Sunday, April 15, 2012

We're Back, Thoughts on a Strange Hobby, The Fighting 39th, An A-26 Office, and The Last Thing You'd Expect to See Here

Hey, Ho; Let's Go!

OK, so Joey and the boys aren't here to count it off for us, but the spirit's there, and it's time to get back in the game. The Great Move of 2012 is complete, and no airplanes were harmed in the making of it. All the books, photos, kits, decals, paint, and on and on and on; all the stuff that needed to get here, got here. We are, to steal yet another phrase, cocked and locked and ready to rock. Hey, Ho; Let's GO!

How Silly Can We Get?

Even though a considerable percentage of our readers are far more interested in the photography we've managed to dig up than the plastic models that caused us to run those photos in the first place, we are, at the end of the day, a publication devoted to plastic modeling. That fact leads us to follow the various ins and outs of the scale modeling industry with considerable interest, which means we also look in on several of the better-known internet modeling sites for new releases. We also, for whatever it may be worth, read the various forums featured on most of those sites; oft times we learn, but we also end up scratching our heads quite a bit at what we read there. For a case (or two) in point, let's look at the hoopla around two recent releases, both in 1/48th scale; Revell's PV-1 and Tamiya's apparently impending Il-2.

When the PV-1 was announced, the boards started buzzing with the usual silliness devoted to plastic models that haven't been released yet. When the kit finally was released, people started buying it in droves, or so it would seem, and also began criticizing it which, in turn, set off a feeding frenzy in the camps of all the folks who manufacture aftermarket resin correction and detail sets for our hobby. As a result we saw an onslaught of replacement parts, precious few of which were actually required in order to build an accurate PV-1, and we saw what would have been, way back in The Good Old Days, reams and reams of criticism in said boards regarding the need for those parts, the practical use of those parts, and almost anything else you might think of that would have anything at all to do with those parts. A few wise souls brought up the fact that the kit was pretty darned good right out of the box and really only needed improved props, but they were essentially trampled underfoot by the crowd that wanted to spend extra money on resin aftermarket. It's a strange little hobby.

Then there's that apparently impending Tamiya Il-2, which we're assured is an entirely new kit and not just a revised Accurate Miniatures kit to be sold primarily in  the Japanese market. The boards couldn't go after that particular kit regarding detail or accuracy, since nobody actually has one yet, but they could and did go after it from the standpoint of need, which begs a question---do we really need another Il-2? That depends. Tamiya has a long-standing track record of issuing kits of subjects they want to do rather than what a relatively small group of modestly opinionated scale modelers believe they should do.

To cut to the chase, is the old A-M/Eduard Il-2 good enough? Yep---it sure is. Does it need replacement with a newer kit using 2012 technology? Nope---not really. Think about it, though; the Hasegawa family of Mitsubishi A6M kits were first released in the 1990s and are still pretty darned good right now this minute. Tamiya have released state-of-the-art kits of two of the Zero variants over the past couple of years, and they're a genuine improvement over those older Hasegawa offerings, albeit not by much. There certainly isn't enough difference between the two kits to cause us to surplus out the Hase kits sitting in our closet in favor of replacement by newer and more costly Tamiya issues, the point to be taken being that we feel we'd be equally well-served by building either. It's probably going to be that way with the Il-2 as well. We've got a couple of A-M/Eduard kits in the pile and will build them some day---they're good, solid representations of that classic warplane, but we'll eventually buy the new Tamiya kit (if, in fact, it is new) as well. It is, like we said, a strange little hobby.

Our very own personal bottom line is that we'll probably buy the new Tamiya kit if there really is one, and we'll build it sooner or later. If the kit turns out to be an A-M re-pop we'll probably opt to keep what we've already got in the collection, but we won't criticize the folks at Tamiya for doing it. Yes, we'd rather have a decent F-86H kit (which probably wouldn't sell worth a tinker's damn, if the truth be known) but it ain't gonna happen, at least not from Tamiya.

At the end of the day we've seen a new and badly-needed kit of the classic Ventura, and we might be seeing a new and not necessarily-required kit of the Il-2 as well. As plastic modelers we applaud them both, and suggest that the myriad of internet critics stop talking about them and go build something instead.

The Turning Tide

The world is going though a period of massive and significant change at the moment, and virtually everything those of us with some seniority on life have held to be self-evident truths are up for grabs. It wasn't always so. There was a time, barely half a century ago, when things were very well-defined indeed, and resolute purpose was not questioned. Here's a glimpse into that not-so-distant past courtesy of Bobby Rocker.

The 39th Fighter Squadron, a part of the 35th Fighter Group, was a Sierra Hotel sort of outfit during World War 2 and was in things pretty much from the beginning, although their rise to fame really didn't get started until after their assignment to New Guinea. Here's a flight of their P-38s buzzing the strip at 14-Mile; note the gas bags hanging off the port wing stations only. Those aux tanks, along with everything else in the Southwest Pacific, were in short supply and were only used as required to support each particular mission.  Rocker Collection

The 39th did a stint at Milne Bay prior to moving to Port Moresby. This Lightning appears to be poised and ready to go, but the severe tail-down attitude indicates that she's lacking ammunition for her guns, rendering her harmless for the time being. The laundry line in the right-hand background of this shot provides a telling indication of the conditions the 39th had to endure while in New Guinea. Pretty much everything was make do and they, along with all the other 5th AF fighter units, made things work with what they had.  Rocker Collection

