“Trench art” is a term used to describe objects made from battle field debris and by-products of modern warfare. The term “trench art” was coined during World War I, although similar items have been produced in other conflicts too, and World War II was no exception.
The material used in trench art usually depended on what was available, and the ingenuity of those individuals making the trench art. The most common materials used for trench art are shell casings and bullets, although other battlefield debris was used as well. While a lot of trench art is decorative, some trench art has utility, such as shell casings made into to candle stick holders, ash trays, vases, tea pots, pitchers, cups or beer steins.
While trench art suggests that it was made by front line soldiers to pass the time between battles, it would appear that most of it was made behind the lines by servicemen who had access tools and were experienced in the craft of metal working. Prisoners of war also manufactured trench art from available materials as way of passing the time.
Trench art was also made by local civilians for sale to soldiers (i.e. cigarette lighters, matchbook covers, etc . . .), and other individuals. This cottage industry arose during war, continued after the war, with trench art-type objects being created for sale as souvenirs to the visitors to battlefields and cemeteries. This cottage industry continues to this day.
A good friend of mine was attending an air show, and saw the above 50 caliber bullet being sold as a souvenir, and picked one up for me. It is a spent shell casing with a milled bullet that serves as a bottle opener. Great conversation piece when having friends over for a beer. Trench art? Absolutely. Trench art does not need to decorative.
7th Fighter Command officers, pilots, ground crews, and support staff had their own special trench art as shown below. It is a casting of Iwo Jima with Mt. Suribachi, the words “Iwo Jima” and a P-51D Mustang. Inscribed across the wings of the P-51D are the words “Sun Setters” and the 7th Fighter Command insignia.
Initially, these castings were made from aluminum from wrecked Japanese planes on Iwo Jima. The aircraft aluminum was melted down and poured into a mold. After that supply was exhausted, aircraft aluminum from wrecked American aircraft was used. It is not known how many of these castings were made, but it is safe to assume that if you were stationed on Iwo Jima, and wanted one, you were provided with one.
The 7th Fighter Command named themselves the “Sun Setters” because they saw their VLR missions as an integral part of bringing an end to World War II.
These castings appear periodically on eBay and normally sell for some where between $100.00 to $200.00, although bidding can sometimes exceed $200.00. They are a nice piece of trench art, and a unique piece of World War II history for the historian, collector, or aviation enthusiast.
Like Part I, Part II of Kagero’s “Fighters over Japan” is a softbound book with 34 pages. However, instead of covering Japanese Army Air Force and United States Army Air Force fighters as Part I did, Part II focuses mostly on Japanese Navy and United States Navy fighters. In addition, there are only 15 aircraft profiles, but each profile shows both sides of the aircraft, a top view, and at least the undersides of the wings.
There are four aircraft profiles of USAAF fighters in Part II, but the only Iwo Jima VLR Mustang included is 300 “My Achin!” Ass, flown by the CO of the 531st FS, Major Harry C. Crim.
Again, like Part I, what this book lacks in meaningful text describing the air war over Japan in the last few months of the Pacific War, is made up in the fantastic color aircraft profiles by Polish artist Janusz Swaitlon.
The 15 color profiles in the book cover the following aircraft:
Mitsubishi A6M5c Model 52 Hei Zero, No. 03-09, Serial Number 32374, flown by Joto Hiko Heiso Takeo Tanimizu of 203rd Sento Hitokai.
Mitsubishi A6M5a Model 52 Ko Zero, No. YoD-126, Serial Number unknown, flown by Shoi Sadaaki Akamatsu of the 1st Hikotai, 302nd Kokutai (decals included).
Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden Model 21, No. YoD-152, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Susumu Ito of the 1st Hikotai, 302nd Kokutai (decals included).
Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden Model 21, No. 352-20, Serial Number unknown, flown by Chui Yoshihiro Aoki of the 1st Hikotai, 352nd Kokutai.
Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden Model 21, No. YoD-1183, Serial Number unknown, flown by Chui Ei Fukuda of the 1st Hikotai, 302nd Kokutai (decals included).
Kawanishi N1K2-Ja Shiden Kai Model 21 Ko, 343-B-30, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Yoshishige Hayashi, 407th Hikotai, 343rd Kokutai (decals included).
Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden Kai Model 21, No. 343-A-15, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Naoshi Kanno, 301st Hikotai, 343rd Kokutai.
Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden Kai Model 21, No. 343-B-03, Serial Number unknown, flown by Hiko Heisocho Hiroshi Ohara, 407th Hikotai, 343rd Kokutai (decals included)
Chance Vought F4U-1D Corsair, No. 167, BuNo. 57803, flown by Lt. Cmdr. Roger Hedrick, VF-84, USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) (decals included).
Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, No. 9, BuNo unknown, flown by Lt. Hamilton McWhorter, III, VF-12, USS Randolph (CV-15) (decals included).
Chance Vought Corsair IV, 115-X, KD 658, flown by Lt. Robert H. Gray DSC, No. 1841 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS Formidable (decals included).
Republic P-47D-28-RA Thunderbolt, 42 “Passionate Patsy”, Serial No. 42-29091, flown by Lt. Ralph Barns, 310th FS, 58th FG, 5th AF.
North American P-51D-25-NA Mustang, 300 “My Achin!” Ass, Serial No. 44-73623, flown Major Harry C. Crim, CO of the 531st FS, 21st FG, 7th AF.
North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, 10 “Little Girl”, Serial No. 44-64124, flown by Captain Leroy Grosshuesch, 39th FS, 35th FG, 5th AF (decals included).
Republic P-47N-1-RE Thunderbolt, 08 “Cheek Baby”, Serial No. 44-87996, flown by Lt. Durwood B. Williams, 333rd FS, 318th FG, 5th AF (decals included).
A very nice decal sheet is included which provides decals in 1/32nd, 1/48th, and 1/72nd scales. While decals for Major Crim’s 300 “My Achin!” Ass are not included, the decals include several JNAF fighters that participated in the defense of the Japanese Home Islands. One of those is the decals for Chui Ei Fukuda’s Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden, who is believed to have been shot down by Major James B. Tapp, CO of the 78th FS, on April 19, 1945.
Major Harry C. Crim – Major Crim was the 3rd highest scoring VLR ace with six confirmed victories, and the only fighter ace of the 21st FG. He joined the 21st FG in August, 1944, after serving with the 14th Fighter Group in Tunisia flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Unable to score any aerials victories with 14th FG, he scored his first two victories, a Kawasaki Ki-61 “Tony” and a Kawasaki Ki-45 “Nick” on April 7, 1945, the first VLR mission flown by the 7th Fighter Command Mustangs. His last victory, a Mitsubishi A6M Zero, came on July 6, 1945 during a strike mission against Atsugi airfield.
In an obvious publicity photo, then Captain Crim (left) discusses fighter tactics with Brig. General Ernest M. “Mickey” Moore, while Major DeWitt Spain listens in front of a 531st FS Mustang parked under the wing of a B-29.
Janusz Swaitlon – Janusz Swaitlon is a professional military history book illustrator specializing in aircraft profiles. You can purchase aircraft profiles from Mr. Swaitlon. I have purchased two aircraft profiles from him in the past; Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV” (78th FS, 15th FG), and 1st Lt. William Sak’s 528 “Enchantress” (457th FS, 506th FG). He emailed me the digital files of the aircraft profiles, and I took them to a commercial printer and had them professionally printed. His aircraft profiles are top-notch. Check out his website at Janusz.swaitlon.eu. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Like Part I, this book is no longer in print, but you can still find it on Amazon at inflated prices.
If you are following this blog or check in occasionally, it is my hope and prayer that you remain healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now living under very different circumstances that most of us could not have imagined, and we are all wondering whether our lives will return to what we once knew as normal. If you are under a stay-at-home order to prevent or slow the virus, I hope that my blog fills some of that time.
My good friend, and one of the 506th Fighter Group historians, Brian Walter, recently brought to my attention the Czech decal manufacturer, DK decals. Even though it appears that DK decals has been in business since 2014, they have escaped my notice because their decals are not widely distributed in the United States.
DK decals produces decals for World War II aircraft in 1/144, 172, 1/48 and 1/32 scales, and to this point, it appears that some of their focus has been on aircraft used in the Pacific and China/India/Burma theaters. Any company that produces decals of aircraft used in either of those theaters of operation is very welcome. Their Pacific Fighters Part One (48017) includes decals for Major Harry C. Crim’s 300 “My Achin!” Ass (21st FG, 531st FS), so I purchased that decal sheet to review. More on Major Crim in an upcoming post.
As can be seen below, their aircraft profiles on their decal placement and painting guide are very nicely done, their decals are in register, and they look excellent.
