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.

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

Tank enthusiasts frequently admire a tank and blissfully identify its markings as well as its physical features — the version or type of hull, turret, gun, running gear, or tracks. This tendency to focus on the vehicle, rather than what it represents, holds especially true for Sherman tanks, which carry dizzying combinations of  these various elements. We often forget, however, that each of these fighting vehicles was manned by five young men who had names and families and dreams, and many made the ultimate sacrifice inside those very vehicles. “Carole” stands out in that Douglas Kay, its gunner, survived the war and serves as a reminder of the human element we often ignore.

The Actual Tank

“Carole” was a Sherman Mark V Firefly belonging to the 13th/18th Royal Hussars Regiment of the 27th Armoured Brigade of the British Army. In its eight-month operational life, “Carole” participated in the D-Day invasion in Normandy in June 1944 and in Operation Market Garden in Holland in September 1944. It was destroyed in Germany in February 1945.

Below is the best known photo of “Carole” preparing to be loaded onto a Normandy-bound landing craft at the Port of Gosport in Southern England, on June 3, 1944. The photo is from the Imperial War Museum archives (IWM H38995) and is used here under their non-commercial license. Note the deep wading trunk at the rear of the hull, behind the gun, which itself has been traversed to face the rear for embarkation. THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 1939-45 (H 38995) A Sherman Firefly and Sherman tanks of 'C' Squadron, 13th/18th Royal Hussars waiting to be loaded aboard landing ships at Gosport, 3 June 1944. The Firefly crew in the left foreground are Trooper Fred Shaw, Trooper Doug Kay, Sergeant Fred Scamp and Trooper Bill Humphries. Their vehicle was named 'Carole'. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205126259“Carole” and the 13th/18th Royal Hussars took part in the Normandy landings on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944, successfully spearheading the invasion force in support of  the British 3rd Infantry Division. Sword Beach, assigned to the British Army, was the easternmost Allied landing site. All told, almost 30,000 allied troops came ashore at Sword Beach, with losses of 683 men. The IWM photo below shows “Carole” still equipped with its wading trunk.carole-4-2Below is another IWM photo (B5471) of “Carole” in the village of Bréville-les-Monts, on June 13, 1944, a week after D-Day. The Germans had occupied the village in early June and from there had been attacking British positions at Sword Beach. “Carole’s” unit, Squadron C of the 13th/18th Royal Hussars, successfully supported the 6th Airborne Division in securing Bréville, thereby protecting the beachhead. Forgive the graininess of the photo, which has been enlarged from a shot taken at considerable distance. Note that by this time the trunk had been removed.carole-scan-1Once the landings were completed and secured, the British Army disbanded the 27th Armoured Brigade in July 1944, and “Carole” and the 13th/18th Royal Hussars were transferred to the 8th Armoured Brigade. During this time, “Carole” is credited with knocking out a Tiger and a Panther on August 11-12, 1944, towards the end of the Normandy campaign. As part of Operation Market Garden, “Carole” crossed the Nijmegen Bridge, a key Allied objective, on September 21, 1944. The fighting was so brutal at Nijmegen that it came to be known as “Little Omaha” and has been compared to Guam, Tarawa, and Omaha Beach.

“Carole” was destroyed on February 12, 1945, in Goch, Germany, by an 88mm round that entered through the mantle and lodged itself in the radio box at the rear of the turret. The round killed Sgt. Fred Scamp, the commander, and Trooper Wilson, a substitute gunner who was filling in for Douglas Kay, who was on leave that particular day. Kay refers to himself as the “luckiest man” in the world because of this tragic but fortuitous event.

The Model

The Dragon 60250 Sherman Firefly is a special Dragon release issued during the 2006 Dragon Expo in Europe. It is one of the most sought-after Dragon fireflies, and for good reason. A look at the photos below reveal a finely crafted model from Dragon’s heyday, when workmanship was at its apex. The model represents “Carole” after the landing at Normandy, once the wading trunk had been removed. “Carole” was assigned to “C” Squadron, necessitating that its name begin with that letter. Sgt. Fred Scamp, the tank commander, named “Carole” after his daughter, who was born in 1944. In the photo below, note the red circle indicating “C” Squadron, just aft of the name. A triangle would indicate “A” Squadron, while a rectangle would indicate “B” Squadron.1-port-3-047-3Below is a front view photo. Note that “Carole” has the early bolted three-piece transmission cover, as opposed to the cast one-piece cover. Note also that the model does not have the stowage box above the transmission cover visible in the first photo of the actual tank above. This is not a mistake. The stowage bin was temporarily moved from its permanent place at the rear of the hull to the front of the hull to allow the wading trunk to be installed. Once the tank landed and the trunk was removed, the stowage bin was reinstalled in its original place on the rear plate of the hull. Finally, note that while Dragon has often bungled the tracks on its Shermans, “Carole” is equipped with the correct T54E1 steel chevron tracks recognizable in the aforementioned photo.

Dragon faithfully rendered on the transmission cover the colorful and distinctive markings so characteristic of British tanks. Starting from the left, the “33” inside a yellow circle is a bridge classification number, indicating that the Firefly weighed 33 tons, as compared to a standard 30-ton Sherman. The “51” inside the red box identifies the regiment to which “Carole” belonged. The 27th Armoured Brigade had three regiments: the 13th/18th Royal Hussars were assigned “51”; the Staffordshire Yeomanry, “52”; and East Riding Yeomanry, “53.” The yellow seahorse on a blue shield, colloquially known as the “pregnant pilchard,” is the emblem of the 27th Armoured Brigade. The seahorse was a reference to the cavalry roots of its regiments. 2-front-043-3Below is a starboard profile photo of “Carole.” Note the cast surface on the cheek of the turret, which differs from the smooth surface of the metal on the hull — another example of Dragon’s outstanding attention to detail. The British Firefly wielded a 76.2mm gun and the length of the barrel was a whopping 13 ft. 9 in. Incidentally, each troop comprised four tanks — one 17-pounder Firefly and three 75mm Shermans. The other tanks in “Carole’s” 2nd Troop were “Charmer” (68), “Cameo” (69), and “Cavalier” (70).3-starboard-2-037-2Note the “71” on a square black oilcloth on the face of the blanket box in the photo below. The black square was intended to provide more contrast with the red number, making it more visible. As previously mentioned, the model represents “Carole” after it had landed and the wading trunk had been removed with the stowage box moved back to its original place on the rear plate of the hull. Finally, note Dragon’s signature drybrushing that highlights the edges throughout the tank, providing a “worn” look.5-back-039-2The semi-overhead shot below provides a view of the commander’s round hatch as well as the loader’s rectangular hatch on the top of the turret. Note the radio box attached to the back of the turret. In order to fit the huge 76.2mm gun in the 75mm turret, the British removed the radio from the interior and attached it to the rear of the turret. Attached behind the radio box is a blanket box. Note the War Department identification number “T 228789.” Of course, the “T” indicates “tank.” Among others, an “L” before the number would indicate a lorry, an “M” a car, and a “S” a self-propelled gun. 4-port-4-049-3Beyond the Call of Duty

Probably the most outstanding feature of the Dragon piece is the accuracy of the turret. The close-up photo below clearly shows that the turret of the “Carole” did not have a pistol port.carole-scan-biggest-2 Firefly turrets were converted 75mm turrets, which had a pistol port on the rear port side of the turret. In April 1943, the U.S. Ordnance Department determined that it was a ballistic hazard and ordered builders to eliminate it from the turret. The response from the field was so negative, however, that the Ordnance Department reversed the order in July 1943. Still, a number of 75mm turrets without the pistol port were produced during those three months, and “Carole” appears to be one of those. 

