Friday 30 September 2016

Richard Tool's Starter Truck Conversion in 1/48 Scale

Richard Tool has kindly shared these images of his 1/48 scale JAAF Hucks-type airfield starter truck. The model was built with extensive conversion work from the Hasegawa Isuzu TX 40 fuel and cargo truck kits. 

The scope of the work, chronicled in his comprehensive build report at Aeroscale,  included widening the rear axle, narrowing the cab,seats and soft top, cutting in recessed fender steps, extending the running boards and splash aprons and fitting curved rear fenders. The bed was scratchbuilt from sheet styrene as were the vertical chaincase, chests and front platform deck. All the rest - the quadrapod mast, front platform frame and grille guard, boom, starter shaft and gear were entirely scratchbuilt from soldered brass. 

All of the work was accomplished by reference to photos and the components were proportioned and located by establishing ratios using the wheel diameter as a common known unit. The figure of the pilot is resin and came from a Hasegawa Ki-61 kit. Although the work is revealed to be complex and painstaking in the build report (the detailing in the boom array is remarkable) Richard found it a most enjoyable project. The starter truck is ubiquitous in wartime images and Aviation of Japan shares Richard's puzzlement that it has not yet been issued as a 1/48 kit like other airfield vehicles in that scale. A licensing issue perhaps?

There are photos of these trucks in use on newly captured airfields during the 1941/42 Malaya and Burma campaigns which is astonishing. The ground personnel and equipment of the 3rd Air Division  were landed from two troopships at Singora immediately after the leading forces of the 5th Division and the embarkation staff had complained that the airmen had been loading "even iron beds, bathtubs and sofas" on one of the troopships.  The Allied C-in-C Far East, Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, had informed a conference in response to the Japanese offensive that he had been "amazed by the speed at which the Japanese air forces could both transfer aircraft from base to base and improvise new ones".  The mind boggles at how these vehicles arrived so soon on the newly captured airfields in Burma.

With special thanks to Richard for sharing these images of this excellent conversion.

Image credit: All © 2016 Richard Tool

Thursday 29 September 2016

Apuntes de Modelismo Modelling Magazine

Correspondent Emilio has kindly made me aware of a new Spanish modelling magazine, available both in digital and printed format as Apuntes de Modelismo. The new magazine has been launched by expert modeller Manuel Gil and designer Antonio Ramil, both friends of Emilio and all members of the same modelling club - Centro Cultural Escala. As can be seen the first issue is focussed on the Hawker Hurricane Mk I with fabric wings. The magazine will cover all modelling subjects and not just aircraft but there will be more issues featuring aircraft subjects in the future. I very much like the idea of a magazine that features a particular type and combines modelling, factual history and a kitography. An English edition of the Issue 1 digital magazine is also available here.

Manuel Gil has produced some superb models of Japanese aircraft subjects, including the Ki-79 (above) from the RS Models 1/72 kit and the excellent Ki-27 Ko (below) from the ICM 1/72 kit. Little gems, both of them - and of course in The One True Scale ;-)

With special thanks to Emilio for the heads up and to Manuel Gil for permission to show the photos of his models here.

Image credit: Header photo © 2016 Apuntes de Modelismo; Model photos © 2016 Manuel Gil via

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Dan Salamone's Very Fine Fine Molds Ohka Trainer

Dan Salamone very kindly shared these photos of his stunning model of the Yokosuka Ohka K1 Trainer in "orange blossom" guise built from the Fine Molds 1/48 kit. A total of 43 of these "heavy" gliders were completed at the 1st Navy Air Technical Arsenal (Dai-Ichi Kaigun Koku Gijutsusho) to provide suicide pilots with handling experience. The missing engine and warhead were compensated for in weight with water ballast and it must have been quite a ride down with those short wings.

Dan added the “detail up” set from Fine Molds to his model, using the brass pitot tube and various small etched parts like the ring and bead gunsights. Dan reports that the kit is a little gem, with exceptional moulding, detail and fit. In fact the quality of moulding is so fine that there are openings present on both the aileron and tailplane hinges that can be seen right through. 

