Sunday, October 10, 2010

Some 45th Thunderstreaks, More From Alaska, More ANG Mustangs, Nordam Decals, and a Big P-40

I Got a Thing For Polka Dots, Ya'll

Which means, of course, that we're talking about the world-famous (at one time, anyway) 45th Tactical Recon Squadron from Misawa AB, Japan! Everybody remembers the Polka Dots' RF-101s, probably more because Hasegawa put markings for them in intial release of their 1/72nd scale RF-101C kit than for any other reason, although it's possible that some remember them from their Korean War days in RF-51s and RF-80s as well. What more than a few people probably don't know (or remember, which is pretty much the same thing in my book) is that the 45th also had a romance with Republic's RF-84F during their time with the 39th Air Division at Misawa. Dave Menard was kind enough to share some images with us, so let's see what the Polka Dots looked like in their Thunderstreaks!

Oh yeah, I probably ought to mention that the 45th operated at least one hand-me-down RF-84K in addition to their more conventional F-models. Here's what Dave had to say about that:

Since you asked, here is what I know. At least one RF-84K was palmed off on the 45th TRS that I know of. Have no idea why or how many came to Misawa and possibly Kadena for use by the sister 15th TRS, but when SAC got rid of them, suspect that TAC did not want them, nor USAFE, so stuck PACAF with them. I had a 4x5 air to ground negative taken over Misawa's ramp during an inspection of some kind and all of the 45th RF-84Fs were lined up wing tip to wing tip along the eastern edge of that huge ramp. There on the end was a K, 254, I believe, but the neg was too damned "thin" to print! One could read the tail numbers on some of the a/c with a good glass but printing was impossible, darn it.

Heard from an old 45th head that when that K landed at Misawa, the tower informed the pilot he must have landed too hard as the stabs had bent down from the excessive force! One would need to get their hands on all of the record cards for all the Ks to find out where they wound up. MICH ANG got several and I think IOWA ANG also..............

Enjoy these now! cheers, dave

Here's a two-ship from the 45th in flight over Northern Honshu---pretty rugged down there, isn't it? This classic shot has been published before but shows the 45ths polka dot treatment as applied to the RF-84F to good advantage. Menard Collection

Another polka dot in flight. 887 looks pretty Plain Jane until you look under the "U.S. Air Force" legend on the nose. There's a really tasty lightning flash there, apparently in red. I'll bet there's a name on the other side too. Why, you might ask, do I think that?  Menard Collection

Here's why! It's a three-ship from the 45th in flight over the northern Pacific, and they all have names on the nose. 926 appears to say "Bandit" and there's art to go with the name, although you can't really see it in this shot. 900 is "Mr. Magoo", also with appropriate artwork, while 926 is, unfortunately, impossible for me to read in this shot. Anybody know what those names are? Drop me a line at if you do. We'd love to see these up close! Menard Collection

Before we go, it's only fair to tell you that MicroScale once did an RF-84F decal sheet and there are markings for a bird from the 45th included thereon. I don't remember if there's nose art on it or not (and am frankly far too lazy to go dig that sheet out of the hundreds of other MicroScale decals in The Airplane Room) but those polka dots are a darned good start, and the 1/48th scale kit of the Thunderflash isn't nearly as bad as the internet might lead you to believe it to be. I smell a project...

More Birds From Seward's Ice Box

A couple of installments ago we ran some T-33 photos taken at Elmendorf in the early 70s. One of our readers was stationed there a few years earlier than that time frame and sent in a couple of really tasty shots for us to admire. Let's take a look at what Richard Bitler has contributed to our Silver Air Force project:

The T-33s in your blog a few weeks ago brought back some memories and sent me digging through my slides that I took while stationed at Elmendorf, AFB from Dec. 1959 to Dec. 1961. I've attached a copy of one of the slides of T-33A, 56-1662. The date on my slide is Feb. 1961. Note the arctic scheme in orange instead of the usual red. All of the T-33s at Elmendorf at this time were in the same scheme. I have no idea when the scheme was changed from orange to red. And I have no idea what the object is on the underside of the fuselage near the trailing edge of the wing. Maybe some of you readers can shed some light on this.

