American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers Color Photographs Part 1

One of the most visually stunning aviation photographs to come out of the Second World War, this beautiful shot of American Volunteer Group Curtiss Hawk 81s on patrol over China.  Photograph by AVG pilot Robert T. Smith on 28MAY42.
Smith features prominently in the color photos of the AVG.  Here he is inspecting wreckage in the AVG scrapyard at Kyedaw, Burma before the group actually has begun operations against the Japanese, with #74 and #81 behind him.  Both aircraft had been bellied in, but were later repaired.  Note the side numbers repeated on the noses of the aircraft, this was an early practice.  The small nose numbers would be painted over about the time the group’s famous shark mouths were applied, but some aircraft displayed both markings.
Robert T. Smith standing next to P-40 Tomahawk #91 - Nov. 23, 19
Smith again, this time in front of #91, serial P-8150.  Note that the aircraft in the background still lacks a shark mouth. Kyedaw airfield, Burma, 23NOV41.
Robert T. Smith in the cockpit of P-40 Tomahawk #77 - Nov. 23, 1
Smith in the cockpit of his assigned aircraft, #77.  The Third Group “Hell’s Angels” design is still in outline form here, soon to receive a red fill.  Another larger angel is faintly visible in chalk behind the first.
A close-up of Smith showing details of the Flying Tiger design which was produced by the Walt Disney company.  The artwork came in decal form, arriving in March 1942.  It was sealed to the sides of the aircraft with clear varnish which has darkened the underlying paint color.  There are several details of interest to modelers here.  Note that the camouflage colors are continued under the cockpit side glazing.
AVG06_ErikShillingInFront of RobertLittle33
Pilot Erik Shilling poses for the camera in front of Robert Little’s #33.  All the AVG shark mouths were unique, it is interesting to compare the variations in the artwork on different aircraft.
Same picture composition but with another pilot using Little’s #33 as a backdrop.  It is tempting to claim that a photograph depicts certain pilots posing with their assigned aircraft, but these two photographs show the inherent problem of making such assumptions.  In many units it was common practice for pilots to be assigned to different aircraft as the missions required, with individual names and mission tallies applied only for publicity photographs.
A nice in-flight shot of John Petach in #47, serial P-8127.  Note the dark area above the eye where the small number 47 has been painted out.
AVG Third Pursuit Squadron in flight - May 28, 1942
A formation of Third Pursuit Tigers on the prowl, with Chuck Older’s #68 nearest to the camera.
Refuel P-40 Tomahawk #68 at Yunnan-yi, China - May 28, 1942
Chinese mechanics service the aircraft while a group of pilots talk in front of Older’s #68, P-8109.  Location is Yunnan-yi on 28MAY42.

Dragon Hummel in 1/72 Scale

This is the Dragon Hummel (early version).  This is a gem of a kit and a fun build.  The Revell version is said to be more accurate, the Dragon is said to be more finely molded.  This is an intricate model but an easy build and everything fits like it should. No complaints, I really enjoyed building this one.



Legend Audio Book Review



Legend: A Harrowing Story from the Vietnam War of One Green Beret’s Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines

By Eric Blehm

Audio CD Read by Fred Sanders

Published by Random House Audio April 2015

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0553551663

ISBN-13: 978-0553551662

Eight compact disks, approximately nine hours

In 1968, during the height of the Vietnam War, Cambodia was officially neutral and neither side in the neighboring struggle was to operate within its’ borders.  Unofficially, Cambodia was a major base and supply route for the NVA and Viet Cong and a safe haven from which to strike the South.  U.S. operations into Cambodia were officially forbidden and publicly denied by U.S. politicians.  They were also a daily occurrence for the Studies and Observations Group (SOG) and the Army Aviation units which supported them.

In May of 1968, one of these operations went bad.  A twelve-man SOG team had been inserted near a busy section of the Ho Chi Min Trail with the mission to capture a Russian truck and return it to South Vietnam, thus conclusively proving the NVA presence.  Unknown to them, their insertion point was right on top of the lager area of a large NVA unit with overwhelming numbers and numerous defensive positions.  The SOG team was surrounded by a superior enemy force, cut off from extraction and had soon taken casualties.