The decals for Major Crim’s Mustang are very accurate when compared to the photo below. From what I have seen of their decal sheets, they are very well researched. Kudos to DK decals.
I real test is how the decals actually perform. I took a scrap piece of plastic sheet, scribed two vertical lines on it, sprayed on a primer coat of Alclad II Grey Primer & Microfiller (ALC 302), and then sprayed on Alclad II Aluminum (ALC 101). The result was smooth surface upon which a decal could be tested without having to put down a gloss coat.
I no longer use a decal setting solution or a decal solvent when applying decals. I have just had inconsistent results using decal solvents. Instead, I wet the area with water where the decal is to be placed, place the decal and move it to its proper position, and then roll out the water underneath the decal with a cotton swab. With a brush, I apply a thin coat of Future acrylic floor polish over the decal and let it dry. Because Future is self-leveling, when it dries, it pulls the decal down over minor raised details and into recessed panel lines. This method has been basically fool proof for me.
As you can see above, the decal performed wonderfully using this method. The decal snuggled down into the scribed panel lines and the decal film basically disappears. I would highly recommend DK decals. Great products.
DK decals products are widely distributed in Europe, but it is difficult to find a hobby store in the United States that carries their products. I purchased this decal sheet with two others from Hannants in Great Britain. I did find an on-line model web store in the Chicago area, but their prices were so high, I could not justify buying from them. I have also been finding them on eBay occasionally.
The good news is that DK decals has recently released a 1/48 decal sheet for P-51D/K Mustangs over the Pacific & Australia (48028) that contains decals for five Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs. I have this decal sheet on order and will review it once received. In addition, they have announced the release of a 1/72 decal sheet dedicated solely to Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs (P-51D Mustang – Very Long Range P-51 Units Iwo Jima 1945; 72087). Again, kudos to DK decals!
I have been looking for a hobby paint that is a close match for the green used on the tails of 457th FS Mustangs. From my research, it appears that the 457th used Willow Green (FS14187/ANA 503), or something very close to Willow Green. Willow Green was originally used by the U.S. Navy in some of their colorful pre-war paint schemes. I was pleased to find out that both Hataka Hobby and MRP Mr. Paint manufacture a Willow Green lacquer based paint.
I enjoy using lacquers because of their quick drying times and durability. When laid down with an airbrush, they “bite” into the plastic, and therefore, tend to adhere well. The downside to lacquers is that their composition uses chemicals that are dangerous to humans. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals can cause serious health problems, so painting in a well ventilated area is recommended. Those who take the label warnings seriously usually attempt to mitigate these effects by using a paint booth with an exhaust fan that vents the paint fumes to the outside, or a ventilation mask. In addition to the chemicals and the associated strong smell, airbrush clean-up is a little more difficult and time consuming as compared to water based acrylics, and the range of paints in the past have been limited as far as colors.
Both Hataka Hobby and MRP have been around for several years, but their paints have not been readily available in the United States until the last few years. Fortunately now, several U.S. on-line retailers carry both brands, and their wide range of colors are welcomed by modelers who enjoy using lacquer based paints. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to use either paint.
Hataka Hobby Orange Line – Based in Poland, Hataka Hobby produces both water based acrylic paints (Blue Line optimized for brushing, and Red Line optimized for airbrushing) and lacquer paints (Orange Line). Their Orange Line of lacquer paints has a total of 282 colors for both aircraft and military vehicles, and you can purchase them individually or in convenient sets of 4 to 8 colors. Hataka Hobby also provides a proprietary lacquer thinner to thin their paints.
Their paints come in 17 ml plastic bottles with dropper tips and include a stainless steel ball bearing to aid mixing the pigments into suspension. These are similar to the type of bottles used by AK Interactive, Ammo of Mig Jimenez, and Vallejo use for their water based acrylic paints, and the dropper tips make dispensing paint from the bottle incredibly easy. Kudos to Hataka Hobby for using these bottles for their lacquer paints. These paints are not airbrush ready out the bottle, and Hataka Hobby recommends thinning with a 40/60 to 60/40 thinner to paint ratio. Hataka Hobby also recommends spraying them between 10 and 20 psi.
Using my Badger 100GF dual action airbrush, I thinned the paint to a 50/50 paint to thinner ratio, and sprayed it at 15 psi. The paint laid down beautifully, covered well, and dried quickly to a nice matte to semi-matte sheen. There is not a overly strong odor to these paints, and clean-up was not difficult.
