Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Rules? What Rules?, We've All Seen It Before, A Fine Legacy, and Some Jugs From the Guard,

Can You Really DO That?

Scale modeling is one of those evolutions that we progress with throughout our lives, or at least those of us who stay with the hobby for any length of time do. That evolution gives us the opportunity to see what others do with the hobby and how they do it and, if we're lucky, allows us to grow as modelers. I'd like to share an example of that with you today.

Two years of my collegiate career involved working part time at a local hobby shop in San Antonio which in turn led to meeting, and in many instances becoming friends with, a number of highly talented individuals who were far better modelers that I was at that point in time. It was what some folks might call a Golden Opportunity to Learn and even though I was at that time, and pretty much always have been for that matter, what certain of my relatives would call a slow study, I knew a good thing when it slapped me in the face. Yeppers; strange as it may seem to many who know me, the ability to pay attention and learn did, and still does, overcome me from time to time. It's nothing deliberate on my part but it's there. Sometimes...

Anyway, one of those customers who became a good friend was a guy named Bill Todd. He was attending Texas A&M at the time but would visit the shop fairly regularly, both to purchase things and to show his latest work to us. He was a figure painter of superior abilities, probably one of the best in Texas at that time if truth be told, and he was pretty good at everything else model-related too. He was also an intellectual in the truest meaning of that term and was prone to thinking in unconventional ways to solve problems so it didn't surprise me one bit the day we received our first shipment of Imrie-Risley enamels allegedly blended, color-wise anyway, specifically for figure painting and he expressed considerable, if polite, disinterest towards them. It wasn't that he thought the paint to be inferior or anything like that; he just had no particular use for it and that, of course, resulted in me asking why not.

Bill's answer shouldn't have surprised me at all but it did, and it got me thinking. He had never bought any of the paints by any manufacturer specifically formulated for use with military miniatures but he did purchase a fair quantity of paint of almost every variety we sold, eventually to include the aforementioned Imrie-Risley. He bought Floquil. He bought the classic Testors in the little square bottles. He bought Pactra. He even bought some of the first Floquil Polly-S to hit the market, but he purchased everything a bottle at a time and almost never bought a lot of paint on any given occasion. 

We were both the same age and shared a number of similar interests so it wasn't unusual that we began to hang out together, which eventually led to him showing me how he painted figures. His work was amazing and quickly accomplished; there was no agonizing over brush strokes for him! That wasn't the astounding part, however. Nope, the astounding part was the way he mixed his paint to achieve the colors he used. He had a small color cup, maybe the lid of a paint bottle although it's been near fifty years since then so I honestly don't remember that particular detail, and he had the several colors of paint ready for mixing on his work surface. The thing was, none of the paint he was using came from the same manufacturer. He mixed square-bottle Testors, Floquil, Pactra, and even a little Polly-S in the same batch, thinned it all with regular modeler's paint thinner, and applied it to the figure he was working on. I was pretty astounded and told him he couldn't do that and expect it to work. He told me he did it all the time and it worked just fine, thank you very much, and he was right! All that paint, admittedly in extremely small quantity, was mixed, blended together, and worked the way it was supposed to. He painted with his mixture, and he applied thinner to his brush and blended the colors he'd just applied as though he was working with fine oils instead of bottom-end hobby paint. His results were spectacular. 

So what's your point, you may well be asking yourself at this juncture. It's a simple one really and, at the heart of the matter, is something that only peripherally has anything to do with blending paint:

Bill didn't mix all those different brands of paint together because he necessarily wanted to. He did it because those were the colors he needed and they were on hand, while buying anything else would entail borrowing his dad's Delta 88 and making the 30-minute drive to Dibbles to get it. The problem was a simple one and it had a simple solution. If it hadn't worked he would probably have made that drive but it did so he didn't, and everything worked out just fine in the end.

I'm not saying you should do that literal thing yourself and I'm here to tell you that if you indulge yourself in such madness you're 100% on your own and I'm in no way responsible for whatever mess you might make, but I'm also saying that the conventional way may or may not be the best way to solve a problem in each and every instance. Chew on that for a minute or two and let's look for a conclusion we can draw.

Our hobby is presently choking with readily available assets for the modeler. There are web sites and blogs (somewhat obviously including this one!), there are magazines and books, and videos by the battalion telling you what you can and can't do. They can all be helpful but sometimes the solution to a given problem is already in your own head, just waiting to pop out and amaze everyone you know.

I once knew a retired Systems Command Lieutenant Colonel who made things happen each and every time he encountered something that was difficult. His solutions were often unique and very much outside the norm but they were also effective solutions that worked. I once asked him what his secret was. His response? Just work the problem. That's all there is to it, ya'll; just work the problem! Maybe you really do need to buy something special that you don't already have, or do something the way all those other folks are doing it, or maybe you don't. Maybe all it takes is for you to work the problem

Think about it...

