The A6M Zero in 1/72: Shigeru Itaya Leads the Zeros at Pearl Harbor, Part 2 – The Dragon Model

This is Part 2 of Shigeru Itaya Leads the Zeros at Pearl Harbor. It is a review of the Dragon Wings 50017 1/72 scale model of Itaya’s Zero at Pearl Harbor. For a brief biographical note on Shigeru Itaya, please refer to the previous post. Today, December 7, 2016, on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, let us remember the men who died that day.

Itaya’s A6M2 Zero, Tail No. AI-155

As discussed in Part 1, Itaya led the 43 Zeros from all carriers in the first wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In each wave the Zero planes were the first airborne, both because they needed the least runway to take off and in order to protect the slower, less maneuverable torpedo and dive bombers that followed. As the leader of the first wave of Zeros, Itaya was the first Japanese pilot airborne during the attack.

As noted previously, there is precious little information available on Itaya. This dearth of information extends to Itaya’s plane at Pearl Harbor, a Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero, tail no. AI-155. Although there are some references on the internet that Itaya’s Zero’s tail no. may have been something other than AI-155, the books I consulted consistently use that number. To my knowledge, there are no existing photos of the AI-155, though there are enough photos of other planes from the Akagi aircraft carrier to give us a reasonably accurate understanding of its colors and markings.

Below is a color profile from what is probably the most comprehensive source of information on the colors and markings of WWII Japanese aircraft, Eduardo Cea’s eight-volume treatise entitled Japanese Military Aircraft. I scanned this particular profile from Volume 2, The Air Force of the Japanese Imperial Navy: Carrier-Based Aircraft, 1922-1945 (I). While I’m aware that there are a number of errors in the English translation of the Spanish text that are somewhat distracting, the series is beautifully illustrated, incredibly informative, and inarguably comprehensive, and, being fluent in Spanish, I blithely overlooked the errors. 🙂 The profile is reproduced here for discussion purposes under the fair use exception to the copyright laws.1/72, 50017, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, Eduardo Cea, Dragon, IJN, Itaya, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, ZeroItaya’s Zero at Pearl Harbor has been released in 1/72 scale by three different manufacturers: Dragon Wings 50017; Forces of Valor 85032; and Witty Wings 72-012-001. This post concerns the Dragon Wings 50017. Reviews of the other two will follow shortly in separate posts, with equivalent photos of each of the three models for ease of comparison.

The Dragon Wings 50017 Zero

Below is a portside view of the Dragon model. Immediately apparent is the beautiful caramel finish. Putting aside the continuing debate about whether the caramel color was the effect of a protective layer of varnish or the natural result of the aging of the pigments, the fact remains that the Zeros had an “ameiro” tone, which means “caramel-colored” in Japanese. Upon review of Zeros in my collection from a dozen different manufacturers, I’m convinced that Dragon is the only manufacturer that got it right (though Hobby Master produced some terrific “ameiro” D3A1 Vals). If nothing else, the Dragon finish matches the description and color plates in Cea’s eight-volume set on Japanese planes.1/72, 50017, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, Dragon, IJN, Itaya, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, ZeroIn the photo below, note the pronounced panel lines, which disappointed some collectors. In my view, however, it is not so much that the lines are significantly overscaled as the fact that Dragon inexplicably “inked” them — for lack of a better term — as one would highlight the crevices on a tank with an umber wash to make them stand out better. It is this combination of overscaling and “inking” that gives the impression that the panel lines are deeper and wider than they actually are.1/72, 50017, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, Dragon, IJN, Itaya, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, Zero

The photo below provides an excellent view of the tail no. “AI-155.” The “AI” code was the designation for the Akagi aircraft carrier. In the three-digit number after “AI”, the first digit (“1”) indicates that it is a fighter plane. The last two digits (“55”) are simply the aircraft number within the unit. The tail numbers on Japanese carrier aircraft were usually red except on two carriers (Zuiho and Hosho) whose tails were already red. The identification numbers on aircraft from those two carriers were white so as to make them stand out against the red tails. 

