Kit Review: Eduard’s 1/48 P-51D Mustang “Very Long Range: Tales of Iwo Jima” Limited Edition Boxing

Eduard

I received my Eduard “Very Long Range: Tales of Iwo Jima” Limited Edition boxing yesterday from Sprue Brothers. As previously disclosed by Eduard, this boxing includes twelve different decal options that cover all nine squadrons of the three Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups. For the profiles of the aircraft included in this boxing, see my previous post “Eduard’s Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Boxing – Very Long Range: Tales of Iwojima” under Kit/Product News. Below are the decals included in the kit, which are extremely well researched and are in register. Again, kudos to Eduard for covering all nine squadrons of the three Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups.

Eduard

As has been Eduard’s practice when issuing limited edition or dual combo kits, they normally include some resin parts as an extra bonus. Eduard does not disappoint with this boxing. Included in the kit are beautifully cast resin wheels, including a tail wheel, and rocket stubs in case you want to step-up the detail in building a rocket carrying VLR Mustang.

Eduard

The photo-etch parts include the customary interior parts to spruce up the cockpit, and an additional fret that includes the exterior stiffening plates that were added to the underside of the wings when VLR Mustangs were modified on Iwo Jima to carry HVAR rockets. A really nice touch on Eduard’s part.

Eduard

Finally, Eduard has included a lapel pin with the 78th FS Bushmaster emblem. Again, nice touch. While I doubt too many people will actually use it as a lapel pin, you may see some at airshows and model contests.

Eduard

A few comments about some of the aircraft included in this boxing. The 47th FS plane is 176 “Moonbeam McSwine” flown by Captain Eurich L. Bright. In the notes, Eduard comments that the dark parts of the unit markings (fuselage and wing bands, and tail wedge) were most probably very dark blue, and not black. This is news to me so I am curious as to where Eduard came across this information. If you are going to paint the unit markings with a dark blue instead of black, I would recommend using Dark Sea Blue (ANA 623/FS15042); the same color used on late war Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats.

Eduard

The kit also includes decals for Lt. Col. John W. Mitchell’s 11 “Annie Lee”, a P-51D-25NA Mustang (Serial No. 44-73382). Lt. Col. Mitchell was the Commander of the 15th FG from July 19, 1945 to the end of the war. Eduard’s notes indicate that this was a 78th FS plane, but that does not appear to be consistent with the standardized late war markings of a yellow spinner, unbordered yellow wingtips and horizontal stabilizers, and a yellow fin/rudder top. So my assumption is that this aircraft was a 47th FS aircraft. I looked back through my reference materials and photographs, and I only have one photo of 11 “Annie Lee” which just shows the cockpit area and not any of the squadron markings. Nor could I find a picture of a 47th FS Mustang with a black spinner, black wingtips and horizontal stabilizers, and a black fin/rudder top. Time to do a little more research on squadron markings.

Eduard

If you are interested in building an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang, this kit is highly recommended. Not only are all of the necessary parts to build a VLR Mustang present, but you also get twelve decal options that cover all nine squadrons of the three VLR Mustang groups. In my mind, the decals alone justify the cost of the kit. I am not sure how many kits Eduard produced as part of this Limited Edition offering, but Sprue Brothers sold out of the kit in just four days.

For those of you that are interested in the history of the Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Groups, check out the article/interview of 1st Lt. William G. “Bill” Ebersole in the August 2020 edition Eduard’s on-line magazine INFO Eduard. The article/interview is entitled “The Tales of Very Long Range Bill”. The interview was conducted by 506th Fighter Group Historian Brian Walter. To read the article, just go to Eduard’s website (https://www.eduard.com/info-eduard-august-2020/?cur=2) and download the August 2020 edition. 1st Lt. Ebersole’s Mustang, 619 “Hon. Mistake”, which he was assigned to with 1st Lt. James R. Bercaw, is one of the decal options in the kit.

Eduard

Reference Materials: 7th Fighter Command Website

As modelers, we have differing motivations as to why we build models. Some build out of the sheer enjoyment of building and completing a model without concerns about accuracy of details or markings. My twin brother (yes, there are two of us), out of boredom from being at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, built a 1/72 Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress for his first model. He enjoyed the experience enough that he bought a 1/48 Tamiya North American P-51D Mustang for his second build. Concerned about accuracy of the models he is building, or the decals he has used? Not in the least. He just enjoys completing a build.

