67 years ago: the 362nd FG scores against planes and trains

On February 21, the 378th Fighter Squadron bombed what turned out to be a dummy airfield near Giessen, but a second mission netted a single Fw 190 shot down east of Darmstadt by Lt. William Burling. The Fw 190 was spotted climbing over Burling’s flight, and when it did a wing-over and dove, Burling jettisoned his bombs and drop tank and began maneuvering to intercept. “He started a sharp right climbing turn and I shot a short burst at about 400 yards, 35 to 40 degree deflection, but I believe no damage (was done). I continued to dogfight through various maneuvers until I had closed to about 150 to 200 yards. In a slight climbing turn my next burst of fire got strikes in the tail section and some pieces flew off. Another burst got strikes along the fuselage, canopy and into the engine. The Fw 190 slowly rolled over and went into a dive, smoking. The pilot was not observed to bail out and I saw the plane hit the ground and explode.”

The mission had its cost, however; Lt. J. Harter Klingel was last seen spinning out of the overcast east of Frankfurt in P-47D-30 44-20609. “Lt. Klingel, flying Green Two, was apparently hit by flak,” said Lt. Darwyn Shaver. “The plane began to roll and started down in a shallow dive. Lt. Klingel bailed out almost immediately and the plane crashed and burned near the town of Eppertshon, Germany.” Klingel became a POW.

Things could have been much worse for the group that day. Lt. Nicholas Marchetti, flying P-47D 42-28890, and Lt. Robert Searl, flying P-47D 42-27304, made glancing contact while in flight, but both aircraft continued flying and completed the 379th’s mission safely. The squadron put 500-pounders on rail lines northwest of Manheim.

The 377th attacked the rail yards at Darmstadt in the morning and the airfield at Wurzburg in the afternoon, causing a Bf 109 to crash right after take-off and damaging two Ju 52s. The 379th attacked rail yards at Marienbad, damaging about 15 rail cars which were believed to be carrying tanks, then strafed traffic, knocking out two trucks, and picked off a parked Me 210 at Eger Airfield.

67 Years Ago: Joe Joiner of the 4th FG bags two

The Fourth Fighter Group launched an escort on Feb. 19, 1945 to Nurnberg. The bombers aborted, so the group went strafing in the Neumarkt-Regensburg area. Unfortunately, Capt. John Fitch was hit by flak after strafing and bailed out southwest of Neumarkt; he was seen to be safe on the ground, and he became a POW shortly thereafter.

Near Nurnberg, Joe Joiner was on his way to strafe when he spotted a pair of Fw 190s at about 500 feet. “The 190s were flying line abreast formation and I took the one on the left. I fired a short burst from about 250 yards and his belly tank exploded. After the smoke cleared I fired another long burst from about 150 yards and the 190 exploded in a huge ball of flame and went into the deck.”

The other 190 broke to the right and tried to escape at tree-top level. “I started firing from line astern and saw a few scattered strikes on the wings,” said Joiner. “I had to stop firing then, because Capt. (Kendall) Carlson was making a pass at the same 190 from a 45-degree angle. I started firing again and closed to about 100 yards. I was firing at him when he crash-landed in a field and as he made a good crash landing I came back and strafed the plane.”

67 years ago: a Valentines Day Massacre by the 362nd Fighter Group

On what could be accurately described as a St. Valentines Day massacre, 11 squadron missions were run in one day on February 14 by the 362nd Fighter Group. The 379th fared especially well, discovering more than 100 vehicles in the town of Bodem and bombing and strafing them, destroying 40. Each aircraft carried two 500-pound bombs, which they used to shattering effect. However, Lt. Francis Postai’s Thunderbolt was hit by small arms fire while strafing a troop concentration just in front of American infantry and tanks. “I circled at about 3000 feet and waited for the squadron commander to tell me to go down and strafe,” Postai wrote in a letter home. “When he gave me the word my wingman and I peeled off to go down. I let go at a bunch of Jerries in some woods. I had to pull out of my dive and as soon as I pulled up some Jerry machine gunner wrote ‘to my Valentine’ on the side of my airplane. Three of (the slugs) got me; two went through my upper arm and the other went through the fleshy part of my back but didn’t do any damage; it stopped in the muscle. I opened the throttle and headed for our lines and crash landed in a pasture just inside our lines. There was an infantry aid man right there and he fixed me up.” Postai was eventually sent home for treatment of his wounds.

