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Old 12-16-2016, 08:16 AM   #301
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Which was the most-produced attack bomber of WWII? Got any ideas?

If you said the Douglas A-10 Havoc, you’d be right.

Designed in 1938 for the U.S. Army Air Corps, the Havoc was a mid-wing, twin-engine, three-place medium bomber that won distinction as a dependable attack/light aircraft and night fighter that brought its crews home alive. During this warbird’s notable career, it sent a long and steady stream of Axis combatants to the great Walmart in the sky while serving with the French, United Kingdom, United States, and Soviet air forces.

Yet the Havoc got little press for its exploits unlike other more charismatic planes like the de Havilland Mosquito or P-51D Mustang. She was like your childhood friend’s mother down the street, hardworking, durable, longsuffering—yet hardly getting the credit she deserved. The warbird nobly soldiered on slaughtering Axis combatants by the bushel; but she was more or less ignored and swiftly forgotten after the war.

You ever feel like that? Unappreciated? Unacknowledged? Forgotten? The Havoc sure did. A few tidbits about this mother of a warbird …

The Havoc came in several variants. The one America sent to France (the DB-7A, later furnished to the British (called the “Boston”) was tailored to French specifications and powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines. Which proved perfect for the French, but the Brits found the plane bass-ackwards: Though the instruments were metric, the radios were incompatible with Brit electronics; the weapon’s bay couldn’t accommodate British ordnance; and the throttle was the mirror reverse of British controls, requiring a complete rebuild. Still, the RAF was impressed with the warbird and later equipped its newly acquired French DB-7As as night fighters (calling them the “Havoc II”) with eight 0.30 caliber machines guns clustered in the nose. Pretty cool, huh?

The USAAF, basically ignoring Douglas’ wunderbird at first but ultimately taking an interest in it, followed the RAF’s example and produced its own night fighter called the P-70—perhaps the only bomber to convert to a fighter, ever. The Americans equipped the P-70 with the British AI Mk.IV radar plus four 20 mm canons fitted in a “bathtub” located in the bombay. Crews trained in Orlando, Florida, and performed mock low-altitude attacks on nearby Panama City by dropping dummy bombs on trains. The following mornings, train crews puzzled over fluorescent dye splattered all over their cars.

RAF Bristol Blenheim crews that transitioned to the Douglas absolutely worshipped the aircraft. It was twice as powerful, carried twice the load, and was 80 mph faster. If an engine quit on takeoff, the warbird flew on with flawless control. Cockpit visibility was good, and stall characteristics were agreeable. And it was fast: Spitfire Vs could keep up with it for only a few minutes before overheating and craping out. Two RAF squadrons flew the Boston during the desert battles of 1942 with consummate success, culminating with the second battle of El Alamein.

The Russians couldn’t say enough for their A-20s, considering it a superstar. The warbird’s knack for flying down low and slaughtering German troops, emplacements, supply columns, and soft-skinned targets made it an ideal offensive weapon. Not to mention, the Ruskies were impressed right down to their jack boots with the warbird's engine dependability, excellent aircraft design, and overall
American manufacturing prowess. Douglas sent 3,600 to Russia under lend-lease, which was nearly twice that sent to the British, and substantially more than the 1,962 the USAAF itself flew.

Sounds like a pretty nifty attack bomber, but the Havoc had its issues. The beast’s takeoff speed was 100 mph, which devoured a lot of runway in a hurry. If the airstrip wasn’t long enough, crews could pretty much kiss their butts goodbye. And the flaps extended too slowly and weren’t terribly effective, making grass airfield landings appallingly iffy.

Still, for its time and place, the A-20 Havoc (Boston) was an exceptional warbird prized by all who flew it. Too bad nobody wrote home to mommy about it.



Personally, I think Hobby Master’s A-20 Havocs and Boston Mk. IV are purty cool. I’m not a Havoc enthusiast, so I don’t get overexcited about the warbird, but HM’s rendition is extremely well done. I especially like this particular Brit example for its stately color scheme. Downright cool.


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Old 12-16-2016, 12:40 PM   #302
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Nice write up on the Boston/Havoc.

BTW, they also served in the RCAF and RAAF as well.

Below: 418 RCAF Squadron Boston "O" Ottawa painted black and used in the Night Interdiction attack role.

Dan


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Old 12-16-2016, 12:51 PM   #303
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Ah yes, the infamous "A-10 Havoc"...
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Old 12-16-2016, 01:00 PM   #304
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"Which was the most-produced attack bomber of WWII? Got any ideas?"

Not that I am trying to question your research, but wouldn't that actually be the IL-2 Stormvik 36,000 produced vs 7600?

I guess there might be some nuisance between "attack aircraft" and "attack bomber" but the roles they did were more the less the same.
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Old 12-16-2016, 03:01 PM   #305
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Ah yes, the infamous "A-10 Havoc"...
Half right!

To be fair the rest of the review stated A-20.
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Old 12-19-2016, 08:39 AM   #306
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Quick! Which operational Allied or Axis airplane, prop or jet, was the best looking? The P-51D Mustang? The Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XIV maybe? The Messerschmitt Me-262? For me it’s a no-brainer: The Heinkel He 219, a ship so mouthwatering gorgeous I’m surprised it didn’t grace the cover of Der Bouncin’ Boobies, Nazi Germany’s hottest-selling men’s magazine, predecessor to Playboy. It’s even said Hitler himself drooled over its centerfolds—the letch.

But let’s be serious.

We’re talking about a curvaceous babe that hefted two honkin’ Daimler Benz DB 603E liquid-cooled inverted V12 engines that drove the night-fighter crowd crazy. She flew at 385 mph. up to 30,500 ft. at a combat range of 960 miles. And she carried up to 4 x 20 mm MG 151 cannons in a detachable fairing under the fuselage, 300 rpg., 2 x 20 mm MG 151s in wing roots, 300 rpg, and 2 x 30 mm MK 108 cannons, hardware that could buzzsaw through the Bismarck.

Not bad, eh, for a double-barreled motorcycle mama? But that wasn’t all. The He-219 offered a variety of firsts and innovations that included an advanced VHF bandwidth intercept radar, the Luftwaffe’s first ejection seats, and the Luftwaffe’s first operational tricycle landing gear. Hubba-hubba.

So it came as no surprise when the Uhu (Owl) kicked butt on its combat debut. Werner Streib hopped in the cockpit on the night of 11–12 June 1943 and promptly annihilated five Lancaster bombers before crash-landing on approach to base. The ensuing ten nights, three Heinkel He-219A-0s shot down 20 RAF aircraft, including six exceptionally slippery de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers. From there the record gets kind of murky, but the Owl eventually destroyed a healthy number of RAF Lancaster and Halifax bombers—with several more Mosquitos thrown in.

So you’d think Göring and Hitler and the entire Nazi/German nation would faint with joy over their new winged terror. Right?

Wrong.

They didn’t. And you can point the finger squarely at Field Marshal Milch for it.

Good ol’ Erhard “stinkie-cheese” Milch, pompous jackass in charge of aircraft production, hated Heinkel on principle and the He-219 in particular, just because. He thrice rejected the Owl as overly complex, sending Ernst Heinkel into a seething rage, who summarily fired the aircraft’s designer, Robert Lusser. Seemed everybody blew gaskets over this babe—everybody but General Josef Kammhuber, commander of German night fighter units, who saw the He-219 and fell insanely in love with it. The General straightaway directed Heinkel to develop and manufacture the fighter despite Milch’s rejections, and in doing so made an implacable, seething enemy.

Upon learning of this U-turn, Milch went postal and kicked the Owl to the curb—again—enraging Kammhuber, who nearly punched Milch’s lights out. The two men squared off like slobbering Pitbulls until Göring stepped in and transferred Kammhuber to Norway and later sacked Milch. Work bumbled along on the He-219 but too late to make a difference.

Still, Heinkel managed to produce 294 He-219s despite Milch’s dingbattyness. Had Nazi and Luftwaffe leadership actually grown some brains, the He-219 might have dented the RAF’s nocturnal bombing campaign, at least enough to give Nazi Germany time to convalesce, recuperate, and thrive. Maybe.

So much for dimwitted leaders—and Nazi girly mags.



Surprisingly, WarMaster did a passable job on its He 219. The camo job is convincing, and overall the model appears reasonably accurate. But for a few ham-handed trench joints, a milky canopy, and log-sized radar antenna rods, she makes for a nice little Owl. It’s unlikely Corgi or Hobby Master will produce their own He 219s, so if you’re looking to complement your collection with a nifty Nazi night fighter, grab this one. You’ll like it.


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Old 12-22-2016, 09:06 AM   #307
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It’s every military diecast collector’s secret desire to fly an aircraft so badass that nobody will tangle with him/her. You know how I know that?

I don’t. I’m just guessing.

But come on, admit it. You really do.

And that being the case, you would have killed to fly the F-8 Crusader, a happenin’, gang-bangin’ superstar able to rip the guts out of all comers, especially those with big red stars painted on their wings. It was an honest-to-goodness gun slinger, the last American fighter to tote cannons as its primary armament (over missiles). It was speedy, sprightly, and flexible, able to heft bombs, missiles, and machine guns that scared the boneless brown trout out of the enemy.

By 1975 (when the US finally abandoned Vietnam), the Crusader boasted of the highest kill ratio of any American fighter in that conflict: 19 Vietnamese MiGs downed for 3 Crusaders lost. The North Vietnamese were all too aware of this record and usually avoided the F-8 for fear of getting the snot kicked out of them. The fighter’s last kill occurred on May 23rd, 1972, and best demonstrates that country’s wariness.

VF-211, “The Fighting Checkmates,” held the distinction as one of the Navy’s most successful Crusader squadrons during the war, having scored eight confirmed kills. Sister squadrons were suitably impressed, reverently (and begrudgingly) calling them “The MiG Killers.” Lieutenant Junior Grade Gerald “Jerry” Tucker, an F-8 pilot, served with VF-211 aboard the USS John Hancock (CVA-19), mostly dropping bombs on and firing rockets into North Vietnamese ground positions. In late May 1972, Tucker and LCDR Frank Bachman, his wingman, were flying Target Combat Air Patrol (TARCAP) over an alpha strike near the North Vietnamese coast. Navy F-4 Phantoms had destroyed targets on and around Vinh airfield, completing their mission in relative peace.

Boredom overtook Bachman and Tucker as they watched the show from above and were about to head back to the barn when their radios erupted with chatter, several F-4 crews yelping that a MiG-17 was barreling toward them. The Fresco had lit the can and was rocketing straight for the group, apparently bent on revenge.