On the other end of the spectrum you have modelers who strive for ultimate accuracy in not only detail, but also in the markings they use. The amount of detail added to their models (photo etch, resin and scratch built parts) and their ability to correct errors in shapes and contours is simply amazing. I wish my skills were at that level.

Everybody else falls somewhere in between. I am included in this vast middle ground of desires and abilities. What has drawn me to modeling is my love of World War II aviation, and the history of the pilots, planes and the different combatants. For those of us that love the history behind the planes we are building, good reference sites are a must.

There is a lot of information at a person’s fingertips regarding the United States Army Air Force groups that operated off of Iwo Jima. Some of that information can be found at a couple of websites, and other information takes a few more steps and a little more time to access, but nothing that takes a tremendous amount of time.

7th Fighter Command Association Website Home Page

The Seventh Fighter Command website (https://www.7thfighter.com) covers all of the fighter groups that were stationed on Iwo Jima. It covers the 15th, 21st and 506th Fighter Groups (P-51D Mustangs), the 414th Fighter Group (P-47N Thunderbolts), and the night fighter squadrons (P-61B Black Widows). The 414th Fighter Group did fly VLR missions in the Republic P-47N Thunderbolt in the last few weeks of the war in the Pacific.

While the website has a large collection of photos, including many of the United States Army Air Force’s collection for the 7th Fighter Command from the National Archives, the real resource is its webmaster, Mark W. Stevens. When I first became interested in the Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Groups, the 7th Fighter Command website was the first website I found, and Mark was the first person I reached out to in my quest to learn more. Over the years, Mark has acquired a tremendous amount of information and photos regarding the 7th Fighter Command. Mark has always been helpful, and willing to share his information and resources. If you have questions regarding the 7th Fighter Command, or are researching a specific plane or pilot, Mark is the person to contact. Mark’s email address is: mark@7thfighter.com.

As a condition of the use of materials from the 7th Fighter Command Association website, the following disclaimer is included: Permission to use, copy and distribute documents delivered from this Worldwide Web server and related graphics is hereby granted, provided 1) That the use of the data will not be used for obtaining a profit of any kind, and 2) That the above disclaimer notice appear in all copies and that both that disclaimer notice and this permission notice appear. All other rights reserved. The name of “7th Fighter Command Association” may not be used in advertising or publicity pertaining to distribution of this information without specific, written prior permission. Mark Stevens and the 7th Fighter Command Association makes no representations about the suitability of this information for any purpose. It is provided “as is” without express or implied warranty. Mark Stevens and the 7th Fighter Command Association disclaim all warranties with regard to this information, including all implied warranties of merchantability and fitness. In no event shall Mark Stevens or the 7th Fighter Command Association be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of this information.

Eduard’s Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Boxing; “Very Long Range: Tales of Iwojima”

Eduard

Eduard has previously indicated that it intended to release a Pacific VLR boxing of its 1/48 P-51D Mustang kit in August of 2020. What was not known, until now, was whether the decal options for the boxing would be solely for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs, or a mixture of decals for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs and other Pacific Mustangs.

That question is answered in the July 2020 Edition of INFO Eduard. The boxing will be a Limited Edition release entitled “Very Long Range: Tales of Iwojima”, and will include twelve different decal options for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs that covers all nine squadrons of the three Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups. Below are the decal options.

Eduard
Eduard
Eduard

It’s fantastic to see all nine squadrons represented in this release, and especially nice to see decals for the three squadrons (46th, 72nd and 531st) of the 21st Fighter Group. Other than Major Harry C. Crim’s 300 “My Achin” Ass, 21st FG Mustangs tend not to get a lot of love from kit makers and after market decal manufacturers. While modelers want to build models of fighter aces, and kit manufacturers cater to that demand, it is nice to see decals of lesser known pilots included.

A few notes about the decal options. First, there are two decal options for the 45th FS, 15th FG P-51D-20-NA Mustang serial number 44-63483. This plane was originally assigned to Major Gilmer L. “Buck” Snipes, the CO of the 45th FS, and was named “Tom Kat”. It was later assigned to top VLR ace Major Robert W. “Todd” Moore who scored a total of 12 victories, and was renamed “Stinger VII”.

Second, a modeler has decal options for the two planes flown by the second leading VLR fighter ace, Major James B. Tapp of the 78th FS, 15th FG. The first is “Margaret IV”, a P-51D-20-NA, which is the most recognized P-51D Mustang flown by Major Tapp. The second is “Margaret V”, a P-51D-25-NA, which Major Tapp flew in the last few weeks of the Pacific war. It is nice to have both options.

