Vought SB2U Vindicator Color Photographs Part II

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A fine study of a U.S. Marine Corps SB2U-3 Vindicator assigned to VMS-131 in the overall Light Gray scheme in use from 30DEC40 through 20AUG41, when the upper surface color was changed to Blue Gray. (NASM, Rudy Arnold archives)
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A clear, if somewhat dusty, view of the undersides showing several details. The Vindicator was designed to carry floats for water operations if needed. (NASM, Rudy Arnold archives)
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A Marine VMS-131 Vindicator in flight. The bomb displacement gear under the fuselage was designed to swing the bomb clear of the propeller arc in a dive. Under the wings are practice bomb dispensers. (NASM, Rudy Arnold archives)
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Several details of the Vindicator’s construction are visible in this view. The aft fuselage and outer wing panels were fabric-covered. The arrangement of the gunner’s canopy sections when stowed forward is also visible. (NASM, Rudy Arnold archives)
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A section of Marine Vindicators in flight. U.S. Navy and Marine squadrons were organized into six sections of three aircraft for a total of eighteen aircraft. (NASM, Rudy Arnold archives)
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An SB2U-1 Vindicator in the overall Light Gray scheme in flight. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff archives)
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The only combat engagements using the Vindicator by U.S. forces were flown by the Marines of VMSB-241 during the Battle of Midway. John Ford filmed these aircraft in color for his documentary of the battle, three screenshots are presented here. White 2 returned from the 4 June mission, but was lost with her crew CAPT Richard E. Fleming and PFC George A. Toms during the 5 June strike against the Japanese cruiser Mikuma. CAPT Fleming flew during all three of VMSB-241s missions during the battle and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.
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Aircraft numbered “1” would traditionally be flown by the squadron commander, in this instance that would be the leader of the SB2U-3 unit, MAJ Benjamin W. Norris and his gunner, PFC Arthur B. Whittington. If that is the case then both the crews in this screenshot did not survive, as Norris and Whittington were lost on the evening mission which failed to locate the Japanese fleet. White 3, crewed by 2LT Kenneth O. Campion and PVT Anthony J. Maday, did not return from the first strike.
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White 6 and White 9 are shown taking off from Midway. White 6 was flown by 2LT James H. Marmande and PFC Edby M. Colvin and was lost during the first Midway mission. The unusual fuselage striping seen on these aircraft was actually four-inch medical tape, doped onto the fuselage fabric as a field-expedient repair. More screen captures and analysis of VMSB-241 Vindicators are presented in an earlier post here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2018/11/25/the-sb2u-3-vindicators-of-vmsb-241-during-the-battle-of-midway/

Shattered Sword Book Review

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Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

By Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully

Hardcover in dustjacket, 640 pages, appendices, notes, and index

Published by Potomac Books, November 2005

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1574889230

ISBN-13: 978-1574889239

Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.8 x 10.0 inches

The Battle of Midway is regarded by many historians as the turning point of the war in the Pacific.   Many articles and books have been written about the battle.  Most of them are wrong.

Shattered Sword examines primary source material to tell the story of the Battle of Midway from the Japanese perspective.  Furthermore, the analysis does not just start with the battle, but examines the Japanese plans from a strategic perspective and shows the effect of the Imperial Navy’s doctrine on the conduct of the battle.  The internal competition with the Imperial Army had a much larger role in Japanese naval operations than is generally realized, and this had huge implications in both the campaign planning and distribution of forces.

The authors also take a deep dive into the design and equipment of the four Japanese aircraft carriers at Midway and how these factors affected the operation and employment of the air groups.  By determining what was possible for the ships and crews to do, they have ruled out several persistent myths about what the Japanese did do and have set the record straight.  Doctrine also plays a huge role in the decisions which are made in any engagement, as navies fight as they train.  An Admiral decides what to do when, doctrine determines how those orders are to be executed.  Here again the authors have been able to show why the Japanese fought as they did.

The surviving records have provided several details which are not present in other works on the subject.  The authors have been able to pin down the times of launch for individual aircraft as well as the names of aircrew.  From this they have been able to determine the number of Zeros over the Japanese fleet at any given time during the morning of 04JUN42.  This also conclusively dispels the myth that the Japanese were launching their own strikes against the American carriers when the Dauntless’ dives began.  There are also a few surprising facts revealed in these records, such as the ineffectiveness of the Japanese anti-aircraft fire, which only accounted for two American aircraft.

