s and running into the mid-70s. Here's a shot of one of those recce Voodoos, but there's a catch!

56-0016 was built as an F-101C-45-MC and was subsequently converted to RF-101H configuration, but therein lies the rub, to get all Shakespearean about the deal. The conversion from heavy fighter to photo bird consisted primarily of the replacement of the existing gun nose with a dedicated camera nose and included appropriate modification of the cockpit to accommodate the new mission, but that sort of work was generally done by a depot or civilian contractor. 0016 is shown here, on the ramp at Reno Municipal on 23 September 1966, in Nevada ANG markings but with gun nose intact and in natural metal finish to boot! We presume she's about to be modded and is awaiting a trip to somewhere besides her squadron area for that to occur, but we truly don't know. Still, it's a beautiful photograph and a fine reminder of The Silver Air Force that was in transition when this shot was taken.   RA Burgess Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Or maybe there's more to the story than meets the eye! Here's 56-0012, also on the ramp at Reno and also in straight fighter configuration, but in a really sloppy application of SEA camouflage! If you're a modeler, brave enough to tackle that new 1/48th scale F-101C kit, and not especially good with an airbrush, here's the bird for you! Holy Voodoos, Batman!!!   RA Burgess Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

This is that those 192nd RF-101s are supposed to look like! 56-0029 has been modified into full RF-101H configuration and is wearing the appropriate modified SEA camo. The paintwork has, once again, been very obviously applied freehand but someone at the depot. Yes; there's a defined camouflage pattern for the F-101 (see last issues page from the 1-1-4 for proof of that!) but it wasn't always followed, and there seems to have been at least one major variation in the case of the Voodoo (thanks to Ben Brown for the tip on that one!).   RA Burgess Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Here's a view of 56-0019 in its completed scheme including ANG badge and Nevada painted on the tail. In theory, but obviously not in practice, this is the way all of the 192nd's RF-101Hs should look. Of interest here is the handiwork of The Phantom Painter who, once again, has been at the camouflage with a vengeance. The scale modeling Paint Pedantics would never buy into this sort of thing but here's proof positive that sloppy overspray existed on real airplanes!   RA Burgess Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And a parting shot, if you will. This port-side view of 0019 gives you both sides of the airplane (both images were taken on 20 May, 1967), which in turn gives the modelers among our readership a complete airplane to replicate. Note once again the overspray on that camouflage, as well as the heat-related weathering on the a/b cans. Our personal taste runs more to the RF-101A and C family, but these modified recce birds are most assuredly worth a second look!   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Before we leave this particular piece we'd like to extend a word of thanks to Ben Brown, who pointed out that there was a second, not-quite-per-spec camouflage scheme for the RF-101G/H that didn't match the F-101 scheme specified in T.O. 1-1-4. Our conclusion is that the scheme was a depot-level and non-standard interpretation of the authorized pattern. It's a neat addendum to the Voodoo story and we're pleased to be able to present it here.

U-Birds in Georgia

You'd think that I'd have learned by now---I'm always receiving these really neat photos and I publish them, then wait for an acknowledged authority on that particular airplane to contact me and tell me what's going on. Today's a new day, and it's no different than any other in most respects, so here are some F4U-1A shots for your perusal and edification. They're here via the kindness of Bobby Rocker and illustrate Corsairs on the transient ramp at Robbins AB in Georgia during the 1940s. Enjoy!

The war was over when this photo of the transient ramp at Robbins AB near Macon, Georgia, was taken, but this photo could have been taken during 1944 or 45; the airplanes haven't changed all that much since the close of hostilities. We have no idea what any of the units might be, but we love the shot for its glimpse into the immediate post-War era.   Rocker Collection

Here's a closeup of one of those F4U-1s for you. We're guessing these birds are from a training or NavRes unit given their markings, but we've been wrong before.   Rocker Collection

How's that for a set of markings? We're presuming there's some sort of command connection with 2-CGS, but our archives aren't much help in identifying the unit. We'll just sit back and wait for the letters...   Rocker Collection

And here's a final shot to whet your appetite for Things Post-War! It's our guess that most of these aircraft are F4U-1Ds and we know they're at Robbins, but that's the extent of our knowledge. If you'd like to make us all a little smarter and know something about these birds, drop us a line at  . We don't know if you'll be glad you did, but we sure will be!   Rocker Collection.

