The A6M Zero in 1/72: Akagi’s Zeros Prepare for Pearl Harbor, Part 3 – The Pilots

This is Part 3 of a series of posts on the construction of a Pearl Harbor diorama. It will depict the Zeros of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Akagi aircraft carrier preparing to take off during the first wave attack. To understand the concept of this diorama project, please refer to the previous posts. This post concerns only the nine Zero pilots who participated in the first wave. It’s important to make abundantly clear at the outset that I’m not an expert on this subject and what follows is superficial research compiled from the dozen books I own on the Zero, supplemented by bits and pieces from obscure corners of the internet.

I. Introduction

It is often stated that few of the highly skilled pilots of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) at the beginning of the Pacific War — most of them highly experienced veterans of the China War — survived the conflict. While there is little doubt the assertion is generally accurate, information specifically summarizing the fate of IJN Pearl Harbor pilots proved elusive — at least in English. My interest, of course, was on the fate of the nine Akagi Zero pilots who participated in the first wave. Below is a June 1941 photo of Akagi’s fighter pilots from the new edition of Ikuhiko Hata et al’s Japanese Naval Fighter Aces 1932-45, translated from the Japanese by Christopher Shores.Itaya Akagi CroppedConveniently for purposes of this post, Peter Smith’s Mitsubishi Zero: Japan’s Legendary Fighter provides a narrative that names all nine Akagi Zero pilots of the first wave:

“The Akagi had contributed the No. 1 Fighter Strike Unit comprising a hikotai of nine A6M2s divided into three shotai of three planes each. No. 1 Shotai was Lieutenant-Commander Shigeru Itaya, who was in overall command of the 1st Wave fighter aircraft, with Petty Officers 1st Class Takashi Hirano and Shinatsugu Iwama. No. 2 Shotai consisted of Lieutenant Masanobu Ibusuki, with Petty Officer 1st Class Yoshio Iwashiro and Seaman 1st Class Toichiro Hanyu. No. 3 Shotai comprised Warrant Officer Suekichi Osanai, Petty Officer 2nd Class Masao Yaguchi and Seaman 1st Class Mitsuyoshi Takasuka.”

Curiously, Smith does not provide a similar narrative for the pilots of Akagi’s second wave, nor does he provide any narrative whatsoever for the pilots of the other five aircraft carriers at Pearl Harbor. A rare and serendipitous occurrence, it’s as if Smith knew that these were the nine names I needed. 🙂 Akagi DeckAt any rate, once armed with the names of the nine pilots, obtaining additional information was simply a matter of checking indices, lists of aces, lists of deaths, and lists of academy graduates in other books, plus bits and pieces from the internet.

Notations

Two notations are necessary at this point. First, the spelling of Japanese names can often get mangled in translation. Thus, for consistency I’ve used the spelling in Hata et al’s Japanese Naval Fighter Aces 1932-45. For example, after several searches proved futile, I concluded that the following corrections were necessary to Peter Smith’s list: Shinatsugu Iwama was actually Shinaji Iwama; Yoshio Iwashiro was actually Yoshio Iwaki; Masao Yaguchi was actually Masao Taniguchi; and Mitsuyoshi Takasuka was actually Mitsuyoshi Takasuga.

Secondly, I thought it best to avoid using ranks after Pearl Harbor to avoid confusion, as pilots were promoted over the course of the war and it was not uncommon to promote pilots posthumously. For example, a pilot may have held the rank of seaman during Pearl Harbor but had been promoted to petty officer at the time of his death.

II. The Pilots: Low Odds of Survival

Below is a table of the Zeros that participated in Akagi’s first wave used in a previous post, modified to include the pilots’ names and the date of their deaths (DOD). I used various sources, most notably the aforementioned new edition of Hata et al’s Japanese Naval Fighter Aces 1932-45, which helpfully includes a couple of profiles of the Zeros used by these pilots.Akagi Pilots DODThough the Japanese pilots who participated in the Pearl Harbor attack were considered some of the most experienced, most highly skilled, best trained pilots in the world at the outbreak of the Pacific War, the odds of surviving the war were minimal, irrespective of experience, skill, or training. It is a sobering thought that, as the table graphically demonstrates, of the nine Akagi Zero pilots who participated in the first wave, six had perished by October 1942 — less than a year after Pearl Harbor — and another was killed by the end of the war. Only two of the nine pilots survived the war. While this sample size is too small to extrapolate to the 78 Zero pilots from all six carriers in both waves, it does provides a reasonable estimate of the number of survivors: probably around 17.

The table also makes clear just how difficult it was to make ace; i.e., to score five victories. As can be seen on the table, only two of the nine pilots accomplished the feat, one with 14 victories and one with 8 victories, despite the fact that these were some of the most experienced pilots in the world involved in arguably the most target-rich episode in human history. Thus, the odds of making ace were the same as those of surviving the war — roughly one in five. (NB: Let’s be clear, “victory” is a euphemism for “kill,” the term more commonly used. To be an “ace,” a pilot had to shoot down five enemy planes, which often resulted in killing five or more men. I use the term “ace” without any value judgment. These men were merely doing what their country asked of them. To the extent there’s admiration for an “ace,” it is not because the pilot killed other men but rather because of the skill necessary to survive.) 

III. Notable Pilots

While I’m fairly certain that much could be written about each one of these nine pilots, my goal was to identify them and their Zeros and ascertain whether they survived the war or made ace. I hope the table above achieves that modest purpose. However, I want to bring the reader’s attention to four of these pilots, without disrespect or attempt to diminish the achievements or sacrifices of the other five. These four pilots are pictured below; from left to right, they are Shigeru Itaya, Yoshio Iwaki, Masao Taniguchi, and Masanobu Ibusuki. Uncannily, all four appear in the first photo above and are specifically identified in the caption, despite the fact that only six of the 19 pilots pictured are mentioned in the caption.

Pilot Itaya    Pilot Iwaki    Pilot Taniguchi    Pilot Ibusuki

Shigeru Itaya, the overall commander of the 43 Zeros in the first wave, was covered in a previous post, soon to be rewritten with assistance received from readers familiar with Japanese sources. Please refer to that post by clicking here. Yoshio Iwaki, one of the two pilots who made ace, had earned eightTaniguchi Hata p. 347 (2) victories when he met his death August 24, 1942, in the Eastern Solomons, incidentally serving on the Shokaku — another carrier present at Pearl Harbor.

