Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Quick How to Do It, One That Doesn't Need Any Help, Something You Didn't Expect, An Aggressive Cat, Closure, Before Her Chevy, and A Grumman

Just a Few, Please!

So there you are, or here I am; it really doesn't matter which one it is. Either way, it's that part of the day where we're looking at our favorite electronic scale modeling publication and we're perusing the section where people put their finished projects for the rest of us to admire. Mostly we're looking at three or four shots of a completed model, tops, but sometimes maybe we'll get a few more than that because the modeler has included interior and detail photos too. Looking at that sort of thing is a lot of fun, and often educational as well, in a polystyrene and resin sort of way.

That's most of the time, but every once in a while someone will get what we'll term Carried Away With Their Creation and post a whole bunch of photos of their shiny new model, and from every conceivable angle, which is to say they'll take a profile picture of one side, and then start clocking around the model while taking photographs every few degrees or so, even though those extra photos don't show much of anything we haven't already seen. The same thing is then repeated from above, and maybe looking down into a cockpit as well, photo after photo, on and on and on and on.

Sometimes a whole bunch of shots of a model can be useful to us, such as cockpit photographs taken in that manner thanks to the cramped and confined spaces in such images and the inherent difficulty of including everything in any given picture, there's rarely any real need for such merriment in any other circumstance.

Keep in mind that I'm not talking about detail photos here. I'm personally a big fan of properly lit and focused shots of interiors, ordnance, landing gear and such, and I encourage it. What I'm not a fan of, and I honestly doubt many other folks are either, are endless photographs of what is essentially the same view of the model, over and over, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

OK, Phillip; so how do we do this sort of thing? Well; if it were me I'd photograph both sides in profile, an upper and lower view, and a couple of 3/4 nose and tail shots, plus the pertinent details, if any. What I wouldn't do, pretty much ever, would be to rotate the model and photograph it every few degrees. That's a forensic kind of approach, and maybe that sort of thing has been inculcated into us because of all those documentaries where the "investigators" take a small part of something and photograph it over and over and over until we've all been put to sleep instead of becoming amazed by the detail and completeness of it all. Forensics are for crime scenes in my world, while a few high quality photographs will generally suffice for even the best of plastic models. Maybe that's a holdover from the rapidly vanishing world of print magazines (a magical realm in which I once existed), where photographs cost money to publish and available space is at a premium, or maybe I just don't care to look at dozens of photographs of what's essentially the same thing, but to me the bottom line is this: Less is more as far as photos of model airplanes are concerned. It's a big world, to be true, but I'd personally rather see a few photos of a lot of airplane models than see a lot of photos of one. Your personal mileage may vary, of course.

That's my story, etc, etc...

Fixing That Albatros Undercarriage in Just Five Photographs

You may recall that we looked at the too-short undercarriage struts provided with Eduard's 1/48th scale Albatros D.V and D.Va kits a couple of issues back. Mention was made of how easy it was to fix them (and amazement was expressed that Eduard themselves have never taken the time or trouble to do that very thing). Here are a couple of photographs to illustrate the point:

This is where we start. You'll need a donor kit for an additional set of struts, or in lieu of that some styrene shapes, either airfoil (if you can find such a thing) or rectangular, to do the job. From a modeling standpoint it's obviously easier to start with a fresh kit but I really wanted to salvage this one, so careful (read that word again: CAREFUL) removal of the undercarriage was required. You can somewhat obviously skip this step if your kit has never been assembled.

One way or another you'll need to make up the approximate 3mm that Eduard left out of the length of those struts when they cut their molds way back there in the 1990s. The easiest way is to cut the raised attachment points off the struts you're going to modify---these struts are the ones removed from the kit above---and then cut that 3mm extension (which includes the aforementioned attachment points) and add it to the struts. If you have a donor kit things become extremely easy because the cross sections of the struts all match, which makes cleanup simple. If you aren't using a donor kit you'll be in for some sanding and probably a little bit of puttying too, but the end result will be the same.

Once you've successfully accomplished your splicing activity you'll want to put the struts back on the airplane (or install them for the very first time if it's a new build). These appear to need a little bit of cleanup down at the axle end of things, but that goes away once the axle/spreader bar is re-installed. (Remember, these are previously used parts on the model you're looking at.)

Here's where we've installed the spreader bar. In this case the wheels were already attached to it, a result of salvaging a previously-built kit, but it's easier if you start fresh with new components. Either way, you'll need to let things dry for a bit. I usually wait overnight for such miracles to occur, but your mileage may vary in that regard. The important thing is to make certain everything is sturdy and solid before you go any further so you can eliminate the possiblity of undercarriage collapse from your modeling pleasure. Critics beware: That prop and spinner are just sitting there and will be removed prior to re-rigging the model!

And here's the end result prior to rigging. The fix is not a difficult thing to do at all, and it's essential if you want your D.V/D.Va to look right once it's been completed.

One more thing before we leave this topic: Those short undercarriage struts are only found in Eduard's D.V/D.Va kits. Their D.I through D.III offerings are just fine in that regard, although their D.III kits have undersized wheels---Barracuda make replacements for that problem, although they mistakenly sell them as a fix for the D.V kits, which have short struts but adequate wheels! Go figure!

And the beat goes on...

While We're Speaking of Albatri

I mentioned that Eduard's Abatros D.I and D.II kits are ok as far as undercarriage and wheels are concerned, but nobody ever seems to build either one of those kits so I thought I ought to do that.

The model is 100% straight from the kit, which shows how nice the Eduard Albatri can look when they get everything right dimensionally! The rigging is .005 dia stainless steel wire, while the turnbuckles, cable attachment points, and control horns are all Eduard photo-etch. The wood-grain effect was done with yellow ochre oil paint applied over a base of Mr Color white, for those of you who are interested in such things.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming!

What Happens When It's Over and Done

One of the things that happens when a war ends is the cleanup of the mess that was made during the time of conflict. Sometimes that cleanup involves clearing rubble and re-building ruined cities, but sometimes it takes a different turn:

Here's an example of one of those Different Turns. The ship is the former IJN light cruiser Kiso, and the place is Manila Harbor, ca. March 1945. A victim of the unwanted attention of TF38's air groups, she was sunk on 13 November, 1944, some 8 miles from Manila Harbor. She was refloated by Nippon Salvalge Company in December of 1955 and towed to Manila the following month for final scrapping. We've always admired the graceful lines of those early Japanese light cruisers and it's truly sad to see one in this condition.

