Sunday, July 30, 2017

Grumman F8F Bearcat or Why I am Building a non-WWII Model?

F8F-1B Bearcat, Hobby Boss, 1/48 scale, Kit no. 80357

For quite a long time, I have only been modeling World War II aircraft and armor.  Making a model of the Bearcat will be a departure.

A few years ago, I read Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu by Bernard Fall (Lippincott 1966).  I had no idea what the French soldiers and nurses suffered there and the fight they put up against increasingly hopeless odds.  Young French nurses and paratroopers were jumping into the caldron right up until the surrender.  (A few Americans died flying some of the C-47s carrying them.)

To say that their courage and fighting ability were breathtaking is an understatement.  And flying mission after mission at the very edge of their range were the pilots of the Grumman Bearcats delivering rockets and bombs to the North Vietnamese Army that was growing in strength and numbers by the day.  The French high command wanted to draw the NVAs into a set piece battle and a base in the valley at Dien Bien Phu was to draw them in.  That part of the plan worked very well.

The Bearcat went into squadron service in May 1945, but final preparations and training for combat were still underway when Japan surrendered in August.  The Bearcat remained in production until 1949 and equipped a number of squadrons.  The basic design requirements were for an aircraft with the biggest possible engine in the smallest possible airframe.  It was a pure interceptor/fighter.  Which is why when the Korean Conflict came along, the U. S. Navy looked at the Bearcat’s ordnance carrying ability and decided to take the F4U Corsair to Korea in the ground attack role as the Corsair could lift a lot more weight.  Therefore, the Bearcat flew not a single combat mission in U. S. service.

The French had received a huge number of American aircraft during and after WWII.  Among them were a number of Bearcats which the French used in a ground attack role during their war in Vietnam.
As to the kit, Hobby Boss has not been my favorite maker.  I bought one of the their Hellcats (with the FAA markings).  The shape on that model was as far off as anything I have ever seen.  The fuselage was more like a barrel.  It is still in the stash, but its use will come when I need another paint dummy (a position currently being filled with an ancient Monogram Fw190).

As to their Bearcat kit, it has been the recipient of many very complimentary reviews.  I have examined it, and cannot see any faults at all.  Hobby Boss is reprieved for now.

There will only be three dominant colors.  The aircraft is overall dark sea blue, and Testors Acryl #4686 is perfect.  It produces a semi-gloss finish ready for decals.  The wheel wells are yellow zinc chromate (Acryl #4851) and the interior is interior green (Acryl #4736).  The rest will be some hand-brushed details.

We will see if I stay with the kit decals.  I was ordering a few items from Hannant’s in the UK, and I added some decals that looked good.  Hopefully they will be.

Aside from that, the only after market item will be some Eduard seat belts.  (I cannot seem to build a model without something from Eduard finding its way in.)

And, now I will post this and get to work on my tribute to the brave airman and soldiers of France who fought their hopeless battle so long ago and far away.  As a veteran of our war in Vietnam (U. S. Army Intelligence Service,  MACV, J-2, 1965-1966), I am in awe of what they did.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Brewster Buffalo F2A-2/Mk. I, Tamiya Kit No. MA119, 1/48 Scale

This may have been the oldest kit in my stash.  The  sprues are dated 1974.  This is the same year gives as the “new tool” date.  I am sure I bought this kit decades ago.  The yellowing of the decals shows this kit’s age, and the back of the sheet is stamped “0181”.  That is how they used to date decals, i.e., January 1981.

The kit really shows its age.  What was rather excellent in 1974 is not so excellent today.  The biggest issue being the indentations in the moldings.  I literally had to fill in the landing gear struts as the plastic shrunk as it cooled leaving indentations.  I filled in many of these voids, but finally decided I had to leave well enough alone. 

Also typical of older kits, ejection pin markings abound, and they need to be scrapped away and/or filled.  Or, in some cases, removal would have caused more damage than I wanted to repair and they were left in place.

Finally, the plastic used to mold this model is brittle and not the nice, easy to work with plastic of modern Tamiya kits.

The instructions are totally in Japanese.  I downloaded a set of instructions from the Tamiya website for one of the current releases of this kit.  That gave me the “translation” I was seeking to see what colors they were calling out.

All of the above being said, I really like this model.  It is the only 1/48 scale model of the Buffalo available, except for the now out-of-production Classic Airframes kits.

Here are some under-construction photos:

Markings for my model came from Aeromaster 48-625 “Buffalos Over South East Asia”.  I opted for one stationed in Singapore in late 1941. 

I really miss the Aeromaster line.  I know some of the Internet “experts” have referred to them as “Errormaster” based on their sometimes dubious research.  That has not been my experience.  How often do we have color photos of the actual aircraft we model?  And if we do, how accurate are the photo colors after more than seven decades?

Another product used was Montex Mini Mask No. SM 48128 for the canopy and under fuselage window.  I hate to trash any product, but these were a real disappointment.  