Also attached is a copy of a slide I thought you'd be interested in, that was taken the same day, of two of the three RB-57As that were also at Elmendorf, 52-1466 and 52-4163. Unfortunately, I don't have the SN of the third one. Note the heavy black "line", on the wing tank just forward of where the orange ends. I remember seeing a crew chief remove a large circular filter from that slot after one of the a/c had returned from a mission. Also, there was an opening in the front of the wing tank. I guess that was air sampling. I stood up in the bed of a pick-up once, and got a look at the upper surfaces of the wings. The National Insignia was outlined in natural metal but the orange was continued around the "USAF", similar to what you see on the F-89s with the Arctic Red scheme. I assume the wings on the T-33s were the same. As you can see both a/c were in very clean condition. As to the unit these a/c belong to, I really can't say. Going through my notes, which are not all that good, the best I can come up with is the 5070th Air Defense Wing. Again, maybe some of your readers can shed more light on the unit(s).
Beauty! The unit's unknown but 56-1622 is absolutely gorgeous in that arctic conspicuity paint. She ended her days in Pakistan but was every inch a member or the Silver Air Force when Richard photographed her back in '61!  Richard Bitler

Not a T-Bird but my-oh-my! These RB-57As are a real treat, pudding bowl canopies and all. These aircraft were apparently used for air sampling---remember, this was back in the days when everybody did their nuclear weapons testing above ground. These Martin RBs just may win the prize today! Richard, thanks for sharing!  Richard Bitler
You Can't See Much, But You Gotta Like What's There!

I figured we'd hear something from the Morgan Boys after we ran those MOANG Mustangs a few installments back,  but I didn't expect this. Here's what frequent contributor Mark Morgan had to say about a really neat photo:

Enjoyed the MOANG photo sequence, here's something from across the river: two F-51Hs of the INANG 113th FIS, launching from Scott,  photo, taken prior to the 113th returning to state control and the activation of the 85th FIS in its stead.  I pulled the photo out of the 375th Air Mobility Wing archives.  MK
You can't really see much of the airplanes, but it's a pretty neat photo all the same. The P-51Hs have rocket rails under the wings; the Mustang wasn't much in the air-to-mud arena but that wouldve been her role by the time this shot was taken. Check out that ramp in front of the hangar!  375th AMW via Mark Morgan

Once More Into the WayBack Machine

which was, if I remember correctly, a regular part of the old (and treasured, at least by me) "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show". It's also a pretty good way to introduce our next segment, which concerns a decal brand I'll bet most of you have never heard of; Nordam.

I think I paid fifty cents for these decals back in 1968, and was darned glad to get them. I never did get around to building the Corsair to put them on, which would've been a detailed Hawk kit, I think, but I've kept the stickies all these years. If memory serves they haven't yellowed any, because they looked like that when I bought them from Dibble's Arts and Hobbies in San Antonio. And yes, I was danged happy to get them!

Nowadays most decal instructions are printed in the four-color process, and some even include photographs of the subjects covered. Things were a little bit different back in the 60s. Nordam apparently did at least three other sheets, since this one is Br-4, but I don't have a clue what they might be. These decals were somebody's labor of love, no doubt about it. It was a simpler time...

A Second Look at a Big Honkin' P-40, But Not the One You Thought It Would Be

It's been three years, give or take, since Hasegawa released their 1/32nd scale P-40E Warhawk kit. I was impressed with it the first time I saw it (and considered it to be the quantum leap that it is over the 1968-vintage Revell effort in this scale), but apparently most people weren't, since you almost never see them built. That's a pity, because it's a darned good kit. Let's take a look:

Hasegawa P-40E Warhawk, 1/32 Scale, Kit # ST29

We’ve needed a good 1/32nd P-40E forever, it seems. The Revell offering of same dates back to 1968; it was one of that esteemed company’s first three offerings in the scale. It was a ground-breaking model when it was new and it’s still possible to build an outstanding replica from the kit, but it definitely shows its age and getting a good model from it requires more than a little bit of experience on the part of the builder. In point of fact, your never-humble reviewer had one on the stack, ready to start, when Hasegawa announced the impending release of theirs. It’s a good kit. It’s also over forty years old, so it’s time we had a new one, right?

