Arma Hobby North American P-51B of LCOL David “Tex” Hill in 1/72 Scale

Tex Hill was recruited from the U.S. Navy to fly with the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers”, rising to command the 2nd Pursuit “Panda Bears”.  He was credited with 12.25 kills with the AVG.  When the Flying Tigers were officially disbanded on 04JUL42 Hill was one of five AVG veterans who stayed on to form the nucleus of the USAAF’s 23rd Fighter Group.  The group eventually traded in its P-40s for P-51 Mustangs, and Hill rose to the rank of Colonel and command of the 23rd.  Hill destroyed another 6 Japanese aircraft while flying the Mustang, bringing his final score to 18.25, but did not display his kill markings as he thought they would draw attention.  He retired from the Air Force Reserve as a Brigadier General in 1968.

Serial Number 43-12405 “Bull Frog” P-51B-1-NA 23FG LCOL David “Tex” Hill, Aeromaster 72-176 decals

Construction posts here:

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:

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.

Colorful Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Markings Part 1

The P-40 Warhawk is probably best known as the plane with the shark’s teeth, and the unit which started it all was the RAF’s 112 Squadron which first painted the famous marking on their Kittyhawk I’s in North Africa.  Here Lt A. R. Costello strikes a pose next to his aircraft at Sidi Heneish, Egypt.
The sharkmouth fit the contours of the P-40 particularly well.  112 Squadron aircraft soon became favorites of photographers, and pictures were picked up by several magazines eager to provide coverage of the war.
The magazine coverage made it all the way to China, where pilots of the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers” decided shark’s teeth would look nice on their aircraft as well.  Their aircraft and exploits soon became legend and are still one of the most recognizable schemes to this day.  Each set of shark’s teeth was painted by hand and differed in details.  (Robert Smith photograph)
The 343rd Fighter Group was activated on 03SEP42 at Elmendorf Field, Alaska.  It consisted of the 11th and 18th Fighter Squadrons on Curtiss P-40Es and the 54th Fighter Squadron on Lockheed P-38s.  A fourth squadron with P-40Es, the 344th, was added in October.  In command was Lt Col John Chennault, whose father of Flying Tigers fame inspired the Tiger nose art applied to the Group’s P-40s.  (LIFE Magazine photograph)
A lesser known application is this yellow nosed P-40E.  Supposedly there were two aircraft painted in these nose markings at Malaybalay, Mindanao while flying in defense of the Philippines, but documentation is lacking.
At least one of these aircraft was captured by the Japanese in airworthy condition.  It was given Japanese Hinomaru over the U.S. insignia, although the “U.S. ARMY” lettering is still just visible under the wings in this photograph.
Another view as the Japanese examine their prize.  Several U.S. types were captured and restored to airworthy condition on Java and the Philippines, including many P-40s and three B-17s.
A view of the starboard side of the nose from a Japanese magazine.  Most artist’s renderings depict the head as either being yellow, or yellow with red mottling.  The “bullet-riddled” description in the English caption is wishful thinking, there were several P-40s captured intact by the Japanese that were quite flyable.
The shark’s mouth marking remained popular with P-40 units, particularly those flying in the Chinese Theater.  Here is a P-40N of the 74th Fighter Squadron being fitted with rocket tubes at Kweilen, China in 1943-44.
Yet another variation seen in India, this P-40K of the 25th Fighter Squadron 51st Fighter Group is pictured at Assam Valley India in 1944.  A smaller mouth but larger fangs.

Part II here:

Airfix Curtiss Hawk 81 in 1/72 Scale

This is an American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers” Hawk 81, with the markings of Robert Neale of the First Pursuit Squadron.   Neale was the AVG’s leading scorer, credited with 13 victories.  There are many subtle differences in the markings carried by AVG aircraft.  The tigers were decals provided by Disney but the other markings were unique, and often were changed and repainted on the same airframe.  Pay close attention to your references, and check each decal. These markings are a mixture of the Airfix kit sheet and an aftermarket sheet from Kits World.  The Kits World sheet is quite small for the money and the tigers can’t be used because they are oversized.  The Airfix Chinese roundels are much too light, but have the correct mouth style for Neale’s aircraft (but not Older’s 68 as illustrated).  Between the two sheets you can piece together proper markings for a few different AVG aircraft.

















Republic P-43 Lancer Color Photographs

The Republic P-43 Lancer was a development of the Seversky P-35 design, the most significant alteration being the fuselage was modified to allow the installation of a turbocharger.  During the design process Alexander Seversky was ousted from the company by the board of directors and the name of the company was changed to Republic Aviation.  While the design met USAAC specifications, it was soon outpaced by contemporary European designs.

The Lancer was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial which developed 1,200 hp with the supercharger.  It was armed with two .50 caliber machine guns in the nose and one .30 caliber in each wing.  The wing was a “wet” design which also served as fuel tanks.  Initially these were plagued with leaks until effective internal coatings could be developed. The wing was thin, there was insufficient volume to make the wings self-sealing in case of damage, and there was no armor provided in the first examples.

A fine shot of a P-43 in formation with the other USAAC fighters of the day, the P-40, P-39, and P-38.  The P-43 had an excellent Oxygen system, and the turbocharger made it fast at altitude.  It was ordered into production mainly to keep Republic’s assembly halls operating while the promising P-47 Thunderbolt was being designed.

This 55th Pursuit Group Lancer has nosed over at Portland Oregon, displaying the obvious family resemblance to the subsequent Thunderbolt.  Early war markings are on full display, as is the paint wear at the wing root.

Another 55th Pursuit Group mishap.  This one gives us a fine view of the underside showing the turbocharger installation, flap details, and wheelwell interiors.  Note that the inner doors to the wheelwells are closed.

A total of 272 Lancers were produced.  In the P-43A variant the armament was increased to four .50 caliber machine guns and pilot armor was provided.  Performance was roughly comparable to the P-40B at lower elevations, but the P-43 had an advantage at altitude.

The Royal Australian Air Force operated a total of eight P-43s with the No. 1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit, based at Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory.  They were operational over Timor and New Guinea providing reconnaissance of Japanese airfields in the area.  They served from November 1942 through 1943, when the six surviving aircraft were returned to the USAAF.

The underside of a P-43 in flight revealing the camera ports.  While only mediocre as a fighter, its speed and ceiling made it valuable for the photo reconnaissance mission.

P-43A Lancers and a C-47, Kunming, China - June 1942
The Lancer was shipped to China where it operated with both the Chinese Air Force and the USAAF.  Here one from each service share the ramp at Kunming.  At one point the P-43 was intended to equip the Third Group of the American Volunteer Group, and pilots of the AVG flew Lancers on reconnaissance missions.  This photograph was taken by AVG pilot R. T. Smith.

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 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.

More color P-40 photographs here:

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.

AVG color photographs part II here: