Monday, August 10, 2020

Not Really a Mystery, New Guinea Mitchells, A Havoc, Some Spiffy Decals, A Gift From Norm, and some DaNang Druts,

You Just Have to Try

Anyone who reads these pages on a regular basis knows the site is big on the 5th Air Force in the SWPAC during the Second World War. Our pages have been filled with Pacific B-17s, P-39s, P-40s, P-38s, A-20s, and on and on and on. It's an interest that gets a lot of attention around here. That interest bleeds over into the world of scale modeling as well with---you guessed it---lots of P-39s, P-40s, etc etc, being built.

One of our personal favorites in terms of modeling subjects is Bell's star-crossed P-39 Airacobra, a beautiful airplane to behold, albeit one cursed with relatively poor performance as employed in the SouthWest Pacific against the Japanese in the role of air-to-air combat aircraft and no; we aren't going to discuss the type's somewhat remarkable performance against Mr. Hitler's Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front or the fact that it held rough parity against the Japanese even during the Bad Old Days of the early war in the Pacific. Those are a whole different ball game and a first-class muddier of waters. We aren't, in point of fact, going to discuss the P-39/P-400's combat career at all, at least not today! What we are going to do is discuss one particular aspect of one particular kit and apply what we learn to our personal outlook and philosophy regarding the hobby. 

Let's start with a statement of fact: There are presently three mainstream kits of the Airacobra in 1/48th scale. Monogram started the ball rolling during the late 1960s with a kit that is still viable, if somewhat crude by today's Whiz-Bang Look At That standards, followed by Eduard's excellent offering from the  1990s and, finally, the "ultimate" Hasegawa kit that was produced around the turn of the present century. That Hasegawa kit is generally conceded to be the best of the available offerings, P-39-wise, but I have a personal fondness for the older Eduard kit and the point of today's diatribe lies within the polystyrene hull of that offering so it's going to be the only kit we discuss today.

Here's the deal, Lucille: The Eduard kit is sufficiently accurate but with a couple of caveats:

  • Detail is said to be lacking by contemporary standards, which is largely true.
  • The wing and wing trailing edges are described as being too thick, which is also true.
  • The cockpit doors, which are molded separately from the fuselage, fit poorly and can't be installed in the closed position, which is absolutely positively false.
  • The canopy doesn't fit properly, which is also false.
The thing is, a completed Eduard P-39 looks like a P-39, with the proper sit and featuring the pretty but in-your-face appearance of the real thing. I happen to like the kit a lot. That's one of those "your mileage may vary" sorts of things but there you go, besides which everything that's listed as a kit fault can be dealt with. You can easily address the allegedly dated details and the wing can be thinned down if you really want to go to that much trouble---I personally never do that, but you're certainly welcome to! 

What I absolutely do fix each and every time I build that kit are the canopy fit and the cockpit doors. Both subjects have been covered previously here, but every so often the internet crowd fall back to that old "the canopy and doors don't fit on the Eduard  Airacobra" song and dance which makes the discussion relevant again. Consider this:

The canopy doesn't fit right because the fuselage wants to be a little too wide in the area of the cockpit. If you build the kit and squeeze the fuselage sides in at the point where the aft cockpit bulkhead (the one just behind the seat) comes out of said fuselage and hit that junction point between said bulkhead and the fuselage with a little Tamiya Extra Thin or similar, and hold it together until the resulting joint has cured, the canopy problem will go away. Gone forever.

The greater problem, and the one that continually fuels that aforementioned internet crowd, is the fit of the doors. They're just fine if you want to model them open but horrible if you want to depict one or both of them in the closed position because those doors just can't be made to fit. That's what they say (the internet crowd, that is) but fortunately for us it's not true at all. 

The Eduard P-39/P-400 family is, in point of fact, very delicately and precisely tooled. The kit is a good one and all you have to do to make those doors fit properly is to lightly sand their perimeter with a fine grade of abrasive paper; we're talking something in the 1000-2000 grit range here. Just be careful when you clean up the sprue attach points and lightly employ that sandpaper around the perimeter of the part, taking special care to keep the door hinges intact shapewise (that means STRAIGHT!). Go slowly, fit as you go, and those doors can be made to fit perfectly. The notion that you can't successfully model them in the closed position is a polystyrene old-wive's tale, pure and simple, but that's not the point of this missive.