We often think too many people glorify war, without realizing the terrible cost that both sides pay in any armed conflict. To an extent this photo brings that home, not only because of the dilapidated condition of the vessel but also because of the lives that were lost during the course of her sinking. It's food for though, isn't it?   Robert Speith Collection via Gerry Kersey, 3rd Attack.Org

Note: Gerry Kersey, who provided the photo you see above, caught a huge error in the original caption:

With all due respect, the sunken vessel is probably not the Kiso and most assuredly isn't 1956 when it was raised. The Kiso was sunk 8 miles west of Cavite which lies over 10 miles east of these images. Also, Pier 7 is still being reconstructed. These images are from 1945, most likely March and April and marked so. You can also see the continued bombing of Manila in the background. I am adding additional images (not from the Spieth Collection) which show the successful blockage of the harbor in part by the Catalina's of the RAAF Black Cats mine laying efforts. Gerry

Here's an additional photograph of Kiso provided by Gerry in a string of photos of vessels sunk in or near Manila Harbor:

The photo is of Kiso in March of 1945, showing her damage from a different angle (and with her fantail awash).    80G-K-3557 via Gerry Kersey

Thanks to Gerry for taking the time to help us correct this clanger!

An Angry P-Boat

The Consolidated PBY served with the armed forces of the United States throughout the war, and distinguished itself everywhere it was used. We're all familiar with the exploits of the legendary "Black Cats" and their operations against Japanese shipping in the Solomons, but aggressive use of the aircraft didn't stop there:

No; it's not much of a photograph, but Holy Cow what a photograph! Taken from the port-side waist gunner's position of a PBY during an attack on DaNang in 1945, the image shows a Mitsubishi A6M5 receiving the full brunt of a strafing attack delivered by the Catalina. It's not at all what we would expect to see given the size and general cumbersomeness of the PBY, but it's not entirely atypical of the combat activities going on during the last days of the war. That "P-Boat" is flying at a fairly low altitude as well, which is somewhat remarkable when we consider the bulk and probable groundspeed of that aircraft. Yikes!    Rocker Collection

For comparison, here's a shot of a late-War OA-10A in far more peaceful surroundings, illustrating what that waist position looks like. It's hard to imagine any PBY strafing any sort of target, but it was done, and more than once!   Rocker Collection

A Long-Awaited Answer

You may remember our piece on Stanton Smith a few issues ago, where we mentioned that a couple of his 49th FW F-80 pilots shot up an airfield near Vladivostok during the early days of the Korean War. We asked at that time if any of our readership were aware of the incident, but no responses were forthcoming. We had pretty much given up on ever finding out what really happened during the event that caused Col Smith to be transferred from the command of the 49th to the 5th AF Air Staff in Tokyo, when a new, to us, anyway, model manufacturer named Dora Wings released a pair of P-63 King Cobra kits. The folks over at Modeling Madness reviewed the TP-63E version of that model and, lo and behold; there was mention of that strafing attack, including dates and the name and location of the airfield! They also linked to a Russian article on the internet that described the action; how lucky could we get! Here's an excerpt from that article:                         

When two American Shooting Stars strafed our regiment at the Sukhaya Rechka airfield, our command immediatelly sent the 303rd IAD from Moscow, which already flew MiGs. (on 08.10.1950 at 16.17 local time two USAF F-80C Shooting Starfighters from 49 FBG had breached USSR air border and attacked an airfield Sukhaya Rechka100 kilometers away from it. This airfield belonged to the VVS TOF, but right at this moment due to training procedure it was occupied by, 821 IAP 190 IAD. Mostly 1st Squadron of 821 IAP was hit. 7 airplanes were damaged, 1 P-63 burned to the ground, the rest were repaired. No human losses were suffered. F-80s made two strafing runs and returned to their home base. I. Seidov.).

 It was the end of 1950. The war in Korea was already at full scale. We were ordered to start excercises wich required working from unprepared airfields. It had become common. Our 821st Regiment was transferred to Sukhaya Rechka. All three squadrons were on the ground at the parking spaces. On October 8, two F-80 Shooting Stars came and attacked our airfield. Official reports stated that one plane was blown up and six were heavily damaged, while I saw that at least twelve planes were damaged out of a regiment of 40 planes. In the official report, they made one pass and left. In reality they made two passes. They shot up the King Cobras that were lined up. 

The entire article, which is actually an interview with former Soviet pilot V.N. Zabelin, can be found at this link:


Jim Wogstad and I were first made aware of this event when we interviewed Stanton way back in 1972, and Robert F. Futrell had written about it in his seminal The United States Air Force in Korea, 1950-1953, first published in 1961. Your editor had been looking, albeit without an undue amount of effort, for documentation of the attack for the past 46 years!

Closure is a Very Good Thing...

No Chevrolet Here

Way back in 1944, back before Dinah Shore was seeing the USA in her Chevrolet on her weekly television variety show, she was an up and coming young startlet who, like so many others of her generation, did her part to help the guys at the sharp end of things. This photo tells it all:

The time is 1944 and the place is Western Europe. The young lady in the center of the photograph is Dinah Shore, famous nowadays because of the advertisements she used to sing for Chevrolet on her hour-long television variety show from 1951 to 1957. Take a look at the faces on those GIs, because the smiles tell the story. That young lady, in that time and in that place, would be a memory those soldiers would take to their graves. It was a big war and everybody had a little piece of it.     Rocker Collection

Some Modeling Tips You Ought to Know

You all know who Norman Camou is by now, thanks to those nifty YouTube aircraft clips he's always finding and sending to us. Well, Norm's also a modeler, and he's come up with a couple of tool tips that are well worth your while:

I recently took apart an empty barbecue lighter to see how it worked. The propane tank has a valve with two o- rings that fit pasche (Type H) air brush cones. The ones that come in the air brush deteriorate after a few years of using thinner to clean, and these are perfect replacements. The brush in the photo is one I've been using to clear out spray cones. After using pipe cleaners for years I was amazed at how the brush got out paint plaque that hardened up near the outlet. The two cutters, one straight and one curved, are stainless steel and cut sprue right to the part edge. They stay sharp and have good heft. You can get them from almost any beauty supply section. You can also get tiny glass beads, thin adhesive tape of all colors, an so forth. Sally, our local beauty supplier, admits she gets modelers in for tools and other stuff. Norm.