Everybody Has Seen the Airplane

But a lot of folks haven't seen it like this:

44-84778 was purpose built for photo recon as an F-6D-25-NT and ended up with the 45th TRS in Korea. She was extensively photographed and a couple of decal companies have featured her on their aftermarket sheets, a relatively pointless activity at the time since there were no F-6D kits to put them on and the one conversion kit that we're personally familiar with, the 1/48th scale offering from QuickBoost, was inaccurate. That all changed when Eduard released their very own F-6D model a year or two ago, and we can now build photo-Mustangs to our heart's content, or at least those of us who primarily build in 1/48th scale can! With that as an introduction, let's take a look at one photo ship you can build!

Our first image shows 778, aka "My Mimi" undergoing preflight prior to yet another mission over the North, and we get a fine look at her markings in consequence. Of particular interest is her nose art, a tiny cartoon character aft of her name. The airplane's somewhat battered overall silver paint stands out against the natural metal finish of her spinner, and the airplane is relatively dirty. Not all of the 45th's F-6Ds carried the squadron's polka-dot motif on the spinner, as exemplified here. As always, the Devil's in the details!   NARA via Replica in Scale

Here she is again, running up and getting ready to taxi out. The inboard gear doors are coming up as the hydraulic system pressurizes, while the pilot is busy scanning the gauges. Of particular interest in this image are the taped-over gun ports and the corrosion-resistant exhaust covers, as well as the ADF loop just aft of the radio mast. Note the lack of gas bags under the wings; the Mustang possessed superb range on internal fuel alone (one fuselage tank and a pair in the wings) so extra gas wasn't necessary most of the time when serving in Korea, which in turn allowed the F-6D to take full advantage of its speed during combat ops.   NARA via Replica in Scale

Time to go to work! This great side view shows 778 about to pull out of its parking slot for another mission. The aircraft still has functioning tailwheel doors, an increasing rarity as the conflict progressed since many Mustangs had them locked in the "down" position and the doors removed to accommodate operational conditions found on the often primitive South Korean airfields of the day. The pilot's helmet features the 45th's famed "Polka Dots", although they have yet to be added on this particular airplane. That low ceiling almost guarantees the mission will attract considerable ground fire, but that was the norm most of the time.     NARA via Replica in Scale

Many thanks to NARA for making these wonderful images available to the public, and to Eduard for releasing their superb F-6D kit that allows us to build a proper photo Mustang. All we need now are some decals!

Gotta Love a Sharkmouth

The Second World War saw the creation of a great many squadrons and wings, some of which continued on into peacetime after the conclusion of that terrible conflict. The 23rd Fighter Group was one such unit, the heirs of the Flying Tiger mantra and legendary sharkmouth insignia that they subsequently applied to many of their post-War operational aircraft. The story of the group is too extensive for study here, but a couple of photographs of one of their more colorful mounts could certainly be in order.

Lee Bracken shot this particular Corsair II, more popularly known by its nickname "The SLUF" (Slow Little Ugly F******" on the transient ramp at Bergstrom AFB in January of 1980. She was from the 76th TFS and was built as 74-1758, an A-7D-16-CV. She's wearing a modification of the SEA pattern camouflage paint, albeit of the later wraparound variety, and she's a well-used airplane.  Lee Bracken

72-0184 was built as an A-7D-12-CV and was assigned to the 74th TFS when Lee Bracken's brother George photographed her on the ramp at Holloman in March of 1980. Her paintwork appears substantially more dull that that of 1758 but that's a trick of the ambient lighting existing when George took the photograph---it's also a fine lesson to scale modelers to thoroughly research their paint colors before applying them to a project because what you see isn't necessarily what things actually are! Of particular interest is the fact that this airplane has been zapped by No 6 Sqdn RAF, who have applied their famous "Flying Can Opener" marking to the fuselage immediately in front of that open avionics bay door. The flight gear hanging off the retractable boarding ladder implies an imminent departure.   George Bracken

Finally, here's a portrait of A-7D-9-CV 70-1051, all resplendent in a fairly new wraparound set of SEA colors sitting on the display ramp early in the morning of 02 August, 1980, at the late and often lamented Bergstrom Air Force Base. Her markings include a sharkmouth on her travel pod as well as a "caption", for want of a better term, tying the Wing to its Second World War predecessors. This SLUF was eventually written off in a handling accident but she was in her prime when this image was taken.   Phillip Friddell

Here's a parting shot of a pair of 23rd TFW A-7Ds on short final into Kelly, taken on 09 December 1979. We don't know about you folks but it makes us think back with fondness on The Good Old Days.   Phillip Friddell

The Boys From the MD ANG

Maryland's 104th Fighter Squadron was an early player in the post-War ANG and a linear descendent of the ETO's 489th FS. Organized at Harbor Field in Baltimore, the 104th achieved Federal recognition by the National Guard Bureau on 17 August, 1946, flying the P-47D Thunderbolt. They kept their P-47s until 1951 when they converted to the F-51H Mustang (note the designation change---Maryland's Thunderbolts were P-47Ds when the squadron was constituted and became F-47Ds while in service when the Air Force changed their fighter designations from P to F in June of 1948). 

