Next Northern California Friends of the Aces Event: May 29 in Vacaville

The next Northern California Friends of the Aces event will be a bit of a grab bag of experiences and theatres, but the people tentatively scheduled to speak are well worth hearing. The lineup for the event scheduled for May 29 at the Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre is:

Lt. Col. John Bolyard

Cdr. Clarence “Spike” Borley

Cdr. Lester Gray

Gen. F. Mike Rogers

Bolyard scored five victories flying with the 23rd Fighter Group in China, and he did so in the P-4oN and P-51 flying under the Command of “Tex” Hill. Borley flew Hellcats with VF-15 aboard Essex, and scored four kills in one mission, which concluded with his being rescued by a submarine. Gray scored his 5 kills flying the Hellcat and the Corsair from Intrepid with VF-10. Mike Rogers was a member of the Pioneer Mustang Group, the 354th Fighter Group, and downed 7 enemy planes. We modelers know him as the pilot of the P-51B “Beantown Banshee.”

The event’s only $25 – which is really a bargain, considering that the Friends of the Aces pays to transport and lodge these guests. I strongly encourage you to attend if you can – if you like history, airplanes, pilots and pilots flying airplanes who made history, these events should be marked in red on your calendar!

More information can be found at the Northern California Friends of the Aces website.


Next Northern California Aces Symposium: Two-War Aces

The next event on the Northern California Friends of the Aces schedule is an interesting topic: aces who flew in two wars (not guys who scored five in one conflict and then five more in another, but pilots who made ace and continued to fly long enough to see combat again in another conflict). The four fellows on the panel are quite interesting.

Perhaps most unique is Lt. Col. William Wescott, who spent World War II in the A-24 Banshee and A-20 Havoc. He stuck around long enough to find himself piloting the F-86 Sabre when Korea became hot, scoring five victories with the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing. His best-known mount for these kills was the Sabre “Michigan Center/Lady Frances,” which he shared with Francis Gabreski.

Col. Perry Dahl knocked down nine Japanese planes with the 475th Fighter Group, flying the P-38 (inlcuding one Lightning called ” 23 Skidoo”). He stayed in the Air Force, holding a number of training and staff positions, but went to Vietnam with the 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron, flying as a Forward Air Controller.

Lt. Col James Empey also flew FAC missions – in the O-1 Birddog, no less – when the Vietnam War needed him. When his career started, he flew Spitfires with the 52nd Fighter Group and, after the transition to Mustangs, shot down five German planes in a month to become an ace.

Finally, there’s a name that I found very familiar – Gen. Frank Gailer, who scored 5.5 victories with the 357th Fighter Group, then went on to fly the F-100 Super Sabre in Vietnam as commander of the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing. I couldn’t quite place Gailer until I realized that there’s a profile of his P-51B “Jeesil Peesil Mommy” in my book on the 357th – which really makes me eager to meet the man! Here’s the real plane in its photographic form:

The event is on Feb. 27 at the Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre. You can find out more through the Northern California Friends’ new website.

Next Aces Event: Jolly Rogers in South San Francisco Aug. 28

The next Northern California Friends of the Aces event is coming up at the end of this month – August 28, to be precise – and it features seven members of the World War II-era “Jolly Rogers” (VF-17 and VF-18, thanks to number reassignments). I’m going to predict that the panel may feature some interesting debate over the merits of the F4U Corsair and the F6F Hellcat – the squadron took the Corsair to war, but then converted to the Hellcat when it finally went aboard ship. It’s a long story – many of you have probably read the Corsair part of the story as penned by Tom Blackburn in The Jolly Rogers, and I suggest F6F Hellcat Aces of World War II for the Hellcat side.

The panelists are scheduled to be:
CDR Bill Ambrosio (4 victories)
CDR Ted Crosby (5.25 victories)
CAPT Bob Coats (9.33 victories)
CDR Bill Hardy (6.5 victories)
LT Jim Pierce (5.25 victories)
LT Tilly Pool (6 victories)
LCDR Billy Watts (8.75 victories)

The event will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel, San Francisco Airport, and it costs $35 for the general public. This is another great chance to connect with history; the Friends of the Aces always run a smooth and friendly show. I hope to see you there!