The side-by-side photos below from the Sherman Minutia Website show the two different Sherman 75mm turrets as regards the pistol port — the common one with a pistol port and the uncommon one without. 2-pistol-portsDragon brought us two terrific British Fireflies: the Dragon 60250 “Carole” (right) and the 60251 “Velikye Luki” (left) in the side-by-side photo below. Other than the markings and the addition of the blanket box on the “Carole,” the two are nearly identical. Obviously, the most important difference is the absence of the pistol port on the turret of the “Carole” – highlighted in yellow on the “Velikye Luki.” Dragon could have easily taken a short cut and simply used the same common turret on both. Instead Dragon was faithful to both tanks, and produced two different turrets — in my view, a commendable decision.004-2-paint-2In that same vein, note the siren on the front port side fender just above the tracks. If you click on the photo you will find that the siren has a “V” for victory grill used on the actual sirens — a minute detail but indicative of Dragon’s erstwhile zeal.

A Little Back Rub

Forgive the lame pun, but “Carole’s” only fault — the “rub” — is that Dragon failed to include markings on the rear plate of the tank hull. There are no clear photos of “Carole” from the rear, though barely visible on one of the photos above is the “51” regiment number on the port side of the rear plate. However, the photo below from British Tanks in Normandy by Ludovic Fortin clearly shows that other tanks of the 13th/18th Hussars — this is “Balaclava” — carried both the “51” regiment number and seahorse markings on the rear plate.balaclava-markings-scan-paintBelow is a corresponding rear view photo of “Carole” sans markings.003-2The Upshot

There is no question that the Dragon 60250 Firefly is a little gem — a rare combination that brings together human interest, historical significance, and accuracy in detail. From the transmission housing to the rear plate and from the steel tracks to the turret hatches, this piece is well crafted. The accuracy of the turret — with its cast surface, radio box, blanket bin, lack of a pistol port, and markings — makes for an outstanding model. The superb finish, light drybrushing, and crisp markings throughout the tank make this an exceptional piece.

The Profile

In 2005, Military Modelling magazine conducted a series of interviews with Douglas Kay, resulting in a terrific, well-illustrated article in its July 2005 issue that featured “Carole” on its cover. The beautiful color profile below comes from that article. It’s a sure bet that Dragon used this profile as its guide. 6-carole-profile-military-modelling-1024x378What little information there is about the actual “Carole” comes from that issue. Should the reader be interested in finding it, below is a photo of the magazine cover. The triptych also includes a photo of 19-year-old Kay in 1944 and Mr. Kay in his 80’s in 2005.

douglas-kay-tryptichThe Crew

Finally, so we can put faces to “Carole,” below is a lagniappe photo of the crew brewing up. From left to right: Fred Shaw (loader/radio operator), Douglas Kay (gunner), Fred Scamp (commander), and Bill Humphries (driver).

 5-crew-439x369

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 for other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. Stay tuned for a simple diorama of “Carole” in the next post.

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 Filthy Thirteen of the 101st Airborne Division, Part 4: The Finished Figures

This is the fourth of a five-part series on the Filthy Thirteen. For a synopsis of these colorful characters, creating the figures in 1/72 scale, and selecting their weapons, please refer to the three previous posts, The Filthy Thirteen, Parts 1, 2 & 3.

Although I generally paint my own figures, my skills are mediocre at best, and I was too excited about this particular set to ruin it with my efforts. I freely concede: I’m a dilettante — I dabble in everything and master nothing. Thus, I turned to a genuine hobbyist with real expertise for help. The awesome results of his skill, dedication, and patience follow.  

Before we start, let’s put things in perspective. I fully understand that most people reading this post are z 007 - Copy (2)familiar with 1/72 scale and know the height of a typical figure. However, for those casual internet browsers who happen upon this site, the average 1/72 scale figure is approximately 1 inch or 25 mm tall. Borrowing a practice from the terrific WW2 Germans in 1/72 website, the photo at left provides perspective to help us understand the significant painting challenges posed by this scale. I know hobbyists who use a one-bristle paint brush for detail work. In addition, anyone who has done this will understand the severe eye strain and occasional headache that results from concentrating on a figure. And yet, those of us who engage in this activity know the nirvana with which we’re rewarded. 🙂 Yes, I love doing it; I just stink at it.

The Painted Figures

The following pictures follow the order established in the Figure Chart of the two previous posts. Unless otherwise specified, comments always refer to the photo below the comments.

BELOW: Here are the first four figures. Note the warpaint on their mugs, bearing in mind that the width of their faces is about 2 mm. Note the patches used to reinforce the elbows and knees on the jackets and trousers, a distinct characteristic of paratrooper uniforms. The Revell BAR gunner (second from left) is wearing the BAR belt with six pockets, each for two 20-round magazines, giving him a total of 240 rounds. Note the magazine pouches on the belt of the ESCI figure with the M1A1 Thompson submachine gun (third from left).

023
From left to right: Revell, Revell, ESCI, and ESCI.

BELOW: Note the hand-painted U.S. flag patches on the right shoulder. Astute observers will immediately notice that the flag is seemingly facing in the wrong direction as the applicable U.S. Army regulation requires that the “star field face forward,” like a flag flying in the breeze as it is carried forward. In other words, the regulation requires the flag to be backwards when on the right shoulder.

However, U.S. paratroopers were allowed to use the regular U.S. flag patch, probably because they were dropped behind enemy lines and needed to be easily identified by advancing U.S. forces. (I found at least a dozen photos of WWII U.S. paratroopers wearing the regular U.S. flag patch on their right shoulders before I was convinced.) 025BELOW: Note the famed Screaming Eagle shoulder patches of the 101st Airborne Division on the left shoulder. Only the painter knows how much eye strain these patches are worth. Another U.S. Airborne characteristic is the M3 trench knife and scabbard attached to the lower leg, as can be seen in the picture above on the right leg of the two ESCI figures on the right. A peculiarity of the ESCI set is that 13 of the 14 figures in the set sport the knife in the same fashion — the prone machine gunner being the only exception. The other sets only have two or three figures carrying the trench knife.027BELOW: The ESCI figure on the far right has the 10-inch M1 Bayonet attached to the folding stock M1A1 Carbine. The M1 Bayonet became standard in 1943, replacing the earlier 16-inch bayonet. Note the “U.S.” designation on the covers of the entrenching tool and canteen on the same ESCI figure. 026BELOW: Here are the second four figures. Note that the head on the Caesar figure on the far left is disproportionately large — a melonhead if I ever saw one. Although the Revell figure (second from left) appeared to lack facial detail, paint really brought it out. Note the 10-inch bayonet attached to the M1 Garand rifle on the Caesar figure on the far right. 

7 028
From left to right: Caesar, Revell, ESCI, and Caesar.

BELOW: Note that the first three figures — the three original Pathfinders with Mohawk haircuts — have the M3 trench knife attached to the lower right leg, making them honest paratroopers. Created by three different sculptors, note the difference in the heads. This variety in heads is realistic and the welcome result of mixing figures from different companies. Note the first aid pouch on the right leg of the walking Caesar figure (far right), who also sports one of the Caesar melonheads. These first aid kits typically contained field dressing and morphine.

030BELOW: ESCI’s attention to detail is evident in the inclusion of a helmet attached to the back of its Pathfinder figure (third from left). Neither the Caesar nor the Revell bareheaded Pathfinders with Mohawk haircuts (first and second from left) thought to include a helmet.032BELOW: Note the M1936 Musette Field bag on the back of the Caesar figure on the far right. Though usually associated with paratroopers, this lightweight canvas backpack was also available to officers in the regular infantry.031BELOW: Here are the last four figures. Note the Imex figure (second from left) is tall but slim, lending greater variety to the figures. Note the yellow gloves on the Italeri figure holding the M9 Bazooka (far right), recommended to protect the hands in case of back-flash when the rocket left the muzzle.

033
From left to right: Caesar, Imex, Imex, and Italeri.

BELOW: Note that the Italeri bazooka gunner (far right) has the M3 trench knife on his lower right leg.

034

BELOW: I could not identify the bag on the left hip of the Caesar figure (far left). While it’s probably an M1936 Musette field bag, it’s missing the two straps and buckle to close the flap, as seen on the two Imex figures next to it.