Let's take those P-39 doors as an example and a road to a greater truth, using my personal experience with the kit as the driver. I like the P-39 and have quite an interest in the type as used in New Guinea during those bad old days of 1942, and I prefer the Eduard kit of same for reasons we won't go into today. (Yes I just said that a minute ago, I know I did, but I'm feeling even more garrulous than normal today. Just humor me!) I've built several of them and have modeled them with one door open, both doors open, and no doors open, and those doors all fit on each one of the several models I've built of the airplane, as do the canopies. That's not because I'm any sort of superior scale modeler because I'm most assuredly not that. I wanted to build some Airacobras for the collection and I wanted them to look like they're supposed to so I took some time and figured out how to do it. I worked the problem and that, my friends, is the point of today's ramble. 

Let's hold this truth to be self-evident: If you want to do any given modeling thing, regardless of what it is, you probably can. Just think it through, figure out the best way to execute whatever action you determine, and DO IT. If you're new to the hobby try that sort of thing out on an inexpensive kit first because there is most assuredly a learning curve involved. Keep the mindset that it's a plastic model airplane kit and the fate of nations doesn't hinge on how well you build the thing; think it through and do it. Yes; you'll fail sometimes and you may even trash a couple of kits along the way but you'll also learn and you'll grow as a modeler. Remember this; if you don't try to stretch your boundaries and grow  you won't ever become truly proficient at the hobby, and in consequence you'll never ever get the doors on your Eduard P-39 to fit properly. You'll have problems with a lot of other things too. It's a universal truth: There ain't nothin' to it but to do it!

That's my story and I'm by-golly sticking with it!

It Never Was a Puzzle

There's a list of things that sometimes confuse and confound scale modelers, and one of them is that washed-out straw-colored coating sometimes seen on the face of pre-War US Navy aircraft propellers. You know the drill as well as I do; somebody will publish such a photo on an internet forum and the answers to what it actually is will come pouring in. Unfortunately, those answers are generally wrong so let's straighten this tiny mystery out once and for all!

We've all seen this image a thousand times before, but we're going to see it again today because of those prop blades. Notice the washed-out straw color that covers them? That's the result of a chromate conversion process, colloquially know as "Alodine", that aids in preventing or reducing corrosion on aluminum and it's neither a paint nor a lubricant that's gone astray. It's been used in the aviation industry for many decades and, in a somewhat less toxic variation than the original, is still around. It can be applied by dipping a part in a solution vat or by hand. This well-known and often-published photo of a Grumman F3F-3 at NAS Corpus Christi illustrates the point perfectly.   Possibly from the Life Archives but we aren't sure!

Here's a more contemporary illustration of the process, seen on the gas bag under this 419th TFTS CF-5D of the Canadian Armed Forces photographed on the transient ramp at Randolph in May of 1984. Alodine is most often used prior to priming or painting an aluminum surface so it's a little unusual to see that tank in it's "raw" state on an operational aircraft, but check out the way it looks and compare it to the photograph of those prop blades immediately above. Everything old is new again, eh?   Phillip Friddell

A Day Without B-25s is Like a Day Without Sunshine!

We think so, anyway, so here's a photo of an early B-25s sitting on the ground in New Guinea for your consideration. It is, is, as is so often the case around here, from the collection of Bobby Rocker, but you probably already knew that!

Almost ready to rumble, this 498th BS/345th BG B-25D nick-named "Little Nel" sits on what passes for a hardstand at 7-Mile. The photograph leaves a bit to be desired but it's of considerable value to us because it provides a good view of the tail structure where the plexiglas cap once lived. It was fairly standard practice for the B-25 groups in General George's Fifth Bomber Command to place a stinger gun back there, and this shot illustrates what the area that surrounds such an installation looks like. The internal structure would absolutely disappear on a model but that surrounding area would stick out like a neon sign, causing us to holler THANK YOU, BOBBY! for sharing this photo with us!   Rocker Collection

And While We're At It

Here's "Hawkins" (formerly "Runt's Roost") and "Here's Howe", B-25Ds of the 90th BS/3rd BG, returning from Wewak on 17 August 1943:

This photo is certainly evocative but it doesn't tell the story very well. The scene is almost placid, with all those Mitchells just cruising along in loose formation, almost as though they were out for an afternoon training hop. The excitement and, in all likelihood, the sheer terror of the mission just past can't be reflected in a photo like this one. For the guys in those airplanes it was in all probablity a very good day to be alive! Modelers take note of the different national insignia presentation on this pair of aircraft!   Gerry Kersey Collection

Then There's That Other One

The 3rd BG was well-known as an operator of the Douglas A-20 Havoc. We show a lot of B-25s on this site, with a great many of them being from the 3rd, but A-20s are a relatively scarce commodity here which leads us to an attempt at making amends:

Here's a magnificant view of A-20G 43-9422 "Bub's Brother" of the 13th BS/3rd BG posing for Bill Swain's camera in theater sometime during 1944. That airplane is probably in excellent mechanical condition but the paintwork is another story entirely; All Beat to Snot is a term that comes to mind in that regard. Take a look at those guys in the cockpit peering out at the photographer while you're at it---if that was a beat-up old jalopy they could pass for a couple of college kids out looking for fun, except they're not in an old jalopy and the fun they get to have in that airplane is heavily tainted by a dark side that can't be ignored. Let's raise a glass...   Bill Swain via Gerry Kersey Collection

Not What You Normally See Around Here

This project focusses very specifically on American military aviation, although we sometimes run photographs of models that don't fit that parameter. Here's one such example:

Sometimes you see an airplane that you just have to model, and this not-quite-finished Accurate Miniatures Yak-1B in 1/48th scale is an example of that very thing. Your humble (?) editor is presently off on a tangent building aircraft used by the former USSR during their Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany; a lot of those airplanes are colorful beyond belief and the history is certainly there, providing ample reason to build up a collection of VVS fighters and bombers from that tragic period in our planet's past.

With that as a premise it's only natural to presume that a Yak-1 would have to join the collection at some point in time and in oddly enough one was actually in the planning stages when that particular mental exercise got moved up several notches while browsing Exito Decals' web site, where I discovered a sheet titled Yak Attack. One of the three airplanes featured on that decal sheet was so over the top and so well documented as to make it the Yak-1b of choice for the collection; an aircraft of the 31st GIAP/6th GIAD, 4th Ukrainian Front ca spring or summer of 1944. This model, which still requires weathering and an antenna suite to be called complete, is the end result of my acquisition of the sheet. Is this a colorful airplane or what?

I might also mention that these decals are among the best waterslide markings I've ever used. They went on flawlessly over the model's finish of Akan paint (yet another absolutely superior product!) without any glitches whatsoever. They conformed beautifully, even that dragon that's busily engaged in consuming the airplane's horizontal stabilizer, they laid down perfectly without any issues whatsoever, and they definitely make the model "pop". The documentation supporting the decals is superb as well and could be the poster child for how to do that sort of thing. We don't normally review much around here but we just can't say enough good about these decals. Like the model or don't like it at all, that's your choice, but those decals---holy cow! 


We Rarely Hear About Those Guys

Our readers know Norman Camou primarily through the aviation-oriented YouTube footage he finds and shares with us. There's no YouTube today, however. Instead, Norm has discovered a document we suspect anyone interested in the war in the Pacific will find fascinating. It's a study of the Netherland East Indies Army aviation arm in Australia and India during the Second World War. It fills in a significant gap in our knowledge of the participants in that theater and is well worth your time. The book is in PDF format and is free; all you have to do is click on the link below and download it. 

Many thanks to Norman for finding and sharing this work with us!

But wait! There's more! (Sorry, ya'll; I just had to do that!) 

Norm sends along quite a bit of material and here's a bonus he found on YouTube that we think you'll enjoy. It's and interview with a couple of SBD radio operators (known as "gunners" to most aviation enthusiasts). It provides an insight we rarely have into the crews of the mighty SBD. Take a look!

Thanks again, Norm, and keep it up!