Next Aces Symposium: May 23 in Belmont

The next Fighter Aces Symposium being held by the Northern California Friends of the Aces will be on May 23 at the Hiller Museum in Belmont, California. This time, the theme will be “Aces with Wings of Gold,” although it could also be “Hellcats Against the Rising Sun.” The scheduled aces on the panel are:

CDR Clarence “Spike” Borley, VF-15 (5 victories)

LCDR Fred “Buck” Dungan, VF(N)-76 (7 victories)

CDR Ralph Foltz, VF-15 (5 victories)

CDR Chuck Haverland, VF-20 (6.5 victories)

After the aces speak about their exploits, there will be an autograph session. Even the folks in the audience tend to be fairly interesting people!

As always, if you want more details on the event, e-mail the NCFA at

Mustang Aces Speak February 21

I just got the flyer for the next Northern California Friends of the Aces event, which is coming up very shortly – February 21. Whether I go may be the subject of some negotiation, since the IPMS/Santa Rosa contest is the day before in Petaluma and I am under orders not to turn entire weekends into all-airplane events.

Anyway, the guests at this Mustang Aces symposium are very interesting. They include:

Maj. Charles Hauver – 5 kills, with the 355th FG
Lt.Gen. George Loving, 5 kills with the 31st FG and author of the book Woodbine Red Leader , which I wrote about here.
Maj. Fred Ohr – 6 kills with the 52nd FG (and the only Korean-American ace!)
Capt. David Wilhelm – 5 kills with the 31st FG

There’s a big 15th Air Force presence here and a story you don’t hear nearly as often as the Eighth Air Force tales. The Mediterranean gets very little attention, even today.

The event’s at the Vacaville Performing Arts Theater, so I doubt we’ll do a model display. These events are always inspirational and give you a direct connection to history, and the organization always does a first-class job of presenting them. To get more information of the event, call (408) 725-8095 or e-mail

Next on the shelf: Morehead’s P-40E

Many, many months ago, the Northern California Friends of the Aces held an event featuring P-40 aces, and we local IPMS guys did a model display. Actually, Marty Sanford and Mark Joyce held a model display, Marty with his stellar P-40E in factory-fresh early 1942 colors, which was in the IPMS Journal a while back, and Mark with four beautiful P-40s in an assortment of schemes. I managed to bring one P-40L in 1:72, that being Alva Temple’s 99th FS plane that got me started on my Tuskegee Airmen research. I’d planned to build one of the panelist’s models, that belonging to Jim Morehead, and had made a start of it, but my crippling case of AMS (advanced modelers syndrome) meant I missed the deadline to complete the model. As it turned out, I only missed the deadline by about a year and a half.

The P-40E is done now, and its completion was far less difficult than the P-47D. It started life as an Academy kit, which I received as a birthday present from Woody Yeung several years ago. The spinner and main gear struts were taken from a Hasegawa kit; you can find these cheap on vendor tables at contests and they’re worth it to improve these parts. The interior is from True Details, with some Eduard assistance. The metal parts are really useful on the P-40, if for nothing more than the ring and bead sights, the actuator on the rudder and some other small parts, which are actually visible. I used the Eduard seat as-is, since the real seat was unpainted; I initially wanted to swing the shoulder straps over the side of the plane, but instead I glued them to the seat.

The hard part, as I described in this post, was getting the side panels in place. I won’t revisit that self-inflicted hassle, but once it was done I was able to proceed pretty quickly to painting. The kit fits well and the first coat of paint showed only a couple spots where panel lines needed to be re-scribed to complete them.

The base colors were olive drab 41 and neutral gray 43. The OD 41 was a home brew, made by adding 12 drops of insignia red to a bottle of olive drab 612 and shaking it very well. The neutral gray was the outstanding but extinct AeroMaster color. The colors went on like a dream and were followed by a gloss coat of water-based Varathane to prepare for decals and a wash.

The photo of Morehead’s plane in Schiffer’s Protect and Avenge: the 49th Fighter Group in World War II shows that the national insignia had their red centers painted out, but 1:1 scale painters face the same problem we 1:72 or 1:48 builders face: white does a bad job of covering red. The centers were muted but still visible on Morehead’s P-40, especially on the fuselage. To replicate this, I used a circle template and my airbrush to apply a pinkish tinge to the center of several stars in disks on an AeroMaster sheet of insignia. On a few of these, I smudged the pink with a fingertip or an X-Acto knife blade. The four best ones were applied to the model.