The 378th flew two missions, one to Bueren and the other to Kirf. On the latter mission, the squadron also strafed Weiten and Freudenberg. Red Flight of the 377th conducted an armed reconnaissance around Wittlick, working over a convoy of trucks. “We had expended our ammunition and the remainder of the squadron had returned to base while Lt. (Willard) Naglestadt and I remained in the area to lead ‘Klondike’ (the 379th) to the target,” said Lt. Ernest Johnson. “This accomplished, we headed out on a course which took us south of Trier. Just as we were crossing the highway leading north out of Trier we encountered a few bursts of what appeared to be 40mm flak.” The fire came from the 4th Companie of the 11th Fallschrimjager Flak Regiment; its 12 guns scored hits on the wing and fuselage of P-47D-28 44-19931 “and a fire started in his left wing just inside the bomb shackle,” Johnson said. “I immediately told him he was on fire and to bail out, whereupon he jettisoned the canopy. He continued in straight and level flight for a period of 45 seconds to one minute, during which time I repeated instructions to bail out. Then his aircraft did a gentle wing-over and went into the ground at an angle of about 60 degrees and exploded.” Naglestadt’s aircraft smashed into the ground on the road running between Scharfbillig and Wostachen; Naglestadt attempted to jump, but his parachute did not open in time, killing the veteran pilot.

 

69 years ago: The 99th Fighter Squadron wins and loses over Anzio

The resurgence of the Luftwaffe in the skies of Italy in February, 1944 coincided with the difficulties the allies were having on the ground at Anzio. The 99th Fighter Squadron’s critical ground support responsibilities were supplemented with an increasing number of patrols designed to keep German aircraft from strafing and bombing the troops mired on the beachhead.

On February 5, a patrol over the beach was headed west at about 6000 feet when it spotted at least 10 Fw 190sdiving toward the beach from a height of about 16,000 feet before flattening out on the deck. The P-40s quickly turned into the German aircraft, and Elwood Driver made a diving left turn and pulled up about 300 yards behind an Fw 190. He began firing “and continued to fire in long bursts, even though my target was pulling away,” he reported. “My tracers straddled the cockpit and a sheet of flames burst from the right side. I last saw the airplane burning and headed toward Rome at a height of just 50 feet above the ground.”

At the same time, Clarence Jamison and George McCrumby were tangling with six Fw 190s when the latter pilot’s P-40L was struck by anti-aircraft fire. “Something hit underneath my ship,” McCrumby told war correspondent Art Carter. “Then another burst cracked the side of my cockpit, plunging the aeroplane into a dive at 4000 feet. I tried to pull out but had no control. The elevators had been knocked out. I had no alternative but to jump.”

After sliding the canopy back, McCrumby tried to clamber out the left side of the P-40L, but was thrown back in his seat by the slipstream. “The I tried the right side and got halfway out when again the slipstream threw me against the fuselage,” he said. “I struggled until all but my right foot was free and dangled from the diving aeroplane until the wind turned the ship around at 1000 feet ad shook me loose. I reached for the rip cord six times before finding it, but my parachute opened immediately, landing me safely in a cow pasture.”

Meanwhile, Jamison’s aeroplane had been riddled by fire from one of the six Fw 190s he and McCrumby had gone after, and while trying to escape his Merlin engine overheated and seized up. He crashlanded the Warhawk in a field near the front l ine and was rescued by U.S. Army Rangers.

Battle of the Ju 88s: Revell vs. Hasegawa vs. AMTech

For our third battle of 1:72 kits, we’ll go from a head-to-head matchup to a head-to-head-to-head matchup. We’ve seen a lot of German twins come out lately, including the He 111 and the Ju 188 from Hasegawa, but one subject that’s received a lot of attention in the last 10 years is the Ju 88. There have been four Ju 88s issued in the last year; one of them, the Zvesda kit, did not make it into this contest. Let’s just say it had visa issues getting out of Russia and was unable to make it for this contest.

Here are the ground rules. This will be a 12-round fight, scored on a modified 10-point must system. The winner of each round gets 10 points, with second and third scoring 9 and 8, respectively, except in the event of a knockdown. A knockdown is any area where a model excels in detail or accuracy, or where one falls down badly in those same areas. Your judges for this evening’s bout are… Hailing from Alameda, California, me!

Let’s meet tonight’s contestants. We have three models from three continents in tonight’s showdown. First up, this was an entry from 2002 that provided the Ju 88S-1/T-1 variant, making it unique and an option for a “Baby Blitz” Ju 88. Hailing from West Des Moines, Iowa, with its roots in the old Ertl kit, it’s AMTech’s Ju 88S-1/T-1.

