Decal Review: AeroMaster Decals’ 1/48 Iwo Jima Mustangs (48-191)

This is AeroMaster’s first decal sheet dedicated solely to Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs. Four additional sheets on Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs would be subsequently issued by AeroMaster.

AeroMaster Decals

This sheet provides markings for the planes of the three top VLR aces: Major Robert W. Moore’s 67 “Stinger VII” (12 aerial victories), Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret – IV” (8 aerial victories), and Major Harry C. Crim, Jr.’s 300 “My Achin! [Ass]” (6 aerial victories).

AeroMaster Decals

In addition, it provides markings for a 458th FS, 506th FG Mustang, 551 “Delta Queen”, flown by Captain J.B. Baker, Jr.

AeroMaster Decals

Originally issued in 1995, the decals are pretty accurate, but more accurate photo documentation has emerged to show there are omissions and errors on this sheet. Onto the planes, pilots and the decals.

AeroMaster Decals

Major Harry C. Crim, Jr. (531st FS/21st FG) – 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. Major Crim was also credited with six ground victories.

Assistant Crew Chief Sergeant Stanley McCarro in the cockpit of Major Crim’s 300 “My Achin! [Ass]” (Harry Crim via Tom Ivie/Carl Molesworth)

44-73623 was a P-51D-25NA, and Major Crim’s second VLR Mustang. The kill markings, mission markings, and ground crews’ names appear to be very good on the decal sheet except for Asst. Crew Chief Stanley McCarro’s name being misspelled. The only other deficiency in these decals is the artwork for the donkey/ass.

Major Harry C. Crim, Jr.’s 300 “My Achin! [Ass]”

The photo above shows a portion of the canvas wheel well covers which were a standard production feature that were discarded by European Theater Mustang groups, but were maintained in place by the Iwo Jima Mustang groups as a means of keeping sand and volcanic grit out of the wheel wells.

After Major Crim rotated home, “My Achin! [Ass]” was assigned to Flight Officer Theo Gruici, who had Major Crim’s kill and mission markings and the names of the ground crew removed, and had a reclining nude painted on the fuselage. Most decal manufacturers have a nude on the left landing gear cover for Major Crim’s markings, but I have yet to see a photo confirming this. The nude on the left landing gear cover is mostly obscured by the 110 gallon drop tank in the photo below, and it raises the question whether there was a nude also on the right landing gear cover. After inquiring of others who have more extensive photo collections than I do, there does not appear to be any photos of the right side of the plane. Some questions will never be answered.

Flight Officer Theo Gruici’s 300 “My Achin! [Ass]” (7th Fighter Command Association/Mark W. Stevens)

Major James B. Tapp (78th FS/15th FG) – Major Tapp was the second highest scoring VLR Mustang ace with 8 aerial victories. All eight victories were scored in 101 “Margaret – IV” (44-63984), a P-51D-20NA. Major Tapp scored 4 aerial victories on the first VLR mission on April 7, 1945. He scored another victory on April 12, 1945, which represents the 5 victories on the decal sheet.

Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret -IV” (7th Fighter Command Association/Mark W. Stevens)

As can be seen from the photo above and the photo below, the name “Margaret – IV” and the Bushmaster squadron emblem are on both sides of the nose. The photo below shows that there are additional markings on the right side of the fuselage below the canopy.

Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret – IV” (7th Fighter Command Association/Mark W. Stevens)

This last photo shows the markings on the right side of the fuselage which includes kill and mission markings. In addition to the name of the Crew Chief Sergeant Blanco, there is the name of another ground crew member which is undiscernable from the photo. This photo also shows that the 0 in the fuselage number is broken rather than solid.

Crew Chief Sergeant Blanco standing on the wing of Major Tapp’s 101 “Margaret – IV” with unknown crew member in cockpit (via Brian Walter)

Unfortunately, the kill and mission markings on the right side of Major Tapp’s Mustang are not contained on this decal sheet.

Major Robert W. “Todd” Moore (45th FS/15th FG) – Major Moore was the highest scoring VLR ace with 11 VLR aerial victories. He had one aerial victory with the 15th FG prior to arriving on Iwo Jima. 44-63483, a P-51D-20NA, was first assigned to Major Gilmore L. “Buck” Snipes and was named “Tom Kat”.

The three photos below provide some different marking variations for 67 “Stinger VII” during the time it was assigned to Major Moore. From these photos it appears that Major Moore was assigned to 67 during the time the squadron was transitioning from their original markings to the more simplified markings.

