Building Gabby’s final Jug

Colonel Francis Gabreski had shot down 28 enemy aircraft but one last strafing run put his P-47 Thunderbolt into a field and “Gabby” into a POW camp.

Building the classics

The Monogram 1/48th-scale Republic P-47D Thunderbolt first hit hobby shops in 1967. Over the years the kit has become a favorite with modelers. Good detail and relatively easy construction have helped the model hold its own against competitors costing three times as much. With a little extra effort, you can produce a very nice addition for your display shelf using this kit. 

Start with the cockpit, painting it interior chromate green. The instrument consoles are black, so you can pick out dials and switches in white. A light dry brush of aluminum for the seat and a set of seatbelts from the spares box add interest to the tight cockpit. Be careful with the gunsight molded into the fuselage halves; it’s easy to snap the piece off. Removing the gunsight and reattaching it later is a good option. Complete the fuselage with the cockpit tub securely in place and set aside to dry.

Next, assemble the wings. It’s a simple two-piece affair, but take special care with the four .50-caliber machine gun barrels molded into the wing, as they can easily break off. It’s a good idea to have a spare set on hand. This kit also has a pair of hardpoints molded into the lower piece of each wing. To get a cleaner profile, a little surgery is required. With the pylons removed, fill and sand the area. Once the wings are assembled, cement them to the fuselage. 

Monogram’s classic P-47D has remained unchanged since it was first introduced in 1967. With a little work, it can still take a place of pride on the display shelf.

With the basic shape of the P-47 complete, it’s time for paint. The 56th Fighter Group began painting its fighters in camouflage colors in May 1944. Using existing Royal Air Force supplies, the unit began preparing for operations over France. Camouflage patterns were left up to the individual units, and a variety of styles resulted. The 61st Fighter Squadron Commander, Colonel Francis “Gabby” Gabreski, had many of his squadron’s fighters painted in what he called a “Luftwaffe” style. The more random and mottled paint scheme was similar to what they had seen on their German adversaries’ airplanes. Upper surfaces were medium sea gray and dark green, while the underside of the big fighter remained a natural metal. 

Gabreski’s Final Mount

Our model sports the markings of the P-47D flown by Colonel Gabreski on a July 20, 1944, ground-attack mission. During a strafing run at a Luftwaffe airfield, Gabreski made “one last pass” that was just low enough to clip the ground, damaging the fighter enough that he had to crash-land in a farmer’s field. Captured, he spent the rest of the war as a POW. 

Gabreski”s P-47 Thunderbolt after its last landing with Luftwaffe officers on the wing, July 20, 1944. Gabreski was strafing targets over an enemy airfield when his low flying aircraft’s propeller struck the ground causing damage to the engine and resulting in the forced landing. (National Archives)

This version of Monogram’s classic came with a set of Gabby’s markings, but the decals were showing their age (the kit is 46 years old!). The better choice is an aftermarket set. Techmod, a specialty decal company from Poland, produces a number of well-researched markings sets for a number of famous Polish aces. Set 48006 has markings for Gabreski’s last mount. 

With the decals on the model, spray a coat of flat clear varnish and set it aside. Complete the landing gear and the specially designed 200-gallon external fuel tank. This larger oval-shaped tank gave the P-47 longer “legs” and still had adequate ground clearance.

Attach the landing gear, propeller and clear two-piece bubble canopy and Gabby’s P-47D “Jug” is ready for the display shelf.

Exposing the Secrets of Takeshi Hirano’s Mysterious Zero

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero came as a shock to many in the west. Quick and incredibly maneuverable it could outfly nearly everything in the sky. The fighter dominated opponents in China and Burma early in the war. It’s “introduction” to American airmen came on December 7, 1941.  

Petty Officer 1st Class Takeshi Hirano was part of the first wave of the attack in an element of three fighters from the carrier Akagi. After strafing Hickam Field, including some of the B-17s trying desperately to land, Hirano’s Zero was peppered by machine gun fire from the ground.

The pilot struggled to bring his damaged fighter down but clipped a number of trees and crashed into the entrance of Fort Kamehameha’s ordinance machine shop, killing Hirano. His was one of only 29 aircraft brought down during the attack.This particular Zero would become the object of intense scrutiny by US intelligence officers looking for kinks in the vaunted fighter’s reputation. 

