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

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

James O. Beckwith

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

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

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

World War Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Koster Aero Enterprise

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

Koster Aero Enterprises
Koster Aero Enterprises

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

Koster Aero Enterprises

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

Koster Aero Enterprises

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

Koster Aero Enterprises

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

Koster Aero Enterprises

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

Koster Aero Enterprises

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

Koster Aero Enterprises

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

Koster Aero Enterprises

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

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

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

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

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

Mark L. Rossmann

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

Mark L. Rossmann

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

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

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

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

AeroMaster Decals

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

Mark L. Rossmann

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

Mark L. Rossmann

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

Mark L. Rossmann

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Memory of Robert “Bob” Amburn Gourley, 462nd Fighter Squadron, 506th Fighter Group; December 14, 1924 – September 4, 2021

Robert A. Gourley was born on December 14, 1924, in Greer, South Carolina. Bob graduated from Marion High School in 1940, and entered into Davidson College in 1941 as part of the ROTC program. Like many others of his generation, his post-secondary education was put on hold during the time he served his country in World War II.

2nd Lieutenant Robert A. Gourley

Not wanting to be placed into the infantry, Bob enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. He earned wings and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant at Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona in 1944. In October of that year, 2nd Lieutenant Gourley was assigned to the 462nd Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group shortly after the group’s activation at Lakeland Army Air Field. At Lakeland, the 506th FG was trained specifically to fly very long range missions.

Front row, left to right: 1st Lt. Robert Gourley, 1st Lt. Frank Buzze; Back row, left to right: 1st Lt. Bernie Comfort, 1st Lt. Jack Rice, 1st Lt. Thomas McNall, and 1st Lt. Harold Stewart (via Dr. John Benbow)

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 Gourley, 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.

1st Lts. Robert Gourley and Jack Rice on the nose of a P-51D Mustang (via Dr. John Benbow)

Lieutenant Gourley would fly a total of 11 VLR missions to Japan, and would be promoted to the rank of Capitan before being honorably discharged. Upon returning home, Bob re-enrolled in Davidson College and graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music.

Bob was a recognized community member faithfully contributing to his community in many ways. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church and served as choir director for over three decades. He was also active in the local Kiwanis Club and the Masonic Lodge. Bob played in a community band well into into eighties, and enjoyed playing golf.

Robert A. Gourley

On September 4, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation. Bob was 96, and was the last living fighter pilot of the 462nd Fighter Squadron.

In 2014, Bob gave a video interview as part of the McDowell Legacy Program, “Reflections of the Past”. In his interview, Bob speaks of his entry into the United States Army Air Force, and missions flown from Iwo Jima to Japan. The YouTube video of Bob’s interview can be found here: https://youtu.be/P-HsME_vCKI.