Decal Review: AeroMaster Decals’ 1/48 Iwo Jima Mustangs (48-191)

This is AeroMaster’s first decal sheet dedicated solely to Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs. Four additional sheets on Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs would be subsequently issued by AeroMaster.

AeroMaster Decals

This sheet provides markings for the planes of the three top VLR aces: Major Robert W. Moore’s 67 “Stinger VII” (12 aerial victories), Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret – IV” (8 aerial victories), and Major Harry C. Crim, Jr.’s 300 “My Achin! [Ass]” (6 aerial victories).

AeroMaster Decals

In addition, it provides markings for a 458th FS, 506th FG Mustang, 551 “Delta Queen”, flown by Captain J.B. Baker, Jr.

AeroMaster Decals

Originally issued in 1995, the decals are pretty accurate, but more accurate photo documentation has emerged to show there are omissions and errors on this sheet. Onto the planes, pilots and the decals.

AeroMaster Decals

Major Harry C. Crim, Jr. (531st FS/21st FG) – 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. Major Crim was also credited with six ground victories.

Assistant Crew Chief Sergeant Stanley McCarro in the cockpit of Major Crim’s 300 “My Achin! [Ass]” (Harry Crim via Tom Ivie/Carl Molesworth)

44-73623 was a P-51D-25NA, and Major Crim’s second VLR Mustang. The kill markings, mission markings, and ground crews’ names appear to be very good on the decal sheet except for Asst. Crew Chief Stanley McCarro’s name being misspelled. The only other deficiency in these decals is the artwork for the donkey/ass.

Major Harry C. Crim, Jr.’s 300 “My Achin! [Ass]”

The photo above shows a portion of the canvas wheel well covers which were a standard production feature that were discarded by European Theater Mustang groups, but were maintained in place by the Iwo Jima Mustang groups as a means of keeping sand and volcanic grit out of the wheel wells.

After Major Crim rotated home, “My Achin! [Ass]” was assigned to Flight Officer Theo Gruici, who had Major Crim’s kill and mission markings and the names of the ground crew removed, and had a reclining nude painted on the fuselage. Most decal manufacturers have a nude on the left landing gear cover for Major Crim’s markings, but I have yet to see a photo confirming this. The nude on the left landing gear cover is mostly obscured by the 110 gallon drop tank in the photo below, and it raises the question whether there was a nude also on the right landing gear cover. After inquiring of others who have more extensive photo collections than I do, there does not appear to be any photos of the right side of the plane. Some questions will never be answered.

Flight Officer Theo Gruici’s 300 “My Achin! [Ass]” (7th Fighter Command Association/Mark W. Stevens)

Major James B. Tapp (78th FS/15th FG) – Major Tapp was the second highest scoring VLR Mustang ace with 8 aerial victories. All eight victories were scored in 101 “Margaret – IV” (44-63984), a P-51D-20NA. Major Tapp scored 4 aerial victories on the first VLR mission on April 7, 1945. He scored another victory on April 12, 1945, which represents the 5 victories on the decal sheet.

Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret -IV” (7th Fighter Command Association/Mark W. Stevens)

As can be seen from the photo above and the photo below, the name “Margaret – IV” and the Bushmaster squadron emblem are on both sides of the nose. The photo below shows that there are additional markings on the right side of the fuselage below the canopy.

Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret – IV” (7th Fighter Command Association/Mark W. Stevens)

This last photo shows the markings on the right side of the fuselage which includes kill and mission markings. In addition to the name of the Crew Chief Sergeant Blanco, there is the name of another ground crew member which is undiscernable from the photo. This photo also shows that the 0 in the fuselage number is broken rather than solid.

Crew Chief Sergeant Blanco standing on the wing of Major Tapp’s 101 “Margaret – IV” with unknown crew member in cockpit (via Brian Walter)

Unfortunately, the kill and mission markings on the right side of Major Tapp’s Mustang are not contained on this decal sheet.

Major Robert W. “Todd” Moore (45th FS/15th FG) – Major Moore was the highest scoring VLR ace with 11 VLR aerial victories. He had one aerial victory with the 15th FG prior to arriving on Iwo Jima. 44-63483, a P-51D-20NA, was first assigned to Major Gilmore L. “Buck” Snipes and was named “Tom Kat”.