OK then, we’ve determined we needed a new P-40E in 1/32nd, and a new one we now have, so what have we got?

Well, here's what we've got, for starters. I've never understood that whole "here's the box with all the pieces in it" school of thought, and I honestly don't care how many parts there are in that box either. Me, I'm just interested in what I can make out of the kit, so here's a photo of same. This is my representation of Preddy's "Tarheel" while with the 9th FS/49th FG ca. early 1942 near Darwin.

Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first. They messed up the windscreen big-time by putting in an extra, totally nonexistent frame on each side. Some have surmised that they were trying to replicate the clear vision window that appears on the port side of the windscreen of the P-40L through N but messed up and put it on both sides instead. That may be what happened, but there’s another possibility too; I say that because the window etched in that windscreen has no similarity at all to the one found on the later ‘Hawks. Take a look at page 19 of Hess’ 49th Fighter Group, Aces of the Pacific, Osprey, 2004; there’s a photo there of Tom Fowler sitting in a P-40E at Darwin during 1942. Look at the windscreen, and you’ll see the “extra” frame, after which you’ll notice that it’s actually the windscreen bow, and it’s on the other side of the cockpit. It looks like an extra frame because of the angle of the photo, but it isn’t one. I’m thinking that photos like that one, plus a dollop of inaccurate drawings, led somebody to add this particular spurious feature to the kit. The Good News is that it’s entirely fixable; it took your correspondent (that would be me, for those of you not blessed with the gift of Victorian hyperbole) approximately 30 minutes to fix the canopy by the simple expedient of sanding out the old frames (taking care not to sand a flat in the windscreen) and hitting them with successively finer grades of polishing paper until the kit part was all shiny and clear again. It couldn't be an easier thing to fix.

Here's a shot of the place where that evil, wicked, mean and nasty extra windscreen frame used to live. It took all of 30 minutes to make it go away using 600g sandpaper and a succession of polishing cloths. Those shoulder harnesses are from some generic Eduard side of US belts and yes, Virginia, they are properly drooped, and mounted, behind the seat frame. That ring sight came from a set of brass ring and bead sights that may have been made by True Details, although I honestly can't remember. They were sold as 1/48th scale parts, but I think they work better here. That's a big honkin' piece of South Texas House Dust that's partially obscuring the serial placard on the fus and no; I'm not going to go back and re-shoot this. You're stuck with what you've got...

A lot of folks have said nice things about the level of detailing in the cockpit, and it is indeed a nicely detailed cockpit. It is also, however, not entirely accurate and is oversimplified to boot. This is pretty much in line with what seems to be the standard from Hasegawa as far as 1/32nd scale cockpits are concerned: Provide an adequate, if not great, cockpit, and let the modeler replace it if they think they need more. Strange as it may seem, I don’t disagree with that philosophy at all. The stock cockpit is adequate for most needs, there’s always that Eduard photoetch set, and maye even a resin cockpit, although I'm not sure of that. You could also use the kit-supplied pilot figure if you wanted to dodge that particular bullet. He’s definitely not your Hasegawa Pilot Figure of Yore; this guy is excellent, well up to standard, and would make a worthy addition to the model were you so inclined. I wasn't, but that’s just how I am. You might like having the little guy in there.

You can see a little bit of the cockpit here, and also see how the color has shifted due to the position of my lighting. The cockpit detail is more than adequate if somewhat spurious in a few places, and there's little need to invest in aftermarket unless you're planning on entering your model in competition. A set of belts and harnesses are a necessity in this scale, but a set of generic Eduard belts should fix you right up. One other thing while we're here; Hasegawa gives you lenses for the little blue navigation lights that were on the really early P-40s up through the "D" model. They don't belong on a production "E" and need to be installed, sanded smooth, and painted with the rest of the airframe.

