This is Josef Zwernemann’s Bf 109F-4 assigned to 7. / JG52 at Beryslaw, Russia, 14SEP41. Zimmermann claimed his first victory, a Spitfire, over France in July 1940, but he was to achieve the majority of his victories against the Soviets. He was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross when his score passed 100 in October 1942. He was transferred to the West in Defense of the Reich in early 1944 where he flew the Focke Wulf Fw 190A-7 against American bomber streams. On 08APR44 Zwernemann claimed a B-24 and a P-51, but was jumped by two more Mustangs and had to bail out. He was shot and killed in his parachute as he descended. In total he claimed 123 victories.
This aircraft is Tora (Tiger) – 110, the mount of the CO of the 261 Kokutai. This aircraft features prominently in Thorpe’s classic Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage and Markings of WWII, being pictured on the cover, a photograph (below), and a color profile. Very attractive, but also problematic. The photograph shows a Type 21, with a dark finish on the forward fuselage and a lighter finish aft. Various people (all of whom know much more about this than me) have interpreted the difference in colors as two greens, discoloration due to primer, dirt or fading, or even as the aft fuselage being painted red matching the Hinomaru. Thorpe’s cover artwork depicts a Type 22 with the wing stripes and upper wing Hinomaru moved inward.
For my build I chose the primer interpretation and mixed the green a little lighter for the aft fuselage and sections of the upper wings, but I keep thinking it would look good in red. Fine Molds kit, all stripes are painted, tail codes are Hasegawa decals.
Hasegawa – While they do not have the detail nor refined engineering of the other two manufacturers, these are still good, solid kits. The main strength of the Hasegawa line is the variety of types offered – from the A6M1 to the A6M8, and everything in between. Weaknesses are the very basic cockpits and shallow wheelwells. Overall the shape looks good. The vertical fin is a little too broad in chord, but that is easily fixed. The cowling on their A6M2 is a bit small, which is noticeable when compared directly to the other manufacturers (see photo above, Hasegawa kit on the left). For many of the versions, a Hasegawa kit is still the best place to start.
Fine Molds – These are great kits, some of the best offered in our scale. Fine Molds kit the A6M2, A6M3 Type 32, and A6M5. They offer great detail and outstanding engineering. Their A6M2 kit has several options including open cowl claps, lowered landing flaps, open canopy, and wing tips which can be posed folded. The main drawbacks are price and their unique distribution method as bundles with two issues of Model Graphics magazine.
Tamiya – The Tamiya kits are every bit as nice as the Fine Molds kits, but in different ways. Asking which is best is like trying to figure out which Victoria’s Secret supermodel is the prettiest. The details are superb and the engineering allows the kits to just fall together. If I were looking to purchase new Zero kits today, the Tamiya A6M2 or A6M5s would be my first choices.
Aftermarket – I used three aftermarket parts on these builds. The Hasegawa kits all got True Details resin wheels, the Tamiya and Fine Molds wheels looked fine to me. All the kits received Eduard photoetch seatbelts, from set 73001. Eduard provides different style belts for the Mitsubishi and Nakajima-built aircraft – something I would not have caught otherwise. The center section of the canopies are all Squadron vacuforms, the other sections are kit parts. The front section of the Squadron canopies will not fit any of these three kits, even though they are intended to replace the Hasegawa parts. I also used the Eduard canopy mask set CX006, which saved a lot of time. Aviaeology supplied tailcode numerals, and Techmod supplied Hinomarus where needed.
This is a resurrected work-in-progress build log of a batch build comparison of seven kits from Hasegawa, Fine Molds, and Tamiya. For me the gains in efficiency from building in batches outweigh the burdens of repetitive construction. It also helps keep the number of kits in the stash down to reasonable levels. Thanks to a few “deals I could not refuse” at the shows I discovered I had managed to accumulate several Hasegawa Zeros. Added to a Fine Molds A6M2 and a couple more from Tamiya, there was a small pile of Zeros waiting to be built. This is also a good opportunity to compare the kits.
Messerschmitt Bf 109F-2 of Major Günther Lützow Stab / JG3, Russia, Summer 1941. Fine Molds kit.
Günther Lützow scored his first five victories as a member of Germany’s Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War, including the first victory ever credited to the Bf 109. During the Battle of France he added nine more to his score, with another nine during the battle of Britain. When Operation Barbarossa began he was a Major and Geschwaderkommodore of JG 3, this is Lützow’s mount depicted in the model.
Lützow continued to score regularly against the Russians and on 24OCT41 he became the second Luftwaffe Jagdflieger to achieve the one hundred victory mark (after Werner Mölders). He was outspoken in his beliefs and made no secret of his distaste for the SS and the National Socialist Party. This resulted in his being transferred to various staff positions, but he was a central figure in the Fighter Pilot’s Muntity where he criticized Herman Göring directly, which resulted in his exile to Italy. He returned to Germany to fly the Me 262 with Galland’s JV 44 and was credited with two additional victories, bringing his total to 110. On 24APR45, just two weeks before the end of the war, Oberst Günther Lützow went missing in his Me 262 while intercepting USAAF B-26s over Donauwörth, Germany.
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2 of Oberleutnant Günther Rall of 8. / JG52, Russia, SEP42. Fine Molds kit.
Günther Rall flew this aircraft upon returning to 8. / JG52 after recovering from a broken back sustained when he was shot down on 28NOV41 after his 36th victory. By the end of the month he had brought his score to 90. The aircraft shows signs of overpainting on the fuselage sides. Rall was superstitious about the number thirteen and preferred that number on his assigned aircraft.
Rall was promoted to Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 52 in July 1943 and in September was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. In April 1944 he was transferred to the Western Front and command of II./JG 11. Like so many Experten transferred from the Eastern Front, he found combat against the Americans and British to be a much different thing than fighting the Russians. On 12MAY44 Major Rall found himself facing the P-47 Thunderbolts of Colonel Hubert Zemke and his “Wolfpack”. Unable to evade or outrun the powerful Thunderbolts, Rall bailed out of his damaged Messerschmitt with a severed thumb. He survived the war as the third-highest scoring fighter pilot with 275 victories. Post-war he served in the German Bundesluftwaffe, retiring with the rank of the rank of Generalleutnant.
Günther Rall passed away on 04OCT09 at the age of 91.
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 of Leutnant Helmut Lipfert of 6. /JG52 at Bagerovo, Russia, DEC 1943. Fine Molds kit.
The model depicts Leutnant Helmut Lipfert’s mount when he was Staffelkapitän 6. Staffel of JG 52. He had claimed eighty Russian aircraft at that time. His final score was 203 victories, for which he was awarded Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. He was shot down himself fifteen times but survived the war.
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 of Leutnant Walter Wolfrum of 5. /JG52 at Grammatikovo, Russia, March 1944. Fine Molds kit.
Walter Wolfrum flew his first combat sorties with 5./JG 52 over the Crimea in February 1943. He flew with JG 52 on the Eastern Front throughout the war. He scored a total of 137 victories, but was himself shot down twelve times and wounded on four occasions. He and the rest of JG 52 were turned over to the Russians at the end of the war, but Wolfrum was released due to his injuries. He became the German National Champion in acrobatic flying in 1962.