The other ace was Masao Taniguchi, pictured in the lagniappe photo at left, who not only has the distinction of achieving the most victories — 14 — but was also one of the two pilots who survived the war. After being shot down in October 1944, he was fortunate to be convalescing in Japan when the war came to an end. Coincidentally, Taniguchi, like Iwaki, also served on the Shokaku after the Akagi was sunk at Midway.

Because Iwaki and Taniguchi both made ace, information on them is slightly more available. See, for example, Hata et al’s Japanese Naval Fighter Aces for short biographies of these two. However, it was Masanobu Ibusuki, the other pilot who survived the war, and for whom little information is available, whose story I found compelling — and the subject of the next post.

As always, thank you for your indulgence and I hope you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful to other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. As mentioned, stay tuned for a brief biographic note on Masanobu Ibusuki in the next post.

The A6M Zero in 1/72: Akagi’s Zeros Prepare for Pearl Harbor Diorama, Part 2.3 – The Decaled Zeros

This is Part 2.3 of a series of posts on the construction of a Pearl Harbor diorama. It will depict the Zeros of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Akagi aircraft carrier preparing to take off during the first wave attack. This post is a follow-up to the previous post and concerns only the pre-built 1/72 scale Zeros to be used in the diorama with renumbered tail markings. To understand the concept of this diorama project, please refer to the previous posts. 

The Actual Akagi Zeros

As previously mentioned, the Akagi contributed nine A6M2 Zeros to the first wave attack. As a refresher, below is a table from a previous post of the Zeros that participated in Akagi’s first wave. Akagi's Zeros JPEG from Excel (2) - CopyThe Prebuilt 1/72 Scale Models

The photo below shows the prebuilt 1/72 scale Akagi Zeros currently available. It is immediately evident that of the nine actual Zeros that participated in Akagi’s first wave, only AI-155 and AI-154 have been produced in diecast. Unfortunately, the Corgi AI-154 is unusable as is, since Corgi used black, rather than red, tail numbers.Zero TailsThe Diorama Zeros

For purposes of the diorama, the goal is to use the five models in the photo above plus four spares — two additional Wittys and two additional FOVs. Only the Dragon AI-155 will be used unmodified; the remaining eight will require new tail numbers as per the chart above. Below is a notional photo of the expected result once the decals are applied. Zeros w New Tails

The Decaled Zeros

I searched extensively for MYK Design’s A-72009 Tora! Tora! Tora! Carrier Akagi 1/72 decal sheet (pictured below), since it includes five of the nine necessary tail numbers: AI-103, AI-107, AI-151, AI-155, and AI-158. (The AI-155 decal is unnecessary as I’ll be using the Dragon model that already carries that tail number.)  Alas, I was unsuccessful as the sheet has been out of print for years.

Ultimately, I had no choice but to make the decals myself. I enlarged the image at left, cleaned it up, enhanced the numbers as much as possible, and then reduced it back to 1/72 scale. I then printed the image on Micro-Mark decal paper.

To my dismay, I found that handling the decal sheet resulted in slight smudging. After rereading the decal paper directions, I reprinted the image and “fixed” it onto the sheet with Winsor & Newton fixative. Failure to apply a coat of fixative to protect the image will result in the image smudging like lead on a pencil drawing when touched.

The photo below shows the decal sheet printed on the Micro-Mark decal paper after the fixative had been applied.With decals in hand, I prepared the three Witty models for application of the decals by removing the tail numbers and yellow stripes as necessary — leaving two stripes for the AI-103; one stripe for the AI-107; and no stripes for the AI-158. See photo below.

There are essentially two ways to remove the tampo markings on diecast models: 1) by scraping them off, preferably with an X-Acto #10 curved blade; or 2) by applying some sort of solvent, such as Testors 1148 thinner or standard acetone for nail polish removal. I found that a combination of the two methods worked best for me. (Note: Do not use enamel thinner on plastic models. It will ruin the plastic finish.) Once the original markings were totally removed, I applied a coat of Pledge (Future) floor finish to ensure that the decals found a glossy base that would prevent silvering. (Pledge’s self-leveling properties are amazing!) After waiting a day for the Pledge to cure, I used Micro Set and Micro Sol solutions to apply the decals.

Micro Set prepares the surface where the decal is to be applied by cutting the oils in the paint, thus allowing the decal to slide on the surface, making it easier to reposition the decal as necessary. Micro Sol softens the decal, allowing it to conform to the surface of the model, which is particularly useful on irregular surfaces such as the panel lines and ridges on the Zero tails. Using these two solutions will help make the decals look “painted-on.” 

After waiting another day for the decals to dry, I again applied a coat of Pledge to completely seal the decals between two layers of Pledge. Of course, the Pledge application resulted in a glossy finish. After waiting yet another day, I sprayed the decals with Testors Dull Cote to give the tails a matte finish that matched the rest of the model. The photo below shows the results after the Dull Cote had dried.

In addition to an unmodified Witty model (AI-155), the photo below shows the three decaled Witty models (AI-103, AI-107, and AI-158), plus one decaled FOV model (AI-151). Note that some paint came off the tail of the FOV when I removed the tampo markings, giving it an unintended — though not totally unwelcome — weathered look. (Yes, I’m accepting that which I cannot change.  🙂  )As previously mentioned, Corgi inexplicably applied black tail numbers to the AI-154 (see inset in the photo below), rather than the well-documented red numbers. I removed the black numbers with Testors thinner and applied a decal with correct red numbers following the process discussed above. Note that the MYK Design A-72009 decal sheet did not include the AI-154 so I made the decals using letters and numbers from different fonts to simulate the MYK Design numbers. The lagniappe photo below shows the result. I made the extra decals standing by the tail in case I botched the first application — a common occurrence, at least for me, when applying decals. To summarize, six models are now ready: the unmodified Dragon AI-155 plus five decaled planes — three Witty models (AI-103, AI-107, and AI-158), one FOV (AI-151), and one Corgi (AI-154). I’ve decided not to decal the last three (AI-152, AI-153, and AI-156) as the FOV model did not respond well to removal of the tampo markings. Instead, I’ll use paper covers using the stencil in the previous post.