Below is a Loomis Dean photograph which show 67 “Stinger VII” with an unpainted spinner and the diagonal wing bands still in place as evidenced by the bands wrapping over the leading edge of the wing. It also appears that rails for HVAR rockets have been installed under the wings which can be seen just above the drop tanks on the left wing. These were field modifications as rocket rails were not installed at the factory during Block 20 production.

Major Robert W. Moore with 67 “Stinger VII” (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

The photograph below, while not the best in quality, appears to show that the diagonal bands have been removed from the wings, but still are present on the tail surfaces. It does not appear that the spinner has been painted solid green yet. Please also note that the number 67 also appears on the main landing gear covers. This was common practice for 45th FS Mustangs. Unfortunately, the this decal sheet does not provide the decals for the landing gear covers.

Major Robert W. Moore’s 67 “Stinger VII”

The last photo shows 67 “Stinger VII” with the simplified markings of a solid green spinner, green wing tips, green horizontal stablizer/elevator tips, and (assuming) green tail tip.

Major Robert W. Moore’s 67 “Stinger VII” (Robert W. Moore via Tom Ivie/Carl Molesworth)

Captain J.B. Baker, Jr. (458th FS/506th FG) – Captain Baker was the Flight Leader of “A” Flight of the 458th FS, and was assigned to a P-51D-20NA (44-72579) which was numbered 551, and he named “Delta Queen”.

Captain J.B. Baker, Jr.’s 551 “Delta Queen” (via Dr. John Benbow)

Captain Baker was credited with one aerial victory, a Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki which he shot down on a June 23, 1945 escort mission to the Nagoya and Kobe areas. He was also credited with a probable, a Mitsubishi JM2 Raiden during an strike mission against airfields in the Tokyo area, and two ground victories.

“A” Flight of 458th FS (back row, left to right – Norman Dostal, Henry Seegers, Ed Mikes, James Coleman, Raymond Feld; front row, left to right – Vance Middaugh, Bennett Commer, J.B. Baker, Jr., Robert Tatro) (Ralph Coleman via Dr. John Benbow)

Missing from this decal sheet are the dive angle markings on the wings which were applied to all 506th Mustangs. This sheet also provides two markings for the plane name “Delta Queen”, one is red and one in yellow. While the general consensus is that the plane name is yellow, it is nice to have both options.

This decal sheet was designed and sized for the Tamiya kit. I am not aware if the decals for the dark blue stripes on the tail of “Delta Queen” will fit properly on the Airfix, Hasegawa, HobbyBoss, ICM, Meng, and Revell/Monogram kits.

This is a very nice decal sheet, but it is no longer in production and is difficult to find. It shows up on eBay every so often, and Ultracast has one in stock at an inflated price of $34.95. If you are wanting to build a 1/48 Iwo Jima VLR Mustang with one of these markings, I would recommend buying the Eduard’s Very Long Range: Tales of Iwo Jima Limited Edition Kit (#11142). The decals in this kit include accurate markings for all of these planes (plus markings for 8 other planes).

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.

Book Review: “The Long Campaign: The History of the 15th Fighter Group in World War II” by John W. Lambert

Published in 2006 by Schiffer Publishing Ltd., John W. Lambert chronicles the 15th Fighter Group starting with its activation in December of 1940 as part of the Hawaiian Air Force, to its baptism of fire in the defense of Pearl Harbor during the Japanese surprise attack on December 7, 1941, and ending with its sun setting VLR missions against the Japanese Home Islands from Iwo Jima in the last months of the war.

James O. Beckwith

One hundred fifty two pages of text tells the story of the truly “Long Campaign” of the 15th Fighter Group, which was activated on December 1, 1940, in Hawaii, and ended the war on Iwo Jima in August, 1945. While the 15th FG got an early taste of aerial combat defending against the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the next 15 months would be spent on Hawaii defending against an anticipated second attack that never materialized.

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

The 15th FG’s opportunity to engage the enemy came again in March of 1943 when the group moved to Canton Island, and Lambert does a very nice job of describing the 15th’s moves across the Central Pacific (Baker, Makin, Milli, Jaluit, Abemama and Nanumea Atolls) , and their sporadic engagements with Japanese Naval Air Forces.

World War Photos

The book goes on to detail the Group’s return to Hawaii to transition into the Republic P-47D Thunderbolts in April of 1944. At this point in time, many of the pilots who had been in the Central Pacific forward areas had not got the opportunity of fire a single shot in combat. Lambert does a very nice job of capturing the frustrations of the pilots in not seeing any combat, and their eagerness to finally get in the fight.

