Wednesday, May 23, 2012

One Darned Thing After Another, Is It Hap or Is It Hamp?, Some Furies, A Stormovik, And Sandy

It Probably Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

It being the software that Google is kind enough to provide, free of charge, to anybody who wants to put a blog on the internet. It is, by and large, a pretty good service considering the price, and it's given us over a hundred blog entries during the course of the past year or so. Like pretty much everything else in life, though, there's a fly in the buttermilk.

When we started this thing a year or so ago it was with a different version of Blogger (that's what they call the software, just in case you couldn't figure that one out for yourself!). We got comfortable with that version of the thing, so it was to be expected that they'd change it, which they did. Then they changed the way they present our photography, and promptly changed it back again to the old way, which lasted for a month or so before the photos changed yet again to the filmstrip presentation that most of us so soundly dislike. Then they changed the editorial format again, to the New, Improved Blogger. We don't think we like it very much (which isn't true---since we're revising this issue as we go along we can honestly say it's actually better than the old one we thought we preferred), which is why you haven't seen a post in a while. We're still whizzed off at The Picture Pirates too, but mostly we're annoyed by yet another unrequested change in the software.

That said, the software is extremely affordable (free, that is) and seems to be working ok; in point of fact we may even grow to like it, although we aren't going to tell that to Google. Once again, thanks for your patience and no; we aren't in the final stages of an untimely demise---far from it. Why, we're in our prime! For those of you who have just joined the site (we're up to 100 members now), a hearty welcome. To everyone, New Guys and Old Timers alike, thanks once again for your patience.

A Zeke By Any Other Name

Let's talk a little personal history for a minute. Our dad was a lifer; career military in the US armed forces. He was at Milne Bay and Port Moresby for a brief period of time. He was a grunt, and he walked over part of the Owen Stanley Mountains in order to take part on the assaults on Lae and Buna. He walked through Lae after it had been rendered relatively helpless, but he fought at Buna with the 32nd Division, slogging through the dismal swampland that characterized the place and fighting dugout by dugout and bunker by bunker until a hard-won victory was achieved. We asked him about it once or twice---what was it like to be there---and we never got an answer, just silence and a faraway look, as if he was back there for a while. It was a horrible place to fight, but it had to be done and the 32nd did it.

There was a Japanese airfield at Buna too, which was captured during the course of the fighting. The once-invincible Tainan Ku had aircraft there, several of which have become modeling icons because they were photographed in considerable detail when those fields were occupied. The remarkable collection of Bobby Rocker includes several images of A6M3 "Zeke 32s", colloquially known as "Hap" or "Hamp" depending on the time period under discussion. We'd like to share those photos with you today. Yes, you've seen most of them before, but probably not in this degree of resolution. Thanks, Bobby!

It's the norm nowadays to discuss the color the Zero-Sen was painted in, but we're going to side-step that thorny issue and just say that the Tainan Ku abandoned quite a few aircraft at Buna. V-187 was one of the more famous ones, and this shot has appeared in a multitude of publications over the years. It's a pretty neat photo because it illustrates the prop and spinner treatment (and yes; we know the front of that spinner is missing!) The balance of the aircraft is that still-illusive Mitsubishi airframe color, and the cowling is dark blue-black.  Rocker Collection

And here's a side view of the same aircraft. The command stripe was probably a cobalt blue, and the presentation inscription is a particularly nice touch. If we remember correctly this aircraft was featured on the decal sheet of the prehistoric (early 1960s) Tamiya 1/72nd scale kit of the "Hamp". It's colorful and would make for an exceptional model today.  Rocker Collection

Another presentation bird, V-190 has been shown in a great many publications too. In this view the cowling's blue-black is beginning to fade---the surviving aircraft at Buna ended up with cowlings that look to be the same color of the rest of the airframe due to sun fading. We can tell you from the personal recollections of a family member (what few recollections he shared of that terrible place) that New Guinea was hot, snake and insect-infested, and generally miserable. It was a crummy war for our guys, but it wasn't any better for the Japanese.  Rocker Collection

They called it Bloody Buna. The place was a swamp, a stinking, fetid swamp. It was hellishly hot, and ridden with disease. The staff guys in McArthur's high command badly underestimated the Japanese defender's strength and fortifications, and the 32nd Division paid dearly for their mistake. It's popular nowadays to call those guys The Greatest Generation. That title doesn't begin to pay them back for what they did at Buna, or what they endured. If you ever get to meet one of the survivors of that battle shake his hand and thank him. You owe him.  Rocker Collection

A special note: We expect folks to do the right-click and save thing with our photography so they can have it for their personal collections. We endorse that, and we encourage it. Please remember, though, if you're going to put them in Flickr or some other photo-sharing site, you need to credit them to Bobby's collection. Yes, they're offical US Army photos, but Bobby Rocker collected them; you didn't. Let's give some credit where credit's due, ya'll!

Those Fighting Furies

As you've probably noticed, we've got a love affair with North American's FJ-3 and -3M Fury. It is, to our way of thinking, the prettiest of the Sabre variants, even if its service in the Fleet was brief. Here, thanks once again to Doug Siegfried of The Tailhook Association, are some tantalizing FJ images for your perusal. Yes, you can save them. No, you can't publish them without giving The Tailhook Association credit for them.