And here's a photo Norm took for us showing the stuff he's talking about. I'm guessing those cutters don't cost nearly as much at a pharmacy as they do in a package in a hobby shop that says "Sprue Cutter" someplace on it, while those brushes and o-rings couldn't be very expensive either (unless they happen to say "For Scale Modeling" on them, of course!) One thing though: You need to make ding-dang sure your barbeque lighter is COMPLETELY EMPTY of gasses before you attempt disassembly. Neither Norman nor Replica are responsible if you don't do that and suffer Grave Misfortune as a result. You're the captain of your own ship, etc, etc...

Those tips are from Norm. For my part, I'll submit that I've been using a couple of discarded dental probes for scribing, prick-punching plastic parts for drilling, and manipulating small parts in interiors for the past forty years. What about you? Do you have any favorite tools that work really well for our hobby but aren't conventionally sold for it? Why don't you let us know so we can share the knowledge? That e-mail address, suitably boogered up to fox the spam crowd, is  replicainscaleatyahoodotcom.

One Bad Cat

We are, of course, talking about Grumman's immortal F6F Hellcat, an often-overlooked fighter that many consider to be the best naval aircraft of The Second World War. You may or may not agree with that premise, but either way you'll have to admit it's a special airplane. Jim Sullivan has provided us with some interesting photos of the F6F, and it's time for us to share them with you.

The mighty Hellcat was designed and built to be a carrier fighter, and that's how most of us think of her when we're considering her Second World War service. Quite a few were shore-based during that fracus, however, as illustrated by these VF-38 F6F-3s sitting placidly on the ramp at Bougainville on 20 December, 1943. As the old saying goes, looks can be deceiving...   80-G-58996 via Jim Sullivan

Here's the other half of the story, as the late Paul Harvey used to say. Those F6Fs, plus the ramp full of F4U-1As in the background, are poised and ready to crank for the 20 December strike on Japan's fortress at Rabaul. It all seems so quiet in this photo, but things will change dramatically in just a short while...   80-G-58997 via Jim Sullivan

VF-39 was another shore-based Hellcat squadron that we often overlook amidst the glamor of its ship-based cousins. This amazing image gives us a look at their ramp on Majuro ca. March of 1944. It's an evocative shot, one that could almost have come from a movie. Almost.   80-G-401037 via Jim Sullivan

This section of F6F-3s are probably more along the lines we think of when talking about this airplane; a section of VF-32 Hellcats in flight somewhere over the Pacific in 1944. Based off the Langley, they're on the prowl and look more than a little menacing even in this setting. Modelers might want to note the oil streaking coming off the upper cowling. It's all in the details, isn't it?  Sullivan Collection

It wasn't all easy out there in the Western Pacific, though. This VF-29 F6F-3 managed to get badly shot up on a 25 October raid, but her pilot has successfully recovered aboard the Lexington in spite of her damage. Grumman made tough airplanes, hence the sobriquet "Grumman Iron Works", but even tough airplanes are vulnerable when the enemy is determined, or maybe just lucky.  80-G-291036 via Jim Sullivan

Here's a Hellcat you don't see every day; a USS Solomons based F6F-3N. The photo was taken at sea on 18 November, 1944, apparently immediately after a successful recovery aboard ship. The F6F night fighters performed sterling service both off the boat and when based on land, but they're not nearly as famous as their day-time cousins. They were a vital part of the effort, however, and became increasingly so as the Fleet moved in closer to the Japanese home islands.   80-G-260468 via Jim Sullivan

This F6F-3 could be in flight over Japan towards the end of the War, but it's not. The naval aviators in our audience will recognize those mountains in the background as being from America's Pacific Northwest, in Washington State. The Hellcat, and it's friend cruising in the distance off it's starboard wing, are on a routine training flight out of NAS Whidbey Island, but things will change for those pilots soon enough.  Sullivan Collection

See what we mean? This photograph illustrates a whole lot of trouble in the process of launching off the second USS Lexington in the summer of 1944. These -5s are from Fighting Sixteen and they've already seen the elephant---check out the kill markings on side numbers 7 and 28. Up and at 'em!  USN via Jim Sullivan

Fighting 83 was on the Essex and preparing for a strike on Okinawa when this photo was taken on 19 April, 1945. The load of underwing rockets on those airplanes define the mission; close air support for the troops ashore. Note the white auxilliary tanks under those Hellcats as well, because a gas bag was a gas bag and nobody bothered to repaint the white ones when the -5s came on line in their shiny new Glossy Sea Blue paint. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do...   80-G-317550 via Jim Sullivan

Sometimes you have a bad day, and sometimes you have a terrible one. This photo shows an F6F-5 aboard the Solomons on 3 May, 1945, just after she's climbed onto the back of another aircraft. Side number 50 was manned when it happened, as witnessed by its propeller still in motion. We don't often consider this side of the story but military aviation, and carrier aviation in particular, is far more dangerous than we generally allow ourselves to think. At least one of those aviators paid the ultimate price that day, and it wasn't an unusual occurance. Let's raise a glass...   80-G-260417 via Jim Sullivan

See what we mean? This horrific accident, aboard the Saratoga on 17 February 1945, would be all over the press in our day and age, but it was quite literally just another day on the job for the guys on the "Sara" in 1945. It's never safe on the boat; not ever.   Jim Sullivan Collection

But there are days when everything seems just perfect, as illustrated by this F6F-5 from VF-93 off the Boxer in August of 1945. It's a beautiful day, in a beautiful airplane, and the war is over. Things can't get much better than this!   Jim Sullivan Collection

The date is 5 September, 1945, and the place is NAS Atlanta. Here's a ramp full of naval aviation all dressed up for the party with nowhere to go. Those of us who like to build model airplanes with lots of wear and tear, and festooned with kill markings, will quite probably look at this photo and give a collective yawn, but we'll guarantee you the aviators who would be manning those aircraft in combat are more than a little happy with the situation!   80-G-345980 via Jim Sullivan