An offshore Navy Red Crown crew monitoring this development on radar called up two F-4 Phantom IIs to intercept, which swiftly responded that they were “lost in the bubble” (had become disorientated). Listening to this drivel and frowning with cold fury, Tucker radioed his position to Red Crown, advising them that he and Bachman were locked and loaded. To which Red Crown promptly replied and vectored the Crusaders to the MiG, Tucker in the lead.

The MiG, sensing danger, headed for the deck as Tucker readied for a shot.

As he closed on the Fresco’s six, Tucker forced himself to settle down, certain his AIM-9 Sidewinder would splash the target. But just as he started to pickle the missile, the MiG’s canopy popped off and away, followed by a rocketing ejection seat. The NVAF pilot had seen Tucker’s Crusader and deserted his ship rather than tangle with it. Breathless with rage, Tucker pulled back on the throttle and plowed circles around the terrified MiG driver now floating to earth beneath a silken parachute.

The Navy later refused to count the engagement as a kill (typically), though fellow naval aviators supported Tucker’s argument that it was. In the end, the lieutenant’s one solace was that his Crusader had scared an NVAF pilot into punching out rather than “staying in the furball” and fight.



Century Wings still has it where it counts, though several other manus are challenging its top-dog status. I especially like CW’s F-8 Corsair, especially its French version. The jet’s dark blue/grey camouflage and shark mouth motif (not to mention the absurd duck emblazoned on its tail) really do it for me. The USN renditions are pretty cool, too. If you admire guts and glory, Century Wings’ Corsairs will definitely fit your pistol. You might have to wait awhile until you find the Frenchie version, however. A very long while. C'est la vie!



Another Century Wings F-8 you'll love ...




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Old 12-22-2016, 09:30 AM   #308
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[SIZE=3] the P-70—perhaps the only bomber to convert to a fighter, ever.
I can think of two other examples right off...the British Mosquito and the German Ju-88, both originally developed to be fast medium bombers.
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Old 12-22-2016, 09:32 AM   #309
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Good luck finding F8Us at any price anywhere anymore...
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Old 12-22-2016, 11:15 AM   #310
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Have to agree that the CW F-8 is a great model; I really like my four USN copies (three of which are different VF-211 birds!) very much, up there with my AC Spooks and HM Skyraiders.

I just wish they were still releasing them - a VF-111 Sundowners scheme would be great to have!
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Old 12-22-2016, 12:33 PM   #311
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Likewise, CW F-8 is such an excellent model. I was able to at least snatched one, a VF-162 Hunters F-8. I prefer the US Navy scheme of the 70's because of the large roundel and two-tone fuselage colour. I wonder why CW ceased releasing more F-8s after they only made 6 models.
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Old 12-22-2016, 01:36 PM   #312
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I have Hunters too, and it is a beauty.

Hunters were VF-211's sister squadron in the CVW they were attached to at the time (flying off USS Midway IIRC - I'm away from home ATM so can't go to check?), so it makes a nice partner for the Fighting Checkmates birds.

And here they are, in my started, but far from finished, being unboxed and set up cabs, Hunters and normal flap Checkmates releases on stands, while the variable incidence wing up/flap down birds are on their wheels:



I really do love my Crusaders, great planes and CW did a great job on them. I don't have the Shamrocks release as it wasn't deployed for combat, F-4s having replaced the F-8s before the squadron went to war in SEA.
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Old 12-22-2016, 02:09 PM   #313
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Love your US Navy collection....drooling. The scheme of gray-white, a big roundel and bold NAVY marking is my favourite time period of Naval Aviation.
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Old 12-22-2016, 02:18 PM   #314
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Love your US Navy collection....drooling. The scheme of gray-white, a big roundel and bold NAVY marking is my favourite time period of Naval Aviation.
Cheers! I'm glad you like it. I'm pretty happy with how it's coming along, both in terms of what's there and how I have them positioned D

I agree entirely about those colours: to me, those schemes are smart AF, and they often have great squadron art too. I view them as the classic USN jet liveries, with so much more character than the later lo-viz with one bright CAG bird style that followed and persists to this day in NAVAIR.

What can be seen there is only what I have unboxed so far, there's a bunch of A-7s out of frame (all the CW USN grey over whites in fact) plus the Vigi you can just see, all the Vietnam-era HM Skyhawks, one more A-6 (Sunday Punchers, another nice model wearing a nice scheme too), more Skyraiders, plus, of course, a big flock of Spooks (most of the HM Vietnam schemes, plus X-Plus Sundowners and all three AC USN fleet squadron F-4s

I will also be displaying my first cruise/Operation Frequent Wind Wolfpack and Bounty Hunters Tomcats in that cab too on their release, with the HM Air America Huey, as that is also OP FW. (I also have the HM Seawolves UH-1B and the Pooch's Chink 69 Sea King out - their tails are just visible too..)

It's been a big job setting up the cabs, between working out how to arrange the types generally and then each model's exact spot to make the most of the room without cluttering (space really is at a premium ), not to mention the actual unboxing/researching & choosing loadouts for each plane itself.

There is another cab the same next to that one, which is where all the USAF models from that era are going too. I will share some pics when it's done; however, right now I am overseas on holiday so it won't be for a few weeks

Last edited by tker76; 12-22-2016 at 02:47 PM.
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Old 12-22-2016, 08:29 PM   #315
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Who are the cabinets courtesy of?
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Old 12-22-2016, 09:41 PM   #316
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IKEA - they are Stockholm cabs, bought them in Innaloo. Pretty happy with them, going to put in an LED lighting kit and I had extra shelves made up to give five shelves in each instead of four..

I'm still going to have to buy a couple of Detolfs too though, no way all my models will fit in the two Stockholms so I'm using them for my main Vietnam War/era theme, but I have a lot of moderns and a Korean War theme too..
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Old 12-22-2016, 09:57 PM   #317
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Impressive collection and hopefully you'd snap a photo of your completed display cabinet.

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Cheers! I'm glad you like it. I'm pretty happy with how it's coming along, both in terms of what's there and how I have them positioned D

I agree entirely about those colours: to me, those schemes are smart AF, and they often have great squadron art too. I view them as the classic USN jet liveries, with so much more character than the later lo-viz with one bright CAG bird style that followed and persists to this day in NAVAIR.

What can be seen there is only what I have unboxed so far, there's a bunch of A-7s out of frame (all the CW USN grey over whites in fact) plus the Vigi you can just see, all the Vietnam-era HM Skyhawks, one more A-6 (Sunday Punchers, another nice model wearing a nice scheme too), more Skyraiders, plus, of course, a big flock of Spooks (most of the HM Vietnam schemes, plus X-Plus Sundowners and all three AC USN fleet squadron F-4s

I will also be displaying my first cruise/Operation Frequent Wind Wolfpack and Bounty Hunters Tomcats in that cab too on their release, with the HM Air America Huey, as that is also OP FW. (I also have the HM Seawolves UH-1B and the Pooch's Chink 69 Sea King out - their tails are just visible too..)

It's been a big job setting up the cabs, between working out how to arrange the types generally and then each model's exact spot to make the most of the room without cluttering (space really is at a premium ), not to mention the actual unboxing/researching & choosing loadouts for each plane itself.

There is another cab the same next to that one, which is where all the USAF models from that era are going too. I will share some pics when it's done; however, right now I am overseas on holiday so it won't be for a few weeks
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Old 12-23-2016, 08:39 AM   #318
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Impressive collection and hopefully you'd snap a photo of your completed display cabinet.
Definitely, I'll take proper pics and do a collection (well theme really) post soon as I have them all out and set up.

I like seeing other people's collections, and they're good posts for the forum IMO.
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Old 12-25-2016, 11:20 AM   #319
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Have you even known someone, perhaps a punk at school or an irritating coworker, who was bad news? You know, like Jerry Imajerk down the street, the scum-bucket bully who picked on little kids and laughed? Or your boozy, dipstick uncle, who habitually made a fool of himself around you and everybody else? You know the kind, the jerks of the world. Yet to everybody’s astonishment, by some bewildering miracle, this person turned around 180 degrees and became agreeable? Even likeable? Perhaps even inspiring?

It happens. Not often, but it does. People change for innumerable reasons, sometimes for the good. Surprising enough, aircraft do too occasionally.

Enter the Curtis SB2C Helldiver, a miserable cow of an aircraft, a brute its crews dubbed the “Son of a
Beyatch, 2nd class” or “The Beast.” Yet after significant design changes, the warbird emerged as a rootin’-rootin’, bomb-tottin’ hero that pounded the world’s two biggest, baddest battleships to twisted wrecks and performed other mighty deeds. Without question, Helldiver squadrons made a considerable contribution toward winning the war in the Pacific after 1943.

But it sure didn’t start out that way.

Believe it or not, the XSB2C-1 prototype was designed and constructed in a cattle barn on the Ohio State University fairgrounds—a cowshed of all places! Which, considering the Helldiver’s bovine debut, was udderly appropriate.

The prototype XSB2C-2 straightaway exhibited nearly insurmountable teething problems, many related to its Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone engine and three-bladed propeller. From the get-go, the plane revealed structural weaknesses, poor handling, directional instability, and appalling stall characteristics (the XSB2C’s low-speed stability proved worse than average, even for a land-based plane). It was so bad that when Professor Emeritus of Aeronautical Engineering Otto C. Koppen observed a model of the prototype “flying” in the MIT wind tunnel, he said, “ [I]f they build more than one of these, they are crazy.”

On its second flight on 18 December 1940, the prototype crashed. During test dives on 21 December, 1941, the starboard wing and tail collapsed, nearly killing the pilot. Had Japan not attacked Pearl Harbor two weeks before, the Navy would have canceled the SB2C. But the USA was gearing up for war, and any plane showing even a smidgen of promise was bankrolled. Yet even then, the Navy wouldn’t accept the SB2C until Curtiss (the manufacturer) made 880 modifications to it.

Just to give you an idea of the problems Curtiss faced …

The Helldiver was atrociously unstable at low landing speeds, especially below 90 knots. Since the approach speed for a carrier landing was 85 knots, the bird habitually dropped its right wing and/or pitched up nose-high and stalled over the carrier deck. To compensate, engineers designed a tail so large that aircrews joked the SB2C’s rudder was big enough to steer a battleship (and was.) Plus, during an attack dive, the plane’s ailerons became torpid and unresponsive, making precision bombing nearly impossible. Combine that with the Helldiver’s excessive tail buffeting caused by the plane’s dive brakes, and the SB2C’s bombing accuracy was inferior to the older SBD Dauntless it replaced. None of which went unnoticed.