Brought down by ground fire, Hirano’s Zero was one of only 29 aircraft downed during the raid. (National Archives)

The Kit

Tamiya, Inc. produces one of the most accurate scale models of the Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 21. First released in 1973 the 1/48th scale kit still holds up well against some of the higher priced models. It’s an ideal kit for the beginner, simple, well-engineered and easy to build. The more experienced modeler will be more than tempted to add some extra detail.

Construction starts with building and painting the multipart cockpit, which comes with an optional pilot figure. Tamiya cockpit green (XF-71) takes the guesswork out of what to paint the floor, sidewalls and instrument panel. A decal reproduces the dials and indicators well. The seat is flat aluminum, a belt harness from an aftermarket detail set is a nice touch. (Note: Japanese naval fighters used a single diagonal shoulder strap with a standard lap belt.) 

First released over fifty years ago, Tamiya’s A6M2 is full of detail and a great kit for the beginner or the experienced modeler.

With the cockpit complete, paint the 940-hp Nakajima Sakae Type 12 engine flat aluminum, then use a black wash to bring out the details. Next, glue together the two-piece cowling and paint it with a mixture of semigloss black (FS-27031) and a few drops of cobalt blue, to duplicate the cowling color reportedly seen on many WWII Japanese carrier planes. Glue the completed engine into the cowling and set it aside to dry.

Next, join the fuselage parts together. Slip the finished cockpit through the fuselage’s underside, making sure it is seated correctly before applying dabs of glue to hold it in place. Next add the completed wing. The fit here is very good, but there is still a small gap at the wing root that will need attention. 

For this model we’ll add an extra detail. The type 21 Zero was the first version to have folding wings (more accurately, folding wing “tips.”). It was a new addition meant to help maximize space aboard the carrier. The Czech company Eduard makes a great resin detail set of the folded wingtips. Designed for their own A6M2 Zero kit, it will need a little extra surgery and sanding, but it can easily be made to fit the Tamiya kit. It’s a great addition to the model. Cement the horizontal stabilizers in place and set the assembly aside.  

Now that the basic construction is complete, it’s time to check over your work and fill and sand any seams. Most imperfections can be smoothed over with an application of Tamiya’s surface primer. 

Camouflage 

The A6M2 Zeros that took part in the Pearl Harbor raid were painted Imperial Japanese Navy gray-green overall. This color is available in both a spray can (Tamiya AS-29) or bottle (XF-76). Before painting, stuff facial tissue into the cockpit and wheel wells to protect them from overspray. 

With the major subassemblies complete, it’s time for the airplane’s markings and final assembly.

The wheel wells and the inside of the main landing gear doors should be painted the same interior metallic blue-green as the cockpit. The landing gear legs are semigloss black, with dark brown “rubber” colored tires and aluminum hubs. The propellers on Pearl Harbor Zeros were unpainted aluminum, with red warning stripes near the tips. The back of the propeller was painted a flat deep brown to reduce glare for the pilot. 

The fabric-covered moveable surfaces, ailerons, rudder and horizontal stabilizers were painted a gray primer. It was thought that the weight of an additional layer of paint would alter the delicate weight and balance and effect performance. Mask off these sections and paint them a slightly darker gray.

After all the painting is complete, apply a coat of gloss varnish to provide a smooth surface for the decals to adhere to.

Bringing the Zero to Life

Hirano’s aircraft had simple, standard markings. The kit markings work well and settle into the nooks and crannies with a little decal softener. The tail number, AI-154 was cobbled together from other Zero decals that were in “the stash.” Add a mild amount of weathering, soot from the exhaust ports and a mild bit of fuel and oil staining are all that’s needed. Once the decals are complete, give the fighter a light coat of a clear flat varnish and put it aside. 

Even with a turned up wingtip, it’s clear that Tamiya has captured the clean lines of this iconic World War II fighter.

On to the canopy. There is an option for an enclosed one-piece canopy, but you’ll want to show off that cockpit detail so opt for the three-piece open version. Painting the cockpit canopy frames will be easier if you mask and paint the horizontal ribs first, then the vertical frames. Attach the clear parts with white glue and finish off your model by gluing the landing gear, gear doors, arresting hook and tail wheel into place. Don’t forget the pitot tube and small weights on the top and bottom of each of the ailerons. Last but not least, add that folding wingtip and Takeshi Hirano’s Mitsubishi A6M2 is ready for its sortie into history.   