Note also the three horizontal yellow stripes on the tail that indicated command: three stripes for the group leader; two stripes for a squadron leader (9 aircraft); and one stripe for a flight leader (3 aircraft). Note also the “no step” rectangular area outlined in red at the rear of each wing next to the wing root.1/72, 50017, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, Dragon, IJN, Itaya, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, Zero

The photo below provides an excellent view of the Hinomaru, which was carried on both sides of the fuselage aft of the wing and on both the upper surface and underside of each wing — six “circles of the sun” in total. The vertical red stripe is the identification mark for the aircraft carrier Akagi.

Note also the manufacturing plate stenciled just aft of the red stripe. The inset shows that the plate bears the number 7702, meaning it was the 7,702nd Zero built. The “2-3-30” means it was built in the Japanese year 2602, third month, thirtieth day = March 30, 1942. (Yes, more than three months after Pearl Harbor. 🙂 ) Incidentally, the A6M is called the “Zero” because it first entered service in the Japanese year 2600 (1940), the zero year of the new Japanese century. Please bear in mind that the entire plate is just 4mm wide (just over 1/8 inch). Again, Dragon’s attention to detail is remarkable.1/72, 50017, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, Dragon, IJN, Itaya, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, ZeroBelow is a shot of the starboard side. Note the absence of the manufacturing plate, which was only stenciled on the port side.1/72, 50017, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, Dragon, IJN, Itaya, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, ZeroIn the photo below, note the polished natural metal propeller with the two red warning stripes on the tips of the blades. As is the case with the vast majority of 1/72 scale prebuilt models, the propeller spins freely. Note the outlets on the leading edges of the wings just above the landing struts for the 20mm cannons. Also on the leading edge of the portside wing, note the pitot tube.1/72, 50017, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, Dragon, IJN, Itaya, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, ZeroThe photo below shows the aircraft’s number “55” on the landing strut cover, which matches the last two digits of the tail number. Note the correct cowling for an A6M2, which had four oval-shaped fasteners on each side of the matte black cowling, one on the front part of the cowling and three on the sides. Note also the metal drop tank that gave the Zero an extra 73 imperial gallons of fuel (87 US gallons), significantly increasing its range. Later drop tanks were made of wood and had a slightly different shape.1/72, 50017, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, Dragon, IJN, Itaya, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, Zero

The Feature and the Rub

In the close-up below, note that the canopy slides back — an interesting feature of the Dragon model. While some collectors were critical of the noticeable gap on the rear bottom part of the canopy necessary to allow the front canopy to slide back, some of us applauded this precise feature as it opens up significant diorama possibilities. Quite obviously, the gap is overscaled. As I’ve pointed out in the past, added features often come at the expense of accuracy. Still, in this particular instance, the gap looks fine when the canopy is open. Please bear in mind that close-up photos greatly amplify defects.1/72, 50017, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, Dragon, IJN, Itaya, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, Zero

The Interior 

The lagniappe close-up photo below provides a good view of the interior of the canopy. Note the superbly detailed instrument panel and the handle of the control column. To my knowledge, Dragon is the only manufacturer that produced a prebuilt model with an opening cockpit and, therefore, with a detailed instrument panel. Unfortunately, Dragon did not include a pilot.1/72, 50017, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, Dragon, IJN, Itaya, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, Zero

The Upshot

The Dragon Wings 50017 Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero is a superb model that closely resembles the original. The excellent casting shows no perceptible problems in its proportions. The cowling, propeller, and undercarriage are all well executed, with no apparent accuracy issues. The “ameiro” finish is beautiful, though, admittedly, the “inked” panel lines detract from the overall effect. The markings are accurate and crisp throughout. The sliding canopy is a welcome feature, at least for those of us who build dioramas. All Dragon Zeros came with wheels up and wheels down options and, in addition, this particular Dragon Zero issue included a diorama deck and display case. In my humble opinion, it’s a terrific little model that compares favorably with Zero models of most other manufacturers. 