036

BELOW: Of particular interest is the folded M1A1 Carbine on the back of the bazooka gunner (far right). This may be the only folding stock M1A1 Carbine that is actually folded in the various sets. On the same figure, note as well the superb rendition of the “U.S.” designation on his canteen. Note that both Imex figures in the middle have the M1936 Musette field bag. As with the ESCI sculptor who included the distinctive trench knife on virtually all his paratroopers, the Imex sculptor’s idiosyncrasy was to include the characteristic musette field bag on all but two of his 14 paratroopers.

035BELOW: Here are some photos of the TQD figure, completing the Filthy Thirteen. It bears mentioning again that TQD white metal figures are generally excellent, with realistic proportions, fine detail, and historical accuracy. 

Pathfinder (2)
TQD AA5 Pathfinder white metal figure

Comparison Chart

Finally, below is a lagniappe comparison chart that summarizes the project. It shows the original figures with helmets, the set they came from, the figures with the transplanted heads, and the finished figures, as well as the weapon each carries.Filthy Thirteen Final 2

The Upshot

I was pleasantly surprised by the results of this project, an honest and well-intentioned 1/72 scale tribute to the Filthy Thirteen, “the orneriest, meanest group of paratroopers” who ever lived. And it was loads of fun to boot. However, I do have two regrets, as discussed previously: 1) I wish I’d used an Airfix figure to represent all available U.S. paratrooper sets; and 2) I wish I’d used a figure with an M3 “grease gun” to better represent most of the small arms used by U.S. paratroopers.

I hope you enjoyed this Filthy Thirteen series of posts. If something looks amiss, please remember that I’m just an amateur enthusiast (redundancy intended) and let me know. I would be delighted — truly — to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful for other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. Stay tuned next week or so for Part 5, a simple diorama featuring these characters. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. 

—————————————————————————————————————————-

I want to thank my friend and fellow collector Joe Buccellato, of NY, whose love of craft, workmanship, and patience far exceed mine — “therapy,” he calls it. He enthusiastically painted these figures and to the extent they succeed the credit is all his. I’m fortunate he’s a Civil War collector for I doubt he’d part with my WWII figures after he paints them. More of his outstanding work will be featured in future posts.

The Filthy Thirteen of the 101st Airborne Division, Part 3: Selecting the Weapons

This is the third of a five-part series on the Filthy Thirteen. For a synopsis of these colorful characters and creating the figures in 1/72 scale, please refer to the two previous posts, The Filthy Thirteen, Parts 1 & 2.

U.S. Army Airborne Weapons

The nature of U.S. Airborne troops in WWII was such that their weapons had to be specialized, usually to make them lighter or more portable. Because paratroopers were often dropped behind enemy lines where resupply was uncertain, they had to schlep loads of 100 lbs. or more on their backs, making lighter, more portable weapons a must.

As I mentioned in Part 2, one of my goals was for the 1/72 scale unit to reflect as many of the weapons used by U.S. paratroopers as possible. I compiled the weapons plate below from a number of illustrations contained in various Osprey books, including US Army Airborne 1940-1990, US Paratrooper 1941-1945, US Army Airborne and Paratroops; and US Army Paratrooper in the Pacific Theatre 1943-45. The Pathfinder illustration is by renowned military artist Ron Volstad. The plate summarizes the small arms — hand-held small caliber firearms, such as handguns, rifles, manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic weapons — used by U.S. paratroopers. US Airborne Paratrooper Weapons 13

Figure and Weapons Chart

Below is a chart showing the weapons used by each of the selected figures. A discussion of each weapon follows. Where the options were limited for a particular weapon, I’ve included photos of the various alternatives.Weapons Chart

Weapons in 1/72 Scale

1. M1911A1 Colt .45 Pistol: The venerable seven-round, semi-automatic .45 caliber “Colt 45,” introduced prior to WWI, was issued to officers, non-commissioned officers, and machine gunners and was so effective that it wasn’t replaced until 1986, 75 years and several wars after its debut.

042
Left, Revell; right, Imex.

Every unit has an officer — always with binoculars and a pistol — and the various paratrooper sets offer different alternatives. However, only the Revell and Imex officers have a pistol in hand and the latter is clearly firing his in combat, leaving the Revell figure as the only choice. See photo inset at left. While it is impossible to determine at this scale what pistols the officers are really wielding, we must assume they’re the M1911A1 Colt .45 pistol, common with U.S. Airborne officers. 

 

2. M3 Submachine Gun “Grease Gun”: The .45 caliber M3 Submachine gun was designed to be a simplified, cheaper ($20) replacement for the Thompson submachine gun. Commonly known as

047
From left to right: Caesar, Imex, Italeri, and Revell.

the “grease gun” because of its visual similarity to an actual mechanic’s grease gun, it was unjustly perceived to be less reliable than a Thompson, though its lighter weight (8 lbs.) made it popular among paratroopers who had to schlep loads of 100 lbs. or more on their backs.

For the most part, I succeeded in representing all the standard weapons used by U.S. Airborne troops shown in the Weapons Plate above. However, I failed to use a figure with the M3 “grease gun,” though there were four available. See photo inset above. Note how well-defined the weapon is on the Imex figure (second from left; click on the photo to enlarge). The proportions, detail, and sculpting on the Imex figures are dead-on.

3. M1 Garand Rifle: The semi-automatic, 8-round .30 caliber M1 Garand rifle replaced the 1903 Springfield rifle as the standard issue for U.S. troops in 1938, giving U.S. soldiers a distinct advantage over the slower German K-98 bolt-action rifle, which had become standard Wehrmacht issue in 1935. General Patton considered it “the greatest battle implement ever devised” and many soldiers preferred the M1 Garand’s greater range and stopping power over the M1 Carbine that was supposed to replace it. By the end of the war, over five million M1 Garands had been produced.

The various U.S. paratrooper sets included many figures with the M1 Garand rifle, reflecting the fact that it was the most common weapon used by U.S. Airborne troops. Thus, there were a number of choices and four of the selected 13 figures are carrying one, including one with the 10-inch M1 Bayonet attached. (See the Figure and Weapons Chart above.) 

4. M1 Carbine w/ Wooden Stock: The semi-automatic, 30-round, .30 caliber M1 Carbine, which replaced the M1 Garand as the standard issue rifle in 1942, was intended to be smaller and lighter than the M1 Garand. At 35.5 in. and 5.5 lbs, it was, in fact, eight inches shorter and weighed four pounds less than the M1 Garand, making it well suited for paratroopers. With more than six million wood-stocked M1 Carbines produced, it was much more widely used by U.S. forces than its cousin, the folding stock M1A1 Carbine, of which only 150,000 were made. However, designed specifically for U.S. paratroopers, the M1A1 Carbine was more common among this group.

As with the M1 Garand rifle, the various U.S. Airborne sets offered a fair selection of figures equipped with the M1 Carbine. As noted, however, the folding stock M1A1 Carbine was more widely used by U.S. paratroopers so I selected only one figure carrying the M1 Carbine, the Revell figure (sixth from left), as can be seen on the Figure and Weapons Chart above.

5. M1A1 Carbine w/ Folding Stock: Identical to the M1 Carbine except for the folding metal stock, the M1A1 Carbine was 25 inches long when folded, fully 10 inches shorter than the M1 Carbine, making it an excellent weapon for the highly mobile paratroopers.

Given that the M1A1 Carbine was specifically designed for U.S. paratroopers, it is no surprise that at least 10 figures in the various U.S. paratrooper sets are equipped with it. The ESCI set alone includes five figures wielding this weapon. There are three figures with the M1A1 Carbine in the selected 13 — the ESCI (fourth from left) and Caesar (ninth from left) figures shown on the Figure and Weapons Chart above plus the Italeri figure (far right) with the M9 Bazooka, who carries the M1A1 Carbine on his back. 

