American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers Color Photographs Part 2

P-40 Tomahawk #49 flown by Tom Hayward of the AVG Third Pursuit
Curtiss Hawk P-8133 #49 flown by Tommy Haywood.  This aircraft was originally assigned to Frank Swartz.
R.T. Smith next to Chuck Older’s P-40 Tomahawk #68 - May 23, 1
Robert Smith posing in front of Charles Older’s #68, P-8109 at Kunming, 23MAY42.  Older’s aircraft displays ten victory flags.  In addition to pay and expenses, the Chinese government paid a $500 bounty for each Japanese aircraft destroyed.  Modelers note the refueling stains on the fuselage and the paint worn off the back sides of the propeller blades.
AVG Third Squadron P-40 Tomahawks parked at Kunming - May 1942.
Several Hell’s Angels Hawk 81s at Kunming, May 1942, displaying the Third Group’s red stripe.
R.T. Smith in the cockpit of P-40 Tomahawk #40 in Kunming, China
Smith again, this time in the cockpit of #40 at Kunming, 23MAY42.
A group of AVG pilots pose for the camera.  Erik Shilling is on the nose, William Bartling is next, with Frank Adkins is in the cockpit.  Charles Bond and Robert Little are standing on the ground, Joe Rosbert and George Paxton are on the wing.  The photograph was taken at Kunming on 11APR42 by LIFE photographer Clare B. Luce.  Luce was elected to Congress later that year.
Refueling stop at Yunnan-yi, China - May 28, 1942
A group of “Hell’s Angels” pose for the camera in front of Charles Older’s #68 at Yunnan-yi on 28MAY42.  They are (sitting) Robert Smith, Ken Jernstedt, Bob Prescot, Link Laughlin, and Bill Reed.  Standing are Erik Shilling and Arvid Olsen.
R.T. Smith and Chuck Older at the Chinese Air Force Academy at Y
Older and Smith after an awards ceremony on 06JUN42 at Yunnan-yi .  They are wearing their new Chinese Fifth Order of the Cloud and Banner and Star-Wing Medals.  Note the Flying Tiger pin on their left breasts and Chinese Officer’s caps.
A “blood chit” which identified the AVG pilots as friends to the Chinese in the event that the pilot was shot down.  These were sewn onto the backs of flight suits and jackets.  The inscription reads, “This foreign person has come to China to help in the war effort. Soldiers and civilians, one and all, should rescue and protect him.”
James Howard went on from the AVG to command the 354th Fighter Group in Europe.  On 11JAN44 he single-handedly defended a group of B-17s from attacks by more than thirty Luftwaffe fighters for more than a half hour, breaking up their attacks and destroying four in the process.  For his actions that day he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, telling the press, “I seen my duty and I done it.”  Here he is posing with his P-51B serial 43-6315 “Ding Hao!” (American slang for the Chinese phrase for “very good”), displaying his six Japanese kills from his AVG days above six fresh Luftwaffe victories.
The American Volunteer Group flew operationally from 20DEC41 through 04JUL42.  During that time they claimed 297 Japanese aircraft destroyed, losing 14 pilots in combat.  21 AVG pilots made ace, claiming 5 or more victories.  Top scorer was Robert Neale, credited with 15.55 victories.

Revell of Germany Panther in 1/72 Scale

Revell’s Panther is a very nice kit, and gives you the option to finish it as an Ausf. D or an A.  Link and length tracks again, but here the kit design allows you to leave the running gear off for easier painting.  I added the various handles with wire, and blanked off the see-through openings on the engine deck with a casting of the inner engine component detail from a Dragon King Tiger.



Oba, the Last Samurai: Saipan 1944-45 Book Review


Oba, the Last Samurai: Saipan 1944-45

By Don Jones

Hardcover in dustjacket, 241 pages

Published by Presidio Press June 1986

Language: English

ISBN-10: 089141245X

ISBN-13: 978-0891412458

Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9 inches

Sakae Oba was a 29 year old Captain in the Imperial Japanese Army.  He was a combat veteran who had served in Japan’s campaigns in Manchuria and China, where the Japanese army had known only victory.  In February of 1944 Oba and his regiment were transferred from Manchuria and boarded a transport ship, bound to reinforce the Japanese garrison defending the island of Saipan in the Marianas.