Again, thank you for your indulgence and I hope you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful for other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. Stay tuned for a review of the Forces of Valor model of the very same aircraft in the next post.

The A6M Zero in 1/72: Shigeru Itaya Leads the Zeros at Pearl Harbor, Part 1 – The Pilot

I had been contemplating doing a series on the A6M Zero, the Japanese Imperial Navy’s legendary fighter, for quite some time. However, I found the task daunting as there were several different versions of the Zero and, by my count, 15 different manufacturers who have tried their hand at producing prebuilt 1/72 scale models of Japan’s iconic fighter. Together, they have released more than 50 prebuilt Zeros in 1/72 scale. A6M2s, A6M3s, A6M5s, clipped wings, floatplanes, carrier-based, land-based — I was completely at a loss about where to begin. Then I had an epiphany: Start at the Beginning — literally.  🙂

The United States entered WWII following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That attack occurred in two waves of aircraft taking off from Japanese carriers, each wave comprising Zero fighters, torpedo bombers, and dive bombers. In each wave, the Zeros were the first airborne, both because they needed the least runway to take off and in order to protect the slower, less maneuverable torpedo and dive bombers that followed. The pilot who led the Zeros in the first wave and the first to take off from a Japanese carrier was Shigeru Itaya, flying his A6M2 off the flagship carrier Akagi. Thus, one can reasonably argue that Itaya’s Zero was the first Japanese aircraft to take an aggressive action against the United States, in essence beginning the Pacific War.

Shigeru Itaya

This site is dedicated to 1/72 scale models and presumes general knowledge of WWII on the part of the reader. Thus, I’m ordinarily reticent to regurgitate historical information, as there are plenty of sources on the internet accessible to any reader. If I can readily find information, so can others. 1/72, A6M, AI-155, Akagi, IJN, Itaya, Japan, Japanese Navy, Pearl Harbor, Zeke, ZeroHowever, I found such precious little information on Lieutenant Commander Shigeru Itaya, other than the oft-repeated fact that his Zero was the first plane airborne during the attack on Pearl Harbor, that I reasoned some readers would be interested in my amateur research. I found scant references to him in the books available to me and the dearth of information extended to the internet, where, despite diligent efforts, a search yielded only dribs and drabs of information.

On a hunch that Itaya might be better known in Japan, I searched Japanese sites and stumbled upon Japanese Wikipedia, where I found that Itaya had his own entry. Unfortunately, the entry was skeletal, with not much more information than that available in English. Still, it was more information than I had. Bearing in mind that I know no Japanese and had to resort to imperfect searches on Japanese websites using Google Translate, below is what little information I could gather from various sources. Itaya’s career highlights may prove somewhat tedious so the casual reader may want to skip to the next post, a review of the 1/72 scale models of Itaya’s Zero.

1. Beginnings

Itaya was born July 10, 1909, and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1929. He was a veteran of the China War and by 1937 is listed as a division officer on the Ryujo aircraft carrier. By 1940, he is listed as group leader on the Hiryu aircraft carrier. By April 1941, Lieutenant Commander Itaya had been named group leader on the Akagi, the flagship of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s First Fleet.

2. Pearl Harbor

According to Jim Rearden in Cracking the Zero Mystery, Itaya himself trained the Zero pilots for the Pearl Harbor raid. He was in overall command of the 43 Zero fighters in the first wave from all six carriers, including the nine from the Akagi, Itaya’s carrier. He was the first to take off, guiding the other 42 Zeros to their destination. Once in Hawaii, Itaya and the eight other pilots of the Akagi attacked Hickam Field, Ewa Air Control, and Ford Island, while the Zeros of the five other carriers had different assigned targets. According to Peter Smith in Mitsubishi Zero, Itaya and his two wingmen shot down an unsuspecting B-17 bomber at Hickam Field that had at that precise moment improvidentially flown in from California. The B-17 crew managed to land the crippled bomber and run for cover, though one unfortunate member was killed in the ensuing strafing by the Japanese Zeros.