The concept of the showboat isn't a new one in the NAV, and it wasn't new in the 1945-46 era when this -5 was still on the active list either. She's apparently from VS-3 (corrections are sought from anyone who knows otherwise!) and is a proud tribute to days that weren't all that distant.   Ed Deigan via MALD Collection via Jim Sullivan

The electrons had barely settled on that Hellcat illustrated directly above when I received answers regarding it's VS-3 markings from both Rick Morgan and Barrett Tillman. Rather than garbling their explanations I thought it best to run their comments, first from Rick:

Phil- re the “VS” marked F6F you have on your newest blog, I’m pretty sure that’s part of the “Victory Squadron” traveling circus that ran around the country after the war to show off Naval Aviation. Barrett knows a lot more about the subject than I do. And, of course, the F6F actually outlasted the F4U, TBM and certainly SB2C in Navy service. Three Utility Squadrons still had F6F-5s and F6F-5Ks flying in Jan 1959, which is about three years after they’d completely retired the Corsair and Avenger. My ROTC CO, the legendary Dick “Brown Bear” Schaffert had his first tour with VU-10 at GTMO about 1957, initially flying Hellcats and pulling banners for gun shoots.   Rick

And next from Barrett:

I didn't see the blog but yes, VS would have been the Victory Squadron, an immediate postwar USN-Treasury collaboration to fund the last bond drive. I knew Bill Eder, the CO, and wrote the only history of the unit that I know of for the The Hook in the late 80s. The guys had a real good time. One of the pilots became a father during the tour and saluted the new arrival with a glass of milk---another VS pilot said "It was the only non-alcoholic drink I saw him take the entire time." F6Fs, F7Fs, F4Us, and a coupla Japanese.   BT

Many thanks to both Barrett and Rick for clearing this one up!

This -5 from NAS Wildwood (New Jersey), taken in 1945, illustrates the markings the post-War active duty Hellcats (as opposed to those in the Reserves) were usually found in. There's noting at all exceptional about this bird except that she's Stateside and still carrying a white drop tank, which is an anomaly more often seen in the Pacific Fleet. She's weathered a bit and obviously well maintained, but she's also rapidly becoming yesterday's papers.  Ted Stone via Jim Sullivan Collection

There was still plenty of life in the old girl, however, and she quickly found a home with the Naval Reserves. BuNo 79220, based out of Anacostia, is an example of early post-War use of the type. At this point in the Hellcat's Reserve status she was still a relatively boring Glossy Sea Blue, with minimal color other than white to spiff her up.   Paul J. McDaniel via Jim Sullivan

This is more like it! This trio of Oakland-based F6F-5s are wearing the broad orange fuselage bands we normally associate with the Reserve birds of the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the color really pops out on these airplanes! They're all a little on the shopworn side, to be sure, but you can bet they've been well-maintained!   Jim Sullivan Collection

The majority of Hellcats that survived the War ended up in the Reserves, but more than a few remained in active, albeit somewhat limited, service. This example is an F6F-5K, capable of manned flight but also configured to be remotely controlled as a drone. BuNo 79120 is shown here at the test center at Point Mugu during the late 1940s or very early 1950s, and typifies the breed; several were utilized in American nuclear testing during the era.   Jim Sullivan Collection

The F6F was rapidly approaching obsolescence by the time the Korean War began, but there was a final chapter to be written in the combat history of the Hellcat before she disappeared from the Fleet. Utilized to test air-to-air guided missiles just a few short years previous, several F6F-5K drones were themselves expended as primitive cruise missiles against hardened North Korean targets, as well as rail lines. The program was successful in a modest way but not to the extent that it became a major part of the war effort. Still, it's a fascinating final chapter in the American combat use of one of the finest combat aircraft of the Second World War. 

The Hellcat rapidly disappeared from US service after the conclusion of the Korean Conflict, with only a handful remaining in Reserve and Training Command service. An appearance as stunt doubles for a portion of the 1951 movie "Flying Leathernecks" (portraying F4F Wildcats) brought them briefly back into the public eye, and the French Aeronavale used them in IndoChina during the early days of their conflict there, but the F6F was disappearing as rapidly as the scrappers could get their hands on them. This specimen (ex-BuNo 94385) was purchased by a budding Confederate Air Force and began a new lease on life for the type as a civilian-owned warbird.  Rick Burgess via Jim Sullivan Collection

The warbird movement spread slowly at first, but is now a major force in the restoration and preservation of historic aircraft. Both the quality of restoration and the accuracy of paint jobs has improved significantly since the early days of the CAF, as typified by the F6F-5 and F8F-1 seen in this gorgeous air-to-air study taken by Jim Sullivan in 1995.   Jim Sullivan

Many thanks to Jim Sullivan for sharing these photographs with us!

Speaking of Norman Camou

Earlier in this edition we mentioned Norman Camou's ongoing contributions to the project. Here's a short clip he found on YouTube that shows us how to fly the P-38. It's not a wartime film but rather a new effort, with a restored Lightning, but it's of considerable interest if you happen to be an aviator or just interested in what those classic fighters were like to fly.


Thanks, Norm!

And that's it for this time around. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!


Monday, March 5, 2018

A Polystyrene Phoenix, A couple of Havocs, Some Gutsy Aussies, The Price, Strike Eagle, A Couple of Movies, and Some T-Birds for Doug

Another Way to Do It, Or Maybe a Trip in an Alternate WayBack Machine

Let's take a trip, you and me, down Memory Lane, but this time around let's not discuss all those cool kits, how hard it was to find markings and accessories, how aftermarket didn't even exist back then, and all that other stuff us old guys like to talk about. Instead, let's talk about some of the models we built in those days, and how they're still viable today as the basis for a brand new project. (This is the part where you get to say "Huh?", so go ahead and do that. I'll wait a minute for you to get it done.)

OK, now that that's out of the way, allow me to explain, using myself as the example. My first attempts at "serious" plastic modeling took place while I was living in Japan during the early 1960s. The models weren't very good, nor were they particularly memorable even to me, and I was the guy who was making them. The second phase of "serious" took place around 1968 or so, when MicroScale began producing and selling aftermarket decals. There had been other decal companies prior to that, of course; HisAirDec, Stoppel, ABT, and Authenticals all come to mind, jus to name a few, but the offerings of the Krasel brothers were fairly accurate, much thinner, and looked a whole lot better on a model than did the offerings of those other guys. Those MicroScale decals and, in my own world at least, those of Max ABT and Authenticals, stimulated the creation of a veritable rash of psuedo-authentic 1/72nd scale model airplanes, most of which were built to a pretty terrible standard of completion.