78th FS Republic P-47D Thunderbolts (James M. Vande Hey)

That opportunity would come soon when the Group transitioned into the North American P-51D Mustang in November of 1944, and began training for VLR missions. The book really picks up during the Group’s transition to Iwo Jima, and finally their opportunity to engage Japanese Army and Navy fighters over the Japanese Home Islands.

Colonel James O. Beckwith in 15 “Squirt” (James O. Beckwith)

This is a very well researched book, and Lambert does an excellent job in the early to mid chapters of the book setting forth the Group’s history when not a lot of combat is occurring. The appendices at the end of the book are very nice and helpful for those wanting to dig deeper into the individual members of the Group and their accomplishments. The only criticism I have of the book is that it does not have any aircraft profiles, color or otherwise. It would have been a nice touch to include color profiles of the Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, Bell P-39 Airacobras, Republic P-47D Thunderbolts, and North American P-51D Mustangs flown by the 15th FG, and their markings.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the 15th Fighter Group and the 7th Air Force/7th Fighter Command’s contributions in ending the war in the Pacific.

Nostalgic Kit Review: Koster Aero Enterprises 1/48 PB4Y-2 Privateer Vacu-formed Conversion Kit

For a long time, if you wanted to build a 1/48 Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, Bill Koster’s vacu-formed conversion kit for the Monogram B-24 kit was the only game in town.

Bill passed away on September 13, 2020, after a battle with cancer at the age of 91. Bill worked for several decades as a kit designer for Revell-Monogram. After his retirement, he founded Koster Aero Enterprises through which he produced and sold vacu-formed kits and conversion sets for aircraft that the mainline model manufacturers ignored. Bill was a great ambassador for our hobby and was liked by all who met him.

I have purchased a couple of Bill’s B-24 turret sets over the years, and I was fortunate to purchase the PB4Y-2 Privateer conversion kit at an estate sale recently.

Koster Aero Enterprise

As you can see from the instructions below, the conversion kit uses the fuselage center section (bomb bay area), wings, landing gear, propellers, and cockpit pieces from the Revell-Monogram kit. Either the B-24D or the B-24J version of the Revell-Monogram kit will work for this conversion.

Koster Aero Enterprises
Koster Aero Enterprises

It appears that the main conversion pieces were formed using .050 to .060 mm thick plastic sheets. An inspection of these parts reveals a very good uniform thickness was maintained during the vacu-forming process.

Koster Aero Enterprises

These parts will be fairly sturdy during the process of removing them from their respective sheets, and during the construction process.

Koster Aero Enterprises

While you cannot see them from the photos, Bill also incorporated some very nice recessed panel lines on the fuselage pieces.

Koster Aero Enterprises

While the photo below does not do the vacu-formed clear parts justice, the parts are without distortion; pretty much crystal clear. For the most part, they are thick enough, and therefore sturdy, to withstand the process of removing them from the sheet. The exception is the two main parts for the A-6 gun turrets. Because of their height, the plastic on top gets fairly thin and are prone to being damaged easily. Care is needed when removing them.

Koster Aero Enterprises

The front of the cowls, engines, and gun turret parts are cast in resin. They are beautifully cast with a minimal amount of clean-up. Because the interiors of the gun turrets will visible due to the quality of the vacu-formed clear parts, the resin parts provide a base for super detailed turrets.

Koster Aero Enterprises

The conversion kit also comes with white metal parts as shown below. As you can tell, the 50 caliber machine gun barrels are very malleable and hard to get perfectly straight. The solution to this problem is to replace the barrels with the really nice brass barrels from Master Models, or to replace the entire machine guns with Eduard’s resin Browning M-2 machine guns.

Koster Aero Enterprises

Last, but not least, Bill included decals for four aircraft. They are very nice, in register, and provide three nose art options. The PB4Y-2 provided a large canvas for great nose art. National insignia are not included, so you will have to get them from other sheets or use masks.

Koster Aero Enterprises

Since this conversion kit is no longer in production, they are hard to come by. They do show up on eBay periodically, but not very often. I was fortunate to pick this one up at an estate sale. I have never attempted a vacu-formed conversion kit, so this should be an interesting project.

Stayed tuned as I will be reviewing a full resin 1/48 PB4Y-2 kit from Wilde Sau Resin, and 1/48 PB4Y-2 decal sheets from Cutting Edge/Pyn-Up Decals (now the Fine Art of Decals).

Mark L. Rossmann’s 1/48 Nichimo Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu Kai Type Tei

Happy New Year! It is my prayer that you all have a prosperous and joyful 2022.

