In the last year or so of World War II camouflage was not really a big concern for Allied forces any longer. That, combined with more time and resources led to many young men going to extreme lengths with the decoration of their war machines.
Join me for a look at one spectacular example from late in the European War.
The 9th Air Force was the close support element of the American effort in Western Europe. That means they flew mostly fighters (mostly Thunderbolts) and tactical bombers (A-20 Havoc and B-26 Marauder. A-26 Invader late in the war).
The fighter groups of the 9th only rarely got involved in air-to-air combat. They spent most of their time attacking front line combat units and men and equipment moving in the vicinity of the front lines. They did fly fighter escort for the tactical bombers, but the Germans put most of their aerial effort against the strategic 8th Air Force bombing their cities. But 9th Air Force fighters ran up their kill totals against trucks, trains and tanks.
This particularly colorful plane is from the 358th Fighter Group. It is the Tamiya kit with Lifelike Decals. It was not a hard build, but the markings were an adventure and took me at least three weeks longer than I ever expected. Aftermarket decal sheets generally say clearly what kit they are intended for. This may seem like a minor detail, and usually it is. But with this very elaborate scheme the fit of decals around the cockpit was a delicate issue. Actually, I was shocked to find those decals didn’t fit at all. I went back to read the fine print on the decal sheet. It does say the recommended kit for all subject aircraft on the sheet is the Tamiya Thunderbolt… except “Tarheel Hal” was sized for the Hasegawa Thunderbolt… dang it!
Apparently the kit dimensions and curve around the fuselage are quite different. I’ve seen many builders complain the Hasegawa Thunderbolt is way too skinny in the fuselage. I always thought the difference was pretty trivial. I guess I was wrong!
So I spent several weeks trying to fix the look of these colors. With the complicated border and star field I didn’t want to completely redo the nose section. So what I finally did was matched the blue as close as I could and airbrushed a very tight line to fix the tears and gaps. Then I sourced stars from an unused small scale armor kit. Its not perfect but I’ll call it good enough. I did completely redo the rear blue section with its white and red border.
Just prove this project was cursed (!), a week ago I first went to photograph the “completed” project and saw one of the (custom made) white/red border stripes had disappeared from the model. I have no idea when or where it went! But that meant another few days lost remaking and applying the boarder.
In the end I think its a good looking plane, just don’t look too closely at my interpretation of it!