And in this corner, dating to 2006, it’s a model that raised a lot of eyebrows and was what was considered to be the best Ju 88 we’d see for a long time. The kit in today’s tussle is a Ju 88A-4. Hailing from Shizuoka, Japan, it’s Hasegawa’s Ju 88A-4!

And, finally, the upstart. This kit appeared on European shelves in November, 2011 and in the U.S. just recently. It too is a Ju 88A-4, and it comes to us all the way from Buende, Germany. Please welcome the Revell of Germany Ju 88A-4!

And now, let’s get bereit zum rumpeln (ready to rumble, translated poorly)!

Round 1. Box

AMTech has a decent painting of two Ju 88S-1s diving to attack, one with an engine starting to burn in the background. It’s framed by AMTech’s standard graphics presentation, which is fairly boring . Hasegawa has a Shigeo Koike painting of three Ju 88A-4s cruising along in a stately manner, also framed by Hasegawa’a usual dull graphic presentation. Revell’s box art is fantastic – it has two Ju 88A-4s attacking a harbor, with the main aircraft just having released its bombs. Detail is outstanding – note how the sun is shining on an angle through the canopy, which is reflected on the left nacelle. Action packed and evocative! Revell is cruising to an early win – but then printed this image on a fold-up side-opening box! Ouch! Both AMTech and Hasegawa go with a sturdier top-and-bottom arrangement. The edge goes to Hasegawa for the Koike art, with AMTech in second and Revell staggering in at third despite a promising start.

Round 2. Surface detail

AMTech’s basic kit is old, but it does have recessed panel lines, and they’re pretty decent. However, the two newer kits really benefit from modern mold-making technology. Hasegawa has all the access panels and the model is fully riveted where appropriate; Revell is close in degree of detail, but they leave off the rivets from several locations where Hasegawa has included them. Why? Who knows. But in a head-to-head battle, this gives the edge to the Hasegawa kit, with Revell in second and AMTech in third.

Round 3. Fidelity of outline

This is where AMTech really suffers. The nacelles are noticeably too small, and the fuselage retains a squarish cross-section as it tapers to the tail. The Hasegawa and Revell kits have both of these areas handled well. The Hasegawa and Revell tail parts match in outline almost exactly, and the wings are both bang on, although Revell provides separate flaps and ailerons while Hasegawa provides only the ailerons. This is really a close battle; Hasegawa gets the edge only because the Revell vertical tail seems to be missing the horizontal separation line on the rudder. Hasegawa first, Revell second, AMTech third.

Let’s take a lot at the scorecard: Hasegawa has won all rounds, and has a 30-28-28 lead. There’s lots of room for the other kits to catch up!

Round 4. Ordnance

AMTEch includes the external bomb racks and four rudimentary SC1000 bombs. They’re okay, but no match for just how well the other two kits handle their ordnance. Hasegawa provides both SC250 SC500 bombs, which are of similar five-part construction; the kit also includes decals for the bombs. Revell provides a load of four SC500s and two SC1000s, but each have separate fins, adding two to the parts count. Revell wins this round, with Hasegawa in second, and AMTech takes it on the chin for a 10-9-8 round.

Round 5. Wheel wells and landing gear

Starting with the wheels, the AMTech wheels are noticeably small and lack detail in the tread and the hubs. The Hasegawa wheels are perhaps the most crisply rendered, but the Revell wheels have better detail on the strut-side hub, making it a tough call between the two. The AMTech struts are long but are reasonably well detailed, although the detail is somewhat heavy. Hasegawa’s struts are less well detailed than Revell’s, so Revell gets the nod there. AMTech’s wheel wells have a flat face on the bottom of the lower wing – it’s stepping in post holes, staggering around the ring, showing its age! Hasegawa has inserts for the wheel wells that have mounting holes for the gear and a little rudimentary structure, but nothing special. Revell has the same structure molded into the wing. Because of the struts, the round goes to Revell, with Hasegawa in second and AMTech in third once again.

Round 6. Cockpit

Revell comes out swinging and connects again and again in this round! 25 beautifully-detailed parts make up the cockpit; there’s a full complement of radios and tons of molded-in detail. One step in the instructions dwells entirely on interior painting. The various types of machine guns are depicted – not a generic German machine gun, but distinct renditions of the MG15/17, MG 81 and MG 81Z are present. It’s a terrific kit cockpit – maybe not as perfect as the Tamiya P-47D interior, but very good. Hasegawa gives it a try, with 16 parts to the cockpit, and the detail is good, but not as good as Revell, and it drops its gloves in one area Hasegawa fails in time and again – the nice sidewall detail is pockmarked with ejection pin marks, meaning you’ll have to do some careful filling to make this area usable. It also has a solid floor, which will need to be cut open. AMTech’s interior is soft and rudimentary. Revell scores a double knockdown here – it’s 10-8-7 in round 6.

