Revell of Germany Heinkel He 177 Greif in 1/72 Scale

The Heinkel He 177 was Germany’s attempt at fielding a heavy bomber during WWII.  It was powered by two DB 606 24 cylinder in-line engines, which were constructed by mating two DB 601 or DB 605 engines to a common gearbox.  These engines were recessed into the wing structure to reduce drag, a decision which lead to constant over-heating issues and fires.  By the time these and numerous other development and technical issues were resolved the deteriorating war situation forced Germany into the “fighter emergency”, where fuel and other all aviation resources were devoted to bolstering the Jagdwaffe.  Of the 1,135 He 177s produced, most ended the war grounded due to lack of fuel on various airfields throughout the Reich.

This is the Revell of Germany kit with the Eduard PE set.  It represents an He 177A-5 of 4./KG 100 operating the Fritz-X wire-guided missile in the anti-shipping role from Toulouse-Blagnac France in the Summer of 1944.  The kit is sharply molded with recessed panel lines and assembles without drama.  A nice kit of a large but rather lesser known type which carried several interesting camouflage schemes.  Recently Revell has reissued this kit, so if you missed it the first time you can still pick one up.

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Aleutian Tigers – 343 Fighter Group P-40E Warhawks

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The 343rd Fighter Group was activated on 03SEP42 at Elmendorf Field, Alaska.  It consisted of the 11th and 18th Fighter Squadrons on Curtiss P-40Es and the 54th Fighter Squadron on Lockheed P-38s.  A fourth squadron with P-40Es, the 344th, was added in October.  In command was Lt Col John Chennault, whose father of Flying Tigers fame inspired the nose art applied to the Group’s P-40s.  Note the subtle differences in the tiger heads on these two aircraft, and the variations in the application of the Aleutian Theater recognition stripes.
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At the time the Japanese occupied Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian chain, but a more fearsome foe was arguably the weather.  Mud, ice, and dust made living conditions miserable and operations difficult, if even possible at all.  Here is a hillside covered in tents overlooking a flooded maintenance area.
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The Group was credited with 22 victories during its combat tour.  External drop tanks were a standard item, especially as the weather was a factor in the majority of missions.
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Maintenance was performed without the benefit of hangers.  The U.S. ARMY lettering is plainly visible under the wing of this P-40.  Of interest is the sentry and the sidearm of the crouching mechanic.
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More open-air maintenance.  “Dell” wears a two-tone camouflage and the post-AUG43 blue bordered barred insignia.  The back of the propeller blades have been almost completely stripped of paint by the ever-present dust and grit.
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The 343rd did not apply tiger heads to all assigned aircraft, the practice appears to have been much more common earlier on.  Here is a parking apron with a mix of markings.  The far aircraft is still carrying the early 1943 national insignia, while the aircraft in the foreground displays the red border authorized from June through August of 1943.  The green camouflage areas on the wings of the aircraft in the foreground do not extend to the ailerons – the added paint was sufficient to affect the trim.
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It is very common to see the paint completely worn off both wing roots on Aleutian Warhawks.  Finishes appear very worn in general, a nice challenge for the advanced modeler.
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While “SNAFU MARU” does not carry a tiger head, she does have the distinctive yellow spinner and wheel covers.  Dust covers are in place to protect the carburetor and radiator intakes against blowing dust. (LIFE photograph)
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Another interesting study in contrasting markings in this color photograph.  There is significant wear on the prop blades and wing roots of 0610 in the foreground.   In the background 25 shows the remnant of a tiger head on top of her cowling, the side panels are likely replacements.  Again there are variations of the theater marking stripes between the aircraft.  (LIFE photograph)
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Another nice photograph showing variations in the tiger head marking.  The color of the landing gear legs is interesting.  In the majority of photographs of the war in the Aleutians you see some combination of snow, dust, and mud.  (LIFE photograph)
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Not a P-40 but possibly an aircraft from the 343rd Fighter Group.  A T-6 (or maybe an SNJ?) displaying an unusual camouflage, any guesses as to the colors?  Where is our LIFE photographer when we really need him?  This is presumably a hack, assigned unit unknown.  The number “06” is visible on the cowl.

Roden 1/72 Scale Opel Blitz Trucks

Here are three builds of Roden’s Opel Blitz trucks in 1/72 scale.  Softskins, and trucks in particular, are useful to add interest and scale to dioramas or to “busy up” photographs of aircraft models.  These are nice little kits.  One interesting feature is Roden has included both solid and slatted sidewalls for the beds.  Not one to let good parts go to waste, I cast extra wheels and built these up into the large cargo trailers sometimes seen with the trucks.

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Aircraft Pictorial No.9: Aircraft Painting Guide Vol. 1 Book Review

Aircraft Pictorial No.9: Aircraft Painting Guide Vol. 1

By Dana Bell

Series: Aircraft Pictorial

Staple Bound: 72 pages

Publisher: Classic Warships Publishing 2018

ISBN-10: 0996919929

ISBN-13: 978-0996919920

Dimensions: 10.7 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches

Dana Bell needs no introduction to modelers.  Many discussions about US aircraft camouflage and markings are settled to everyone’s satisfaction when prefaced with the words, “Dana Bell says …”.  Therefore Bell’s Aircraft Painting Guide was highly anticipated.