Building R. J. Mitchell’s Battle of Britain Masterpiece

The retooled Airfix 1/48th scale Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I finds its spot on the workbench.

Even though he died in 1937, long before the summer of 1940, aircraft designer R.J. Mitchell is often described as a hero of the Battle of Britain. Indeed, his Supermarine Spitfire is considered a veritable “saviour” of the country. It’s not surprising then that when the British model company Airfix produced its first aircraft kit in 1955, it was a Spitfire. Fifty-nine years later Airfix released another Spitfire, totally redesigned and retooled for the modern modeler.

The kit was released as a Battle of Britain–era Mk.I in early 2015. It sports a very detailed cockpit, options to show off the fighter’s eight .303-caliber Browning machine guns and no fewer than three different propellers, including the early two-bladed Aero-Products “Watts” propeller. It’s safe to say that this new Spit will be released in a number of different versions.

First bit of advice: Follow the directions. If there ever was a kit that required patience, this is it. Do the research, study the instructions and follow the steps. Carefully dry-fit parts. The fit is very good, but cleaning up parts is essential. The kit is a challenge, but the results are worth it. 

The option to open up the eight .303 calibre machine gun bays are a great way to add some extra interest to the model, typical of the new kit’s level of detail.

Start with the cockpit. There is lot of detail here and it really needs only an aftermarket Sutton harness and seatbelts to add that nice extra touch. Paint the cockpit RAF interior green. A reddish brown color works for the seat itself and a darker leather brown color for the seat padding. Paint the control panel black and use the cockpit gauges kit decal along with a liberal amount of decal setting solution. After the decal conforms to the raised dials and switches, seal it with a coat of clear flat. Once it has thoroughly dried, highlight the appropriate switches and knobs with small bits of paint on the end of a toothpick. 

The completed cockpit becomes a separate assembly, a “tub” that fits between the fuselage halves. Delay gluing the cockpit in place so it can be adjusted to fit into fuselage. Set the completed section aside and it’s time to move on to the Spitfire’s famous elliptical wing. 

The kit has the option to show off the fighter’s eight machine guns. Cut away the gun access panels along the top of the wing and the small doors underneath, where ammunition boxes would have been loaded. The panel covers are included as separate pieces. Paint the machine gun breeches gunmetal and the ammunition boxes aluminum. 

The cockpit has some great detail, but pay close attention to the instructions.

Once the weapons bays are complete it’s almost time to finish assembling the wing. Airfix has engineered an interesting way of attaching the landing gear. Two pieces (parts C-30 and C-31) serve as posts where the rest of the landing gear will be attached later. It’s a unique way of making sure the fighter sits correctly on its landing gear when finished. Assemble the wings, clean up and sand the edges and attach the ailerons. As separate pieces, they can be posed in a more natural position.

With the wings completed, it’s time to bring it all together. There will be some minor filling and sanding. Add the underwing oil filter pieces, engine air intake, horizontal stabilizer and rudder. Time for paint.

With the cockpit fitted into the fuselage and a little filling and sanding completed, try opening up a couple of the machine gun access panels to show off even more detail.

Invest in a set of camouflage paint masks. The adhesive vinyl masks are inexpensive and easy to use. AML Accessories from the Czech Republic has a wide range of Spitfire masks that make for a “proper” RAF camouflage pattern. Having chosen the markings that will be applied later, check to see which of the patterns—simply called “A” and “B”—are to be used. These official patterns are mirror images of each other made up of dark earth (FS30095) and a medium to dark green (FS34079). 

This Spitfire (P9386) will be displayed in the markings of Brian Lane, commander of No. 19 Squadron. By the late Summer of 1940, many fighters had their undersides painted a simple solid color sometimes called “sky type S,” a sort of pale bluish green (approximately FS34583).

Once the painting is complete, spray an overall clear gloss and set the model aside to dry. Use this time to assemble the landing gear, tail wheel and engine exhaust shrouds. Mask and paint the canopy pieces as well. 