MRP Mr. Paint – MRP Mr. Paint is based in Slovakia, and first introduced their line of acrylic lacquer paints (86 colors at last count) for both aircraft and military vehicles. It has now released two lines of water based acrylic paints; one for figure painting and one for airbrushing.
Their acrylic lacquer paints come in either 30ml glass bottles or 30ml plastic bottles with a flip top dropper cap. It appears that MRP is going away from the glass bottles to the plastic bottles (more on the plastic bottles below). They are airbrush ready out of the bottle; no thinning necessary. Because they are pre-thinned, no agitator is necessary as they mix quickly with very little effort. I really like the convenience of not having to thin the paint. Kudos to MRP.
The on-line reviews I have read and listened to, modelers have raved about how good these paints are and their ease of application. I would have to concur wholeheartedly. I sprayed it at 15 psi, and the paint laid down beautifully, covered well, and dried quickly to a nice satin sheen. Again, there is not an overly strong odor to these paints, and clean-up was not difficult.
My only complaint about MRP’s acrylic lacquers is not about the paint itself, but about the 30 ml plastic bottles with the flip top dropper cap. Do not hold the bottle at an angle when attempting to transfer paint from the plastic bottle to a paint cup as it will just run onto the cap and not into the airbrush’s paint cup. The best way to transfer paint from the plastic bottle to an airbrush paint cup is to turn the plastic bottle completely upside down and apply pressure to the sides of the bottle. The plastic bottle is fairly stiff, so it really does not lend itself to squeezing. I found it awkward, and like the bottle used by Hataka Hobby much better.
MRP Mr. Paint’s Willow Green is almost an exact match to the color chip for ANA 503 found in The Official Monogram U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Aircraft Color Guide, Volume 2: 1940-1949. Hataka Hobby’s Willow Green is slightly lighter, and looks as if it has been lightened to take into account the scale effect of color. I am not sure if that is intentional on Hataka Hobby’s part as I could not find anything on their website to suggest that they formulated their paint colors in this way. Either paint will work nicely for a 457th FS Iwo Jima VLR Mustang.
I would highly recommend either paint to modelers. The colors appear to be accurate, and both lay down beautifully, cover well, dry quickly, and are very durable. Kudos to both companies.
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.
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.
Published in 2007 by Kagero as part of its Topcolors series, this softcover book has 34 pages and 24 color profiles. With decals and vinyl masks included, this book was clearly written with the modeler in mind. The three pages of text provides a brief overview of the markings used by the Mustangs of the Iwo Jima VLR Fighter Groups and the 5th Air Force’s 348th Fighter Group, the P-47N Thunderbolts of the 314th, 318th, 413th, 414th, and 507th Fighter Groups, and fighters of the Japanese Army Air Force’s Homeland Defense forces (Ki-44s, Ki-46, Ki-61s, and Ki-84s).
What the book lacks in meaningful text describing the air war over Japan in the last few months of the Pacific War, is made up in the fantastic color aircraft profiles by artist Janusz Swaitlon.
The 24 color profiles in the book cover the following aircraft:
Kawasaki Ki-61-I Tei Hien (Tony), “24”, Serial Number 4424, flown by Taii Teruhiko Kobayashi of the 244th Sentai.
Kawasaki Ki-61-I Tei Hien (Tony), “24”, Serial Number 4424, flown by Taii Teruhiko Kobayashi of the 244th Sentai.
Kawasaki Ki-61-I Hei Hien (Tony), “88”, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Fumisuke Shono of the 244th Sentai. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided.
Kawasaki Ki-61-I Hei Hien (Tony), “83”, Serial Number unknown, flown by Chui Mitsuo Oyake of the 2nd Chutai, 18th Sentai. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided (decals included).
Kawasaki Ki-61-I Tei Hien (Tony), “732”, Serial Number probably 4732, flown by Shosa Haruyoshi Furukawa of the 56th Sentai.
Mitsubishi Ki-46-III Otsu Hei (Dinah), “24”, of the 16th Dokuritsu Chutai.
Nakajima Ki-44-II Otsu Shoki (Tojo), “35”, Serial Number 1435, flown by Taii Yasuro Masaki of the 47th Sentai. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided.
Nakajima Ki-44-II Ko Shoki (Tojo), “19”, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Teiichi Hatano of the 3rd Chutai, 47th Sentai.
