Kit News: Lone Star Models’ 1/48 Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer (48723)

One plane that has been neglected by the mainstream injection molded model manufacturers is the Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer. Patrol bombers tend not to get a lot of love. While I often see the PB4Y-2 on a lot of modelers’ informal “wish lists” of kits they would like to see manufactured, that interest has not translated in a new injection molded kit being released.

This is not to say that a kit of PB4Y-2 has never been released. Matchbox released a PB4Y-2 in 1/72 scale way back in 1980. Revell reissued the kit in 2009, but the kit is seriously lacking by today’s standards.

After market manufacturers have stepped into to fill that void. Since Monogram’s release of its 1/48 scale Consolidated B-24J Liberator in 1976, several after market vacuform and resin manufacturers (Attic Aircraft, Concise Models & Graphics, Cutting Edge Modelworks, Koster Aero Enterprises, Wilde Sau Resin) have produced conversion parts to convert the Monogram B-24 kit into a PB4Y-2 Privateer. I have seen some really nice PB4Y-2 builds converted from the Monogram B-24 kit.

Mike West of Lone Star Models recently released a 1/48 scale full resin kit of the PB4Y-2 Privateer, with white metal parts, metal main landing gear struts, vacuformed clear pieces, and a large decal sheet. The price of the kit is listed at $290.00 which does not appear to be out of line since it is an all resin 1/48 scale four engine bomber.

Lone Star Models

Below are pictures from Lone Star Models’ website showing some of the resin, white metal and vacuformed kit pieces.

Lone Star Models
Lone Star Models
Lone Star Models

I have purchased several resin products from Lone Star Models over the years and have been impressed with the level of detail and the quality of casting.

If you are contemplating purchasing this kit, there are few things you need to know. First, Lone Star Models is a one man operation. Mike West does all of the product development, casting, order processing, and shipping. Because of a high demand for his products, he has to periodically shut off ordering on his website so that he can catch up with casting, processing, and shipping orders. If you are expecting a quick turnaround after ordering this kit, you might be disappointed.

Second, from time to time, this kit will not be available to order on Lone Star Model’s website (https://lonestarmodels.com/). As I am drafting this post, the kit is listed as “Out of Stock”, which means that Mike has sold the stock he has on hand. Once he has built back up his stock, it will become available to purchase. This is just one of the ways Mike has had to resort to so he does not fall too far behind. If you want to order this kit, you just have to be patient.

Since the kit’s initial release was just a few weeks ago, there have not been any on-line reviews as of yet.

A Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer kit has been on the top of my “wish list” for the last decade, and I have not seen any indication that any of the mainstream model manufacturers (Eduard, Hasegawa, Revell, Tamiya etc . . .) are even contemplating producing a PB4Y-2 in the foreseeable future. This may be a modeler’s only option for a complete kit for quite some time.

Kit Review: Arma Hobby 1/72 Grumman/General Motors FM-2 Wildcat (70033)

On March 1, 1945, just 11 days after the United States Marines stormed Iwo Jima’s black sand beaches, Lt (jg). Noah P. Butt, Jr. of VC-76 landed his General Motors FM-2 Wildcat (White 4) on South Field after experiencing difficulties with a drop tank. White 4 was the first U.S. Navy plane to land on Iwo Jima.

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Wanting to build an FM-2 Wildcat involved in the Battle for Iwo Jima, I was pleased to see Arma Hobby release a FM-2 Wildcat in 1/72 scale. I researched on-line build reviews for both the 1/48 Hobby Boss FM-2 and the 1/72 Arma Hobby FM-2, and decided to go with the Arma Hobby kit.

Founded in 2013, Arma Hobby is a Polish model manufacturer that has been releasing 1/72 airplane kits, and they are set to release their first 1/48 kit shortly. I have been following them for the last few years waiting for them to release a kit I wanted to build.

Arma Hobby

As is customary for Arma Hobby, they have released several boxings of this kit; an Expert Set (with photo-etch parts and masks), and two basic kits. There are three sprues included in the basic kit; one with fuselage, wings, and engine; one with cockpit, undercarriage, and horizontal surfaces; and one with the clear parts.

The casting is very well done with a minimal amount of flash, and the level of detail is very impressive for a 1/72 kit. The recessed panel lines and other surface detail are very nice and not overstated.

The level of detail in the cockpit parts is extremely nice and both types of wheels are included. Some of the undercarriage parts are quite delicate, but that is what you would expect for a 1/72 scale Wildcat.

The canopy comes in two parts so you can you can show off all that nice cockpit detail with an open canopy. The canopy parts are clear and thin.

The instructions are very well done with good illustrations. Decals are provided for White 29, flown by Lt (jg). Heatherly Foster, III, (VC-93/USS Petrof Bay); and White 35, flown by Lt. Ralph E. Elliot, Jr. (VC-27/USS Savo).