Squadron Leader Brian Lane’s Spitfire was the inspiration for the build. He was a 7 victory ace and by all accounts was an exceptional leader, commanding No. 19 Squadron during the Battle of Britain. (IWM CH 1367)

Squadron Leader Lane’s Spitfire sported a bright yellow spinner, said to be a holdover from when the airplane had been part of a flying training unit. Paint and assemble the spinner and propeller, then set it aside. EagleCals decal sheet EC157 is a great set of markings for four different Battle of Britain Spitfires, including Lane’s Spitfire Mk.I, marked with the squadron code letters “QV-K.” Lane was credited with shooting down a Messerschmitt Me-110 in this aircraft on September 7, 1940. A seven-victory ace, he was known as an exceptional leader. Unfortunately he would be reported missing on December 13, 1942, last seen chasing two Focke-Wulf Fw-190s. 

Carefully begin the process of adding the markings to the aircraft. A small amount of setting solution makes the decals conform to every rivet and panel line, helping create the look of having been painted on. Add some light weathering, some wear to the metal, especially along the left wing root where pilots scrambled into their aircraft. A few oily streaks underneath, a bit of exhaust staining and this Spitfire has the look of a busy British defender. 

The finished Spitfire is ready to take its place among other Battle of Britain stalwarts.

Now carefully attach the landing gear using the posts on the wing assembled earlier, taking care to make sure they have the proper angle. This Spitfire will be shown with the left-side crew entry door opened to show off all that cockpit detail. The kit-supplied door is one of the few pieces lacking detail. An aftermarket resin door from Ultracast is the perfect solution. The selection of clear canopy parts includes canopies for a number of different Spitfire marks. The clear parts are crisp and very clear. Be sure to pick the right canopy and add the rest to your parts box.

With the canopy, landing gear and radio antenna attached, Lane’s Spitfire is ready to take its place alongside your collection of Battle of Britain combatants.

The Bell X-3 Stiletto Looked Fast and Futuristic … On the Ground

A little extra attention can even make this “vintage” kit as sharp as the the original Bell X-3 Stiletto.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say this up front: The Lindberg X-3 is a dinosaur of a kit. With the exception of a fresh set of decals, this model is exactly the same as when it was first released in the late 1950s. It was a time when many models were merely toys that you could put together, rather than the detailed reproductions we build today. Amazingly, this kit is one of only a very few offerings of this sleek, futuristic X-plane. Perhaps its lackluster performance in the air is a reason it’s not been a more popular subject. Nonetheless, we’ll give this one a try. Dust off the parts box, and get your scratch building skills in order.  

The Lindberg Douglas X-3 is virtually identical to the kit released in 1959.

First things first, the cockpit. A well-stocked parts box is essential here. There isn’t a traditional “canopy” (the airplane had a unique downward-firing ejection seat that is also part of the system that lifts the pilot, seat and all, into the cockpit). Measure and cut away an opening in the bottom of the fuselage beneath the cockpit area. Research material at this point is invaluable. The book Skystreak, Skyrocket, & Stiletto: Douglas High-Speed X-Planes, by Scott Libis, is an excellent resource.

Side consoles and the forward instrument panel come from the parts box. Stock plastic sheet will form the coaming over the forward control panel. You will have to fashion a yoke instead of a stick. The seat needs help as well. Stretched sprue or wire form the “cage” that surrounds the seat. Once you’ve added a harness and seat belts, the completed seat will be attached to rails that extend down from the rear cockpit bulkhead. You’ll have to build that bulkhead as well. Set aside the seat for now, as it will be one of the last steps in completing the jet.

To show the lowered ejection seat, unique to the X-3, some plastic card stock, bits from the “parts box” and some scratchbuilding skills, are all that’s needed to make an interesting addition to the model.

The intakes are just simple holes in the fuselage. Thin plastic sheet can help create the illusion of an intake “trunk.” Go ahead and assemble the engine. While you could cut open panels to show off a nicely detailed power plant, you’ll be better served by using it for structural support. The jet also needs a pair of exhaust cans, an easy scratch build from the plastic barrel of an old ballpoint pen.

The X-3 has a unique system for the pilot where the ejection seat raises into the cockpit. Sratchbuilding skills come in handy.

