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.

Kit News: Eduard’s Next 1/48 North American P-51D Mustang Release; A P-51D-20 Weekend Edition Boxing

In this month’s edition of INFO Eduard, Eduard announced that their next release of their P-51D Mustang kit will be a Weekend Edition focusing on the Block 20 Mustang. The decal options include two European theater Mustangs and two Pacific theater Mustangs. The first Pacific theater Mustang is the widely recognizable The Flying Undertaker, flown by Major William A. Shomo of the 82nd TRS, 71st TRG. The other Pacific Mustang is the 458th FS, 506th FG Iwo Jima VLR Mustang, The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package, flown by 2nd Lt. Bennett C. Commer and 2nd Lt. Henry C. Seegers, Jr.

Eduard

All three VLR groups were initially equipped with Block 20 D models. As losses and attrition took its toll, Block 25 D models were used as replacement aircraft. The distinctive equipment used on VLR Mustangs, the SCR-695 IFF transmitter set, the AN/ARA-8 homing adapter and twin Uncle Dog antennae, were field modifications on Iwo Jima for both Block 20 and 25 models.

Eduard

Due to the fact that the 506th Fighter Group assigned two pilots to each plane, the markings on certain planes provide for interesting decal options. The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package is a nice example of this.

556 The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package (Bennett C. Commer via Dr. John Benbow)
556 The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package (Charles Barr via Dr. John Benbow)

Kudos to Eduard for providing a multitude of 1/48th scale P-51D Mustang kits which cover blocks 5 to 25 with so many decal options. Something for everyone.

In Memory of Albert A. Sharke: 457th Fighter Squadron, 506th Fighter Group; March 13, 1921 – July 16, 2021.

Albert Arthur Sharke was born on March 13, 1921, in New York City. He entered into Columbia University as a first generation college student. 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.

1st Lt. Albert A. Sharke on Iwo Jima (via Dr. John Benbow)

The 457th Squadron Unit History indicates that 2nd Lt. Albert A. Sharke was assigned to the squadron on December 18, 1944, as Armament Officer, replacing 2nd Lt. McCallick who was transferred out of the squadron. 2nd Lieutenant Sharke, and the rest of the ground echelon of the 457th Fighter Squadron, took a troop train from Lakeland Army Air Field to Seattle, Washington. They arrived on Iwo Jima onboard the H.M.S Bloemfontein, a converted Swedish hospital ship. The long overseas journey started in Seattle with stops at Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and finally Iwo Jima.

Lt. Lawrence Brennan (Supply), Maj. George Flemming (457th Squadron XO), and Lt. Albert Sharke (Armament) (Mary Ellen Ramsden via Dr. John Benbow)

It appears that Lt. Sharke may have been the armorer for the P-51D Mustang flown by 1st Lieutenant Larry Grennan, although that cannot be confirmed. Squadron histories just do not go into that amount of detail, and we do not have any good photos of Lt. Grennan’s P-51D to see if Lt. Sharke’s name appears on the plane. Without either the pilot(s) or ground crew providing that information, that piece of information is lost forever.

Lt. Lawrence Brennan and Lt. Albert Sharke along side a Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer on Iwo Jima (Mary Ellen Ramsden via Dr. John Benbow)

Albert Sharke was promoted to 1st Lieutenant while on Iwo Jima. After being honorably discharged after the war, Albert graduated in 1947 from Columbia University with a degree in metallurgical engineering. After working briefly at Air Reduction Laboratories, he spent the duration of his career in chemical and refinery operations at Standard Oil of New Jersey.

On March 13th of this year, the Joseph McDowell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution organized a birthday parade for Albert to celebrate his 100th birthday. A fantastic event that allowed Albert to ride around Hendersonville in a convertible and be greeted by those wishing him a happy 100th birthday. The article of the event in the BlueRidgeNow Times-News can be found here: https://www.blueridgenow.com/story/news/2021/03/15/wwii-veteran-american-hero-albert-sharke-treated-100th-birthday-parade/4712824001/.

On July 16, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation. Thanks to Mark Stevens of the 7th Fighter Command Association for bringing to our attention Albert’s passing.

Alex Parker’s 1/32nd Tamiya North American P-51D Mustang

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 Parker

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.

Captain Robert R. Down of 47th FS/15th FG with ground crew (Mark Stevens/7th Fighter Command Association)

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.

Alex Parker

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 Parker

Alex added a seat back cushion seen in wartime Mustangs, and seat belts from RB Productions. Extremely nice additions to an already nice cockpit.

Alex Parker

The picture below shows just how busy the detailed engine compartment and cockpit look after the fuselage halves have been joined.

Alex Parker

Wire was added to the wheel wells to simulate hydraulic and electrical lines.

Alex Parker

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 Parker

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 Parker

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.

Alex Parker

Overall, an extremely nice build.

Alex Parker

Alex’s build thread on Large Scale Planes can be found here: https://forum.largescaleplanes.com/index.php?/topic/87527-p-51d-47th-fs-15th-fg-iwo-jima-1945-tam-132-done/. Alex plans on building Zoukei Mura’s 1/32 Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu (Nick) in the markings of one of the Japanese Army Air Force units that participated in the defense of the Home Islands on April 7, 1945. Looking forward to that build.