Book Review: “506th Fighter Group: The History of the 506th Fighter Group, Iwo Jima 1945” by Robert J. Grant

Released in 2011 by AJ Press as part of their Fighting Units in Color series, it is a pictoral history of the 506th Fighter Group while on Iwo Jima. Author, Robert J. Grant, includes a brief summary of each mission flown by the 506th, and in addition, describes life on Iwo Jima, the first VLR mission flown by the 506th on May 28, 1945, the June 1, 1945 “Black Friday” mission in which weather claimed 24 pilots of the 15th, 21st and 506th Fighter Groups, the Distinguished Unit Citation received by the 506th, 506th FG markings, and Captain Abner M. Aust, Jr.’s description of the July 16th and August 10th VLR missions in which he downed 5 Japanese fighters.

The artwork contained in the book is by Polish artist Zbigniew Kolacha, and includes 3 in-flight art like the picture below, 13 aircraft profiles, and nose art. The artwork is of the following aircraft:

542, “Fighting Lady/Broadway Gal”, 457th, FS P-51D-20-NA, 44-72570 (flown by 1st Lts. Ralph Gardner & Chester Jatczak)

616, “Shanghai Lil”, 462nd FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44-72588 (flown by 1st Lts. Darrell S. Bash & Edward Linfante) (decals included)

619, “Hon. Mistake”, 462nd FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44-72587 (flown by 1st Lts. James R. Bercaw & William G. Ebersole)

The 13 aircraft profiles cover all three squadrons, and include the following aircraft:

502, 457th FS, P-51D-20-NA 44-72599 (flown by 1st Lt. Larry Dolan)

527, “Hel-eter/Lil Toddie”, 457th FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44-72557 (flown by 1st Lts. John W. Winnen & Phillip S. Alston, and later, 1st Lts. Warren Clayton & Denny O’Hearn) (decals included)

528, “The Enchantress”, 457th FS, P-51D-25-NA, 44-72761 (flown by 2nd Lt. William Saks)

531, “Nip Nocker”, 457th FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44-63291 (flown by 1st Lt. Wesley A. Murphey)

538, 457th FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44–63983 (flown by Cap. John W.L. Benbow & 2nd Lt. Chester Jatczak)

540, “Kwitcherbitchin”, 457th FS, P-51D-25-NA, 44-72854 (flown by Cap. William B. Lawrence & Cap. Alan J. Kinvig) (decals included)

555, “The Olde Lady/Little Anne/My Darlin Betty Ann”, 458th FS, P-51D-25-NA, 44-72628 (flown by 2d Lts. James E. Coleman & Ralph R. Coltman, Jr.)

556, “The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package”, 458th FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44-72558 (flown by 2nd Lts. Bennett C. Commer & Harry C. Seegers, Jr.)

557, 458th FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44-63903 (flown by 2nd Lts. Raymond Feld & Robert E. Tatro)

576, “Little One/Jeannie”, 458th FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44-72612 (flown by 1st Lt. Max E. Ruble & 2nd Lt. Francis J. Pilecki) (decals included)

580, “Shirley III/Augusta Wind”, 458th FS, P-51D-25-NA, 44-72890 (flown by 1st Lt. Myndret S. Starin & 2nd Lt. Wilhelm H. Peterson)

582, 458th FS, P-51D-25-NA, 44-72672 (flown by 1st Lt. Robert “Andy” Anderstrom)

599, 458th FS, P-51D-25-NA, 44-72870 (flown by Cap. Peter Norwich)

602, “Meatball”, 462nd FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44-72505 (flown by 1st Lt. Edward Balhourn & 2nd Lt. Steve M. Treacy)

615, “My Bonnie”, 462nd FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44-72581 (flown by 1st Lts. John J. Grant & Francis L. Lee) (decals included)

638, “Corky/Belle of Auburn”, 462nd FS, P-51D-25-NA, 44-72667 (flown by 1st Lt. Bernard R. Comfort & 2nd Lt. John R. Kubis)

640, “The Shawnee Princess/Empire Commuter”, 462nd FS, P-51D-20-NA, 44-72620 (flown by Cap. Stanley C. Zagorsky & 1st Lt. Charles F. Seale)

As a bonus, decals are included in all three major scales: 1/72nd, 1/48th, and 1/32nd. The decals are printed by Techmod, so they are quality decals.

The book can be purchased on the 506th Fighter Group website (http://www.506thfightergroup.org), and is signed by Robert J. Grant and Zbigniew Kolacha. I believe Robert also has copies of the book which are signed by some of the pilots of 506th Fighter Group. If you are interested in purchasing the book with pilot signatures, please contact Robert at the following email address: webmaster@506thfightergroup.org. The book can also be purchased on Amazon and other on-line bookstores, but without any signatures.

This is the only book dedicated solely to the 506th Fighter Group, and is an excellent reference source for both the historian and the modeler. If you are a modeler interested in building a model of a 506th FG P-51D Mustang, this book is a must. Highly recommended.

