Don Gentile’s North American P-51B Mustang “Shangri-La” Color Photographs

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P-51 B/C Mustang kits in 1/72 scale all have had some nagging inaccuracies, usually in the cowling and / or leading edge of the wings. Modelers have long awaited an accurate kit, and now Arma from Poland has announced a new tool offering. Given their previous releases and the CAD renders, hopes are high that their kit will fill the void. In anticipation, I have begun researching the high-backed Mustangs. One of the more interesting and better documented subjects is Don Gentile’s “Shangri-La”.
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Major Dominic “Don” Salvatore Gentile was one of the leading American aces in the European Theater. Ground kills were credited to a pilot’s totals in the ETO.  Including those some sources credit Gentile with thirty victories. Here Gentile poses for the press in his cockpit, Shangri-La displays twenty-one victory symbols.
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Crew chief John Ferra helps Gentile with his seat harness straps. Several details are visible in this photograph. Gentile’s P-51B was serial number 43-6913, coded VF-T. Gentile volunteered for the RCAF and flew Spitfires the RAF’s Eagle Squadron, scoring his first two victories during Operation Jubilee.
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Photographs from the starboard side are comparatively rare, the press preferring to include the artwork and scoreboard painted on the port side. Note the white recognition stripe on the wing, and the unpainted edge of the flap. The flaps and inner wheelwell doors on the P-51 were held in position with hydraulic pressure. When the engine was off the hydraulic pump was off and the pressure in the system dropped, causing the flaps and wheel covers to droop when the aircraft was parked.
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Gentile poses by the nose. The ragged edge of the red paint on the spinner presents a quandary for modelers – an accurate depiction can be mistaken for sloppy modeling. Fortunately there is a way to avoid the issue in this case as the spinner was later painted entirely red as can be seen in the first photograph.
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Gentile with his wingman John Godfrey. An ace in his own right, Godfrey named his Mustang “Reggie’s Reply” and was credited with 16.33 victories.
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Another view from the same series of photographs, this one showing the identification stripe on the wheel cover and the red wheel hub.
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A beautiful color profile of 43-6913 by aviation artist Claes Sundin. If you are not familiar with Sundin’s work, you may view samples and order his books here: http://luftwaffeinprofile.se/
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The Press were very interested in Gentile’s accomplishments, and he played up the swashbuckling fighter pilot image. Returning to Debden from the last scheduled mission of his combat tour on 13APR44 the Press were waiting and Gentile put on a show, making several low passes for the photographers gathered below.
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Gentile miscalculated his height and his propeller struck the ground. Shangri-La was destroyed, but Gentile walked away. 4th Fighter Group CO Colonel Don Blakeslee grounded Gentile on the spot.
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Back in the U.S. the public affairs types were not yet finished with Gentile. He received a new “Shangri-La”, this time a P-51D, and went on a War Bonds tour. This aircraft displayed a wrap-around checkerboard on the nose and thirty victories.
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Gentile in his dress uniform poses with his P-51D. Gentile survived the war but was killed in January 1951 while flying a T-33 Shooting Star trainer.

North American P-51D Mustang Comparison Build, Hasegawa, Airfix and Tamiya Kits in 1/72 Scale Part III

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The models were painted with Alclad lacquers and Testor’s Model Master enamels.  All the models came with recessed panel lines on the wings.   Most of these were filled with putty on operational aircraft, so I filled the appropriate lines on all the models.  The natural metal areas were painted Alclad Dark Aluminum, the painted wing color is Alclad Aluminum with a few drops of Alclad light gray primer added to dull it down a little.

SUMMARY

I’ll give you what I consider the pros and cons of each kit, and what I did to get them to the configuration I desired.  The one big caveat is this – what I feel compelled to change other modelers might not give a hoot about or even notice – and visa-versa.  Build the model you want how you want and have fun.

 

HASEGAWA

First is the Hasagawa kit with decals from AeroMaster sheet 72-175.  This is the oldest kit of the three, and needed the most work.  The cockpit and wheelwells were replaced with Aeries resin and the flaps dropped.  The contour of the upper cowling was given a more rounded profile with a file.  The upper wing joint needs filed back a bit at the wing root joint to get some dihedral on the wings.  The ventral antenna should be moved back about 3-4 mm.  I cut the flaps off and replaced them with the spares from the Airfix kit so they could be shown dropped.  The kit decals had creamy whites and orange reds.  I used the instrument panel decal, but it split into four pieces so the rest of the kit decals went into the trash.