As the title implies, Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez is a legend.  While not assigned to the mission, he monitored the engagement by radio and boarded a helicopter which was departing in one of the many  attempts to rescue the survivors.  Benavidez jumped into the landing zone the team was trying to get out of, armed only with a knife and a medical bag.  For the next six hours he organized and fought with the team, providing medical aid and calling in airstrikes until the men could be rescued.  He was shot seven times, bayoneted, clubbed, and had numerous fragmentation wounds, but was credited with saving the lives of eight men.

The first two disks detail Benavidez’ hard childhood and early Army service life, including his 1965 deployment to Vietnam which almost left him paralyzed.  Disk three provides the political background to the situation in Cambodia.  Disk four begins with the insertion of the SOG team.  Author Blehm has obviously done a vast amount of research and interviews with the surviving team members and aviation personnel involved, the descriptions of the actions are detailed and from several perspectives.  The book concludes with the efforts of journalists and supporters who campaigned to have Benavidez’ Distinguished Service Cross upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor, which was eventually awarded by President Ronald Regan in 1981.

This book is a great tale of bravery and personal determination in overcoming incredible obstacles, recommended without reservation.

Bookcase Installation!

In a previous post I described the construction of some new bookcases (see here: ).  Construction is only half the battle, today I’ll go over the finishing and installation.


There are many options available to finish wood furniture including various oils, stains, and waxes.  I had some reservations concerning books absorbing oils long-term, so these bookcases were finished with a clear polyurethane.  This has the added benefits of penetrating into the wood and sealing the grain, and also flows into the joins and acts as a glue.  The cases all got two coats, then the horizontal surfaces were sanded to remove any imperfections which might scratch the book bindings.  Finally a third coat was applied to the shelves.
Here are the ten new cases with the shelves installed using shelf pins.  The cases are not particularly heavy when empty but are awkward to handle.  They are relatively easy to move about if there are no obstructions.  For the flooring installation, all the books currently in the house must be temporarily relocated to the new shelves in the garage, then the old bookcases can be moved out when emptied.
To move the books I constructed a box and secured it to a handcart with zip ties.  The box is sized to allow the entire contents of one shelf to be moved as a load.  This helps keep the books organized, and is much easier than boxing them or moving stacks of books by hand.
Here a row of cases is being installed along a wall, starting from the center and working out.  The books were transferred in sections, with the cases being moved as they are emptied.
There is gap of approximately 2.5 inches on each side.  To give the bookcases a finished appearance, the gaps are filled with a strip of scrap board.  The small strips of scrap visible screwed into the walls near the ceiling are to support a shelf section to cover the gap in the corner.  If books or a cat (ask me how I know) gets down into the corner between bookcases it is a real pain to empty and move a case to get at them.  Best to just “put a lid on it”.
Another more important precaution is to anchor your bookcases, or any large and heavy piece of furniture for that matter.  It only takes a minute to set a screw or two and could easily prevent damage or injury if the piece should fall over.  Here I have anchored the top strip to the wall studs with two screws, one is enough to prevent the bookcase from falling.
Where the cases go into an outside corner I have filled the gap with insulation.  Probably overkill, but it will reduce the heat transfer from the void area.
Over doorways and windows, the area between the cases is spanned by a long shelf.  This is supported by shelf pins on the outer sides of the cases and the back support is screwed into the wall studs.
A view of the finished installation showing six of the ten new cases.  The other four are in the adjacent corners, out of frame to the left and right of the picture.  In the center is what Ms. Inch High still calls a Dining Room table, but as you can see it is actually a Library table for laying out reference books for research.

Revell of Germany Tiger Ausf. E in 1/72 Scale

Here is Revell’s Tiger Ausf. E which is another really nice kit.  This kit had both styles of wheels, the early rubber rimmed type and the steel wheels which I used here.  Tracks are link and length, another dozen links would have been nice to cover the extra links carried on the front of many Tigers.  I liked this one a lot, it got some help from an old Eduard PE fret.  Camo is airbrushed freehand and marked as one from another Claes Sundin profile.