Commander Herbert D. Riley, serving on the staff of the deputy chief of Naval Operations (Air), later recalled that "the SB2C was so tricky to fly, compared to the SBD, and so hard to maintain that the skippers of the new carriers preferred to have the old SBDs. We had quite a battle forcing the SB2C down their respective throats."

The Brits weren’t impressed, either. The Admiralty thought the aircraft was a genuine dog and disbanded its only Helldiver squadron—before it even served on a carrier. Captain Eric Brown, the test pilot who evaluated the Helldiver for the Royal Navy, called it a “…cockup’s cockup.” He further added, “One could only sympathize with the U.S. Navy pilots flying this unpleasant aircraft from carriers in the Pacific.” Consequently, both the British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force cancelled substantial orders.

The Helldiver itself, aware of its failings, developed a complex and crapped out during the American carrier strikes against Vice Adm. Jisaburo Ozawa’s retiring carrier force on day two of the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Of the 51 SB2Cs that flew long-range strikes on June 20, 1944, 45 were lost to Japanese fighters, anti-aircraft fire, or fuel exhaustion. To this day, the loss remains the highest percentage loss of a single U.S. Navy aircraft type during a single mission. To add insult to injury, the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair could carry an offensive bombload equal to the Helldiver. Moreover, once they dropped their ordinance, these two fighters could take on Zeros and Hayates with ease, whereas the lumbering SB2C was lucky to escape. The Navy accordingly stacked its carrier groups with fighters over dive bombers.

And yet …


Once Curtiss made several additional modifications, the SB2C transformed into a mack-daddy dive bomber, a real bomb-slinging bad boy. And all it took was the introduction of the R-2600-20 Twin Cyclone engine and Curtiss' four-bladed propeller. After that, the Helldiver became a snortin’, raging bull that went out looking for trouble! The SB2C bombed the poop out of the Marianas, the Philippines (assisting in sinking the battleship Musashi), Taiwan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa (facilitating the Yamato’s demise). In ‘45, the warbird ravaged airfields, communications, and shipping on and around the Ryuku Islands and the Japanese home island of Honshū. It also flew extensive patrols during the dropping of the atomic bombs right through Japan’s official surrender.

In other words, a simple engine and prop change turned the Helldiver into a black-belt, beastly rock star. It still had a little trouble with landings, but the warbird could blast the livin’ ding-dong out of the enemy. For a cow of an aircraft that started life in a barn, it wound up outstanding in its field! Ba-dum-bum-CHING!



When I was a kid, I drooled over photos of the Helldiver and spent hours drawing it until my fingers popped off. Hobby Master’s rendition of this warbird makes me appreciate it all the more. For accuracy, paint rendition, tampo application, airbrakes, finish—you name it—the model swings. For collectors growing their Pacific Theatre collection, this one’s a must-have.


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Old 12-28-2016, 10:51 AM   #320
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When bad weather postponed the launching of the RMS Tyrrhenia, dock workers considered the delay ill-omened. When the owners later renamed the RMS Tyrrhenia to RMS Lancastria (later HMT Lancastria), the same men felt this too foretokened a frightful destiny. When a Junkers Ju-88A hit the liner with four bombs, sinking it within 20 minutes and drowning 4,000 men, women, and children, the ship’s destruction came as no surprise: Bad mojo had triumphed.

Upon learning of this horrific news, Winston Churchill ordered a media blackout; the British nation would hear nothing of the disaster. Not for decades.

Hauptmann Ernst Schröder of Kampfgeschweder 30, had swooped low over the water in his Ju-88A and headed directly for the Lancastria’s stern. Closing in, he released four 500kg bombs and craned his head rearward to watch the fireworks. Several deafening explosions erupted as splinters of deck, metal, and men launched everywhere; the entire ship flinching like a man shot through the heart, and the young pilot grinned. He’d achieved his third ship kill.

For seventy-five years this disaster remained largely unknown, ignored by the media and deliberately tucked into obscurity. So great was the loss of life that Winston Churchill had straightaway placed a “D-Notice” on news of the sinking, silencing newspapers and broadcasters from reporting the carnage. In his diary, Prime Minister Churchill defended this decision saying he thought the British people “…had had enough bad news.” He wanted to “…turn a retreat into a victory.”

The back story …

In May, 1940, the German war machine had thrust far into France. The British and French armies were on the ropes, fighting for their very lives. Britain determined to rescue its remaining forces from France and commenced a massive evacuation from Dunkirk, necessitating swarms of ships and vessels. Among those that joined was the Lancastria, a large ocean liner pressed into service as a troop carrier.

In the early hours of Monday, the 17th of June 1940, the Lancastria eased her way toward the coast of France within view of St. Nazaire, escorted by a French pilot boat. One French crewmen boarded the Lancastria and advised the shipmaster, Captain Sharp, in perfect English, that it would be unwise to continue. He warned that anchoring the ship so close to shore would paint a huge target on the ship. Sharp’s grey eyes narrowed and hardened as he replied, “What alternative have I got?” As the Lancastria dropped anchor, a British naval transport officer came aboard and informed the Captain that he was to take on as many troops as possible, capacity levels be damned (the Lancastria could hold 2,000 people max). To this, Captain Sharp agreed and commenced taking on human cargo by the thousands.

One of the first and largest shuttle craft to hove alongside carried two hundred RAF personnel and eight officers. Wing Commander Douglas Macfadye came aboard and found a suitable cabin as another steward conducted his people to Numbers 1 and 2 holds. Subsequent RAF units, mainly ground crew from 73 Squadron, arrived and likewise quartered in these holds; by mid-afternoon the jam-packed cargo bay writhed with 800 RAF service cadre.

As Major Scott Bowden of the 53rd Company Auxiliary Pioneer Corps boarded with his men from the destroyer HMS Havelock, he could see the Lancastria was jam-packed. A purser directed the major to a second-class cabin with four bunk beds. Upon entering, he saw that seven other officers had been assigned to the same room. Bowden presently grilled the purser about the intolerable lodgings, who replied: “Sorry Sir, but that’s the best I can do. You’re lucky to get a bunk at all. Three men will have to sleep on the floor, and two of those are Colonels!”

Other vessels came alongside, disgorging a profuse number of civilian men, women, and children to where standing-room only remained.

At 15.43, the Air Raid Patrol alarm screeched as Ju-88 bombers circled like vultures. One skimmed the surface at 200 ft. and dropped four bombs, hitting the ship in the vicinity of Nos. 2 to 4 holds. RAF personnel in No. 2 cargo bay were slaughtered in toto. The bomb that hit No. 3 hold exploded, causing a hole that gushed nearly 500 tons of fuel oil into the surrounding waters. A signalman attempted to contact the engine room, but no one replied.

Military personnel, civilian men, women, and children plunged into the ocean amidst the fuel oil, swallowing the black liquid and drowning by the score. During all this, the bombers strafed the survivors. One Ju-88 dropped an incendiary bomb in an attempt to ignite the fuel oil and cremate those awash in it. One British Bren gunner heroically fired at the enemy aircraft as the ship sank, manning his gun until the waves closed over him. Rescue ships, in the meantime, became dangerously overloaded and threatened to capsize. To stay afloat, several seamen aboard these vessels pitched seriously wounded men back into the sea.

As Lancastria began its death dive, screams replaced singing as floundering human beings, most without lifebelts, drowned by the thousands. It was a ghastly sight that haunted survivors to their dying days. Some estimates say that about 6000 people died out of a ship’s complement of about 9000. Others put the figures at 4000 people lost out of 6000. If the higher figure is correct, the Lancastria sinking was the worst shipping loss ever, anywhere—nearly four times the number lost on the Titanic.

When asked after the war why he had not lifted the order on the loss of the ship, Churchill replied, “I forgot to do that.”

After sinking the Lancastria and winging back to Chièvres Air Base, a pang of guilt distracted Hauptmann Ernst Schröder despite his jubilant crew. He was sure he’d caught a glimpse of women and children standing on the top decks, several near the explosions. Remorse plagued him until his own grisly death two years later over the North Caucasus Front, where a Lavochkin La-5 nailed his Ju-88 with its two ShVAK 20 mm cannon, smashing the canopy head on. Schröder’s head vanished in a blood-splattering burst.



The Corgi model above represents a Ju-88 C-6, a solid-nosed fighter version disguised as a bomber. The C-6 appeared in early 1942 and was based on the improved A-4, powered by 1,400hp Jumo 211J-1 or J-2 engines. It also lumbered the same firepower as the C-4, along with rear firing dorsal and ventral guns. Production was limited, but this variant equipped night fighter units and special Zerstörer staffeln bomber units.

I love the model, not only because Corgi—typically—demonstrated its virtuosity therein, but the real McCoy was crazy-cool looking and immensely effective. The AA36707 still pops up on eBay occasionally, but to get one you might have to empty your bank account. Grab one while you can. They’re going fast.


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Old 12-28-2016, 01:56 PM   #321
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I like how HM simulated the cheap paint that the Luftwaffe crews slapped on the Ju-88s as they arrived at the Eastern Front. The painted-on "glass nose" was effective for a short time, since the Soviet flyers would attack the bombers head-on at their weakest point, not realizing there were up to 6 guns of various calibers waiting for them in that nose.
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Old 12-29-2016, 08:32 AM   #322
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richtofen888 View Post


Some estimates say that about 6000 people died out of a ship’s complement of about 9000. Others put the figures at 4000 people lost out of 6000. If the higher figure is correct, the Lancastria sinking was the worst shipping loss ever, anywhere—nearly four times the number lost on the Titanic.


Surely a tragic occurence with so many lives taken, but the sinking of MV Wilhelm Gustlof is considered as the worst shipping loss ever with more than 9000 lives lost, following latest estimations.


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Old 12-29-2016, 09:42 AM   #323
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Wanna read something hilarious? Hermann Göring, a gargantuan de Havilland Mosquito fan, said the following …

“In 1940 I could fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminum better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops.”

Nincompoops? The
Reichsmarschall must have been looking in the mirror.

In my universe, there’s absolutely no question the Mosquito was Britain’s best warbird during World War II. That’s saying a mouthful, especially when England produced and flew the Spitfire, Typhoon, and Lancaster—among other winners. But I’m convinced that for looks, adeptness, and war record, Mosquitos simply couldn’t be beat.