Swept wings and limited power meant that the Fury was a handful around the boat, but it held the line until more capable fighters were available. This prime example of the type belongs to VF-51 and  shows just how colorful the 50s Navy could be. It also illustrates the FJ's "sit" to great advantage, just in case we ever see a decent kit of the -3!  Tailhook Association

Taxing in. The FJ had a really goofy-looking wingfold, but it worked just fine in practice. Check out the pilot's flight suit and helmet---almost makes you want to start putting pilots in your Navy jets, don't they?  Tailhook Association

Pretty maids all in a row. These aircraft belong to VF-53 and were aboard the Kearsarge during its 1957-58 WesPac deployment. Talk about an evocative photo!  Tailhook Collection

Also from Fighting Fifty-Three, this shot provides us with a fine image of the Navy's cold weather flight gear during the late 50s and early 60s. It was a simpler time.  Tailhook Association

Some things never change. The Ordies are loading an early AIM-9 to this FJ-3M, while assorted open fuselage panels give us a look at one of the gun charging system's oxygen bottles and the port-side gun's 20mm ammunition cans. If you just have to open up the panels on your model, this is the way to do it. Just ask that Officer (possibily the pilot; check out the name under the canopy rail)leaning on the refuelling probe!  Tailhook Association
OK, you aren't having a Bad Day or experiencing an internet-induced excursion into a less-than-sane condition; we published the blog by accident last night, well before it was complete and, in point of fact, before it had even gone through a rough edit. There were a couple of substantial mistakes in the captioning of the FJ shots as a result, but thanks to quick e-mails from a couple of our readers (thanks, Rex and Morgo), those glitches are now fixed. We'll get this edition of the blog finished up tonight, but we wanted you to know why you're getting all the revised postings for this one---we never were very bright where 'puters were concerned!  Ed.

Is It Really Better Just Because It's New?

You've probably got us figured out by now---iconoclastic is a term that could well apply to our outlook on life, and that outlook is frequently defined in this blog. That said, let's talk for just a minute about the Brand Shiny New Tamiya Il-2 kit (or, more properly, the OLD Accurate Miniatures kit) that all the internet guys are expending all those electrons on.

First things first---we have an abiding interest in things Soviet as applied to The Great Patriotic War, so we'll probably buy the new kit sooner or later and, judging from the sprue shots that have cropped up all over the internet, we'll probably build it as soon as we get it. Still, and we'll maintain this until Hades freezes over if necessary, the old Accurate Miniatures kit isn't bad at all, so you ought not go throwing yours away just yet. (Send them to us if you don't want them!) Here's an example:

Here it is in all its black-and-green glory; the newly "obsolete" A-M 1/48th scale kit of the single-seat Il-2. We've read several places that the nose on this kit is a bear (no pun intended) to properly install on the model---this is, in our opinion, patently untrue. Those of you who have built kits by this manufacturer probably remember their admonition to follow their instructions to the letter. If you do that you won't have any trouble with the installation of that nose, or any other part of the model. If you don't, you probably will. Pay attention, ya'll!

A-M kitted the single seat version of the Il-2, as seen here, and the late-War cranked-wing two-seat variant while Eduard, who once sold a special edition of the kit under their name, issued a limited release of the aircraft in its far more common straight-winged two-seat variation. The Il-2 was a great big honking airplane, and the Accurate Minatures kits do it full justice. They have most assuredly not been rendered Instantly Obsolete by the admittedly better-detailed Tamiya offering.

Like a lot of folks, we replaced A-M's wing guns with brass rod, and we used QuickBoost exhausts because it seemed to be the thing to do at the time. The rest of the model is straight out of the kit. This view shows the inboard bomb installation and yes; that bright blue is correct if the experts in such matters are to be believed.

So there you have it---the "old" A-M Il-2 is a decent and perfectly adequate kit that's not quite as good as the brand-spanking new Tamiya offering. It's well worth building and can be found on the trade tables at model shows for next to nothing these days. Don't count the old girl out just because she's got a couple of miles on her, ya'll!

Hey Joe, Where You Goin' With That Gun In Your Hand?

In this particular case it's highly doubtful anybody's going out to shoot their old lady, but the guys driving these "Sandys" are going out to do some serious hurt to The Bad Guys. It's possible, just barely possible, that we've run these photos before, but we're too lazy to go back through the files to check so here you go---they're either new to you or they aren't! Either way, we hope you enjoy them!

The 56th Special Ops Wing spent the late 1960s in Southeast Asia operating one of the two best stepchildren ever adopted by the United States Air Force, the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. Quite a few of the 56th's birds flew with nose art, but 517 didn't. We're running the shot because it defines an era, and because it provides an excellent depiction of one of many typical ordnance loads used by the aircraft in SEA. Oh, and pay attention to the antenna suite too, because none of the available kits of the A-1 depict them properly.  G. Merritt via Replica in Scale

Bad News on the wing. Go read virtually any history of the air war over Southeast Asia and you'll read account after account of rescues of downed American aviators in the face of horrendous opposition from the guys on the ground who didn't want said aviatiors to go home that day. When you read those accounts, think of the helo drivers and the PJs who went in there to pick those guys up, and think of the pilots of that 30-year-old clunk of an attack aircraft, borrowed from another service, who went in with the rescap assets to provide suppressive fire. "Sandy" was a radio call sign used for the A-1s involved in those operations. "Sandy" is spelled G U T S.  G. Merritt via Replica in Scale

Leaving the Home Drome to go look for Bad Guys. By the end of the war the A-1 had become vulnerable to enemy defenses and was worn out to boot, but it was definitely the right airplane, in the right place, and at the right time.  G. Merritt via Replica in Scale

A final word on these photos; they were taken by G. Merritt and are from our collection and need to be properly credited if they're lifted and run on any site other than this one. You guys need to man up and do the right thing about provenance, ok? OK.

And that's it for today; no Happy Snaps and no Relief Tube, because we've got some other things we need to do. With any luck this will be the last of the abbreviated installments, and will signal the return to some sort of viable schedule. We'll meet again real soon, but until then be good to your neighbor!