On the plus side, this kit has nice surface detail.  There are many additional parts included to allow the modeler to make several modifications and alternate configurations.  Good to have the options.  In addition to the two types of drop tanks, the kit includes both the Hamilton Standard cuffed propeller and the Aeroproducts propeller usually seen on the P-51K.  Oddly, both the Airfix and Tamiya kits provide additional clear parts for the blown sliding canopy “Dallas” hood but Hasegawa does not.  Hasegawa does include both shrouded and unshrouded exhausts and the dorsal DF fitting seen on some Mustangs.  Duplicate parts are also included for the ventral inlet scoops and radiator door, but the differences were not obvious to me.

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“Little Freddie”, piloted by Lt. Freddie Hutchins, 302 FS, 332 FG.  Hasegawa kit, AeroMaster decals.
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The underside of “Little Freddie”.

AIRFIX

This is the new Airfix kit, with markings from Eagle Strike sheet IP7208.  This kit does a lot of things right, the most obvious being the ability to drop the flaps without the use of a razer saw.  Two sets of flaps are provided, tabbed to pose them up or down as the builder prefers.  The second big thing done right is the wheelwells, which go all the way back to the main wing spar, just like the real thing.  The wells benefit from a little clean-up to remove the inner lip and thin the lower wing edge.  They will still be just a little shallow, but only a little.  If you want to paint the wells in natural metal with only the spar in Zinc Chromate like the early “D”, this kit provides your best opportunity.  Fit was good overall, with the exception of the clear parts.

Which brings us to the liabilities.  The problem which gets the most attention on the Web is the panel lines.  Yes, they are wider and deeper than those of other kits.  I have reduced them here with coats of Mr. Surfacer.  It helped quite a bit, at the expense of some extra time and sandpaper.  The smaller parts also present some problems, due mainly to the soft plastic and large sprue gates.  Some parts were molded badly on my example.  The drop tanks have several errors, and are best left off or replaced.  There are some minor fit issues with the forward windscreen.  This is the first time I have built a kit with the clear canopy molded separately from the lower frame.  I gave it a shot, but I have to say I prefer a one-piece canopy and will replace it with a vacuform piece in the near future.

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“Cripes A’ Mighty”, piloted by Major George Preddy,328 FS,  Bodney, Norfolk, Dec. 1944.  Airfix kit, Eagle Strike decals.

TAMIYA

Last of the three is the Tamiya kit.  Markings are from Super Scale sheet 72-697, which performed flawlessly despite languishing in the stash for years.  The panel lines here are recessed and nicely engraved, the molding is sharp.  If you want dropped flaps with this kit they must be cut loose, but they are molded as one piece with the upper wing panels and can be filled out with a few lengths of half round.  The wheelwells are deep and have some really nice detail, but only go back to the well opening, not to the spar.  In the end I replaced them, but I’m sure many modelers won’t see that as being worth the extra effort.

The Tamiya kit surprised me with a couple of fit issues.  The fit of the main wing can be fixed with some careful trimming at the center of the rear edge, above the radiator scoop where it will be hidden.  Of more concern is the fit of the forward windscreen – it’s about a millimeter wider than the fuselage.  On any future builds I will try shimming the upper cowl out enough to improve the fit.  The main canopy is in two pieces, and I think a vacuform piece would improve the appearance here as well.

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“Honey Bee” Piloted by Capt. Barrie S. Davis, 317 FS, 325 FG.  Tamiya kit, Super Scale decals.

 

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“Daddy’s Girl” piloted by Major Ray Wetmore, 370 FS, 359 FG, East Wretham, Norfolk.  Tamiya kit, Fündeckals decals.

 

 

North American P-51D Mustang Comparison Build, Hasegawa, Airfix and Tamiya Kits in 1/72 Scale Part II

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Basic construction of the three kits has gone relatively smoothly.  Surprisingly, the one fit problem was with the wing / fuselage joint on the Tamiya kit.  This was a tight joint on all three kits, but you can see how far off the Tamiya kit was in this picture.  The excess is at the rear of the wing piece, not the leading edge.  A few swipes of the Exacto knife cured the problem.   A bonus is any uneven cutting will be hidden by the air scoop.  Removing material from the forward mating surface will result in a step at the wing joint so be sure to take it off from the back when building this one.

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P-51s had a laminar flow airfoil design.  To preserve the laminar flow most panel lines on the wings were filled with putty and smoothed.  The wings were then painted in an aluminum lacquer.  All the kits I’ve seen replicate all the panel lines anyway and these three kits are no exception.  The extra lines can be filled with Mr. Surfacer 500 and sanded smooth but remember to leave the ammo bay panels in place.

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Here is the underside of the Hasegawa kit.  The shallow wheelwells have been removed and replaced with the Aeries resin insert.  The forward edge has been built up with Evergreen strip and superglue.  There is still a bit of trimming to do to make the fill flush with the Aeries insert.