Nakajima Ki-44-II Hei Shoki (Tojo), “321”, Serial Number unknown, flown by Chui Kiyonori Sano of the 3rd Chutai, 246th Sentai (decals included).
Nakajima Ki-84 Ko Hayate (Frank), “69”, Serial Number unknown, flown by Taii Teichi Hatano of the 3rd Chutai, 47th Sentai. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided.
Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (Frank), “63”, Serial Number 84063, flown by Taii Yasuro Masaki of the 47th Sentai.
Nakajima Ki-84 Ko Hayate (Frank), “715”, Serial Number 1715, flown by Taii Tadao Ikeda of the 51st Sentai.
Republic P-47N Thunderbolt, 02 “Icky and Me”, flown by Lt. Jack Payne of 333rd FS, 318th FG, 7th AF (decals included).
Republic P-47N-1-RE Thunderbolt, Serial Number 44-88020, 32 “Red-E Ruth” of the 19th FS, 318th FG, 7th AF.
Republic P-47N-1-RE Thunderbolt, 93 “Sack Happy”, flown by Robert Redfield of the 73rd FS, 318 FG, 7th AF.
Republic P-47N-1-RE Thunderbolt, Serial Number 44-88707, 713 “Lady Leota” of the 437th FS, 414th FG, 7th AF.
Republic P-47N-2-RE Thunderbolt, 119 “Chautauqua”, flown by Lt. Victor Schmidt of the 463rd FS, 507th FG, 20th AF. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided.
North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 44-63483, 67 “Stinger VII”, flown by Maj. Robert W. Moore of the 45th FS, 15th FG, 7th AF. Upper and lower surface views of the aircraft are also provided (decals included).
North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 4463984, 101 “Margaret IV”, flown by Maj. James B. Tapp of the 78th FS, 15th FG, 7th AF (decals included).
North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 44-72607, 550 “Madam Wham-Dam”, flown by Maj. Harrison E. Shipman of the 458th FS, 506th FG, 7th AF.
North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 44-72620, 640 “The Shawnee Princess/Empire Commuter”, flown by Cap. Stanley C. Zagorsky and 1st Lt. Charles F. Seale of the 462nd FS, 506th FG, 7th AF (decals included).
North American P-51K-10-NT Mustang, Serial Number 44-12017, “Mrs. Bonnie”, flown by Lt. Col. William D. Dunham of the 348th FG, 5th AF.
North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 44-63532, 210 “Little “Angel” The 104” of the 46th FS, 21st FG, 7th AF (decals included).
North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang, Serial Number 44-63423, 15 “Squirt”, flown by Col. James O. Beckwith, CO of the 15th FG, 7th AF (decals included).
As indicated above, a very nice decal sheet is included which provides decals in 1/32nd, 1/48th, and 1/72nd scales. As an added bonus, it includes numbers in 1/32nd and 1/48th scale for the serial numbers on the American planes. Nice touch on Kagero’s part.
The decal sheet is not without its errors and omissions. First, Major Moore’s 67 “Stinger VII” had the name on both sides of the nose, and decals are only provided for one side. The same omission is made for Major Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV”. In addition, there is not an outer blue ring around 78th FS Bushmaster squadron emblem, and Kagero provides smaller 101 decals for the landing gear doors, but none of the photos that I have of Major Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV” show that the number was applied to the landing gear doors.
The other errors are on the decals for Captain Zagorsky and Lieutenant Seale’s 640 “The Shawnee Princess/Empire Commuter”. Below is most recognizable photo of the plane that has appeared in several books over the years.
Captain Zagorsky named the plane “The Shawnee Princess” which appeared on the left side of the nose. 1st Lieutenant Seale named the plane “Empire Commuter” which appeared on the right side of the nose. Kagero left out the name “Empire Commuter” on their decal sheet.
The other errors in the decals are in the kill and mission markings. The decals provide kill markings for eight Japanese aircraft, yet neither Capt. Zagorsky or 1st Lt. Seale were given credit for any aerial victories. The error in the mission markings is in the second row. Kagero’s decals show those as locomotives indicating that either Capt. Zagorsky and/or 1st Lt. Seale destroyed two locomotives. However, the actual mission symbols are a bomb above a machine gun as shown in the photo below. These are symbols for strike missions, most likely for strike missions against the Japanese held island of Chichi Jima as the 506th FG participated in several of those missions. “The Shawnee Princess/Empire Commuter” was lost on July 13, 1945, during an attack on Japanese ground installations on Chichi Jima. 1st Lt. Seale successfully bailed out over the sea and was rescued.