Arma Hobby
Arma Hobby

The decals, printed by Techmod, are in register and come with a lot of stencil details which will show up nicely on overall glossy Dark Sea Blue planes.

Arma Hobby

This looks like a really nice kit for 1/72 scale. I have red a few on-line builds, and it appears that it is well engineered without a lot of fit issues. Looking forward to building this kit.

In Memory of William G. Ebersole; September 30, 1924 – December 27, 2020

William Glenn Ebersole was born on September 30, 1924, in Arcadia, Florida. Upon graduation from high school, he entered the University of Florida in Gainesville, as a freshman in September, 1942. Wanting to control his entry into active service in the armed forces, he enlisted in the Air Corps Reserve on October 31, 1942, shortly after turning 18. The thought that he might have two years of college before being called up was short lived as he was ordered to report for active duty on February 24, 1943, in Miami Beach, Florida. On his way to earning his wings, Bill flew in Stearman PT-17s, BT-13s, and AT-6s. He received his wings and a 2nd Lieutenant’s commission on April 15, 1944, at Craig Field in Selma, Alabama, as part of class 44-D. During his training as a fighter pilot, Bill flew the Curtiss P-40N Warhawk, and the A, B, C and D models of the North American P-51 Mustang.

Loomis Dean/USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Bill was assigned to the 462nd Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group in early January of 1945. When deployed to Iwo Jima, half of the squadron’s fighter pilots ferried their brand new P-51D Mustangs to San Francisco, where they were loaded on the escort carrier Kalinin Bay and set out for Tinian. The other half of the pilots, which included 2nd Lieutenant Ebersole, took a troop train to Seattle, and then boarded the converted Swedish hospital ship, the Bloemfontein. They sailed from Seattle to Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and then finally to Iwo Jima.

William G. Ebersole via Brian Walter

Bill was the youngest pilot in the 462nd Squadron at the ripe old age of 20 years while on Iwo Jima, and flew a total of 10 VLR missions, the first being on June 7, 1945 to Osaka, and the last being on August 5, 1945, to Tachikawa. He was assigned to fly 619 “Hon. Mistake”, a North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang (Serial # 44-72587) with 2nd Lt. James Bercaw. While on Iwo Jima, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and was credited with destroying a twin engine bomber on the ground during a strafing mission. Bill took his last flight in a P-51D Mustang on December 4, 1945, when he led a flight of 4 planes from Guam to Isley Field on Saipan. From there, he took a ship for the long trip back to the United States.

Bill Ebersole re-enrolled at the University of Florida, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. At the pinnacle of his career, he was the publisher of The Gainesville Sun.

Bill was scheduled to take a return trip to Iwo Jima with his wife Anna in March of 2020 as part of veterans’ flight, but never took that trip due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brad McClenny/Gainesville Sun

Bill was a frequent attendee at 506th Fighter Group reunions. I first met Bill at the Iwo Jima VLR Symposium at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in 2012. Bill graciously spent several hours answering all of my questions, and I was fortunate to get to know Bill during several 506th Fighter Group reunions. His daughter, Glenda Ebersole Potts, said “I never met a man as good as my father . . . they don’t make’em like that anymore.” Anybody who knew Bill would heartily concur.

Bill Ebersole with the author during the Iwo Jima VLR Symposium at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino California (July 7, 2012)

Bill passed away on December 27, 2020 at the age of 96 after a bad fall and subsequent hospitalization. The newspaper article in The Gainesville Sun regarding Bill’s passing can be found here: https://www.gainesville.com/story/obituaries/2020/12/29/arcadia-man-wwii-pilot-and-sun-publisher-bill-ebersole-dies-96/4062253001/

Show Us Your Builds!

Happy New Year! Thank you to all who are following this blog, those who check in occasionally, and those who have stumbled here by mistake. I am not sure how to best describe 2020 globally, but here in the United States, it has been a strange and difficult year on so many different levels. For 2021, it is my prayers that you remain safe and healthy, and have a productive and fulfilling year.

A new feature of the blog will be to showcase the models built by you! If you have built a model related in anyway to Iwo Jima, please consider sharing that build with all of us. It does not matter if you are a beginner, novice or expert. Below are some categories:

Any VLR Mustang from either the 15th, 21st or 506th Fighter Groups;

506th Fighter Group Association

Any Northrup P-61A/B Black Widows from the 548th Night Fighter Squadron;

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Any United States Navy combat aircraft that participated either in the early raids from June 14, 1944 to August 5, 1944, or during the Battle for Iwo Jima (Curtiss SB2C Helldivers, General Motors FM-2 Wildcats, Grumman F6F Hellcats and TBF/TBM Avengers, and Chance Voight F4U Corsairs);

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Any 7th Bomber Command Consolidated B-24J Liberator which bombed Iwo Jima from U.S. Army Air Force bases in the Marianas;

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Any Marianas based Boeing B-29 Superfortress which bombed the Japanese Home Islands; and

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Any IJAAF or IJNAF fighter that participated in the defense of Iwo Jima or the defense of the Japanese Home Islands.