6. M1A1 Thompson Submachine Gun: One of the most recognized weapons in history, the M1A1 Thompson submachine gun was a favorite among the troops. Though generally only issued to squad leaders and officers in the regular army, it was widely used among paratroopers. Accurate up to 50 yards, it could fire its large .45 caliber rounds at a rate of 650 per minute, giving it devastating “sweeping” power within that distance. Though heavier than the M3 “grease gun,” the M1 Thompson submachine gun was more widely used.

The various figure sets provided a fair selection of figures wielding the M1A1 Thompson submachine guns, reflecting its wide use among paratroopers.  As shown in the Figure and Weapons Chart above, I selected three — the ESCI figure (third from left), the kneeling Caesar figure (fifth from left), and the TQD Pathfinder figure, a picture of which appears in the previous post.

7. M1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR): The fully automatic .30 caliber M1918A2 BAR, which replaced the M1918 used in WWI, was designed to be fired from the hip as an automatic rifle while moving forward in support of riflemen or from a stationary position as a light machine gun.

13 002
Left, Imex; right, Revell.

However, its paltry 20-round magazines greatly limited its effectiveness as a machine gun. While used by U.S. paratroopers, the BAR’s 20-lb weight and need to be reassembled after a jump made it an inconvenient — and therefore uncommon — weapon for Airborne troops. To reduce the BAR’s weight, experienced paratroopers often ditched the bipod, buttplate, and carrying handle, lowering the weight to 15 lbs.

There are only two BAR gunners in the 69 paratrooper poses available — one in the Imex set and one in the Revell set, as seen in the photo inset above. Thus, the Revell figure (on the right) was an easy choice since the Imex figure is prone firing the weapon, clearly in combat. The Revell gunner, who has not removed the bipod or carrying handle from his BAR, is presumably a novice. 🙂 

8. M9 Bazooka: The M9 Bazooka was a portable recoil-less, anti-tank rocket launcher that replaced the earlier M1 Bazooka in 1943. At 54 inches, the M1 Bazooka was unwieldy during jumps so the Airborne command specifically requested the M9 Bazooka, which could be broken down into two parts to make it more portable. Ironically, the modification allowed engineers to make it longer, increasing range and accuracy.

14 001
From left to right: Caesar, Imex, and Italeri.

Considered the perfect infantryman’s anti-tank weapon, it could immobilize a tank with a solid, accurate hit. According to the conventional wisdom, the much-feared German 88mm Panzershreck was copied from a captured American bazooka.

The M9 Bazooka was common with U.S. Airborne troops so the set would have been incomplete without a figure carrying one. There were three potential figures with a bazooka, as can be seen in the photo inset above. However, two of them are actually firing the weapon so the Italeri figure was the only non-combat choice. 

A passing glance at the Figure and Weapons Chart above quickly reveals that the Italeri figure (far right) is somewhat bulkier than the other 12, which gave me pause. In the end, I used it anyway. First, I rationalized that human height and girth varies significantly. It turned out that the figure is 26.4mm tall, which scales out to only 6’2”, totally within the acceptable range. He is crouching a bit, which means he’s actually taller. Secondly, the figure — huge as it is — represents the gentle but slow-witted giant often seen in Hollywood movies, including the one in the aforementioned Dirty Dozen. (To my mind, the all-time greatest Hollywood brute is Andre the Giant as the unforgettable Fezzik in The Princess Bride.) And finally, it makes sense that the biggest man in the unit would carry the M9 Bazooka, one of the heaviest weapons in the paratrooper arsenal, weighing 16 lbs — two pounds less than the slightly heavier BAR. 

Browning M1919A4 Light Machine Gun

I intentionally did not include the Browning M1919A4 light machine gun in the Weapons Plate or in the discussion, as there were no figures carrying it in non-combat. However, four of the six sets include such a weapon and, for the sake of completeness, I’ve included a lagniappe photo of those four below. Referring strictly to the weapon and not the paratrooper, the ESCI machine gun (far left) has the most detail and best proportions, with the Revell and Italeri weapons closely behind. The Caesar machine gun (far right) is underscaled and has very little detail, though the paratrooper figure itself is excellent.

BMG 004
From left to right: ESCI, Revell, Italeri, and Caesar.

This concludes our lightning-fast survey of U.S. Army Airborne small arms. I hope you found the post informative. Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 4: The Finished Figures, with lots of photos of the painted figures. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome.

The Filthy Thirteen of the 101st Airborne Division, Part 2: Creating the Unit in 1/72 Scale

This is a follow-up to the previous post, the Filthy Thirteen, Part 1. For a synopsis of these colorful characters, please refer to that post.

It is highly unlikely that any major plastic soldier manufacturer would create a 1/72 scale set of the Filthy Thirteen, as the set would lack wide enough appeal to make it financially viable. While compulsive collectors like me would welcome such figures, the wargamers who currently drive the market would probably not find sufficient uses for them to warrant their purchase. With their distinctive Mohawk haircuts, the only other possible use for such paratrooper figures would be as Pathfinders during the Normandy invasion. Thus, the subject is one more appropriate for the resin or white metal cottage industries.

U.S. Paratroopers in 1/72 Scale

So where are we to find our Filthy Thirteen in 1/72 scale? The group can be created with just a little work. As always, our point of departure is the Plastic Soldier Review (PSR) website to determine the universe of figures available. Six major plastic soldier manufacturers have produced WWII U.S. paratroopers in 1/72 scale, with various levels of success. In chronological order of release they are:

  1. Airfix 1751 U.S. Paratroops (1975) (14 poses);
  2. ESCI 209 U.S. Paratroopers “Screaming Eagles” (1983) (14 poses);
  3. Revell 2517 US Paratroopers (1995) (12 poses);
  4. Imex 527 Easy Company (2007) (14 poses);
  5. Italeri 6131 Anti Tank Teams (2009) (4 poses); and
  6. Caesar H076 US Paratroopers (2012) (11 poses). 

Of course, some of these have been re-released by other companies. Please visit the PSR website for an excellent analysis and photos of each of these six sets.

We are fortunate that five of the six sets are excellent, with high PSR ratings in both historical accuracy and sculpting — the two characteristics most important to me. The mediocre 41-year-old Airfix set is the Original 2only exception, lacking sharpness in detail, though still not a bad effort. The ESCI, Revell, and Caesar sets each include one Pathfinder pose, fortunately with 5, 4, and 3 samples in each set, respectively. See photo inset at left. Thus, we have a total of 12 figures: three different ready-made figures and nine extra copies of those figures. To create 12 different figures with Mohawk haircuts, we take the heads of the nine extra copies and transplant them on the torsos of U.S. Airborne figures from the different sets. 

Selecting the Bodies: The Lucky Twelve

The inspiration for this effort was Joel Iskowitz’ painting (see The Filthy Thirteen: Part 1), which depicts most of the Filthy Thirteen without their helmets preparing to board a C-47 Skytrain. Naturally, paratroopers always wore their helmets on their heads in combat, regardless of how sporting their haircuts were. Thus, if our boys were to be shown bareheaded, we needed to use paratroopers not in action. Secondly, paratroopers used a number of different weapons, some of which were specially suited to their jumps. I wanted the set to reflect that variety. I therefore had but two simple criteria for selecting donor bodies: 1) they should not be overtly in action, e.g., aiming their weapons, and 2) they should represent as many of the weapons used by U.S. Airborne troops as possible.

These two parameters greatly limited selection but after careful consideration I judged the twelve figures below — out of a combined total of 69 poses from all six sets — to be least in combat and to represent most of the weapons used by U.S. paratroopers:FT DonorsEvery unit needs an officer with a pistol and the Revell figure on the far left best fit the bill, though he’s more animated than I would have preferred. Similarly, every unit has a gentle giant — at least according to Hollywood — and the slightly oversized Italeri figure on the far right met that need. In retrospect, I regret not using at least one Airfix figure so that every figure set was represented. As an aside, one of the Airfix figures is “the spitting image of John Wayne,” according to a 1975 issue of Airfix Magazine — something of a redeeming quality of the Airfix set, at least for me. As a further aside, I’m partial to the Imex set, which, to my eye, looks the most natural and best sculpted. Unfortunately for this project, all its figures are clearly engaged in combat except the two I used. 