The three photos below provide some different marking variations for 67 “Stinger VII” during the time it was assigned to Major Moore. From these photos it appears that Major Moore was assigned to 67 during the time the squadron was transitioning from their original markings to the more simplified markings.

Below is a Loomis Dean photograph which show 67 “Stinger VII” with an unpainted spinner and the diagonal wing bands still in place as evidenced by the bands wrapping over the leading edge of the wing. It also appears that rails for HVAR rockets have been installed under the wings which can be seen just above the drop tanks on the left wing. These were field modifications as rocket rails were not installed at the factory during Block 20 production.

Major Robert W. Moore with 67 “Stinger VII” (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

The photograph below, while not the best in quality, appears to show that the diagonal bands have been removed from the wings, but still are present on the tail surfaces. It does not appear that the spinner has been painted solid green yet. Please also note that the number 67 also appears on the main landing gear covers. This was common practice for 45th FS Mustangs. Unfortunately, the this decal sheet does not provide the decals for the landing gear covers.

Major Robert W. Moore’s 67 “Stinger VII”

The last photo shows 67 “Stinger VII” with the simplified markings of a solid green spinner, green wing tips, green horizontal stablizer/elevator tips, and (assuming) green tail tip.

Major Robert W. Moore’s 67 “Stinger VII” (Robert W. Moore via Tom Ivie/Carl Molesworth)

Captain J.B. Baker, Jr. (458th FS/506th FG) – Captain Baker was the Flight Leader of “A” Flight of the 458th FS, and was assigned to a P-51D-20NA (44-72579) which was numbered 551, and he named “Delta Queen”.

Captain J.B. Baker, Jr.’s 551 “Delta Queen” (via Dr. John Benbow)

Captain Baker was credited with one aerial victory, a Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki which he shot down on a June 23, 1945 escort mission to the Nagoya and Kobe areas. He was also credited with a probable, a Mitsubishi JM2 Raiden during an strike mission against airfields in the Tokyo area, and two ground victories.

“A” Flight of 458th FS (back row, left to right – Norman Dostal, Henry Seegers, Ed Mikes, James Coleman, Raymond Feld; front row, left to right – Vance Middaugh, Bennett Commer, J.B. Baker, Jr., Robert Tatro) (Ralph Coleman via Dr. John Benbow)

Missing from this decal sheet are the dive angle markings on the wings which were applied to all 506th Mustangs. This sheet also provides two markings for the plane name “Delta Queen”, one is red and one in yellow. While the general consensus is that the plane name is yellow, it is nice to have both options.

This decal sheet was designed and sized for the Tamiya kit. I am not aware if the decals for the dark blue stripes on the tail of “Delta Queen” will fit properly on the Airfix, Hasegawa, HobbyBoss, ICM, Meng, and Revell/Monogram kits.

This is a very nice decal sheet, but it is no longer in production and is difficult to find. It shows up on eBay every so often, and Ultracast has one in stock at an inflated price of $34.95. If you are wanting to build a 1/48 Iwo Jima VLR Mustang with one of these markings, I would recommend buying the Eduard’s Very Long Range: Tales of Iwo Jima Limited Edition Kit (#11142). The decals in this kit include accurate markings for all of these planes (plus markings for 8 other planes).

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.

Mark L. Rossmann’s 1/48 15th Fighter Group VLR Mustang Builds

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.

Mark L. Rossmann

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.

Mark L. Rossmann

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.

Major Robert W. Moore (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

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 L. Rossmann

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 L. Rossmann

An excellent article written by Tom Ivie on Major Moore’s service with the 15th Fighter Group during World War II can be found here: https://www.7thfighter.com/78th/moore/todd.htm

Next up is the 47th Fighter Squadron’s P-51D-20NA (44-63972) 185 “Black Rufe” flown by 1st Lt. William Hayden Sparks.

Mark L. Rossmann

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.

1st Lt. W. Hayden Sparks (via Mark W. Stevens/7th Fighter Command Association)
1st Lt. W. Hayden Sparks (W. Hayden Sparks)

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.

Mark L. Rossmann

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 L. Rossmann

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.

Mark L. Rossmann

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.

Major James M. Vande Hey standing next to his Republic P-47D Thunderbolt “Jeanne VII” in Hawaii (James M. Vande Hey)

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.

Major James M. Vande Hey (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

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.