Here’s another question for ya …

Why did de Havilland make Mosquitos out of wood and not aluminum? One word: availability.

Wood was plentiful; spruce, birch plywood, and Ecuadorean balsa were easily had, aluminum not so much. Wood wasn’t a scarce, strategic material like metal. Not to mention, furniture factories, cabinetmakers, luxury-auto coachbuilders, and piano makers were woodworking virtuosos who could churn out wooden Mosquitos with ease—and did. Wood’s chief advantage is that it’s easy to work with, a material that craftspeople have been shaping and hammering for millennia; thus Britain had a ready-made workforce with the expertise and skill required to produce wooden masterpieces. Plus wood, when overlaid with a thin layer of doped fabric, makes for a surprisingly smooth, drag-free, rivet-free, seam-free surface. And ground crews could repair battle damage fairly easily.

Wood is a composite, very much like the carbon/graphite-fiber materials found on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, furnishing strength, agility, and light weight. Both wood and modern composites consist of tiny fibers suspended in a cellulose or polymer carrier that combine into a remarkably robust matrix. Opposed to today’s composites bonded under heat and pressure, wood requires little more than gluing. De Havilland assembled early Mosquitos with casein glues, the same woodworker’s glue found today at any hardware store. One big downside to milk-byproduct adhesive, however, is that it provides a veritable smorgasbord of tasty fodder to voracious microorganisms, particularly in wet, warm environments. In the Pacific theater, Mosquito glues ofttimes turned cheesy, debonding upper wing skins from the main spar. Several Mosquitos simply fell apart where they stood.

The fix came with a two-part urea-formaldehyde glue. Technicians applied the urea to one wooden surface and formaldehyde catalyst to another. When the two pieces conjoined, a chemical waterproof bond formed, stronger than the wood itself.

Wood rot proved yet another challenge. De Havilland internally coated its Mosquitos with traditional marine varnishes, nowhere near as waterproof as today’s polyurethane coatings. As a result, some Mosquitos decomposed from canker and decay; many post-war Wooden Wonders came unstuck. Regardless, most Mossies survived bad glue, ravenous microbes, and wood rot, serving valiantly against Germany, Italy, and Japan. Certainly no airplane flew as many different kinds of missions or performed them as well as the Mosquito, one of if not the world’s first successful multirole combat aircraft.



Though it didn’t break any sales records, Corgi’s USAAF recon Mossie eventually became a semi-cult classic. Its wonderful semi-day-glo red empennage and zany blue fuselage and wings hit the spot for many a Mosquito aficionado. If you’re into fast British warbirds wrapped in panache and style, grab this little beauty.



Another Mossie for your viewing pleasure ...


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Old 12-29-2016, 10:54 AM   #324
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Corgi's Mossie is very nice - I don't buy much WWII, but do have an RAAF Mossie with D-Day stripes I really like.
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Old 12-30-2016, 10:53 AM   #325
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If you’ve kept up with my write-ups, you know I've posted ghostly tales (if infrequently). I make no claim that these stories are true; I do assert, however, that those who shared them with me believe they’re true, and I find little reason to doubt their sincerity.

An acquaintance of mine worked at the NASA Dryden Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, in the ‘60s and knew Fred Baurer, a renowned engineer on the X-15 team. Edwards Air Force Base has hosted many firsts: America's first jet plane, the first rocket plane, the first flying wing, the first shuttle landing. It's also home to the Air Force Test Center, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, and NASA's Dryden Research Center. As you’d expect, the airbase has witnessed more than its fair share of fatal crashes: dead test pilot bones and minced aircraft litter the adjacent desert for boundless miles.

On November 15, 1967, Fred Baurer and others watched as Maj. Michael J. Adams piloted X-15 no. 56-6672 over the Southern California skies, a rocket plane that ‘til then had posed no problems. Ten minutes into the launch, the Major sent a garbled radio message stating his plane felt a little “squirrelly” just before it went into a flat spin, pulled out, and then plunged in an inverted Mach 4.7 dive. Within seconds the X-15 disintegrated and crashed northwest of Cuddeback Lake, killing the pilot and annihilating the ship. Back at the control center, Baurer’s face darkened with an unreadable emotion as someone else anxiously coughed.

Until a team member discovered the X-15’s camera film one week later (that revealed the cause), Fred and others spent fretful days and nights examining the tangled wreckage for clues with little success. One morning around 3:00 a.m., spent to exhaustion, Fred called it a night and drove the lengthy desert road toward the base’s front gate, savoring the cool air. Looking ahead, he saw someone walking a hundred yards away opposite him.

This individual wore a flight suit and loosely held a helmet to his side, an odd spectacle for that time of morning and place. Fred’s eyes widened as he slowed parallel to this person to offer a ride—and nearly had a heart attack. The pilot nodded faintly in acknowledgement and then, inconceivably, vanished into the watery moonlight.

To the few he shared this encounter with years later, Fred claimed the phantom aviator wore a silver pressure suit, much of it blackened as was the man’s face and helmet. But what shocked him most, he said, was that this individual was none other than Maj. Michael J. Adams, the pilot who’d died flying X-15 No. 56-6672. More astonishing, Baurer insisted that as he gazed horrified at the dead flyer, he saw the cause of the X-15’s crash. The imagery that imbued his mind was so lucid and complete, it was as if he’d witnessed it firsthand.

Shaking badly, the poor man went home and drank himself to sleep. Fred was no fool, though. He prudently kept this ghostly encounter confidential (
mostly) for fear of losing his job and/or being committed to an insane asylum.

Ever afterward he refused to travel down the long road to the front gate alone—especially after dark.



My friends, if you don’t own a Corgi 1/144 B-52, your collections are incomplete. The BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fugger) is the most famous, long-lived bomber in history. It’s an extraordinary weapons system with a hellacious fist slated to serve through the 2040s. The X-15 carrier version above its absolutely gobsmacking beautiful for its silver/white/day-glo finish, and I can’t recommend it enough. If you can find it (or one of its hangar mates) don’t hesitate: buy it. Oh and by the way, the B-52 that carried the X-15 in this story bore the same tail markings as the one shown above.


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Old 12-31-2016, 11:13 AM   #326
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Lots of folks think Hitler was totally off his nut for bolting bombs under the Me-262’s nose, much akin to yoking two heavy beer kegs to a galloping thoroughbred. The very idea seems outrageous, given that the Swallow was designed to annihilate bomber groups far above Germany—not chuck bombs in European mud. But recent study suggests that had Hitler produced the Jagbomber (the Me-262 bomber version) in number (read: in the thousands), modifying the jet into a proper ground-attack aircraft and deploying it deftly, it might have tilted the war in Germany’s favor—decisively.

A quick look at this theory …

When the Allies successfully landed in Africa and Italy in ’43, our boy Adolf freaked out. He knew America, Britain, Canada, etc., would eventually invade France by amphibious means also and reasoned that if he could contain the Allies on the beaches (where they were most vulnerable), forceful German counterattacks could annihilate them. To do that, the army needed the Luftwaffe’s support, which itself required a speedy fast fighter-bomber, the Jabo, to dash in, immobilize the invading enemy with bombs, and haul booty back to base for more ordnance. During which time, nimble German armored columns would clank in and grind Allied heinie to cheeseburgers.

Or so Hitler’s scenario went. Certainly seemed reasonable. Cheeseburger, anyone? Fries?

So on 2 November 1943, Richsmarshal Hermann Göring visited the Messerschmitt plant in Augsburg and asked Willi Messerschmitt if his newfangled Me-262 twin-engined jet fighter could carry bombs. Always eager to please and embellish when necessary, Willi responded that yes, without question, the Me-262 Schwalbe (Swallow) had been designed from the get-go to carry 1,100 pound bombs and was easily adaptable to the Jabo role. Herman was pleased and passed word to Hitler.

Sure enough on 26 November 1943, Hitler inspected the Me-262 at Insterburg and asked Messerschmitt the same question: Could the jet carry bombs? To which Willie stood ramrod straight and passionately replied it could. To which Hitler beamed and forthwith ordered Herr Messerschmitt to produce the Me-262 in vast numbers, the “Sturmvogel” bomber version that is—not the interceptor.

Willy nearly choked on his apple strudel. He was kidding about the bombs.

When Luftwaffe general and flying ace Adolf Galland heard that his jet stallion was fated to become a pack mule, he went bat-crazy. See, he’d flown the Me-262A-1a Swallow, the fighter version, on 22 April 1943, and was utterly convinced it could effortlessly destroy the Allied bombing campaign. What nutty Nazi, he marveled, would ruin Germany’s one chance at victory? Accordingly, Galland met with Hitler on January 7, 1944, and practically bit off the Führer’s nose, shouting that the Swallow was ill-suited as a bomber but eminently capable of scouring the skies clean of Allied bombers. Given squadrons of this jet in fighter form, he snarled, he could save Germany’s tokus. Hitler glared back and sent Galland and his entourage packing.

Obediently, Willie Messerschmitt fitted the Me-262A-2a Sturmvogel (Storm Bird) with two pylons under its forward fuselage for two 550 lb. general-purpose or cluster bombs, leaving two upper cannon for defense. In addition, his factory fashioned several Jabo adaptions and prototypes, all devised to please the Führer—but then blithely ignored Hitler’s wishes and manufactured the Me-262 air-to-air fighter instead.

Galland laughed up his sleeve. He was going to get his jet fighters after all.

The way things turned out, the few Jabos that actually flew weren’t particularly successful. The Sturmvogel was too “clean” for dive-bombing attacks, building up too much speed and becoming uncontrollable. And because the jet lacked a bombsight, horizontal bombing accuracy from medium to high altitudes was pathetic. At low-level, though, horizontal attacks were effective when done with cluster munitions (that didn’t require precise aiming).

In the end, the Sturmvogel made little to no impact on the war. Few were produced; and scarce data remains of those that were.

Which brings us back to the premise that Hitler’s desire for an effective bombed-up jet wasn’t so wonky after all. The Me-262 was patently ill-suited for the task (given its clean lines and all), but Der Fuhrer’s reasoning was sound. Had somebody brainstormed the jet-bomber concept years before, the Luftwaffe might have extinguished part or all of the Allied invading force just as Adolf envisioned it, providing time for German tank columns to mop up. I shudder to think what the Reich would have accomplished with squadrons of A-10 Warthogs or Su-25 Frogfoots.

