Kursk 1943: The Northern Front Osprey Campaign 272 Book Review

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Kursk 1943: The Northern Front Campaign 272

Written by Robert Forczyk, Illustrated by Steve Noon

Paperback, 96 pages

Published by Osprey Publishing September 2014

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1782008195

ISBN-13: 978-1782008194

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.3 x 9.8 inches

The Battle of Kursk is an enigma.  By all the accepted rules of military planning it should never have occurred.  The German intention was to perform a double envelopment and cut off Soviet forces occupying a protruding salient along the front roughly centered on the city of Kursk.  A German victory was expected to result in the destruction of several Soviet divisions and provide the Reich with hundreds of thousands of prisoners to use in German industry.  The German buildup for the attack, Operation Citadel, was protracted, and involved shifting meager reserves from other sections of the front.  The plan itself was controversial with several senior officers (including Guderian) arguing to forego Citadel and shift over to the defense to build up German forces.  The launch of the operation was delayed several times.

The Soviets were well aware of German intentions, and used the delays to prepare defenses in the Kursk Salient.  The entire area was fortified with trenches, minefields, and strong points.  Artillery was concentrated and mobile formations were pulled to the rear to act as a strategic reserve.  The intention was to bleed the German Panzer formations dry, and then to launch a counter offensive named Operation Kutusov.

In this volume, book number 272 in the very successful Osprey Campaign series, Robert Forczyk covers the northern portion of the Kursk battle.  These forces were lead by Model and included 90 Ferdinand and 31 Tiger tanks.  Even though the common perception of the battle is one of hundreds of tanks on each side involved in epic day long battles, the reality is more along the lines of company or platoon sized formations fighting through minefields against strong points defended by anti-tank guns and dug-in armor.  The Soviet defensive preparations were thorough, the German offensive preparations were lacking.  Citadel ultimately failed due to logistical issues as much as any other factor.  After a week the Soviets lunched their counter offensive, which lasted for the next month.  While the German Army suffered roughly the same losses as the Red Army on the attack against prepared Soviet positions, the Red Army suffered approximately ten times the casualties counterattacking the Germans.

This is a good concise overview of the Northern portion of the battle, done in Osprey’s usual format.  It is necessarily brief due to page limitations, but that is also its strength.  A good introduction to the topic.

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Airfix Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

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Next up is the Airfix new tool B-17G, specifically the “Eighth Air Force: B-17G & Bomber Re-Supply Set” boxing.  The model represents a late production Fortress with staggered waist gun positions and a Cheyenne tail turret.  It looks like Airfix has left some room for other versions, the cheek gun & windows are an insert, and the tail gun position is separate from the fuselage.  A modeler wishing to convert this kit to an earlier version would also have to address the staggered waist guns which were only found on later G Forts.  But that’s just crazy talk.
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The flight deck and bomb bay build up as a module which also incorporates  the wing spars.  This should ensure correct wing dihedral, which was a problem with the Academy B-17 kits.
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Here is a shot of the major interior components all built up.  This is more than adequate as it is difficult to see the interior detail on a completed Fortress model.  It is a little tempting to add more, but it would be wasted effort.  Note the cut outs for the cheek inserts on the nose.
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I did blank off the wing recesses with plastic sheet.  I am planning on leaving the bomb bay doors open and the wing interior was closed off from the fuselage on the real aircraft.
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Here the aft fuselage has been painted and given a wash of acrylic black.  The doors between compartments were made from sheet stock and painted to look like finished plywood.
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The flight deck was the only compartment which retained the sound deadening insulation on later Fortresses, if you see ribs they should be painted aluminum.  I made the pilot’s and co-pilot’s seat cushions from sheet stock.  I masked the inside of the cheek windows with masking tape, which was also used to fabricate seatbelts.
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An overall view of the interior.  You can get some glimpses of the interior after the fuselage is closed up, but I refrained from adding more details because you just can’t see that much through the transparencies.

Airfix Hawker Hurricane Mk.I in 1/72 Scale

This is the second boxing of Airfix Hawker Hurricane Mk.I rag wing kit.  I corrected the wing surface detail to eliminate the erroneous fabric texture at the gun bays and scribed the missing panel lines into the wings.  The sliding portion on the canopy is plunge molded as the kit part is too thick to fit properly on the spine.  The model uses the kit decals to depict a Hurricane of No. 85 Sqn at Lille-Seclin in May 1940 during the Battle of France.

