Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Another Forty-Niner, The Way It Was. Doing Her Part, Thunderstorm Redux, Current and Controversial, and A Couple of Scooters


Oh, What to Do

There's a thing that's been going around for several years now, a trend if you will, that makes me wonder a little bit about the hobby. It's supported by commerce and the modeling press (which is, after all, ultimately commerce in and of itself unless it's a blog like this one), that not only supports but heavily promulgates the world of How to Do It which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The problem is what happens when said trend becomes what some folks call a "norm". Move that concept into our hobby, and most specifically into the realm of our hobby that's occupied by folks who have only recently discovered the wonders of polystyrene, and sooner or later you create the world of How to Do It. That's where things get a little strange and where I begin to get puzzled by them. 

Let's start this off with a premise regarding what's what and who's who. There have been how-to-do-it articles in modeling magazines for as long as there's been periodicals devoted to the topic. They come with the territory, they're expected, and they're often useful. We used to see the occasional book as well, Chris Ellis' seminal How to Go Plastic Modelling and the follow-up How to Go Advanced Plastic Modelling come to mind in that regard, as do the series of how-to books published by Almark way back when, and by Kalmbach during a slightly later time period. People bought them and learned from them; I did too, but then I learned that there was a far more viable education to be gained by asking questions of the guys in my club who were better at the hobby than I was. Let's call that Perspective.

Nowadays we're flooded with articles and videos telling us what to do when we build our models, or how good or bad something is. There are books covering the broad spectrum of modeling in general, books devoted to some particular aspect of the hobby, and books covering one kit by a single manufacturer and how to build and paint it. There are YouTube videos and web sites that feature videos of one sort or another, and all of those things are just the beginning!

In the old days we had kit reviews. Some were good and some were bad but many of them were valuable indeed because they provided the insight a lot of us didn't have because nobody can know everything, right? They also proved to be invaluable to the new guy or gal because they aided in kit selection. They were basic in the beginning, but then things began to change and nowadays they often include paragraphs of potted history of the airplane or ship or whatever, coupled with a review of the actual kit that tells us how many pieces are in the kit (spoiler alert---I don't care!), what color the plastic is (I really really super don't care!), and how sturdy the box or carton the model comes in might be---I sortof care about that one, but not very much unless the model is going to get to me via parcel post from a faraway county but otherwise---I don't care. What I do care about, and I'll bet a whole bunch of you do as well, is how accurate the kit is, how well-detailed, and how many if any optional parts are in it. Anything else is gravy and, quite frankly, some of that is gravy I don't want on my mashed potatoes at all, thank you very much!

Then there are the reviews/articles/books providing a blow-by-blow of How I Built It by whoever it was who did that. That's a topic that often provides considerable insight into how a particular kit might build up and it can be extremely useful when authored by a competent modeler, but it's also stuff I can usually figure out for myself without paying fifteen or twenty bucks for the privilege. 

It used to be that reviews, of both the in-box and How I Built It variety, were the norm in our hobby, but of late folks have begun producing "unboxing" articles and videos as well. It's entirely possible, and perhaps even probable, that most folks enjoy such things and maybe I'm just being a curmudgeon about the whole deal, but I have to wonder about it because suddenly we're back to how many sprues hold the kit's parts and how many parts there are, what color the plastic is, if there's any resin or photo-etch in the box, how the decals look, and if the instructions are any good, all filtered through a largish dollop of opinion regarding how a kit that is yet to be built might or might not build up. Huh?

Anyway, there actually is a point to to be gleaned from all this: Reviews and how-to-do-its can be useful if they tell you what you need to know about the kit, but they can be bad if they don't. Take the KittyHawk RF-101C as an example of that, an over-complicated model airplane with a gomed-up nose that misses the mark accuracy-wise. Those things are all that I personally needed to know to make a decision to pass that one by. None of the other stuff mattered one bit in my own personal quest for an accurate long-nose Voodoo because the pain incurred just wouldn't be worth the gain to me.

With all of that said, I think it can safely be stated that none of the things mentioned in the paragraphs immediately preceeding this one actually matter one bit because none of those formats are going to go away anytime soon. That takes us to the heart of the matter, which is as follows: I have a modeling budget that I try to live within and I'd rather spend the available funds on the things that actually matter to me on a personal level. Those things are basic accuracy and acceptable detail in the kits I buy, while the books I purchase these days are limited to serious histories and accurate monographs and not much else. Couple that with the fact that all reviewers are most assuredly not created equal and you begin to get the idea. The meat is essential, the gravy not so much.

My story, and so on and so forth...