Normally I use Eduard masks, which are excellent.  I could not find one in stock when I was getting ready to work on this kit.  So, I bought the Montex product, which looked pretty good.  The Montex masks are black vinyl and much thicker than the Eduard kabuki tape.  Therefore, they do not snug down on curves the way the kabuki masks do.  I had a few spots they kept popping up.  They were not sized properly and were often too big.

They also had the tendency to pull up the paint on the area next to the masking, even when I attempted to trim the edge of the mask with a #11 blade.  The material  really clings to the plastic and needs to be pried up with a knife (unlike kabuki tape that comes up with a toothpick).  I ended up painting some Tamiya masking tape, cutting it into thin strips and using it to replace the places on the bottom window that pulled away.  I should have done that in the first place and saved all the fooling around with the Montex masks and gotten a better looking job!

To be sure, the many very thin frames on this model contributed to the difficulties.  None the less, I will not use Montex masks in the future.  As Cramer says on his stock market show, “Don’t buy!  Don’t buy!”  (The few sets of Montex masks I had are now in the landfill.)

The chubby little fighter had to hold the line in the Pacific during the early months of the war.  The Marines had them on Wake Island, and the British had them at Singapore and elsewhere, while the Dutch had them deployed in the Pacific with the "Military Air Service of the Royal Netherlands East Indian Army” or ML-KNIL.  The Marines regarded the Buffalo as a flying coffin.  The British were losing possessions at a breathtaking pace, and they relied on the Buffalos which were no match for more modern and better flown fighters.

Many of the Allied pilots flying the Buffalo had little experience with the aircraft, and that may account for some of the poor performance.  In modern parlance, however, you cannot put lipstick on this particular pig.  It simply was not a good aircraft.

Finland was the only country that had success with the Buffalo.  Finnish pilots racked up impressive scores flying the Buffalo against the USSR.

The markings I chose were for a Brewster Buffalo Mk I from 488 Sqd, RNZAF, flown by Pilot Officer Noel C. Sharp,  at Kallang, Singapore, in late 1941.  (For those who are more recent graduates of the American education system, Singapore was a great fortress that the British thought would not fall to the Japanese.  Unfortunately, its guns were aimed at the sea, and the Japanese army arrived from the landward side - many riding bicycles to cover terrain faster - where there was little in the way of fortifications.  In the end, hubris felled the fortress.)

I weathered the model very little, as the real Buffalos were not in service that long, only a few months.  Ultimately this particular aircraft was rendered un-flyable before its capture by the Japanese.
Even the less than successful aircraft of WWII were part of history, and I am glad to have the Buffalo in my collection, built up at long last.

These are new photos I took.  The first ones I posted were not as good.  Also, I painted the pilot figure that came with the model, something I usually do not do.  But, I have been painting a few fugures to place with the models on display to show the actual size of the real aircraft.

As always, thank you for visiting my blog, and I look forward to any comments.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hasegawa P-47D Razorback, 1/48 scale, Kit no. 09302

Ever since I read Thunderbolt! by Robert Johnson, one of the European Theatre’s leading aces, the “Jug” has been a great favorite of mine.  Armed with eight .50 cal. Browning M-2 machine guns, it is hard to imagine the damage it inflicted while serving on all fronts.  Johnson tells how during his training, they only armed one gun on each wing.  He never fired all eight at once until he flew some fighter sweeps across the Channel into France as part of his final preparation and training when he was sent  to Europe.  The idea was to let the new pilots fly some “easy” missions before they got fully involved with longer penetration into occupied Europe.  On one of these early missions, his flight was jumped by some German fighters.  Johnson chased one of the them and got close enough to fire his guns.  He immediately evaded and dove away as he thought his plane was being hit by fire from another fighter.  Somewhat chagrined, he soon realized that he was not being hit by enemy fire.  He was experiencing the awesome vibration and noise of eight M-2 guns being fired at once from a fighter plane.

This kit has been around for some time in my stash.  It is not currently available from, but the Bubbletop version is.  I am sure it will return.  They all seem to, don’t they?

Also, in my stash was an AeroMaster sheet no. 48-389, “4th Fighter Group - The Early Days, Pt.1”.  The aircraft that caught my eye was “Donnie Boy” flown by Lt, Don S. Gentile of the 336th Fighter Squadron in February 1944.  Gentile flew Spitfires in the No. 133 (Eagle) Squadron and became the 4th’s leading ace with 21.883 kills.  He survived the war, but tragically died testing a new jet aircraft a few years later.  His P-51B Mustang with the long white sash festooned with a cross for each German he shot down has been the subject of probably thousands of P-51B models over the years.

The only other “extra” in this model is a resin seat with harness from Ultracast, which is an improvement over the kit seat and decal marking for seatbelts.

I used Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color (Black) to weather the model some.  I like the results, although I could have been neater.  It was a good first try.

If this kit can be found for reasonable money (some of Hasegawa’s current pricing is just plain nuts), it is a great addition to any 1/48 scale collection of WWII aircraft.