A Polka Dot Surprise

Last issue we showed you a few RF-101Cs from the 45th Tac Recon Squadron taken during their camouflaged days in Vietnam, and we mentioned their first excursion into that theater, at least in the Voodoo, occurred in December of 1961 during the Air Force's Able Mable deployment to the region. Mention of that program caused us to think back to things we'd seen but couldn't quite place, and a subsequent search turned up this image:

Now THIS is what we're talking about! The time is December, 1961, the place is Thailand, and the aircraft is a 45th TRS RF-101C-65-MC, s/n 56-0079,  nick-named "Mary Ann Burns". A quick glance to the left side of the shot shows us the 45th's blue with white polka dots nose stripe, which means the vertical tail is almost certainly carrying the 45th's patented "Polka Dots" paintwork as well. We don't know about you, but this image really has us pumped up!   National Museum of the US Air Force

Phantoms of a Different Pheather

VMF-232 is one of those squadrons that goes Way Back, tracing its lineage to its establishment in 1925 as VF-3M, followed by a series of designation changes and running through assignment to Tsientsin in the late 20s, the ZI (San Diego) in the 30s, Pearl Harbor (as VMSB-232) in 1941, Guadalcanal, and Esprito Santo (as VMTB-232). A series of assignments throughout the Central Pacific found them on Okinawa at war's end, after which they were decommissioned for a short period of time, only to be stood up again as a Marine Reserve fighter unit, VMF-232, a designation that has taken them into the 21st Century.

We're not interested in any of that at the moment, however. Today we're more concerned with what they were doing in November of 1982, when they were flying the McDonnell Douglas F-4S on a det at Nellis. Thanks to the kindness of reader Scott Wilson we've got a few unusual examples of "Double Ugly" to share with you today.

Let's start off with this study of 155858, an F-4S that represents what a great many Marine and NAVAIR aircraft looked like during the early 1980s. TPS had begun to work its way into the community, and aircraft wearing their older Easter Egg colors were becoming an endangered species, but a few were still around. The place is Nellis Air Force Base, where Scott photographed a fair portion of the squadron during the course of a TDY. Originally an F-4J-36-MC, 858 ended up in the Boneyard in 1986.   Scott Wilson

Top Gun, and ACM in general, was in full force in '82, and the year found a great many aircraft painted in color schemes reflecting the mission even though some of them, such as those you'll see in this piece, were of a strictly temporary nature. BuNo 155836 was one such bird. She was built as an F-4J-35-MC and is shown here wearing a scheme with markings that could only be described as "extremely toned down". Rebuilt as an F-4S, she crashed to destruction in 1985 while flying with VF-201. Her 1982 paint scheme looks deceptively easy to paint, but we're willing to bet it's a booger-bear to replicate!   Scott Wilson

Here's a 3/4 rear view of 155836 to further illustrate just what we mean when we say the paint job would be tough to model. It feathers in places you wouldn't expect it too, and the modest amount of weathering the aircraft is carrying is deceptive, changing hues and values in ways you wouldn't expect. It's a neat scheme, but...   Scott Wilson

Here's a view of 153825 to further prove the point, as if that point needed proving at all! All of the aircraft illustrated here today are carrying an absolute bare minimum of markings, generally just a Bureau number in the usual place and a modex number on the nose. Once again, the paintwork feathers in and out in a manner that makes us think you could get close to the scheme if you were painting a model, but this is one of the few aircraft we've seen that very nearly defies replication. Like so many of her sisters, she was ultimately brought up to F-4S standard. She ended up at DM in 1985.   Scott Wilson

This 3/4 nose view of 153825's starboard side shows how the temporary camouflage looks over the full-size national insignia the aircraft is wearing. All of these aircraft are configured with Sidewinder rails on the inboard pylons and a centerline tank---they're ready to go at it air-to-air!   Scott Wilson

153833, an F-4J-30-MC, provides yet another example of 232's temporary ACM TPS paintwork. She's tidier than some of the other aircraft in this essay but that paintwork is still soft-edged; we're guessing the guys in Corrosion Control had a lot of fun painting these aircraft! 833 was converted to F-4S standard in 1990 and became a QF-4S in 2004. The Department of the Navy got their money's worth out of some of their F-4 fleet!   Scott Wilson

This view defines her paintwork a little better, and also shows off her inert AIM-9 to advantage. Her paint job was done to a higher standard than that of several of her sister birds, but it would still be a little bit of a challenge to model.   Scott Wilson

And now for something a little bit different! Those 1980s ACM schemes were all over the place in terms of color and pattern, a prime example of which is F-4J-31-MC 153860, which is done up in shades of terracotta. Her original 16440 Light Gull Grey upper surface paintwork peeks out from her BuNo and tail number, while the gloss white on her horizontal stabilators has become part of the paint scheme. We like the other airplanes, the ones done up in shades of grey, quite a bit better, but you have to admit she's different! She ended up in storage at MCAS Cherry Point.   Scott Wilson

We'll close today's look at 232 with this shot of BuNo 153810. She's an F-4J-30-MC and is wearing a spiffy set of desert camo, appropriate paint work for her 1982 ACM det at Nellis. Of interest is the white paintwork on her horizontal stabs, which has been only minimally over-painted. She went to VMFA-312 in 1984, and was subsequently scrapped out, a sad end...   Scott Wilson

Many thanks to Scott for his kindness in sharing these images with us today!

Addendum: Shortly after publishing this we heard from Rick Morgan, who assured us that most of the aircraft that we identified as Js were, in fact, early conversions of the F-4S. Thanks, Morgo!

So That's How They Worked!