Some of those models were favorites, though, and several became prized members of my collection. Most of them are gone now, either taken to bits to provide parts for other projects (Reduced to Produce, as San Antonio modeler Bob Angel is fond of saying) or accidentally destroyed by my children as they discovered those neat little toys sitting innocently on the shelves of my studio, but the memories are there, and so is a fondness for certain of them.

It was in one of those periods of Fond Memories a few years back that the epiphany struck me: Why not reproduce a few of those old-time favorites, but with modern kits, aftermarket, paints, and decals? It seemed like a good idea at the time, so off I went in search of inspiration, which I found in the hulk of an old Frog Hurricane Mk IIc that I'd built in 1968 or 69 as Karel Kuttelwascher's BE581 JX-E, based on information found in the frontispiece of the old Profile Publication on that airplane. I bought a Hasegawa Mk IIc kit in 1/48th scale (my scale of choice these days), discovered that Sky Decals had a Hurricane sheet containing those very markings, and went to work. I even took some red decal stock and cut out patches for battle damage repair and put them on the model where P. Endsleigh Castle's 5-view Profile artwork had shown them to live---common sense makes me doubt they were really on the airplane but they were most assuredly on both that artwork and on my original model, and that was justification enough, by Golly! The model came out pretty well, and you've seen it in these pages. The die was cast, more or less.

A few months later the bug bit again, this time regarding the Fw190D-9 flown by Theo Nibel of 10/JG54 during Operation Bodenplatte. In that instance the original model had been a poorly-done rendition of the airplane using the not-especially-accurate Lindberg D-9 as a canvas, but Tamiya had a pretty nice 1/48th "Dora" in their lineup and the game was on, although in that instance I didn't start with a fresh, unsullied kit, but rather with an older completed one on the shelf that was in need of a facelift. That one, and some of the stages of said facelift, are within these pages as well.

You can, if you're interested, see photographs of both of those models by scrolling down to the very bottom of this page and using the search feature to find them, but those models aren't really the point of this ramble. No; it's all about personal nostalgia, and nothing else. Those two models I cited meant a lot to me way back there in the 60s, which makes the clones of them I built some 35 years later somewhat special as well. As a further bonus, working on them add substantially to my enjoyment of the hobby.

Is this something you ought to try too? I dunno. It worked for me, but that's how I'm wired---I enjoy old stuff and, to an extent, replicating it. You might not care for that sort of thing at all, but you have to admit it's an interesting facet of the hobby. Now; where did I put that old Monogram Wright Cyclone kit...

The Quiet Rebirth

Several years back an amazing polystyrene model airplane producer in the Czech Republic released a series of kits of Kurt Tank's immortal Fw190. It was a substantial family who's kits ran from the A-5 through the A-9 varieties of the design and ultimately included a 190F-8 and D-9 as well. Taken strictly as plastic kits they featured amazing, if somewhat fiddley, detail, but were a tough date for a great many modelers and, at the end of the day, weren't nearly as accurate as they were originally touted to have been. Eduard sold a ton of them in spite of that, though, and a lot of people built them, including myself. They were petite, delicate, and looked great when competently built but, as we mentioned a moment ago, were also somewhat inaccurate when judged as scale models.

Then came their Me109G-6, another beautifully detailed model that was, somewhat unfortunately, heavily hyped by them as the end-all and be-all of Messerschmitt kits. Those kits were really nice and actually lived up to their stellar press announcements, right up to the part where everyone suddenly discovered that the models were out of scale. There we were, set up and knocked down again. Good grief!

There's a happy ending to this story, though, because, in a move almost entirely unprecedented in our hobby, Eduard went back and completely retooled that unfortunate Gustav kit, re-releasing it to considerably less fanfare than they'd done the first time around. That reworked model is now the winner it was originally billed to be, a kit with correct dimensions and only a tiny handful of small corrections to be made, presuming you feel like they're serious enough to even need correcting. Bravo!

Then, just to prove Eduard were truly as good as their reputation says they are, they tooled and are in the process of releasing a brand new family of Fw190s, starting with the A-2, -3, and -4 variants, and boy are they ever something! The accuracy is there, as is detailing well above their already high standards. They've even taken the time to address detail issues on such tiny components as gun barrels, boarding steps, et al, and they've done it with a minimum of back-slapping on their part. Bravo again!

I recently bought one of their A-4 ProfiPack offerings, more on a whim than for any other reason, and was so impressed with the kit that I jumped in a built it almost as soon as I got it home. While I'm not going to bore you with a lengthy review or how-I-built-it article, there are a couple of things I wanted to share:

See what I mean about this not being a review? In this very first photograph the model has already been built and is sitting in Corrosion Control being painted. The kit is an easy thing to build, unlike its immediate predecessor, and you can pretty much figure that any part that doesn't fit where it's supposed to is being installed incorrectly! That's not why I'm showing you this model though; that paint job is easily the ugliest one I've ever put on a model airplane and I wanted to share it with you. Fortunately, things will get better...

See what I mean? The model is going to wear a scheme included with this boxing of the kit, a I/JG 54 aircraft flown by Walter Nowotny that's wearing one of that unit's patented oddball winter camouflage paint jobs. The model is beginning to look like something you might want to put on your shelf.

Things start getting a whole lot better, appearance-wise, once that winter camo is in place and the decals are applied. That pitot tube is from a Master barrel set for the Hasegawa Fw190A-3 and is the only bit of non-Eduard on the model; everything else came with the ProfiPack release of the A-4. Once again I'd like for you to notice the high-tech stand I use sometimes while waiting for the decals on the upper wings to cure. Several companies offer sophisticated and often expensive stands to allow you to do this very thing and I have to admit they look really spiffy in photographs, but this approach works just as well and doesn't cost very much either. Sometimes fancy isn't necessarily better...

Here's a tip for those of you interested in such things: Early and mid-War Luftwaffe fighters were often seen with whitewall tailwheels, a process done with dielectric paint. Those whitewalls can be  difficult to replicate on a model but fear not, that's just how it looks. In practice it's an easy thing to do if you've got a set of FW190-specific Eduard masks, because the masking materials they provide so you can paint your tailwheel in a tidy and workmanlike manner can also work as a mask for that whitewall. Let's examine the photo immediately above to see how this looks. Pretty easy, huh?