Third, decals are provided for Lt. Colonel John W. Mitchell’s 11, “Annie Lee”. Lt. Colonel Mitchell gained fame and notoriety for leading the long over water mission that resulted in the downing of the Mitsubishi G4M Betty carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Lt. Colonel Mitchell added 3 VLR victories to the 8 aerial victories he had while serving with the 339 FS. He served as the CO of the 15th FG from July 19, 1945, to the end of the war. Very nice addition to the decal options.

Lastly, the decal options provide a nice mix of the early squadron markings and the later standardized squadron markings that were mandated in the last few months of the war. More about the change in squadron markings in a later post.

Kudos to Eduard on this release! If you are contemplating purchasing this boxing when it is released in August, I would not wait too long as Eduard Limited Edition releases tend to sell out fairly quickly.

In Memory of Colonel Abner M. Aust, Jr.; October 7, 1921 – June 16, 2020

Captain Abner M. Aust, Jr.

Abner Maurice Aust, Jr., was born on October 7, 1921, in Scooba, Mississippi. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at Sunflower Junior College in Morehead, Mississippi. While in college, Abner joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) and completed pilot training on June 15, 1942. Abner then enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on June 23, 1942. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and awarded his pilot wings at Luke Field, Arizona, on April 12, 1943, and then served as an instructor pilot during which time he was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant and then Captain. Desiring to get into combat and become an ace, Captain Aust joined the 457th Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group at Lakeland Army Air Field, Florida, in October 1944, shortly after its activation.

Captain Aust was the only fighter ace in the 506th Fighter Group with 5 confirmed victories, and has the distinction of being the last fighter ace of World War II.

Only encountering enemy opposition on two VLR missions, Captain Aust took advantage of those opportunities. He claimed his first victories on a VLR strike mission to the Nagoya/Bay of Ise area on July 16, 1945, engaging six Nakajima Ki-84 Hayates (Franks) head on and shooting down three in quick succession.

Artwork by David J. Ails

His next opportunity to score came on August 10, 1945, on a VLR mission escorting B-29s to the northeast of Tokyo. Captain Aust shot down a Mitsubishi Zero at 25,000 feet for his first victory of the day. He quickly spotted another Zero and made two passes damaging his adversary’s plane both times. After the second pass, the Zero dived into clouds and disappeared. Captain Aust was able to spot a third Zero, get behind it, and shot it down over an airfield for this second victory of the day, and his fifth aerial victory of the war.

Artwork by Zbigniew Kolacha

Unfortunately, during his various aerial encounters on August 10th, Captain Aust became separated from his wingman, 1st Lieutenant Jackie Horner. In addition, to Captain Aust’s misfortune, the armorer maintaining his plane erroneously set the gun camera film at 75 frames per second instead of the normal speed of 16 frames per second. Because of this, his gun camera film only provided proof of the first Zero shot down at 25,000 feet, and the two passes made on the second Zero that disappeared in the clouds. The gun camera film ran out before he shot down the third Zero over the Japanese airfield. Captain Aust did not have an American eyewitness or gun camera film to corroborate his claim of shooting down the second Zero. He would find out several years later than there were several Japanese eyewitnesses to his downing of the third Zero. What follows is an excerpt from the book the “506th Fighter Group: The History of the 506th Fighter Group, Iwo Jima 1945”, describing Captain Aust’s efforts to gain official confirmation of his fifth aerial victory.

“It took me 18 years to confirm the fifth aircraft destroyed. I kept all my mission records for this mission. My brother-in-law, Phillip Edward was stationed at Misawa AB in northern Japan during the early 1960s. He married a Japanese lady. I sent her all the facts concerning this mission. He and his wife visited this airfield and confirmed my claim by statements from Japanese men who were working at this airfield that day in 1945. That was the only aircraft ever shot down over that air base. They confirmed that it happened about 12 noon and that the airfield anti-aircraft were doing everything they could to shoot me down. Phillip Edward sent me the facts and proof to support my claim. I sent this information with a letter to the Office of Correction of Military Records. This office, after review, approved my requests as did The American Fighter Aces Association. I finally became a WWII Fighter Ace in 1963!”

Captain Aust flew a total of 14 VLR missions during the 506th FG’s deployment on Iwo Jima, and he was credited also with 3 enemy planes destroyed on the ground. His description of the July 16th and August 10th VLR missions are contained in the “506th Fighter Group: The History of 506th Fighter Group, Iwo Jima 1945”.

