The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet remains to this day the only operational rocket-powered aircraft to ever have seen combat. Its intended use was as a point-defense interceptor, using its eight-minute powered endurance to climb to the altitude of an Allied bomber stream and then attacking the bombers while descending in a glide. It was a successful design as an aircraft, but did not achieve sufficient results to be worthy of the effort which went into its considerable operational and logistical expenditures. Only eighteen Allied aircraft were claimed by Komet pilots.
One of the bigger WWII era kits in 1/72 scale is Academy’s Boeing B-29A Superfortress. Airfix issued one around 1970 or so, and Academy first released theirs in the early 1990’s. Academy re-released their kit again with markings for camouflaged subjects. It’s huge when built up – a 16.5 inch ( 41.9 cm) length and a 23.5 inch (59.7 cm) wingspan.
The model depicts Joltin’ Josie the Pacific Pioneer which was the first B-29 to land on Saipan on 12OCT44, piloted by General Haywood S. Hansell and Major Jack Catton. Hansell headed the XXI Bomber Command. Catton was a flight leader of the 873rd squadron in the 498th Bomb Group. After logging 400 flight hours and 24 missions over Japan during which Josie never suffered an abort and always hit the primary target, Major Catton was transferred to General Curtis LeMay’s Headquarters. Captain Wilson C. Currier took over as aircraft commander. Josie was lost on the first mission following Major Catton’s departure. Immediately after taking off on 1 April 1945, she plummeted into Magicienne Bay and exploded on impact. There were no survivors.
Here is another Flying Fortress in the Hawaiian Air Depot camouflage, 41-2437. This is one of two HAD scheme Fortresses seen in John Ford’s documentary film of the Battle of Midway. The U. S. national markings were modified by ALNAV97 on 06MAY42 which directed that the red centers of the insignia should be painted over in white and that the tail stripes be removed. In this case the rudder was painted over in black. If you look closely at photographs taken of U. S. aircraft which were active during this period many of the white stars show signs of overpainting.
The kit is the Academy E model Fortress. I didn’t spend a lot of time detailing the interior of this one as very little can be seen inside. I did replace the engines with Quickboost resin which look much better. I also enclosed the wheelwells and added some detail there. The big change which is needed is the kit comes with a ball turret in the belly, and the HAD Scheme Fortresses which fought at Midway were all still equipped with the Sperry remote turret at the time (not the Bendix turret as most references erroneously state, which is different). For this model I used a Kora resin belly turret and scratchbuilt the sighting blister for it.
In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack much of the American airpower in the Pacific lay wrecked, caught on the ground by the Japanese assault. Planes lined up in neat rows alongside airfields proved easy targets for bombers and strafing fighters. Even worse, there were multiple instances of gunners on the ground firing on any aircraft within range regardless if it was American or Japanese. To address these problems commanders ordered that aircraft were to be disbursed and camouflaged while on the ground, and additional national markings applied to aid recognition in the air. The Hawaiian Air Depot (HAD) was tasked with making these changes.
The Hawaiian Air Depot scheme consisted of applying broad patches of colors from paint stocks on hand to break up the aircraft’s outline. Application appears to have been limited to medium and heavy bombers. The exact colors were not documented nor were lists kept of which aircraft were repainted. Fortunately there is surviving color film of four aircraft in HAD schemes, one B-18, one B-17C/D, and two B-17Es. The Dark Olive Drab 41 upper surfaces were broken up with Sand 26, Neutral Gray 43, Rust Brown 34, and Interior Green areas. There was no set pattern and not all colors may have been used on every aircraft. Photographs of B-18s and B-17C/Ds show no uniformity, but the B-17Es follow a general concept with variation in the color boundaries. In some photographs this color pattern “fingerprint” can permit the individual aircraft to be determined. Data blocks were masked off before the new camouflage was applied which allows the original Olive Drab background to show through. The undersides were not repainted
National markings were augmented by applying additional insignia to the starboard upper and port lower wing surfaces bringing the total to six. Thirteen alternating red and white rudder stripes were also added, but without the vertical blue stripe of the pre-war marking convention. The “U.S. ARMY” lettering remained on the underside of the wings as can be seen in several photographs. Individual aircraft serial numbers were applied to the vertical stabilizers in Orange Yellow, but the size and shapes of the numerals varied so modelers must pay careful attention. There are several photographs of HAD scheme aircraft without serial numbers, so in at least some cases these were applied later.
The application of the HAD scheme was short lived. The order was issued on 10DEC41, but when the 22nd Bomb Group B-26 Marauders arrived in Hawaii in February 1942 they received only tail stripes. Three B-17Es also received tail stripes but no disruptive camouflage. However, tail stripes and red centers to the national insignia were being painted out by some units as early as April to avoid confusion with the Japanese Hinomaru, and this was formalized by ALNAV 97 on 06MAY42.
This is the Academy B-17C/D kit, painted in the camouflage and markings visible in the color film taken of aircraft landing at Hickam Field in the weeks after the Pearl Harbor Raid. The tail is not clearly shown in the film, so I have taken the liberty of assuming this is one of the Fortresses which had not had her serial numbers applied yet.
This is a conversion using the Academy Fuel truck and a Zvezda flak gun. I got this one for free from the LHS, the owner had bought this in a lot and it was missing some parts so he couldn’t sell it (thanks Brandon!). As I already had a couple fuel tankers I scratched up a bed and skid mount for the Zvezda 20mm gun and converted it into a flak truck. The gun is nice, but it would take some cutting to change the position. The only vice is it comes without ammo clips other than one molded into the base and another held by a figure. Fortunately I had one in the spares box so the gun can be loaded. I had a lot of fun building this one and liked the way it came out.
Academy’s M26 Dragon Wagon tank transporter. It’s a big vehicle and a big kit – five sprues containing over 200 parts. I added some detail, but really you could go on and on and on adding to this one. This would be a challenge to bring up to full contest standards – there are ejector pin marks seemingly everywhere. Some are deep, and many are in very bad locations.
There are few gotcha’s to warn you about. The wheels on the tractor will not align without shimming one set out on each side. I discovered this after the glue had set on mine and had to saw them back off again. There is a small capstan on the starboard side of the upper winch. This is provided, but not called for in the instructions. Likewise, there is a snatchblock provided, I located mine on the centerline of the sloped part forward of the trailer bed. The items rigged to the beam davit are supposed to be suspended with chain, I cut all the weird bowed supports off and replaced them with railroad chain from the LHS to form a chainfall hoist. And last, those darn ejector pin marks! The bed is covered with them! I filled them with Mr. Surfacer as best I could, and covered what I could with the accessories stored on the bed. Thankfully there were quite a few of these bits to go around.