I apologize for such a tedious post. I realize that except for diehard readers, discussion of the tail numbers can get repetitive and confusing. Still, I think the photos by themselves tell the story. 

Again, thank you for your indulgence and I hope at least some of you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful to other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. Stay tuned for a brief discussion of the Zero pilots who participated in Akagi’s first wave attack in the next post.

The A6M Zero in 1/72: Akagi’s Zeros Prepare for Pearl Harbor Diorama, Part 2.2 – The Diorama Zeros

This is Part 2.2 of a series of posts on the construction of a diorama depicting the Zeros of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Akagi aircraft carrier preparing to take off as part of the first wave attack on Pearl Harbor. Providing the history of the Zero or its technical details is beyond the scope of this article. This post concerns only the prebuilt 1/72 scale Zeros to be used in the diorama. To understand the concept of this diorama project, please refer to the previous posts. 

The Actual Akagi Zeros

As previously mentioned, the Akagi contributed nine A6M2 Zeros and 27 B5N2 Kates to the first wave attack. As a refresher, below is a table from a previous post of the Zeros that participated in Akagi’s first wave. As is readily apparent, the tail numbers are all in the AI-150’s except for AI-103 and AI-107. Up to this point, I had deliberately avoided discussing the tail numbers as creating the correct numbers will be one of the more difficult parts of this project, as discussed below. Akagi's Zeros JPEG from Excel (2) - CopyThe Prebuilt 1/72 Scale Models

The photo below shows the prebuilt 1/72 scale Akagi Zeros currently available.* It is immediately evident that of the nine actual Zeros that participated in Akagi’s first wave, only AI-155 and AI-154 have been produced in diecast. AI-155 — Shigeru Itaya’s Zero — has been produced by Dragon, Forces of Valor, and Witty. A review of each can be found by clicking on the name of the manufacturer. A short biography of Itaya is also available by clicking on his name. AI-154 has been produced by Corgi. Unfortunately, despite all evidence to the contrary, Corgi inexplicably used black tail numbers rather than red numbers, for which there is abundant proof. AFV Club also produced an Akagi Zero — the AI-101 — that participated in the second wave. For the sake of completeness, it will be used in this project so collectors may compare models from all five manufacturers that have thus far produced an Akagi Zero. Zero TailsThe Diorama Zeros

For purposes of the diorama, the goal is to use the five models in the photo above plus four duplicates. The challenge is to create models with all of Akagi first wave numbers other than AI-155. Even AI-154 will be required as the tail number must be in red. The idea is to scrape off the original painted numbers and replace them with appropriate decals so that they match the table above.Corgi AI-154 As thus far I have been unsuccessful in finding the decals, I made a stencil of the tail to cover the tail numbers in the interim. I then scanned the color of each model and applied it to the tail stencil. Matching base colors proved more difficult than I had anticipated.

For those interested in how the colors of the five manufacturers compare, below is a plate showing a scan of each model’s base color. The color of the Corgi model is actually beige and the inset at left matches the model reasonably well. I’m perplexed, however, by the difference in the color of the Corgi model in the photos and conclude it’s due to the lighting. The FOV and Witty colors look very similar but that’s as close to the models as the scanner could make them. Once I made stencils for all five colors, I covered the tail of each model with a new number.The lagniappe photo below provides a notional idea of the intended result. At this point, the tail numbers appear to be a weak part of the project. That will change, however, once the decals are applied. Zeros w New TailsAgain, thank you for your indulgence and I hope you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful to other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. Stay tuned for photos of the models once the decals are applied.


* Witty also produced AI-101 and AI-102 but both were used in the second wave and, except for the tail numbers, are identical to the AI-155. While Atlas/Oxford (same casting) also produced aircraft carrier A6M2 Zeros, they did not make an Akagi Zero. Instead, Atlas produced a model from the Kaga while Oxford produced one from the Ryujo. 

The A6M Zero in 1/72: Akagi’s Zeros Prepare for Pearl Harbor Diorama, Part 2.1 – Prebuilt 1/72 Models

This is Part 2.1 of a series of posts on the construction of a diorama depicting the Zeros of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Akagi aircraft carrier preparing to take off as part of the first wave attack on Pearl Harbor. This post concerns only prebuilt 1/72 scale models depicting Zeros from the Akagi. To understand the concept of this diorama project, please refer to the previous two posts. 

Prebuilt 1/72 Scale Akagi Zeros

As I’ve indicated in the past, I lack the modeling skills to build the aircraft necessary for this diorama. Thus, I’ll be using nine prebuilt diecast 1/72 planes. To my knowledge, five manufacturers — AFV Club, Corgi, Dragon Wings, Forces of Valor, and Witty Wings — have tried their hand at producing models of the A6M2 Zero — the version of the Zero used at Pearl Harbor — specifically representing Zeros from the Akagi.*

The photo below shows the Akagi Zero models from the five aforementioned manufacturers, in alphabetical order from left to right. Note the difference in the base color, which reflects the continuing debate over the true color of the actual Zeros.Zero Fronts 3Below is an overhead shot of the five models. Note that the AFV Club and Dragon models have “inked” panel lines, burnt umber and black, respectively, which make the lines stand out. By contrast, the panel lines on the Witty, which are widely considered to be close to scale, are barely visible. My preference is the middle route taken by both Corgi and FOV — while their panel lines may be overscaled, the fact that they were not inked results in a Goldilocks look.Zero OverheadFinally, the lagniappe overhead shot below allows better comparison of dimensions. As is apparent from the photo, the difference in dimensions is de minimis (couldn’t resist the alliterative flourish). Ultimately, however, the reader can make that judgment.Zero Pentagon 1For purposes of the diorama, the plan is to use these five prebuilt models plus four duplicates to complete the nine Zeros in Akagi’s first wave. Since these manufacturers combined have produced only the AI-154 and AI-155, the project will require disguising the tail numbers so that they match the nine tail numbers used on the Akagi (see table in previous post). That is the subject of the next post. 

Again, thank you for your indulgence and I hope you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful to other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. As mentioned, stay tuned to see these Zeros with the nine new tail numbers in the next post.


