Eduard’s Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Boxing; “Very Long Range: Tales of Iwojima”

Eduard

Eduard has previously indicated that it intended to release a Pacific VLR boxing of its 1/48 P-51D Mustang kit in August of 2020. What was not known, until now, was whether the decal options for the boxing would be solely for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs, or a mixture of decals for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs and other Pacific Mustangs.

That question is answered in the July 2020 Edition of INFO Eduard. The boxing will be a Limited Edition release entitled “Very Long Range: Tales of Iwojima”, and will include twelve different decal options for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs that covers all nine squadrons of the three Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups. Below are the decal options.

Eduard
Eduard
Eduard

It’s fantastic to see all nine squadrons represented in this release, and especially nice to see decals for the three squadrons (46th, 72nd and 531st) of the 21st Fighter Group. Other than Major Harry C. Crim’s 300 “My Achin” Ass, 21st FG Mustangs tend not to get a lot of love from kit makers and after market decal manufacturers. While modelers want to build models of fighter aces, and kit manufacturers cater to that demand, it is nice to see decals of lesser known pilots included.

A few notes about the decal options. First, there are two decal options for the 45th FS, 15th FG P-51D-20-NA Mustang serial number 44-63483. This plane was originally assigned to Major Gilmer L. “Buck” Snipes, the CO of the 45th FS, and was named “Tom Kat”. It was later assigned to top VLR ace Major Robert W. “Todd” Moore who scored a total of 12 victories, and was renamed “Stinger VII”.

Second, a modeler has decal options for the two planes flown by the second leading VLR fighter ace, Major James B. Tapp of the 78th FS, 15th FG. The first is “Margaret IV”, a P-51D-20-NA, which is the most recognized P-51D Mustang flown by Major Tapp. The second is “Margaret V”, a P-51D-25-NA, which Major Tapp flew in the last few weeks of the Pacific war. It is nice to have both options.

Third, decals are provided for Lt. Colonel John W. Mitchell’s 11, “Annie Lee”. Lt. Colonel Mitchell gained fame and notoriety for leading the long over water mission that resulted in the downing of the Mitsubishi G4M Betty carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Lt. Colonel Mitchell added 3 VLR victories to the 8 aerial victories he had while serving with the 339 FS. He served as the CO of the 15th FG from July 19, 1945, to the end of the war. Very nice addition to the decal options.

Lastly, the decal options provide a nice mix of the early squadron markings and the later standardized squadron markings that were mandated in the last few months of the war. More about the change in squadron markings in a later post.

Kudos to Eduard on this release! If you are contemplating purchasing this boxing when it is released in August, I would not wait too long as Eduard Limited Edition releases tend to sell out fairly quickly.

Kit News: Eduard’s Next Release of Its 1/48 North American P-51D Mustang

Eduard has not disappointed with respect to the number of different boxings of its new 1/48 North American P-51D Mustang that have been released so far, nor has it been shy about announcing future boxings of the kit.

So far Eduard has released a Limited Edition “Chattanooga Choo Choo” P-51D-5 (with the swayback fillet) boxing; a P-51D-5 ProfiPACK boxing, an Eday 2019 Special Edition P-51D “Excalibur” boxing, and a Royal Class boxing with two decal options for an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang. In addition, Eduard has released numerous Brassin upgrade sets so a modeler can really take detailing their kit to the next level. Quite impressive.

Eduard has announced another ProfiPACK boxing to be released next month, and the August 2020 release of their Pacific Theater boxing with further decal options to build an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang.

In this month’s edition of INFO Eduard, they gave us a sneak peak of the March ProfiPACK boxing decal options, and again, there is no disappointment. In addition to decals for the planes flown by five very recognizable European Theater aces, it will also include decals for Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV” (78th FS/15th FG). Major Tapp was the commander of the 78th Fighter Squadron, and the second highest scoring VLR Mustang ace with eight aerial victories.

Eduard

Kudos to Eduard for including decals for Major Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV” in the upcoming ProfiPACK boxing. Nice to see Pacific Theater Mustangs getting some more love.

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

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.