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This is the Hasegawa kit, major assembly completed.  The wing panel lines have been filled, wheelwells replaced with the Aries resin, and the flaps removed.  The flaps will be shown dropped using with the spares from the Airfix kit.  One thing to watch with the Hasegawa kit is the wings tend to have little or no dihedral without some extra attention.  I thinned and sanded the mating surface of the upper wing panels and applied liberal amounts of Testors liquid glue to mine.  I also filed back the upper cowl to reduce the square “shoulders”.

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Here is the Airfix kit.  It went together without any drama, but I have made attempts to reduce the excessive panel lines.  After filling and sanding the erroneous panel lines on the wing, the entire model was airbrushed with a coat of Mr. Surfacer 500. That was sanded down with 400 grit, and then another layer of Mr. Surfacer 1000 was applied and sanded down.  That has reduced the depth of the remaining recessed panel lines a bit, we’ll see how it looks under primer and paint.

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This is the Tamiya kit.  The flaps were removed and their forward edges rebuilt with 0.080 inch Evergreen half-round strips.  Easy.  I debated about the wheelwells, but in the end they were also replaced with the deeper Aeries resin inserts.  All joints were checked with a layer of Mr. Surfacer 1000 and sanded smooth with 2000 grit.

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With major construction complete, it’s time for a look at a few of the fiddlybits.  Here’s a shot of the landing gear components, from left to right Hasegawa, Airfix, and Tamiya.  The Hasegawa wheels lack detail on the inner hubs, but otherwise look OK to me.  The tread pattern on the Airfix wheels is a bit overstated.  A bigger concern is the bend on the gear leg to the left.  It came that way on the sprue, the dorsal antenna was also deformed.  I was able to bend the gear leg straight again, but it may come back to haunt me given the reputation the Airfix kit has for weak legs.  I liked the Tamiya wheels and decided to clone them for use on the other kits, in part because the sharp definition between the wheel and the hub will make them easy to paint.

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This is what you get for stores, the 75 gallon teardrop tanks are in all three kits, and Hasegawa also includes a pair of 110 gallon paper tanks.  The Airfix tanks are a disappointment – the shape is off, there is no ridge along the lateral seam, and for some reason Airfix has the filler cap located on the starboard side instead of to port.  Best to replace these tanks, or leave them off entirely.

North American P-51D Mustang Comparison Build, Hasegawa, Airfix and Tamiya Kits in 1/72 Scale Part I

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Mustang kits are a perennial favorite of both modelers and kit manufactures.  In this post I will be comparing the offerings of Hasegawa, Airfix, and Tamiya in 1/72 scale.  On first impression, the kits are quite similar in detail and engineering.  Here are the fuselage halves from Hasegawa, Airfix (light blue plastic), and Tamiya, top to bottom.  All three have engraved panel lines, and yes, those on the Airfix kit are deeper and wider than the other two.  Airfix gives you a separate rudder.  Both of the Japanese manufacturers give you a choice of two types of exhausts, on the Hasegawa kit you must make the choice early as the exhausts are fitted from the inside of the fuselage.

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This shot shows the cockpit sidewall detail, with an aftermarket resin wall from Airies for comparison.  Detail on all three kits appears too shallow to my eye, with the older Hasegawa details being the faintest.  There is enough to hold paint on the Airfix and Tamiya kits, which was close enough for me this time.  All three kits could be improved either by aftermarket parts or some scratchbuilding.

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The wing undersides show several differences, and again an Aeries resin wheelwell piece is shown at the top for comparison.  All three kits treat the wheelwells differently, and note that all three openings have slightly different shapes.  Starting at the top, the Hasegawa wells are extremely shallow, there is not even enough room for the doors, let alone the wheels.  Not an issue for some builders, but it bugs the heck out of me.  The forward curve of the well extends a bit too close to the leading edge of the wing as well.
On the Airfix kit the inner surface of the wheelwell is molded into the upper surface of the wing.  The big thing Airfix did right here is the back of the well extends aft to the main spar, just as it does on the real aircraft.  The lower wing surface panels are a little thick, but that can be addressed with minimal effort.  The other big win here for Airfix is they have provided two sets of separate flaps, both raised and lowered.  Yay!  On a Mustang when the engine stops the hydraulic pressure drops and the flaps and inner wheel well doors lower, so it is most welcome to have a kit which provides for the standard appearance right out of the box.
The Tamiya wells are quite detailed, but they only go back to the rear of the well opening, not the spar.  They are deep though, and I considered leaving them alone given they are on the underside where they don’t stand out.

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Here are the cockpit components, again with Aeries resin parts at the top for comparison.  Hasegawa is the less detailed of the three and is missing rudder pedals along with the prominent console on the port side.  Airfix extends the cockpit floor to give you a roof for the tail wheelwell and a very nice pilot figure.  The control stick is a bad combination of a thin part and soft plastic though, I broke mine during painting.  On any future builds I will go with a wire stick right from the start.  Tamiya’s cockpit is nicely done, particularly the seat and instrument panel.

