North American P-51B Mustang “Ding Hao!” of James H. Howard

James H. Howard was a Naval Aviator, a Flying Tiger, and the only fighter pilot to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in the European Theater of Operations during WWII. His most famous exploit is best described by his Medal of Honor citation below:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Oschersleben, Germany, on 11 January 1944. On that day Col. Howard was the leader of a group of P-51 aircraft providing support for a heavy bomber formation on a long-range mission deep in enemy territory. As Col. Howard’s group met the bombers in the target area the bomber force was attacked by numerous enemy fighters. Col. Howard, with his group, at once engaged the enemy and himself destroyed a German ME. 110. As a result of this attack Col. Howard lost contact with his group, and at once returned to the level of the bomber formation. He then saw that the bombers were being heavily attacked by enemy airplanes and that no other friendly fighters were at hand. While Col. Howard could have waited to attempt to assemble his group before engaging the enemy, he chose instead to attack single-handed a formation of more than 30 German airplanes. With utter disregard for his own safety he immediately pressed home determined attacks for some 30 minutes, during which time he destroyed 3 enemy airplanes and probably destroyed and damaged others. Toward the end of this engagement 3 of his guns went out of action and his fuel supply was becoming dangerously low. Despite these handicaps and the almost insuperable odds against him, Col. Howard continued his aggressive action in an attempt to protect the bombers from the numerous fighters. His skill, courage, and intrepidity on this occasion set an example of heroism which will be an inspiration to the U.S. Armed Forces.

As a U.S. Navy Ensign Howard flew the Grumman F3F-2 with VF-6, operating from the USS Enterprise (CV-6). Howard flew the third aircraft in the fourth section, coded 6-F-12. The aircraft was painted in the standard overall Aluminum dope with yellow upper wing surfaces. Enterprise aircraft carried blue tails. Fourth section carried black stripes on the upper wing, and as the sections’ third aircraft the lower half of the cowl would also be black.
Howard was recruited from VF-6 to go to China and became the Assistant Squadron Leader of the Second Pursuit Squadron “Hell’s Angels” with the American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers. He was credited with six victories with the AVG. His Curtiss Hawk 81 carried the number 57 on the aft fuselage. Howard is on the right in this photograph. He was one of two Flying Tigers who would go on to earn the Medal of Honor, the other being USMC Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington.
While the deployment of the P-51B was intended to be kept secret at the time, the USAAF was eager to capitalize on the propaganda value of Howard’s January 11th exploits. Here is a posed color photo which reveals several interesting details of the markings of 43-6315. Note the repainted area under the “Ding Hao!” lettering, the white tail stripe, as well as the color of the main spar visible in the wheel bay.
Another press photo shows Howard and Staff Sergeant Marcus Hanson examining the kill markings. Ding Hao is a Chinese phrase for “very best”. Howard was the commander of the 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group. When asked why he single-handedly defended the B-17s against 30 German fighters, he said, “I seen my duty and I done it!”
An interesting photograph in many respects. On the 11JAN44 mission 43-6315 was fitted with the early framed canopy, this picture shows the details well. Fuselage stenciling is clearly seen, as are the details of the victory markings.
His is a later photo of Howard in the cockpit of 43-6315 to compare with the previous picture. The framed canopy has been replaced with the bulged Malcom Hood. The victory markings have been re-painted, this is most easily seen by comparing the fourth Japanese flag in each picture. There is also chipping seen on the first flags in each row. Howard’s name and that of the crew chief, S/SGT Trice have been added ahead of the windscreen. The censor has removed the aircraft type details from the data block.
An overall view of Ding Hao! With the Malcolm Hood. Already a popular modeling subject, Howard’s P-51B is featured on the box art for the new Arma Hobby P-51B kit and is one of six aircraft included on the decal sheet. Parts are provided to model the aircraft fitted with either canopy option.
Another color photo which shows the Malcolm Hood to advantage, the improvements to head room and visibility are apparent. There is chipping to the Ding Hao! Lettering, and broom symbols representing five fighter sweeps have been added above the exhausts.

14 thoughts on “North American P-51B Mustang “Ding Hao!” of James H. Howard

  1. Yes! Finally, we finally got a decent P-51B model in 1/72nd! And yes, I have three of the Monogram kits in the stash. (I built both the 1/72 and 1/48 Monogram kits.)
    – I find it interesting that at the time of his action, his a/c didn’t have the Malcom hood as so often portrayed, and it’s a good possibility he wasn’t flying this a/c on 11 January.
    – Also interesting that he and his father were kidnapped by Manchurian bandits when he was 11, They escaped ten weeks later,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree Warren! Howard’s early life was also fascinating. It is surprising he wasn’t sent back to the CBI for the language alone. Many artists don’t pick up on the canopy change for some reason.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, that’s a nice touch, as are the stores options. I do wish Tamiya would scale down their 1/48 offerings, including their armor line. They’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

        Like

  2. Oooooo, 1/72nd scale Tamiya tanks and softskins! That’s be a treat! I know when I got in to 1/72nd scale armor back in ’73 the only offerings were Hasegawa and Fujimi. I wonder if Tamiya never went there in order not to step on toes.
    I know I’d love for them to scale down their P-38. Might happen since I re-bought some RS P-38’s to replace the ones I sold out of my stash a couple of years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s