Transplanting the Heads

Head transplants are fairly straightforward:

  1. Lop off the helmeted head;
  2. Drill a hole on the neck of the torso;
  3. Drill a hole on the base of the donor head;
  4. Superglue a tiny metal pin in the torso hole; and
  5. Superglue the donor head in place.

Presto! You’ve got brand new figures. For an excellent, detailed how-to discussion of head-switch conversions, see this Figure Conversion article on the MiniatureZone website.

The photo below shows the selected figures before and after the head transplant.FT Donors w New Heads 2

Of course, I cleaned up the seams and, where necessary, I removed excess plastic from the figures, particularly where the piece was 045blind to the mold, which is common between the midsection of the figure and a weapon when held with both hands. See the excess plastic marked in red in the ESCI figure at left. Though Caesar’s modern multi-mold process allows its sculptors to be adventurous, crafting poses that are more three-dimensional, the downside is that their figures often have excess plastic in these blind spots.

The Thirteenth Samurai

The title is a thinly veiled reference to Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 film The Thirteen Assassins — one of the best Samurai movies not directed by Akira Kurosawa. (The 2010 remake of this classic is also pretty darn good.) Incidentally, any reader who has not seen Ran, Kurosawa’s 1985 masterpiece, is missing out on the best war movie ever made — bar none — in my not unbiased opinion.

TQD Pathfinder
TQD-AA5 1944-45 US Airborne

But forgive the digression. As I mentioned, the plastic figure sets yielded a total of 12 Mohawk heads but I still needed one more to make 13. I decided to use the Pathfinder figure from the TQD-AA5 1944-45 US Airborne white metal set — to my knowledge the only other 1/72 scale Pathfinder figure in production. The photo above is from the TQD website. TQD figures are somewhat pricey compared to plastic but are generally superb, and this set is no exception: realistic proportions, fine detail, historical accuracy, and metal content, which, unlike plastic, takes paint well.

There they are: 13 U.S. Airborne 1/72 scale figures to represent the Filthy Thirteen. I hope you enjoyed the post. Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 3: Selecting the Weapons, covering the most common weapons used by U.S. paratroopers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome.

The Filthy Thirteen of the 101st Airborne Division, Part 1: The Misfits

Caveat Lector!  I had more fun with this series of posts than a novice blogger ought to have, which probably means you won’t, as the next five posts are somewhat self-indulgent.

The Painting

I recently came across this fabulous painting of the Filthy Thirteen by Joel Iskowitz. It depicts the 1st Demolition Unit of the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the vaunted 101st Airborne Division (that of Band of Brothers fame) as they prepared to board a C-47 Skytrain in an airfield in England on June 6, 1944. It is based on a photo published in the Stars and Stripes on June 9, 1944 — just days after D-Day. Iskowitz’s painting is reproduced here for discussion purposes under the fair use exception to the copyright laws. 1/72, 101st Airborne, 506 Parachute, 506 PIR, Battle of the Bulge, C-47, Choctaw, D-Day, Dakota, Demolition Unit, Dirty Dozen, Filthy Thirteen, Hell's Highway, Iskowitz, Market Garden, McNiece, Mike Marquez, Mohawk, Normandy, Pathfinders, SkytrainI was smitten. This is a classic example of an artist brilliantly blending art and history to create something more beautiful than either: the historical importance of the scene; the seemingly relaxed poses of the men clearly fraught with tension; the introspected expressions on their faces, which actually look like those of the real subjects; the attention to accuracy in detail, such as the weapons and equipment; the workhorse C-47 Skytrain with its alternating white-black-white invasion stripes in the background, with all the power it evokes; and the absolutely stunning sky, which despite its beauty portends the furious storm that was D-Day.

The Unit

The Filthy Thirteen — actually, it was more like “the 20 unbathed misfits” — was an elite demolition unit created and trained to undertake difficult, suicidal missions, often behind enemy lines. They were led by then-25-year-old Jake McNiece, a sergeant from Oklahoma who was half-Choctaw. They became famous after the aforementioned Stars and Stripes article was published in 1944. While the article’s overall premise was mostly accurate, it resulted in a number of myths that became the basis for the 1965 novel The Dirty Dozen, which, in turn, was the basis for the 1967 film of the same name, a blockbuster of a movie that spawned several sequels and a TV series.

Yes, the Filthy Thirteen really existed, though their story has been extensively fictionalized by a movie that bears only a passing resemblance to the real unit. No, they weren’t convicts, though some often flirted with trouble. Yes, they were filthy, bathing only once a week. No, they weren’t Native American, though they did sport Mohawk haircuts and Indian war paint in honor of their half-Choctaw leader. And yes, above all, they were misfits — the type who deliberately disobey rules they find useless, like saluting officers, yet somehow manage to get the job done. (In taped interviews, McNiece actually refers to saluting officers as “malarkey” and standing retreat as “stupid.”)

This first — professional quality — photo is the one that appeared in the 1944 Stars and Stripes article.1/72, 101st Airborne, 506 Parachute, 506 PIR, Battle of the Bulge, C-47, Choctaw, D-Day, Dakota, Demolition Unit, Dirty Dozen, Filthy Thirteen, Hell's Highway, Iskowitz, Market Garden, McNiece, Mike Marquez, Mohawk, Normandy, Pathfinders, SkytrainThe Jumps

The Filthy Thirteen participated in three of the best known episodes of the war in the European Theatre — the Normandy Invasion in France, Operation Market Garden in Holland, and the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. During the Normandy Invasion in June 1944, the Filthy Thirteen parachuted behind enemy lines, destroying two bridges and securing a third on the Douve River, which marked the boundary between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, to prevent the Germans from reinforcing the beach heads. Of those who jumped, more than half perished during the mission.

The group made their second jump in September 1944, during Operation Market Garden, in Eindhoven, Holland. Market Garden was dependent on Highway 69 as its only route of advance and supply and the Filthy Thirteen were tasked with holding bridges to ensure that this vital corridor, which came to be known as “Hell’s Highway” because of the carnage it witnessed, remained open. This they did —  for well over two months. (That does it: it’s time to endure A Bridge Too Far, for the umpteenth time. 🙂 )

Following those two missions, the Filthy Thirteen disbanded and the handful who survived — I believe it was six — joined the 101st Airborne Division Pathfinder Company – an elite group of specially trained paratroopers assigned to jump into enemy territory ahead of the main force to mark landing and drop zones to guide the main force. With the 101st Airborne encircled in Bastogne in December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, resupply became critical. Because of the heavy cloud cover, the Pathfinders were ordered to parachute in to set up electronic beacons for C-47 aircraft to follow when dropping their sorely-needed supplies. The Pathfinders completed their mission successfully and the 101st Airborne was effectively resupplied.1/72, 101st Airborne, 506 Parachute, 506 PIR, Battle of the Bulge, C-47, Choctaw, D-Day, Dakota, Demolition Unit, Dirty Dozen, Filthy Thirteen, Hell's Highway, Iskowitz, Market Garden, McNiece, Mike Marquez, Mohawk, Normandy, Pathfinders, SkytrainI captured the photo above from a widely available video clip of the 101st on June 6, 1944, just before the Filthy Thirteen took off from England. Forgive the bad quality.

This last lagniappe photo, also captured from the aforementioned video clip, shows Jack McNiece putting warpaint on someone who, to my eyes, appears to be Mike Marquez, a Texas native who was the only Hispanic member of the team, though some have identified him as Johnny Hale. Together, all three photos form the basis of Iskowitz’s painting and you can identify all three vignettes in various parts of the scene.Screenshot (3)The Books

In addition to The Dirty Dozen (1965) novel by E.M. Nathanson, at least three nonfiction books have been published about this colorful unit: The Filthy Thirteen (2003) by Richard E. Killblane; Fighting With The Filthy Thirteen: The World War II Story of Jack Womer – Ranger and Paratrooper (2012) by Stephen DeVito; and War Paint: The Filthy Thirteen Jump Into Normandy (2013) also by Richard E. Killblane. For a detailed history of the unit, the reader is directed to these books as this synopsis was intended merely as a predicate for Part 2.