OK; take a look at the photograph immediately above this caption, and take note that I mis-spelled the word "there". It's harder to fix that than it looks so the caption stays; look on it as honesty in an age when that attribute is at a premium! On a more serious note, this view is one of three that shows how the model came out. It was easy to build, fun to paint, and an enjoyable experience in every respect!

Here's another view. The demarcation of the colors on that paint job can be argued; I chose to do a soft-edge representation rather than a hard mask. Either way I think the airplane came out looking pretty good, in spite of those goofy colors. (Author and long-time friend Rick Morgan calls it "Fugly", which is not a nice adjective, but it's an accurate one.) It's beginning to grow on me and is different if nothing else. You pays your money...

Here's one last shot for your perusal. There's not much to say about it, except that I really like the kit a lot and am finally impressed with the way it came out, although your mileage may vary considerably on that one!

So what's the reason for running two Ost-Front Luftwaffe models in back-to-back issues? The obvious one is because the kit is relatively new to the market and worthy of an article, but there's a far deeper reason. Eduard, whom I believe we'll now have to dub The Little Company That Could, issued a nice-but-not-really Fw190 family a few years back, and then followed it with their disastrous Me109G kit; the models you could produce from both kits were viable and attractive when built, but were also inaccurate to a great degree.

Most manufacturers would have shrugged their shoulders, said something like "Oh well", and moved on, but Eduard didn't see it that way. They completely re-tooled that 109G, and did it without making a huge deal out of it. Their early Focke Wulfs are seemingly great right out of the gat, and as a result we've now got what may be the best family of Fw190s kits ever produced by anyone in any scale, while the trees provided with these early releases indicate that they're going to address all of the short-nosed Wurgers to this new, and significantly higher, standard of accuracy and detail. That's a Very Good Thing for us all even if your personal tastes don't run towards airplanes with black crosses on the wings, because it seems to signify a giant leap forward by the guys at Eduard. We can only hope that anything they do (including their announced Tempest V) will be done to this same extremely high standard. I think they'll do it, and I'm enthusiastically awaiting their future releases.

Way to go, Eduard! Your picture's on the piano!

Cry Havoc!

Or maybe not, but we've got a couple of 417th BG A-20Gs to share with you today:

Getting ready to rumble. In this shot we see a section of 417th BG A-20Gs preparing to launch against Japanese positions from an unspecified base. The image is apparently a frame from a movie but illustrates the daily operations of the 5th's attack groups as few photographs can. The strafers, both A-20s and B-25s, arguably flew the most dangerous missions in the SouthWest Pacific and did it day after day. You could scarcely call them unsung heroes, because everybody knew about them at the time and we're certainly aware of them now. You could call them gutsy...    Rocker Collection

Here's a placid-appearing air-to-air of a formation of 417th G-models en route to mischief. Everything appears serene enough, but there's a better than average chance that at least one or two of the aircraft in this strike package won't return from the target area. Things were tough in the 5th right up til the end of the war.   Rocker Collection

Those Other Guys

We Americans tend to be an ethnocentric bunch. The Pacific War was our war, and we did all the fighting, right? There were other folks there, but they were just helping us out, right? WRONG!!!

It's easy for some Americans to forget we weren't alone in the struggle against the Japanese, and a lot of people don't know much of anything about Australian Beaufighter operations in New Guinea during The Bad Old Days either. They were most assuredly there, however, and were holding the line while the 5th was getting organized down in Australia. The Bristol Beaufighter Mk Ic was an early-comer to the party, with 30 Sqdn RAAF operation in the Lae/Huon Gulf area during early 1942 and 31 Sqdn RAAF doing the honors in a series of ongoing strikes during the same time frame against enemy installations on Timor. The "Beau" was a strike fighter in the most basic sense, at least in the early days, and went out against the Japanese armed only with guns and cannon, but they were extremely effective and punched well above their weight. The Mk Ic in this photo was assigned to 30 Sqdn and is shown photographed at Ward's Strip during early '42. Whether or not the Japanese ever called them "Whispering Death" is debatable, but there's no doubt the aircraft and its crews were respected.    Rocker Collection

A Price to Be Paid

Some people have a glamorous view of war. Most of those folks have never been involved in one, and it's sometimes valuable to remember just how awful things can be:

The place is Adak, in the Aleutian Islands, and the time is 1942. That's a 54th FS P-38 burning in the background, a victim of an equipment failure, or the weather, or pilot error, or any one of a dozen other reasons men lost their lives in airplanes during the war. We've said over and over again on this site that it wasn't always the enemy that got you, and this photo proves the point as few can. Don't believe us? Take a closer look, then: That B-24 hulk, and the remains of those two P-39s, tell a story. There were never any easy days during that war no matter what nation they flew for; not for anybody. Let's raise a glass...  Rocker Collection

Thanks once again for the dedication of Bobby Rocker, and all those like him, for finding and preserving photographs such as these so we can view them and learn from them!

Air to Mud Eagle

A product of the Air Force's Enhanced Tactical Fighter program, originally conceived to produce a replacement for the General Dynamics F-111 family of aircraft, the F-15E Strike Eagle entered service with the 405th TTW during 1985 as a long-range interdiction aircraft. Since that time, the type has provided interdiction and strike capability in every conflict in which the United States has been involved, and is still an extremely viable aircraft today. Don Jay has provided us with some fascinating images of F-15Es from the 334th TFS of the 4th TFW (the sole wing operating the Strike Eagle) and we think you'll enjoy the images. Here's what Don has to say about them:

 Here (are some photos of) the 4 Fighter Wing at Seymour Jonson-aka “Shady-J”. The group provides worldwide command and control for two operational F-15E squadrons and is responsible for conducting the Air Force's only F-15E training operation, qualifying crews to serve in worldwide combat-ready positions. As I mentioned previously (in a separate e-mail), the 4th Wing was quite receptive to photographers like me and during the 90's, I was able to document the Strike Eagles many times. Attached are a few from two trips in the late '90s-these document some of the 334 FSq birds. 