War in the Pacific was vastly different than the war in China.  Oba’s transport, the Sakuhato Maru, was torpedoed and sunk by the USS Bluefin on 29FEB44.  (Note: The book is mistaken about the identities of the ships involved.  Oba’s transport was actually the Sakito Maru, sunk by two torpedoes from the USS Trout (SS-202).  Trout was in turn depth charged and sunk by the Japanese destroyer Asashimo.)  After a day in the water Oba was rescued by a destroyer, still in possession of his sword and sidearm but little else.  While slightly less than half of the troops aboard survived the sinking, they arrived on Saipan without equipment or supplies.

Oba’s part in the defense of Saipan was command of an ad hoc unit primarily operating as a field hospital.  When the Americans landed on 15JUN44 the unit took to the hills.  As the situation for the Japanese deteriorated, Oba and his command grew more and more frustrated with the Americans’ use of supporting arms – naval gunfire, aircraft, and artillery fire had caused the Japanese significant casualties long before they even saw their first U.S. Marine.  On 07JUL44 the Japanese launched the largest Banzai charge of the Pacific War, losing over 4,000 men.  Two days later the island was officially secured.

Oba’s war was just beginning.  Convinced the Imperial Navy would arrive to push the invaders back into the sea, Oba organized a group of Japanese soldiers, sailors, and civilians and hid out in the island’s rocky interior.  He fought a guerrilla war against the Americans, conducting ambushes and stealthy infiltration of U.S. camps to secure food and medical supplies.

The book ends with Captain Oba marching his men out of the hills to surrender to the American Marines on 01DEC45, three months after the war had official ended and more than a year after Saipan was declared secure.  I would have liked to have seen one more chapter covering their return to Japan and their efforts to rebuild their country and their lives.  How did they get back and what did they find when they got there?  Very little is written about the demobilization of the militaries after the war but it must have been a particularly surreal experience for the Japanese.

I was inspired to re-read this book after reading several posts about the end of the Pacific War and occupation of Japan on G.P. Cox’s Pacific Paratrooper blog.  A very interesting account of the war from a Japanese perspective, and a unique perspective at that.  Recommended reading for anyone interested in the Pacific War.

Eduard MiG-15 Royal Class Build in 1/72 Scale

I tend to build models in batches so the Eduard Royal Class boxings are naturally attractive to me.  They present the opportunity to complete multiple variants of an aircraft type in one package, and are a bargain for what you get.  In the case of the MiG-15 you get four complete kits, color PE, canopy masks, resin details, markings for eighteen aircraft, and a small souvenir skin section from a real MiG-15.
Here are the main sprues.  While there are several options, the MiG-15 is a relatively simple aircraft and this is reflected in the model.  You do get the choice of three different drop tank designs on each sprue with a fourth done in resin, along with four bombs so the modeler is not lacking for stores.
“Construction starts with the cockpit” is a cliché which I cringe to repeat, but it is accurate.  In this case I completed the cockpit & nose wheel well assembly and then cleaned up all the other bits which required painting in the Russian interior light blue gray, FS36375.  I mixed the paint from equal parts of Testors Navy Blue Gray and Dark Ghost Gray which matched the shade on Eduard’s PE fret nicely.
Most of the PE goes into the cockpits and looks quite nice when installed.  My box was short one of the frets for the MiG-15bis so I used the decal versions for the instruments and side panels and fashioned seatbelts from masking tape.  The results are not as good as the PE but still look the part.  In this picture the PE cockpit is on the right, decals to the left.
Here is the MiG-15UTI cockpit with the sidewalls / inlets installed.  The cockpit has been given a wash of a dark brown to bring out the engraved detail.  It looks great in person but the white balance here does not do it justice.  The instructions call for “weight” to be installed in the nose and under the cockpit floor, which I interpreted as six lead fishing weights because that is what fits.
Assembling the major components traps the cockpit and jet exhaust assemblies, the nose inlet ring is added to the front.  Fit was OK, I’ll chalk up any discrepancies to my own ham-fistedness.  Eduard kits are known to have tight fit tolerances and to be unforgiving of lack of finesse on the part of the modeler.

Tamiya F-16CJ Block 50 in 1/72 Scale

This is the Tamiya F-16CJ Block 50, in the markings of the Commander 5th Air Force, Misawa Air Base Japan, 2010.  This one was built entirely out of the box.

Tamiya initially released this kit without the weapons, and it was not received well by the modeling community.  The later boxing included the full load of external stores missing the first time around.  The parts are very finely detailed.  Care has been taken to minimize the size of the sprue gates and to locate them on hidden surfaces whenever possible.  You really get the feeling that the designers are guys who build models themselves.  If you’ve seen a Tamiya Zero you will get the same appreciation for the engineering with this kit.