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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mark Rossmann is back with three 1/48 VLR Mustang builds. This is a blast from the past as Mark built these 15th Fighter Group Mustangs back in 2007.
First up is the 45th Fighter Squadron’s P-51D-20NA (44-63483) 67 “Stinger VII”, flown by Major Robert W. “Todd” Moore. Major Moore was the highest scoring 7th Fighter Command ace with 12 aerial victories; 11 of those victories scored on VLR missions.
Major Moore’s first victory came on an ambush mission over Arno Atoll on January 26, 1944, during which he shot down a Mitsubishi Zero. He did not score again until the 15th Fighter Group started flying VLR missions from Iwo Jima. His last victory came on a VLR escort mission to Tokyo on August 10, 1945, during which he shot down a Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki.
In addition to the 12 aerial victories, Major Moore was credited with 3 ground victories. He ended the war as the commander of the 45th Fighter Squadron.
Mark used the Tamiya kit along with decals from Aeromaster’s The Very Long Range Escorts “The Iwo Jima Mustangs” Fancy Art Part 4 sheet (48-797).
Next up is the 47th Fighter Squadron’s P-51D-20NA (44-63972) 185 “Black Rufe” flown by 1st Lt. William Hayden Sparks.
1st Lt. Sparks scored an aerial victory over Kakamigahara Airdrome on July 19, 1945, and was also credited with a ground victory on August 3, 1945.
185 “Black Rufe” was actually lost on the infamous June 1, 1945, Black Friday mission, but 1st Lt. Sparks was not assigned to fly that mission.
Again, Mark used the Tamiya kit along with decals from Aeromaster’s The Very Long Range Escorts “The Iwo Jima Mustangs” Fancy Art Part 4 sheet (48-797).
Mark’s third build is the 78th Fighter Squadron’s P-51D-20NA (44-63973) 100 “Jeanne VIII” flown by Major James M. Vande Hey. Major Vande Hey was a veteran 78th FS pilot who participated in all of the 78th FS campaigns in the Central Pacific, and was squadron commander when the 78th FS arrived on Iwo Jima.
Major Vande Hey scored 4 aerial victories during his time with the 78th Fighter Squadron. His first two victories came on the January 26, 1944 ambush mission over Arno Atoll, during which he shot down two Mitsubishi Zeros.
His third victory came on the first VLR escort mission to Tokyo on April 7, 1945, during which he shot down a Mitsubishi Ki-46 Dinah. Major Vande Hey’s last victory came on second VLR escort mission on April 12, 1945, again to Tokyo. Upon landing on Iwo Jima, his engine stopped for lack of fuel and had to be towed back to its hardstand. Major Vande Hey had been in the air for over 8 hours. This would be his last VLR mission. After spending 40 months in the Central Pacific, and after logging over 1,500 flight hours, Major Vande Hey rotated home and was reassigned to a Stateside position.
James Vande Hey would make a career out of serving his country in the United States Air Force obtaining the rank of Brigadier General. Brig. Gen. Vande Hey retired on July 1, 1971, and passed away on December 21, 2009.
For this build, Mark used the Hasegawa kit along with decals from Aeromaster’s The Very Long Range Escorts “The Iwo Jima Mustangs” Fancy Art Part 2 sheet (48-795).
Thanks again to Mark Rossmann for sharing his builds with us. More to come as Mark has done more VLR Mustang builds over the years. Very nice builds! Thanks also to Mark W. Stevens of the 7th Fighter Command Association for the photos of 1st Lt. W. Hayden Sparks.
1. The Long Campaign: This History of the 15th Fighter Group in World War II; John W. Lambert; Schaffer Publishing Ltd. (2006)
As a condition of the use of materials from the 7th Fighter Command Association website, the following disclaimer is included: Permission to use, copy and distribute documents delivered from this Worldwide Web server and related graphics is hereby granted, provided 1) That the use of the data will not be used for obtaining a profit of any kind, and 2) That the above disclaimer notice appear in all copies and that both that disclaimer notice and this permission notice appear. All other rights reserved. The name of “7th Fighter Command Association” may not be used in advertising or publicity pertaining to distribution of this information without specific, written prior permission. Mark Stevens and the 7th Fighter Command Association makes no representations about the suitability of this information for any purpose. It is provided “as is” without express or implied warranty. Mark Stevens and the 7th Fighter Command Association disclaim all warranties with regard to this information, including all implied warranties of merchantability and fitness. In no event shall Mark Stevens or the 7th Fighter Command Association be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of this information.
Alex Parker built Tamiya’s Pacific Theater 1/32 North American P-51D/K Mustang kit into the 15th Fighter Group, 47th Fighter Squadron’s “Lil Butch”.
Alex’s focus for this build was on a plane involved in the first VLR escort mission to Japan on April 7, 1945. Using the narrative of that mission from Carl Molesworth’s book Very Long Range P-51Mustang Units of the Pacific War, Alex decided on the Mustang flown by Captain Robert R. Down, who along with 1st Lt. Dick Hintermeier, shot down a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu (Nick). This is considered the first aerial victory over the Japanese Home Islands by a 7th Fighter Command Mustang. Captain Down would later shoot down a Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki (Tojo) on the same mission.
Alex used Barracuda Studios resin tires to replace those unique rubber wheels that come with the Tamiya kit, RB Productions seat belts, and the brass replacement barrels for the Zoukei Mura P-51D Mustang kit (produced by Aber) to enhance the build.
In addition to adding the wiring harness’ and spark plug wires, Alex incorporated other wires and hoses to detail Tamiya’s excellent rendition of the Mustang’s Packard built Rolls Royce Merlin engine.
Alex added a seat back cushion seen in wartime Mustangs, and seat belts from RB Productions. Extremely nice additions to an already nice cockpit.
The picture below shows just how busy the detailed engine compartment and cockpit look after the fuselage halves have been joined.
Wire was added to the wheel wells to simulate hydraulic and electrical lines.
In addition to the brass barrels, wire was added to the guns bays, and Alex did a great job of painting the 50 caliber ammunition.
Alex used Alclad II lacquers for the natural metal finish. All of the squadron markings, national insignias, fuselage numbers, and the serial numbers were painted on. Since there are no commercially available decals for 150 “Lil Butch” in 1/32nd scale, Alex made masks for the national insignias, fuselage numbers, serial numbers, and the plane name “Lil Butch” using a Silhouette Cameo mask cutter. Mr. Color and MRP lacquer paints were used for the markings.
Having the ability to create your own paint masks opens the door to almost unlimited possibilities as far as markings. The good folks over at Large Scale Planes have created a new website/forum for those interested in creating their own paint masks called Scale Model Paint Masks. Check it out here: https://www.scalemodelpaintmasks.com/
Alex used pastels extensively in the cockpit, engine compartment, wheel wells, and on the exterior to weather the model. I like how the pastels along with clear coats do nice job in knocking down the semi-gloss appearance of markings and shine of the Alclad II natural metal finishes.