Decal Review: Exito Decals’ “Pacific Warriors” Vol. 1 (ED48011 & ED72011)

Exito is a Polish company which was started in 2008 as an internet hobby shop, and expanded in 2010 by establishing a brick and mortar store in 2010 in Cracow, Poland. In November of 2018, they launched their own line of high quality decals in 1/72nd, 1/48th and 1/32nd scales.

They recently released their 11th decal sheet entitled “Pacific Warriors” vol. 1, which includes decals for “501”, a 457th FS/506th FG P-51D-25-NA (44-72640) flown by Captain Evelyn Neff.

Exito Decals

Their decal sheets appear to very well researched. The decal sheet comes with a separate decal placement guide for each plane. On one side is the decal placement guide with photos, aircraft profiles showing decal placements, and color call-outs.

Exito Decals/Janusz Swaitlon

On the other side are larger aircraft profiles. All of the aircraft profiles are the work of Polish aircraft illustrator, Janusz Swaitlon. They are printed on thick glossy paper suitable for framing. Very nice touch on the part of Exito.

Exito Decals/Janusz Swaitlon

The decals are in register and printed by Cartograf in Italy.

Exito Decals – 1/48th Sheet
Exito Decals – 1/72nd Sheet

Exito gives you the option of two different markings for Captain Neff’s Mustang. The first option is the early 457th FS paint scheme with the green striped tail shortly after the 506th FG arrived on Iwo Jima as shown in the picture below. The nose art below the front of the canopy shows the half nude without a background.

506th Fighter Group Association via Dr. John Benbow

The 506th Fighter Group Mustangs went to solid tails beginning in June of 1945 after the 7th Fighter Command ordered the three Mustang groups on Iwo Jima to adopt more simplified markings. The second option is 501 with a solid tail and the half nude nose art with a dark background as shown in the photo below. Again, nice touch on Exito’s part.

506th Fighter Group Association via Brian Walter

Kudos to Exito for releasing this decal sheet. Because they have labeled this decal sheet “vol. 1”, we can assume the future release of at least another “Pacific Warriors” decal sheet. Hopefully, volume 2 will include decals for another Iwo Jima VLR Mustang.

Brian Walter, one of the 506th Fighter Group’s historians, was a contributor on the decal sheet for Captain Neff’s VLR Mustang.

Mark L. Rossmann’s 1/48 Hasegawa Nakajima Ki-44-II Otsu Shoki

Mark Rossmann submits his 1/48 Hasegawa Nakajima Ki-44-II Otsu Shoki. Mark used AeroMaster’s “Tojo Collection Pt. II” (48-170) decals to represent the Ki-44-II Otsu flown by Captain Hatano, leader of the 3rd Chutai of the 47th Sentai.

Mark L. Rossmann

Mark also provided the following narrative with his build:

“B-29 Hunter – Ki-44-II Otsu -47th Sentai”

History: Nakajima Type 2 heavy fighter, the Ki-44 Shoki, was developed from the 1939 Air Headquarters (Koko Hombu) requirement for a different type of fighter. In all previous requirements, responsiveness, classic dog-fighting as in WWI, and agility were utmost; however, this requirement was for rate-of-climb, speed, and ability to withstand battle damage. Initial trials against the Zero saw it totally fail, and only equaled the performance of the Ki-27 and Ki-43.

Many changes were made, including a set of Ki-43 like “butterfly combat flaps fitted for improved maneuverability, and aerodynamic changes, especially to the engine housing. The aircraft was finally production ready with only 40 Ki-44-I’s built before the -II Otsu commenced production. The Otsu was the best of the series with a top speed of 376 mph at 17,060 feet with ascent to 16,000 feet in 4 minutes, 17 seconds, and armed with 4 machine guns. The -III Hei only had a few built before suspension in late 1944 in order to build the Ki-84.

With high wing loading, this created fast speeds for landing and tricky handling. It was thought fighter pilots with over 1,000 hours of flight time in their log books should only fly it. This caution was found to be unneeded and by late war it was decided relatively inexperienced pilots could handle it.