He started the model in 2011 when it was first released and finally finished it recently. The external colours were airbrushed with Vallejo acrylics, followed by clear coats from Gunze (GSI Creos) spray cans. Weathering was accomplished with artist's oils and Vallejo washes. Dan noted that the kit instructions call for an opaque green cockpit colour, but the Mikesh book on Japanese interiors* indicates aotake was used, with varying degrees of shade and thickness. 

With special thanks to Dan for sharing these images of his excellent model with Aviation of Japan. 

* 'Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945' by Robert C Mikesh, Monogram Aviation Publications, 2000

Image credit: All © 2016 Dan Salamone

Tuesday 27 September 2016

In Memoriam ~ Don Thorpe

Donald W Thorpe

It is with sadness to record that Donald W Thorpe, best known to most of this community as a pioneer researcher and author of two seminal books on the subject of Japanese aircraft colours and markings, passed away peacefully in hospital on 19 September after a brief illness. Donald served with the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division during the Korean War, being awarded many commendations and honors. His career after war service was in the aerospace industry as a computer engineer which he pursued until his retirement.  He was the founder of PAWHA and a long time friend and aircraft preservationist with Ed Maloney at the Chino Air Museum from the time of its foundation. Donald is survived by his wife and soul mate Linda Rogers of Rosamond, California to whom Aviation of Japan extends condolensces and best wishes. 

Although there were a couple of English language publications on the subject of Japanese aircraft colours and markings before Donald Thorpe's books they were never widely available or particularly comprehensive and he was the pioneer in bringing the subject to a wider audience in the West (and East!) and in systematically cataloguing the paint colours and their use, as well as lifting the lid on many other arcane or obscure marking practices. A measure of their mainstream availability was that a hardback edition of the Navy colours book was found on sale in Swindon Books, a leading bookshop and stationers in Hong Kong. One only has to look at the painting information for an early 1960s Japanese aircraft kit to appreciate the revolutionary impact of his research. To this day the books remain the only mainstream published studies in English and despite attempts to revise and, sadly, to discredit them they still provide an essential and qualitative baseline to the subject.   

In his "Origins of References For Japanese Aircraft Camouflage and Markings" another eminent Japanese colours pioneer James F. Lansdale wrote: 

"Influenced in great measure by the work of (Richard M ) Bueschel and the Japanese author/illustrator Minoru Akimoto, Donald W. Thorpe, began his studies. Thorpe began by drawing upon the resources of an international network of renowned Japanese aviation researchers including Hideya Anda, Richard M. Bueschel, Charles J. Graham, B. Calvin Jones, Lloyd S. Jones, Witold Liss, Robert C. Mikesh, Yasuo Oishi, and James Wood. Thorpe scoured the photographic files of the National Archives, the Air Force, private collections, and tramped every research area possible. But his best original data and factual knowledge came from the study of metal scraps and relics of Japanese warplanes which had been contributed by Dr. Charles Darby. Darby had gathered Japanese warplane artifacts from his many trips to the battlegrounds of the Pacific. The end result of these studies was Thorpe’s two-volume standard reference on Japanese camouflage and markings. The first volume, Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings [of] World War II: Aero Publishers, Inc. , was released in 1968. The companion volume, Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage and Markings [of] World War II, also produced by Aero Publishers, Inc. was published nine years later in 1977. Today, in spite of a few errors which crept into the work as published, the two volumes have remained the quintessential sources on the subject of Japanese camouflage patterns, color, and markings in the English language."

A limitation of the books in modelling terms was that their loose sheets of colour chips were printed (and are often missing from second hand copies) so were difficult to match paints to. In 2005 the late Bill Leyh and I collaborated to produce a PDF illustrating the colours catalogued in both books based on Donald Thorpe's original Munsell values for each colour and comparing them quantitatively to the FS 595 standard using the DE2000 difference formula recommended by the Commission Internationale de l'Éclairage (CIE). This became the first step in a long running research project to reconcile the colours in those books with the official Army and Navy paint colour standards of Japan, always mindful of the variance between the applied paints analysed and catalogued by Donald Thorpe and the official paint colour standards to which they were matched, a variance not always allowed for or appreciated by modellers. Donald Thorpe's pioneering work was both the catalyst and foundation for the work that followed, which set out to build on and to honour it rather than to supplant it. Reconcilement instead of re-invention is an aspiration intended to create a collegiate continuum of logic rather than the confusion and controversy that often follows a fractured, revisionist or too often competitive approach. To this end Donald Thorpe and his work are remembered and preserved with appreciation and humility.