I hope you enjoyed this simple post. For those who, like me, love figure conversions, stay tuned next week for Part 2: Creating the Unit in 1/72 ScaleAs always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. 

The Doolittle Raid, April 1942, Part 4: B-25 Mitchell Insignias for 1/72 Scale Diecast

This is the last of a four-part series on the Doolittle Raid. For details of the actual raid, B-25 Mitchells in 1/72 scale, and diorama of the take-off in 1/72 scale, please refer to the three previous posts, The Doolittle Raid, Parts 1, 2, & 3

As discussed in Part 2, models of only two of the 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers that participated in the Doolittle Raid have been made into diecast — Col. James Doolittle’s “02344” and Lt. Ted Lawson’s “Ruptured Duck.” Given that Corgi’s two Doolittle Raid Mitchells have essentially disappeared from the market, Corgi would do collectors a great service by releasing another B-25 Doolittle Raider — one with a new livery (i.e., different markings).

Corgi and Air Force 1 would have interesting alternatives at their disposal, as some of the other 14 B-25 Mitchells also had memorable artwork. The following passage is from Lt. Ted Lawson’s Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, first published in 1943. The passage follows commentary regarding constant inspections of the aircraft for possible leaks. Presumably, Lawson’s plane was found to have sprung a leak.

One morning I came out to my plane and found that somebody had chalked the words “Ruptured Duck” on the side of the fuselage. I grabbed Corporal Lovelace, a gunner I knew, and asked him to paint some sort of design on the ship. He’s a good caricaturist. Lovelace got out his stuff and painted a funny Donald Duck, with a head-set and the earphone cords all twisted around his head.

Lovelace did a swell job in blue, yellow, white and red. Then he added something that gave all of us another laugh. Under Donald Duck he drew a couple of crossed crutches.

The other boys now got busy with insignias. In a couple of days a lot of hitherto anonymous B-25’s took on such names as Hari-Kari-er (a hefty hunch), Whiskey Pete, Anger Angel, Whirling Dervish, Fickle Finger of Fate and one fellow painted the chemical formula for TNT on the side of his ship.

It is clear from the passage that several of the aircraft had personalized markings and there is actually photographic support for some.

The table below summarizes what little information I could gather from various sources on the Doolittle Raid B-25 Mitchells and their names and markings, listed in the order in which they took off from the USS Hornet:

Position Number Name Markings Insignia
1 40-2344  None No Individual Markings  
2 40-2292  None No Individual Markings  
3 40-2270 “Whiskey Pete” Name Only  
4 40-2282  None No Individual Markings  
5 40-2283  None No Individual Markings  
6 40-2298 “Green Hornet” Name Only  
7 40-2261 “Ruptured Duck”   Donald Duck Cartoon
8 40-2242  None No Individual Markings  
9 40-2303 “Whirling Dervish”   Tornado Cartoon
10 40-2250  None No Individual Markings  
11 40-2249 “Hari Kari-er”   Angel with Bomb
12 40-2278 “Fickle Finger” Name Only  
13 40-2247 “Avenger” Name Only  
14 40-2297  None No Individual Markings  
15 40-2267 “TNT”   TNT Formula Design
16 40-2268 “Bat Out of Hell” Name Only  

As is readily evident from the table, nine of the 16 Mitchells had a moniker; seven did not. Of the nine with names, four had “insignias,” as Lawson called them. Thus, our choices of liveries are limited to those four and, given that the “Ruptured Duck” has already been produced, there remain only three choices: “Whirling Dervish,” “Hari Kari-er,” and “TNT.” It is interesting to note that all three of these Mitchells were specifically mentioned in the Lawson passage quoted above.

However, it is something of a mystery why “Anger Angel,” which Lawson mentions in the passage, is nowhere to be found. Is it plane #13 “Avenger”? Did Lawson simply misremember? Is the design for “Anger Angel” lost forever? I note that since Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo was published in 1943, while memories were still fresh, it is a contemporaneous account of the episode whose accuracy should be accorded significant probative weight.

Here are the three viable alternatives:

40-2249:  “Hari Kari-er”

Let’s begin with the “Hari Kari-er,” the 11th plane to take off from the Hornet, since there is ample photographic documentation for its livery. The “Hari Kari-er” is best known for downing two Japanese fighters during the mission. According to Chun in The Doolittle Raid 1942, Osprey Campaign 156, “Hari Kari-er,” piloted by Captain C. Ross Greening, was attacked by four Kawasaki Ki-61 Hiens, known as “Tonys” to Americans, on the way to Yokohama. The Hiens were still in the evaluation phase. The “Hari Kari-er” shot down two from its dorsal turret and managed to outrun the two others, subsequently dropping its bombs on an oil refinery. Please refer to the wonderful color illustration of this episode in The Doolittle Raid, Part 1.

Below is a portside photo of the “Hari Kari-er” on the Hornet, scanned from Chun’s Doolittle Raid 1942.1/72, AA35312, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling DervishAlso from Chun’s book, here’s a close-up of the insignia on the starboard side of the fuselage: the white outline of a curvaceous angel about to release a bomb. The irony of an angel ready to drop death and destruction from above should not be lost on us, biblical though it may be. Given that the Doolittle Raid occurred only four months after the U.S. entry into the war, this is likely one of the first examples of pin-up art on an American aircraft, if indeed a naked angel can be considered a pin-up. Note the dark smudge directly in front of the bomb in the angel’s hands where the name “Hari Kari-er” was overpainted in darker olive drab, though the reason is unclear. 1/72, AA35312, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling DervishFor those of us who love color profiles, here’s one from B-25 Mitchell, Walkaround #12, by Lou Drendel, illustrated by Don Greer, reproduced here for discussion purposes under the fair use exception to the copyright laws. 1/72, AA35312, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling DervishFinally, it’s noteworthy that the Battle 360: Season One, Call to Duty episode used the “Hari Kari-er” extensively in its computer-generated imagery video production of the Doolittle Raid. I captured the still below from that episode. Forgive the poor quality of the capture. 1/72, AA35312, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling DervishInarguably, the “Hari Kari-er” has a terrific insignia that makes it a worthy candidate for Corgi or Air Force 1 to make it into a diecast model. The probability that it was the first American plane to down a Japanese Hien in addition to the possibility that it was the first American plane of the war to display pin-up art makes the “Hari Kari-er” irresistible. 

40-2303:  “Whirling Dervish”

The 9th plane to take off from the Hornet, the “Whirling Dervish” is credited with shooting down a Japanese fighter while completing its mission to bomb a tank factory in the south of Tokyo, where it dropped its entire load. In a famous newsreel clip, Pilot Lt. Harold F. Watson comments that he “had the satisfaction of seeing two of the bombs score direct hits.” Like all other Doolittle Raiders except the one that headed to Russia, the “Whirling Dervish” crash landed in China.

I’m unaware of any photos of the actual “Whirling Dervish,” but there appears to be a consensus that the design consisted of a stylized tornado wedged between the two words of the name.1/72, AA35312, Academy, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling Dervish

The profile at left comes comes from the Academy 13202 USAAF B-25B Doolittle Raid 1/48 scale plastic kit, whose decal sheet provides this option for the B-25 Mitchell among several others. Other companies have produced very similar versions of the “Whirling Dervish” design so I have no reason to doubt it. 

It is also interesting to note that the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, the Touchstone Pictures $140 million extravaganza, shows this same insignia on the “Whirling Dervish” during the Doolittle Raid scene. It is unclear to me where the design originated but presumably Touchstone must have had a reference. I captured the still below from Pearl Harbor.1/72, AA35312, Academy, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Pearl Harbor, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling DervishIncidentally, the details of the Doolittle Raid sequence in Pearl Harbor are about as accurate as those in a Disney movie. Still, a flawed war history movie — even accounting for the gratuitous romantic nonsense — is better than no movie, particularly in this case where the film actually follows the general outlines of the real raid.