Hobby Master Die Cast Models – Worth a Look

Hobby Master, a Hong Kong manufacturer of die cast collectibles, has just released two Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs as part of their 1/48 Air Power Series. The two Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs are both from the 506th Fighter Group; 505 from the 457th Fighter Squadron (44-72551) flown by Captain Abner M. Aust, Jr, the only ace of the 506th Fighter Group; and 619 “Hon. Mistake” from the 462nd Fighter Squadron (44-72587) flown by 1st Lieutenants James R. Bercaw and William G. Ebersole. The die cast models come in two editions, a regular edition and a signature edition. The signatures are of Captain Aust and 1st Lieutenant Ebersole. So for a little extra money, you can obtain a little slice of history with the signatures.

I have never been a huge fan of die cast models because I would rather build models, but I have to admit that die cast technology has come a long way over the years and the level of detail and realism is really good. You can display the model sitting on its landing gear, or on a stand with the landing gear up or lowered. The canopies are crystal clear, the flaps are moveable, and it comes with the twin Uncle Dog antennae, relocated single mast antenna, drop tanks, HVAR rockets and bombs. As you will see, the plane markings are exceptional. So let’s take a look at the pilots who flew these planes, and the die cast replicas.

505 – Captain Abner M. Aust, Jr. (457th FS, 506th FG)

Captain Abner M. Aust, Jr.

Abner Maurice Aust, Jr., was born on October 7, 1921, in Scooba, Mississippi, and 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 at Venice, Florida, until he 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. He claimed his first victories on a VLR strike mission to the Nagoya/Bay of Ise area on July 16, 1945, shooting down three Nakajima Ki-84 Hayates (Franks) in quick succession. 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.

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!”

Colonel Abner M. Aust, Jr.

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. 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. Abner Aust currently lives in Frostprof, Florida, and continues to remain active at the age of 98. 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”.

Hobby Master has done a very nice job of reproducing the aircraft markings, from the 457th Fighter Squadron badge to the Alberto Vargas pin-up art that adorned the fuselage of Captain Aust’s plane below the canopy. They included the twin Uncle Dog antennae and the relocated single mast antenna under the fuselage in front of the wheel wells. The drop tanks are the 75 gallon tanks, which are not accurate, but the casual observer will not make the distinction. I think I will replace the 75 gallon drop tanks with accurate 110 gallon drop tanks from Eduard.

619 “Hon. Mistake” – 1st Lieutenants William G. Ebersole and James R. Bercaw (462nd FS, 506th FG)

1st Lieutenant William G. Ebersole (Loomis Dean/USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)
1st Lieutenant William G. Ebersole (Loomis Dean/USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

1st Lieutenant William G. Ebersole – 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, 2nd Lieutenant Ebersole flew in the Curtiss P-40N Warhawk, and the A, B, C and D models of the North American P-51 Mustang.

2nd Lieutenant Ebersole 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.

2nd Lieutenant Ebersole 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. 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 to 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 editor of the Gainesville Sun. Bill, and his wife, Anna, live in Gainesville, and is scheduled to make a return trip to Iwo Jima in the spring of 2020, as part of a veterans trip.

1st Lieutenant James R. Bercaw (via William G. Ebersole)
1st Lieutenant James R. Bercaw flying 619 “Hon. Mistake (via 506th Fighter Group Association)

1st Lieutenant James R. Bercaw – The only record on Fold3 for James R. Bercaw is his enlistment record which indicates that he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on February 24, 1943, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At the time of his enlistment, he was attending Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.

After returning from the war, 1st Lieutenant Bercaw received his bachelors degree from William Jewell College, in Liberty, Missouri, in 1948, and his PhD degree in physical-organic chemistry from Ohio State University in 1954. James was employed by the DuPont Company for 31 years, serving in technical and management positions in Textile Fibers Department in Wilmington, Delaware; Kinston, North Carolina; and Camden, South Carolina. He was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and by the U.S. Trade Representative as an industry advisor on textile and fiber issues. He served as technical and international trade consultant to the American Fiber Manufacturers Association in Washington, DC, from 1970 until 2007. James R. Bercaw passed away on March 9, 2018, at the age of 94 in Greenville, Delaware.

I hope to find more about James Bercaw’s service in the 462nd Fighter Squadron from the 506th Fighter Group records.

Again, Hobby Master has done a very nice job of reproducing the aircraft markings, from the 462nd Fighter Squadron badge to the nose art of “Hon. Mistake”, which is short for Honorable Mistake.

1st Lieutenant William G. Ebersole in the cockpit of 619 “Hon. Mistake” (via 506th Fighter Group Association)

The name and nose art originated from a VLR strike mission in which 1st Lieutenant James Bercaw inadvertently strafed an outhouse at a Japanese airfield. Bercaw’s gun camera footage showed a Japanese soldier fleeing the outhouse being strafed.

I am very impressed with the quality and accuracy of these die cast models. They are proudly displayed on a bookcase in my office, and they have been nice conversation pieces with some of my clients. If you are a die cast collector, and have an interest in the Pacific Theater of operations, these die cast models are worth a serious look. I did check the Hobby Master website, and they have also produced Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV” (78th FS, 15th FG). I purchased my die cast models from The Flying Mule.

