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 it becomes a resource for modelers, historians and aviation enthusiasts all over the world for years to come. Comments and criticisms are always welcome.