As it turned out, Messerschmitt produced 1,433 Me 262 Swallows (the fighter version). Of that total, 300 flew in combat. By the war’s end, the Me 262 had destroyed 509 confirmed Allied aircraft against 100 loses. Not a bad investment. Galland wasn’t stupid, apparently.

So yeah, Hitler was right; he just had the wrong bird.



Who doesn’t love the Me-262’s sinister, sharky profile? Corgi did a pretty decent job on its rendition, hewing tolerably close to the real thing. For jet aficionados, the Swallow is a must-have; and among the several manus that produced 262s, I’d say Corgi’s ranks among the best. For those seeking the attack/bomber version (the Sturmvogel), by all means grab the EasyModel version. It’s plastic, but you’ll be surprised how terrific it looks.


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Old 12-31-2016, 12:12 PM   #327
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At the risk of sounding too foamy about the Douglas C-47 Transport, I’ll simply say that it is one of—if not the—most famous and successful aircraft in history.

You already know this stuff, but the plane became a standard military transport throughout the world. At its height, the C-47 served in at least a third of the world's air forces in 49 countries. In Europe, only the Austrian, Irish, and Swiss air forces didn't acquire the type. Variants included a floatplane, a glider tug, and even a ski-equipped version (which visited both north and south poles after the war), and the famous gunship known as 'Puff the Magic Dragon' that saw service in Vietnam (read below). An amazing 81 years after the bird’s first flight on 17th December 1935, the aircraft still flies throughout the world. And if that isn’t proof of the C-47’s prowess and Douglas’ genius, nothing is.

Rather than itemize the Dakota’s inestimable contributions to the war effort during WWII (and other conflicts) and the daring and bravery attendant with them, I’ll focus on the plane’s exploits over Vietnam, specifically the bravery of one crew member who won the Medal of Honor serving aboard a ‘Spooky.’

To begin, the USAF modified C-47 transports into AC-47 gunships (punched up with three hellfire Gatling guns), deploying them to Vietnam to specifically crush enemy attacks against South Vietnamese hamlets. Each of Spooky's three 7.62mm miniguns could selectively fire either 50 or 100 rounds per second. Cruising in an overhead orbit at 120 knots air speed at an altitude of 3,000 feet, the AC-47 routinely put a high explosive or glowing red incendiary bullet into every square yard of a football field-sized target in three seconds. And, as long as its 45-flare and 24,000-round basic ammunition load held out, it could do this repeatedly while loitering over the target for hours.

On the night of February 24, 1968, Spooky 71 flew to relieve besieged troops at Long Binh Army Base northeast of Saigon. Twenty-three-year-old Airman First Class John L. Levitow, loadmaster on the AC-47, prepared for the coming fight, his 181st combat sortie. On operational missions, Levitow set the ejection and ignition controls of the ship’s Mark-24 magnesium flares (among other duties). The flares provided illumination for friendly troops on the ground, helped the gunship's pilot to aim his miniguns, and furnished light for fighters called upon to help suppress enemy fire. Once Levitow set the controls, a gunner grasped the Mark-24, packed in a three-foot long metal tube weighing about 27 pounds, triggered the arming mechanism, and then tossed the tube out the plane's cargo door. Ten seconds later, an explosive charge opened the flare’s parachute, and 10 seconds following that the magnesium ignited, generating a fireball producing 2,000,000 candlepower. At 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the flare could melt through metal.

Spooky 71 had been in the air for four and a half hours flying combat patrol over Tan Son Nhut Air Base, when Maj. Kenneth Carpenter, the aircraft commander, got word to fly south where enemy mortars were pounding friendly troops. When the gunship reached the area, it opened up with its miniguns and straightaway annihilated two mortar positions. Levitow set the ejection and ignition timers on an MK-24 and handed it to Amn. Ellis Owen, who shoved his finger through the safety pin ring preparative to tossing the flare.

At that very instant, an 82mm mortar round pierced and exploded inside the plane’s starboard wing, perforating the paper-thin fuselage with shards of molten metal, knocking the five crew members off their feet, each one writhing from ghastly shrapnel wounds. The blast tore the flare from Owen’s hands and now rolled around the aircraft floor among several thousand rounds of live minigun ammunition.

Levitow, though ripped from crotch to head with more than 40 shrapnel wounds and screaming in agony, grabbed a wounded crewman close to plunging out the cargo door and secured him with a rope. At the same time, the armed flare caromed around the cargo compartment spewing toxic smoke, seconds from igniting into a mini sun. Weakened from gushing wounds and unspeakable pain, the partially paralyzed Levitow attempted to grab the flare but couldn’t as the plane banked at a 30-degree angle. Knowing he and his friends would die if he didn’t jettison the flare, he threw himself on it, dragged it to the open door with his bloody carcass, and pushed it out just as it ignited into a white-hot fireball. Levitow then lost consciousness.

Carpenter regained control of the gunship, though only just, its wings and fuselage perforated by 3,500 shrapnel holes, one three feet in diameter. When the AC-47 landed at Bien Hoa, medical personnel administered EMS to the wounded men and hustled John Levitow and another critically wounded crewman to a hospital in Japan. Following his recovery, Levitow flew 20 more combat missions before returning to the States to complete his enlistment as a C-141 loadmaster at Norton AFB, Calif.

On Armed Forces Day, May 14, 1970, President Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Airman Levitow in a White House ceremony. The young airman's heroism had added yet another footnote to the gunship’s gallant tradition.



Guys, if you can, buy this model. I know it’s all but impossible to find, and you might have to pay a king’s ransom for it. But this model represents bravery and endurance incarnate, the very sinew of the freedoms we hold dear. Corgi did an outstanding job on its C-47 Dakotas, and I for one am extremely proud to own it and the USAAF version. Your collections are incomplete without the old Gooney Bird. I might add, too, that Corgi would be smart to issue an AC-47 version of the aircraft. More than smart, actually.



Happy New Years, everybody! Sdneirf ym eybdoog!











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Old 01-30-2017, 12:35 PM   #328
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As foxy and fetching as the B-26 Invader was, she wasn’t much more than a souped-up version of the A-20 Havoc, featuring 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines, longer range, and heavier armament with remote power-driven gun turrets. She also wore laminar wings similar to those on the P-51 Mustang (that conferred phenomenal performance) and even hefted a mind-bending suite of eighteen forward firing 0.50 caliber machine guns (on one version) that could chew to bits anything rash enough to get in its way.

Funny enough, when the A-26 made its combat debut with the Fifth Air Force on New Guinea, nobody wanted it. Pilots found the cockpit view crappy for low-level attack: the gargantuan engine nacelles effectively blocked lateral downward vision, making it hard to locate secreted Japanese positions. And crews squawked that the bird’s armament was pathetic. In fact, General George Kenney, commander of the Far East Air Forces, was so put off by the Invader he growled, "We do not want the A-26 under any circumstances as a replacement for anything—the son of a *****."

A rough start for sure, but Douglas shortly made changes that kicked its new steed into the realm of greatness. The company swapped out the bird’s clumsy greenhouse canopy for an advanced clamshell design and ditched its piddly armament for six 0.50 caliber wing guns and eight 0.50s in the nose. With these and other improvements, the Invader zealously proved its mettle in every theatre, shooting and bombing the crap-o-mundo out of tanks, troop concentrations, light-skinned transport, and transport links (among other targets). She was hands down the fastest bomber in the American inventory and statistically the safest.

Fast forward to 1950 when Uncle Sam deployed Invaders to Korea, where 450 flew both low and medium-level missions annihilating enemy troop columns, ground transports, tanks, bridges, road junctions, and railways. The B-26 became indispensable, further distinguishing itself by dropping the first and last bombs in the Korean War.

When the Vietnam War moseyed along, A-26s took the field again minus their gun turrets. From late 1961 through 1964, the seasoned warbird mostly flew Farm Gate missions against guerilla concentrations. Initially, because of political concerns, the unit was called the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron (a “trainee” Vietnamese airman accompanied the crew) but changed its name to the 1st Air Commando Wing once the ruse was exposed. Only American crews flew the aircraft after that. The old battle-scared bomber performed well but for one troubling issue: by then the planes were old and rickety: ground crews performed minor maintenance but scarcely rebuilt the warbird’s skeleton. Metal fatigue failure became a problem.

As loses mounted, suspicion fell on the Invader’s iffy wing spars, though the Air Force couldn’t confirm it (planes lost in the jungle, etc.). When an Invader’s wing snapped off during a demonstration flight over Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base, however, killing the crew, the Air Force had its proof. The A-26 was grounded indefinitely. The Invader’s career might have ended right there; but the Air Force sensibly awarded a $16 million contract to On Mark Engineering in Van Nuys, California, to rebuild 40 B-26s parked at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, redesignated the B-26K.

The resurrection was stunning. Visible changes included permanent wingtip tanks, a taller, wider rudder, underwing pylons, eight .50-caliber nose machine guns, dual cockpit controls (opposed to the pilot side only), up-to-date instruments and radios. Performance increased wildly with the installation of Pratt & Whitney R-2800-52W radial engines equipped with fully reversible Hamilton-Standard props. The contractor also reassembled the fuselage, remodeled the wings, reinforced the wing spars, and mounted brake components from the brawnier KC-135. The result was a spanking new airplane (almost), more gee-wizish, more powerful, and more solid. It could carry more faster and farther: maximum armament load increased from 7,500 pounds to 12,000, 4,000 pounds internal, 8,000 under the wings. Maximum cruising speed was 29 mph faster. And thanks to its wingtip tanks, combat radius increased from 241 to 575 miles.

The A-26K plastered the hell out of enemy units, especially trucks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Shortcutting through Laos and Cambodia, the Ho Chi Minh Trail served as a meandering conduit for communist supplies streaming into South Vietnam. Trucks and men struggled over dirt roads past numerous truck parks, fuel and ammo dumps, barracks, and command facilities. To stop this flow, the A-26K took to night interdiction, obliterating “choke points” and other seemingly inexhaustible targets in Laos.

Opposed to fast movers that egressed targets swiftly, A-26Ks loitered for lengthy periods awaiting targets of opportunity. This proved handy, but it also provided enemy gunners with juicy targets. Hidden 37-mm and larger artillery proved devastating; so to counter this, A-26K crews unsynchronized their props, which produced a hmmm mum mum sound that occasionally disguised and misdirected the aircraft’s precise position. Sometimes the ruse worked; too often it didn’t.

By November 1969, the Invader retired, a casualty of the Air Force’s all-jet air force timetable. The A-26 had served in three wars spread across three decades and became a hard-wearing, indispensable, shoot-’em-up attack warbird in the jet age.