The thin high-aspect-ratio wing of the Stiletto was smooth and sharp. You’ll want to sand down some of the heavy raised detail. The wing is designed to be inserted from the inside of the fuselage through two slots. This should be your last step as you bring the fuselage halves together. Don’t forget to pack the nose with some weight to get the aircraft to sit on its landing gear correctly. The fit will need help, so filling and sanding will take up a little time. Remember the kit is more than 50 years old!

The insides of the landing gear bays are a natural aluminum color, as is the gear. This is another area that would benefit from some scratch building and additional detail. After all that hard work with the cockpit, it’s up to you.

The needle like shape and small razor thin wings became hallmarks of the Lockheed F-104.

I prefer to paint the glossy white finish of the fuselage first, sealing it with a coat of gloss. I find it easier to mask off the fuselage in order to paint the wings their natural metal color. Overall the X-3, like other X-planes of the time, had a clean glossy finish. There would have been little weathering at all. Check your references when it comes to markings. The X-3 flew tests for both the U.S. Air Force and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, NASA’s predecessor), so there are minor differences in markings. There were also minor changes depending on just what was on the “test card.”

With markings applied and another coat of gloss finish, your X-3 is ready for the dry lakebed at Edwards AFB. You can see the real deal, the sole X-3 built, in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

Building Grumman’s Sub-Killing Avenger

This Avenger wasn’t looking for the fictitious Thanos, the Grumman TBF/M Avenger torpedo bomber had a more dangerous enemy in mind.

Designed as a replacement for the aging TBD Devastator, the Grumman TBF/M Avenger was arguably the finest torpedo bomber of the war. Best known for its combat record in the Pacific, the Avenger also proved to be a potent weapon in the Atlantic. Operating from small escort carriers, Avengers hunted U-Boats using aerial depth charges, conventional bombs and rockets. Avengers were directly responsible for over thirty submarines and served as the “hunter” part of hunter-killer teams scouring the Atlantic.

Our Avenger operated fron the USS Block Island shown here with most of it’s compliment of TBF/M Avengers and FM-2 Wildcats. The hunter killer team of the nimble Wildcat and the Avenger proved deadly to U-Boats in the Atlantic. The size difference between the Avengers and the carrier are clearly evident. (US Navy)

These “sub-killing” bombers had a unique look that makes for an interesting addition to the collection.

The Kit

The South Korean based model company, Academy, Re-released the 1996 Accurate Miniatures TBF-1C Avenger in 2013.  With a lot of detail and good fit, it was well received by modelers looking for a 1/48th scale replica of the famed torpedo bomber.

This Avenger comes with a choice of weapons, the standard Mk. XIII torpedo, 500lb general purpose bombs and Mk 54 depth charges. Perfect for this U-Boat hunting airplane.

The Avenger had a wingspan or over 54 feet and fully loaded could weigh as much as over 15,500 pounds. The big three man bomber had three machine guns for self defense including a .50 calibre gun in a powered turret.

Following the instructions, start with the cockpit painting it an interior Chromate Green (FS 34151). There is plenty of detail from the cockpit through to the bombardier’s station and the rear gunner’s turret. Paint consoles and electronic boxes black, white dials and switches. Add seatbelts and a harness to the pilot’s seat and to the small bench for the bombardier located in the cramped lower part of the airplane, just aft of the bomb bay. The bomb bay itself is part of the entire assembly that runs the length of one of the fuselage sides. Finally, after all that detail, painting and assembly, bring the fuselage halves together and set aside the completed fuselage.

The wing halves, rudder and horizontal stabilizers are a much simpler part of the build. Cement the parts together and set aside.

The unique powered turret

Next, it’s time to build the Avenger’s gun turret. Do your research. This part of the model is not for the novice. The turret, with its .50 caliber machine gun is a complicated little model in itself, comprising ten separate parts. Putting it all together requires extra patience. Take your time and dry fit pieces before final assembly.

Paint most of the pieces interior green. The machine gun should be a steel color with the ammunition chute aluminum. A brown leather armrest on the gunner’s seat, along with a set of seat belts add to the detail that’s already there. After the interior is finished put together the two clear parts of the turret with white glue or a cement designed for clear plastic.