I am confident that this book will be the definitive history of the Battle of Midway from the Japanese perspective for the foreseeable future, at least in the English language.  There is room for the story to be told from the American viewpoint with the same scholarly rigor and level of detail, but that history is more readily available to the reader even if it is not compiled in one volume.  This is not a quick read, but well worth the time for anyone wanting to understand the Battle of Midway.  Recommended without reservation.

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Colorful Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Markings Part 2

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One of the larger and more flamboyant squadron nose art designs was carried by the “Parrot Hawks” of the 502nd Fighter Squadron / 337th Fighter Group.  This was a training squadron which was equipped with P-40N’s.  This aircraft appears to be missing some paint due to an over-zealous effort to remove exhaust stains from the fuselage.
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The Parrot Hawks were based at Napier Field, Alabama in late 1943.  This flight line shows the markings in all their glory, although the fifth aircraft has not had the artwork applied yet.
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The “Bushmasters” of the 78th Fighter Squadron / 15th Fighter Group operated their P-40K’s from the Hawaiian Islands and Midway in 1943.  They carried a large snake head on the noses of their aircraft.  An interesting if somewhat obscure marking.
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The “Burma Banshees” of the 89th Fighter Squadron / 80th Fighter Group featured large skulls on their P-40N’s.  Here Lt Philip Adair poses in front of his aircraft, named “Lulu Belle”.
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A line up of Banshee aircraft at Assam, India in 1944.  Each skull was unique, many featured fangs or dripping blood.  Note the variations in the application of the tail numbers.
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With the help of a small monkey, the first two victory flags are applied to the fuselage of the P-40K of Major “Big Ed” Nollmeyer.  Nollmeyer was the Commanding Officer of the 26th Fighter Squadron, part of the 51st Fighter Group.  Note the modified paint on the rudder.
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Another view of the same scene showing details of the fuselage side.  This is P-40K serial number 42-9766.  It has proved confusing to some profile artists as the markings evolved over time.  These pictures show the aircraft before many of the ultimate markings were added.
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At this point the aircraft carries two yellow fuselage bands with a third at the nose and red outlined national insignia, which were only officially authorized for a few months in the summer of 1943.
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A good profile view showing that several additional markings have been added to Major Nollmeyer’s aircraft.  The aircraft displays five victory markings, numbers four and five being claimed on 22 December 43.  The nose now displays a shark’s mouth with the squadron insignia inside and Big Ed’s personal Bugs Bunny emblem aft of the cockpit.  The vertical tail and carburetor air scoop have received fresh paint (likely Olive Drab) and the national insignia are now outlined in a blue border.
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The P-40K of Lt Robert “Jay” Overcash displays an interesting collection of markings.  Under the engine exhausts are the dot-dot-dot-dash representing the Morse letter V for Victory, below that is the Black Scorpion marking of the 64th Fighter Squadron / 57th Fighter Group.  Under the cockpit are Overcash’s five victory markings, other personal markings include the skull and the “Savoy” fez on the tail.  The red spinner and RAF fin flash were introduced by the RAF and adopted by the Americans as Desert Air Force theater markings.  Note that the aircraft’s original Olive Drab color has been painted over with a more appropriate Sand as evidenced by the background to the serial number on the tail and stenciling visible under the cockpit.  (LIFE Magazine photograph)