Round 7. Engines

AMTech is immediately hit by a haymaker; its Jumo engines are missing the cooling fans, and they’re noticeably small. There’s a resin replacement on the market for these parts – never a good sign. Both Hasegawa and Revell get the cooling fans right, but Revell also includes the area behind the propeller spinner, a bit of extra detail that works very nicely. Hasegawa has a bit of a comeback by offering shrouded and unshrouded exhausts, a detail Revell misses. It’s a close 10-9-7, with Revell getting the round.

Round 8. Propellers

The props in the AMT kit are a bit too fat at the centers of the blades and need to be slimmed a bit in order to look like the real items. The Revell and Hasegawa kits get their props right, capturing the pitched spade-like shape of the blades. The spinners are good, with the Revell spinners being slightly larger than the Hasegawa spinners. It’s too close to call – make it 10-10-8 in this round.

Round 9. Clear Parts

AMTech’s clear parts are good and clear; they benefit from lacking the gondola parts (the gondola was omitted from the Ju 88S-1). Hasegawa provides the entire gondola in clear plastic, a great idea that minimizes filling in the small windows, although it does mean you’ll have to paint both sides of the plastic to avoid a shiny interior. Revell’s gondola has clear insert sections, making it more complex and still requiring the two-sided paint job. Both kits have the rear canopy section in two parts. For simplicity of construction, we’re giving this one to Hasegawa, 10-9-8.

Round 10. Instructions

Hasegawa shines here, too. Their instructions are simple and straightforward. Revell’s is its usual graphical mess; it’s so busy it could be easy to miss instructions to open holes or follow the specific instructions needed to get the model subassemblies put together properly. AMTech’s instructions are visually less sophisticated but are very easy to follow – and the kit is simpler, so that makes sense. We give Hasegawa the edge, with AMTech in second and Revell in third. If there’s a weakness in Revell’s game, it’s the instructions.

Round 11. Decals

AMTech give you four sets of markings – three in the instructions, with an extra addendum. The options all date from 1944 – a reconnaissance T-1 based in Italy in the factory splinter scheme; an S-1 from KG.1 with a mirror wave pattern sprayed over the splinter scheme, and two KG.66 machines with black undersides and gray uppersides, one with small RLM75 grau-violet spots over RLM76 light blue, the other with large and widely spaced RLM75 spots over RLM77. The decals cover the rudimentary markings, and they’re printed quite well. Hasegawa offers three schemes, all with the splinter scheme: KG.51 in Russia, with RLM65 licht blau undersides and yellow lower wingtips; a KG.30 machine flown by Oblt. Werner Baumach in Norway in 1941, in the same scheme; and a black-bellied machine from 2./KGr.106. The markings are far more comprehensive, with decals for the cockpit and access panels included on the sheet. There are also non-standard insignia covered with decal markings. The decals suffer from the cream-white printing that has plagued Hasegawa decals for years. Revell’s sheet has two options: one KG.30 aircraft based in Catania (with markings that are apparently spurious) with the splinter scheme, yellow engine nacelles, rudder and elevators and white lower outer wings, and a second plane based in Greece and painted in matt brown with RLM 71 blotches over RLM65. Though the basic markings are a disappointment, this sheet includes the external instruments for the engine nacelles and complete data markings. How to score this? It’s another 10-10-8 round – although both the winners of the round have some limitations.

Round 12. Extras

AMTech has no bells or whistles; it’s a basic kit, and as such is the clear loser here. Its one chance at glory – the EZ6 DF antenna mounted on the back of the fuselage – is rendered poorly as a clear part with detail molded to the inside surface. The other kits offer the antenna as a decal, with a clear part over it. The Hasegawa kit, with its separate ailerons, also includes separate mass balances; so does the Revell kit. The edge goes to Revell because of its more effective treatment of the wing-edge landing light.

And there’s the bell! Let’s go to the cards!

The final score here is Revell 115, Hasegawa 114, and AMTech 99 – a closer battle than I expected! The Hasegawa kit is six years old, but it’s no slouch, and its surface detail is a big plus. The Revell kit, however, is about half the price, and the interior is spectacular. It boils down to what you can afford and what your preference is. AMTech was a distant third, but this is a unique version – if you want to do a Ju 88S-1 or T-1 reconnaissance version, it’s a solid starting place if you can replace the cowlings and adjust the landing gear (perhaps by making copies of the Revell gear).