3. Port Darwin

Two months later, on February 19, 1941, in an aerial surprise attack that has been called Australia’s “Pearl Harbor,” Itaya led the 36 Zero fighters — nine from each of four carriers — in the bombing of Port Darwin, according to Peter Smith in Mitsubishi Zero. Considered the single most destructive raid in Australian history by a foreign power, the raid on Port Darwin was massive, with more bombs dropped than at Pearl Harbor, though loss of life — at 236 — was one tenth that at Pearl Harbor. Incidentally, the four carriers at Port Darwin had all participated at Pearl Harbor and were the same four subsequently sunk at Midway.

4. Ceylon

Itaya appears again on April 5, 1942, during the surprise “Easter Sunday Raid” on Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). As at Pearl Harbor and Port Darwin, Itaya led Zero fighters — this time 36 — that escorted bombers from five Japanese carriers whose targets were British warships, harbor installations, and air bases in an attempt to destroy the British Easter Fleet. Although the day before a PBY Catalina pilot spotted the five Japanese carriers and radioed in their position before it was shot down, the Japanese still achieved surprise in yet another Pearl Harbor-style weekend attack. The attack resulted in the sinking of a British carrier and several other warships and cost the lives of 424 British subjects. However, as at Pearl Harbor, most of the British Eastern Fleet was away from the port, thereby reducing potential damage.

5. Midway

Volumes have been written about the Battle of Midway in June 1942 and anyone reading this is likely familiar with the battle. Thus, I will not repeat that information here. Suffice it to say that, according to Peter Smith in Mitsubishi Zero, Itaya once again was in charge of all the Zero fighters at Midway and, in particular, led the attack on the 15 ill-fated TBD Devastators from the USS Hornet, killing 29 men (only Ensign George Gay survived). Once the Akagi was sunk, its pilots ditched their planes near other Japanese warships and Itaya and others pilots were rescued by the escorting ships.

6. Staff Officer

My admittedly faulty understanding of the Google translation of the Japanese Wikipedia indicates that Itaya became chief of staff for 23 Air Corps in October 1942 and chief of staff of 54 Air Corps in July 1944. Despite checking the indices of numerous books, I found no information on Itaya covering the two-year period between those two appointments. However, logic indicates that like many other highly skilled veteran pilots who survived Midway, he would have been used by the Japanese Navy to train the thousands of new pilots required to restore the staggering losses suffered during Midway and elsewhere as the tide turned against Japan. Still, if anyone has more information, please post a comment.

7. Kuril Islands

On July 24, 1944, just after his 35th birthday, while flying on a Mitsubishi G3M aircraft in the Kuril Islands, Itaya’s plane was accidentally shot down by friendly fire. Although his death is listed as an accident on lists of WWII Japanese pilots, it’s unclear to me whether he was shot down by ground anti-aircraft fire or by a Japanese Army plane. Either way, the G3M bomber went down and Itaya was killed in the crash. It is an interesting coincidence and perhaps a fitting end that a man who had dedicated his entire career to serving Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who was also killed when his G3M aircraft was shot down, would meet his fate the same way.

8. Was Itaya an Ace?

I found a couple of references on the internet stating that Itaya had made ace during the China War but these statements were unsourced. On the other hand, I could not find Itaya on the lists of Japanese aces I consulted, including Osprey’s Imperial Japanese Navy Aces 1937-45 by Henry Sakaida and Stackpole’s Japanese Naval Fighter Aces: 1932-45 by Ikuhiko Hata et al. It is something of a conundrum that a fighter pilot who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1929 and died in 1944 would have failed to shoot down five planes during his 15-year career, particularly since Itaya was presumably a highly skilled pilot, as evidenced by his position and rank. It is even more perplexing when one considers that from 1937 to 1944 he witnessed seven years of continuous combat firsthand. Furthermore, Itaya would have had many opportunities available during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War, when the Zero reigned supreme over the inferior Russian-made aircraft used by the Chinese, and during the Battle of Midway, where 150 American aircraft were shot down. Perhaps more information will surface in the future that will confirm his status one way or the other.

