As modelers, we certainly have been blessed by after market decal manufacturers who have provided us with many options to build models of planes with markings not included in a particular kit. For the better part of three decades, decal manufacturers have issued numerous decal sheets which have either been dedicated solely to the Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs or have included decals for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs. While many of them are no longer being printed, you can still acquire them on eBay or model web stores, so there are a lot of options for modelers to build an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang.
I have acquired almost all of the VLR Mustang decal sheets over the years. For the most part, the decal sheets are very accurate, but rarely do we find a decal sheet of World War II aircraft that do not contain an inaccuracy or two. Inaccuracies are due to either the lack quality photos of a plane showing all of the markings, or the inevitable guessing game of trying to determine what color was used from a black and white photo. Some of it is also due to inaccuracies that have been perpetuated over the years. The purpose of these decal reviews is not to criticize decal manufacturers, but to provide modelers with accurate information regarding the actual plane.
The first decal sheet that Aeromaster issued with VLR Mustangs was their Pacific P-51D/K Mustangs sheet (48-012).
The two Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs on this sheet are 150 “Lil Butch”, a P-51D-20NA (44-63822) of the 47th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group flown by CaptainWalter H. “Sam” Powell, commander of the 47th FS from June 11, 1945 to July 30, 1945; and 231 “Tiny Gay Baba”, a P-51D-20NA (44-63955) of the 46th Fighter Squadron, 21st Fighter Group, pilot or pilots unknown. The other two planes on the decal sheet are 5th Air Force Mustangs.
150 “Lil Butch” – As has can be seen from the photos below, the actual markings of 47th FS Mustangs are a yellow/black/yellow propeller spinner, a black band with yellow borders on the rear fuselage behind the national insignia, a black wedge with yellow borders on the upper fin/rudder, and black 18 inch bands with yellow borders on the wings and tail planes. I am not sure how Aeromaster arrived at light blue bands, but they corrected it on a subsequent decal release. The other errors on this decal sheet are that the 5 and the 0 in the fuselage plane number are broken when they should be solid, and the plane number that appears on the landing gear wheel well doors are missing on the decal sheet.
It is interesting that there was no uniformity within the 47th Fighter Squadron with respect to the application of the plane numbers. Apparently, there were no common stencils used to paint the plane numbers on the fuselage. Most likely, maintenance crews made due with what was available to them at the time. The four photos above reinforce that point. 150 has solid fuselage numbers and the plane number appears on the landing gear wheel well doors; 165 has solid fuselage numbers, but the plane number does not appear on the landing gear wheel well doors; 167 has broken fuselage numbers and the plane number appears on the landing gear wheel well doors, and 186 has broken fuselage numbers. This lack of uniformity was also evident in the other VLR Mustang squadrons, so it is nice to have good photo documentation when building a model of an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang.
Captain Walter H. “Sam” Powell was credited with 1 aerial victory, but was lost on July 30, 1945 while flying 188 “Adam Lazonga”. His plane was hit by ground fire while attacking airfields in the Kobe/Osaka area. Captain Powell was able to nurse his damaged Mustang out over the water, but was unable to bail out before it plummeted into the sea.
231 “Tiny Gay Baba” – Below is the only photograph I can find of 231 “Tiny Gay Baba”. I think this a great photograph; 21st FG Mustangs lined up on Central Field on an overcast day with the South Field airstrip and Mt. Suribachi in the background. I have been unable to determine the pilot or pilots whom were assigned to “Tiny Gay Baba”, and we do not have a photograph of the left side of the nose to determine if “Tiny Gay Baba” was also on the left side as well. The good news is that the decals on this sheet are accurate with the photo documentation below.
While this decal sheet has long been out of production, it appears on eBay every so often, and the on-line Canadian webstore, Ultracast, has one in stock. Aeromaster also produced this decal sheet in 1/72 (72-004) with the same inaccuracies, and there is one currently up for sale on eBay.