Wikipedia

If you would like to show your work here, please send me pictures of your build along with a narrative. The narrative can include information on the pilot/crew, squadron/group/unit, after market products used, if any, and any techniques used. Photos and narratives should be sent to: acarothers896@gmail.com.

Paint Review: AK Interactive Real Colors Acrylic Lacquers

I believe these are unprecedented times for modelers as far the the range of products that are available. We have seen the emergence of new kit manufacturers, and because of advances in design technology, the quality of kits (engineering) has improved to the point that more and more kits are easier to build without a lot of fit issues.

After market manufacturers have also taken advantage of advances in technology. In addition to traditional products such as photo-etch update sets, resin update sets, vacuformed canopies, white metal and brass landing gear sets, and brass machine gun and canon barrels, we are now seeing a proliferation of after market manufacturers producing 3-D decals for instrument panels and cockpit details. Because of advances in 3-D printer capability, some after market resin manufacturers are turning to 3-D printing of parts and away from the labor intensive and wasteful manual casting process.

Model paints have basically stayed the same as far as the types paints manufactured (acrylics, enamels and lacquers), but we have seen the emergence of new manufacturers, like Hataka Hobby and MRP, attempts improve on existing paints formulas, and the introduction of different lines of paints by certain manufacturers. We have at our disposal a variety of really good model paints with ever increasing ranges of colors.

One of the manufacturers introducing multiple lines of paint is AK Interactive. AK Interactive started with water based acrylic paints for armor, aircraft, and figures. Since that time, they have introduced a line of metallic paints (Extreme Metals), a line of acrylic lacquers for World War II and modern military vehicles and aircraft (Real Colors), and a new line of water based acrylics (3rd Generation Acrylics).

My initial attraction to their Real Colors line of acrylic lacquers was the range of their colors (114 colors for AFV and 133 colors for aircraft), and the fact that they have what appears to be a full line of paints for World War II Japanese Army and Navy aircraft. AK Interactive touts this line of paints as being developed in close consultation with experts who have spent years researching paints used by various combatants. The time spent by AK Interactive researching colors definitely shows. For instance, if you are a modeler that focuses on Luftwaffe aircraft, AK Interactive Real Colors Air series has 3 variations of RLM 76 (Lichtblau), and 3 variations of RLM 81 (Braunviolett) to take in account standard and late war variations.

Compatibility with other acrylic lacquer paint lines is a selling point pushed very hard by AK Interactive. The Real Colors line comes with its own thinner which AK Interactive labels as “High Compatibility Thinner” meaning that you can use it to thin other acrylic lacquer paints, such as Mr. Color and Hataka Hobby acrylic lacquers. Likewise, AK Interactive promotes that you can thin Real Colors with other acrylic lacquer thinners, like Mr. Color Leveling Thinner, and you can mix Real Colors with other acrylic lacquer paints.

The paints come in 10 ml glass bottles and can be purchased individually or in convenient sets of four. I purchased the WW2 US Interior Color set (Dull Dark Green, RC230; US Interior Yellow Green, RC262; Zinc Chromate Yellow, RC263; and Bronze Green, RC264) and a few individual paints. The 10 ml bottle is the same type of bottle used by Tamiya, and has the color and the product number on the lid for easy identification.

I am going to test Real Colors using their own thinner, Mr. Color Leveling Thinner, Hataka Hobby’s acrylic lacquer thinner, and 91% isopropyl alcohol. The paints do not have an overly strong odor and mix very easily by just shaking the bottle.

The first is a test on a plastic spoon using Dark Dull Green, FS34092 (RC230) with AK Interactive’s High Compatibility Thinner. While the paint is not as thick as Mr. Color lacquers, it does need to be thinned. I thinned the Dark Dull Green at a rate of 2 parts paint to 1 part thinner to see how it would spray at that ratio, and sprayed it at 16 psi. The paint laid down beautifully to a smooth matte to semi-matte sheen and covered well. I did have an issue of getting a little paint spit when resuming to paint. I am not sure why the paint did this, but it may have been because the paint was not thinned sufficiently, or I was not spraying at a high enough pressure.

Next was US Interior Yellow Green (RC262) on a plastic spoon using Mr. Color Leveling Thinner at a ratio of 1 part paint to 1 part thinner. I increased the pressure to 20 psi. The paint thinned really well using the Mr. Color Leveling Thinner and again laid down beautifully to a very smooth matte to semi-matte finish. I did not experience the problem with the paint spitting after thinning it more and increasing the pressure. The paint dries within a few minutes to a very tough finish.