This book does not disappoint.  There is a brief four page overview of the history of USAAF camouflage, the remainder of the book is a series of large well-reproduced photographs, many in color.  The captions are used to provided context and to point out the subtleties of the aircraft’s markings.  This is the ideal way to tell this story, and quite useful for modelers attempting to replicate the finishes.  Bell does not shy away from the unusual or obscure, such as an O-47 in Navy colors or new insight into 6th AF B-17s in the “Panama Scheme”.  He also lays to rest the subject of the one true shade of Olive Drab, perhaps best summarized with the quote, “No manufacturer’s test sample of Dark Olive Drab was ever rejected for failing to meet the color standards.”

Recommended without reservation, I am eagerly awaiting Volume 2!

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Hawaiian Air Depot Camouflage Scheme Batch Build Part VIII

Time once again for the weekly construction update.  Firstly, the jinx plaguing this build manifested yet again.  The long awaited second Special Hobby B-18 arrived right on time from Hannants, bringing with it the needed nose transparency for my HAD subject.  Or so I thought.  Upon opening the box, I discovered the same clear sprue as is in the kit I already had on the bench.  Initially I figured I had gotten the wrong sprue, but on closer examination I discovered that the difference between the variants was not only in the clear parts, but that Special Hobby had tooled two different fuselages to account for the different nose configurations!  You can argue whether that decision is clever or whether it is ridiculous, but it was absolutely unanticipated on my part.

What this means is that the B-18 I have been working on cannot be finished as either of the two known HAD ships and so has been re-boxed and moved to the Shelf of Doom, the first kit so fated in roughly the last twenty years or so.  If I can research a proper ASW scheme I will finish it in that and take another shot at the HAD scheme with the new kit.  The problem of the too-narrow canopy is still unresolved, and for the moment I have lost the mojo to keep fighting it.  However I was able to resist the impulse to test-fly the model across the modeling room, so score a small victory there.

On to better news.  The two B-17s are camouflaged and glossed, and I had enough Starfighter decal sheets in the stash to recover from last week’s insignia masking debacle.  I was able to determine colors and patterns on visible sections of the airframes from photographs and make some educated guesses based on other HAD birds for the areas not shown.  The photographs show five colors were used, although not all five may have been used by HAD on all aircraft (the B-18 only used four colors).  I mixed the colors to match the chips in the Monogram Guide using Testors paints (which mostly behaved well this time).  The colors depicted here are:  Dark Olive Drab 41, Sand 26, Neutral Gray 43, Rust Brown 34, and Interior Green.   Here are the models:

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Fujimi 1/72 Mitsubishi F1M Pete

The Mitsubishi F1M Pete was a versatile design which was rugged and maneuverable.  It operated from battleships, cruisers, tenders, and shore bases.  It was primarily intended for observation, but could also perform as an interceptor, light bomber, or in the antisubmarine role.

This is Fujimi’s kit, a real gem.  There is the unusual engineering decision to place the wing seam along the fabric-covered area of the wing, but that is manageable with careful test-fitting and sanding.  An interesting feature is the choice of two options for the main float – the standard float and a waterline.  The beaching cart is included.  The model was rigged with Nitenol wire.  The observer’s gun is a brass replacement.  Overall a nice little kit, and an easy build for a biplane.

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OS2U Kingfisher Shipboard Operations

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The OS2U Kingfisher was the most common shipboard observation aircraft carried aboard US battleships during World War Two.  While embarked they were usually stored and serviced while on their launch catapults.  Here are three Kingfishers on the catapult of the battleship USS New York (BB-34) in 1943.  The catapult is mounted to the top of New York’s midships twin 12″ turret.  A rather interesting way to display three Kingfishers for an ambitious modeler!
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To launch the aircraft, the catapults were turned into the relative wind, which helped produce additional lift.  On the fast battleships two catapults were carried on the fantail and both could be pointed into the wind to launch aircraft across the deck, as is seen here.  This is the USS Iowa (BB-61) sometime in 1943. (World War Photos)
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The aircraft were launched with an 8″ black powder charge which gave the Kingfisher a velocity of 60 knots at the end of the run, enough for level flight.  Here is an OS2U at the end of the catapult run. (Jeffrey Ethel Collection)
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At the conclusion of the assigned mission, the aircraft would make a water landing and be hoisted back aboard.  The ship would make a hard turn which helped flatten the sea for a smoother landing.  Here is a Kingfisher a split second before landing, note the hook on the underside of the main float and the observer bracing himself for the jolt.
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The OS2U had a small rudder at the end of the main float which gave it good maneuverability on the water.  This view demonstrates that there was little reserve buoyancy.   If the engine stopped, it could be re-started with a black powder charge similar to a shotgun shell.
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The ship would tow a recovery “sled” in the water.  The aircraft would taxi up to the sled, where the hook on the underside of the main float would engage a cargo net.  This allowed the ship to tow the aircraft through the water during the recovery so it would not have to come to a stop.
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The observer was responsible for securing the aircraft to the crane.  Here he is attempting to remove a steadying line which has fouled the towing hook while the pilot tries to keep him from falling off the wing.  This Kingfisher is being hoisted aboard the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38).  The recovery sled is visible on the water.
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Once hoisted free of the water, the aircraft would be placed back on the catapult and serviced.  Here is a nice color shot taken during USS Missouri’s (BB-63) shakedown cruise.
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In rough seas the operation was much more complicated, as this view taken from the USS South Dakota (BB-57) illustrates.
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The Kingfisher could be easily overloaded.  This is the OS2U of LTJG John Burns.  Burns was operating from the USS North Carolina (BB-55) in the search and rescue role during the carrier strike on Truk on 01MAY44.  He rescued a total of nine downed aviators, but his aircraft was too heavy to take off again.  All the airmen were transferred to the USS Tang (SS-306) before the submarine sank the aircraft with gunfire.  Burns received the Navy Cross for his actions.