This book is no longer in print, but copies can still be purchased on Amazon at inflated prices. The lack of any text on the air war over the Japanese Home Islands does not make this a very desirable book for the historian. Are the stunning color aircraft profiles by Janusz Swaitlon enough to make up for this deficiency at an inflated price? If you are interested in purchasing the book, that is the question you will be asking yourself.
As modelers, we certainly have been blessed by after market decal manufacturers who have provided us with many options to build models of planes with markings not included in a particular kit. For the better part of three decades, decal manufacturers have issued numerous decal sheets which have either been dedicated solely to the Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs or have included decals for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs. While many of them are no longer being printed, you can still acquire them on eBay or model web stores, so there are a lot of options for modelers to build an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang.
I have acquired almost all of the VLR Mustang decal sheets over the years. For the most part, the decal sheets are very accurate, but rarely do we find a decal sheet of World War II aircraft that do not contain an inaccuracy or two. Inaccuracies are due to either the lack quality photos of a plane showing all of the markings, or the inevitable guessing game of trying to determine what color was used from a black and white photo. Some of it is also due to inaccuracies that have been perpetuated over the years. The purpose of these decal reviews is not to criticize decal manufacturers, but to provide modelers with accurate information regarding the actual plane.
The first decal sheet that Aeromaster issued with VLR Mustangs was their Pacific P-51D/K Mustangs sheet (48-012).
The two Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs on this sheet are 150 “Lil Butch”, a P-51D-20NA (44-63822) of the 47th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group flown by CaptainWalter H. “Sam” Powell, commander of the 47th FS from June 11, 1945 to July 30, 1945; and 231 “Tiny Gay Baba”, a P-51D-20NA (44-63955) of the 46th Fighter Squadron, 21st Fighter Group, pilot or pilots unknown. The other two planes on the decal sheet are 5th Air Force Mustangs.
150 “Lil Butch” – As has can be seen from the photos below, the actual markings of 47th FS Mustangs are a yellow/black/yellow propeller spinner, a black band with yellow borders on the rear fuselage behind the national insignia, a black wedge with yellow borders on the upper fin/rudder, and black 18 inch bands with yellow borders on the wings and tail planes. I am not sure how Aeromaster arrived at light blue bands, but they corrected it on a subsequent decal release. The other errors on this decal sheet are that the 5 and the 0 in the fuselage plane number are broken when they should be solid, and the plane number that appears on the landing gear wheel well doors are missing on the decal sheet.
It is interesting that there was no uniformity within the 47th Fighter Squadron with respect to the application of the plane numbers. Apparently, there were no common stencils used to paint the plane numbers on the fuselage. Most likely, maintenance crews made due with what was available to them at the time. The four photos above reinforce that point. 150 has solid fuselage numbers and the plane number appears on the landing gear wheel well doors; 165 has solid fuselage numbers, but the plane number does not appear on the landing gear wheel well doors; 167 has broken fuselage numbers and the plane number appears on the landing gear wheel well doors, and 186 has broken fuselage numbers. This lack of uniformity was also evident in the other VLR Mustang squadrons, so it is nice to have good photo documentation when building a model of an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang.
Captain Walter H. “Sam” Powell was credited with 1 aerial victory, but was lost on July 30, 1945 while flying 188 “Adam Lazonga”. His plane was hit by ground fire while attacking airfields in the Kobe/Osaka area. Captain Powell was able to nurse his damaged Mustang out over the water, but was unable to bail out before it plummeted into the sea.
231 “Tiny Gay Baba” – Below is the only photograph I can find of 231 “Tiny Gay Baba”. I think this a great photograph; 21st FG Mustangs lined up on Central Field on an overcast day with the South Field airstrip and Mt. Suribachi in the background. I have been unable to determine the pilot or pilots whom were assigned to “Tiny Gay Baba”, and we do not have a photograph of the left side of the nose to determine if “Tiny Gay Baba” was also on the left side as well. The good news is that the decals on this sheet are accurate with the photo documentation below.
While this decal sheet has long been out of production, it appears on eBay every so often, and the on-line Canadian webstore, Ultracast, has one in stock. Aeromaster also produced this decal sheet in 1/72 (72-004) with the same inaccuracies, and there is one currently up for sale on eBay.