No need to extol Hobby Master’s fabulous A-26s: one look and you’ll find them irresistible. Better yet, I wish the manu would retool the mold into the A-26K (I doubt HM will, but it’s fun to daydream). Either way, if you don’t own one of these little jewels, grab one (or two or three). They’re hot little ships, especially when you fly them in your backyard over jungly, uncut grass and strafe Ho Chi Minh’s yeasty, villainous supply trucks. Just be careful of ack-ack.




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Old 01-31-2017, 08:36 PM   #329
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I too would love an A-26K - certainly in my wishlist top 5.

Heck, I'd even settle for one of the Farm Gate B/C models in VNAF markings you mentioned..
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Old 02-06-2017, 11:23 AM   #330
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Fog kills.

When its thick enough, it swallows everything, makes things vanish; even aircraft carriers get lost in it. Which is exactly what happened to the HMS Ocean on December 3, 1945, awaiting Lt. Cmdr. Eric “Winkle” Brown of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm in his de Havilland Vampire.

Lt. Cmdr. Brown, Britain’s greatest test pilot then and now, rattled along in his de Havilland Vampire, praying the Ocean would pop out of the thick-as-concrete fog. The bloody carrier was lost in a vast blanket of cotton and thus making Brown’s finding it terribly difficult—at the worst possible time. Scuttlebutt had it the Americans were about to make the world’s first carrier landing, too; but Winkle was determined to win that distinction for Britain, a matter of national pride. But with the bloody fog cloaking the bloody Ocean, things weren’t looking bloody good for the bloody home team.

Brown was one of a kind: He’d already gained several world aviation records and would go on to hold the record for test-flying more aircraft than any other pilot in the world, 487 assorted planes total. And, no surprise, though he’d flown every British, American and German jet made, he favored the Vampire, calling it “the one for us.”

Just as the fog appeared to thin, someone on the flight deck thought he heard a low, muffled roar. Soon the entire deck crew heard the whine of the Vampire’s single Goblin jet engine and caught a glimpse of the fighter’s distinctive twin-boom stabilizers. As if on cue, the fog drew back like theater curtains, revealing the Vampire on carrier approach. Somebody ran out on the deck to wave him off, but Brown either didn’t see the officer or outright ignored him. The lieutenant commander coasted in and made a perfect touchdown on the Ocean’s deck as if he’d done it a thousand times. The fog retreated farther, whereupon Lt. Cmdr. Brown took off and performed four more arrested landings and take-offs—just for good measure. Three days later, Brown repeated the feat eleven more times on the same carrier, officially inaugurating the arrival of Naval jet aviation.

Impressive, eh? But as notable as this was, Winkle's sea landings were but one of many firsts the Vampire achieved, a jet beloved by its pilots and flown in more than 20 air forces around the world—yet bizarrely and wrongly relegated to history’s dustbin.

Among these “firsts,” the Vampire set the world altitude record for jet aircraft —59,446 feet— in 1948. It was the first jet to cross the Atlantic Ocean. And it was the first RAF aircraft to exceed 500 miles per hour. Not to mention, the Vampire (flown by Brown) was the first (and only) jet to land on a rubber aircraft carrier deck, wheels-up, meant to see ifwait for it—jets could do away with landing gear altogether in favor of extra fuel tanks. Oddly, the program didn’t go anywhere.

De Havilland manufactured and sold more than 3,300 of the jets, some of which remained in service through the early 1990s. It was also one of the last jet aircraft constructed of wood and metal: The fuselage featured a wooden frame covered with doped fabric; the wings, booms, and tale assembly were mostly aluminum.

By mid the 1950s, the Hawker Hunter and Gloster Javelin developed into Britain’s front-line fighters, and the Vampire was green with envy. Still, the ol’ Vamp soldiered on, morphing into a ground-attack jet (the Mk.5), bearing shorter wings with hard points for bombs and rockets, and a reinforced fuselage. Later, an advanced two-seater trainer appeared called the T.11.

In the end, the Vampire was a great little ship, sturdy, reliable, easy to fly. It was an aircraft of historical firsts, which makes its relative obscurity all the more mystifying.




Corgi produced an excellent model of this superb little pollywog. It’s appealing, it’s well crafted, and it’ll make a valued addition to your early-jet collection. If you’re an RAF aficionado (and/or Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown fan), you really want this jewel.



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Old 02-06-2017, 09:21 PM   #331
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Another great write up Richthofen.

I had the pleasure of getting up close to a Vampire just last week, a T.35A held as part of the local RAAF Museum collection.

I like the look of the Vampire with its twin-booms, and - as you have described so well in your inimitable style - it has a great service history.
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Old 02-07-2017, 03:13 AM   #332
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i've got a vampire hiding about somewhere... a relic from my early days collecting diecast models. gotto go dig it up someday...
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Old 02-09-2017, 11:34 AM   #333
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Thank you, tker76. Kind words. I would like to have seen that T.35A. And I hope you find your vamp, tomcatter. It’s a great little model.

Forgive me, everybody, for not responding more often; I’m not ignoring you: It's just my schedule is pretty tight.
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Old 02-13-2017, 10:57 AM   #334
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As the sun sat on RAF East Kirky in the Lincolnshire flatlands 9 August, 1941, a farmer lingered at the end of the runway wishing British Wellington bomber crews well. Some of the boys hummed and whistled and withdrew into their own anxious worlds; several peed against the undercarriages of their aircraft for luck and/or sheer terror. Nineteen-year-old William Corwin, a tail-gunner, shared a cigarette with and chatted up the farmer’s blond-haired daughter instead. He and the buxom young woman were only too aware, as were the crews, that many of the men wouldn’t survive the night.

The fact was, the chances of surviving multiple RAF bomber missions over Germany (or German occupied countries) were laughable. Between 1939 and 1945, Bomber Command lost 55,357 airmen in battle, more than half its entire force; its casualty rate was higher than any other section of the British armed services. RAF bombers flew a staggering 360,000 sorties to hundreds of targets protected by hoops of anti-aircraft guns and night fighters. More than 8,000 bombers were blown to pieces or crash-landed. In one night alone, 670 bomber Command aircrew were slaughtered in a matter of hours, caught by a Luftwaffe ambush in the glare of a full moon on their way to Nuremberg in southern Germany. Of the roughly 800 aircraft that took off from 39 airfields in eastern England on a June evening in 1944, nearly a hundred—64 Lancasters and 31 Halifaxes—didn’t return. And every many jack of these crews knew that, if his plane was hit, survival varied from slim to zero. For every man that parachuted to safety (and likely captivity), four died in their stricken planes.

Tail-gunner William Corwin’s domain was a tiny Perspex-encased coffin in which his head scraped the top and his shoulders brushed the sides. There was only enough room in front to get his hands round his .303 in. Browning machine-gun triggers. All the while, he strained for a glimpse of a night fighter. Confusingly, it could be a flash of light or the very opposite, a black shape darker than the night sky.

Corwin was fearful about firing at shadows: his tracers would point right back to his tail turret, revealing his bomber’s location. That, and/or he might hit another Wellington relatively close by. Jumpy tail gunners shot down heaps of sister RAF bombers, so Corwin usually hesitated when he saw something suspect. If the shadow materialized to where he could recognize a head and shoulders in a cockpit, he still waited, gambling the fighter would peel away none the wiser. But there was always the chance the fighter was simply duping the tail gunner, which would fly below the Whimpy to a less exposed position and fire into its belly (or engine). The horror was waiting to see what the fighter would do.

Often when a night fighter pestered the bomber’s tail, the skipper would throw the Wellington into a steep dive, wings down, a$$ up, plunging like an elevator in freefall—then pull up steeply. If this didn’t work, the bomber danced all over the night sky trying to throw off its pursuer. The G-force clamped on Corwin’s head like a ton of concrete in the doing. His chin pressed hard into his chest as he fired at an extremely slippery enemy.



Staffelkapitan Ludwig Becker of 4./NJG1 was a wag of sorts, always jesting with fellow officers, a trusted leader and respected pilot. On this night, 9 August, 1941, he climbed aboard his Do 215B-5 night fighter and flew into the darkness over Hamburg. His mount was an advanced version of the Do 215 reconnaissance-bomber, up-gunned and loaded with the deadly FuG 202 Lichtenstein BC radar, though most Nachtjagd pilots preferred the ‘Mk I Eyeball’ over electronics.

Forty-four Wellingtons flew toward the city, and Becker almost immediately detected one, perhaps the lead ship, approaching Hamburg slightly from the south. Closing in from below and behind, the Do 215B-5 nailed the bomber with its four 7.62 mm MG 17 machine guns and two 20 mm MG FF cannons. Within seconds the ship burst into a brilliant fireball, plunging earthward like a meteor. In quick succession, Becker destroyed four more Wellingtons, each flaring into an inferno. This was far too easy, the Staffelkaptian thought to himself. Then, from almost directly behind, another Wellington nearly ran over him, forcing Becker to dive to starboard with inches to spare. The German ace took this slight personally and looped around to reacquire this latest target—and found it above and to his front.



Tail-gunner William Corwin thought he’d seen a flash pass to his lower left, though he couldn’t be sure. His canopy was partially frosted up and smeared with oil, making identification virtually impossible. By sure chance, he saw the whirl of two propellers below and behind his bomber, tiptoeing into range. The question was, should he betray his position and nail the bastard—or wait and pray it would peel off. He didn’t get the chance to do either.


Becker dropped the hammer and lit off all his artillery, pouring molten led into the bomber’s tail turret, ripping it to violent bits. Then he maneuvered under the port wing, lifted his nose, and fired again, hitting the engine so hard it exploded and fell away. The bomber then plunged, trailing a gout of incandescent fire. Score six Wellingtons.


Incredibly, Corwin escaped the bomber through his demolished turret, his right arm nearly blown off as was one foot; but somehow he managed to soar into the night sky, popping his chute and watching as his crewmates rode the flaming bomber to the earth and explode. Alighting on the ground in a terrible thud and passing out, he woke up in the care of German doctors who had amputated his arm and right foot. The war was over for him.


Staffelkapitan Ludwig Becker went on to kill 40 more RAF bombers during his short career, all at night, receiving the Knight’s Cross in July 1942. Becker and his bordfunker, Oberfeldwebel Josef Straub, crashed north of Schiermonnikoog in the Netherlands after attacking a B-17 formation over the North Sea—during daylight. Both men died on impact.