* While Atlas Editions and Oxford Diecast also produced A6M2 Zeros for aircraft carriers, neither made an Akagi Zero. Atlas produced a model belonging to the Kaga aircraft carrier (AII-105). Using the same Atlas casting, Oxford Diecast later produced an A6M2 Zero model belonging to the Ryujo aircraft carrier (DI-108). In any case, the Atlas/Oxford models are wheels-up only (wheels are molded retracted into the lower fuselage), requiring a stand and making it difficult to pose them next to other models.

The A6M Zero in 1/72: Akagi’s Zeros Prepare for Pearl Harbor Diorama, Part 2 – The Tail Numbers

This is Part 2 of a series of posts on the construction of a diorama depicting the Zeros of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Akagi aircraft carrier preparing to take off as part of the first wave attack on Pearl Harbor. Providing the history of the Zero or its technical details is beyond the scope of this article. This post concerns only the tail numbers of the Zeros of Akagi’s first wave. To understand the concept of this diorama project, please refer to the previous post. 

The Akagi Zeros and Their Tail Numbers

As previously mentioned, the Akagi contributed nine Zeros and 27 Kates to the first wave attack. Below is a photo of the Zeros on the deck of the Akagi just prior to take-off.Akagi_Pearl_Harbor_Second_Wave_PrepTo create the diorama, it is necessary to determine what tail numbers were used in the first wave. In the aftermath of WWII, there was some controversy and confusion concerning the tail numbers of the various aircraft that participated in the attack and whether they Tamiya AI-101were in the first or second wave. Plastic model manufacturers, including Tamiya, even issued models of the AI-101 Zero with yellow command stripes. Photos later proved conclusively that the AI-101 did not carry the horizontal yellow command stripes on the tail and, in fact had participated in the second wave, not the first. Further research shed more light on the tail numbers and at this point the issue is mostly settled.

The table below provides context regarding where each of the Zeros fit within the organizational framework of Akagi’s aircraft. As in the past, I created the table for learners like me who want to visualize where a small piece fits into a larger whole. As I’ve previously made clear, I’m just an amateur enthusiast (redundancy intended) so please use the table at your own risk. I relied on a number of sources, particularly Peter Smith’s Mitsubishi Zero, photos of an Akagi display at the USS Arizona Memorial Museum, and bits and pieces from the internet. Note that the squadron was made up of three flights (shotai) of three aircraft each. The Zeros with horizontal yellow stripes led each three-plane flight. The two Zeros below each yellow-striped Zero belonged to the shotai’s wingmen, in order of rank. Akagi's Zeros JPEG from Excel (2) - CopyFor purposes of the diorama, I will be using nine prebuilt models made by AFV Club, Corgi, Dragon Wings, Forces of Valor, and Witty Wings. 

Again, thank you for your indulgence and I hope you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful to other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. Stay tuned for a photo overview of prebuilt 1/72 scale Zero models made specifically for the Akagi to be used in the diorama.

The A6M Zero in 1/72: Akagi’s Zeros Prepare for Pearl Harbor Diorama, Part 1 – The Concept

I derive more pleasure from my models when they’re combined with appropriate figures and placed in historically accurate settings — obviously within the limitations posed by 1/72 scale. Thus, I was eager to place the Zeros in my collection in a diorama recreating the scene on the Akagi aircraft carrier as its first wave prepared to take off for the attack on Pearl Harbor. This series of posts concerns the construction of such a diorama.

As mentioned in previous posts, the Akagi was the flagship — and one of six aircraft carriers — of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Kido Butai — the strike force that carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack was carried out in two waves, each comprising Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, Nakajima B5N Kate torpedo and level bombers, and Aichi D3A Val dive bombers. The Akagi contributed nine Zeros and 27 Kate bombers to that first wave. (Akagi’s Val dive bombers participated in the second wave.)

The superb illustration below depicts the Akagi as it prepared to launch its aircraft at Pearl Harbor. Note the nine Zero fighters amidships, parallel to the island, followed by the 27 Kate bombers aft of the midships elevator reaching all the way back to the stern.Force Flagship Akagi 2 (3)(NB: I found the unsourced illustration above on the internet. While sourced illustrations of the Akagi abound, this particular one actually depicts the formation of the Zeros and Kates of the first wave as they prepared to take off for Pearl Harbor. I would appreciate information on its source, both so I may provide proper attribution to the artist and perhaps acquire the plate at higher resolution. If you know the source, please contact me.)

The Akagi measured 855 feet from bow to stern but its wooden flight deck was 817 feet. The goal is to represent the 140 feet of the flight deck delimited by the yellow rectangle shown in the illustration below (roughly 1/6 of the entire flight deck). Akagi Diagram 5The project will require nine A6M2 Zero fighters plus one B5N2 Kate — the lone representative of the 27 Kates of the Akagi in the first wave. That leading Kate is significant, however, as it belonged to Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who was in overall command of all aircraft participating in the attack on Pearl Harbor. For those of us who grew up watching Tora! Tora! Tora! each year, who could forget Fuchida barking the codeword three times into his radio to indicate the Japanese had achieved complete surprise? 

The diorama will also require construction of the flight deck, the midships elevator, and the island superstructure. The enormous exhaust funnel on the starboard side, as well as the antiaircraft guns on either side of the carrier, are beyond the scope of this project as they’re located below the flight deck. (Forgive the funky orange outlined text. It was necessary to make the text stand out.)

This series of posts will cover the aircraft, pilots, deck crew, flight deck, and island superstructure. With any luck, the last post will bring all these elements together in a fairly straightforward diorama. Here’s the plan:

Part 1:      The Concept

Part 2:      The Actual Zero Tail Numbers
Part 2.1:   The Prebuilt Zero Models
Part 2.2:   The Diorama Zeros
Part 2.3:   The Decaled Zeros

Part 3:      The Actual Pilots
Part 3.1:   IJN Pilots in 1/72 Scale

Part 4:      The Deck Crew

Part 5:      The Flight Deck

Part 6:      The Island

Part 7:      The Diorama

The lagniappe photo below of aircraft preparing to take off from the Akagi provides a good idea of the project.Akagi__class_PH2W_fullWhile I intend to complete this project in the next three months, please remember the following stanza from Robert Burns’ immortal Scottish poem Tae a Moose, later popularized in English by John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men:

“But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”

Again, thank you for your indulgence and I hope you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful to other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. Please do contact me if you know the source of the illustration. Stay tuned for a synopsis of the Akagi’s first wave Zeros in the next post.