Happy New Year to all those who are following this blog! I greatly appreciate your interest not only in the models, but also in the pilots and the history. Best wishes for a productive year with lots of bench time and many completed builds.
Fuselage Fuel Tank – After spraying the cockpit floor and fuselage fuel tank with Alclad II Grey Primer & Microfiller (ALC 302), I masked off the areas on the top of the tank that were metal and sprayed them Alclad II Aluminum (ALC 101).
The fuselage fuel tank in a Mustang was made of a self-sealing rubber material. Because the actual color of the tank does not look like stark black, I painted it with Vallejo Model Air Tyre Black (71.315). Below is a picture of a P-51D Mustang fuselage tank. I know the tendency is to just paint it black, but several model paint manufacturers make a black rubber color that is very realistic. In addition to Vallejo, the following are some paint manufacturers that make a black rubber color: AK Interactive Acrylic Rubber/Tires (AK720), AK Interactive Real Colors Rubber Black (RC022), Ammo of Mig Jimenez Rubber & Tires (A.MIG-033), Mr. Color Tire Black (C137), and MRP/Mr. Paint Tyre – Rubber (MRP173). So whether you use acrylics, enamels, or lacquers, there is a black rubber tire color out there for you.
I like the look of the black rubber color, and after the cockpit floor is completed, the fuselage fuel tank will be clear coated and weathered for a more realistic look. It was incredibly difficult to keep combat aircraft clean and in a pristine condition, and therefore, building a realistic model of the actual plane requires some weathering. Considering the conditions on Iwo Jima, keeping the sand and grit out of places where it should not be was a constant battle for maintenance crews. As you can see from the two photos below, a tremendous amount of sand/dust/grit was kicked up on takeoffs, let alone when the wind just blew on Iwo Jima. While you cannot see a lot of the fuselage fuel tank when the SCR 522 Radio Transmitter and SCR 695 IFF Transmitter sets are installed and the fuselage halves joined, I still like to be as accurate as possible in capturing a realistic look in the model.
Cockpit Floor – The cockpit floor in the P-51D was plywood for the most part. The front portion was painted with a black anti-skid material, and the back portion (under the seat) was painted Interior Green (ANA 611). In addition, there was a canvas cover underneath the seat that allowed maintenance crews to access control cables after removing the seat. Below is a picture taken from the book North American P-51D Mustang by Robert Peczkowski (Mushroom Model Publications, Yellow Series No. 6126) which shows the colors of the cockpit floor and the canvas cover. Tamiya did a really nice job of adding the canvas cover as detail in their 1/32nd scale kit.
I used Vallejo Model Air Interior Green (71.010) for the back portion of the cockpit floor, and then brushed Vallejo Panzer Aces Canvas (314) for the canvas cover under the seat. The snaps on the canvas cover were colored using a Prismacolor Metallic Silver pencil.
I want to show wear and tear on the front portion of the cockpit floor that would have occurred on the black anti-skid coating from the pilot’s boots working the rudder pedals. I have seen wartime photos in which the anti-skid coating was worn off down the to plywood in front of, under and behind the rudder pedals. To achieve this, the plan is to paint the front portion with Vallejo Model Air Wood (71.077), and then brush on wood grain using Vallejo Model Color Wood Grain (Transparent) (70.828). After that is dry, I will spray on a chipping fluid (MIG Absolute Chipping), and then spray on a lightened black acrylic color to replicate the black anti-skid coating. As soon as the lightened black acrylic paint is dry, I will use a dampened paint brush and start chipping the lightened black acrylic paint away from the areas on the cockpit floor where anti-skid coating would have been worn off. This is known as the “hairspray technique” because hairspray was used as a chipping fluid. I have never tried this technique before. The next build installment will in part cover this attempt.
Rolls Royce Merlin Engine – P-51B/C/D/K Mustangs were powered by a Packard built Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 liquid cooled engine. Tamiya did an excellent job of recreating the Rolls Royce Merlin engine in 1/32 scale. With 47 plastic parts, and 3 photo-etch parts, the engine is a kit itself, and looks fantastic when built up. Attention to the assembly instructions is needed as the sprue that contains the engine parts also contains separate parts for the Rolls Royce Merlin engine for Tamiya’s 1/32 Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX, and using the wrong parts will cause the engine to not fit properly. Below is a picture of the sub-assemblies and additional parts.
