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