Colonel Abner M. Aust, Jr.

He became a career officer in the United States Air Force obtaining the rank of Colonel, and commanded 31st and 3rd Tactical Fighter Wings during the Vietnam War flying both F-100 Super Sabres and F-4 Phantoms.

Colonel Aust passed away on June 16, 2020, at the Lakeland Regional Medical Center at 98 years of age. I had the honor and privilege to interview Colonel Aust on several occasions during 506th Fighter Group reunions, and looked forward to every opportunity to speak with him. He remained active until the end, had a keen intellect, and a memory that rarely failed him.

Decal Review: DKdecals P-51D/K Mustang over the Pacific and Australia (48028)

DKdecals recently released a new 1/48 decal sheet for Pacific based P-51D/K Mustangs. It contains decals for five Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs; one from the 15th FG, one from the 21st FG, and three from the 506th FG. This sheet is unique in that it provides decals for lesser known planes that have never been produced before. We tend to see the same decals for planes with great nose art ( i.e. 528 “The Enchantress”), or planes the aces flew (i.e. Major Todd W. Moore’s 67 “Stinger VII”, Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV”, and Major Harry C. Crim’s 300 “My Achin” Ass), so it is nice to have a variety of lesser known planes. Kudos to DKdecals.

The painting and decal placement guide is nicely done. The five decals for the Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs are as follows:

114 “Dear Edna”; 78th FS, 15th FG; P-51D-20-NA44-63967; flown by 1st Lt. Frederick A. Bauman. Lt. Bauman was credited with one aerial victory on the June 10, 1945 mission to Atsugi Airdrome near Tokyo.

1st Lt. Frederick A. Bauman in front of 114 “Dear Edna” (via Mark W. Stevens/7th Fighter Command Association)

235 “Slow Roll”; 46th FS, 21st FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63891; flown by 2nd Lt. John W. Brock. Lt. Brock was credited with three aerial victories, his first on April 12, 1945, and the second and third on July 9, 1945. Below is the only photo I can find for “Slow Roll”. It does not appear that the nose art has been applied when the photo was taken.

235 “Slow Roll” (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

522 “Buzz Buddy”; 457th FS, 506th FG; P-51D-25-NA, 44-72876. It is unknown who was assigned to fly “Buzz Buddy”. However, it is known that 1st Lt. Chauncey A. Newcomb scored two aerial victories while flying “Buzz Buddy”. 1st Lt. Newcomb was actually assigned to 514 “Erma Lou” along with 1st Lt. Francis “Frank” Albrecht. It was not uncommon for pilots to fly VLR missions in planes they were not assigned to. Because there only black and white photos of “Buzz Buddy”, and it is difficult to tell what the color of the name on of the nose is, DKdecals provided the name in both red and black. Nice touch.

522 “BuzzBuddy” (via Robert Newcomb/Dr. John Benbow)

575 “My Madge/Julia’ll Fool Yer”; 458th FS, 506th FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-72602; flown by Captain G. Marcott.

575 “My Madge/Julia’ll Fool Yer” (via Dr. John Benbow)

643 “Providence Permitting”; 462nd FS, 506th FG; P-51D-25-NA, 44-72855; flown by 1st Lt. Allen F. Colley and 1st Lt. Leonard A. Dietz.

1st Lts. Allen F. Colley and Leonard A. Dietz and ground crew in front of 643 “Providence Permitting” (via Bill Ebersole/Dr. John Benbow)

The decals are in register, and the artwork is exceptional. If you are interested in building a lesser known Iwo Jima VLR or Pacific Mustang with some really nice markings, this decal sheet is highly recommended.

As a condition of the use of materials from the 7th Fighter Command Association website, the following disclaimer is included: Permission to use, copy and distribute documents delivered from this Worldwide Web server and related graphics is hereby granted, provided 1) That the use of the data will not be used for obtaining a profit of any kind, and 2) That the above disclaimer notice appear in all copies and that both that disclaimer notice and this permission notice appear. All other rights reserved. The name of “7th Fighter Command Association” may not be used in advertising or publicity pertaining to distribution of this information without specific, written prior permission. Mark Stevens and the 7th Fighter Command Association makes no representations about the suitability of this information for any purpose. It is provided “as is” without express or implied warranty. Mark Stevens and the 7th Fighter Command Association disclaim all warranties with regard to this information, including all implied warranties of merchantability and fitness. In no event shall Mark Stevens or the 7th Fighter Command Association be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of this information.