The “Whirling Dervish” design won’t set the world spinning faster (lame pun intended) but it’s interesting and worthy of consideration.

40-2267:  “TNT”

The penultimate Mitchell to take off from the Hornet, the “TNT,” piloted by Lt. Donald G. Smith, was assigned to drop its bombs on an aircraft factory and shipyard on the outskirts of Kobe. After completing its mission, the “TNT” barely managed to reach the coast of China, where it crash landed at sea, staying afloat long enough for the five-man crew to safely board their rubber raft before the plane sunk. Though the raft was subsequently punctured when it hit the tip of one of the plane’s broken flaps, all five were able to swim to shore.

It bears mentioning that one of the five crew members of the “TNT” was the flight surgeon for the entire mission, Lt. Thomas “Doc” White, a Caltech and Harvard Medical School graduate who was also trained as a pilot, navigator, and bombardier. Through divine providence, the “Ruptured Duck” had also crash landed at sea less than a mile from the “TNT” and three of its four surviving members required medical attention. Once on land, the two crews connected and “Doc” White was able to provide medical care to the three “Ruptured Duck” crew members, saving Lawson’s life, though the flight surgeon had to amputate Lawson’s leg.

The profile below comes from the aforementioned Academy 13202 USAAF B-25B 1/48 scale plastic kit, whose decal sheet provides this Doolittle Raid option for the B-25 Mitchell among several non-Raid others.

1/72, AA35312, Academy, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling Dervish1/72, AA35312, Academy, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling Dervish

Although the design appears to be widely accepted by plastic model and decal manufacturers, I’m at a loss about its origin. Lawson clearly states in the passage cited above from Thirty Seconds that “one fellow painted the chemical formula for TNT on the side of the ship.”

The design above is not the “chemical formula for TNT” mentioned by Lawson and, as far as I know, there is no photographic support for it, though I’d be delighted to be proven wrong. 1/72, AA35312, Academy, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling Dervish

Thus, in the absence of photographic documentation, I think a reasonable and more accurate design, based strictly on Lawson’s quote in Thirty Seconds, would be the one at left, which I drew from scratch.

Ok, I get it, I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, this notional design, crude as it is, is more faithful to Lawson’s description than the others currently available.

Other Options

The blockbuster movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, released by MGM in 1944, provides some tantalizing possibilities. Bearing in mind that all 16 bombers were lost during the raid, including the one captured and later destroyed by the Russians, it’s patently obvious that the “insignias” used in the film had to be reconstructed from pilots’ memories. Still, the movie is not a frivolous reference as it was released in 1944, when memories were still fresh, and employed Ted Lawson, upon whose book the movie was based, as a consultant. Coincidentally, Dalton Trumbo, the subject of a recent movie himself, wrote the screenplay for Thirty Seconds. (As an aside, Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, written just before the war, probably left a greater impression on me as a kid than any other anti-war novel.) At any rate, I captured the stills below from the movie.

“Turkey”

At 31:17, one gets an excellent view of the “Turkey,” referenced in the movie. To be clear, those are 500 lb. bombs falling out of the bird’s behind. 🙂  Lawson did not mention this “insignia” in Thirty Seconds, so one wonders if it was conjured up specifically for the movie. Still, it’s a terrific design, in my view, and I would not be averse to seeing it in diecast.1/72, AA35312, Academy, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling Dervish“Our Little Nell”

At 55:31, one can see “Our Little Nell.” This design, too, was probably created specifically for the movie but would still look cracking on a B-25 diecast model.1/72, AA35312, Academy, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling Dervish“Ruptured Duck”

At 31:47, one gets a similar view of the “Ruptured Duck.” This last lagniappe photo is included for the sake of completeness and to point out that the Donald Duck design is identical to the one on the Corgi model. The one on the actual “Ruptured Duck,” however, may have been just slightly different, with Donald Duck wearing a sidecap.1/72, AA35312, Academy, B-25, Corgi, diecast, Doolittle, Hari Carrier, Hari Kari-er, Japan, Lawson, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thirty Seconds, TNT, Tokyo, TSOT, USS Hornet, Whirling DervishThe Upshot

Diecast companies reportedly visit internet collector forums for information to improve their products. Thus, the goal of this post is to persuade Corgi and Air Force 1 that it’s high time to release another Doolittle Raid B-25 Mitchell with a new livery. My unequivocal choice would be the “Hari Kari-er.” In addition to the beautiful curvaceous angel design, the “Hari Kari-er” was probably the first American plane to shoot down a Japanese Hien and possibly the first American plane to carry a pin-up on its fuselage during the war. Furthermore — and perhaps more importantly — there is ample photographic documentation for it.

I hope you enjoyed these four Doolittle Raid posts. Thank you for your indulgence and, 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.

The Doolittle Raid, April 1942, Part 2: B-25 Mitchell Bombers in 1/72 Scale

This is a follow-up to the previous post, The Doolittle Raid, Part 1. For details of the actual raid, please refer to that post. To my knowledge, three diecast manufactures have produced the B-25 Mitchell in 1/72 scale — Forces of Valor, Corgi, and newcomer Air Force 1. Of these, only Corgi and Air Force 1 have liveries specifically for the Doolittle Raid, with Corgi releasing two and Air Force 1 releasing one. Forces of Valor did not release a Doolittle Raid model since their casting is of the later B-25J version of the Mitchell, rather than the B-25B used in the Doolittle Raid.

The Corgi AA35302 represents Colonel Doolittle’s plane, the “40-2344,” the first one to take off from the Hornet. The Corgi AA35312 represents the “Ruptured Duck,” the seventh bomber to take off from the Hornet. The Air Force 1 A00111 is also a model of the “40-2344,” Colonel Doolittle’s plane. While I missed the first Corgi release, I do have the second one, which is essentially identical to the first one other than the markings. Thus, this post concerns Corgi’s “Ruptured Duck” and Air Force 1’s “40-2344.”

Corgi Aviation Archive AA35312
North American B-25B Mitchell
40-2261 “Ruptured Duck,” Doolittle Raid, USS Hornet, 1942
Limited Edition (2,000 pieces)

Below are photos of the Corgi AA35312, which represents the “Ruptured Duck,” the 7th plane to take off from the Hornet. The “Ruptured Duck” was piloted by Lt. Ted Lawson, who wrote Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, arguably the most widely-read account of the Doolittle Raid and upon which the 1944 movie of the same name was based. If you’re reading this blog, it’s a safe bet you read the book as a youngster.

The model is a beauty — casting, panel lines, finish, and markings.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFThe opaque olive drab finish is outstanding, as is the gray camouflage on the underside of the fuselage. Note that, according to most sources, the propeller tips on the actual Doolittle B-25 Mitchells were not yellow. 1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFHere’s a port-side eye-level view of the ship. Note the US Army Air Force marking (the Air Force was under the Army at the time) — red disk within a five-pointed white star on a circular blue field with the shades specified for the U.S. flag — used until May 1942. The insignia was included on the fuselage on both sides aft of the wing and on the upper surface of the port wing and lower surface of the starboard wing. A curiosity of the marking is that the red “meatball” does not touch the inside angles of the star. The star, on the other hand, does go out to the edge of the blue disk, something that was later changed. These seemingly trivial details are important when dating photos.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFHere’s a starboard-side eye-level view. Note that Corgi correctly removed the nose gun from this release, as the Doolittle Raiders had done on the actual bombers. Corgi had mistakenly included it in their first release.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFHere’s a view from the rear. Note that the Doolittle Raid bombers had a crew of five, rather than six, because the tail gunner section was removed to reduce weight and increase fuel storage space. Thus, the guns were removed from the tail cone and broomsticks were substituted in their place to deter enemy fighters from stern attacks. Corgi correctly left the tail guns — or broomsticks — in place.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFThis close-up shows the distinctive “Ruptured Duck” motif well. Amazingly, the words “Danger Propeller” can be read clearly on the vertical red warning line, which is only 1 mm wide. Note also the pilot and copilot figures. Although Corgi had included a bombardier figure on the nose of their previous B-25 releases, including their first Doolittle Raid release, Corgi inexplicably did not include one in this release, despite the fact that Corgi’s packaging clearly shows one. 1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFHere’s a photo of the model on its stand. Corgi provides the option of landing gear up or down. Like most of Corgi’s Limited Edition models, this piece has a numbered Collector Card.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFLike other heavy Corgi models, this one sits on a cradle in an inclined take-off position.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFThe Rub