Making the Best of Things

There was a time, back in the mid-1960s, when the Marine Corps' electronic warfare mission was performed by the venerable Douglas EF-10B Skyknight, an airplane that had begun its service career in an age of underpowered jet engines. That circumstance led to extremely poor performance in most service situations and was bad enough during peacetime deployments and the type's use during the Korean War. The hot air of Vietnam, coupled with the aircraft's gross combat weight, resulted in  performance that was marginal at best, leading in turn to its Marine Corps nickname of "Drut" which is, for those of our readership who might not know, the way the word "turd" appears when it's spelled backwards. 'Nuff said, eh?

Anyway, it's been a few issues since we've featured anything from Jim Sullivan's collection so it must surely be time to do it again! Let's take a look at a couple of "Druts" in Southeast Asia!

The Marine's VMCJ-1 were the sole operators of the EF-10B in theater, using them in combat during an iterim period prior to their replacement by the vastly improved Grumman EA-6A. This image shows us one of their airplanes, 125793, as it taxis in post-mission during August of 1966. the airplane is so clean as to be called spotless by operational standards. She was lost in-theater in an operational accident, with both crewmembers killed, on 17 July, 1968.    Fritz Gemeinhardt via Jim Sullivan

This image is a little soft but is well worth publishing as it depicts a somewhat shopworn EF-10B, 127051, on the busy DaNang ramp, also in August of 1966. Modelers may want to note the staining aft of the engine exhausts, which is substantial on this airframe and typical of the type when that area wasn't frequently cleaned. Keep reading because there's more to see on this bird!   Fritz Gemeinhardt via Jim Sullivan

Here's the other side of RM-3, taken on the same day as the other two photographs in this set. Remember that part where we mentioned the staining aft of the engine exhausts? Well, that's not the only place a "Drut" can get dirty! Note the staining under the intakes, the generally worn appearance of the airframe and, in particular, the staining forward of the 20mm muzzles, caused by firing the guns. Shooting at things wasn't the normal mission for the EF-10B during the SEA fracas; that more along the lines of providing threat warning and ECM support for Navy, Marine, and Air Force missions against North Vietnam's air defense radar network. In theory nothing in that mission would involve using guns. In theory, that is! Finally, those mission tallies behind the aircraft modex tell a story; there's no doubt that 127051 saw the elephant and did it more than once!   Fritz Gemeinhardt via Jim Sullivan

Jim Sullivan has been supporting this project, and all the others I've been involved in over the years, pretty much from the very beginning. Thanks, Jim, for all you do for this project!

Under the Radar

We don't often spotlight new books in this section, preferring instead to dedicate the space to older works our readers may have missed the first time around, but every once in a while something comes out that's just so special as to require mention. This is one of those books.

World Watchers, A Pictorial History of Electronc Countermeasure Squadron One; Romano, Angelo, Ginter Books 2020, 304pp, illustrated. 

This could be a truly brief review if we wanted to do things that way. This book is one of the very best unit histories we've ever seen, period, and the serious student of American naval aviation can't afford to be without it. It's honestly that good! 

That said, the volume begins with the unit's PBY Second World War predecessors and carries through all of the squadron's assignments, designations, and operations right up until the current year. Primarily a pictorial history (it even says so right on the cover), it is absolutely chock full of photographs, color illustrations, charts and indices covering every period (and designation) of the unit's history. The book is extremely well written and includes a great many anecdotal entries from former squadron members. It is well written and a joy to read.

References such as this one depend heavily on the contributions of knowledgeable and authoritative researchers and this book lists a veritable who's who of contemporary naval aviation photographers and historians in its credits. It's a book written by a heavy-hitter and supported by some of the best in their field. Finally, the production quality of the piece is well up to the standards normally maintained by this publisher, which is saying a lot.

In short, the author knocked this one right out of the park and we're looking forward to his next effort. Highly recommended.

The Relief Tube

There's not much to say here except that I've been exceptionally busy over the past couple of months and the schedule I'd made for myself---a new installment every 3 weeks or so---went right out the window in consequence. Nothing new there, right? Anyway, apologies to everyone for that, and thanks to those of you who emailed in to see if we were ok. Everything is fine here and I hope and pray it's that way for all of you as well. Stay safe, be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again soon!


1 comment:

  1. I'm relatively new to your blog. I'm also interested in SWPAC, as that is where my Dad was in combat(New Guinea and The Philippines (Luzon) as infantry sgt. Are you familiar with the historical fiction series No Merciful War? The third book features P-39s quite prominently.