Building 607 ‘Dolly’ – Build Installment #4

Here is the assembled and painted Packard built Rolls Royce Merlin engine. I painted the engine with Mr. Color Flat Black (33) because I wanted the durable finish that only a lacquer based paint can provide. It will be handled some while adding detail (ignition harnesses, spark plug wires, plumbing, etc . . .), and water based acrylics are just not that durable. I used a flat paint because I colored the numerous bolt heads and nuts with a Sanford Prismacolor Metallic Silver pencil, and these pencils just do not work well on gloss paints.

I purchased some round lead wires ranging from .2 mm to .6 mm for some of the additional detail to be added to the engine from UMM-USA. The lead wires should make it easier as far as forming the ignition harnesses and spark plug wires.

Owned by master modeler, John Vojtech, UMM-USA is an on-line store specializing in tools and supplies for adding fine detail to models. Worth a look if you are getting into adding fine detail to your models. http://www.umm-usa.com/

Memorial Day 2020 Tributes

“Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” Ronald W. Reagan, 40th President of the United States of America

Today, we remember and honor the men and women who have fallen while serving in the United States Armed Forces to preserve the freedoms we exercise and enjoy on a daily basis. Let us never take these freedoms for granted, for they were paid for with an extremely high price.

Joe Rosenthal

The Battle of Iwo Jima was costly for both the United States and Japan. American military planners believed that Iwo Jima would be securely in the United States’ hands within one week due to the intense aerial and naval bombardment leading up to the invasion. Instead, the battle lasted five weeks (February 19th to March 26th), and consisted of some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War. The United States suffered a total of 26,040 casualties. Of that number, a total of 6,821 United States servicemen made the ultimate sacrifice. It is estimated that approximately 21,000 Japanese troops were on the island when the landings began on February 19th. Of that number, only 216 were captured or surrendered. The rest perished on Iwo Jima.

But the 6,821 United States servicemen who perished during the invasion of Iwo Jima were not the first, nor the last, to fall in service to their country due to the strategic importance of Iwo Jima to both Japan and the Untied States.

One of the First Casualties at Iwo Jima – Lt. Harold G. Payne, Jr., VT-32 (USN) Lieutenant Harold G. Payne, Jr. was the Air Combat Intelligence (ACI) officer for VT-32 aboard the USS Langley. His main duties were debriefing pilots and air crews after strike missions, and preparing Aircraft Action Reports. Because of his duties, he was familiar with all the air crews of VT-32, and became a close friend of one of the TBF Avenger pilots, Lt. David A. Marks.

Lt. Harold G. Payne, Jr. (left) and Lt. David A. Marks on the deck of the USS Langley

Lt. Payne did not just to debrief air crews after strike missions, but would also frequently go on missions as an observer, or to take reconnaissance photos. The June 15, 1944, strike mission against Iwo Jima was no exception. The USS Langley was part of a task force that was given the responsibility of reducing the ability of the Japanese to send aircraft from Iwo Jima to the Marianas while the United States Marines were establishing their beachheads on Saipan. This mission was the United States Navy’s first strike against Iwo Jima.

Lt. Payne flew on Lt. Marks’ Grumman TBF-1C Avenger. The June 15th mission did not start well due to deteriorating weather conditions, and four the the USS Langley’s Avengers were delayed attempting to navigate through a weather front. Time was of the essence. By the time Lt. Marks began his attack on Motoyama No. 2 (Central Field), some of the other Avengers had already dropped their bombs, and the anti-aircraft fire had become intense.

Lt. Marks’ Avenger took several 40 mm hits, and one went through the trailing edge of the right wing and exploded. One of the shell fragments tore through Lt. Payne’s right chest and exited the left side of his back. Lt. Payne succumbed to his injuries within minutes. Lt. Marks was able to land his battered Avenger back on the deck of the Langley, but Lt. Payne had already passed. One other aircrewman, Aviation Radioman 2nd Class Arnold “Blackie” Marsh, also was killed in action on the June 15th strike mission. Both Payne and Marsh were buried at sea on June 16, 1944.