87-0193 is an F-15E-44-MC, posing for Don with her nose cone removed. That translucent green primer can be found inside a great deal of the Strike Eagle's structure, so close attention to this detail is required of those modeling the type. The myriad of covers and "Remove Before Flight" tags are of interest as well, and are normally found on these aircraft when sitting on the ramp.   Don Jay

Here's a similar view of 87-0206, but this time with the nose cap in place. The E-model F-15 is generally painted in overall 36118 grey, and apparent variances in that color are caused by paint touch-up or, as in the case of -0206, deflected control surfaces. This aircraft is being readied for flight and provides the modeler with interesting diorama possibilities.   Don Jay

89-0499, an F-15E-48-MC, is a little farther along in the pre-flight evolution; her crew is aboard and a huffer has been brought up preparatory to starting engines. All the covers and warning tags have been removed from the airframe and things are about to get loud!   Don Jay

In contrast to the photo of 0499 immediately above, 89-0500, another Block 48 F-15E, is in the process of being buttoned up. Of particular note are the covers over the ejection seats. All of these aircraft were photographed in a clean condition, but the type is capable of carrying an impressive variety of ordnance and is still extremely viable in the strike and interdiction role some 33 years after its service introduction.   Don Jay

Let's finish up today's Strike Eagle photo essay with this impressive shot of 87-0200, another F-15E-44-MC, loaded up with inert ordnance and on its way to the range. That huge load of bombs is impressive, to say the least, but is now largely unnecessary thanks to the progress made in the field of "smart" air-to-ground weapons.    Don Jay

Don took these photographs back in October of 1999, when the aircraft was still young and relatively new to the Air Force. Since then, the type has been very heavily engaged in the myriad of conflicts in which the United States has become involved over the past two decades and the airframes are beginning to show their years, although the Strike Eagle force is still most assuredly mission capable. It, and all the other members of the F-15 family, are and always have been highly impressive. Many thanks to Don Jay for sharing these gorgeous photographs with us.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Come Out

OK, ya'll; brew up a pot of coffee and get yourself about a month's supply of popcorn. Bobby Rocker, best know to all of us for the remarkable still images he shares with our readership, has come up with a link to an absolutely staggering number of films regarding military aviation. It's hard to describe what's here in the few words allowed by this blog so follow the link below and enjoy!


Thanks, Bobby!

Long Ago and Far Away

Way back when the USAF had thousands of aircraft in their inventory, there was a trainer. It was a simple aircraft, and a logical off-shoot of the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star family. There was a time when the Air Training Command was heavily populated with the type, and it saw service as a unit hack, and in a handful of specialized roles, long after the requirement for it had been superceded by more modern aircraft.

Reader and contributor Doug Barbier once flew the mighty T-Bird, operating the T-33A in one of the world's toughest aviation environments with the 57th FIS out of Keflavic, Iceland. There are no photographs of 57th FIS T-Birds in this photo essay, nor did Doug contribute any of the photography you're about to see. He did, however, manage to engage in mock air-to-air combat with certain of the 57th's F-4s, with an outcome somewhat different than most of us might expect. This piece is being published specifically for Doug; petty bribery, if you will, in order to get him to share a couple of those stories with us.

The T-33's history with the USAF goes back to the Korean War, when the type was part and parcel of the F-80 units operating in theater, but we aren't going back quite that far today. Instead, we're going to begin in 1975, on the National Guard Bureau's ramp at Andrews. Three of the four aircraft you see before you are in the then-common Aircraft Grey, also known at the time as ADC Grey, but the bird closest to the camera is in glorious, and highly-polished, natural metal. Those of you with long memories (or the ability to use the "search" function at the bottom of this page) may remember we ran a shot of an ANGB B-26B Invader back in the early days of this project in a simiar finish. The Bureau was once known for pristine aircraft; this shot, and that B-26 we just mentioned, were prime examples of that!

   Marty Isham

We have no idea who originally provided us with this photo; it came to us in a trade (probably from John Kerr, but it was a long time ago and we don't remember!). The quality of the shot isn't the best, but my oh my, look at those 5th FIS markings on 57-0616. She was built as a T-33A-5-LO and was simply gorgeous when this photograph was taken; black and yellow markings over natural metal with the squadron's "Spittin' Kittens" moniker on her tip tanks! It never got much prettier than this! The airplane is a survivor too, presently on static display at Minot. (If you're the one who took this photo, or know who did, please contact us so we can provide proper attribution for it!)   Friddell Collection

We've run photographs of the 111th FIS' T-33s before, but that doesn't keep us from doing it again. We were on the 147th FIG's ramp at Ellington ANGB in March of 1980 when we caught 52-9223, a T-33A-1-LO, on a typically rain-soaked ramp. This example of the type managed to achieve something very few aircraft ever do---it was delivered as a new aircraft to the 111th in 1953 and remained with the unit until retirement in May of 1987! It's now on display at Ellington, a unique reminder of days gone by.    Phillip Friddell

1980 was a good year for us in terms of T-33s appearing at the ramps we were photographing. 58-0555, a T-33A-5-LO from the ADWC, was transient at Laughlin ABF during March of that year. She was absolutely pristine, and you could have eaten off that paintwork---the units that still operated the T-33 during the 80s tended to take extra good care of their aircraft, as Triple Nickle shows us. She ended up on public display in Oklahoma City; it's doubtful she looks this good nowadays but at least she didn't end up being melted down into pots and pans!   Phillip Friddell

See what we mean about 1980 being a good year for photographing T-Birds? That same month and year we were on the transient ramp at Bergstrom photographing this beauty. At first glance T-33A-1-LO, 53-5121, is just another T-Bird, albeit one assigned to the 134th DSES, but as we're about to see there's a little more to her than first meets the eye.    Phillip Friddell

Every picture tells a story, and we'd definitely like to know the details about this one! Take a close look at the photo, just past the uppermost leg of the "E" in the U.S. Air Force logo on the nose. Do you see something that interests you? We sure did! That kill marking, plus the "1st Place Unit" device under the S. on the nose, renders this bird interesting in the extreme. Unfortunately, we have no idea what the story might be regarding those markings, nor do we know who achieved the aeria victory memorialized on the flanks of that airplane. If you know, please drop us an e-mail at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom (using the appropriate symbology rather than all letters, of course) and tell us what's going on here!   Phillip Friddell