Mark Rossmann is back with his 1/48 Nichimo Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu “Dragon Slayer” (Allied code name “Nick). Even though this kit was initially released in 1975, as you can see from the pictures provided by Mark, the kit is a very nice representation of the Ki-45. The kit’s cockpit detail is sparse, but it has very nice recessed panel lines and slightly over done rivet detail. Nice kit considering its age.

Mark L. Rossmann

The aircraft depicted in Mark’s build is a Ki-45 Kai type Tei of the 3rd Hikotai, 53rd Sentai. This variant of the Ki-45 was equipped with a 37 mm Ho-203 cannon in the nose, and two 20 mm Ho-5 cannons installed between the front and rear cockpit crew positions, fitted to fire upwards at a fixed angle of 32 degrees. This configuration allowed the Ki-45 night fighters to come from behind and below B-29 formations when making their attacks.

Mark L. Rossmann

Originally designed as a long range two seat heavy fighter, the Japanese learned, just like the Germans did with the Messerschmitt Bf 110, that heavier twin engine fighters did not fare well in aerial combat against the faster and more nimble single engine fighters. Like the Bf 110, the Ki-45 was adapted into the night fighter role to defend the Home Islands against the night time fire bombing raids being carried out by B-29s under the command of General Curtis LeMay. As part of the desperate defense of the Home Islands in the last few months of the Pacific War, the Ki-45 was also used in one-way ramming missions in an attempt to turn back the ever increasing B-29 bombing missions.

Below is a photo of the actual plane while the 53rd Sentai was stationed at Matsudo Air Base in 1945. Even more interesting is the plane in the foreground showing the installation of the two upward firing 20mm Ho-5 cannons.

53rd Sentai Ki-45s (WW2 Photo Archives)

Mark used Aeromaster’s Empire Defenders Pt. II decal sheet (48-171) for the decals. This sheet was originally released in 1994 and is no longer in production, but it pops up on eBay every so often. As of the date of this post, Ultracast has one left in stock at an inflated price.

AeroMaster Decals

Tamiya AS-17 IJA Dark Green from a rattle can was used to paint the model along with Testor’s flat white for the home defense bands.

Mark L. Rossmann

Unfortunately, I was not able to determine who the pilot or pilots were that flew this plane in combat from my limited reference materials. If you follow this blog, and know the answer to this question, please share that information with us.

Mark L. Rossmann

The only aftermarket products for this kit are masks. Both Dead Design Models (VM48031 & VM48065) and Montex (MM48141) currently manufacture masks that can be used for this model. Dead Design Models can be found here: http://www.deaddesignmodels.com/en/. Montex can be found here: http://www.montex-mask.com/en/home. Check these companies out if you have this model.

Mark L. Rossmann

Thanks again to Mark Rossmann for sharing this build with us!

References:

1. “B-29 Hunter: Ki-45 Dragon Slayer”; Mark L. Rossmann.

2. B-29 Hunters of the JAAF; Komi Tataki & Henry Sakaida; Osprey Aviation Elite 5; Osprey Publishing Limited 2001.

3. Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Units and Their Aces, 1931-1945; Ikuhiko Hata, Yasuho Izawa & Christopher Shores; Grub Street 2002.

In Memory of Burton W. Jones; 457th Fighter Squadron, 506th Fighter Group; February 1, 1921 – October 24, 2021

On February 1st of this year, the 506th Fighter Group Association helped celebrate the 100th birthday of Staff Sergeant Burton W. Jones, who was a ground crew member (mechanic and armorer) with the 457th Fighter Squadron. Staff Sergeant Jones was assigned to 541 “Kwitcherbitchin”, flown by Captains William B. Lawrence and Alan J. Kinvig.

Private Burton W. Jones (via Priscilla Heburn & Evan Jones)

My post on Burton’s 100th birthday celebration can be found here: https://iwojimamodels.com/2021/01/31/happy-100th-birthday-burton-w-jones/. The post covers Burton’s upbringing, induction into the United States Army Air Corps, training, assignments, and service with the 457th Fighter Squadron on Iwo Jima.

Burton’s family was hoping that he would receive at least 100 birthday cards from family, friends and well wishers. Burton actually received over 300 birthday cards!

Sergeant Burton W. Jones on Iwo Jima (via Priscilla Heburn & Evan Jones)

On October 25, 2021, we were informed by Priscilla Hepburn-Jones that Burton had passed away. Like other members of his generation, Burton returned from the war and became active in his community serving in many civic organizations.

Burton W. Jones at World War II Memorial (via Priscilla Heburn & Evan Jones)

On October 24, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation. Burton’s obituary can be found here: https://www.uticaod.com/obituaries/k0030474. Our prayers are with Burton’s family during this time of loss.