Funeral Service for Lt. Harold G. Payne, Jr. aboard the USS Langley

There is an excellent article written by Christopher Marks, the son of Lt. David A. Marks, on the June 15th strike mission and the loss of Lt. Payne on Warfare History Network at https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/2016/11/15/first-casualties-at-iwo-jima/

Black Friday Casualty – Captain Lawrence S. Smith, 462nd FS, 506th FG, (USAAF) Lawrence S. Smith enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps on January 29, 1942, at the age of 24. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and awarded his pilot wings at Brooks Field, Texas, on October 9, 1942, as part of Class 42-I. Like many of the older pilots in the 506th Fighter Group, he served as an instructor pilot until he was assigned to the 462nd Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group at Lakeland Army Air Field, Florida, in October 1944 shortly after its activation.

Captain Lawrence S. Smith (via Richard Smith/Dr. John Benbow)

Prior to the 506th FG’s deployment, Captain Smith became the 462nd FS’s supply officer. Not content to sit behind a desk on Iwo Jima, Captain Smith volunteered to fly in the 506th’s second VLR mission, a maximum effort escorting a force of 400 B-29s to Osaka, on Friday, June 1, 1945. One hundred forty-eight P-51D Mustangs of the 15th, 21st, and 506th FGs took off from Iwo Jima at 7:57 a.m. and proceeded to Japan with the assistance of B-29 navigation aircraft.

Some 250 miles out, the force began to encounter scattered cumulus clouds in layers. By the time the force was 375 miles out, the fighters encountered a massive weather front that appeared to begin at sea level and continue well above 30,000 feet. While the B-29 weather ship ahead of the formation was able to successfully penetrate the front, it was a different situation for the much smaller P-51D Mustangs.

Not able to climb above the front, the fighters attempted to penetrate the front. Absolute chaos ensued. Fighter pilots attempting to tighten formation while flying through the front collided with each other. Heavy rain pelted the Mustangs, and they were severely buffeted by updrafts and downdrafts. Radio communications became difficult due to the electrically charged storm. Many pilots lost horizons and spun out of control to a watery grave below.

Twenty-seven Mustang pilots were able to successfully penetrate the front. Only when the last Mustang landed on Iwo Jima, did the magnitude of the losses hit home. Twenty-seven Mustangs failed to return with a loss of 24 pilots. The 506th FG bore the brunt of those losses, losing 12 pilots; Captain Lawrence S. Smith being one of them. The June 1, 1945 VLR mission will be forever remembered as “Black Friday” to the Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups.

Both Lieutenant Harold G. Payne, Jr. and Captain Lawrence S. Smith could have played it safe, but chose not to out of a sense of duty to their country. This post is dedicated to them and all of the other American servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Pacific Theater of operations.

The names of United States servicemen who are missing in action, or lost or buried at sea in the Pacific during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War are inscribed on marble slabs in the ten Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial in the National Cemetery of the Pacific. The names of Harold G. Payne, Jr. and Lawrence S. Smith can be found there along with 28,786 other names.

Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

Aftermarket Product Review: Eduard Brassin 1/48 110 Gallon Drop Tanks – 648531

Eduard has released resin drop tanks for both the 110 gallon and 165 gallon drop tanks used by the Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups as part of their Brassin line. They are intended for modelers who want to step up the level of detail on their VLR Mustang builds.

Eduard

In addition to the drop tanks, the package contains resin sway braces, photo etch parts, and decals.

As you can see from the picture below, the pour stubs do not run down the bottom center of the tank, but slightly off center. However, the detail on the bottom of the tank is right up next to two of the pour stubs, and it is very difficult not to damage the detail when sanding down the pour stubs. It appears that Eduard anticipated this, and the photo-etch pieces are the replacements. Nice touch on Eduard’s part.

It did not take long to eliminate the pour stubs, and clean-up was easy with only a few pin holes to fill.

The photo-etch pieces are very small, and Eduard provides an extra of both pieces should you lose one to the carpet monster. Again, nice touch on Eduard’s part.

Comparison Between Kit and Resin Drop Tanks – While the resin drop tanks are beautifully cast, are they that much better that the kit drop tanks to justify spending the extra money to acquire them? I purchased this set from Sprue Brothers for $13.50. Let’s see what they look like with paint and decals.