Next was Zinc Chromate Yellow (RC263) on a plastic spoon using the Hataka Hobby acrylic lacquer thinner at a ratio of 1 part paint to 1 part thinner at 20 psi. The paint thinned well using Hataka Hobby’s acrylic lacquer thinner, and again laid down beautifully to a very smooth matte to semi-matte finish. I did not experience the problem with the paint spitting. Even with a lighter color, the paint covered well.

Last, I painted the tires and fuselage fuel tank from the Eduard P-51D Mustang kit with Rubber Black (RC022) using 91% isopropyl alcohol thinned to a 1 to 1 ratio. Again, as you can tell from the photos below, the paint laid down beautifully and covered very well.

So a few concluding remarks. First, cleanup was easy, and you do not have to break down and clean your airbrush between colors. Just flush out the prior color with a good airbrush cleaner (I use Alclad II Airbrush Cleaner), and load up the new color. Second, it appears that AK Interactive has lightened the paint to take into account the scale effect of color. Their water based acrylic paints are also lightened to take into account the scale effect of color.

I really like this line of paints. They thin nicely with any type of acrylic lacquer thinner, lay down beautifully to a smooth matte to semi-matte finish, dry quickly, and are very durable. The range of colors is very impressive. Highly recommended.

I did not attempt to thin Real Colors with anything other than thinners made for acrylic lacquers and isopropyl alcohol. AK Interactive markets Real Colors by claiming that they can be thinned with thinners used for water based acrylic paints. Flory Models did a comprehensive vlog of AK Interactive’s Real Colors on YouTube https://youtu.be/kvEwxVcY3TE using a lot of different thinners. Their vlog is worth watching.

Decal Review: DKdecals P-51D Mustang Very Long Range P-51 Units Iwo Jima 1945 (72087)

DKdecals

Along with the release of their 1/48th decal sheet for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs (48029), DKdecals also recently released a new 1/72 scale decal sheet covering the Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups. There are decals for 19 VLR Mustangs. Each squadron is covered with decals for two planes, and the majority of the planes covered on this decal sheet have not been covered previously by either kit manufacturers or the after market decals manufacturers in 1/72nd scale. Again, nice to see lesser known planes covered by an after market decal manufacturer.

DKdecals

The painting and decal placement guide is nicely done. The nineteen VLR Mustangs represented on this sheet are as follows:

60 “Miss Lillian”; 45th FS, 15th FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63428; pilot(s) unknown.

77 “San Antonia Rose”; 45th FS, 15th FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63438; flown by 2d Lt. Douglas Reese. 2d Lt. Reese scored single confirmed victories on June 26th, a Kawasaki Ki-61 Tony, and July 8th.

114 “Dear Edna”; 78th FS, 15th FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63967; 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.

124 “Button – II”; 78th FS, 15th FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63353; flown by 1st Lt. Doyle T. Brooks, Jr. 1st Lt. Brooks was credited with shooting down two Mitsubishi A6M Zeros on the June 10, 1945, VLR mission to the Tokyo area.

157 “Daisey Mae”; 47th FS, 15th FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63395; flown by Flight Officer John W. Googe.

176 “Moonbeam McSwine”; 47th FS, 15th FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63420; flown by Captain Eurich L. Bright. Captain Bright scored his first three victories on the April 7, 1945, VLR mission to Tokyo; a Kawasaki Ki-45 Nick, a Kawasaki Ki-61 Tony, and a Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero. Captain Bright scored again on the May 25, 1945 VLR mission.

200 “Miss Gene V”; 46th FS, 21st FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63775; flown by Major Fred A. Shirley, commander of the 46th FS. Major Shirley scored his first two victories on the April 12, 1945, VLR mission to Tokyo shooting down a Kawasaki Ki-45 Nick and a Mitsubishi J2M Jack, followed by two more Mitsubishi J2M Jacks on the April 22, 1945, VLR mission to Nagoya.

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.

250 “Dede Lou”; 72nd FS, 21st FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63733; flown by Major Paul W. Imig, commander of the 72nd FS.

264 “Marsha Ann”; 72nd FS, 21st FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63981; flown by 1st Lt. Jacob W. Gotwals. 1st Lt. Gotwals sole aerial victory (a Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki) was achieved on the first ever VLR mission on April 7, 1945, to Tokyo.

300 “My Achin!Ass”; 531st FS, 21st FG; P-51D-25-NA, 44-73623; flown by Major Harry C. Crim. Major Crim was the commander of the 531st FS, and the only ace of the 21st FG.

302 “Joy’s Boy”; 531st FS, 21st FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-63910; flown by Captain Robert Mallin.

501; 457th FS, 506th FG; P-51D-25-NA, 44-72640; pilot(s) unknown. Very nice nose art.

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.

550 “Madam Wham-Dam”; 458th FS, 506th FG; P-51D-25-NA, 44-72607; flown by Major Harrison E. Shipman; commander of the 458th FS. “Madam Wham-Dam” was lost on the June 1, 1945, Black Friday mission with Lt. Col. Harvey J. Scandrett at the controls.