To show how well engineered the kit’s engine is, I assembled the sub-assemblies and added the additional parts without glue. It is amazing how well it comes together.
I will paint the various sub-assemblies black and use the Prismacolor Metallic Silver pencil to color all of the exposed nuts, and then finish the final assembly. After a acrylic clear coat, the engine will be weathered to represent use.
If I have any criticism of the engine, there are a few details missing such as the wiring harness coming off of the magnetos, the spark plug wires, and some of the plumbing. Tamiya did provide locating holes for where the spark plugs are located. Below are pictures of the actual engine showing the missing details. The last picture is of the top of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Since the kit’s cowling panels can be removed, I will definitely be adding the wiring harnesses, spark plug wires, and some of plumbing. In the hands of an advanced modeler, the kit’s engine can really be turned into a masterpiece. Kudos to Tamiya!
Next Installment of the Build – Completion of the cockpit floor, final assembly and detailing of the engine, and starting assembly and detailing of the wheel wells. Thanks again for looking in! Comments and criticisms are always welcome.
As advertised, Eduard recently released its Royal Class P-51D Mustang Dual Combo boxing. With this release, Eduard provides the 110 and 165 gallon drop tanks and two decal options for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs. Consistent with Eduard’s practice of including extra “goodies” in with their Royal Class boxings, Eduard does not disappoint with this release. In addition to the two complete kits, Eduard has thrown in an unpainted PSP (Marsden mats) display base for those who enjoy dioramas, and some nice Brassin products: shrouded and unshrouded exhaust stacks, and two pairs of wheels randomly chosen between diamond, cross, block and oval treads.
110 & 165 Gallon Drop Tanks: Eduard did an excellent job on reproducing in 1/48 scale the 110 and 165 gallon drop tanks used on VLR missions, and they included the sway braces. Finally, a model manufacturer gets it completely right!
Not wanting to wait until I started a new build with Eduard’s kit, I removed the drop tank pieces from the sprue, cleaned them up, and put them together just to see how they look. Below is a photo of the Eduard 110 gallon tank, and a photo of the actual tank. Judge for yourself on how well Eduard did.
Eduard appears to have captured the contours, shape and size of the 110 gallon tanks really well. The flat portion on the top of the tank is represented well, as is the other adjacent detail. Please note the raised lines just below the flat portion of the tank. It appears that Eduard has incorporated them on both sides of the tanks to aid the modeler in positioning the sway braces on the tanks. This should make it much easier to install the sway braces when positioning between the tanks and the wings, and since the raised lines are fairly light, you should not notice them on the completed model. Extremely nice and well thought out with the modeler in mind. So do not sand off these raised lines!
The 165 gallon drop tanks look equally nice. However, instead of the raised lines as an alignment aid for the sway braces, Eduard has instead built in slots for the sway braces on each side of the tank. I test fit one of the sway braces, and they appear to fill the slots completely without the need of any putty to fill any gaps. We will see how well they work when we get into the build. Again, kudos to Eduard and their design team in having the modeler in mind when engineering the installation of the sway braces.
Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Decals: Eduard has included two decal options for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs, both of the 506th Fighter Group. The first is 555 “The Ole Lady/Little Anne/My Darlin Betty Ann” (P-51D-25-NA, 44-72628), a 458th FS Mustang flown by 2nd Lts. James E. Coleman and Ralph R. Coltman, Jr.
The second is 528 “The Enchantress” (P-51D-25-NA, 44-72671), a 457th FS Mustang flown by 2nd Lt. William E. Saks. 2nd Lt. Saks was one of the pilots lost on the June 1, 1945 “Black Friday” mission, but was not flying 528 on that day. “The Enchantress” is popular amongst modelers because the nose art and pin-up girl that adorns the fuselage.
Along with the release of the Royal Class Dual Combo boxing, Eduard also released a separate Overtrees boxing with just the P-51D VLR Drop Tanks (Cat. No 82109X) should you want to build multiple Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs, or convert another manufacturer’s 1/48 P-51D Mustang to a VLR Mustang. In addition, Eduard announced the January 2020 release of both the 110 and 165 gallon VLR drop tanks as resin upgrades as part of their Brassin line. Lastly, Eduard announced the release of a Pacific Theater VLR Profipack boxing for August 2020. Sometimes I have to pinch myself just to make sure that I am not dreaming. Life is good!
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: firstname.lastname@example.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.