2020 Year in Review

“May you live in interesting times.” – ancient Chinese curse

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2020 in the form of a gingerbread house.

Oddly for a method of telling time, the positioning of our new year is arbitrary from a physical perspective and should have no actual bearing on earthly events, but here’s hoping for a better 2021 anyway!

I’ll look for the “win” here even if it is minor: We modelers are fortunate to have an inherently solitary hobby in these times.  Overall modeling appears to have picked up, Hornsby (parent company of Airfix) is reporting profits for the first time in years.  Modeling podcasts have come into their own and make bench time even more enjoyable.

The biggest void from a modeling perspective in my opinion is the cancellation of the shows.  I usually attend half a dozen per year and they are always a fine day out, with friends, new kits, and getting to see the work of hundreds of fellow modelers.  Also missing was the Half Price Books annual clearance sale where literally semi-truck loads of books are sold at ridiculously low prices at the state fairgrounds.

On a different note, perhaps the most interesting story of the year received very little attention – the U.S. government admitted that it was studying materials retrieved from vehicles of extraterrestrial origin.  Another commentary on the year 2020.

Blog Statistics and News

2020 was the second complete year for the Inch High Guy blog.  I am happy to report that I again managed to make a post each day, so 366 posts due to the leap year.  The blog received 73,992 views and 26,731 visitors, up from 27,174 views and 7,303 visitors last year.  The most popular post was “Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Interior Colors Part I” with 1,857 views, followed by “The B-17E and the Myth of the Bendix Ventral Turret” with 1,116 views.  Forts appear to be popular around here!

Link:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/b-17-flying-fortress-interior-colors-part-i/

Link: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/the-b-17e-and-the-myth-of-the-bendix-ventral-turret/

I am still struggling with the counter-intuitive Word Press editor, and that was only made worse with the introduction of the Word Press “Block Editor” in September.  This eliminated some useful functions while re-naming and moving others, with no apparent improvements on the user end.  On a more positive note, I did finally locate the tagging function and busied myself adding tags to all posts old and new.

I have linked several posts on ScaleMates, where the walk-around posts of museum aircraft have proved to be the most popular.  The Women Warriors posts have found a following with wargamers over on The Miniatures Page, among others.  I had intended for these pictures to tell their own stories, but there have been a few requests for captions.  Easier said than done with the modern-era photos as information ranges from obvious to impossible-to-determine, but there may be hope for the historical pictures.

Models Built in 2020

Forty-seven completions, twenty-nine aircraft and eighteen vehicles.  In addition I painted fifteen figures (plus one dog) and constructed three diorama bases. Everything was built to 1/72 scale as is my preference.  The mosaic has a picture of each build, if you want to see more finished pictures or the construction posts just follow the tags at the bottom of this post or enter the descriptions in the search bar in the upper right column.

Hasegawa Kawanishi Kyofu (Rex) x 2

Tamiya Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden (George)

Aoshima Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden (George)

MPM Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden (George)

Hasegawa Kawanishi Shiden Kai (George) x 2

Hasegawa Mitsubishi Raiden (Jack)

Fujimi Aichi B7A1 Ryusei (Grace)

LS Yokosuka K5Y Akatombo (Willow)

AZ Yokosuka K5Y Akatombo (Willow)

Special Hobby Curtiss P-40 Warhawk x 5

Tamiya Republic P-47D Thunderbolt

Airfix Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress conversion to B-17E x 2

RPM Hotchkiss H35 French Light Tank

RAF Bomber Supply Set x 2 (6 vehicles)

IBG Chevrolet C15A Personnel Lorry

Monogram Boeing F4B-4 x 2

Rare Bits Boeing F4B-1 Conversion

Monogram Curtiss F11C-2 Goshawk

Matchbox Boeing P-12E x 2

Czech Master Resin Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk

Plastic Soldier StuG III Ausf. G Assault Gun x 3

Trumpeter StuG III Ausf. G Assault Gun

Revell Heinkel He 177A-5 Greif

Revell Junkers Ju 88P-1 Conversion

Hasegawa Heinkel He 111H-20

Italeri 15 cm Field Howitzer sFH 18

Trumpeter Sd.Ah.116 Tank Transporter

Zvezda Panzer IV Ausf. H

Planet Models Resin Sd. Kfz. 9 FAMO Halftrack

Revell Sd. Kfz. 9 FAMO Halftrack

Trumpeter Sd. Kfz. 9 FAMO Halftrack

Forward

Arma hobby has just announced a P-51 B/C Mustang in 1/72. The computer renders look good and show areas such as the wing leading edge and wheel well openings which have given other manufacturers problems appear to have been rendered properly. Here’s hoping! Every previous B/C in 1/72 scale has had some major shape issue so an accurate new tool kit has been at the top of many modeler’s wish lists for many years now. The early Mustangs, if done well, are sure to be a hit and a license to print money for Arma so here’s wishing for a successful release!