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

616 “Shanghai Lil”; 462nd FS, 506th FG; P-51D-20-NA, 44-72588; flown by 1st Lt. Darrell Bash and 1st Lt. Edward J. Linfante. 1st Lt. Bash was credited with shooting down a Kawasaki Ki-61 Tony over Yokohama on June 10, 1945.

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.

“Darlin’ Ruthie”; unit unknown; P-51D-20-NA, 44-72570; flown by Lt. M. Lerret.

DKdecals
DKdecals

The decals are in register and the artwork is very well done. The decals are recommended for all 1/72 North American P-51D Mustangs kits (Academy, Airifx, Hasegawa, and Tamiya). If you are going to use the decals for 550 “Madam Wham-Dam”, the tail stripes are designed for the Tamiya kit.

Since there are not a lot of decals for VLR Mustangs in 1/72nd scale, this decal sheet is highly recommended. Kudos to DKdecals!

Decal Review: DKdecals P-51D Mustang VLR Units Iwo Jima 1945 (48029)

DKdecals

DKdecals recently released a new 1/48 scale decal sheet specifically covering the three Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups. There are decals for 9 VLR Mustangs; one plane from each squadron, and the majority of the planes covered on this decal sheet have not been covered previously by either kit manufacturers or the after market decals manufacturers . Again, nice to see lesser known planes covered by an after market decal manufacturer.

DKdecals

The painting and decal placement guide is nicely done. The nine VLR Mustangs represented on this sheet are as follows:

77 “San Antonia Rose”; 45th FS, 15th FG; P-51D-20NA, 44-63438; flown by 2d Lt. Douglas Reese. 2d Lt. Reese scored single confirmed victories on June 26th, a Kawasaki Ki-61 Tony, and July 8th.

124 “Button – II”; 78th FS, 15th FG; P-51D-20NA, 44-63353; flown by 1st Lt. Doyle T. Brooks, Jr. 1st Lt. Brooks was credited with shooting down two Mitsubishi A6M Zeros on the June 10, 1945, VLR mission to the Tokyo area.

157 “Daisey Mae”; 47th FS, 15th FG; P-51D-20NA, 44-63395; flown by Flight Officer John W. Googe.

200 “Miss Gene V”; 46th FS, 21st FG; P-51D-20NA, 44-63775; flown by Major Fred A. Shirley, commander of the 46th FS. Major Shirley scored his first two victories on the April 12, 1945, VLR mission to Tokyo shooting down a Kawasaki Ki-45 Nick and a Mitsubishi J2M Jack, followed by two more Mitsubishi J2M Jacks on the April 22, 1945, VLR mission to Nagoya.

264 “Marsha Ann”; 72nd FS, 21st FG; P-51D-20NA, 44-63981; flown by 1st Lt. Jacob W. Gotwals. 1st Lt. Gotwals sole aerial victory (a Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki) was achieved on the first ever VLR mission on April 7, 1945, to Tokyo.

302 “Joy’s Boy”; 531st FS, 21st FG; P-51D-20NA, 44-63910; flown by Captain Robert Mallin.

501; 457th FS, 506th FG; P-51D-25NA, 44-72640; pilot(s) unknown. Very nice nose art.

550 “Madam Wham-Dam”; 458th FS, 506th FG; P-51D-25NA, 44-72607; flown by Major Harrison E. Shipman; commander of the 458th FS. “Madam Wham-Dam” was lost on the June 1, 1945, Black Friday mission with Lt. Col. Harvey J. Scandrett at the controls.

616 “Shanghai Lil”; 462nd FS, 506th FG; P-51D-20NA, 44-72588; flown by 1st Lt. Darrell Bash and 1st Lt. Edward J. Linfante. 1st Lt. Bash was credited with shooting down a Kawasaki Ki-61 Tony over Yokohama on June 10, 1945.

DKdecals
DKdecals
DKdecals

The decals are in register and the artwork is very well done. My only comment is on the decals for 616 “Shanghai Lil”. DKdecals has done the name in black and have decals for both sides of the nose. Over the years, there has been two other decal sheets with different colors for the name. SuperScale Decals issued a sheet with “Shanghai Lil” (48-1203) that has the name in yellow and outlined in black, which is clearly not supported by the photograph below. The decals that are included with the book, “506th Fighter Group: The History of the 506th Fighter Group, Iwo Jima 1945”, has the name in red. Is the name in red or black? Very hard to tell from a black and white photo so your guess is as good as mine.

616 “Shanghai Lil” (506th Fighter Group Association)

The photo below would support that the name only appeared on the left side of the nose. However, was the photo below taken before nose art was applied to the plane? Is there a photo showing the name appearing on the right side of the nose? Good questions that I do not have answers to.