Please do comment with your own memories of Donald and/or his books if you wish, thanks.

With sincere thanks to James F Lansdale for his additional information and assustance.


Saturday 3 September 2016

IPMS USA Nats Display ~ Part Five

The fifth and final instalment of Ken Glass' photographic trawl of Japanese aircraft subjects from the IPMS USA Nats. 

A Ki-100 in 244th Hiko Sentai guise built from the recent Aoshima kit by Joe Youngerman. It would be easy to presume that the scale is larger than 1/72, testimony both to Aoshima's moulding finesse and Joe's exceptionally neat and sharp paintwork. 

This Kugisho P1Y 'Frances' night fighter by Bill Brickhouse of Newport News VA was built from the Hasegawa 1/72 kit and very nicely too, with really excellent colouring. This is a great looking aircraft that doesn't generate enough interest despite the fact that we have been spoiled with a choice of two very good old and new kits by Revell/Takara and Hasegawa.  

This Tamiya Aichi M6A1-K 'Nanzan' (Southern Mountain) from the Tamiya 1/72 kit was crafted by Bill Spear of Lawrenceville, GA.

Jerry Brewer built this iconic Mitsubishi F1M2 'Pete' from the old Tamiya 1/50 kit from 1967. Is there a Japanese version of 'Murphy's War' where an irrascible aircraft mechanic from a torpedoed Japanese ship resurrects an abandoned Pete on a remote Pacific island to attack the US submarine responsible when the war is already over? There ought to be. Studio Ghibli? 

Another Pete, this time from the more recent Hasegawa 1/48 kit but builder unknown. It was surprising to see no E8N1 'Dave' floatplanes  from the new Hasegawa kit but I guess that might be down to timing. 

This Messerschmitt Bf-109E in Japanese guise was built from the Tamiya 1/72 kit, believed to be by Barry Nurmerick. Extraordinary because it looks as though it ought to be to a much larger scale. Grand job!

An Ohka Special Attack flying rocket bomb from the Fine Molds 1/48 kit. There is now evidence to suggest that the wings and flying control, surfaces on some of these aircraft were doped aluminium and not the light blue-grey interpreted from colour photos. Although there are remnants of fabric purporting to be from Ohka from the USMC and Yanks Air  museums which are light blue-grey.  

Another Ohka, this time made from the diminutive kit that used to be incongruously included with the Hasegawa 1/72 G4M1 'Betty'. 

And last but by no means least a PV-2 from the Special Hobby 1/72 kit in post-war Japanese markings. A striking, unusual model and beautifully done. 

With special thanks to Ken Glass for taking and sharing this splendid collection of photographs. And that really is all folks!

Image credits: All model photos © 2016 Ken Glass; formatting, presentation and write-ups by 'Straggler'

Friday 2 September 2016

IPMS USA Nats Display ~ Part Four

A selection of Army types this time, again courtesy of Ken Glass's expert camera work. Please bear with me over emails as BT Yahoo Mail has been acting up with inboxes not loading and emails not sending. The problem seems to be intermittent but has been going on for a couple of days now.

A very nice Ki-51 'Sonia' from the Nichimo 1/48 kit by Jason Holt of OH displaying fine attention to detail and skilful painting. The model represents an aircraft of the 64 Shimbu-tai, also known as Kokka-tai (国花隊 - flower of the nation unit) - a Tokubestu-Kogekitai (Tokko-tai) or Special Attack unit. It was one of about 12 Shimbu-tai organised from within the Hokota Flying Training Division and equipped with Ki-48 and Ki-51 aircraft, being formed on 20 March 1945. On 11 June 1945 nine aircraft of the unit sortied to attack US ships lying off Okinawa. They were probably the aircraft incorrectly identified as 'Vals' which attacked LCS(L) 122 and the liberty ship 'Walter Colton'. LCS(L) 122 was seriously damaged when her conning tower was hit by one of three 'Vals' shot down as they attempted to attack the ships in Radar Picket Station 15A, killing 11 of her crew and injuring 29. Fires on board were brought under control and she survived the encounter. The liberty ship was attacked when she was anchored in Nakagusuku Bay by a single 'Val' which made a run on LSD 6 then climbed and turned to attack the 'Walter Colton'.  It struck a boom after missing the bridge but the ship escaped serious damage and although some crew were injured none were killed. A fifth aircraft of the unit was possibly the victim of Lt Thomas H Reynolds Jr flying an SBD of VMSB-131 on anti-submarine patrol who also claimed a 'Val'. The fate of the other four aircraft which sortied from this unit is unknown. 