Sometimes We Forget

But the guys who were there never could. Don't believe me? Well, then; consider this:

That determined-looking young aviator standing in front of "Scatter Brain", a P-40E from the 7th FS/49th FG, is Lawrence Succop. He was a 2nd Lieutenant when this photograph was taken, which means he's not an old man but rather not all that far removed from being a kid in his early 20s. With that as a baseline, take a look at his face, because it's not at all that of a young man. The war in the Southwest Pacific took Youth from him and gave him memories, both good and bad, that would stay with him til the end of his days. That wasn't a fate that was exclusively his either, but rather one that was given, unwanted, to untold others as well. Those were hard days and it was a hard life, but they did what was necessary and we owe them big-time.   Rocker Collection

Here's an overall view of "Scatterbrain" allegedly being readied for yet another mission; we say allegedly because the airplane is sitting out in the open, in the sun and therefore in the heat, with an armed guard standing ten feet from the airplane, while it's being swarmed over by ground crewmen performing unrelated tasks. Those Kelly helmets are of interest though, and were typical of the early days in the SWPAC.   Rocker Collection

Many thanks to Bobby Rocker for sharing these photos with us.

A Time Machine

Every once in a while we receive a photo that speaks to us of an earlier time. This one, from the collection of Mark Aldrich, is one such image:

While there's a lot we don't know about this particular photo, we can tell you it's a B-29A from the 98th BG, quite possibly from the 343rd BS although we aren't entirely certain of that, and the airplane is most likely sitting on the ramp at Yokota AB in Japan in 1951 or 52. The nose art is interesting; for those of you who have never spent time in Japan "Chotto Matte" loosely translates as "Just a Minute". This is a wonderful period photo no matter how you cut it, an evocative image from the past.   Sean Hart via Mark Aldrich Collection

Everybody Helped

The Second World War was a massive event that eventually encompassed every aspect of life in the countries that fought it. Most of the time we think of the guys at the sharp end of things when we think of that conflict, but wartime service was a universal thing in so many ways back then. The American entertainment industry was heavily involved in boosting the morale of those in uniform during those years; here's an example:

Martha Tilton was a popular entertainer of the day with a number of hit records to her credit and, during 1939, was also the lead female singer for Benny Goodman's band. Her "I'll Walk Alone" charted at Number 4 during 1944 and she was a movie star too, but in the middle of it all she made the time to go to the Pacific with the USO. In this photo she's in-theater, standing in front of a 12th FS P-38J (44-23328) and looking good for the photographer from Stars and Stripes. She had a long and successful career before passing away in 2006 and we think that she, and all of those like her, could qualify for the title "Unsung Hero". We know she's certainly one of ours.    Rocker Collecton

And here, thanks to the good folks at YouTube, is that 1944 recording of "I'll Walk Alone". It's worth listening to and imagining how much songs such as this one must have meant to those so very far away.

Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for tracking down and sharing this photograph with us and to YouTube for making so much of our past available to us with the click of a mouse. 

Filling in the Spaces

Last issue Mark Nankivil shared a couple of images of "Operation Thunderstorm" P-61s with us. Today we're going to take a look at a photo of another Northrop product assigned the that project, the F-15 Reporter.

"Operation Thunderstorm" operated a variety of aircraft during the relatively short time of its existence. Here we have one of the less commonly-known birds they operated; F-15A 45-59318 (probably!). The photo was taken at Clinton County AAFB, although we don't know the date. What we do know is how badly those airplanes got knocked around in the severe weather they were investigating---take a look at the nose cap on that Reporter if you don't believe us! Wind, hail, torrential rain, lightning and worse; those guys flew in all of it for their job, which ultimately proved to be of benefit to everyone who flies. They were quite an outfit!   Nankivil Collection

It's Raising Quite a Ruckus

"It", in this instance, being the sortof brand new Meng Fokker Dr.1. It's a kit with a past, you see, and a kit with a heritage. It's also a kit with some perceived issues.

Those of us who model the aircraft of the Great War were pretty excited when Wingnut Wings announced they'd be doing a Fokker Triplane a couple of years ago. There was already a kit of the type in Wingnut's chosen 1/32nd scale, of course, although the existing Roden model had acquired a bad rap for being fussy the day it was released (spoiler Alert: That Roden kit is a perfectly viable replica of the Triplane and is consumately buildable, although some modeling skills are required). but a new offering to WNW standards---wow! It made a whole bunch of folks stand up and holler MERCY!

There was the usual adulation of the just-announced Annointed One from the usual sources, and the usual folks began their usual critique of something that didn't exist yet, but it was still a joyous moment for a lot of us. It was great, it was wonderful, and we were all elated! We had a new, state-of-the-art Fokker Triplane on the way from WNW! Life was wonderful! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters in that What Could Go Wrong department, Wingnut could've folded the tent and gone out of business, which is exactly what they did. Dark clouds began to form on a great many horizons that day because The King was dead and so was our tripe! Then, out of the blue of the Far Eastern sky came salvation! Meng, a company already known for producing some pretty nice kits of various subjects, had apparently been under contract to produce that Dr.1 kit for Wingnut Wings all along and was in possession of the tooling! They were going to release it, under their own name, and plastic modeling as we know it would be saved! Let joy reign unconfirmed, as Yogi Berra once said! 