Kudos to Hobby Master for producing these die cast models, and a special thanks to 506th Fighter Group historian Brian Walter who spearheaded this effort to honor Abner Aust, Bill Ebersole, and James Bercaw. Brian worked with Hobby Master to not only get the markings right, but also to make sure the uniqueness of a Iwo Jima VLR Mustang were accurately represented. Below is a photo from the 2018 506th Fighter Group Reunion in Orlando, Florida. The photo was taken at a luncheon hosted for the 506th Fighter Group by Stallion 51 in Kissimmee, Florida. Colonel Aust is in the center in the teal green shirt, and 1st Lieutenant Ebersole is fourth from the left in the cap and the Hawaiian shirt.

2018 506th Fighter Group Reunion Attendees

Kit Preview: Eduard’s 1/48 North American P-51D Mustang

This was the first release of Eduard’s much anticipated 1/48 P-51D Mustang. Its official release date was August 7th at the 2019 IPMS Nationals in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Not wanting to wait until Eduard released the rumored separate Pacific Theater VLR boxing, I ordered mine as soon as preorders were being accepted at Sprue Brothers. That proved to be a good move as this limited edition kit sold out completely in less than a month.

As indicated in an earlier post, all of the necessary parts to make an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang are in this kit except for the drop tanks and sway braces. And, as was announced by Eduard recently in their September edition of their INFO Eduard on-line magazine, the additional sprues with the drop tanks will be in be their Royal Class boxing that will be released prior to Christmas. I am being told that at least two, and maybe three, decal options for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs will be in the Royal Class boxing. That is great news!

Kit Preview; Sprue D (Fuselage Parts) – Eduard certainly did its homework, and the level of detail for a 1/48 scale model is amazing. So let’s take a look at the various sprues. First up is the fuselage sprue (Sprue D).

What caught my eye initially is the intricate rivet detail over the entire fuselage and the druz fasteners on the engine cowling panels. Very nice and not overdone. Best not to be too heavy handed with primer and color coats to avoid losing all of that rivet detail. Included in the detail is the small air scoop that was added to the left side of the cowling when the battery was moved to the engine compartment. The other thing I pay pretty close attention to is the contours of the nose, especially at the front of the engine cowling. There are some very subtle contour changes that most model manufacturers have failed to capture correctly. I believe that Tamiya did a very nice job in this area with their 1/32 scale Mustang kit, and it appears that Eduard has done a very nice job as well.

Sprue B (Wings & Horizontal Stabilizers) – The wings and horizontal stabilizers are nicely done with separate control surfaces (flaps, ailerons, and elevators).

I am impressed by the fact that the rivet detail on the wings is accurate. The Mustang has a laminar flow wing which increases the efficiency of air flowing over the wing. To further increase the laminar flow effect over the wing, North American puttied over panel joints and rivet depressions, sanded everything smooth, and then painted the majority of the wings with a silver lacquer paint. The general consensus is that only the gun bays, landing gear access panels, and other access panels were not puttied. Below is a diagram of the wings by Jennings Heilig of fundekals 🙂 that shows which panel lines were puttied.

The faint lines on the above diagram show the panel joints that were puttied. Like all kit manufacturers who have produced 1/48 Mustangs (Airfix, Hasegawa, Meng, and Tamiya), Eduard has represented the panel joints on the wings by recessed panel lines. But some kit manufacturers (Dragon 1/32, Tamiya 1/32, Meng 1/48, and Airfix 1/48) filled their wings with rivet detail, so if you are building these kits and want to portray an accurate puttied wing, you not only have to fill and sand the correct panel lines, but also all of the rivet detail. While this is not overly difficult, eliminating the rivet detail is a tedious and very time consuming task. With the Eduard kit, all you have to do is fill and sand the the correct panel lines. Kudos to Eduard.

Sprue H (Interior Parts) – This sprue has all of the cockpit parts plus two different spinners and the three different propellers (Hamilton Standard cuffed, Hamilton Standard uncuffed, and Aeroproducts).

It appears to have all the cockpit parts for a D-5 through a D-25 (early and late instrument panels, the two different styles of instrument panel comings, Warren MacArthur and Schick Johnson seats, the different control panels for the right side of the cockpit, etc . . .). However, what I am most interested in is the parts to make an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang. SCR-695 IFF transmitter is part H22, and the level of detail is fantastic for 1/48 scale.

Also included are the SA-3/A Inertia Switch (IFF Detonator Switch) and the BC-727 Indicator Lights (part H50).

So there you have it, all of the necessary cockpit parts are present in this kit to make an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang; first time in a 1/48 kit.

Sprue G (Exterior Parts, Wheel Wells & Landing Gear) – One of the main complaints with early Mustang models is inaccurate wheel wells. Tamiya solved that problem with their 1/32 P-51D Mustang kit, and the other kit manufacturers (Revell 1/32, Zoukei-Mura 1/32, Airfix 1/48, and Meng 1/48) including Eduard, have now followed suit and for the most part imitated the Tamiya design for the wheel wells.