Grumman TBM Avenger Color Photographs Part 1

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As a result of several friendly fire incidents during and following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on 23DEC41 CinC Pacific issued a directive that all US aircraft in the Hawaiian area were to carry national markings in six locations (upper and lower surfaces of both wings, both sides of the fuselage) and red and white tail stripes on the rudder.  By early January various other commands had followed suit, and the changes became official.  Here is a beautiful color shot of a factory fresh Avenger in the standard Blue Gray over Light Gray camouflage and the specified markings in effect from 23DEC41 to 06MAY42.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
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Leroy Grumman designed the wing fold mechanism which was applied to the F4F-4 Wildcat, TBM Avenger, and F6F Hellcat, and is still in use on the C-2 Greyhound today.  Called the STO-wing, it allows the wing to pivot as it is rotated along the fuselage.  Adoption of the folding wing allowed an increase of approximately 50% to the aircraft capacity of U.S. Navy carriers.  This is a relatively rare view of the wing in mid-fold.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
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With the wing completely folded the space savings is obvious.  Modelers should note that the inside of the wing is finished in the upper surface Blue Gray color, not in primer.  Also note the landing gear leg, wheel hub, and gear cover are in the underside Light Gray color.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
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To eliminate any confusion with the Japanese Hinomaru, the red centers of the US national insignia were ordered to be removed by ALNAV97 on 06MAY42.  Rudder stripes were also painted out at this time, preferably with blue gray to match the upper surface camouflage, but many units made do with whatever paint was available.   This is a factory-fresh Avenger in the specified markings, which the first Avengers to see combat wore during the Battle of Midway.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
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There were several variations in the size and location of the insignia, modelers are well advised to seek photographs of the specific subjects they wish to portray whenever possible.  This Avenger has an unusually-small fuselage insignia.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
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1943 was a confusing year for US Navy aircraft markings, with many changes being made and some only partially adopted in the field.  Effective 01FEB43, SR-2c directed that naval aircraft revert back to four national insignia, upper port wing, lower starboard wing, and both fuselage sides.  Photographic evidence suggests that many field units did not eliminate the extra wing insignia.  On 28JUN43 ALNAV 12 directed that the national insignia be modified to incorporate a white bar on either side of the star, and the entire insignia was to be outlined in red.  This directive generated considerable opposition in the Pacific Theater, commanders fearing any red might lead to confusion with the Japanese Hinomaru.  On 31JUL43 Third Fleet issued a directive for its subordinate units NOT to outline the national insignia in red, and AN-I-9b of 14AUG43 made the change official by changing the outline color to Insignia Blue.  This Avenger sports the short-lived red border to the national insignia.   (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)
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A major camouflage change came about when SR-2C of 05JAN43 introduced a graded scheme consisting of Non-Specular Sea Blue, Semi-Gloss Sea Blue, and Intermediate Blue over white.  This began showing up at the front in the summer of 1943 and was in effect until the scheme was changed to glossy Sea Blue overall by SR-2c, effective 07OCT44.  (LIFE photograph)
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An interesting photograph of the underside of an Avenger with its bomb bay doors open.  Note how the white underside color extends down the fuselage sides under the wings and horizontal tail plane. (LIFE photograph)
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This rocket-armed Avenger aboard the USS Cape Glouchester (CVE-109), a Commencement Bay-class Escort Carrier.  It wears the overall Sea Blue scheme authorized 07OCT44.
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The range and internal volume of the Avenger lent itself well to auxiliary roles, keeping  variants in service after the war ended.  This is a TBM-3R, modified for Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) transport duties.  The rear gun turret was removed and faired over and seating was provided for seven passengers.  In addition, a special basket was designed to allow cargo to be carried inside the bomb bay.  The basket could be raised and lowered using the Avenger’s internal bomb hoists facilitating a rapid exchange of the pre-loaded baskets.  This Avenger carries the post-war red barred insignia authorized on 14JAN47.

Grumman F4F Wildcat Mishaps, Part 1

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During testing the XF4F-2 prototype experienced an engine failure on 11APR38 and was damaged in the subsequent forced landing.  The rugged airframe was salvageable, and Grumman rebuilt it as the XF4F-3 with many improvements.
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Another Wildcat on her back, this is an F4F-3 from VF-41 at NAS Glenview.  Note the small size of the national insignia on the fuselage.  The overall Light Gray scheme was authorized from 30DEC40 and superseded by the Blue Gray over Light Gray scheme on 20AUG41.  VF-41 was assigned to the USS Ranger (CV-4).
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Ranger supported the Allied invasion of North Africa during Operation Torch on 08 – 09NOV42.  For that operation U.S. aircraft received a yellow surround to their national insignia, and British aircraft were painted in U.S. markings in the hopes that the Vichy French would not fire on American aircraft.  Those hopes proved to be in vain, VF-41 wildcats claimed 14 Vichy aircraft shot down for the loss of 7 of their own.
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British carriers operated the Wildcat as the Martlet.  Here a Martlet has gone over the side of the HMS Searcher, a Bouge-class escort carrier provided to the Royal Navy under the Lend-Lease program.
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Wildcats were also operated by U.S. Marines from land bases.  This is a well-known photograph of a damaged Marine Wildcat from VMF-221 taken on Midway Island shortly after the battle.  Less than a month before the battle ALNAV97 directed the red centers to the national insignia and the red and white tail stripes be painted out to avoid confusion with the Japanese Hinomaru marking.  Blue Gray paint was apparently unavailable to the Marines on Midway, many of their aircraft had the rudder stripes painted out with a darker blue.  The SB2U-3 Vindicators of VMSB-241 display the same improvisation, as can be seen here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2018/11/25/the-sb2u-3-vindicators-of-vmsb-241-during-the-battle-of-midway/   Note the bombed out hanger in the background.