616 “Shanghai Lil” (506th Fighter Group Association)

DKdecals is putting out some really nice decal sheets. If you are interested in building a lesser known Iwo Jima VLR Mustang with some really nice markings, this decal sheet is highly recommended. Kudos to DKdecals!

The Mysterious Downing of Captain John W.L. Benbow (Part 1)

Sometimes during the frenzy of aerial combat with multiple dogfights, a fighter pilot is lost without the certainty as to what actually occurred. Even with squadron mates in close proximity, sometimes the cause of a loss cannot be conclusively determined. Theories and speculation are advanced without a clear answer. This is never more evident than a study of the loss of the 457th Fighter Squadron’s Operations Officer, Captain John W.L. Benbow, who went missing in action during a VLR strike mission over Japan seventy-five years ago. The mystery surrounding the loss of Captain Benbow is more about what we don’t know, than what we know.

Captain Benbow was lost during a VLR strike mission to Nagoya conducted by the 21st and 506th Fighter Groups on July 16, 1945. The mission objective was to strafe airfields in the Nagoya/Ise-Wan area. Captain Benbow, was flying second element leader in his flight (Green Flight). His wingman was 2nd Lt. Joseph D. Winn. Captain William B. Lawrence, Jr. was the flight leader, and his wingman was 1st Lt. Ralph Gardner.

Captain John W.L. Benbow (via Dr. John Benbow)

In accordance with Field Order #146, forty-eight 21st FG Mustangs took off from South and Central Fields on Iwo Jima shortly before 10:15 a.m., followed by sixty-four 506th FG Mustangs which took off from North Field approximately 15 minutes later. The 21st FG was led by Lt. Col. John W. Mitchell, who at the time was the Deputy Commander of 15th FG. Lt. Col. Mitchell gained fame and notoriety for leading the long over water mission that resulted in the downing of the Mitsubishi G4M Betty transporting Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. The 506th FG was led by Major Malcolm C. “Muddy” Waters of the 457th FS, who had been recently promoted to the Deputy Commander of the 506th.

The intended target for the 21st FG was the airfield at Kiyosu northwest of Nagoya. The airfields at Akenogahara and Suzuka, on west side of the Ise-Wan (Bay of Ise) were the intended targets of the 506th FG. The 21st FG reached the Japanese home islands around 1:25 p.m. Iwo Jima time, with the 506th FG some ten minutes behind.

The 72nd FS was lead squadron for the 21st FG with the 46th FS following; the 72nd at 11,000 feet and the 46th at 10,000 feet. The 531st FS provided top cover at 12,000 feet. Prior to reaching Kiyosu, the 21st FG encountered an indeterminate number of Japanese fighters between Tsu and Suzuka. Altogether, the 21st FG pilots reported seeing Mitsubishi A6M5 Zekes, Kawanishi N1K1/2 Georges, Nakajima Ki-43 Oscars, Nakajima Ki-44 Tojos, Nakajima K-84 Franks, and Kawasaki Ki-61 Tonys. In addition, the 46th FS reported seeing a number of unidentified single engine radial fighters.

The 506th FG made landfall at about 1:35 p.m. at an altitude of 15,000 feet, and the group proceeded north and parallel to the Ise-Wan inshore. It was between Akenogahara and Tsu when bogies were called out and all three squadrons of the 506th became engaged in a running air fight. The 457th FS, which was lead squadron, ducked under some clouds and came upon dogfights between the 21st FG and the Japanese interceptors. The 506th joined in the fight which followed a pattern of searching the area and attacking the Japanese interceptors when the situation presented itself.

During the encounters with the 21st and 506th Mustangs, the Japanese fighter pilots claimed 6 Mustangs destroyed, and 5 probably destroyed. In actuality, Captain Benbow was the only American pilot lost during the mission, and only 4 Mustangs received damage during the dogfights that ensued. Exaggerated claims were common during the heat of battle, and pilots of all combatants were susceptible to submitting inaccurate claims.

The 21st FG Mission Reports noted the aggressiveness and ability of the Japanese fighter pilots, but that they lacked formation discipline, and therefore, were easy prey for the 7th Fighter Command pilots. Except for the split-S maneuver, the 21st FG Mission Reports indicate that enemy evasive action was “practically negligible”, and that IJN pilots flying Zeros and Georges did not take advantage of their planes tight turning radii when that advantage could have been used.

The 506th FG Mission Report stated that the enemy “generally was unaggressive although some attempted to fight back when caught and attacked.” The exception was an overhead attack by two Japanese interceptors on Captain Abner M. Aust, Jr.

Several 457th Fighter Squadron pilots scored victories over the Japanese interceptors. Captain Aust scored three victories, all Nakajima Ki-84 Hayates (Franks), in quick succession, and 1st Lt. Wesley A. Murphey shot down a Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki (Tojo). Captain William Lawrence also shot down an unidentified single engine Japanese interceptor, and it was during this engagement that Captain Benbow was lost. Since the circumstances of Captain Benbow’s downing or his ultimate fate were unknown, he was listed as “Missing in Action”.

