Arma Hobby North American P-51B of Major James H. Howard in 1/72 Scale

James Howard flew with the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers” where he was credited with six victories over Japanese aircraft.  He subsequently commanded the 356th Fighter Squadron in England.  On 11JAN44 his squadron was escorting B-17s over Germany when the formation was intercepted by Luftwaffe fighters.  After downing a Me-110, he found himself alone as a large group of German fighters was preparing to intercept a formation of B-17s from the 401st Bomb Group.  Howard single-handedly attacked the German formation even though outnumbered thirty to one.  He fought alone for approximately half an hour, protecting the bombers and downing five more of the enemy.  Asked why he took on thirty Luftwaffe fighters by himself he said, “I seen my duty and I done it.”

Howard was awarded the Congressional Medal of honor for his actions, the only fighter pilot in the European Theater to have won the award.  He retired from the USAF as Brigadier General in 1966.

Serial Number 43-6315 “Ding Hao” P-51B-5-NA Major James H. Howard, 356 FS 354 FG, kit decals

Ding Hao! color photographs here:

Construction posts here:

Sea Stories Audio Book Review

Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations

Authored and Narrated by William H. McRaven

Audiobook, 10 hours and 14 minutes

Published by Hatchette Audio

Language: English


William McRaven was a military brat, his father was an Air Force Colonel who had flown Spitfires during the Second World War.  He went through ROTC at the University of Texas, and upon commissioning completed BUDS and became a SEAL.  His career in Special Operations spanned 37 years, he retired as an Admiral in 2014.

Sea Stories is a re-cap of ADM Raven’s career, in his own words.  He tells of his formative years before entering the Navy, plus his training and experiences as he worked his way up through the ranks.  This is not a “shoot ‘em up” story of SEAL missions, there are many, many books like those for any who are interested.  What makes ADM McRaven’s story different are the details of his contributions within the Special Warfare community after making Flag rank.  These are high profile, headline-grabbing missions, requiring consultation with and authorization by the Joint Chiefs, Secretary of State, and Presidents.  He provides unique insights into the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Phillips, and the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound.  If you want to know why these operations were conducted the way they were and the various alternatives which were considered, this is your book.

This story is interesting throughout.  ADM McRaven’s style is direct, and it is a major plus that he reads for the audiobook himself.  The book really shines when he explains the coordination involved at the national command level, there is so much more to a successful operation than showing a strike team a map and turning them loose.  An engaging story from start to finish, I can highly recommend this book.

Women Warriors 170

USMC AV-8B Harrier
Australian and French military in Afghanistan
Russian snipers of the 3rd Shock Army, the 1st Belorussian Front. Guards Sergeant A. E. Vinogradova (left; 83 enemies) and Guards Junior Lieutenant N. P. Belobrova (70 enemies). Germany, 4 May 1945
Seaman 1st Class Billy Ikard (left) and Seaman 1st Class Barbara A. Patterson move a battery cart into position next to a Naval Air Transport Service R5D-1 (Bureau # 39170), circa mid-1945
US Navy
ww477e_Lithuanian SCAR-H DMR
ww477g_Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School
Russian Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School
Kurdish YPG
ATA pilot with Spitfire
Russian Navy
ATA with 3.7 inch AAA gun
US Air Force
Belgian F-16 pilot Karen Voudenbrouke
RAF WAAF pilots, Pauline Gower on right

To see more Women Warriors, click on the tags below:

Revell Sturmgeschütz IV Build in 1/72 Scale

The Revell StuG IV kit 03101 is a re-box, the original was released by Matchbox in 1994. Even though it is not really that old it has been superseded by more recent releases. I was able to pick this one up at a model show at a giveaway price.

Inside the box are three sprues molded in a tan plastic. The Schürzen are molded as a single piece, but are easily replaced with panels cut from card which will allow for the overlap and will be thinner. The tracks are link and length. They are simplified and a bit too thick as well.
The suspension built up without any problems. I used epoxy to fix BBs in place to give the model a little heft. Many StuG IVs carried supplemental concrete armor on the hull, which was added using Perfect Plastic Putty. I added a layer of Zimmerit to the lower hull using Mr. Surfacer 500.
The kit’s barrel is equipped with a caricature of a muzzle brake. Not sure what they were thinking here, but that’s just not going to work. Fortunately a more accurate barrel from another kit was found in the spares box.
The kit is lacking many of the tools and spares commonly seen on the engine decks. I’d love to see a generic sprue of these available as an aftermarket item, they sure would come in handy! Back to the spares box again. The muffler was provided but the installation was not called out on the instructions. I have drilled out the exhaust pipe.
The StuG received a coat of Mr. Color 39 Dark Yellow over Mr. Surfacer 1000 primer. I use a Badger 150 general purpose workhorse airbrush for the majority of my painting, Mr. Color sprays well with a 50/50 mix of their Leveling Thinner.
The replacement Schürzen were taped to a card for painting, note the slight overlap of the panels. The green camouflage is Mr. Color 340 Dark Green FS 34097 applied with a Harder & Steenbeck Evolution.
The tracks are painted and stowage fixed in place, then the entire model was shot with Testors GlossCoat in preparation for washes and weathering. No decals on this one.
Here is the finished model after washes and a layer of DullCoat. I like these old armor kits as pallet cleansers if nothing else, they are fun and quick to build.