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Two shots of an FM-2 Wildcat missing the wire and slamming into the aircraft spotted forward aboard the USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95).  Bismarck Sea was a Casablanca class escort carrier.  She was sunk off Iwo Jima on 21FEB45 by a pair of Japanese Kamikaze.
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This Wildcat has gone over the side of the USS Charger (CVE-30) on 28MAR43 but has become entangled in the catwalk.  Charger served in the Atlantic, primarily as a training carrier.  The pilot can be seen climbing up the starboard side of the aircraft.  Note the stenciling on his seat cushion still in the cockpit.
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This pilot has found himself in an even more precarious position and is being hoisted back aboard the old fashioned way.  Floater nets can be seen hanging behind the aircraft.
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This Wildcat pilot is less fortunate still.  Going into the water directly ahead of the carrier adds the significant hazard of being run over by the ship.  The ocean immediately forward of the bow is not visible from the bridge, the OOD must guess where the aircraft crashed and turn immediately to avoid hitting the aircraft.

Douglas SBD Dauntless Color Photographs Part 1

A beautiful selection of color photographs of SBD Dauntless dive bombers shot “somewhere in the Pacific” for LIFE magazine.  Many of these aircraft show signs of camouflage and markings being painted out and updated.  Modelers should take particular note of the patterns of paint wear and weathering which are visible on several of these aircraft.  A particularly stunning set of pictures!

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Hasegawa Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless in 1/72 Scale

This is the Hasegawa Douglas SBD-3 kit in 1/72 scale.  The dive flaps are molded as solid pieces attached to the wing sections.  There’s really no way to get a decent appearance using the kit flaps, so they were replaced with Quickboost resin.  The cockpit is also resin, canopy sections are from Falcon.

The aircraft modeled is B-1 of VB-6 from the USS Enterprise (CV-6) during the Battle of Midway, 4 June 1942.  The crew was Lieutenant Richard H. Best and Chief Radioman James F. Murray.  This was one of only three SBDs which attacked Akagi, and Best was credited with scoring the only direct hit which led to her eventual loss.  Best was also credited with a hit on Hiryu later in the day, one of only two pilots to have hit two Japanese carriers during the battle.  Best was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the battle.

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Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway Book Review

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Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway

by  N. Jack “Dusty” Kleiss with Timothy and Laura Orr

Hardcover in dustjacket, 336 pages, illustrated

Published by William Morrow May 2017

Language: English

ISBN-10: 9780062692054

ISBN-13: 978-0062692054

Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches

The history of war is filled with epic battles, with tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of men sometimes fighting for days.  The outcomes often decide the fates of nations and alter the course of history.  Surprisingly, the difference between victory or defeat often hinges on a single decision of a leader or the actions of a few men during a crucial moment.  “Dusty” Kleiss was one such man who was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time with exactly the right skills to win an improbable victory for his nation.

LTJG Kleiss was a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber pilot with Scouting Six flying from the USS Enterprise (CV-6).  During the pivotal battle of Midway on 4  June 1942 approximately three hundred US aircraft from three aircraft carriers and Midway Island attacked the four Japanese carriers, dropping hundreds of bombs and torpedoes.  Many crews were lost.  In spite of all that effort and sacrifice, only thirteen bombs actually hit the Japanese carriers, all of them dropped by Dauntless pilots from the Yorktown and the Enterprise.  “Dusty” Kleiss hit two of the carriers, first Kaga and then Hiryu in a later strike.  On the 6th he also hit the damaged heavy cruiser Mikuma.  All three Japanese ships were sunk.  Another Enterprise SBD pilot, LT Dick Best of VB-6, scored hits on the carriers Akagi and Hiryu.  Between them, Kleiss and Best were responsible for 30% of the hits on the Japanese carriers during the Battle of Midway.