This P-38 had the luxury of a revetment made from logs, which protected it from bomb blast and splinters. Of course, that revetment wasn't much use against heat, rain, insects, or poisonous snakes, all of which were present in great abundance. It was, as we've said so many times in the past, a nasty little war.  Rocker Collection

When aviation historians mention Charles King everyone immediately thinks of his P-39, but he flew P-38s as well. Here's his Number 27 parked in the mud at Port Moresby. We can't say it enough; this environment wasn't the exception, it was the rule. Those guys were hot, dirty, dead tired, and sometimes sick, and they got in the airplane day after day and flew the missions in spite of it all. They got the job done, and sometimes they died in the process. We owe every one of them. Rocker Collection

 Here's "Japanese Sandman II" at 14-Mile Strip. She's a fairly famous airplane and this is the way we're used to seeing her, relatively clean and ready to go get The Bad Guys.  Rocker Collection

Even famous airplanes step in it once in a while. Here's another shot of "Sandman", but this time she's off the taxiway and partially mired in the ever-present New Guinea mud, and with a badly-mangled port wing to boot. The Japanese were a skilled and aggressive enemy, determined in their opposition, but you could get away from them once you were out of the immediate combat area. There was no way to avoid the lousy weather, or the mud. Everybody paid the price.  Rocker Collection

You could call it courage, or guts, or anything else you wanted to, but the guys who flew in the Pacific, particularly in the rough days of 1942 and 1943, were a pretty special bunch of aviators. Here's Curran Jones from the 39th looking ready for parade beside his Lightning.  Rocker Collection

And Paul Stanch. The uniform's fairly clean but those boondockers tell the story.  Rocker Collection

Here's Walter Beane with part of his ground crew at 14-Mile. The P-38 has proven itself to be a bear to keep flying in the comtemporary warbird circuit. Keeping them in the air was business as usual in 1943. Rocker Collection

Charlie King poses for the camera at 14-Mile, looking like he just stepped out of the shower. They say the camera doesn't lie, but sometimes it fibs a little bit.  Rocker Collection

This shot's a little bit closer to the truth. We'll leave today's essay with this shot of Ken Sparks posing with his damaged P-38. Look at his face; you can see the exhaustion. Have we ever mentioned that it was a crummy war?  Rocker Collection

One for the Modelers

We're always after detail, us modelers, and we're manic about it, detailing our models in places where nobody can ever see what we've done. The photo you're about to enjoy comes to us from Mark Nankivil (we think!) and provides us with some detail you can see:

Just another day at the office. This remarkable shot provides an excellent look at the instrument panel and cockpit area of a WW2-vintage A-26. This one ought to keep you guys busy detailing for a while!  Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Off On a Tangent

OK, admit it. Most of you guys started out your modeling career building cars, or at least you did that if you're as old as we are. Whatever else you build now or have ever built, there was a car model in there someplace. We did it too, and we still do it every once in a while, up to and including right now. The Great Move of 2012 has kept us from finishing anything in the way of model airplanes lately, and we're presently hip-deep in assisting our spouse with a model car display in the community we just moved from, so today's model shot is of the automotive variety. It might or might not be what you wanted to see, but it's what we've got. We'll return to what might be deemed our regularly scheduled programming next time.

No, they aren't airplanes, but they are models and this is, in theory at least, a modeling blog, so there you go. The hot rod is an old Monogram 1932 Ford roadster and is mostly built straight from the kit, with only the substitution of a set of Halibrandt wheels from a 427 Cobra to set it appart from all the other "Deuce" roadster models out there. The orange car is, by golly, the very Monogram 427 Cobra that we stole those wheels from (although it has same kind of wheels on it too, so not to worry). The Cobra is a straight-up competion car and has a scratch-built roll bar and 5-point harness, along with a few other minor modifications to the kit. The Deuce was built in the late 1980s, while the Cobra is newer, having been constructed during the '90s. Some of us just never grow up.

Happy Snaps

Today's entry is another shot from the camera of Rick "Boris" Morgan:

Phil, I was scanning shots today for the A-6 Osprey book I’m doing and had this one at hand- it shows a division of Swordsmen (VA-145) A-6Es over Puget Sound on 4 Aug 1988. The guy closest to us is 162197, an A-6E SWIP. Rick   Rick Morgan    Classic! Thanks, Morgo!

The Relief Tube
We've received a tremendous amount of correspondence over the past month and a half (closer to two months, actually, but we won't count if you won't) and there's a fair amount of it that deserves publication, which we promise we'll get to next issue. That said, here's one to provide some food for thought. We're probably as sick of those low-life photo thieves as you are, so we're going to figure they're just not worth talking about anymore once we get past this one last comment from our friend Doug Siegfried over at The Tailhook Association:

Phil, photo credits are a big bugaboo with all of us. We, at The Hook, always strive to give credit to who every took or provided the image. On the internet, being free and open to all presents a great problem. I confess I have taken pictures off your site and put them in our archives server but always with the photographers name via Replica in Scale. Don't know the answer but I would sure hate to see some of the great shots, especially of Navy/Marine disappear. Thanks again for posting all the great shots you have on your site and keep the model shots coming.
Doug Siegfried

OK, Bottom Feeding Purloiners of Other People's Photography, read what Doug wrote. That's how the Real World does it. And Doug, thanks as always for your encouragement and support!

We have some other comments as well, reams of them, in fact, but it's been a long day so we're going to cut things off here for now. Thanks for your patience while we've been off on our self-inflicted sabbatical, and be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again real soon.