Again, the level of detail is amazing. Below is a picture of the main landing gear wheel well doors in this kit, and a picture of one of Sierra Sue II’s landing gear wheel well doors that was taken shortly after its complete restoration. As you can see, the Eduard parts accurately depict the rivet detail.

The twin Uncle Dog antennae are located on Sprue G as parts G1 and G2. Their attachment pins are set at an angle and there are no locating holes on the inside of the fuselage parts to indicate their position on the fuselage spine. Because this limited edition kit does not use those parts, the kit instructions do not provide any guidance. So we will have to wait on the instructions in the Royal Class boxing as far as the exact location.

Sprue F (Drop Tanks & Underwing Ordinance) – This sprue contains the drop tanks used in the European Theater of operations, and the various underwing ordinance (bombs, HVAR rockets, and rocket launching tubes).

Eduard designed the HVAR rockets and their wing attachment points as one piece. While this will add an extra step in painting the rockets, it will make rocket alignment a non-issue. Locating holes are on the bottom half the wings.

The sprue consisting of the clear parts have all three canopy types and are crystal clear.

Initial Impressions – This is an extremely nice looking kit with a lot of intricate detail and some delicate parts. The fuselage contours look really good. Kudos to Eduard for spending the necessary time to get things right. When I have the Royal Class boxing in my possession, I will review the sprue with the 110 and 165 gallon drops tanks, and the decals for the Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs. Hopefully, Eduard will include the sway braces for the drop tanks. I am really looking forward to building Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV” (78th FS, 15th FG) with 165 gallon drop tanks and HVAR rockets using this kit.

Major James B. Tapp (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

Eduard just released the D-5 ProfiPACK edition, and I am being told that they are still planning to release a limited edition Pacific Theater VLR Mustang ProfiPACK edition in 2020. Again, this is great news!

Building 607 ‘Dolly’ – Getting Started

After Market Products – For the most part, this will be an out of the box build. However, I decided to use a few after market products. The first after market product needed is a nice set of resin replacement tires. Tamiya chose to make the kit tires from some form of very durable rubber. Neat idea, but there is rubber flash from the mold seam that runs down the center of the tires. Reading some on-line builds, modelers have expressed frustration with not being able to eliminate the mold seam flash. O.K., so I thought to myself, how hard can this be? So, I broke out a few sanding sticks. Medium sanding stick; no effect. Coarse sanding stick; again, no effect. I turned to my X-acto knife thinking I could either scrap or cut off the mold seam flash. No success in that attempt. Put in a new blade thinking that the blade might be dull. Not any better. In my frustration, my thoughts turned from removing the flash to destroying the tires. Good thing my thoughts did not stay there long.

I am not sure what the chemical composition of the rubber that Tamiya used is, but I can say with absolute certainty that long after you and I are gone from this earth, these tires will still be here without a hint of degradation. In addition, the rubber tires appear to be dust magnets, and they hold on to the dust like there is no tomorrow. My attempts to remove the dust with a brush just moved the dust around on the tires. If you have this kit in your stash and have not built one yet, take my advice and buy a quality set of resin replacement tires. I purchased a set from Barracuda Studios. They are beautifully cast and designed specifically as replacement parts for the Tamiya kit.

Barracuda Studios

After removing the tires from the casting block and washing them in a mild detergent, I primed the tires with Alclad II Grey Primer & Microfiller (ALC 302). This is my primer of choice because it is lacquer based, extremely durable, and provides a good base for color coats to adhere to, especially acrylics. For the tire color, I used Vallejo Model Air Tyre Black (71.315). I really like Vallejo Model Air paints. They spray down beautifully, and I have not had any adhesion problems. I would not recommend spraying them on bare plastic because a primer is necessary to obtain good adhesion. I clear coated the tires with Alclad II Aqua Gloss Clear (ALC 600) because I will be using an enamel wash when it comes time to weather the wheels. The kit rims were primed with Alclad II Grey Primer & Microfiller and then sprayed with Alclad II Aluminum (ALC 101). The red tire slippage tape decals are from the fundekals 🙂 P-51D Mustang Factory Stencil decal sheet.

The other aftermarket products used in this build are BarracudaCals P-51D Cockpit Stencils and Placards to spruce up the cockpit, and as indicated above, fundekals 🙂 P-51D Factory Stencil decals for the exterior of the model.

Instrument Panel – Tamiya’s instrument panel comes in several pieces which includes a clear back piece with raised instrument dials, a decal of the dial faces, and an instrument panel front. The decal is placed on the back of the clear piece, and the then the clear piece is joined with the front of the instrument panel. I painted the instrument panel front with Vallejo Model Air Black (71.057) lightened slightly with Vallejo Model Air White (71.001) (6 to 1 ratio). I don’t like using straight black as I think straight black is very stark. After painting the various switches and bezels, I clear coated instrument panel front with Alclad II Aqua Gloss Clear (ALC 600) to provide a base for the instrument panel stencils and placard decals. These decals are very small and were a test of my patience, but the result looks very good. After to decals were set, I sealed them with Alclad II Klear Kote Matte (ALC 313). After the clear coat dried, I attached the front and back pieces.