Let's make one more stop in 1980, this time in March, when we caught 58-0707, another T-33A-5-LO, on the ground at Randolph during an air show. She was with the 46th ADW when we shot her that day, and she was fairly unique in that her airframe was in natural metal, even though her gas bags were in the more commonly seen Aircraft Grey. Did we ever mention we like The Silver Air Force?   Phillip Friddell

March of 1981 started off with a bang, T-33-wise, when we photographed the 111th's 56-1670, yet another T-33A-5-LO, on the ground at Laughlin. She was a beautifully-maintained bird, as were all of the aircraft assigned to Ellington's resident Guard unit, and she was a survivor of sorts as well, being transferred to the Navy as a TV-2 (BuNo 143020) not long after this photo was taken.   Phillip Friddell

May of 1981 found 56-1740, another T-33A-5-LO, on the ramp at Bergstrom where Lee Bracken to this magnificent portrait of her shortly after her arrival there; note the "bone dome" perched on the windscreen frame. The photo came to us sans a unit identification, so we're at somewhat of a loss as to what squadron she was assigned to, although we strongly suspect she was included in a batch of T-Birds that ultimately went to the Navy as TV-2s in the 174x BuNo range. If you know the answer, that address is replicainscaleatyahoodotcome, ok?   Lee Bracken

We shot 57-0708, yet another -5-LO, at Randolph in May of 81. She was assigned to the 49th FIS, and was absolutely pristine in her shiny Aircraft Grey paint job and squadron markings. Of special interest is the ALQ-72 pod hanging under her port wing, a sight infrequently seen on the T-Bird. That's a travel pod hanging off the centerline just aft of the mains, in case you were wondering. There's a new kit of the "late" T-33A out there, you know---hmmm...   Phillip Friddell

The late, and sorely missed, Ron Kowalczyk, spent quite a bit of his time on Selfridge's transient ramp back in the 80s, which is where he shot this T-33A-5-LO (56-1697 identified as being from the 49th FIS, although those aren't their markings) in December of 1981. That white on grey paint job is just spiffy beyond words, isn't it? If you look carefully you can see a travel pod hanging off her lower fuselage just behind the main gear, and we'd be willing to bet it's wearing a squadron emblem at the very least, although that sort of detail isn't visible in this view. Her history was somewhat odd in that she went to MASDC at an earlier date and was then pulled out to serve with the 49th. Her ultimate fate is unknown, but we doubt it was good...    Ron Kowalczyk

The T-33 was apparently a common visitor to Selfridge during August of 1982. Ron shot the 49th's 58-0632 there in August of that year. She ultimately ended up at a museum but was very much on the active roster during '82!   Ron Kowalczyk

The New Jersey's 119th FIS/177th FIG was there too, as demonstrated by the appearance of 57-0715. There must have been some sort of event going on there---maybe an ANG conference?---since there's a line of other T-33s behind this one. If any of you know...   Ron Kowalczyk

The boys from Niagara Falls were thereas well, as 53-5393, a T-33A-1-LO of the 136th FIS/107th FIG, testifies. This bird is a standout in every respect; just look at those markings!  Modelers might want to note that the 1950s were an era of dedicated ground support equipment for the Air Force's aircraft, and that boarding ladder is unique to the T-33 and its and kissing cousin the F-94. It's also worth noting that all of the aircraft in the Shooting Star family were generally parked with their speed brakes deployed. For what it's worth...   Ron Kowalczyk

Here's a T-Bird photographed during 1982 that wasn't taken by Ron Kowalczyk! The aircraft is from the 84th FITS and has been stripped back to natural metal after service in a different unit. Mark Morgan took this portrait in November of 1982;  you may remember from her time with the 134th DSES as illustrated just a few photos up. She was painted in overall Aircraft Grey then, and someone must have gone to a great deal of trouble to strip that paint. We think it was worth it!   Mark Morgan

The 84th FITS got around quite a bit in 1982, as demonstrated by 58-0533, a T-33-5-LO from that unit. They must have had a thing for natural metal T-33s but we aren't going to complain! She eventually left ADTAC to pursue a career with the Mexican Air Force, after which she was put on display in that country.    Mark Morgan

The Air National Guard had a conference at Kelly AFB during April of 1984, and we were able to get on the transient ramp and photograph most of the attendee aircraft, two of which were T-33s. This is 53-5266, a T-33A-1-LO from the 121st FIS/FIG. She's a Plain Jane as ANG T-Birds go, with very little in the way of markings to make her stand out from the pack. Maybe that's because the 121st was from DC; who knows? She's still pretty, though! She went into storage just a couple of short years later, in 1987.   Phillip Friddell

This is what it looks like when you under-expose K25 by a stop or two, but the photo is worth looking at because it's fairly late in the game, T-33-wise, and she's in natural metal. She's 53-5262, a -1-LO from the 194th FIS, and she's another attendee at that KAFB Air Guard conference. She's not wearing a whole lot of color but that blue fin tip, coupled with the matching radar cover, make her well worth a second look. Her days were numbered too; she went into storage in 1988.   Phillip Friddell

Several of the airplanes you've seen in this essay were survivors of a sort, but this TV-2, derelect at Kelly AFB in June of 1984, wasn't one of them. She's sad looking and was, in all likelihood, destroyed shortly after this photo was taken (although it's possible she was being restored for display at the time since she's obviously spent some previous time in storage in Arizona), but her proud lines are still evident. The Lockheed T-33 was, and remains, a one-of-a-kind aircraft. Lest we forget...   John Kerr

For those modelers who follow this blog, there's a relatively new "late" T-33A kit out there in 1/48th scale, and with any luck this photo essay will inspire a few of you to build one. On a far more personal note we're hoping all those T-Birds will also inspire Doug to tell us what it's like to hassle with an F-4 in an airplane designed in the 1940s---we have reason to believe the result might not be what most of us would expect!

The Relief Tube

Not this time, gang! It's not that we haven't been receiving mail, because we have, but rather because a lot of that correspondence has been from people asking for assistance with their research projects. We're delighted to do that sort of thing when we can and even more delighted when we don't mess things up, but we do listen to our readers and like to hear about it on those occasions when we make a mistake. We're always on the lookout for new photographic material as well, and in either instance you can reach us by e-mail at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom. Just be sure to remove a couple of letters and insert the appropriate . and @ symbols and you're there.

That's it for today. Be good to your neighbor 'til the next time we meet.