In more local news Ms. Inch High put a Creality LD-002R 3-D resin printer under the Christmas tree this year. These are very useful if you know what you’re doing, which I don’t at this point. Hopefully I will soon though, and I look forward to printing something useful. It is an amazing technology to have sitting on the bench. For all the talk of “Death of the Hobby” in some circles, I have yet to see any hint of it from here.

I have enjoyed putting this together, and have enjoyed hearing from other modelers and discovering other blogs.  A big thank you to all who have visited here, commented, followed, and especially those who have posted links.  

May you all live long enough to build every model in your stash!

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)

Colorful Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Markings Part 1

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Special Hobby Curtiss P-40N-5 Warhawk of the “Burma Banshees” in 1/72 Scale

Yet another Curtiss P-40 with spectacular nose art, this is P-40N-5 serial number 42-105233 of the 89th Fighter Squadron, 80th Fighter Group stationed at Nagaghuli in Assam, India in 1944.  The Burma Banshees each carried large skulls on the engine cowlings of their Warhawks, and each skull was unique.  Decals are from the kit and are printed by Cartograph.  Living up to their reputation, the decals performed flawlessly.

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The 79th Fighter Group Book Review

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The 79th Fighter Group: Over Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy in World War II

By Dan Woerpel

Hardcover in dustjacket, 264 pages, illustrated, appendixes, indexed, twelve color profiles

Published by Schiffer Publishing July 2001

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0764313223

ISBN-13: 978-0764313226

Dimensions: 8.8 x 1.0 x 11.1 inches

The 79th Fighter Group first saw combat over North Africa in early 1943 equipped with Curtis P-40 Warhawks.  After the Axis armies were defeated in North Africa the Group moved on to Sicily, and then the Italian mainland where it was re-equipped with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, which it flew until the end of the war.  The Group was mainly engaged in ground attack and interdiction missions as the Luftwaffe presence was reduced while the Italian Campaign progressed.  138 Axis aircraft were claimed destroyed in the air; the list of ground targets destroyed is also impressive and includes damaging the Italian aircraft carrier Aquilla.

The Group was comprised of three squadrons; the 85th Fighter Squadron “Flying Skulls”; 86th FS “Comanches”; and 87th FS “Skeeters”.  For a time the 99th FS was also attached while the Group was in Sicily.

Being a unit history, the book follows the 79th Fighter Group from its formation to the end of occupation duty in Germany.  The account is quite detailed and covers each mission the squadrons flew with an accounting of claims and losses from each.  While this can get somewhat repetitive, there are enough personal accounts from the pilots to keep things interesting.  The author has done an outstanding job of describing the overall strategic progress of the war which provides vital context for the Group’s movements and assignments.  There is also an entire chapter devoted to the experiences of pilots shot down behind enemy lines and their successful evasion or ultimate captivity.

Many Schiffer publications consist almost entirely of photographs with a small portion of the book devoted to text.  This is not one of those books.  Although there are a number of photographs the focus of this work is on the history.  While I would always prefer more pictures there are enough here to help tell the story.  These are augmented by twelve nicely done color illustrations by artist S. W. Ferguson which are rendered in perspective.

The 79th Fighter Group was unique in the number and variety of Axis aircraft which its personnel rebuilt and returned to flightworthy condition.  While other units would also occasionally refurbish a few captured aircraft, it was almost an obsession with the 79th.  There is mention of some of these aircraft but I would have liked to have seen much more material included on this as it was a defining peculiarity of the unit.

This is a large book, definitely not just an evening’s read.  I did find it interesting and informative.  It is well-written and I enjoyed the author’s style.  If you’re interested in the Italian Campaign or the daily operations of a Fighter Group then I would not hesitate to recommend this book.

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Special Hobby Curtiss P-40K-5 Warhawk of Major Edward Nollmeyer in 1/72 Scale

“Big Ed” Nollmeyer was the Commanding Officer of the 26th Fighter Squadron 51st Fighter Group based at Kunming, China.  Nollmeyer was an ace with five victories.  The model represents his personal aircraft serial number 42-9768 displaying her ultimate set of markings.  Decals are from the kit with the exception of the blue-bordered national insignia which came from the spares box, I felt the red-bordered insignia were less likely to be accurate during the period when the shark’s mouth and five kill markings were carried.