The completed instrument panel looks very nice with the stencil and placard decals. A few observations. First, the instrument bezels on the kit instrument panel are so close together in places that the vertical yellow dividing line decal did not lay down very good, and this is after I tried my best to trim the excess decal film away, and used decal solvent solution to get the decal to settle down. Second, the rear clear piece is just too thick to get a good representation of the instrument dial faces. Again, neat idea that just does not work very good. The next Tamiya 1/32 P-51D Mustang that I build, I will replace the kit instrument panel with either Eduard’s pre-painted photo-etch or Look instrument panels.

Next Installment of the Build – Cockpit floor and fuselage fuel tank, and beginning assembly of the kit’s Packard built Rolls Royce Merlin engine, which is a kit in and of itself.

It’s a Model Maker’s Prerogative . . .

. . . To change its mind. To those of us that inquired, Eduard initially indicated that they were going to produce a Pacific Theater VLR Mustang and release it as a separate boxing in 2020. Well, that has changed, but only in the way the kit is going to be released and the timing of release. Eduard announced in its September edition of INFO Eduard that the Iwo Jima VLR Mustang would be a part of their Royal Class boxing. Below is an excerpt the of newletter’s editorial:

I welcome you to today’s newsletter, one that will focus on September’s new releases and developments. The end of August saw the sell out of the first boxing of the Mustang kit, a total of 6700 kits with the title Chattanooga Choo Choo, released as a Limited Edition kit on the occasion of the American IPMS National convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The show itself was very nice, held in a nice town. The interest in the Mustang was huge, both at the show, and on the internet. We sold a thousand kits in 24 hours, which, at the moment, represents a record for us in terms of a single item sale, and the overall sales for this kit are also the best to date for a Limited Edition release of a kit. Discussions around the Mustang are continuing at a feverish pace, and inevitably touch on the distant future to cover any possible release of the P-51B/C as well as a scaling down to 1:72nd scale. This will happen, but the timing of these items cannot yet be nailed down with any precision. But I can say with certainty when the Royal Class boxing of the P-51 kit will come out and what it will look like. As usual, it will follow the Dual Combo concept, and will contain plastic for all the P-51D versions. Contrary to our original plans, we decided to exclude the photo reconnaissance F-6D, but to include an extra plastic sprue for the Pacific theatre Very Long Range Mustang. This will allow the inclusion of the oversized drop tanks that were used in the PTO. A part of the Royal Class boxing will be dedicated to the British Mustang Mk.IV. All in all, this will be a very striking item, and will be an ideal gift at Christmas. Don’t forget to tell your wives!” – Vladimir Sulc, INFO Eduard September 2019 Newsletter

So there you have it; a definitive answer regarding a release date and an item for your Christmas list to boot. Pretty sure I will not be taking Mr. Sulc’s recommendation about telling my wife to buy me the Royal Class boxing as a Christmas present. Considering the number of unbuilt kits I have in my stash, I can see my wife rightly rolling her eyes at the thought of feeding my addiction. She lovingly jokes that I am a model kit collector, and not a model builder. I definitely need to cull the herd at some point in time.

My first reaction to Eduard’s announcement was one of disappointment. With its own boxing as a ProfiPACK edition, Eduard normally includes five or six decal options. However, once I got over my own selfishness, Eduard’s decision only makes sense. With the Royal Class boxing, a modeler can build two variants of the D model within the range of a D-5 to a D-25. It is my hope that Eduard will provide at least three decal options for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs in the their Royal Class boxing. It would be nice to see one decal option from each of the three Iwo Jima VLR Fighter Groups.

Will we see a separate Pacific Theater VLR Mustang boxing? I believe we will. It has been Eduard’s practice to rebox kits overtime. For example, as part of their September 2019 releases, Eduard is re-releasing its 1/48 Bell P-400 Airacobra kit as a ProfiPACK edition. Originally released in 2000, the kit is still a very nice kit. To coincide with this release, there is a very nice article in the September 2019 INFO Eduard newsletter describing the four P-400 raids in late August 1942 against the Japanese airfield near Buna, New Guinea. I like how Eduard provides modelers with some history behind the planes contained in their releases. While the VLR Mustang Groups were in combat no longer than five months on Iwo Jima, their history is so rich and their story is so compelling. In addition, each squadron within the VLR Mustang Groups had different markings, which provides a multitude of interesting decal options. I believe the release of a quality P-51D Mustang kit is a “license to print money”, and that Eduard will profit handsomely over the years by re-releasing this kit. The fact that they sold out the initial release of the kit in a month’s time is a testament to the popularity of the P-51D Mustang in general, and specifically this kit, among modelers. Patience I tell myself.