The other markings were very simple. The plane originally had a black “209” on it in a rounded font; I used similarly-shaped numbers from British serials for this. Over this on the tail and on the nose was “44” in yellow. There was an exact match for this in the serials of one of the unused schemes on the sheet I used for my latest Thunderbolt; since I’d goofed up and had two sheets, I had four “44s!” The “U.S. ARMY” legend in the appropriate blue came from the recent sheet mentioned here.

A wash of Paynes gray watercolor paint was slopped on the model and removed with a damp towel. On went the flat coat, followed by the next bit of weathering. The photo of Morehead’s tipped-up P-40 showed a lot of chipping on the wing roots, so I attacked the model with a silver prismacolor pencil. I also added some yellow to replicate areas where the paint had chipped off the primer. Chipping was continued with a lighter touch around the ammunition trays, fuselage and wing leading edges. A streak of pastels was pulled back with a blending stump from the exhausts.

The canopy came from a Falcon vacuformed set, and I masked and painted each angle separately. That is, I did the vertical braces first, then the horizontal braces, then each of the small angles on the individual panes. It was tacked in place with white glue.

The gear was added next; the mounting points were sadly weak and I had to drill and pin both struts after the pins on the Hasegawa parts simply broke off. Before I installed them, I added brake lines and used the Eduard set’s retraction struts instead of the kit’s large single strut.

At about this point, I realized that the photo I’d stared at for so long showed no antenna mast, but I still had a big hole where the kit part would go. I had to plug the hole with styrene rod and CA glue, then sand it down and carefully re-paint the top of the model! The clear areas were masked with Post-It notes and the process went shockingly smoothly!

The wingtip lights were painted chrome silver, then overpainted with clear red and clear green. The aerials were made with fibers from a smoke-colored pair of panty hose; I drilled a hole in the leading edge of the tail and inserted a fine steel rod, then drilled and added insulators on the fuselage made from brass wire. These were painted white, then I glued a fiber to the tail post and stretched it around the insulator on one wing tip. This was fixed with a drop of CA. The other wingtip aerial was added next, followed by the fuselage aerial.

The last step was to add the rudder actuator and the ring and bead sights – all tiny photoetched parts. I find that Testors Dullcote makes a neat glue for such things; I applied a small drop to a newspaper, then dragged the bottom of each pat through it and carefully held it against the model. This was extremely easy and left no glue marks, since the Dullcoat dries tight against the surface of the paint.

Done! This model depicts the P-40E that Morehead flew on April 25, 1942, when he shot down three G4M1 bombers attempting to attack Darwin. The plane took a single 7.62mm round in the right wing, which snapped the landing gear mechanism, so that after Morehead landed the plane’s right gear collapsed. This fluke damage allowed me to replicate the weathering accurately – so some good finally came of it!

Navy aces in Belmont, July 19

The next Northern California Friends of the Aces event is on July 19; Phil Schasker gave me the flyer a week ago, but I’ve been so busy I failed to get the news up here until now. Anyhow, that event will again be at the Hiller Museum in San Carlos, and this time the theme is Navy and Marine Corps aces. The panelists this time will be:

Col. Dean Caswell – 7 victory Ace with VMF-221 in the F4U Corsair
Capt. Bob Coats – 9 victory Ace with VF-18, VF-17 in the F6F Hellcat
LCdr. Jim Duffy- 5 victory Ace with VF-15 in the F6F Hellcat
Capt. Sheldon Hall – 6 victory Ace with VMF-213 in the F4U Corsair
Ens. Don McPherson – 5 victory Ace with VF-83 in the F6F Hellcat

I don’t know if we’ll do a model display – I’ll poke around and see who in the region would be interested in such a thing. It would be neat to have a few Hellcats, Corsairs and maybe a Zero or two on display to show off the hardware these brave aviators worked with and against!

If you want to go to the symposium, I’d drop the Northern California Friends of the Aces a note at They’ll happily give you all the details!