Never Call Me a Hero is Kleiss’ story.  While the Battle of Midway is the obvious focal point of the book, it also examines his early life and education, along with service in the surface fleet before flight school.  He also details Enterprise’s participation in the raids against Japanese held islands prior to Midway which are every bit as interesting as the pivotal battle itself.  A major subplot throughout is Kleiss’ courtship of Eunice “Jean” Mochon, whom he was to marry while on leave after Midway.  An interesting insight into the times.

Highly recommended.

Hawaiian Air Depot Camouflage Scheme Batch Build Part IX

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The jinx is still following this build, I can’t remember the last time I have had this much trouble getting models off the bench.  The challenge this week was the decals.  All Fortresses produced through April of 1942 have “U.S. ARMY” lettering on the underside of the wings, this includes all the Hawaiian Air Depot scheme ships.  I sourced the decals for mine from Starfighter Decals Midway sheets.  I split the “ARMY” decal into “AR” and “MY” to avoid distortion from the back of the engine nacelle.  Everything was going fine until I placed the last “AR”.  The “R” stuck, then tore, then just came apart.  The “A” then got involved and also became unsalvageable.  The “P” here is actually the “R” in the process of being rebuilt with strips of decal film.
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I brought out the panel lines with an acrylic “sludge wash”.  This is a mix of water, dish soap, and brown and black paint.  The wash is applied one section at a time, and the excess is removed with a damp cotton swab.  It is important that this be applied over a glossy finish as a flat finish will absorb the excess wash.  In this picture only the port wing has received the treatment.
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Master gun barrels are the bee’s knees.  I have no idea how they machine them but they are works of art.  I used a drill bit to clear the inside of the cooling jackets, the barrels slid right in after that.  Master provides four flash hiders, I reversed these and glued them to the base of four barrels to represent the sleeves where the barrels penetrate the turret elevation slides.
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Here is the B-17D, finished save for a few minor details.  The film clip shows the prop hubs were unpainted, I interpreted this as an indication that the entire propeller could have been left unpainted.  The backs are in the pre-war Mauve.
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The B-17E, also with a few tweaks remaining.  Her props are unusual in that they are all black, with no warning paint at the tips.  This feature is visible on several HAD ships.
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Here is a detail of the Sperry remote turret and sighting installation.  The clear sighting blister was plunge molded over an appropriately sized ball bearing.  The periscopic sight was made from Evergreen.
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The reconstructed “ARMY” lettering came out all right.  The engine streaking is a combination of thinned Burnt Umber brushed to simulate oil streaking, with more airbrushed aft of the turbocharger outlets to simulate exhaust.
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Here is a shot showing the engine detail.  The engines are Quickboost resin with Eduard PE wiring harnesses.  I think these are a big improvement over the kit parts and add an interesting bit of complexity.

Combat Colours Number 4: Pearl Harbor and Beyond, December 1941 to May 1942 Book Review

Combat Colours Number 4: Pearl Harbor and Beyond, December 1941 to May 1942

By H. C. Bridgwater and Peter Scot, Edited by Neil Robinson

Paperback, 68 pages

Publisher: Guideline Publishing 2001

ISBN-10: 0953904067

ISBN-13: 978-0953904068

Dimensions: 11.5 x 8 x 0.2 inches

This is very much a profile book.  There are four sections organized by nationality with a short introductory history before each section.  These cover the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army, the US Navy and Army Air Corps, the British Commonwealth, and the Netherlands East Indies.  Each profile is accompanied by a short caption describing the colors and markings, some of these also contain a line with details about the aircraft.

This book does a good job of explaining the standard camouflage and markings of the participants.  It is an excellent primer for those studying the Japanese carrier aircraft markings from the Pearl Harbor Raid, or the American defenders.  Where it falls a bit short in my opinion is the absence of illustrations of the less common schemes and aircraft, perhaps due to a lack of reference photographs.

A good general primer on the topic, and useful for modelers in determining potential subjects.

 

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