The kit comes with a set of adhesive masks cut to the size of each pane of glass on the Avenger’s large greenhouse of a cockpit canopy. Gently peel off the mask bits and position them in their spots indicated in the instructions. For the turret, carefully stuff the interior of the completed ball shape with a small wad of paper towel and paint the piece the same dark gull gray color (FS 36231) as the upper part of the completed aircraft. Set the pieces of the turret aside to dry thoroughly.

Mask off the cockpit and bomb bay to prepare the model for painting. This Avenger depicts one of the aircraft from VC-55 on the USS Block Island.

The Academy kit has an interesting selection of weapons, 500lb general purpose bombs and Mk. 54 aerial depth charges The addition of a quartet of 5 inch HVAR (High Velocity Rockets) mounted under the wings came from the parts box and were a commonly seen on sub-hunting TBF-3C Avengers.

Based aboard small, fast escort carriers, the aircraft were painted Dark Gull Gray on the upper surfaces and white underneath with the white color extending up along the sides of the fuselage. The pattern is a marked difference from the variety of blue schemes seen in the Pacific theater. Mask and paint the fuselage and then attach the wings and horizontal stabilizers, painting along the way. Give the model a coat of clear gloss to get it ready for the decals.

While the aircraft dries, assemble the tires and landing gear. Struts are all painted white including the landing gear bays. Paint the propeller black with a silver hub and white or pale gray “cuffs” at the base of each propeller blade.

The camouflage of Dark Gull Gray and white was worn by both the torpedo bomber and Wildcat fighters during operations in the Atlantic.

Cement the bombs into the bomb bay with the two aerial mines forward and the two general purpose bombs to the rear. The bomb bay doors come as two pieces but will need to be split to pose the doors in an open position. Use a razor saw to cut the doors apart and attach them to the door struts.

Final details 

Attach the landing gear and gear doors making sure the airplane sits correctly and give the model a coat of flat varnish to seal the decals.

Carefully, very carefully place the gunner’s turret in its position on the airplane. The fit is extremely tight so take care in adding the completed turret. Next, add the rest of the canopy using a cement designed for clear plastic. Be sure to pose the cockpit open to show off all that detail and hard work. Last, attach the “tiny bits,” the distinct upward canted pitot tube, clear pieces for the red and green formation lights, the delicate surface radar antenna beneath each wing and this TBF-1C Avenger is ready to head out to hunt U-Boats or just start a conversation on the display shelf.

Jimmy Doolittle and His Thirty Second Calculated Risk

After a disaster at Pearl Harbor an aviation pioneer led sixteen untested bomber crews into history

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caught the United States flatfooted. An unprepared American military had been rocked on its heels. The country was desperate for some sort of “payback” and just about anything was considered. One idea was the brainchild of Navy Captain Francis Low, the plan was to launch land based bombers from an aircraft carrier, strike targets in Japan and land in China to form the nucleus of an Allied bomber force.

For the head of the Army Air Forces, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, one person came to mind to plan and lead the mission, James Harold Doolittle. Known as the “master of the calculated risk,” Doolittle was a record setting racing pilot with a doctorate in aeronautical engineering from MIT, Doolittle seemed an obvious choice to lead “Special Aviation Project No. 1.”

Doolittle and Low chose the North American B-25 “Mitchell” as the aircraft to do the job. A twin engine powerhouse, it was the perfect size for the dangerous mission. Doolittle assembled and trained eighty men, matching them with sixteen airplanes, to launch from the pitching deck of a ship and bring the war to Tokyo’s doorstep.

The B-25 served in nearly every theater of operations during World War II. While the ionic medium bomber was continuously modified and redesigned for a wide variety of roles, some of the most famous B-25s were among the earliest produced. The modified B-25Bs that launched from the USS Hornet for their “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” were fresh off the assembly line as were their crews.

The Kit

Airfix totally retooled their 1/72nd-scale B-25 in 2018. The kit that emerged was designed from the outset to be built in a number of versions. In 2019 the company released their newest version of the kit which could be built as one of those sixteen famous “Doolittle Raiders.”

An alternative cowling with its series of individual exhaust vents, hints at other versions of the Mitchell to come.