The Sherman in 1/72: A Firefly Named “Carole” in Normandy, Part 2 – “Brewing Up”

This is Part 2 of A Firefly Named “Carole” in Normandy. For a description of  the actual tank and a review of the Dragon model, please refer to the previous post.

The Crew of the “Carole” in Normandy

I was intrigued by the photo of the four young members of “Carole’s” crew in front of their vehicle “brewing up” at Gosport just before leaving England on their way to Normandy. The human interest value of the photo is immense, as we know the fate of at least two of these young men — Commander Fred Scamp perished soon thereafter, while Gunner Douglas Kay survived into old age. This type of photo where you look into the faces of men who will soon face their fate is always touching to me, whether the soldiers are American, British, Russian, German, Japanese, or any other nationality.

At any rate, I wanted to recreate the aforementioned photo, or something that evinced its feel. However, the fact that the photo was taken while “Carole” still had the wading trunk made it a non-starter as the Dragon model is of “Carole” after the trunk was removed. In addition, recreating anything that even looked like the background in the scene was beyond my meager modeling capabilities. The only avenue available to me was to depict the scene after “Carole” and its crew arrived in Normandy.

The aforementioned photo is on the left in the triptych below. (See previous post for a larger, uncropped view of this photo.) The middle photo shows “Carole” in Normandy. Note the high grass, the stone wall behind the tank, and the destroyed buildings behind that wall. The photo on the right shows a similar scene of a British tank crew with their Sherman. An interesting feature of the photo is that it includes tankers wearing different clothing. Click on the photo to enlarge it.carole-triptych-blue-lineThe Diorama

The diorama below is a composite of those three photos. The modest effort depicts the crew taking a break in front of their tank somewhere in Normandy. Note the tall grass and stone fence present in some photos taken during the Normandy campaign. I’m not unaware that the stone fence is inexplicably intact while the building is in ruins and the tree next to it is completely charred. Still, I concluded that carving rocks out of the wall to simulate damage would not be worthwhile as it could not match the picture in my head anyway.1-008-best-bwBelow is the same photo in color. Ever the philistine, I’m convinced that color photos are infinitely better than black & white photos. To me, continuing to film in B&W in this day and age, as was done in The Good German, which is actually an excellent film, is as silly as would be continuing to film silent movies even though we’ve mastered sound.

Note that the six tankers sport different uniforms, with the 1st, 4th, and 6th (from left) wearing standard British battledress serge while the 2nd and 3rd figures wear denim overalls. The 5th figure is dressed more casually, reflecting the motley nature of clothing in units throughout the war. These Milicast figures are nothing short of cromulent*. Click on the photo to embiggen* it.1-008-bestNote that all the men wear a black beret, the hallmark of a WWII British tanker. According to Military Modelling Vol.30 No.11, the design of the distinctive black beret was inspired by French berets used during WWI. The unstiffened crown allowed it to be easily stowed in the tight spaces within the tank while the dark color helped hide grime and stains inherent in working inside a tank.

This is not an idle observation as knowing that Brit tankers wore a black beret and Brit paras a red one would greatly enhance the casual viewer’s enjoyment of a A Bridge Too Far, as a red beret would immediately signal that the action is taking place at Arnhem. 🙂 By the same token, recognizing the “Screaming Eagles” patch versus the “All American” patch immediately reveals whether the action is taking place at Eindhoven or Nijmegen.3-032Note that the animals move from photo to photo. The tan horse with a white blaze, in particular, had trouble staying on its four legs so every time it tipped over I placed it somewhere else. 🙂 The photo below is my favorite out of the dozens I took of this diorama, though I’m uncertain why.4-030

“Everyone has a backstory and deserves a guess in the absence of facts,” Ara Hagopian.

For the first time in writing these posts I had an urge to create a backstory for the cat I whimsically placed just behind the turret number. Do my fellow German bloggers, who seem to be cat lovers, or any other readers have any ideas? 5-015The cattle and horses are Preiser HO scale prepainted figures, which at first blush appeared to me to be the same size as the horses and cattle in the unpainted Preiser 1/72 scale 72511 Horses, Cows, and Sheep set. 

An indolent man at heart, I opted for the prepainted figures to avoid: 1) clipping the 72511 figures from the sprue; 2) cleaning the flash and seams; 3) gluing the two halves of each figure together; 4) priming them to ensure the paint adheres; 5) painting them; 6) detailing them; and 7) being disappointed with the results. I learned afterwards, upon actually placing the two sets side by side, that the 1/72 scale figures were proportionately larger than the HO scale figures. Alas, Preiser is a German company, after all.6-066Note the tarps and blanket rolls on the rear hull of the tank. These are Value Gear pieces and they are superb. The stone fence is a Pegasus product that surprisingly looked the part with a simple black wash. 7-060Below is a fairly clear shot of the ruined building, which I had trouble bringing into focus at the same time as the tank and crew. Again, a photographer I am not. The realistic building is from the PMA Stalingrad set. PMA diorama pieces are really quite nice, though difficult to find.8-067“Brewing Up”

Much has been written about the British soldier’s expectation of regular tea breaks to the detriment of achieving the objective. Some have offered explanations of this phenomenon cloaked in scholarly terms. Nonsense. The Brits may love their tea, but as their opponents have found out throughout history, they certainly achieve their objectives.british-drinking-teaFor those of us non-British subjects, the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far was in some respects a formative reference on the peculiarly British affinity for drinking tea. The star-studded film has two important tea-related scenes that left an indelible impression on this blogger. 

The first scene, with Sean Connery, perfectly encapsulates how the British perceive drinking tea:

Major General Urquhart:

“Hancock, I’ve got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven’t arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea?”

Corporal Hancock:

“Couldn’t hurt, sir,” as he hands Urquhart a cup of tea.

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKr9eja-1cwa-bridge-too-far-2-bigThe second — this time heated — exchange features Robert Redford, and is more a reflection of how Americans perceive the British love affair with tea:

American Officer:

“I don’t understand, why aren’t you moving, what’s the matter with you guys? Those are British troops at Arnhem. They’re hurt, bad. You’re not going to stop, not now.”

British Tank Officer:

“I’m sorry, we have our orders.”