I put down a primer coat of Alclad II Grey Primer/Microfiller (ALC 302), and then painted the tanks with Alclad II White Aluminum (ALC 106). After painting the filler caps with Vallejo Model Color Flat Red (70.957), the decals were applied. Eduard molded the flat metal pieces that kept the sway braces in place into the resin drop tanks. Nice touch on Eduard’s part. The picture below shows the actual front metal piece and how everything was held together. I painted this detail with Vallejo Model Color Natural Steel (70.864)

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Both the kit and resin drop tanks look really nice once painted and finished. It is nice to have the two metal pieces that run across the tops of the tanks molded into the resin tanks, but those can be replicated using styrene strip and rod on the kit tanks. The other nice feature of the resin tanks is that they have slots for the placement of the sway braces, which should make the sway braces easier to install.

Kit 110 Gallon Drop Tank
Brassin Resin 110 Gallon Drop Tank

Eduard sells the their P-51D VLR drop tanks sprue as a separate Overtrees (82109X) for $9.95. So for a little more money, you can get Brassin resin tanks. Well worth it in my opinion. But as you can see from above, you really cannot go wrong whether you upgrade to the resin tanks or stay with the kit’s tanks.

Iwo Jima Art: 7th Fighter Command “Sun Setters” Trench Art

“Trench art” is a term used to describe objects made from battle field debris and by-products of modern warfare. The term “trench art” was coined during World War I, although similar items have been produced in other conflicts too, and World War II was no exception.

The material used in trench art usually depended on what was available, and the ingenuity of those individuals making the trench art. The most common materials used for trench art are shell casings and bullets, although other battlefield debris was used as well. While a lot of trench art is decorative, some trench art has utility, such as shell casings made into to candle stick holders, ash trays, vases, tea pots, pitchers, cups or beer steins.

While trench art suggests that it was made by front line soldiers to pass the time between battles, it would appear that most of it was made behind the lines by servicemen who had access tools and were experienced in the craft of metal working. Prisoners of war also manufactured trench art from available materials as way of passing the time.

Trench art was also made by local civilians for sale to soldiers (i.e. cigarette lighters, matchbook covers, etc . . .), and other individuals. This cottage industry arose during war, continued after the war, with trench art-type objects being created for sale as souvenirs to the visitors to battlefields and cemeteries. This cottage industry continues to this day.

A good friend of mine was attending an air show, and saw the above 50 caliber bullet being sold as a souvenir, and picked one up for me. It is a spent shell casing with a milled bullet that serves as a bottle opener. Great conversation piece when having friends over for a beer. Trench art? Absolutely. Trench art does not need to decorative.

7th Fighter Command officers, pilots, ground crews, and support staff had their own special trench art as shown below. It is a casting of Iwo Jima with Mt. Suribachi, the words “Iwo Jima” and a P-51D Mustang. Inscribed across the wings of the P-51D are the words “Sun Setters” and the 7th Fighter Command insignia.

Initially, these castings were made from aluminum from wrecked Japanese planes on Iwo Jima. The aircraft aluminum was melted down and poured into a mold. After that supply was exhausted, aircraft aluminum from wrecked American aircraft was used. It is not known how many of these castings were made, but it is safe to assume that if you were stationed on Iwo Jima, and wanted one, you were provided with one.

The 7th Fighter Command named themselves the “Sun Setters” because they saw their VLR missions as an integral part of bringing an end to World War II.

7th Fighter Command Insignia

These castings appear periodically on eBay and normally sell for some where between $100.00 to $200.00, although bidding can sometimes exceed $200.00. They are a nice piece of trench art, and a unique piece of World War II history for the historian, collector, or aviation enthusiast.

Book Review: “Fighters Over Japan, Part 2” by Tomasz Szlagor and Leszek A. Wieliczko

Like Part I, Part II of Kagero’s “Fighters over Japan” is a softbound book with 34 pages. However, instead of covering Japanese Army Air Force and United States Army Air Force fighters as Part I did, Part II focuses mostly on Japanese Navy and United States Navy fighters. In addition, there are only 15 aircraft profiles, but each profile shows both sides of the aircraft, a top view, and at least the undersides of the wings.

There are four aircraft profiles of USAAF fighters in Part II, but the only Iwo Jima VLR Mustang included is 300 “My Achin!” Ass, flown by the CO of the 531st FS, Major Harry C. Crim.

Again, like Part I, what this book lacks in meaningful text describing the air war over Japan in the last few months of the Pacific War, is made up in the fantastic color aircraft profiles by Polish artist Janusz Swaitlon.

Janusz Swaitlon
Janusz Swaitlon

The 15 color profiles in the book cover the following aircraft:

Mitsubishi A6M5c Model 52 Hei Zero, No. 03-09, Serial Number 32374, flown by Joto Hiko Heiso Takeo Tanimizu of 203rd Sento Hitokai.