The kit has very nice detail and is well engineered. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. An extra parts tree is included with pieces particular to the Raiders: an M7 cluster incendiary bomb, the clear tail cone with holes for two dummy machine guns and even the substitute “Mark Twain” bombsight.

Begin with the cockpit. A decal is provided to represent the instrument panel, but metal-etched detail sets are available to give the cockpit that extra boost. The cockpit assembly includes the bombardier’s position. Once it’s complete, install the assembled flight deck to the left half of the fuselage. Following the instructions, add the bulkheads that also make up the bomb bay. The bomb bay section of early Mitchells was sometimes left natural metal rather than the standard interior green (FS34151) found in the rest of the airplane. A natural aluminum color will help set off the B-25’s ordnance. For the Doolittle Raid, most of the Mitchells carried three 500-pound bombs and one M7 incendiary. Paint the bombs a yellowish chromate green. Early in the war most of the available bombs were painted this color as opposed to the more familiar olive drab.

A pre-cut set of masks for the canopy and cockpit glass is well worth the expense.

The B-25 wants to be a “tail sitter,” so added weight in the nose is a must. Small lead fishing sinkers work well tucked into the spaces around the cockpit, though the glass nose does limit the available space. If you find you can’t add enough weight to keep the bomber on its tricycle landing gear, there is a solution (see below) during the final stages of assembly. Now bring the fuselage halves together. Putty as necessary—the overall fit is very good—and set the assembly aside.

With the fuselage complete, it’s time to paint and assemble the two Wright R-2600 Double Cyclone radial engines. There are two sets of engine cowlings—choose the smooth version and check the instructions. The second set has a series of small cooling intakes around the back half of the cowling, a modification in later aircraft.

Doolittle’s “Upgrades”

Put together the horizontal and vertical stabilizers and attach the assembly to the fuselage. Use the piece provided to cover the ventral machine gun turret position. The remotely powered machine gun turret was one of the first things removed as Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle looked to save weight and increase the bomber’s range. Attach the wings and the aircraft begins to take on its classic shape.

This photo was the inspiration for the display of “Hari-Karri-er.” The carrier Hornet kept a few of its F4F Wildcat fighters “just in case.” Of course, the Airfix kit was an obvious choice.

Invest in a set of precut adhesive masks. The “greenhouse” Plexiglas panes that make up the cockpit and nose section are difficult to cut by hand. Attach those sections to the fuselage, wrap the landing gear, fill the top turret position with tissue and the airplane is ready for a coat of paint.

The retooled Airfix Grumman F4-F Wildcat and a carrier deck base make a great addition to our USS Hornet vignette.

The bomber was painted olive drab (FS34087) over neutral gray (FS36270) undersurfaces. Don’t forget the black deicer boots along the leading edges of the wings and tail. Once the masking and painting is complete, a coat of clear gloss gets the model ready for a set of decals.

11 of 16, Hari Kari-er

The kit comes with two choices of markings, but the obvious one for most modelers is sure to be Hari Kari-er, the 11th Doolittle Raider to launch. This bomber is one of the few for which photographic evidence exists of its nose art while on Hornet’s deck. The kit decals are very nice and settle comfortably into panel lines with the help of a setting solution.

Apply a flat clear coat and Hari Kari-er is almost complete. It’s time to attach the smaller detail parts, the tail skid, main gear tires and antennas. The model was designed so that a number of fuselage windows can be added from the outside, after painting. Most kits require these clear parts to be glued in place from the inside, requiring additional masking.

02249 was the 11th aircraft off the deck of the Hornet. The crew were Capt. C. Ross Greening, pilot; Lt. Kenneth E. Reddy, copilot; Lt. Frank A. Kappeler, navigator; SSgt. William L. Birch, bombardier and Sgt. Melvin J. Gardner, flight engineer/gunner. It was one of the few aircraft that had nose art chalked on its nose. Hari Kari-er hit targets at the Kosukan Naval Yard in Yokohama

The crew hatches can be displayed opened or closed, but an open rear hatch will help the bomber sit correctly on its landing gear. If you attach a small piece of clear sheet plastic to that crew door it will aid in supporting the aft section of the airplane.

Attach the propellers and the clear tail cone, complete with two fake machine guns meant to deter enemy fighters. Finally, slide the completed dorsal machine gun turret into place and your Doolittle Raider is ready for its famous mission.