Mark L. Rossmann

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).

Mark L. Rossmann

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.

References:

1. The Long Campaign: This History of the 15th Fighter Group in World War II; John W. Lambert; Schaffer Publishing Ltd. (2006)

2. 7th Fighter Command Association website/Mark W. Stevens. https://www.7thfighter.com/

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.

Mark L. Rossmann’s 1/48 Hasegawa Nakajima Ki-44-II Otsu Shoki

Mark Rossmann submits his 1/48 Hasegawa Nakajima Ki-44-II Otsu Shoki. Mark used AeroMaster’s “Tojo Collection Pt. II” (48-170) decals to represent the Ki-44-II Otsu flown by Captain Hatano, leader of the 3rd Chutai of the 47th Sentai.

Mark L. Rossmann

Mark also provided the following narrative with his build:

“B-29 Hunter – Ki-44-II Otsu -47th Sentai”

History: Nakajima Type 2 heavy fighter, the Ki-44 Shoki, was developed from the 1939 Air Headquarters (Koko Hombu) requirement for a different type of fighter. In all previous requirements, responsiveness, classic dog-fighting as in WWI, and agility were utmost; however, this requirement was for rate-of-climb, speed, and ability to withstand battle damage. Initial trials against the Zero saw it totally fail, and only equaled the performance of the Ki-27 and Ki-43.

Many changes were made, including a set of Ki-43 like “butterfly combat flaps fitted for improved maneuverability, and aerodynamic changes, especially to the engine housing. The aircraft was finally production ready with only 40 Ki-44-I’s built before the -II Otsu commenced production. The Otsu was the best of the series with a top speed of 376 mph at 17,060 feet with ascent to 16,000 feet in 4 minutes, 17 seconds, and armed with 4 machine guns. The -III Hei only had a few built before suspension in late 1944 in order to build the Ki-84.

With high wing loading, this created fast speeds for landing and tricky handling. It was thought fighter pilots with over 1,000 hours of flight time in their log books should only fly it. This caution was found to be unneeded and by late war it was decided relatively inexperienced pilots could handle it.

Mark L. Rossmann

Pilot opinion was subjective. Those that flew the nimble Ki-27 and Ki-43 disliked it intensely, as it lacked maneuverability and for its high speed landing. However, it was respected for its outstanding dive characteristics, rapid roll rate, and being an excellent gun platform consisting of a pair of 7.7 mm (.303 in) and a pair of 12.7 mm (.50 cal.) machine guns. Later, the “IIc” had a single 20 mm cannon replacing the wing mounted machine gun. Limited numbers of aircraft had devastating 40 mm wing mounts. Those willing to accept the plane’s characteristics and to exploit them were few and far between.

Limited success was partly due to only 1227 variants of this type being produced, which was 9% of the single engine JAAF aircraft produced during the war. It was deployed mostly in China, also in Burma, East Indies, and the Philippines. The Ki-44 (Ki for “kitai” which is airframe type number) Shoki (“The Demon Queller”, a Taoist temple deity traditionally regarded as a vanquisher of ghosts and evil beings), or named by the Allies as “Tojo”, is mostly known for its Homeland Defense deployment against the B-29.

Mark L. Rossmann

The 47th Chutai: Nine aircraft were received by an experimental unit, the 47th Chutai “Kawasemi Buntai (“Kingfisher Flight, 47th Squadron”), commanded by Major Toshio Sakagawa at Saigon, Indochina in early September 1941. As a result of the “Doolittle Raid”, having laid bare the lack of a Home Defense lead by the 244th with its obsolete Ki-27s, the wake-up call ordered the 47th Chutai to return to Japan on April 25, 1942. The 47th was assigned to the 10th Air Division and rated as the “best” with many skilled pilots, even though the 244th gained most of the limelight.

In October 1943, the 47th worked its way into “Sentai” status at Choufu Air base. Its tail emblem was a stylized version of the number 47 with each Chutai (squadron) displaying it in its own color; for this model, yellow for the 3rd Chutai. It disbanded at the end of the war at Ozuki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, then operating the Ki-84.