Mike Burke, a longtime friend of frequent contributor Mark Nankivil (he of the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum) had collected a series of black and white photographs of the group and recently shared them with Mark. Sadly, Mike passed a few months ago, but the images of those P-47s remain; we're presenting them today thanks to the kindness of Mark Nankivil and in memory of Mike Burke. 

Clean hangars and safe work areas are the norm nowadays but the definitions of "clean" and "safe" have changed somewhat over the years, as illustrated by this early view of the 104th's maintenance  hangar. The variety of aircraft parked in there is of interest and includes an A-26B (44-34676), a T-6 (originally AT-6C 41-32747), an R-5 (serial unknown) and several P-47Ds, all assigned to the unit. Messy hangars weren't exactly the norm in the late 1940s but they weren't all that unusual either. Time (and a horrendous accident rate among most American aviation units) would change that!   Mike Burke Collection via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Sometimes you do what you have to do, including performing basic maintenance on the ramp. This sort of thing was the norm during the Second World War and Korea and can still be seen to this day. although the safety standards have changed considerably since those early times. Take note of the tip warning treatment on the propeller; those stripes aren't an anomaly but rather the way the A.O. Smith company (a subcontractor to Curtiss Electric) marked their propeller blades prior to shipping them to Curtiss for final assembly and firmly identify these airplanes as coming from wartime production.  Mike Burke Collection via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

On the gun butts! This wonderful image is just full of detail for the scale modeler, including the squadron markings under the canopy, the post-1947 national insignia, and the primitive (and left-over) RHAW antenna on the vertical stabilizer. 45-49115 typified the squadron's -40-RE Thunderbolts in so many ways!    Mike Burke Collection via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

This photo could have been taken in Western Europe during 1945, but it wasn't! Nope; this wonderful imaged was shot in Maryland on April 1st, 1948, which could have made it a record of the ultimate April Fool's Day joke on the squadron safety officer, although we somehow doubt that. There are other possible explanations, of course. It could've been the unfortunate result of parking in the dirt during facilities construction prior to a rainstorm, or maybe it was something involved with a training exercise, but we don't know. If you think you do, that properly-encrypted email address is   replicainscaleatyahoodotcom  . We'd definitely like an answer!   Mike Burke Collection via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Let's end this essay with a wonderful photograph of a MD ANG four-ship formating over the countryside. It was taken late during the squadron's employment of the Thunderbolt and may well depict their contribution to the District of Columbia's air defense umbrella since the unit rotated a four aircraft detachment to Andrews for that purpose during part of the time they operated the type.   Mike Burke via Mark Nankivil/Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum

Blue skies, Mike!

The Relief Tube

Long-time friend Steve Birdsall noticed our A-4 close-up posted in Happy Snaps two issues ago was probably miscredited and offered this:

Hi Phil -

Glad to see the latest update at RIS.

The photo of the VA-36 A-4 caught my eye and I suspect that is a Tom Hansen photo. As you well may know, Tom was an airman aboard the HU-16s stationed over the Gulf of Tonkin, and he devoted many hours to photographing the many other aircraft he encountered. The timeframe fits too.

Anyway, I've attached a somewhat similar closeup . . .  A-1H NE 581 of VA-25 from USS Coral Sea on 18 September 1966. Tom noted that Crown Alpha's escorts that day were Canasta 81 and 73.

Feel free to run the photo if you wish - on the next update, or Facebook or whatever, just as long as it's credited to Tom Hansen. He rarely if ever gets the credit he deserves.

All the best -


Thanks very much for the correction and the insight, Steve, and we'll make certain Tom gets the credit! 

Happy Snaps

Just in case you were wondering what happened to the Skyraider photo Steve mentioned in The Relief Tube:

Once again Tom Hansen captures the sheer joy of flight! Of special interest in this shot is the excellent depiction of the Yankee Extraction System as used in the A-1. Aviation photography honestly doesn't get much better than this!   Tom Hansen via Steve Birdsall

We may run an article on that extraction device at some later date but in the meantime here's a page from the manual to illustrate the way it worked:

These illustrations are pretty basic but you get the idea, right? 

Many thanks to Steve Birdsall for sharing both the correction and that marvelous image with us!

That's about it, both for this issue and for this year. These are challenging times and our exceptional paucity regarding the number of issues we've published during the past twelve months bears that out, but we're still kicking over here and we'll see you again early next year. Until then, be good to your neighbor! We absolutely WILL meet again soon!