For those of you who didn't buy Corgi’s AA38802 Donier D.215 B-5 Kauz 111, your really should. The real McCoy wasn’t the stuff of legends, but it sure caused RAF Bomber Command a few heartburns. The model itself, at the risk of sounding repetitive, redounds to Corgi’s model-making virtuosity, from its prickly nose antennae to its capacious glasshouse cockpit. Love its arresting night-fighter camouflage, too. No question, this is one very purty model that deserves a place in your collection.



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Old 02-13-2017, 11:09 AM   #335
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Originally Posted by Richtofen888 View Post
As the sun sat on RAF East Kirky in the Lincolnshire flatlands 9 August, 1941, a farmer lingered at the end of the runway wishing British Wellington bomber crews well. Some of the boys hummed and whistled and withdrew into their own anxious worlds; several peed against the undercarriages of their aircraft for luck and/or sheer terror. Nineteen-year-old William Corwin, a tail-gunner, shared a cigarette with and chatted up the farmer’s blond-haired daughter instead. He and the buxom young woman were only too aware, as were the crews, that many of the men wouldn’t survive the night.

The fact was, the chances of surviving multiple RAF bomber missions over Germany (or German occupied countries) were laughable. Between 1939 and 1945, Bomber Command lost 55,357 airmen in battle, more than half its entire force; its casualty rate was higher than any other section of the British armed services. RAF bombers flew a staggering 360,000 sorties to hundreds of targets protected by hoops of anti-aircraft guns and night fighters. More than 8,000 bombers were blown to pieces or crash-landed. In one night alone, 670 bomber Command aircrew were slaughtered in a matter of hours, caught by a Luftwaffe ambush in the glare of a full moon on their way to Nuremberg in southern Germany. Of the roughly 800 aircraft that took off from 39 airfields in eastern England on a June evening in 1944, nearly a hundred—64 Lancasters and 31 Halifaxes—didn’t return. And every many jack of these crews knew that, if his plane was hit, survival varied from slim to zero. For every man that parachuted to safety (and likely captivity), four died in their stricken planes.

Tail-gunner William Corwin’s domain was a tiny Perspex-encased coffin in which his head scraped the top and his shoulders brushed the sides. There was only enough room in front to get his hands round his .303 in. Browning machine-gun triggers. All the while, he strained for a glimpse of a night fighter. Confusingly, it could be a flash of light or the very opposite, a black shape darker than the night sky.

Corwin was fearful about firing at shadows: his tracers would point right back to his tail turret, revealing his bomber’s location. That, and/or he might hit another Wellington relatively close by. Jumpy tail gunners shot down heaps of sister RAF bombers, so Corwin usually hesitated when he saw something suspect. If the shadow materialized to where he could recognize a head and shoulders in a cockpit, he still waited, gambling the fighter would peel away none the wiser. But there was always the chance the fighter was simply duping the tail gunner, which would fly below the Whimpy to a less exposed position and fire into its belly (or engine). The horror was waiting to see what the fighter would do.

Often when a night fighter pestered the bomber’s tail, the skipper would throw the Wellington into a steep dive, wings down, a$$ up, plunging like an elevator in freefall—then pull up steeply. If this didn’t work, the bomber danced all over the night sky trying to throw off its pursuer. The G-force clamped on Corwin’s head like a ton of concrete in the doing. His chin pressed hard into his chest as he fired at an extremely slippery enemy.



Staffelkapitan Ludwig Becker of 4./NJG1 was a wag of sorts, always jesting with fellow officers, a trusted leader and respected pilot. On this night, 9 August, 1941, he climbed aboard his Do 215B-5 night fighter and flew into the darkness over Hamburg. His mount was an advanced version of the Do 215 reconnaissance-bomber, up-gunned and loaded with the deadly FuG 202 Lichtenstein BC radar, though most Nachtjagd pilots preferred the ‘Mk I Eyeball’ over electronics.

Forty-four Wellingtons flew toward the city, and Becker almost immediately detected one, perhaps the lead ship, approaching Hamburg slightly from the south. Closing in from below and behind, the Do 215B-5 nailed the bomber with its four 7.62 mm MG 17 machine guns and two 20 mm MG FF cannons. Within seconds the ship burst into a brilliant fireball, plunging earthward like a meteor. In quick succession, Becker destroyed four more Wellingtons, each flaring into an inferno. This was far too easy, the Staffelkaptian thought to himself. Then, from almost directly behind, another Wellington nearly ran over him, forcing Becker to dive to starboard with inches to spare. The German ace took this slight personally and looped around to reacquire this latest target—and found it above and to his front.



Tail-gunner William Corwin thought he’d seen a flash pass to his lower left, though he couldn’t be sure. His canopy was partially frosted up and smeared with oil, making identification virtually impossible. By sure chance, he saw the whirl of two propellers below and behind his bomber, tiptoeing into range. The question was, should he betray his position and nail the bastard—or wait and pray it would peel off. He didn’t get the chance to do either.


Becker dropped the hammer and lit off all his artillery, pouring molten led into the bomber’s tail turret, ripping it to violent bits. Then he maneuvered under the port wing, lifted his nose, and fired again, hitting the engine so hard it exploded and fell away. The bomber then plunged, trailing a gout of incandescent fire. Score six Wellingtons.


Incredibly, Corwin escaped the bomber through his demolished turret, his right arm nearly blown off as was one foot; but somehow he managed to soar into the night sky, popping his chute and watching as his crewmates rode the flaming bomber to the earth and explode. Alighting on the ground in a terrible thud and passing out, he woke up in the care of German doctors who had amputated his arm and right foot. The war was over for him.


Staffelkapitan Ludwig Becker went on to kill 40 more RAF bombers during his short career, all at night, receiving the Knight’s Cross in July 1942. Becker and his bordfunker, Oberfeldwebel Josef Straub, crashed north of Schiermonnikoog in the Netherlands after attacking a B-17 formation over the North Sea—during daylight. Both men died on impact.



For those of you who didn't buy Corgi’s AA38802 Donier D.215 B-5 Kauz 111, your really should. The real McCoy wasn’t the stuff of legends, but it sure caused RAF Bomber Command a few heartburns. The model itself, at the risk of sounding repetitive, redounds to Corgi’s model-making virtuosity, from its prickly nose antennae to its capacious glasshouse cockpit. Love its arresting night-fighter camouflage, too. No question, this is one very purty model that deserves a place in your collection.



What a story... and a model. Thanks for sharing with us, Richtofen888!
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Old 02-13-2017, 11:18 AM   #336
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It's a shame that Corgi hasn't utilized this particular tooling further. This plane is definitely one of the more striking within Corgi's fleet.
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Old 02-20-2017, 10:48 AM   #337
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The General Dynamics F-111 suffered more than its fair share of exasperating glitches and cost overruns.

Among other issues, two snafus were particularly troublesome: One, the jet exhibited too much tail-end drag (a design flaw never fully resolved); and two, the engine habitually stalled, a snag Pratt & Whitney and General Dynamics sadistically blamed on the other, ripping each other new cornholes. Pratt & Whitney insisted that GD had ignored P&W’s engine inlet specifications (which, they claimed, precipitated the stalls), General Dynamics countering that the inlets met P&W’s design parameters nonetheless and weren’t to blame. The bickering continued until the USAF threatened to lop off a few corporate cojones with a rusty butter knife.

In the meantime, the press smelled blood in the water and attacked with predacious glee, ripping the jet’s repute into quivering, grisly bits. It didn’t help when three of six Aardvarks were lost on their first deployment to Vietnam, whipping cynics into a virtual shark-feeding bloodfest.

By happy chance, General Dynamics and Pratt & Whitney briefly set aside their differences and corrected the stall problem (knowing they’d lose their bollocks if they didn’t) and engineered additional improvements. By the time the F-111A returned to Vietnam in 1972, the jet was an indisputable kick-a$$ mack daddy. Forty-eight aircraft deployed to RTAB Thakli, Thailand, and straightaway stormed into combat. The Ardvark flew in pitch-black darkness, in all weathers, carried twice the payload of an F-4 Phantom over 2.5 times the range, and operated without tanker support, ECM platforms, Wild Weasel SAM suppression, and fighter cover. By the end of hostilities, the 474th TFW had flown well over 4000 missions, dropped 74,000 lbs. of bombs (mainly 500 lb. but 2000 lb., too, and cluster munitions), and made mincemeat of doghearted North Vietnamese combatants.

The RAAF fell for the F-111A in 1963 and ordered 24. But the aforesaid problems delayed delivery until 1973, igniting ferocious debate among sputtering critics Downunder, who damned the F-111 as a klutzy, extortionate white elephant. But when the F-111C finally made its debut, it provided exactly what Australia wanted: a superb long-range strike and photo reconnaissance platform, which the entire nation celebrated with coldies and shrimp on the barbie.



You’ve gotta get one of these. The F-111 was a swankalishious babe, and Hobby Master produced a primo replica of it. Lumbered with all those bombs, the Aussie “Pig” (HA3008) is truly a smashing, wicked model. If you can find one, buy it and count your blessings; they’re hard to find but worth the price. As my Ozzie friend Hugh Jackman would say, Get yerself one, mate, and good onya!”


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Old 02-20-2017, 08:00 PM   #338
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Another great review Richthofen

The Pig releases are lovely chunks of zinc, no two ways about it.
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Old 02-22-2017, 10:47 AM   #339
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Thanks, tker76. Did that for my mates Downunder!
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Old 02-23-2017, 12:13 AM   #340
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Thanks, tker76. Did that for my mates Downunder!
Mate, thank you..

This thread is epic, and has not stopped adding great content to the forum for a long time now. It really is the thread that keeps on giving

I always really enjoy your write-ups, you have a real knack for telling these stories and capturing something particularly cool, interesting, unique or even moving about whichever aircraft/model (and its history) is the subject

I personally really appreciate the effort you go to, and the way in which you share your collection while doing so (your collection must be epic too BTW ). I know I am not alone in this, heck you have >30K views which must surely be a record here?

I also love that you must have posted releases from pretty much ever manu out by now, it's a nice change from seeing the same manus feted, while others are ignored.

10/10 Richthofen888: will read whenever you care to add another write-up.
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Old 02-23-2017, 02:00 AM   #341
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monsieur richthofen888... it's people like you who make me fall off the fence! might well be my first raaf... if i can find one at a decent price.
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Old 02-23-2017, 02:12 AM   #342
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Love the NB-52 and Vampire Great write ups as usual, you are a credit to the hobby.

