This is the first part of a nine part series on the markings of the VLR Mustang squadrons. Six of the nine squadrons changed their markings during their time on Iwo Jima after the 7th Fighter Command ordered the VLR Fighter Groups to adopt more simplified markings.
I will be using the aircraft profiles from Eduard’s “Very Long Range: Tales of Iwo Jima” limited edition kit for two reasons. First, they cover all nine VLR squadrons, and second, the profiles are very accurate.
The fuselage numbers for the 45th Fighter Squadron Mustangs were 50 through 99.
Early Squadron Markings. The early squadron markings were black bordered green diagonal bands on the wings and tail, and a green/black/green/natural metal spinner. These markings were applied on Hawaii after the 45th FS transitioned from Republic P-47D Thunderbolts to the North American P-51D Mustangs.
The photo below shows the 45th FS Mustangs below deck on the USS Sitkoh Bay (CVE 86) during their transport from Hawaii to Saipan in January 1945. Note wing bands wrapping around the leading edge of the wing just before the wheel wells, and that the squadron emblem was applied on both sides of the cowl. Also of interest is the installation of the 110 gallon drop tanks along with the sway braces, and the single mast antenna. The dual Uncle Dog antennae were not installed on the 15th FG Mustangs until after they arrived on Iwo Jima.
If you are going to build a 45th FS Mustang with the early markings and the flaps dropped, please note the photo below. The diagonal wings bands on the flaps are slightly offset when the flaps are dropped. Whether you are using decals for the diagonal wing bands or painting them, it is best to do so with the flaps in the up position. After that application is completed, then the flaps can be dropped.
The photo below shows some additional insights into the early markings of the 45th FS. First, the photo confirms that the black bordered green diagonal bands were also on the underside of the wing. Second is the 15th Fighter Group’s practice of painting the fuselage number on the outer landing gear doors. As the photo shows, this practice was not universal, and was later abandoned after plane maintenance requirements quickly overtook other activities on Iwo Jima. The Mustang burning in the background of this photo is 86 “Foxy” (Serial No. 44-63474). “Foxy” was involved in a landing accident on March 10, 1945. SuperScale produces a decal sheet that includes the markings for “Foxy” and my review of that decal sheet can be found here: https://iwojimamodels.com/2020/10/11/decal-review-superscale-decals-p-51d-mustangs-48-1153/. DK Decals produces decals for 77 “San Antonio Rose” in both 1/72 and 1/48 scales, and my reviews of those decal sheets can be found here: https://iwojimamodels.com/2020/12/08/decal-review-dkdecals-p-51d-mustang-very-long-range-p-51-units-iwo-jima-1945-72087/, and here: https://iwojimamodels.com/2020/12/05/decal-review-dkdecals-p-51d-mustang-vlr-units-iwo-jima-1945-48029/
Late Squadron Markings. In May of 1945, the 7th Fighter Command issued orders requiring the Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups to adopt more simplified markings. The black bordered green diagonal bands were replaced by green tail and wing tips and a solid green propeller spinner as shown in Eduard’s profile of “Stinger VII” and the photos below. These orders must have been seen in a positive light on behalf of ground crews as the majority of time was consumed by attempting to keep their planes combat worthy leaving little time for painting time consuming squadron markings.
Squadron Emblem. The early 45th FS emblem was an American Indian brave wielding a hatchet and riding a plane that was meant to look like a P-40 Warhawk on a yellow background. We start seeing these emblems applied to 45th FS P-40Ns during an earlier tour in the Central Pacific. The early squadron emblem looked something similar to the squadron patch below.
As the 45th FS transitioned to P-51D Mustangs in Hawaii before deploying to Iwo Jima, the squadron emblem changed slightly. The American Indian brave stayed the same in appearance, but now he is riding a plane that is meant to look like a P-51D Mustang. I could not find a good period photo of the new squadron emblem, but it is accurately represented by DK Decals as shown below.
Very few decal sheets, either kit or aftermarket, provide the diagonal wing and tail bands. So what color do you use for the green? Eduard recommends either Mr. Color Russian Green (135) or Mission Model Paints Resedagrun RAL 6011 (MMP-018). Below are color chips from the respective paint manufacturers. The Russian Green by Mr. Color looks very good to my eye.
Another option is Willow Green (FS14187/ANA 503). Willow Green was originally used by the U.S. Navy in some of their colorful pre-war paint schemes. Both Mr. Paint (MRP-385) and Hataka Hobby (HTK-C221) include Willow Green as part of their lines of hobby paints.
My comparison of these two paints can be found here: https://iwojimamodels.com/2020/03/15/paint-comparison-hataka-hobby-orange-line-and-mrp-mr-paint-lacquers/. Both are excellent paints.
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