American Officer:

“We busted our asses getting here. Half my men are killed. And you’re just gonna stop . . .  and . . . drink tea? “

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1EsDkm_r3o

At the risk of belaboring the point, I believe ABTF was simply propagating an incorrect — yet widely held — belief among American soldiers that tea time was fairly important to the British. Still, at least in this case, let’s not blame Hollywood as this was a joint British/American production. ABTF was written by Cornelius Ryan, an Irishman; the screenplay was written by William Goldman, an American; and the film was directed by Richard Attenborough, an Englishman.

(Incidentally, what a cast! Laurence Olivier, Sean Connery, Ryan O’Neal, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Michael Caine, Gene Hackman, Dirk Bogarde, Edward Fox, Elliot Gould, and James Caan, just to name the Allies. Only Is Paris Burning?, Tora, Tora, Tora, and Midway come close. Also, those were real C-47 Skytrains/Dakotas in the film — eleven of them in total, borrowed from various countries, including Denmark, Djibouti, Finland, and Portugal. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 🙂 )

Irrespective of how it came to be, or whether it’s a fair or accurate characterization, it is undeniable that tankers-teaBritish tankers are now firmly entrenched in the modeler’s psyche as soldiers with a strong love affair with tea. Thus, regardless of the scale, they are often depicted “brewing up” with a “cuppa” in hand. The photo triptych at left, showing tanker figures in different scales, makes the point clearly. At left is the Milicast 1/76 figure used in the diorama; at center is a Dartmoor 1/48 figure; and at right is a Dragon 1/6 figure. The first two photos are from their respective manufacturer’s websites; the third I scanned from an article in the French magazine Steel Masters #58.

List of Diorama Pieces

For those interested, below is the source of each piece:

  • Tank: Dragon 60250 Firefly Vc, 13th/18th Royal Hussars, 27th Armoured Brigade, Normandy 1944;
  • Tarp and Blanket rolls on hull: Value Gear Allied Tents, Tarps, and Crates;
  • Crew: Milicast 061 British Squaddies and Milicast 054 British Troops;
  • Animals: Various Preiser HO and 1/72 sets;
  • Trees: Various Woodland Scenics;
  • Building: Precision Model Art PMA P0204 Stalingrad;
  • Stone Fence: Pegasus Hobbies 5202 Stone Walls;
  • Spoked Wheel: Hat 8260 WWI German Field Wagon;
  • Meadow: Woodland Scenics Grass Mat;
  • Tufts of Grass: Noch Scenemaster, Spring Grass Tufts; and
  • Backdrop: Silk poster ordered on Amazon from China.

I hope you enjoyed this simple diorama of “Carole” and its crew. Again, if something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful for other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, observations, and backstories for the cat are welcome.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

Once again, I’d like to thank my friend and fellow collector J. Buccellato of NY for his incredible skill and patience in painting the Milicast figures. He’s the sine qua non in creating these dioramas. His “therapy” is my joy. *For those not familiar with the two neologisms in this post, I highly recommend Season 7, Episode 16 of the Simpsons on the episode’s 20th anniversary. 🙂

The Filthy Thirteen of the 101st Airborne Division, Part 5: Preboarding Diorama

This is the fifth and final post of the Filthy Thirteen five-part series. For a synopsis of these colorful characters, creating the figures in 1/72 scale, selecting their weapons, and a look at the finished figures, please refer to the previous four posts, The Filthy Thirteen, Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively.

The Group Photo

As previously mentioned, our 1/72 scale Filthy Thirteen are bareheaded — clearly not in combat as they’re not wearing a helmet. Thus, one of the few plausible diorama options was a scene taking place just prior to boarding the aircraft. Before embarking on a mission, it was customary for a stick of paratroopers to pose for a group photo with the pilot and crew of the aircraft. (A paratrooper stick typically numbered 15-18 men.) The reader is directed to the History Channel’s Dangerous Missions: Pathfinders episode, for example, wherein a paratrooper recalls sitting for the group photo. “They must be taking a photo for our obituary,” he quips wryly. The photo below, for example, is of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment just before boarding for a mission. pathfinder-photo-506-pirThe Diorama

The diorama below depicting such a photo shoot at Upottery Airfield in East Devon, England, just before the Filthy Thirteen board their aircraft, is loosely based on this concept. A kneeling paratrooper, a sergeant, and a pilot stand directly facing the photographer, with the rest of the stick arranged in a semicircle in front of a Douglas C-47 Skytrain. A brief discussion and additional photos of the Skytrain appear in a separate section below.z-039-2Below is a close-up photo of the scene. The paratroopers have been discussed extensively in previous posts so I will not belabor them further. However, I point the reader’s attention to the pilot, who is also covered in a separate section below.014-2Below is a view from the right side. I was unable to locate a 1/72 scale U.S. photographer so I ended up using a Preiser HO scale figure. Note the three Jeeps, which were ubiquitous at Upottery Airfield.016-2Below is a view from the left side. Note the markings on the front bumper of the Willys Jeep on the right, which clearly identify it as belonging to the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. (Click on the photo to zoom in on the bumper.)020-3Below is an overhead shot. Note the drybrushing on the pilot’s leather jacket, which came out better than I expected, once again proving the adage, particularly applicable to me, that “even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” 034-2For those skeptical that paratroopers would actually pose for photos, I direct you to the photo below of Jake McNiece, taken just before the Filthy Thirteen boarded their C-47 on D-Day.posed-photo

The Pilot

Given that group photos often included the aircraft crew, the scene cried out for a pilot. As shown in the composite photo below, there are several U.S. pilot options in 1/72 scale.

us-pilots-graph
From left to right: Airfix 1748; CMK 72039; CMK 72221; Hasegawa 35008; and TQD-AA9.

While I considered the pilots from the Airfix 1748 U.S.A.F. Personnel, CMK 72039 US Army Pilots (resin), CMK 72221 USAAF Pilots (resin), and Hasegawa 35008 WWII Pilots sets, I ultimately opted for the pilot included in the white metal TQD-AA9 US Airborne Infantry & Pilot set, as I found it to have the quintessential WWII U.S. pilot “look.”