Captains John W.L. Benbow and William B. Lawrence, Jr. on the wing of 540 “Kwitcherbitchin” (via Dr. John Benbow)

During Captain Lawrence’s engagement with the Japanese fighter that he shot down, he placed several bursts into his adversary’s plane, which began smoking. The Japanese pilot split-S’d, and Captain Lawrence’s flight followed in a dive. It appears that Captain Benbow kept formation discipline, as Captain Lawrence’s statement in the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) indicates flight was in good tactical formation. At some point in the dive, Captain Benbow called out to Captain Lawrence saying “That’s enough Bill – you got him.” This was the last radio transmission from Captain Benbow, and when Green Flight pulled out of its dive, Captain Benbow was not to be found. Basically, Captain Benbow was there one moment; gone the next. No 7th Fighter Command pilot saw what happened to Captain Benbow; not his wingman 2nd Lt. Winn; and not Captain Lawrence’s wingman, 1st Lt. Gardner. The map below, which is part of Captain Benbow’s MACR, shows the two possible locations where he was last seen.

Map Attached to Captain Benbow’s MACR (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

Captain Lawrence’s MACR statement indicates that he was partially on his back and in a near vertical dive when he heard Captain Benbow’s last radio transmission. When Captain Lawrence pulled out the dive, Captain Benbow did not rejoin. The fact that Captain Benbow called out to Captain Lawrence “That’s enough Bill – you got him” suggests that Captain Benbow observed all of Captain Lawrence’s attack on the Japanese interceptor and followed Captain Lawrence in his dive.

Captain William B. Lawrence’s Statement to Missing Air Crew Report (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

The 506th Mission Report indicates that about the same time and in the same general area, another flight saw what was believed to be a P-51 “apparently in trouble going down in slow gliding turns at an estimated speed of 150 mph.” This aircraft disappeared into the clouds at about 8,000 feet. Was this Captain Benbow’s P-51?

2d Lt. Winn also issued a statement which is part of Captain Benbow’s MACR. During the dive, 2nd Lt. Winn indicates that he became separated from Captain Benbow while trying to avoid pieces of the disintegrating plane that Captain Lawrence was attacking. When 2d Lt. Winn recovered and rejoined the flight, Captain Benbow was not in sight nor could be contacted by radio.

2nd Lt. Joseph D. Winn’s Statement to Missing Air Crew Report (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

The 506th FG Mission Report concludes that it was possible that Captain Benbow’s plane was damaged by pieces of the disintegrating Japanese aircraft that Captain Lawrence shot down. While this is a logical conclusion to reach, especially considering 2d Lt. Winn’s statement, no one observed Captain Benbow’s P-51 being struck by pieces from the disintegrating enemy plane. The best person in a position to observe this was Captain Benbow’s wingman, 2d Lt. Winn, but he was actively maneuvering to avoid the enemy aircraft’s debris. The 506th FG Mission Report also states that Captain Benbow “was not known to be under fire from the ground or air.”

Captain Aust was given the task of writing Captain Benbow’s wife, Maggie, that her husband did not return from the July 16th mission and was considered missing in action. Maggie Benbow wrote back to Captain Aust with questions. Captain Lawrence, because of his familiarity with the circumstances, responded. Below is his letter to Maggie Benbow.

Captain Lawrence’s Letter to Maggie Benbow (via Dr. John Benbow)

Note that Captain Lawrence suggests to Maggie Benbow that mechanical troubles may have resulted in her husband’s loss. This appears to have been comforting words to a worried wife on Captain Lawrence’s part, as Captain Lawrence’s MACR statement specifically indicates “that prior to Captain Benbow’s disappearance, his radio reception and transmission was excellent and he had not reported any mechanical troubles whatsoever.” Had Captain Benbow experienced mechanical troubles, one would think he would have radioed his squadron mates of his predicament and requested assistance to withdraw back out to sea in the hope that if he had to bail out, he would be picked up by an American submarine stationed along the return route to Iwo Jima. Because there was no radio transmission from Captain Benbow indicating that he was experiencing mechanical problems, it appears unlikely that simple mechanical failure was the cause of Captain Benbow’s downing.

In his letter, Captain Lawrence emphatically indicated that there were no other enemy planes in the area and there was no flak, so that Captain Benbow’s downing was not a result of enemy action. Were these also meant to be comforting words? In light of the fact that several Japanese pilots claimed to have shot down a 7th Fighter Command Mustang, the cause of Captain Benbow’s loss could be that he was shot down while providing mutual support to his flight.

To be continued . . .

Decal Review: Lifelike Decals Kawasaki Ki-100 Part 1; 48-030

I have been very impressed with Lifelike Decals and the decal sheets they have released over the years for Japanese Army fighter aircraft. Their decals appear to be extensively researched and based on written and photographic documentation from various sources.