So we got the kit, and there seems to be little doubt it started life as a Wingnut offering. It's a very nice kit, all in all, but it's honestly not quite up to the standard we have come to expect from the boys Down Under.

So here's what we've got, and here's where I personally am with mine, along with a couple of comments. First off, and in keeping with some remarks recently made on this very blog by myself, here's a review of the kit: It's made out of polystyrene with a small fret of photo etch thrown in, it's rather obviously of WNW parentage, it doesn't have all that many parts in it but you can build either an F.1 or a Dr.1 from what comes in the box, the instructions are marginal at best, and the decals are perfectly usable but not even clost to being up to Wingnut Wings standards. Oh, and it looks like a Dr.1 so I'm taking a giant leap of faith and presuming it's reasonably accurate and pretty much to scale.

On a more practical note and perhaps the point to be taken, this is not a Wingnut Wings model; it's a model made from tooling that originated with WNW. That means the superb quality control we're so used to seeing with those kits from New Zealand is missing from this project. Mostly that results in flash in unwanted places such as the already paper-thin trailing edges of the scalloped ailerons, and in fit that's a little off in places by Wingnut Wings standards. Does that mean it's a bad kit? No it doesn't, or at least it doesn't in my world. The worst things about it, to my mind anyway, are the decals and the instructions, neither of which are even close to the standards set by Wingnut. The actual kit is a little bit of a disappointment when compared to its predecessors but by any other standard it's honestly not that bad, and you can build any Fokker Dr.1 or F.1, excepting the few that were modified with captured Allied engines and props, from what's in the box---we mention that because we'd almost guarantee that even the fabled WNW would have done two separate boxings to accomodate the variants. 

Here's my own personal bottom line, then. I think it's a pretty good kit and I'm glad to have it. It's not the quantum leap ahead that it would have been if Wingnut had survived and produced it because their almost legendary QC would have ensured there would have been no flash and that the tooling would have been 100% finished before production articles were sold from it. The instructions are a terrible disappointment; they'll get you to an assembled model but you'll need references of your own to do it correctly, and the decals are place-holders and not much more than that. Other than those things, it's a good kit. It's just not a "real" Wingnut Wings kit and it's probably not right to judge it as one regardless of where the tooling came from. Things could be worse!

A Tinker Toy or Two

Certain airplanes are favorites around here, and almost any A-4 Skyhawk falls under that non-too-exclusive umbrella. Here are a couple of photos of them to end our day with.

Here's the Family Edition of the A-4 Clan, a TA-4F (154311) from VX-5 photographed by John Parchman during a cross-country layover at Kelly on 15 May, 1987. The F-models were relative hot rods when compared to their TA-4J older cousins thanks to an uprated engine and often showed up in the NAV's specialized squadrons in consequence. The red star on her vertical stab is very obviously in full color but in all other respects she's a TPS bird; we're normally not big fans of that finish on the A-4 but it looks pretty good here. Note her crazy-quilt appearance where she's been repaired or had paint touch-ups---TPS is effective as a camouflage system but it's one that's difficult to keep presentable for any length of time.   John Parchman

Here's a "Scooter" of the classic variety; an A-4C, 148458, of Marine Attack Squadron 133 photographed in July of 1974 when there were still a few Charlies hanging around. She's wearing the classic "Easter Egg" scheme of Light Gull Grey over White and is configured for a long cross country with three gas bags hung underneath. She's still carrying her 20mm armament and is decidedly shop-worn (check out the Insignia Red areas beneath her leading edge slats), providing us with a fine example of a C-model in service.   Friddell Collection

Finally, here's the last variant of the A-4 line, at least as far as American Skyhawks are concerned. 160263 was an A-4M assigned to VMA-223 when we photographed her at NAS Corpus Christi on 14 April, 1984, and was looking good in her relatively-new TPS paint job. The Mike was perhaps the most purposeful appearing of all the "Scooters" and certainly the most capable of the tribe but we honestly prefer the earlier variants. Your mileage, however, may well vary on that one!   Phillip Friddell

Happy Snaps

Let's take a slightly different approach to today's Happy Snap and show you a couple of Warbirds, as opposed to our more normal active military types.

Here you are; a restored F8F-1 Bearcat (BuNo 90454) formating on an F6F-5 Hellcat BuNo 79683) as photographed by Jim Sullivan over Hickory, North Carolina, during May of 1995. Successful air-to-air photography isn't an easy thing to accomplish and Jim had this one nailed! Thanks very much for sharing it with us, Jim!

And that's it for today. All we have left is one lonely little minute, as Bob Hite of Canned Heat once said, so stay safe and be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!


1 comment:

  1. The B-29 shot is most definitely Yokota AB. Just beyond the C-47 is the airfield ops building and somewhere I have a photo of AF-1 (VC-135) parked there when Ford took a trip to China not long after he was installed as president (1974).