The TQD pilot sports the A-2 leather flying jacket so characteristic of WWII U.S. pilots. a-2-flying-leather-jacket-2The backs of these brown leather jackets were often decorated with squadron insignia, victory slogans, or pinup art, as seen in the illustration at left by Francis Chin taken from Osprey Publishing US Army Air Force. The TQD figure also wears the popular officer’s peaked cap that was often worn with the crown stiffener removed, both to get the stylish “crushed” look and, more importantly, to allow the headset to fit over the cap. Note also that these pilots are almost invariably depicted either smoking a cigarette, as in the illustration, or chomping on a cigar, as in the TQD figure. I rejected the Airfix and CMK figures because they appear to be wearing the winter B-3 jacket with fur collar. I note, however, that CMK resin figures are generally some of the most realistic 1/72 scale figures on the market. Similarly, I passed over the Hasegawa figure because it’s wearing the garrison side cap with earflaps, rather than the more distinctive peaked cap.

The Willys Jeep

Numerous sources of information on the jeep are readily available and the reader is directed to them. However, for the sake of completeness, below are several photos of the jeeps used in the diorama. To my knowledge, there are only two 1/72 scale jeeps that specifically represent the 101st Airborne Division. First, below is the Hobby Master HG4203, US Willys Jeep, 101st Airborne Div., 506th A.B. Regiment, Company “C,” Normandy, 6 June 1944 (2010).081-2Made of diecast, the Hobby Master’s heft is pleasing to the hand. Below is a portside view.094-2Below is a front view shot of the Hobby Master model. The markings of the 101st Airborne Division 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment are clearly visible on the bumper.099-2Pictured below is the only other 1/72 scale jeep specifically representing the 101st Infantry Division, the Dragon 60505, 1/4 Ton 4×4 Truck, U.S. Army Western Front 1944, 101st Airborne Division, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment, France 1944 (2011). 082-2Unlike the Hobby Master, the Dragon 60505 is all plastic and, like other Dragon jeep releases, comes bundled in a package of two. Below is a portside view.083-2Finally, below is a side-by-side photo of the Hobby Master and Dragon pieces. As is readily apparent from the photo, the Hobby Master (left) is slightly larger than the Dragon (right). I note that the proportions of the Hobby Master are identical to those of the Cararama and Zylmex 1/72 scale jeeps and it’s probably at scale. In addition, there are reports that the Dragon jeep is underscaled — probably at 1/76 scale. While the Hobby Master model is diecast and the Dragon piece is plastic, a quick glance at the radiator grilles in the photo below immediately attests to Dragon’s redeeming quality — realism.079-3The C-47 Skytrain

The first thing one notices in the diorama is the fabulous Douglass C-47 Skytrain behind the paratroopers. While the versatile “Gooney Bird,” as the Skytrain was known to Air Force personnel, had various military uses, its primary role was as a transport plane, ferrying paratroopers to its targets and becoming the most widely used transport of World War II. Douglas built 10,700 C-47s and more than 1,000 of these participated in the D-Day invasion alone. Below is a portside view of the diecast Corgi  AA38207 used in the diorama.018-2Band of Brothers, the highly acclaimed TV Mini-Series (2001) depicting the travails of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, brought international fame to the 506th PIR and spawned a number of products specifically depicting that unit. The Corgi AA38207, for example, represents the transport for Richard “Dick” Winters, the leader of the first platoon of the 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR of the 101st AD. Below is a starboard shot.031-2Below is a shot taken from the front. The 95 ft. 6 in. wingspan of the Douglass C-47 Skytrain was virtually identical to its German counterpart, the Junkers Ju52 “Tante Ju,” which had a wingspan of 95 ft. 11 in. Note the realistic transparent lens of the landing lights on the leading edge of the wings.022-2As can be readily appreciated in the photo below, the Corgi AA38207 is a magnificent piece of diecast. It’s unfortunate that the model disappeared from the shelves long ago. Note the pilot and co-pilot figures through the windows.027-2Below is shot of the portside fuselage. I almost wish Corgi had designed the model with an opening cargo door but such features often come at the expense of accuracy, making the models look toyish. Still, an opening cargo door would provide additional diorama opportunities.025-2The Terrain 

Because of their small size, creating realistic braille scale dioramas is inherently challenging — at least for a novice like me. In addition, the bases of the figures significantly detract from any setting, no matter how realistic it is. Thus, I had two options to try to improve the diorama: Either clip the bases of the figures as I have done for previous posts, or find a way to hide them. I opted for the latter.

I began by cutting out the flat part of styrofoam paper plate. I proceeded to draw the outline of the bases of the figures on the plate and carefully carved them out. When I inserted the figures into the recessed slots in the flat base, I found to my surprise that they fit snugly and were neatly flush with the base. The photo below shows the figures already embedded in the base. (Click on the photo to zoom in on the base.)z-004-2I then enlarged the base with additional styrofoam plates, covered it with hydrocal plaster to create contoured terrain, and painted it with acrylic paints. Finally, I flocked it with Woodland Scenics green and yellow grass to resemble Upottery Airfield in East Devon, England, whence the flights for D-Day originated. The photo below shows the countours of the terrain.001-2The Meltdown

While taking photos of the diorama in my backyard, I realized that the sky backdrop had warped, completely ruining the photos — and an entire morning. 🙁 Following a couple of hours of frustration attempting to salvage the photos by digitally cutting out the background, I decided to photograph the scene again. I was fairly certain that when I glued the silk poster to the cardboard backing I had achieved a good bond and there had been no warping. Still, I carefully unglued the poster and reglued it, using Elmer’s spray adhesive.

Despite diligent efforts and newly acquired photographic lights, indoor illumination continues to confound me, resulting in my strong preference for outdoor photography with natural light. Thus, after ensuring that there was no warping and the glue had set, I again moved the pieces outside and began to photograph. Alas, within ten minutes, the poster began to warp again. I suddenly realized that the 90 degree heat outdoors was melting the glue. As with the warped deck of an aircraft carrier in a previous project, I was once again paying the price of my incompetence and inability to take adequate photos indoors. Nonetheless, the few photos I managed to take before the meltdown were sufficient for this post. The side-by-side photo below is worth a thousand words.contrast-5

List of Diorama Pieces

For those interested, below is the source of each piece:

  • Photographer: Preiser 28069, Photographer (HO Scale);
  • Pilot: TQD Castings, TQD-AA9, US Airborne Infantry & Pilot Boarding Aircraft;
  • Paratroopers: Various sets (see previous four posts);
  • Jeep (far right): Hobby Master HG4203, US Willys Jeep, 101st Airborne Div., 506th A.B. Regiment, Company “C,” Normandy, 6 June 1944 (2010);
  • Other Jeeps: Dragon 60505, 1/4 Ton 4×4 Truck, U.S. Army Western Front 1944, 101st Airborne Div., 401st Glider Infantry Rgt., France 1944 (2011);
  • Aircraft: Corgi AA38207, Douglas C-47 Skytrain, USAAF 439th TCG, 50th TCW, June 5th, Upottery, England (2014);
  • Meadow: Styrofoam plates painted with acrylic colors and flocked with Woodland Scenics grasses;
  • Backdrop: Silk poster ordered on Amazon from China.