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Here the fuselage halves are taped up for comparison of component alignment.  Top to bottom they are Tamiya to Airfix, Airfix to Hasegawa, and Hasegawa to Tamiya.  As you can see, everything lines up pretty well on the top of the fuselage.

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On the bottom of the fuselage we can see some differences in the way things line up.  Hasegawa (top half, center) appears to have the tail well slightly short and everything else moved aft a bit, but most of these debates come down to whose drawings one likes best.  In the end, I decided not to cut plastic here and just build the kits as they were molded.  There’s the comparison of the major components, I’ll show assembly and improvements next.

North American O-47 Color Photographs – Details and Crew

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A staged photograph of a group of officers studying a map on the tail of an O-47, showing details of the tail to good advantage. (Rudy Arnold)

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A good view of the main landing gear as this O-47 warms up.  Modelers note the variation of colors on the long exhaust running along the starboard side. (Rudy Arnold)

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Sgt. Mollowitz standing by the flexible .30 caliber gun in the rear defensive position. (Rudy Arnold)

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Pilot Lieutenant D. H. Schreiner in cold weather gear preparing to board the aircraft.  The red center in the national insignia was carried until May of 1942, when it was deleted to avoid confusion with the Japanese Hinomaru. (Rudy Arnold)

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The crew at their positions.  Note the position of the rear canopy glazing, which the gunner has rotated forward to deploy his weapon.  Unless the observer needed a picture of the upper wing as shown here, he would normally deploy his camera through cut-outs in the fuselage under the wing. (Rudy Arnold)

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Three officers posed to represent the aircrew.  This photograph shows their cold-weather flight gear to good advantage. (Rudy Arnold)

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Rear gun in the deployed position.

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Another view of the rear defensive gun position which also shows details of the exhaust opening.

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The camera being transferred to the aircraft.

North American O-47 Color Photographs

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An excellent study of O-47A Serial number 37-260 in flight in 1941.  Note the Wright Field arrowhead visible on the fuselage.  (Rudy Arnold)

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Another pre-war photograph, this O-47 displays an interesting design on the wheel hubs.

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With war looming, the USAAC adopted the Olive Drab over Neutral Gray camouflage which would become synonymous with Army aircraft.  This O-47A is part of “Red Nation” forces in the 1941 war games.

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Several aircraft types were painted in temporary camouflage schemes and were evaluated at Bolling Field in January 1940.  The paints were water-soluble so they could be easily removed and thus wore away quickly.  (LIFE Magazine)

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The O-47 carried a fixed .30 caliber gun in the starboard wing.  This example has a trestle under the fuselage while the gun is being sighted.

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38-306 in flight.  The terrain is consistent with the vast farmlands of the American Midwest.  (Rudy Arnold)

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38-306 again, posing for the camera.  Finish is the standard OD / NG with Orange-Yellow serials on the vertical tail.   (Rudy Arnold)

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A nice overhead view of 37-352.  (Rudy Arnold)

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The sudden entry of the U.S. into WWII found both the Army Air Corps and Navy unprepared for war.  While several aircraft types were obsolete in their designed roles, they were adequate for coastal patrol and ASW duties.  Here 37-327 Of the 107th Observation Squadron of the Michigan National Guard carries depth charges while patrolling for German U-boats.  She has been camouflaged in the USN standard Blue Gray over Light Gray scheme appropriate for her new role.

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Another O-47A carrying depth charges, this one is flying without the landing gear covers on her port gear.

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The O-47s soldiered on throughout the war performing ancillary duties.  This example carries the barred national insignia with blue border authorized from August 1943.

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Another late-war aircraft, this one has been stripped of her camouflage paint revealing the natural metal finish underneath.

Hasegawa P-51K Mustang in 1/72 Scale

This is Hasegawa’s North American P-51K kit, basically it is the same as a “D” except uncuffed prop blades have been added and the canopy is bulged.  Neither feature definitively identifies a “K” however, these parts were interchangeable with those on the more common “D” models.  One flaw shared by many Hasegawa kits is shallow wheelwells.  On the Mustang kit they are so shallow the gear doors won’t fit into them, let alone the wheels!  Aries resin provided a replacement with some depth.  I also substituted an Aries seat and sidewalls in the cockpit.

Hasegawa’s P-51s have been somewhat overshadowed by the Tamiya kits.  Ironically, one of the three sets of markings supplied in Tamiya’s P-51D Aces boxing is actually for a P-51K!  Hasegawa’s decals are older with creamy whites, so I went with the Tamiya decals for this build.

Nooky Booky IV was the mount of Major “Kit” Carson, the leading scorer of the 357th FG with 18.5 aerial victories, plus another 5.5 on the ground.  Major Carson survived the war, as did his aircraft.  Nooky Booky IV was scrapped in Germany after the war.

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