Here's the other side showing, what else; the other side of the cockpit. Notice that the aforementioned South Texas House Dust cluster is now gone. Check out those tubular exhaust stacks. They're kit stock and look pretty good, I think. As a bonus, you get another view of where that spurious windcreen frame used to be in this shot.

Our final gripe, and it’s really more of a comment than a complaint, concerns the exhaust stacks. They’re entirely correct, beautifully molded, and fit like a glove. They look great on the model too, but some later E-models came with fishtail exhaust stacks, and all the kit provides are the earliest, tubular style. That will limit markings options to some extent—take a look at any of the several histories on the 49th FG and you’ll see what we mean. The 49th was probably the first outfit to be successful with the Warhawk in combat and they were initially equipped with very early E-models (including a fair number of “export” aircraft), but examination of photos shows both styles of exhaust treatments on their airplanes at Darwin. There's an opportunity for QuickBoost, I think...

Here's a better shot of the exhaust stacks. They're each made up of two pieces and the seam mimics the seam on the Real Thing, the end result being a nice set of early P-40E exhaust stacks. Check out that nose art; Milton Bell mad that dragon decal for me before anybody had come out with aftermarket for this kit. Thanks, Milton!

There's been a lot of criticism of the way Hasegawa designed the fuselage on this kit, with some folks citing (and complaining about) the modular approach the manufacturer have taken with the thing. I strongly suspect that the folks doing most of the complaining haven’t actually built the kit yet, because all those pieces fit, and fit well. I was able to simply press the fuselage panels into place after they’d been cleaned up, then run a little cement in the seams and sand them smooth. The two halves of the tail are a little bit sloppy in their fit, it’s true, but they aren’t so bad that application of a little Modeling 101 won’t fix things toot sweet. You’ll also have to smooth out the lower aft fuselage after you’ve plugged the two holes back there, but that’s no big deal either. There goes another Cherished Myth Born of Internet Modeling right down the old tubes—the Hasegawa Warhawk is extremely buildable right from the box.

This is something I did that you might want to try for yourself. The kit provides a lot of little clear parts you can use to replace the molded-on nav lights with. I don't like the way they look, so I paint the nav lights flat white, and then hit them with the appropriate Tamiya clear (but tinted) acrylic color. I think the effect looks pretty good, but you might not agree with that, in which case I invite you not to do it. That wire is part of the IFF suite that graced the early P-40s. It didn't hang around for long, and I honestly don't know if George Preddy's No. 85 had it or not, but it certainly could have so I modeled it. Once again, if you don't want to...

There are the usual optional “not for use” parts on the trees, and we can hope that the E, K, and N models released to this point won't end up being the end of the line for this particular family of kits. A bomb and a drop tank provided for external stores. Hasegawa also supply us with the ring and bead sight that sat on the forward fuselage of every P-40E ever built, but the ring part of that ensemble is an unusable blob of solid plastic—replace it with an etched one out of your aftermarket collection and move on.

The wheel wells are adequately detailed, but you should know that the P-40E was fitted with canvas wheel well liners at the factory so you may not see much of that particular detail at all, depending on how you choose to model that area of the airplane. The flaps are molded up, which is a Good Thing in our books since few real airplanes are parked with flaps down, certain North American Aviation products notwithstanding. The main gear struts are modeled properly, being compressed but not overly so, and the model has that P-40 “sit” to it.

It's a Big Ole' P-40, ya'll. George Preddy flew two different No. 85s with the 49th; this is the early one that was lost in the training collision that resulted in the death of Lt. Sauber near Darwin. The airplane had "TARHEEL" painted on the left side of the nose, which I replicated using dry transfers. The 49th FG's "Java Flight" (made up from survivors of that campaign) had the "Java Dragon" painted on the right side of the nose, while the spinners of the "Dragon Flight" aircraft have been described as being painted red. Surviving photos, at least the ones I've seen, are all in black and white but seem to show the front half of the spinner in a different color from the back part, so that's how this one was done. It makes sense to me. About three months after I finished this model one of the decal companies came out with markings for this airplane. Ain't it always the way?