On November 1, 1944, the 47th saw its first B-29 homeland action when an F-13 photo-recon variant of the B-29 from the 3rd Photographic Group came in at 32,000 feet to map the Kanto plain. At 1300 hours, the 47th scrambled available Tojos and began their long climb toward the bomber. Leading was Captain Jun Shimizu, the 1st Chutai commander. As the formation reached 27,000 feet, the planes began wallowing and started stalling with some pilots dropping their noses to climb at a shallower angle. Captain Shimizu and his wingman, Lt. Matsuzaka, got within 3,000 feet of the F-13, struggling to keep their planes controlled, fired short bursts with no hits.

Mark L. Rossmann

The IIc version was armed with heavy cannons, using caseless ammunition with low muzzle velocity, which was effective in close attacks against B-29s. Using the IIc, there was a special kamikaze unit (a company of four aircraft minimum) of the 47th Sentai, which specialized in bomber collision tactics, called the Shinten unit (Shinten Seiku Tai – Sky Shadow) which was based at Narimasu airfield during the defense of Tokyo.

On February 10, 1945, a B-29 mission to Ota, the 47th Sentai intercepted. 1st Lt. Heikichi Yoshizawa flew inverted straight at the formation, then rolled upright flashing barely 30 feet above the Superforts, he slammed into one of them killing him instantly. That morning, he had pinned a small doll to his flying suit for good luck, telling his wingman, 2nd Lt. Ryozo Ban, “Follow me today!” Ban replied, “Yes sir, yes sir, I will follow you to heaven or hell!” Ban was hit by defensive fire and had to make an emergency landing at Shimodate airfield. Lt. Yoshizawa is recorded as the leading B-29 ace of the 47th with four B-29s destroyed.

By April of 1945, the P-51 “Sunsetter” units on Iwo Jima were escorting the B-29s. Japanese Army Air Force units were ordered not to engage the U.S. escorts, but to go after the bombers and to save themselves for the final defense. At this time, the 47th was transitioning to the Ki-84.

Mark L. Rossmann

The Ki-44, which was used on the eve of World War II in Indochina, evolved into a heavily armed fighter suited for attacking heavy bombers, something the Lufwaffe resurrected near the end of their “Defense of the Reich”. The “Tojo” was never destined to become a great fighter, or the mount of aces. Those who did make their mark in this aircraft did so by ramming B-29s at high altitudes or stalking them at low altitudes with the deadly 40mm canon. This was not what was envisioned in the original Koko Hombu” requirement.

Mark L. Rossmann

Model:

Kit: Hasegawa 1/48 Nakajima Ki-44 II ko Shoki (Tojo) “85th Flight Regiment” (JT37)

Decals: Aeromaster “Tojo Collection Pt. II” (48-170)

The only draw back to the kit was that it came with the scope site which protruded through the front windshield. Later built planes came with the optic site, which this has. I used “Formula 560” canopy glue to fill in the hole. It would have been nice if the optional site and windshield were available in the kit.

Paint:

A. Tamiya TS-17 Aluminum for fuselage and wings.

B. Testors Flat White for Home Defense bands.

C. Tamiya TS-29 Semi-Gloss Black for anti-glare panel.

D. Tamiya TS-47 Chrome Yellow for wing leading edges.

E. Tamiya AS-29 Grey Green (IJA) for fabric areas.

F. Vallejo Model Color Mahogany Brown 70.846 for propeller.

Final Note: In reference #2, last page, shows a picture of a Ki-44 on display at Wright-Patterson AFB. This last surviving “Tojo” was scrapped and there are no intact examples of this aircraft type left in the world. Another source says a wing center section is preserved at the Northwestern Polytechnical University Aviation Museum at Xi’an China.

References:

1. B-29 Hunters of the JAAF – Aviation Elite #5; Koji Takaki & Henry Sakaida; Osprey Publishing Limited (2001)

2. Ki-44 “Tojo” Aces of World War 2 – Aircraft of the Aces #100; Nicholas Millman; Osprey Publishing Limited (2011).

3. Japanese Army Air Force Aces of World War 2 1937-45 – Aircraft of the Aces #13; Henry Sakaida; Osprey Publishing Limited (1997).

4. World War II Airplanes Vol. 2; Enzo Angelucci & Pablo Matricard; Rand McNally (1978).

5. AeroMaster “Tojo Collection Pt. II. (1995)

6. Hasegawa Instruction Sheet (1995)

Thanks to Mark for submitting his build and article on the Nakajima Ki-44 II Otsu Shoki!