9. Conclusion

To summarize, the highlights of Itaya’s career parallel that of the Akagi. The Akagi’s victories were essentially Itaya’s victories and the Akagi’s bitter loss at Midway effectively ended Itaya’s career as a pilot. While it is ironic that a pilot who survived countless aerial encounters was ultimately shot down by friendly fire, it is hardly surprising that Itaya did not survive the war, for only a handful of the elite Japanese Zero pilots at Pearl Harbor managed to do so. What is surprising is that there is no evidence that Itaya made ace during his 15-year career as a pilot during one of the most tumultuous and target-rich periods in aerial warfare.

Below are two lagniappe group photos from the Hiryu and Akagi aircraft carriers. The photo at left is from Itaya’s time on the Hiryu, scanned from Hata et al’s Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units (1989 version translated by Don Gorham). The photo at right is from Itaya’s time on the Akagi, scanned from Hata et al’s Japanese Naval Fighter Aces (2011 version translated by Christopher Shores). The content and photos of the two versions of Hata et al’s book differ somewhat.

itaya-hiryu    itaya-akagi

Again, thank you for your indulgence. I hope you enjoyed the post, or at least found it informative. I will continue to update this post as I come across more information or photos on Itaya. 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, particularly in this case where so little information on Itaya is available. Please stay tuned for reviews of prebuilt 1/72 scale models of Itaya’s Zero in the next three posts.

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 photo 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. 

40-2267:  “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 he had to amputate his leg. 

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

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 from the aforementioned Academy 13202 USAAF B-25B Doolittle Raid plastic kit, whose decal sheet provides this option 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 photo 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.

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 those used in the movie were not the actual bombers. 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 photos 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 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 warnings 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

The Doolittle Raid, April 1942, Part 1: The Mission

In the early hours of April 18, 1942, just over four months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Hornet, escorted by its sister aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, got within 650 miles of Tokyo when it was spotted by a Japanese patrol boat. The Hornet, on its maiden voyage, was on a mission to launch 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers off its deck to strike Tokyo and other Japanese cities as retribution for Pearl Harbor. The Enterprise was accompanying to provide protection from Japanese air attack, as the Hornet’s fighters were below deck to make room for the B-25 bombers.

This photo provides an excellent view of the Hornet’s deck.Doolittle, Halsey, B-25, Mitchell, Tokyo, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, Japan, Pearl Harbor, Japanese

The photo below shows six of the 16 B-25 Mitchells staggered on the deck of the Hornet. With a 67-foot wingspan, the B-25 Mitchell barely fit on the deck. Note that the port-side wings of the aircraft on the left overhang the deck.Doolittle, Halsey, B-25, Mitchell, Tokyo, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, Japan, Pearl Harbor, JapaneseFearing the mission had lost the element of surprise and the carriers would come under attack, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, who was in overall command of the carrier task force, ordered the B-25 bombers to launch, despite the fact that the Hornet was to get within 400 miles from the coast of Japan — still 250 miles away. Although the 1,300 mile range of the B-25 bombers was significantly increased for the mission, the bombers would be lucky to hit their targets in Japan and still have enough fuel to make it to landing strips just outside occupied China.

I’ve modified the map below, captured from Battle 360: Season One, Call to Duty episode to provide a graphic sense of the distances involved. The green circle, at 400 miles, shows how far the Hornet needed to reach for the B-25 bombers to strike their targets and safely land in China. The yellow circle, at 650 miles, shows how far the Hornet actually got before launching the bombers.Doolittle, Halsey, B-25, Mitchell, Tokyo, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, Japan, Pearl Harbor, JapaneseOne by one, the 16 B-25 bombers, each with a five-man crew and carrying 2,000 pounds of explosives, precariously took off from the deck of the Hornet on their four-hour flight to their targets. Colonel James Doolittle, who had planned and led the operation, was the first and, being at the front of the line, had the least runway to take off.