17 May, 1941, was a special day in the service career of a young Ensign Tennes, who got to try out the flotation gear installed in his F4F-3. Let's take a look:

If that side number is to be believed, this Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat was assigned to the Enterprise's Fighting Six at the time she took her swim in San Diego Bay. Her flotation bags have deployed as designed and she's bobbing gently in that bay awaiting recovery, while an amused station officer looks on from his gig. Most of those flotation bags on US naval aircraft went away before the beginning of the war, but they were still installed in the Spring of '41. That monochromatic non-specular light grey makes for a pretty airplane, albeit one that's difficult to model since it's so clean! We're just never satisfied, are we?   Rocker Collection

Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for this fascinating look into our past.

OK; What Does It Mean?

Those of our readers who aren't familiar with the way things are done in military aviation may not be aware that most aircraft evolve over their service lives, and that sometimes that evolution involves experimentation. Here's an example of what we mean:

At first glance this is an ordinary photograph, one of VA-55's Charlie-model A-4s on the ground at DaNang during 1967 while taking part in the late Southeast Asia War Games. In fact, she's about as Plain Jane as she can be until you take a look inside her port-side flap, where the word "Boron" appears in large white letters. Original speculation, mine included, was that the name was somehow attached to some peculiarity of the pilot nominally assigned to the aircraft, but further investigation showed that the NAV and McAir were mutually involved in testing boron-composite flaps on Naval aircraft during 1966, and this aircraft is therefore a prime candidate (don't understate the obvious, Phillip!) for that program. 149551 would make a fascinating model in this configuration, something a little unique in the combat zone.  Many thanks to Rick Morgan for sharing the original image and to Tommy Thomason for putting us all on the track of the boron project. Check out Tommy's blog at for further details of the program.

The Relief Tube

Yep, that's right! We've got a couple of comments to publish this time, so without further ado...

Last time around we showed you a few U-birds, with a comment on one photo regarding the paintwork. Pat Donahue was able to fill in the blanks for us:

Phil, I think that you are looking at a weathered "graded tone" application. To only areas with intermediate sea blue were the vertical tail and outer wing panel bottoms. The sides of the fuselage and cowl were painted using 2 colors: a base white application and a hazy overspray of dark sea blue to APPROXIMATE the intermediate sea blue then a solid application of dark sea blue on the upper surfaces. With this application it seems that the swath of paint approximating intermediate sea blue is pretty narrow especially noticeable on the cowl. Dana Bell has done some work on this in his first volume of the F4U. I think this application was more prevalent among Goodyear produced machines and like the haze painted recon P-38s it did not weather well.... A couple of other shots of this paint application. Cheers, Pat Donahue

Way back in the beginnings of this project we ran more than a few shots of 1940s-vintage NavRes birds, and asked for clarification from our readers in a couple of instances. We received this response a couple of weeks ago to one of those questions:

Phil, (regarding) Your 2011/07/some-turkeys-splitter-art-its-about (article), it includes the following paragraph (and question): "This TBM-3E was caught running up at NAS Squantum in 1947 and, like 91433 above, she's well on her way to being all used up. There's a badge under the windscreen, but we can't quite make it out, and we've been through all our assets and are stumped by that Zulu Alpha tail code. If you know the unit please drop us a line at . J. Sullivan Collection "You may have already discovered the meaning of the ZA tail code mentioned above. However, if not, I found the following information at this webpage:    Here are the codes through 1949:

 A Anacostia
 B Atlanta
 C Columbus
 D Dallas
 E Minneapolis
 F Jacksonville (also used by Oakland 1948)
 G Oakland
 H Miami
 I Grosse Ile
 K Olathe
 L Los Alamitos (also used by Akron 1948)
 M Memphis
 N Spokane (1948)
 P Denver
 R New York (Brooklyn)
 S Norfolk
 T Seattle
 U St Louis
 V Glenview
 W Willow Grove
 X New Orleans
 Z Squantum

 Also in 1946 a second letter was used to indicate squadron type:

 A Attack
 F Fighter
 P Patrol
 R Transport
 U Utility

 David Elliot

Thanks, David, and thanks for taking the time to provide that list!

One more thing before we go---if you read any of those modeling boards you've probably read by now that Jerry Campbell, the founder and long-time owner of the Squadron Shop, has passed. His contributions to our hobby are considerable, and it's difficult to imagine how our hobby would be had he not had the vision he had. Like so many others we had a direct link to him---he was an early advertiser on the original RIS project, and a major distributor as well. Those things are pretty well-known to those who happen to own an early copy of the magazine. What's not generally known is that Jerry once tried to buy the project to use as Squadron's in-house magazine. We didn't want to sell it, so the deal never went through, but you have to wonder where our extraordinarily modest publication would have ended up if we've done it.

That said, one of the giants of our hobby is gone, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude. His vision, and the actions he took to realize it, improved plastic modeling beyond all recognition. Thanks, Jerry, for what you gave to the hobby! You'll be missed.

And that's it for today. We're already working on our next issue, so maybe (hopefully?) you won't have to wait another month and a half for our next thrilling episode, but until then be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!