First up for review is their 1/48th decal sheet for Kawasaki Ki-100 Goshikisen, both Ko and Otsu versions.

Lifelike Decals

The painting and decal placement guide is very nicely done with extensive commentary for each aircraft and references to support their choice of markings.

Lifelike Decals
Lifelike Decals

The markings for the five Ki-100s are as follows:

Kawasaki Ki-100 Ib Otsu Goshikisen flown by Captain Totara Ito, 5th Sentai, 1st Chutai, Kiyosu AB, early summer 1945.

Kawasaki Ki-100 Ib Otsu Goshikisen flown by Major Yohei Hinoki, Commander of 2nd Datai, Akeno Flying School/111th Sentai, Akeno AB, July 1945. Major Hinoki dueled in the skies over the Nagoya/Bay of Ise area on July 16, 1945 with 21st and 506th FG Mustangs.

Kawasaki Ki-100 Ia Ko Goshikisen of the 59th Sentai, 3rd Chutai, Ashiya AB, October 1945.

Kawasaki Ki-100 Ia Ko Goshikisen possibly flown by the Commander of the 1st Datai, Akeno Flying School/111th Sentai, Akeno AB, July 1945. It is assumed that this was the aircraft of Major Toyoki Eto, and this Ki-100 may have been flown by Major Eto on the July 16, 1945 air combat against 21st and 506th FG Mustangs.

Kawasaki Ki-100 Ib Otsu Goshikisen flown by Major Teruhiko Kobayashi, Commander of the 244th Sentai, Chofu AB, May 17, 1945.

Lifelike Decals

This decal sheet was released in 2009 and recommended for the Hasegawa kit, but can also be used for the older Otaki/Arii kit. It still can be purchased from Lifelike Decals or many on-line hobby retailers. The decals are in register, and the markings are well done. If you are interested in building a 1/48 Kawasaki Ki-100 Goshikisen with some really nice markings, this decal sheet is highly recommended.

When you label a decal sheet “Part 1”, it is necessarily implied that there will be a “Part 2”. Will Lifelike decals follow up with an additional sheet of Ki-100 decals? I definitely hope so.

If you have either the 1/72 Aoshima, Fine Molds, RS Models Ki-100 kits, Lifelike Decals has also issued this decal sheet in that scale (72-026).

Reference Materials: Aviation of Japan Blog

I have been researching websites that cover Japanese aviation in my quest to become better versed in the Japanese Army and Navy Air Forces that defended the Japanese Home Islands during the last months of the Pacific War. There are a number of websites on Japanese aviation just in the Japanese language. While I wish I was fluent in the Japanese language, acquiring the ability to read and speak a new language is most likely unrealistic at my age. There may be some truth to the saying you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Or it may be that the motivation the learn a new language is just lacking. Probably more of the later than the former.

One of the most comprehensive English language websites on Japanese aviation is the Aviation of Japan blog (http://www.aviationofjapan.com/). Started in March of 2008, the blog has a tremendous amount of information of interest to historians and modelers.

The blogger (“Straggler”) is Nicholas Millman, who is one of Britain’s leading researchers of Japanese military aviation and a member of the Pacific Air War History Associates. He is the author of three books in the Osprey Aircraft of the Aces series; Ki-44 ‘Tojo’ Aces of World War 2 (100), Ki-27 ‘Nate’ Aces (102), and Ki-61 and Ki-100 Aces (114).

A significant number of posts focus on paint colors used on and in Japanese Army and Navy aircraft. This information provides greater clarity in an area that can best be described as confusing for modelers. The posts provide paint chips regarding the color, possible variations, and equivalents within recognized color standards. Mr. Millman was the expert that AK Interactive consulted when developing their Air Series acrylic paint sets for Japanese Army and Navy aircraft, and their Real Color acrylic lacquer equivalents.

In addition, Mr. Millman provides more in depth color analysis pieces in PDF that can be purchased on the website. They range from a 8 page analysis of Yellow Orange to a 46 page analysis of IJN Dark Greens, and some of the pieces are bundled. If you are striving for accuracy in your modeling of Japanese aircraft, these pieces are worth considering.

Other blog posts range from new kit reviews, nostalgic kit reviews, after market product reviews (decals, vacu-formed canopies and masks, and resin updates), book reviews, historical posts, and completed builds. Modelers can have their builds posted on the blog, and there are some truly fantastic builds presented.

There have been a tremendous number of posts to blog since 2008, and without doing the math, I would estimate that Mr. Millman averages around one post per week. To assist modelers and historians, there is a search function that will allow you to go directly to the subject you are researching. Very nice touch.

This is a fantastic blog for any modeler interested in Japanese aviation. Mr. Millman is incredibly knowledgeable on the subject and is very quick to respond to inquiries. Definitely a blog worth following.