I might be biased but the Aussie Pigs are the best, for that reason that we used them very successfully but it sadly was abit of a pilot killer despite the capsule as was the Mirage III in RAAF service
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Old 02-23-2017, 02:20 AM   #343
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Love the NB-52 and Vampire Great write ups as usual, you are a credit to the hobby.

I might be biased but the Aussie Pigs are the best, for that reason that we used them very successfully but it sadly was abit of a pilot killer despite the capsule as was the Mirage III in RAAF service
at least it never earned the reputation as "the widowmaker" sadly, "the widowmaker" also scuttled the valkyrie. a truly unfortunate incident, that
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Old 02-27-2017, 10:12 AM   #344
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First, thank you, my friends, for your generous compliments. I very much appreciate it.

Would you believe that the Douglas AD Skyraider was an honest-to-goodness gunslinger? That the ol’ Able Dog flamed two MiG-17s with its four M3 20 mm fixed forward-firing cannons?

Yep, it did. In a world of pointy-nosed jets, the AD Skyraider dripped oil, wheezed, and coughed its way to becoming a genuine kickass brawler. But gunning down jets wasn’t the Spad’s only specialty. The AD Skyraider was, according to many conversant historians, the best attack bomber ever built, evidenced by the number of North Korean and Vietnamese combatants it slaughtered (a praisable accomplishment) and the military installations, equipment, transport, and infrastructure it destroyed.

Here’s one amazing Spad exploit I’ll bet you’ve never heard of: Did you know that the Skyraider attacked and demolished a dam with torpedoes? It’s true.

In 1951, North Korea’s Hwachon Dam, the great hydroelectric plant on the Pukhan River, was fueling the enemy’s war effort. The problem was, the Hwachon Dam was 240 feet thick at its base fortified by rocks on both ends, a structure so massive that B-29 bombers couldn’t knock it down, nor could Skyraiders with 2,000-pound bombs and 11.5-inch Tiny Tim rockets (which had been developed years earlier to annihilate German submarine pens). The job looked hopeless.

On April 30, 1951, Rear Adm. Ralph A. Oftstie, commander of Task Force 77 in the Sea of Japan, learned that Chinese forces had launched a massive spring offensive. Something had to be done, and to him the quickest, surest way to hobble the onslaught was to eliminate the dam. So he turned to Air Group Nineteen aboard the USS Princeton, specifically medium attack squadron VA-195, and told the men to prepare for an unusual mission. Oftstie ordered the Squadron to destroy at least two of the Hwachon’s floodgates stretching between the dam’s east and west abutments, hopefully holing the structure so badly the enemy couldn’t repair it quickly—or at all. And do it with torpedoes.

The news came as a shock. Only three men aboard Princeton had ever dropped a “tin fish” before; and of the remaining pilots chosen to fly the mission, Lt. Jason Pressure had never even seen an aerial torpedo. Worse, the Princeton had taken aboard a dozen Mark 13 torpedoes prior to her combat cruise; but upon looking for them, no one knew where they were. Compounding this befuddlement, the carrier’s ordnance men had absolutely no idea how to hang torpedoes from the AD-4’s belly and were forced to consult a dogeared technical manual for help. Undeterred, the crew eventually found the torpedoes and mounted them properly.

On the morning of May 1, 1951, five AD-4s from VA-195 and three from VC-35 launched from Princeton, escorted by eight F4U Corsairs from VF-192 and four from VF-193. CAG (carrier air group commander) Cmdr. Richard C. Merrick, a colorful pipe-smoking aviator (who invariably packed a Luger pistol with him on missions) led the overall strike in an F4U Corsair. Lt. Cmdr. Harold Gustav “Swede” Carlson, skipper of VA-195, led the torpedo-carrying Skyraiders.

Reaching the river, the AD-4s winged around 4,000-foot peaks to approach the dam’s reservoir from behind. The pilots had but one chance to succeed, and the doing wouldn’t be easy: should they release their torpedoes too high, the fish would plunge and sink; drop them too low and they would skip like a flat rock over the dam’s wall. All the while the Skyraiders would fly at an excruciatingly slow 160 mph with needle and ball centered at a height of about one hundred feet. At that speed and altitude, the planes became fat, succulent targets.

Lt. Cmdr. “Swede” Carlson dove in first, taking Soviet M1939 37mm cannon fire to his fuselage, one round punching a hole so close to his legs it tore his flight suit. Fearless and coming on strong, he lined up perfectly and dropped his fish, pulling up and right as another squall of glowing led drilled his starboard wing. The torpedo impacted near a floodgate like a kamikaze. Six more Skyraiders took their chances, each catching hell from angry gunners lodged around the dam. Six of the eight Mark 13s struck on or near the floodgates; one floodgate was blown to bits. The dam was breached and holed on both sides.

The eighth and last Skyraider, piloted by Lt. Jason Pressure, leveled his wings and bore in, heart hammering, face growing hot. By now the North Koreas had dialed in and unleashed fire so fierce it was a miracle Pressure lasted as long as he did. Regrettably, he dropped his torpedo too soon too low, and it skipped over the dam’s rim. As he nosed up to starboard, a fusillade of 37mm shells caught his mount on the nose, bursting the engine like a bomb. Lt. Pressure didn’t have a chance as his Skyraider buckled and crashed like an iridescent meteor. Still, the mission’s results were spectacular. The heavy damage annihilated electrical power over a vast area. And the dam’s destruction trashed the enemy's offensive. In every way, the damage inflicted by the torpedo-toting Skyraiders exceeded expectations.

Two weeks later, on a less-publicized mission on May 18, 1951 (and ten days before his 40th birthday), Cmdr. Merrick was killed in action. The Navy posthumously awarded him the Navy Cross, the second highest award for valor for the dam-busting mission and one other combat sortie.

Lt. Cmdr. “Swede” Carlson was killed six months later saving a Marine platoon from being overrun by a Chinese unit. He posthumously received the Silver star. For reasons unknown, Lt. Jason Pressure received no such honors though he’d performed his duty bravely. The Navy offered no explanation.



If you don’t have a Skyraider in your hangar, you really should. It was a fabulous, if not porky, beast, deserving of every kudo it received. Hobby Master’s version is, in my opinion, another winner, having captured the soul of the warbird in every particular. Yowsa!


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Old 02-27-2017, 07:44 PM   #345
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Skyraider is one of my favourite planes IRL and in zinc.

HM's Spad is excellent.

I have both Dambusters and the MiG-killer pictured among my collection and can vouch for both as being excellent.
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Old 02-28-2017, 03:36 AM   #346
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i love how monsieur richstofen888 builds up the excitement and at the end...






















... availability 0/5
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Old 02-28-2017, 06:23 AM   #347
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Originally Posted by tomcatter View Post
i love how monsieur richstofen888 builds up the excitement and at the end...

... availability 0/5
you could say that about most models these days, 2nd hand market has dried up recently, collectors are holding onto their models unless they need more space or getting out of the hobby wholesale.
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Old 03-06-2017, 10:00 AM   #348
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

A caboodle of warbirds started life as mongrels (owing to design flaws) but ended up as purebreds, owing to correction of those defects plus further improvements. The Halifax was one of these erstwhile dawgs, killing its crews with appalling frequency in its early incarnations but eventually winning a place among the Allies’ most valued bombers of WWII.

In the Halifax’s case, the disastrous flaw was its triangular tail fins. For reasons little understood at the time, the bird fell from the sky in droves, quite unable to recover from vicious spins, pinning crews to its interior by centrifugal force and pulverizing everybody to gobs of gore.

Handley Page, the manufacturer, was a bit puzzled (not to mention mortified) by the development and privately conducted exhaustive tests on its naughty bomber at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire by 1943. Analysis revealed that the Halifax’s triangular tail fin was the villain, a potentially lethal one, that tended to overbalance and 'lock' into the maximum rudder offset position remedied only by diving the bomber at high speed for some 4000 feet. Interestingly, the bomber’s "underpowered Merlin engines" (so said by Handley Page) sometimes triggered this calamity by quitting just after take-off, forcing the pilot to correct with rudder control that locked, causing fatal stall spins.

Reviewing the data, some aeronautical egghead reasoned that swapping the triangular fins for a newer, safer shape might improve matters; so in late 1943 a new MKIII Halifax version rolled off the assembly line. The tail profile was now rectangular and larger, and the bomber additionally featured Bristol Hercules radial engines opposed to problematic Merlin power plants. The resulting aircraft was much improved in both performance and safety and served with distinction for the rest of the war.

It’s interesting to note, though, that Sir Arthur Travers “Bomber” Harris (or Butcher Harris, depending on whom you talk to), rebuked the bomber, absolutely condemning it to the seventh circle of hell, simply because it couldn’t compete (in his mind) with his beloved Lancaster. He was convinced the Halifax was an indefensible, loathsome waste of material, time, and funds and vigorously campaigned against its production for more Lancs, even though the Halifax approached the Lancaster’s herculean abilities.

One account claims that Sir Harris, following yet another venomous Halifax argument with two Air Ministry officials (John Llewellin and Sir Stafford Cripps), stormed over to a parked Halibag, unzipped is fly, and peed on the bomber’s port strut. Shooting a withering glance at the men, he then said he was “relieved” he could share his views, turned on his heel, and strutted to a waiting car.

Llewellin's and Sir Cripps' subsequent report declared that Sir Harris, though wrongheaded about the Halifax, had made a big splash.



I love the ol’ Halibag, its looks, its gargantuan bombload capacity, those big, beefy angular wings. The Halifax took it to the enemy big time, and this particular Corgi model looks the part. If you haven't got this bruiser yet, grab one. Better yet, grab 'em all!



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Old 03-07-2017, 12:30 PM   #349
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i always open monsieur richtofen888's thread with a sense of trepidation... a real sense of fear that my wallet is gonna be a whole lot lighter hunting down the very models/airframes he reviews. fortunately the handley page halifax is a model i have represented in my collection, though not the corgi version. sms it's heartening to note this one of the few models that at least has a 1/5 availability for those interested. to the brave men of bomber command!
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Old 03-07-2017, 12:39 PM   #350
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

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i always open monsieur richtofen888's thread with a sense of trepidation... a real sense of fear that my wallet is gonna be a whole lot lighter hunting down the very models/airframes he reviews. fortunately the handley page halifax is a model i have represented in my collection, though not the corgi version. sms it's heartening to note this one of the few models that at least has a 1/5 availability for those interested. to the brave men of bomber command!
Vicky still appears to be out there for reasonable prices and availability, but good luck finding any of the older models.
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