All the clear bits are provided, including a fair number that you may opt not to use (for the nav lights) or be instructed to omit or paint over. Such is the nature of The Modular Hawk. One thing you probably will like is the way the quarter panel windows and windscreen are handled (those accursed extra frames notwithstanding). Hasegawa’s approach to these components makes short work of a normally tricky part of any P-40 build. The actual canopy is provided twice to cater for either an open or closed canopy. Whichever you choose, sand off the little triangular doublers found at the base of the windscreen back by the canopy. Those show up on later P-40 variants, but generally not on the E model.

Surface detail on the airframe is subdued and appropriate, and could provide a standard for other manufacturers to follow. In keeping with their more recent efforts, Hasegawa have molded the holes in the ends of the blast tubes for the guns, a nice touch for sure and one that kept me from drilling off-center holes in 6 guns—YES!!! Dimensions are right in there, and the model looks like a P-40 once done. Furthermore, everything fits. Amost no filler was used in the construction of this thing. (And regarding filler, there are 5 little panels in the nose that do have to be filled in for an accurate E. Hase shows you which ones to fill; it just can’t get much easier than that!)

Hasegawa likes to give you little bitty clear pieces that don't belong on the airplane. One of them used to live in the front of that landing gear knuckle, but it doesn't belong there. Fill it in, sand it smooth, and paint over it. Looks like the Dreaded Color Shift is back, huh?

Decals are provided for two aircraft; John Landers’ “Texas Longhorn” (ET601) from the 9th FS/49th FG ca. 1942, and Ed Rector’s #104 from the 76th FS/23rd FG as operated during July of 1942. Those decals are a little thick by contemporary standards but lay right down when applied and are perfectly usable, far better in fact than Hase's poor (and largely unfounded) reputation for crummy decals would suggest. This last is a Good Thing, since there are few aftermarket decals in production for the P-40E in this scale, at least not right now this minute.

All things said, I like this kit, and I like it a lot. The shortcomings, and in particular that goofy windscreen treatment, guarantee that this is only a really good kit, but not a great one. It could’ve been great, you know, and it wouldn’t have taken much effort for Hasegawa to do it. Still, it’s got to be one of the best P-40 models ever done, and it’s a worthy stable mate for Hase’s quarter-scalers. Thanks, Hasegawa!

The Relief Tube

Well, once again I've missed the obvious on a Navy airplane (and am really surprised we didn't hear about it from Tommy or Rick!). Here's a correction on one of those F4D shots from Mark Nankivil:

...the posts you made earlier with the Skyrays should be VF-23 for the one being refueled. The Skyray did have a quartet of 20mm cannons along with the Sidewinders. That's my Father on the VF(AW)-5 example. My friend Mark Frankel has a book coming out from Specialty Press on the Skyray and Skylancer - I've reviewed some of the chapters and provided some of the photos in the book including the cover photo which was from a slide my Father shot 53 years ago! Sure glad I kept them safe all these years.

We ran a shot of a Warbird last time around, and I knew the caption would get a comment or two. Valued friend and one-time mentor Maddog John Kerr has been shooting Warbirds ever since I've known him and had this to say about that:

Yes Phil, it is me, old warbird lover, and yes I agree that a lot of them are no where close to correcting markings, paintjobs radios, etc.  However, you need to come out the darkness and check out some of the great restorations of the past 10-12 years.  Old Mad Dog.

John included a shot of a restored Brewster FG-1 that definitely looked like The Real Deal, but he didn't take the picture so I didn't run it. I'm holding out for some Maddog originals on this one! How about it, Maddog?

And That's What I Know

Which means it must be That Time again. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again real soon!

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