Mark L. Rossmann

Pilot opinion was subjective. Those that flew the nimble Ki-27 and Ki-43 disliked it intensely, as it lacked maneuverability and for its high speed landing. However, it was respected for its outstanding dive characteristics, rapid roll rate, and being an excellent gun platform consisting of a pair of 7.7 mm (.303 in) and a pair of 12.7 mm (.50 cal.) machine guns. Later, the “IIc” had a single 20 mm cannon replacing the wing mounted machine gun. Limited numbers of aircraft had devastating 40 mm wing mounts. Those willing to accept the plane’s characteristics and to exploit them were few and far between.

Limited success was partly due to only 1227 variants of this type being produced, which was 9% of the single engine JAAF aircraft produced during the war. It was deployed mostly in China, also in Burma, East Indies, and the Philippines. The Ki-44 (Ki for “kitai” which is airframe type number) Shoki (“The Demon Queller”, a Taoist temple deity traditionally regarded as a vanquisher of ghosts and evil beings), or named by the Allies as “Tojo”, is mostly known for its Homeland Defense deployment against the B-29.

Mark L. Rossmann

The 47th Chutai: Nine aircraft were received by an experimental unit, the 47th Chutai “Kawasemi Buntai (“Kingfisher Flight, 47th Squadron”), commanded by Major Toshio Sakagawa at Saigon, Indochina in early September 1941. As a result of the “Doolittle Raid”, having laid bare the lack of a Home Defense lead by the 244th with its obsolete Ki-27s, the wake-up call ordered the 47th Chutai to return to Japan on April 25, 1942. The 47th was assigned to the 10th Air Division and rated as the “best” with many skilled pilots, even though the 244th gained most of the limelight.

In October 1943, the 47th worked its way into “Sentai” status at Choufu Air base. Its tail emblem was a stylized version of the number 47 with each Chutai (squadron) displaying it in its own color; for this model, yellow for the 3rd Chutai. It disbanded at the end of the war at Ozuki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, then operating the Ki-84.

On November 1, 1944, the 47th saw its first B-29 homeland action when an F-13 photo-recon variant of the B-29 from the 3rd Photographic Group came in at 32,000 feet to map the Kanto plain. At 1300 hours, the 47th scrambled available Tojos and began their long climb toward the bomber. Leading was Captain Jun Shimizu, the 1st Chutai commander. As the formation reached 27,000 feet, the planes began wallowing and started stalling with some pilots dropping their noses to climb at a shallower angle. Captain Shimizu and his wingman, Lt. Matsuzaka, got within 3,000 feet of the F-13, struggling to keep their planes controlled, fired short bursts with no hits.

Mark L. Rossmann

The IIc version was armed with heavy cannons, using caseless ammunition with low muzzle velocity, which was effective in close attacks against B-29s. Using the IIc, there was a special kamikaze unit (a company of four aircraft minimum) of the 47th Sentai, which specialized in bomber collision tactics, called the Shinten unit (Shinten Seiku Tai – Sky Shadow) which was based at Narimasu airfield during the defense of Tokyo.

On February 10, 1945, a B-29 mission to Ota, the 47th Sentai intercepted. 1st Lt. Heikichi Yoshizawa flew inverted straight at the formation, then rolled upright flashing barely 30 feet above the Superforts, he slammed into one of them killing him instantly. That morning, he had pinned a small doll to his flying suit for good luck, telling his wingman, 2nd Lt. Ryozo Ban, “Follow me today!” Ban replied, “Yes sir, yes sir, I will follow you to heaven or hell!” Ban was hit by defensive fire and had to make an emergency landing at Shimodate airfield. Lt. Yoshizawa is recorded as the leading B-29 ace of the 47th with four B-29s destroyed.

By April of 1945, the P-51 “Sunsetter” units on Iwo Jima were escorting the B-29s. Japanese Army Air Force units were ordered not to engage the U.S. escorts, but to go after the bombers and to save themselves for the final defense. At this time, the 47th was transitioning to the Ki-84.

Mark L. Rossmann

The Ki-44, which was used on the eve of World War II in Indochina, evolved into a heavily armed fighter suited for attacking heavy bombers, something the Lufwaffe resurrected near the end of their “Defense of the Reich”. The “Tojo” was never destined to become a great fighter, or the mount of aces. Those who did make their mark in this aircraft did so by ramming B-29s at high altitudes or stalking them at low altitudes with the deadly 40mm canon. This was not what was envisioned in the original Koko Hombu” requirement.