This gaudy. black-painted Ki-84 'Frank' Special Attacker of the 57th Shimbu-tai was made from the classic Hasegawa 1/72 kit by Bill Powers. The unit was formed within Akeno Flying Training Division in March 1945 and sortied against Okinawa on 28 May 1945 led by 2/Lt Kitoku Ito.

This Hasegawa 1/72 Ki-46-II 'Dinah' represents an aircraft from the 18th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai. The unit spent almost the whole war operating from airfields in China with detachments to Indo-China from October 1940 to April 1941 and from March to August 1942,  The tiger emblem was used throughout but each one was painted individually so differed slightly from aircraft to aircraft.

Another 18th DHC 'Dinah', this time a Ki-46-III made by Steve Coates from the Tamiya 1/48 kit.

This 1/48 Tamiya Ki-46-III represents an aircraft of the 10th Hiko Sentai. The 10th was constituted from the 10th Dokuritso Hiko Chutai HQ, the 1st Chutai of the 81st Hiko Sentai and the 76th Dokuritsu Chutai in June 1943 and used the well known reversed 'S' river emblem to represent the River Non at the place where it was first formed. After being practically annihilated in New Guinea it was reformed in Japan and used the emblem shown on the model from November 1944, representing the number '10'.

This splendid Ki-84 'Frank' in Homeland Defence markings was made from the Hasegawa 1/32 kit by Andrew Frill. It represents an aircraft of the 520th Rinji Bôju Sentai (臨時傍受戦隊) meaning  temporary (or special, extraordinary) air defence (interception) unit. This unit was formed from the 1st Rensei Hikotai at Sagami (now Nakatsu) in Kanagawa on 22nd July 1944 for operational training and to provide a supplementary air defence interception capability using shotai (flights) led by instructors and composed of the most talented student pilots fresh from flying schools. The unit had about 100 pilots, mostly 18-19 years old , who held "student pilot" Sergeant rank. After January 1945 they engaged briefly in air defence interceptions but from March they were re-organised into special attack units for the battle of Okinawa.

Another 'Frank', this time built from the Hasegawa 1/48 kit by Carlos Escobar of Peru and evoking the Jack Leynnwood cover art of Donald W Thorpe's seminal work on 'Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II' from 1968, which depicted an aircraft of the 29th Hiko Sentai Hombu (HQ) shotai. However some references state that blue was used by this unit as the non-standard distinguishing colour for the 2nd Chutai. The colours and finish on this model are excellent.

Always a popular modelling subject this Hasegawa Ki-61-I Hei was finished as s/n '3295' of the 244th Hiko Sentai commander Teruhiko Kobayashi. The silver and blue spinner is intriguing but the basis for that detail is obscure as the known photos of this aircraft appear to show a dark painted spinner.

Another Kobayashi mount, this time s/n 4424, a Ki-61-I Tei made from the Hasegawa kit. The red spinner backplate detail is again intriguing but of unknown origin.

Another colourful 244th Hiko Sentai 'Tony' made from the Hasegawa 1/48 kit and representing a Ki-61-I Tei , serial number and pilot unknown.

And finally for now, a sharp looking Ki-61-I Hei 'Tony' of the 56th Hiko Sentai in natural metal finish with plain Hinomaru built from the Hasegawa 1/48 kit. The Hei variant was prized for its German-manufactured wing cannon.

With special thanks to Ken Glass for taking the pics and sharing them and to Ronnie Olsthoorn for additional information.
Image credits: All photos © 2016 Ken Glass; formatting, presentation and write-ups by 'Straggler'