This series of posts began with a wonderful painting of the Filthy Thirteen by Joel Iskowitz. It is only fitting, therefore, that it end with another beautiful painting. The lagniappe painting below, entitled We Were a Band of Brothers, is by John D. Shaw. It is reproduced here for discussion purposes under the fair use exception to the copyright laws. z-john-d-shaw-we-were-a-band-of-brothersI hope you enjoyed this simple diorama and the Filthy Thirteen series of posts. Again, if something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful for other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome.

The Doolittle Raid, April 1942, Part 3: Take-Off Diorama in 1/72 Scale

This is a follow-up to the two previous posts, The Doolittle Raid, Parts 1 & 2. For details of the actual raid and B-25 Mitchells in 1/72 scale, please refer to those posts.

The well-known photo below, taken from The Doolittle Raid 1942, Osprey Campaign 156, by Clayton Chun, shows a B-25 Mitchell about to take off from the deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942. I believe the photo is a still from newsreel footage of the actual take-off. Note the choppy waters caused by high winds on that cold, damp morning. The harsh weather conditions forced the planes to burn more fuel than they would have otherwise.4 Doolittle Raid Osprey (2)Here’s a 1/72 scale recreation. As always with these diorama photos, there is no photoshopping. It’s one of my self-imposed constraints.7 108 (8)Here’s the same photo in full color. 6 108 (5)The model is the Corgi AA35312 B-25B Mitchell “Ruptured Duck,” flown by Lt. Ted Lawson, author of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. For a review of this model, see the previous post.1 144 (3)The figures are from the Corgi US61005 F4U-1D Corsair. I made the checkered flag from cardboard and added it to the signal officer to match the original photo. It’s 1/4 the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny.2 147 (3)I built a section of the USS Hornet’s deck on a large styrofoam base using a scanned copy of the 8″x8″ aircraft carrier deck base included in the Corgi US61005 F4U-1D Corsair. After scanning the Corgi base, I reproduced it a dozen times and then combined the scans with graphics software to make a larger deck, ensuring the plank segments matched. The only difficulty was in blending in the white guidelines. I then printed the entire deck section on paper and glued it to the styrofoam base. Unfortunately, being made of paper, the miserable thing warped from the glue. I was so focused on the plane when taking the photos that I failed to notice the warping until I was cropping the photos. Rats!3 116 (3)I photographed the scene by the side of the swimming pool next to one of the pool jets to ensure some “turbulence,” such as it is. The result exceeded my expectations, something entirely too rare.4 156 (3)Here’s a view from the front. Note the two white lines on the deck that the pilots used as guides. The different widths of the lines and the distance between them and the edge of the deck are at scale. The propellers turn freely and I considered placing a fan in front of them for a spinning effect as I took the photo. Alas, I managed to resist the urge. Compulsive personalities will likely relate to the comment. 🙂  5 121 (3)Here’s a lagniappe photo of a B-25 Mitchell taking off from the USS Hornet. I captured it from a widely available newsreel clip of one of the B-25 Mitchells taking off. Note the flag used by the signal officer — clearly a 4×4 checkered flag. Again, note the choppy waters. The take-off runs for the Doolittle Raid were timed to coincide with the B-25 Mitchells reaching the Hornet’s bow when it was at its high point on a swell, rather than its low point on a trough, thus assisting with the take-off.3 Doolittle Raid NewsreelI hope you enjoyed this simple diorama. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. Stay tuned next week for Part 4, regarding potential Doolittle Raid liveries for consideration by diecast manufacturers.

Operation Eiche: The Liberation of Benito Mussolini in 1/72 Scale

I recently read Fallschirmjager at the Gran Sasso: The Liberation of Mussolini, by Oscar Gonzalez Lopez. The Fallschirmjager’s daring rescue of Mussolini on September 12, 1943, is one of the most famous raids of WWII and needs no recounting here. Suffice it to say that Lopez’s account is an excellent read with a somewhat new interpretation of the raid — essentially giving credit to Major Harald Mors, who planned the rescue operation, rather than the flamboyant Otto Skorzeny, who it is claimed was given credit at the time for propaganda purposes.

Here’s one of many photos taken during the rescue operation. Skorzeny, with binoculars, appears on the far left, next to Mussolini.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

On the book cover was this wonderful illustration by Ramiro Bujeiro, inspired by several photos taken during the raid, including the one above. In addition to the colors, I loved the way Bujeiro captured an entire event with just six elements: Mussolini smack in the center, Skorzeny walking behind him, the paratrooper representing the 82 Fallschirmjager who took part, the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch essential for the escape, the Campo Imperatore alpine meadow, and the Gran Sasso Mountain in the background.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

Following up on Bujeiro’s painting, here’s the recreation in 1/72 scale — just six elements.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

I don’t know whether this photograph was originally in color or was later colorized. Either way, I tried to capture the fall season look of the grass at the Campo Imperatore meadow.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

For those interested, here’s the source of each piece:

  • Mussolini: TQD Castings TQD112 WWII Era Kriminalpolezei metal figure set with machine gun cut out;
  • Skorzeny: Italeri 6134 German Paratroops (Tropical Uniform) set;
  • Fallschirmjager: Italeri 6134 German Paratroops (Tropical Uniform) set;
  • Aircraft: Falcon Models FA724005 Fieseler Fi 156 Storch, “Gran Sasso”;
  • Meadow: Styrofoam base painted with acrylic colors to look like Campo Imperatore;
  • Background: Photo of actual Gran Sasso Mountain.

I hope you enjoyed the post.  As always, your comments are welcome.