Mark L. Rossmann

Model:

Kit: Hasegawa 1/48 Nakajima Ki-44 II ko Shoki (Tojo) “85th Flight Regiment” (JT37)

Decals: Aeromaster “Tojo Collection Pt. II” (48-170)

The only draw back to the kit was that it came with the scope site which protruded through the front windshield. Later built planes came with the optic site, which this has. I used “Formula 560” canopy glue to fill in the hole. It would have been nice if the optional site and windshield were available in the kit.

Paint:

A. Tamiya TS-17 Aluminum for fuselage and wings.

B. Testors Flat White for Home Defense bands.

C. Tamiya TS-29 Semi-Gloss Black for anti-glare panel.

D. Tamiya TS-47 Chrome Yellow for wing leading edges.

E. Tamiya AS-29 Grey Green (IJA) for fabric areas.

F. Vallejo Model Color Mahogany Brown 70.846 for propeller.

Final Note: In reference #2, last page, shows a picture of a Ki-44 on display at Wright-Patterson AFB. This last surviving “Tojo” was scrapped and there are no intact examples of this aircraft type left in the world. Another source says a wing center section is preserved at the Northwestern Polytechnical University Aviation Museum at Xi’an China.

References:

1. B-29 Hunters of the JAAF – Aviation Elite #5; Koji Takaki & Henry Sakaida; Osprey Publishing Limited (2001)

2. Ki-44 “Tojo” Aces of World War 2 – Aircraft of the Aces #100; Nicholas Millman; Osprey Publishing Limited (2011).

3. Japanese Army Air Force Aces of World War 2 1937-45 – Aircraft of the Aces #13; Henry Sakaida; Osprey Publishing Limited (1997).

4. World War II Airplanes Vol. 2; Enzo Angelucci & Pablo Matricard; Rand McNally (1978).

5. AeroMaster “Tojo Collection Pt. II. (1995)

6. Hasegawa Instruction Sheet (1995)

Thanks to Mark for submitting his build and article on the Nakajima Ki-44 II Otsu Shoki!

Iwo Jima Aviation Art: Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero Over Iwo Jima by Ron Cole

There are some extremely nice Iwo Jima aviation prints featuring both American and Japanese aircraft. My favorite is of a Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero with Mount Surbachi in the background by digital artist Ron Cole. The print shows the elegant and graceful lines of the Zero so well.

Ron Cole/Cole’s Aircraft

The subject of the print is a 252nd Kokutai Zero flown by JNAF ace CPO Tomokazu Kasai. There appears to be tri-color F6F Hellcats in the far background, so I am assuming aerial combat depicted in the print is of one the U.S. Navy’s early bombing missions against Iwo Jima between June 14, 1944, and August 5, 1944. From my research, it appears that the 252nd and 301st Kokutai were assigned to Iwo Jima in June of 1944, but I have been unable to determine when the 252nd was withdrawn.

The print can be purchased in sizes beginning at 13” x 19” up to 40” x 60”. Already framed prints can be purchased in sizes 13” x 19” and 24” x 36”. For serious collectors, Mr. Cole produces authentic aircraft relic displays which are prints that also include a piece of the actual aircraft. Check out Mr. Cole’s work at Cole’s Aircraft https://roncole.net/.

Japanese Naval Ace CPO Tomokazu Kasai – Born on March 8, 1926, in Sasayama, Hyogo Prefecture, Tomokazu Kasai enlisted in the Japanese Imperial Navy and began flight training at the Tsushima Kokutai on April 1, 1942. Kasai was initially assigned to the 263rd Hyo (panther) Kokutai which transferred to Tinian in the Mariana Islands in February 1944. His first combat was with a 7th Air Force B-24 Liberator over Guam on April 25, 1944. Between June 18th and July 10th during the United States invasion of the Marianas, Kasai was credited with eight victories. The 263rd Kokutai was disbanded due to attrition, and Kasai was reassigned to the 306th Hikotai of the 201st Kokutai.

Tomokazu Kasai

Kasai’s last assignment was with 301st Hikotai of the 343rd Kokutai (Japan’s Group of Experts) flying the Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-Kai (Violet Lightning). He added two additional aerial victories, but on April 17, 1945, crashed and broke his leg which ended his continued participation in World War II.