Disclaimer: I have given a certain amount of praise to both Eduard and Tamiya for giving modelers the option to build an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang. If I give praise to a manufacturer for a model kit, paints, decals, or other aftermarket products, please know that I have no affiliations with any company or individual producing these items, nor do I have any contract or receive compensation to promote said kits or products on this blog. I do think it is important to give credit where credit is due. So if I believe a kit or aftermarket product is worth your attention, I will point that out.

When I launched this blog, I realized it would not generate a tremendous amount of traffic because of its limited scope, and certainly not enough to attract attention of kit manufacturers. As stated in the Introduction, my intent is to honor the Iwo Jima aviators, and to tell their story, through modeling.

Getting It Right

With the release of the Tamiya’s 1/32 North American P-51D/K Mustang “Pacific Theater” kit in 2012, modelers were finally provided with a kit that has almost all of the necessary parts to build an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang. It had been a long time coming. For the most part, kit manufacturers have either been willfully ignorant of the differences between a standard P-51D Mustang and an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang, or completely indifferent. I say willfully ignorant because there is more than sufficient photo documentation regarding the external differences, and on-line resources, such as the P-51 Special Interest Group Forum, to easily document the necessary parts for an accurate kit. In 2005, Hasegawa released an “Iwo Jima” boxing (Kit No. 09664) of their popular 1/48 P-51D Mustang kit, however, it did not have any of the necessary parts to make an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang. In 2014, Italeri released a 1/48 P-51D/K Mustang “Pacific Aces” kit (Kit No. 2743) that included decals for three Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs. While Italeri gets kudos for including decals for the three VLR Mustangs, the actual kit is just a reboxing of the Hasegawa kit.

It appears that Hasegawa’s business model has been to create a kit, and rebox the kit multiple times with different decals with little regard as to whether different or additional parts need to be included. According to Scalemates, Hasegawa has reboxed its 1/48 P-51D Mustang kit a total of 29 times since it was originally introduced in 1991! Not a bad business model if the sole objective is to sell the greatest number of kits with only one mold, but frustrating if you are a modeler who desires accuracy between variants of the same plane. I do not consider myself a “rivet counter”, but the investment of time to get the correct information on an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang is minimal.

It is encouraging to see kit manufacturers like Tamiya raising the bar as far as the level of detail, ease of construction (better engineering), and providing different variants. It was very pleasing to see the parts and decals for an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang in their “Pacific Theater” boxing. The other model manufacturer that is catering to those who desire greater accuracy between variants of the same plane is Eduard. Both their 1/48 Messerschmitt Bf-109 and Focke Wulf Fw-190 lines of kits provide modelers with accurate kits of the variants of those planes. Eduard recently released their first 1/48 kit in their widely anticipated line of P-51 Mustangs, and has made it known that they will be releasing an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang boxing in 2020. I received Eduard’s first release last week, and to my surprise, all of the necessary parts to make an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang are in the kit except for the drop tanks and sway braces. Kudos to Eduard, and I eagerly await their release of the Iwo Jima VLR boxing. Review of the Eduard kit to come later.

The Differences: SCR-695 and Battery Locations. The P-51D Mustangs flown by the 15th, 21st and 506th fighter groups were standard Block 20-NA and 25-NA models to which modifications were made while on Iwo Jima. The first difference was the placement of the SCR-695 IFF transmitter (multi-band airborne transponder which allowed a plane to be identified on friendly radars) behind the standard SCR-522 radio transmitter (4 channel VHF radio set used for air-to-air and air-to-ground communications). This necessitated moving the battery, which was normally located behind the SCR-522 radio transmitter, to the engine compartment. In order to keep the engine compartment cooler, a small air scoop was located on the left side of the fuselage above and in front of the wing leading edge. Also added to the cockpit area behind the pilot’s head rest armor plating was the SA-3/A inertia switch and the BC-727 indicator lights. A small antenna (the AN95-A) was added to the underside of the wing just aft off the right landing gear wheel well.

AN/ARA-8 Homing Adaptor & Uncle Dog Twin Antennae. The most distinctive external feature of an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang was the twin “Uncle Dog” antennae.

With the installation of these antennae, the normal single mast antenna was moved under the fuselage just forward of the wheel wells, which can be seen in the lower left corner of the photo below.

The twin Uncle Dog antennae were a part of a VHF beacon system that was needed for the long over water flights in order for the VLR Mustangs to find the B-29s they were escorting, and to find their way back to Iwo Jima. The system devised included B-29 navigation aircraft equipped with Uncle Dog transmitters, the VLR Mustangs using their SCR-522 VHF communications set along with an AN/ARA-8 homing adapter, and an MD-34 modulator keying set, and a ground based version of the SCR-522 (SCR-575) operated from Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima known as “Brother Agate”. The VLR Mustangs would home in on the B-29 navigation aircraft, not only to form up with the B-29s they were escorting, but the B-29 navigation aircraft were also used on the homeward leg of the VLR missions to guide to Mustangs within a couple hundred miles of Iwo Jima after which the Mustangs would home in on the signal sent from Brother Agate. There is an excellent article on the Uncle Dog/Brother Agate VHF beacon system written by Mark Starin, RMC USNR (Ret.), on the 506th Fighter Group website (http://www.506thfightergroup.org). From the main page, go to the Pilots section, and click on the “VLR Story” page. The article is the second article on the page. Mark Starin is the son of 458th FS, 506th FG pilot 1st Lt. Myndret S. Starin.