The First Three Songs

It’s become a concert staple for the press pool photographers. Shoot the first three songs, no flash, then off you go.

You and a half dozen or so of your fellow “shooters,” along with their gear, are placed on a rather small riser next to the soundboard. All of us looking for those two or three shots to accompany the all important review in the next days paper. Shoot hard and fast during those first three tunes, then we’re hustled away. Check out your images and in this age of instant digital gratification, upload the good ones to run with our respective publications.

However … on that chilly December night in Charlotte, North Carolina, for me, it was all on film.

It was on film, wasn’t it? I sure as hell hoped it was. I hadn’t joined the digital masses quite yet. This would be my first time shooting something like this and I’d be lying if I said, I wasn’t just a little bit apprehensive. I actually practiced, camera and tripod in the middle of the living room, standing in front of the television with an old concert video. I tried to answer the question, ” Just how many rolls of film could I shoot, rewind and shoot, in the time it would take to play those first three songs?”

It didn’t take long. I don’t even remember what those first three songs were. It was pretty much a blur. Film to the lab and it was up to the darkroom.

If you’re also a fan , you’ve grabbed a ticket. You sprint to the car to stash your gear and head back for the rest of the show. That’s me, I’m the fan who just shot Bruce Springsteen in concert for the very first time and I’m definitely seeing the rest of this show.

The film is back and … It came out … ok, I guess.

I could have done better, maybe next time.

Wait, would there even be a next time? I did come back with the goods, the editor was happy, and my foot was firmly planted in the door.

There would be a next time. In fact, there would be a couple of dozen next times (and counting).

 

It’s a unique and challenging type of photography. Unpredictable, and dynamic as you attempt to capture “that moment” on stage.  The goal is to translate that “healing power of rock and roll” into a still image that takes the viewer straight to center stage, or reminds them of the show that they saw and their own particular “moment.”

Each show is different, but each one is the same. There is a yin and yang sort of thing going on. You prepare, you tell yourself you’re ready, you’d like to think you know what’s going to happen, but you’re never. quite. sure.

I hear that voice in my head, keep shooting, keep shooting, you’ve only got three songs.

There’s a sense of satisfaction when you realize you’ve gotten the shot. It’s an image that you feel is just a bit different. The image that shows the connection the band has onstage with each other and with the audience. The bonus is when someone else sees it too, when someone else points to your image and says “yeah, that one.”

Lately, I’ve realized that I’ve been pretty lucky to stand on that little riser, press pass stuck to my jeans, for over a decade. I’ve been told I have a “library of images,” a “body of work,” go figure.

I’m just looking forward to adding to that library , three songs at a time.

 

 

Good Shot, Bad Shot

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

Sometimes people see something different in your image, something that even you didn’t see.

During Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 Devils and Dust tour, I was asked by an editor to shoot for his publication. I said yes. Are you kidding, of course I said yes. I grabbed my camera (and film, yes … film), hopped in the car headed on down the road.

The venue was as moody and dark as the album. When you’re in the business of “collecting light” the lack of it can make for a challenging evening. When in doubt, load the camera and shoot. I knew even before the film was developed that I probably wasn’t going to like the result but I knew I had done the best I could under the circumstances. I filed away the negs and was happy that I had been able to stay for the show.

Fast forward a decade and a phone call from a photographer friend who asked me if I had shot anything during that tour. I admitted that I had, but I had never been happy with … she stopped me and quickly said, ”someone will email you, send a half dozen at least!”

An email did come and I spent an evening pulling the negatives, trying not to think too much about how dark they were. I rescanned a few, gathered everything together and sent them off.

A day or two later, one of those images, one that I had never really thought much of, had been picked for the cover of a live, Bruce Springsteen, Devils and Dust tour cd release. It became part of a series of live performances being offered through brucespringsteen.net, his official website.

That dark, grainy photo, one I had never thought much of, has since become one of my very favorites.

Did I save the images because I was a fan? Probably, but I would like to think that in the back of my mind I thought “just in case” as I slipped the proof sheets and strips of exposed film into a binder. Lesson learned; save the work anyway, and when the word goes out and someone asks to see it … send it to them. You never know.