Japanese naval ace Tomokazu Kasai recently passed away on January 9, 2021, in Amagaski City, Japan at the age of 94.

Hasegawa has re-boxed its new tool 1/32 A6M5c kit with decals for two 252nd Kokutai planes and air to air bombs. Japanese Naval Air Forces on Iwo Jima used phosphorus air to air bombs to counter 7th Air Force B-24 Liberators.

Hasegawa

A6M5 Zeros above the B-24 formations would release their phosphorus bombs which would explode over the formations sending phosphorus bomblets in a 300 yard wide pattern down onto the path of the bombers. Each 32 kg bomb would hold 75 steel encased phosphorus bomblets.

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

While very unsettling for bomber crews, the phosphorus air to air bombs were largely ineffective. More 7th Air Force B-24s were lost to ordinary flak than to phosphorus bombs.

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

References:

1. Genda’s Blade: Japan’s Squadron of Aces – 343 Kokutai; Henry Sakaida & Koji Takaki (Classic Publications 2003)

2. Japanese Ace Tomokazu Kasai Dies at 94; Jon Guttman (HistoryNet, January 15, 2021)

Happy 100th Birthday Burton W. Jones!

It is not often that a family gets to celebrate the 100th birthday of a loved one. Very few ever make it to that age, and that fact makes it all the more reason to celebrate that accomplishment. On February 1st, the Jones’ family and the 506th Fighter Group family get to celebrate the 100th birthday of Staff Sergeant Burton W. Jones (USAAF ret), who was a ground crew member in the 457th Fighter Squadron.

Burt was born on February 1, 1921, Whitesboro, New York, to Arthur and Mary (Briggs) Jones. He graduated from Whiteboro High School on June 26, 1939, was ordered to report on August 24, 1942, for his pre-induction physical, and then on September 8, 1942, to begin his basic training.

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

Because of a mechanical aptitude, and work experience in a garage and the Savage Arms Company, Burt was transferred to the United States Army Air Corps and began training as a armorer, and would later also be trained as an aircraft mechanic.

His first squadron assignment was the 24th Anti-Submarine Squadron working on North American B-25 Mitchells at Westover Army Air Field. From there, Burt was transferred to the 843rd Bombardment Squadron (H) working on the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. With the 843rd, he spent time at the Kearney Army Air Base in Kearney, Nebraska, then at MacDill Army Air Field near Tampa, Florida.

843rd BG(H) Ground Crew (Burton W. Jones via Priscilla Heburn/Evan Jones)

In May, 1944, then Sergeant Jones was informed that he had been transferred to the 457th Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group which had recently been formed and was in the process of organizing at Lakeland Army Airfield. At Lakeland, he was trained on how to service and repair the North American P-51D Mustang, and its in-line, liquid cooled Packard built Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.

Sergeant Jones, and the rest of the ground echelon of the 457th Fighter Squadron took a troop train from Lakeland to Seattle, Washington. They arrived on Iwo Jima onboard the H.M.S Bloemfontein, a converted Swedish hospital ship. The long overseas journey started in Seattle with stops at Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and finally Iwo Jima.

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

Burt began writing his memoirs at the age of 73. The following is what he wrote about his first night on Iwo Jima:

“Whether it was by providence or whatever, it was just our luck to hear some night fighters, Black Widow P-61 night fighting aircraft warming up on their strip. They were at the foot of Mount Suribachi on Motoyama air strip number one [South Field]. We soon got the word that the Japanese were coming in from Japan to bomb the island. You could hear the P-61s taking off. It wasn’t more than twenty minutes later when it looked like the 4th of July. Incendiary and tracer bullets were whizzing across the sky in every direction! I was going through our first of many bombing raids on Iwo Jima.”

After the war in the Pacific ended, Burt accumulated enough points to leave Iwo Jima by mid-October, 1945. He transitioned to Saipan, and during his short stint on the island, was assigned to the 882nd Bombardment Squadron (H) working on Boeing B-29s. Burt arrived back in the United States on December 3, 1945, returned home on December 13, 1945, and was honorably discharged from the United States Army Air Force on the same day.

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

Happy 100th Birthday Burton!

Special thanks to Burton’s daughter, Priscilla (Jones) Heburn, and his nephew, Evan Jones, for providing information and photos for this post.

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 announced the upcoming release of 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 has not actually been released yet, 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.