VLR Drop Tanks. Because of the great distance covered on the VLR missions, the Mustangs used two of the larger types of drop tanks: 1) 110 gallon metal drop tanks, and 2) 165 gallon P-38/P-61 style drop tanks. The 110 gallon metal tanks were the standard drop tanks used on VLR missions, and even with these larger tanks, pilots often landed back on Iwo Jima with only a few gallons of fuel left.

The 165 gallon P-38/P-61 type drop tanks were used on two different types of missions. The first was combat air patrol (CAP) missions around Iwo Jima. The 165 gallon drop tanks allowed the Mustangs to loiter longer. Towards the end of the war, the VLR Mustangs began carrying six HVAR rockets on strike missions, and the 165 gallon drop tanks were used to provide additional fuel due to the extra drag caused by carrying the rockets.

Major James B. Tapp (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

Because of the larger size of both drop tanks, sway braces were used. The sway braces were cut from plywood and made to drop from the planes when the drop tanks were released.

Unfortunately, Tamiya did not include the sway braces in their “Pacific Theater” boxing, nor did they include the 165 gallon drop tanks or HVAR rockets. With the Tamiya kit, a modeler is limited to VLR Mustang with the 110 gallon drop tanks out of the box. It is anticipated that Eduard will include both the 110 gallon and 165 gallon drop tanks along with the sway braces in their 1/48 Iwo Jima VLR Mustang boxing.

Building 607 ‘Dolly’ – The Pilot, Plane and Kit

In 2010, AJ Press announced the release of a book dedicated to the 506th Fighter Group as part of their Fighting Units in Color series. In the process of acquiring the book, “506th Fighter Group: The History of the 506th Fighter Group, Iwo Jima 1945” (more on the book later), I came into contact with the author, Robert J. Grant, who is also the webmaster for the 506th Fighter Group website (http://www.506thfightergroup.org) and one of the Group’s historians. Robert has been a very good friend over the years.

Robert’s father, Captain John J. Grant, was a pilot in the 462nd Squadron, and was initially assigned to 615 “My Bonnie” (P-51D-20-NA, Serial No. 44-72581) along with 1st Lt. Francis L. Lee. It was the practice of the 506th FG to assign two pilots to a plane due to the duration and distance flown on missions, assuring that a pilot would have time to recuperate after flying a 7 to 8 hour mission and would not have to fly back to back missions. Towards the end of war, Capt. Grant flew several missions in 607 (P-51D-25-NA, Serial No. 44-72861). It is believed that Captain Grant was reassigned to 607 upon achieving the rank of captain, but unfortunately, the unit histories of both the 506th Fighter Group and the 462nd Fighter Squadron do not go into that level of specificity. It it is also believed that 2nd Lt. Howard E. Miller was assigned to 607.

Captain John J. Grant (Loomis Dean/USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

Captain Grant, known as “JJ”, was one of the “old men” of the 462nd Squadron relatively speaking. Born on February 28, 1915 in Marshall, Oneida County, New York, JJ was 27 years old, had graduated from Syracuse University, and had been in his chosen career field of physical education and athletics for several years when he enlisted on March 11, 1942. He was assigned to the 506th FG shortly after the fighter group’s activation on October 21, 1944. The 506th was trained specifically to fly VLR missions before arriving on Iwo Jima, and between May 28, 1945, and August 14, 1945, flew a total of 29 VLR missions from Iwo Jima to Japan and back. While mission reports do not list pilots who flew on a mission, Robert believes his father completed at least 12 VLR missions.

After the war, JJ returned to teaching physical education and coaching, and had a very successful career as a high school football coach and athletic director. He taught physical education in Greene, Auburn, and Rome, New York high schools. He ended his career in education as the Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics with the Schenectady City Schools, retiring in 1972. Before retirement, he also served as the President of the New York State Athletic Association. JJ was also instrumental in organizing the first reunion of 506th Fighter Group veterans in 1985, and organized many of the reunions thereafter. Captain John J. Grant passed away on December 23, 2003, at the age of 88, in Melbourne, Florida.

The photo above is the best picture of 607 in existence. The photo shows no nose art on the right side of the nose, but does show a name on the right side canopy sill. When the picture is enlarged, the name looks like “RITA II”, however, it is difficult to make out the exact name. I was unable to find a picture of 607 showing nose art on the left side of the nose.