Mitsubishi A6M5a Model 52 Ko Zero, No. YoD-126, Serial Number unknown, flown by Shoi Sadaaki Akamatsu of the 1st Hikotai, 302nd Kokutai (decals included).

Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden Model 21, No. YoD-152, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Susumu Ito of the 1st Hikotai, 302nd Kokutai (decals included).

Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden Model 21, No. 352-20, Serial Number unknown, flown by Chui Yoshihiro Aoki of the 1st Hikotai, 352nd Kokutai.

Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden Model 21, No. YoD-1183, Serial Number unknown, flown by Chui Ei Fukuda of the 1st Hikotai, 302nd Kokutai (decals included).

Kawanishi N1K2-Ja Shiden Kai Model 21 Ko, 343-B-30, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Yoshishige Hayashi, 407th Hikotai, 343rd Kokutai (decals included).

Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden Kai Model 21, No. 343-A-15, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Naoshi Kanno, 301st Hikotai, 343rd Kokutai.

Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden Kai Model 21, No. 343-B-03, Serial Number unknown, flown by Hiko Heisocho Hiroshi Ohara, 407th Hikotai, 343rd Kokutai (decals included)

Chance Vought F4U-1D Corsair, No. 167, BuNo. 57803, flown by Lt. Cmdr. Roger Hedrick, VF-84, USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) (decals included).

Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, No. 9, BuNo unknown, flown by Lt. Hamilton McWhorter, III, VF-12, USS Randolph (CV-15) (decals included).

Chance Vought Corsair IV, 115-X, KD 658, flown by Lt. Robert H. Gray DSC, No. 1841 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS Formidable (decals included).

Republic P-47D-28-RA Thunderbolt, 42 “Passionate Patsy”, Serial No. 42-29091, flown by Lt. Ralph Barns, 310th FS, 58th FG, 5th AF.

North American P-51D-25-NA Mustang, 300 “My Achin!” Ass, Serial No. 44-73623, flown Major Harry C. Crim, CO of the 531st FS, 21st FG, 7th AF.

North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, 10 “Little Girl”, Serial No. 44-64124, flown by Captain Leroy Grosshuesch, 39th FS, 35th FG, 5th AF (decals included).

Republic P-47N-1-RE Thunderbolt, 08 “Cheek Baby”, Serial No. 44-87996, flown by Lt. Durwood B. Williams, 333rd FS, 318th FG, 5th AF (decals included).

A very nice decal sheet is included which provides decals in 1/32nd, 1/48th, and 1/72nd scales. While decals for Major Crim’s 300 “My Achin!” Ass are not included, the decals include several JNAF fighters that participated in the defense of the Japanese Home Islands. One of those is the decals for Chui Ei Fukuda’s Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden, who is believed to have been shot down by Major James B. Tapp, CO of the 78th FS, on April 19, 1945.

Major Harry C. Crim – Major Crim was the 3rd highest scoring VLR ace with six confirmed victories, and the only fighter ace of the 21st FG. He joined the 21st FG in August, 1944, after serving with the 14th Fighter Group in Tunisia flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Unable to score any aerials victories with 14th FG, he scored his first two victories, a Kawasaki Ki-61 “Tony” and a Kawasaki Ki-45 “Nick” on April 7, 1945, the first VLR mission flown by the 7th Fighter Command Mustangs. His last victory, a Mitsubishi A6M Zero, came on July 6, 1945 during a strike mission against Atsugi airfield.

In an obvious publicity photo, then Captain Crim (left) discusses fighter tactics with Brig. General Ernest M. “Mickey” Moore, while Major DeWitt Spain listens in front of a 531st FS Mustang parked under the wing of a B-29.

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3
Mark W. Stevens/7th Fighter Command Association

Janusz Swaitlon – Janusz Swaitlon is a professional military history book illustrator specializing in aircraft profiles. You can purchase aircraft profiles from Mr. Swaitlon. I have purchased two aircraft profiles from him in the past; Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV” (78th FS, 15th FG), and 1st Lt. William Sak’s 528 “Enchantress” (457th FS, 506th FG). He emailed me the digital files of the aircraft profiles, and I took them to a commercial printer and had them professionally printed. His aircraft profiles are top-notch. Check out his website at Janusz.swaitlon.eu. He can be contacted by email at contact@janusz-swaitlon.eu.

Like Part I, this book is no longer in print, but you can still find it on Amazon at inflated prices.