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Grumman F4F Wildcat Mishaps, Part III – USS Sable

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The USS Sable (IX-81) was a coal-fired, paddle-wheeled, fresh water aircraft carrier used by the U.S. Navy to train carrier aviators during the Second World War.  She was converted from the passenger ship Greater Buffalo by removing the superstructure down to the main deck and installing a steel flightdeck.  No hanger deck or armament were installed. She and the similar USS Wolverine (IX-64) were homeported in Chicago, Illinois and together qualified almost 18,000 Naval Aviators in carrier landings.
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An FM-2 Wildcat has nosed over on Sable’s flightdeck.  This photograph provides an excellent view of her rather Spartan island structure.  Flight operations were sometimes restricted as Sable’s maximum speed was limited to eighteen knots.  On days without wind she was unable to generate enough air flow across her flightdeck to safely operate some kinds of aircraft.
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A similar incident involving another FM-2 as viewed from the island.  This Wildcat has engaged the barrier after missing the arresting wires.  Barely visible at the top of the picture, a second Wildcat goes around to wait for the flightdeck to be cleared.
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This FM-2 has suffered a landing gear collapse and a bent prop.  One of the many advantages of training on Lake Michigan was the proximity of several airfields, if aircraft could not land aboard the carrier there was always another field nearby.  Since the paddle-wheel carriers were converted without hanger decks, the aircraft flew out to the ships from NAS Glenview.
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A different FM-2 in the barrier with Sable’s island in the background.  Sable was equipped with eight arresting wires.  If the aircraft missed these a wire barrier would stop it from going over the side, although this often resulted in damage.
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This Wildcat has spun into the island.  Unlike the wooden flightdeck built on Wolverine, Sable’s deck was made from steel so she could be used to test various non-skid coatings.
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Deck crew right an F4F-4 Wildcat, giving a nice view of the underside markings standard in the summer of 1943.  Many of the aircraft initially used for training were timed-out “war weary” planes which had seen extensive combat in the Pacific.
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In what must have been a frequent occurrence, deck crewmen shelter in the catwalk as a student pilot careens down the deck.  For all the mishaps, only eight pilots and forty crewmen were killed while training on the Great Lakes carriers.
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“Mobile sand bags” rush into position to weigh down the wing of this FM-2 after the port gear has collapsed.  Many of Sable’s original crew came from the USS Lexington (CV-2) after she was lost in the Battle of Coral Sea.
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An F4F-4 begins its journey to the bottom of Lake Michigan.  More than 130 naval aircraft of several types are known to be at the bottom of the lake.
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More than thirty five aircraft wrecks have been recovered so far, most have been quite well preserved by the cold fresh water.  Many of the naval aircraft on display in museums across the U.S. have been recovered from Lake Michigan including the F4F-3 on display at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

Dragon King Tiger (Porsche Turret) in 1/72 Scale

Another Dragon King Tiger, this one with the Porsche turret.  This is an early boxing, the hull pieces are metal.  These fit together fine but required superglue to attach the other pieces and increased the challenges with drilling and filing.  Only fifty Porsche turret King Tigers were produced and all of them carried Zimmerit.  This was my first attempt at reproducing the Zimmerit finish, I used Mr. Surfacer and a #11 Exacto knife blade with the tip clipped off.  I left off the mud skirts and finished it to match a Claes Sundin profile.  Another nice kit with no surprises.

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HMS Belfast: Cruiser 1939 Book Review

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HMS Belfast: Cruiser 1939

Seaforth Historic Ships Series

By Richard Johnstone-Bryden

Paperback, 128 pages, indexed

Published by Seaforth Publishing, 2013

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1848321554

ISBN-13: 978-1848321557

Dimensions: 6.8 x 9.7 inches

HMS Belfast was a Town-class light cruiser, armed with twelve 6 inch guns and designed with the Washington Naval Treaty’s 10,000 ton limit.  She had an active career, intercepting German blockade runners until she was mined on 21NOV39.  After repairs she escorted Arctic convoys to Russia and fought in the Battle of North Cape against the Scharnhorst.  She supported the Normandy landings, and was sent to the Pacific at the end of WWII.  She provided naval gunfire support for UN troops during the Korean War, and was finally decommissioned in 1963.  She is currently preserved as a museum and is moored in the Thames in London.

Much of the interior of the ship has been restored and is open to the public.  The ship is also used to host various banquets, receptions, and meetings which increase her utility and help fund her upkeep.  I was surprised at how much of the ship can be seen and at the quality of the displays.  The book contains several hundred sharp color photographs, well reproduced on glossy paper, a quality effort.  Captions are informative and well written.  The overall impression is similar to the Aero Detail series of books.

A detailed photographic essay is always valuable to modelers and historians, especially to those of us on the wrong side of the pond who may never have the opportunity to see her in person.  This is a particularly well done walk through, recommended to anyone interested in ships or museums.  The only room for improvement would be to produce the book in a larger format to better enjoy the photography.

I stumbled across this volume at Half Price Books for a pittance and immediately put it into the basket.  The series was new to me, they detail museum ships in England.  Other books in the series are HMS Victory, SS Great Britain, HMS Warrior, HMS Cavalier, and HMS Trincomalee.  Recommended, pick this one up!

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