On July 7, 2012, the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California, held a symposium on the Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Groups. Presenting at the symposium were Robert J. Grant and 506th FG, 462nd FS pilots 1st Lts. William G. Ebersole and Edward Linfante. At the end of the presentations, the Air Museum unveiled that it had repainted one of its P-51D Mustangs as 607 ‘Dolly’. Below is Robert J. Grant with the warbird 607 ‘Dolly’ holding artwork by Zbigniew Kolacha.

Robert J. Grant

For this build, I will be using Tamiya’s 1/32 North American P-51D Mustang. Released several years ago, the kit is in a class by itself and is the most accurate Mustang kit in any scale. Tamiya released a second boxing of the kit which focuses on P-51D/K Mustangs flown in the Pacific Theater of operations.

This kit has almost all of the parts to build an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang (correct avionics equipment, twin Uncle Dog antenna, relocated single antenna mast on the underside of the fuselage forward of the wheel wells, relocated battery in the engine compartment, and 110 metal drop tanks). Unfortunately, the kit does not provide decals for any 506th Mustangs. The only decals of an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang in the kit are those of the top VLR ace, Robert “Todd” Moore’s “Stinger VII” (45th FS, 15th FG). Since there are no commercially available decals for 607 ‘Dolly’, I had custom decals for the plane name (‘Dolly’), the plane number (607), and the serial number (472861) made by Mark Tutton of Starfighter Decals at www.starfighter-decals.com.

Welcome!

On March 6, 1945, Brig. General Ernest M. “Mickey” Moore, commanding officer of the 7th Fighter Command, and 24 pilots of the 47th Fighter Squadron (FS) of the 15th Fighter Group (FG), landed their North American P-51D Mustangs on South Field on Iwo Jima, just fifteen days after the United States Marines stormed Iwo’s black sand beaches. The battle for Iwo Jima continued to rage on for another twenty days as pockets of Japanese resistance were being eliminated. The remaining two squadrons (45th & 78th) of the 15th FG arrived on the next day, March 7th. After the engineers reconstructed Central Field, the 72nd FS of the 21st FG arrived on March 22nd, and the remaining two squadrons (46th & 531st) of the 21st FG arrived on March 24th. The 506th FG (457th, 458th & 462nd FS) Mustangs, the last Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Group, arrived on May 11th and May 13th after North Field was constructed.

During the last months of the war in the Pacific, 15th, 21st and 506th FGs flew VLR (Very Long Range) missions from Iwo Jima to Japan and back. Round trip, these grueling missions would cover anywhere between 1,300 to 1,500 miles, and last 7 to 8 hours. Initially, the Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Groups were tasked with escorting 21st Bomber Command Boeing B-29 Superfortresses that were bombing the Japanese Home Islands from the Marianas. Toward the end of the hostilities, their task changed to flying strike missions in anticipation of the planned invasion of Japan.

There are numerous modeling possibilities just within the three VLR Mustang Groups, as there are several aftermarket decal sheets available to a modeler. But the modeling possibilities do not start or end with the VLR Mustang Groups. The United States Navy was the first of the Allied air forces to bomb Iwo Jima on June 14, 1944. The Navy’s raids would continue until August 5, 1944, and were intended to disrupt the flow of Japanese combat aircraft from Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima to the Marianas during the battle for Saipan. Curtiss SB2C Helldivers, Grumman TBF/TBM Avengers and F6F Hellcats participated in these strikes. Top U.S. Navy ace David McCampbell, and Japanese Navy ace Saburo Sakai flew in these battles.

7th Air Force Consolidated B-24J Liberators began bombing Iwo Jima from newly acquired Isley Field on Saipan on August 10, 1944, and would continue to bomb Iwo Jima from bases in the Marianas right up to the invasion. Boeing B-29 Superfortresses would also bomb Iwo Jima as “shakedown” missions in anticipation of the start of the bombing campaign against the Japanese Home Islands. And as has been well documented, after the United States Marines gained control of Iwo Jima, combat damaged and fuel starved B-29s would use Iwo Jima as a safe haven during the long over-water flights back to the Marianas.

In addition to the VLR Mustang Groups on Iwo Jima, Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberators and PB4Y-2 Privateers, Northrop P-61 Black Widows, and two Republic P-47N Thunderbolt groups would call Iwo Jima home during the last few months of the Pacific War.

Last, but not least, are the brave Japanese Army Air Force and Navy pilots who dueled in the skies against the Navy and 7th Fighter Command pilots in protecting Iwo Jima and the Japanese Home Islands. They flew in Kawanishi N1K2-J “Georges”; Kawasaki Ki-45 “Nicks”, Ki-61 and Ki-100 “Tonys”; Mitsubishi A6M5 “Zekes” and J2M3 “Jacks”; and Nakajima Ki-44 “Tojos” and Ki-84 “Franks”. They faced overwhelming odds against numerically superior forces.

So welcome to my little corner on the World Wide Web. In addition to building models, this blog will cover kit and aftermarket product reviews, reference materials and sites, some history of the brave pilots of both combatants and their air combats mixed in, Iwo Jima aviation art, and maybe a few book reviews. I hope you enjoy this blog, and comments and criticisms are always welcome.