The feat warrants explanation. For obvious reasons, aircraft carriers provide a limited stretch of runway. Aircraft-based fighter planes are specifically designed so they can take off from the short runways on a carrier. Larger bomber planes are a horse of a different color. The B-25 Mitchell, a medium-sized bomber, required 1,500 feet of runway and a speed of 90 mph to take off. With 16 medium-sized bombers parked on the rear of its 814-foot-long deck, the Hornet afforded the Mitchells only 500 feet of runway — one-third of the required length — and permitted acceleration to only 50 mph. In fact, Col. Doolittle’s bomber only had 467 feet of runway.

To accomplish such take-off, the aircraft were supplied with high octane fuel, while the carrier was positioned so that the bombers could take off with the wind at their backs, providing them additional lift. Although the aircraft were also stripped of all non-essential equipment to lessen their weight, that reduction was offset by the extra fuel to allow them to reach and land in China, as it would be impossible to return and land an aircraft the size of a Mitchell on a carrier. Doolittle, Halsey, B-25, Mitchell, Tokyo, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, Japan, Pearl Harbor, JapaneseAll 16 B-25 bombers took off safely, though at least two dipped down after leaving the deck and seemed to skim the “drink” dangerously before finally lifting up and continuing their trajectory to their targets. While some encountered resistance from Japanese fighter planes, all successfully completed their mission, each dropping four 500-lb bombs on Tokyo, Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka, Yokohama, or Yokosuka. It bears noting that all targets were military — factories, munitions plants, shipyards — though the crews understood that there would be civilian casualties.

I couldn’t resist including this fabulous centerfold painting from The Doolittle Raid 1942, Osprey Campaign 156, by Clayton Chun. The painting is by Howard Gerrard. It is posted here for discussion purposes under the fair use exception to the copyright laws.Doolittle, Halsey, B-25, Mitchell, Tokyo, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, Japan, Pearl Harbor, JapaneseAs a result of the additional fuel consumption caused by the premature launch, 15 of the 16 aircraft either crash-landed in China or were ditched at sea, killing three crew members. Japanese soldiers in occupied China captured eight crew members and later executed three, while one died in captivity. Only one aircraft, dangerously low on fuel, managed to land safely by flying to the Soviet Union, which was closer than China, though its five crew members were held by the Soviets for more than a year. Thus, of the 80 crew members who participated in the Doolittle Raid, seven never returned.

While the Doolittle Raid caused negligible damage to Tokyo or other cities, the psychological impact on Japanese morale was immense. Japanese leaders had convinced the populace that Japan was invulnerable to surprise attacks. The Doolittle Raid dispelled this myth and sowed doubt in the Japanese public about its leadership. Moreover, the raid showed the Japanese that the islands were not immune to American bombs, persuading Japanese officials to pull troops from the field to protect the home islands and ships from the Pacific to patrol the coasts. More importantly, it convinced Japanese officials that it was imperative to destroy the U.S. fleet once and for all — something they had failed to do at Pearl Harbor — prompting them to gamble most of their fleet at the Battle of Midway, which was to prove disastrous to the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Conversely, the Doolittle Raid provided a significant morale boost for Americans, particularly its fighting forces, many of whom harbored a thirst for revenge. The Raid also marked the first time that medium bombers had launched from an aircraft carrier and is a textbook example of successful joint Air Force/Navy operations.

Today, 74 years after that fateful day, let us remember the 80 men who selflessly and courageously volunteered for an operation that was in all respects a suicide mission. Of those 80 brave men, only two remain alive today.

I hope you enjoyed the post. Stay tuned next week for Part 2, regarding available B-25 Mitchell bombers in 1/72 scale specifically representing the Doolittle Raid.