I would be remiss if I failed to point out an exasperating design flaw in the model: it’s hopelessly tail-heavy. The model will simply not stand on its three wheels, but instead tilts back like a stubborn donkey sitting on its haunches.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFTo solve the problem, I carefully removed the nose piece and increased the weight at the front by inserting the sawed-off half of an Allen wrench in the crawlway leading to the bombardier compartment. It fit perfectly, though the photo shows it protruding slightly out of the crawlway to better illustrate the placement. I then added two 1/4 ounce lead weights to the nose. The extra weight did the trick.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFThe Crew

To personalize this model, here’s a photo of the crew of the actual “Ruptured Duck.” From left to right: Lt. Charles L. McClure, navigator; Lt. Ted W. Lawson, pilot; Lt. Robert S. Clever, bombardier; Lt. Dean Davenport, copilot; and Sgt. David Thatcher, flight engineer/gunner. 1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFIt should be noted that Lt. Ted Lawson, author of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, lost his left leg due to the crash landing. Sgt. David Thatcher, on the far right, is one of only two Doolittle Raiders alive today.

Air Force 1 A00111
North American B-25B Mitchell
40-2344, Jimmy Doolittle and Richard Cole
Limited Edition Signature Series Hand-Signed by Lt. Cole

Below are photos of the Air Force 1 A00111, which represents the “40-2344,” Colonel Doolittle’s ship and the first one to take off from the USS Hornet. The first thing one notices is that the overall olive drab finish is entirely too shiny. A coat of dullcote clear flat lacquer will be necessary for a more realistic look. Similarly, the gloss black color of the propellers makes them look too “plasticky” and will require a coat of flat black. 1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFThe casting is really not a bad effort. The panel lines and details are crisp and rivet holes are included on every panel. The casting is diminished, however, by the porthole windows, which are mere indentations in the metal that have been painted silver to simulate glass. The effect is reminiscent of windows found on hand-made wooden models. While the technique works on wooden models, since all windows on a model are represented in the same fashion, the contrast between the simulated glass of the porthole windows and the clear plastic of the nose and cockpit glass on this model is too distracting.
1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFAir Force 1 correctly did not paint the propeller tips yellow, a mistake made by Corgi. Unlike the Corgi model, the Air Force 1 does not have pilot or copilot figures. 1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFLike the actual B-25 Mitchell it’s based on, the model has no individual markings or artwork other than the “02344” tail number. Note that Air Force 1 did not include the words “DANGER PROPELLER” on the vertical red warning lines that mark the propeller line, a detail that stands out on the Corgi.
1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFThe dorsal gun turret appears to have a “sloped” front, rather than a rounded one. See a comparison of the turrets in the next section below. The turret rotates but, unlike the Corgi model, the guns are fixed in place and do not elevate. 1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFThe model sits on a sturdy all-metal display stand. Unlike the Corgi model, which has separate wheels to provide wheels up or down options, the Air Force 1 model has fixed landing gear so there is no wheels up option. Note the limited edition metal plaque with Lt. Richard Cole’s signature. One wonders how “limited” the edition really is, as Air Force 1 did not provide an edition number.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFThe model sits horizontally on its stand, unlike the Corgi model, which is sits at an inclined angle.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFThe Rub

Many collectors were disappointed in Air Force 1’s turret, noting that it appeared too tall or oversized. I think it’s neither. Instead, Air Force 1 used the wrong turret — one with a sloped front that I believe was used on later versions of the B-25 Mitchell, such as the B-25J. I would appreciate confirmation from any reader.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAF

The Crew

Once again, to personalize the model, here’s a photo of Doolittle’s crew. From left to right, Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; and SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. 1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFIn addition to Sgt. David Thatcher, pictured under the Corgi section above, Lt. Richard Cole, second from right, is the only other Doolittle Raider alive today.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Finally, here are some side-by-side shots. Note the superb riveting on the Air Force 1 (left) on every single panel. On the other hand, note the simulated porthole windows on that same model, which, at least to me, blemish the entire effort.

1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFNote the stark difference in the finish, with the Air Force 1 (left) having a distracting shine. Despite the apparent difference in size in the photos, the two models are identical in their dimensions. The difference in the photos is a result of using a close-up lens, which exaggerates perspective. 1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFHere’s a photo of the starboard side. Note the difference in the placement of deicing boots (the black surfaces on the leading edge of the wings). As far as I can tell, Air Force 1’s depiction is correct. 1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAFThe Upshot

This being a comparison review, the reader will naturally wonder which of the two models is recommended. Let’s compare the various features:

  • Casting: Both castings are excellent, with crisp detail throughout, though I was impressed with the rivets on every panel of the Air Force 1, even if they may be slightly overscaled. However, the simulated porthole windows detract from the casting.
  • Finish: No contest, the Corgi’s opaque olive drab finish is superb, resulting in a realistic model. The shiny finish on the Air Force 1, on the other hand, will need dulling. Both have gray camouflage on the underside of the fuselage but the Corgi’s is more undulating, and more realistic. The propellers on the Air Force 1 are also noticeably shiny and look plasticky.
  • Markings: I’m a sucker for art on a model and the well-documented “Ruptured Duck” design on the Corgi is fabulous. It’s an unfair comparison, I concede, since Doolittle’s ship carried no art. However, beyond the insignia, Corgi’s attention to detail is evident in including a warning on the vertical red propeller warning line, which, truly, is only 1 mm wide.
  • Detail Accuracy: The sloped turret on the Air Force 1 appears to be that used on later B-25 Mitchells and is wrong. The Corgi’s appears to be accurate. The deicing boots and the absence of yellow tips on the propellers on the Air Force 1 are correct, though these are details that can be easily corrected on the Corgi.
  • Engineering Design: The tail-heavy design of the Corgi is exasperating and makes you wonder how Corgi could bungle a feature that they had previously done properly. The Air Force 1 stands on its three wheels, as it should.
  • Extras: The Corgi model includes pilot and copilot figures, which is always a welcome feature. Inexplicably, however, it does not have a bombardier, unlike previous Corgi B-25 releases, including their first Doolittle release. On the plus side for Air Force 1, I love having Lt. Cole’s signature. It’s as close as I’ll get to such an historic event.

While both models are excellent replicas of the B-25 Mitchell, the Corgi version is clearly superior but, given that it cost twice as much as the Air Force 1, it ought to be. It is not, however, twice as good as the Air Force 1. Thus, in my view, the Air Force 1 is a great value, particularly as the two Corgi models disappeared into collectors’ homes and are now difficult to find. Still, both models are worthy of any collection, if for no other reason than they represent an important event in World War II.

Again, thank you for your indulgence and I hope you enjoyed the post. As always, comments, questions, observations, and corrections are welcome. Stay tuned next week for Part 3, a simple diorama of a B-25 Mitchell taking off from the deck of the Hornet.

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I want to thank and remember my dear friend and fellow WWII buff David C. Brooks, who passed away in 2014. As a token of our friendship, David kindly gave me his childhood copy of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo in 2002while we were serving in Nicaragua. Here’s a lagniappe photo for my dear friend.1/72, 40-2261, 40-2344, A00111, AA35312, Air Force 1, B-25, Corgi, Doolittle, Hornet, Japan, Japanese, Mitchell, Ruptured Duck, Thatcher, Thirty Seconds, TSOT, USAAF