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Special Hobby Curtiss P-40K-1 Warhawk of 1LT Robert Overcash in 1/72 Scale

Here is the Curtiss P-40K-1 serial number 42-46040 of 1LT Robert “Jay” Overcash of the 64th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group operating from Hani Main airfield in Tunisia, May 1943.  Overcast was an ace with five victories over the North African desert.  There are a lot of markings on this aircraft, the decals all came from the sheet supplied in the Special Hobby kit which were printed by Cartograph.

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Special Hobby Curtiss P-40E Warhawk 343rd Fighter Group Aleutian Tigers in 1/72 Scale

This is the excellent Special Hobby P-40E Warhawk kit with markings from DK Decals Aleutian Planes sheet 72030.  The aircraft is one of those assigned to the 11th Fighter Squadron 343rd Fighter Group seen at Adak, Alaska in the Summer of 1943.  I added some detail to the cockpit and installed the canvas dust covers in the wheelwells using masking tape but other than that did very little to the kit.  The P-40s in the Aleutians suffered an extreme amount of paint wear at the wing roots.  One problem with the camouflage is this particular aircraft did not have the Medium Green spots on the upper surface, an error on my part.

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Special Hobby Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Batch Build Part IV

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After a second coat of Future (Klear) to seal the decals I washed the panel lines with the black Tamiya wash.  If you remove the excess wash from the surface in the direction of airflow it accentuates the weathered look.  After that I began experimenting a bit.  The wing root joints were chipped with the silver Revlon Modeling Silver Chipping Medium and the area dirtied up with a slightly darker shade of Tan applied with a small piece of sponge.

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Here is the P-40E showing the extreme of wing root chipping.  The Olive Drab camo has some toning applied with the airbrush.  Over that are slightly different shades of Olive Drab stippled on lightly with sponge held in tweezers.

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The Neutral Gray undersides received the same treatment.  I like the effect so I’ll likely continue to try to refine the technique.

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Here is the 343rd Fighter Group “Aleutian Tiger” using DK Decals.  I tried brushing on the Medium Green spots on the wings and the tail surfaces, the Mr. Color paint looks good under the clear coats.  I will admit to an error here – 0610 was one of the Aleutian Warhawks which did not have the Medium Green spots over the Olive Drab.  That’s what I get for having the wrong picture on the bench on painting day!

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This P-40K of the 26th Fighter Squadron / 51st Fighter Group was built using the kit decals.  These are printed by Cartograph and performed flawlessly.  You do need to pay attention to the exact period you want to represent with this aircraft’s markings though, they changed over time.  I chose to show my model in later markings with five victories, shark’s teeth, blue outlined insignia, and Olive Drab areas on the tail and carburetor intake.

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All five together for a group picture!  Now that these are done, I’ll be needing some more!

 

SUMMARY

The Special Hobby P-40 family are great kits.  The fuselages and wings are separate tools where required to represent the different sub-types, and alternate detail parts are provided to accommodate the more subtle differences.  Two different styles of drop tanks and a 500-pound bomb allow for the most common stores load outs.  The kit decals are excellent and the marking choices are good ones and there is no end to alternate schemes available from the aftermarket.  The kits have good cockpit detail and build up well straight from the box which will make them a perfect choice for contest modelers looking for an OOB entry.

The only real fit issue is at the instrument panel cover and windscreen joint (parts B14 and G1).  I recommend attaching the cover to the instrument panel first and then inserting the assembly into the fuselage rather than waiting until the end of the build to fit the cover.  You will still need to remove some material to get the front windscreen to seat properly so don’t skip the test-fitting here.

The wing / fuselage joint is a tight fit and can be easily thrown off by mold seams.  This is one joint which should be glued with MEK-based “thin” cement as this will dissolve any minor imperfections and result in a good seamless fit.

If you follow the kit instructions the radiator assembly will sit too far back in the nose, it needs to be move forward a bit.

The kit tires are smooth treads, most P-40s had variations of diamond or block treads so check your references.  If such things are worth your money there are resin replacements available in several different styles.

If I could change one thing it would be for Special Hobby to include Kabuki tape canopy masks.  Eduard makes some for these kits, but they are $7 – $10 per set, which is roughly three times what Eduard charges for their P-40 mask sets meant for kits from other manufacturers.  Not sure what the problem here is but I hope it doesn’t become a trend.

Sell your 1/72 scale Hasegawa P-40 kits.  The leading edge of the Hasegawa wing sits 2-3 mm too high up on the fuselage on these kits and there is no way to “unsee” this once you figure it out, and no practical way to fix it.

Bottom line is these are great kits and fun builds.  And who doesn’t like the P-40?