Eduard Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat of CDR David McCampbell in 1/72 Scale

This is CDR David McCampbell’s F6F-5 Hellcat “Minsi III” which he flew while Commander of Air Group 15 aboard the USS Essex (CV-9).  McCampbell is the highest scoring US Navy ace, with 34 victories, all on a single tour.  He was also credited with 20 more aircraft destroyed on the ground, but unlike USAAF pilots his ground victories were not displayed on his aircraft per U.S. Navy policy.  His decorations included the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.

I could not resist a comparison shot of the Hellcat with the A6M5 Zero. The Hellcat is big! McCampbell participated in the Marianas Turkey Shoot (in the original Minsi), as did 320-85 from the Junyo. McCampbell was credited with 5 Judys and 2 Zekes on 19 June 1944, perhaps they met?

North American P-51C / F-6C Mustangs of the 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron Color Photographs Part II

A fine study of North American F-6C 42-103506. The F-6C was a reconnaissance version of the Mustang, the camera port for the side-mounted camera can be seen below the national insignia, a second camera was mounted in the fuselage facing downward. Modelers note the Neutral Gray drop tanks under each wing and the HF/DF loop on the top of the fuselage.
A useful view of the other side of 42-103505. It is rare to have photographs of both sides of the same aircraft taken on the same day, here we are fortunate to have two beautiful views, and in color!
Two “action” photographs as another 118th TRS F-6C comes in for a landing. While the 118th was officially a reconnaissance squadron, it was equipped with both the P-51C and F-6C versions of the Mustang, and the majority of the missions assigned to the squadron were fighter / bomber sorties.
The 118th applied the “lightening bolt” markings in October 1944, and added yellow trim to the markings shortly thereafter to make them more prominent. Here is the appearance before the yellow trim, seen again with Neutral Gray drop tanks.
A crowd has gathered to watch bore-sighting of the Mustang’s four Browning .50 caliber machine guns. Note the armorer on the wing with the open gun bay panels. The tail was raised using a lifting bar and jacks (or trestles) located just forward of the tail section.
The flight line at Laohwangping sometime in 1945. By this time the 118th has begun to receive the P-51K to augment their high-backed Mustangs.
A beautiful view of one of the P-51Ks in pristine condition. Note the 75-gallon drop tanks in the ditch behind the aircraft, these tanks are unpainted.
Two flights of Mustangs pass overhead in tactical “finger four” formations, which provided the greatest flexibility for fighter missions. Each group of four contained two “leads” and two “wingmen”. The task of the lead was to engage the enemy, while the wingman protected the lead from attack and allowed him to concentrate on hitting his target.

Part I here:

Tamiya Goodyear FG-1D Corsair of USS Essex (CV-9) in 1/72 Scale

This is an FG-1D Corsair of VBF-83, USS Essex (CV-9), May 1945.  Markings are from Starfighter Decals sheet 72-143.  The geometric shapes on the wings and tail were known as “G markings” and were used to identify the air groups of the parent carrier.  They were used during the first half on 1945.  However, these proved difficult to describe over the radio, and were soon replaced with letters.

Hero of the Empire Audio Book Review

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

Authored by Candice Millard, Narrated by Simon Vance

Audiobook, 10 hours and 14 minutes

Published by Random House Audio

Language: English


Born into English aristocracy, Winston Churchill was always convinced he was destined for greatness.  He determined that the surest path to political success was being publicly recognized for audacity on the battlefield, and at the end of the 1800s England did not lack for battlefields in the far reaches of her sprawling Empire.  Churchill served as a junior officer in India and the Sudan, but the medals he so desperately sought eluded him.  Resigning his commission, he relied on his writing skills as a military correspondent in Cuba, and his oratory skills in a failed run for Parliament.  Still craving adventure and the recognition which would propel him to greatness, he sailed to South Africa to cover the Boer War as a journalist in 1899.  He was 24 at the time.

The Boers soon proved to be worthy opponents for the mighty British Army.  A pioneering people, they turned their frontier skills and knowledge into formidable weapons, fighting a successful guerilla war and handing the British several defeats.  Churchill was with a formation which was bottled up in Estcourt, harassed by invisible Boer fighters.  The garrison sent out an armored train on a daily patrol.  Churchill rode along on the day the train was ambushed.  He saw this as an opportunity, and directed the men in responding to the ambush, attempting to get the train underway again.  The British were eventually overwhelmed, the survivors being captured and taken to Pretoria, the Boer capitol.

Churchill chaffed at his captivity.  He joined a small party who were planning an escape, but wound up being the only member to go over the wall unnoticed.  There he found himself alone deep in enemy territory, lacking adequate provisions, a map, or even a plan.  With no other acceptable options, he set out.

This book is part biographical history and part adventure story, an excellent combination.  While I was familiar with Churchill’s background in broad terms, the details of his escape are fascinating.  This is not a dry history and the author’s style is engaging, resulting in a real “page turner”.  I was surprised at Churchill’s unreserved ambition, and conviction from an early age that he was destined for greatness.  One wonders how the world might have turned out differently today if things had worked out differently for him, and there certainly were multiple opportunities for things to have gone wrong.  Highly recommended.