Hasegawa 1/48 P-47D 'Razorback'


9058 (JT 58) 'South Pacific Theater'




Two aircraft: 348th FG a/c 'Darling Dottie III' and 'Fiery Ginger'


Paul Mahoney 


Aeromaster decals and True Details seat used 



Neel Kearby was the Commander of the 348th Fighter Group, having been in the Army Air Forces (Army Air Corps at the time) since 1937.  In May 1943 Kearby brought the Group with it's P-47s to Port Moresby, New Guinea.

General consensus at the time was that the P-47 was ill-equipped for combat in the Pacific.  It was a big, heavy airplane designed for high-altitude combat over Europe.  Most of the fighting in the Pacific took place at lower altitude with the small, nimble Japanese aircraft.  The P-47 was often considered too ungainly for combat with the heavy German fighters of the time, let alone the maneuverable Japanese ones.  In addition, the limited range of the P-47 would be a tremendous hindrance in the vast distances of the Pacific theater.  Official U.S. policy at the time gave priority to the war in Europe, and that priority extended to equipment.  Thus, commanders in the Pacific took anything they could, regardless of suitability.  The Commander of the Fifth Air Force (located in the South Pacific), General Kenney, was well-known for his willingness to improvise and do the best possible with whatever he could get his hands on.
One major problem with the 'priority' situation, was that most additional fuel drop tanks went to Europe, in spite of the greater distance problems in the Pacific.  Kenney's improvisational skills filtered down through the ranks, and in Brisbane, Australia USAAF repair squadrons developed their own belly tank capable of carrying 200 extra gallons of fuel.  As a note here - this tank is decidedly different than the tanks carried in Europe, and Hasegawa only provides the European 'standard' tank in it's kits.  So this is unusable for most Pacific-flown P-47s.
The range problem now somewhat solved, the issue of the massive size/weight/bulk of the P-47 came to the forefront.  How could this beast possibly compete with the aerobatic nimbleness of the Japanese aircraft it was supposed to be fighting?  Many within the USAAF thought a better solution lay in the P-38 - this aircraft not only had some performance advantages over Japanese aircraft, but it had two engines and a greater range.  These two factors alone made it a better candidate for the vast stretches of the Pacific, at least according to many in the Fifth Air Force. 
Kearby was a proponent of the P-47 from the outset, convinced it's heavy armament (8 .50 caliber guns) and performance at altitude could be a tremendous asset.  To convince others, Kearby began his own public relations campaign for the fighter.  There are unconfirmed stories that Kearby squared off against legendary P-38 ace Richard Bong in a mock dogfight to prove the worth of the P-47.  If the stories are to be believed, the 'battle' ended in a draw.  If nothing else, that story showed others that the P-47 was at least the P-38's equal.
Kearby devised tactics that would take advantage of the P-47's strengths.  His main tactic was to immediately climb to high altitude on a sortie, around 25,000 feet, and upon seeing enemy a/c (who almost always flew at lower altitudes), to use the weight and speed of the Thunderbolt to engage in a high-speed slashing dive, unleashing the massive firepower of it's eight guns.  The high speed would then give the P-47 a chance to regain altitude after the attack.  This technique seemed sound, but because the P-47s rate of climb (unlike it's ability to dive) was so slow, the 348th Group was confined to operate in the Port Moresby area, where they were assured at least an hour's notice of any impending Japanese air activity.
In the first few combat engagements, P-47 pilots attempted to dogfight with the enemy, and predictably losses were high for the Americans.  This reinforced views of the superiority of the P-38 (or rather the inferiority of the P-47), but Kearby insisted it was a matter of proper training and discipline to wring out the better characteristics of the P-47.  He continued on p.r. tours around the region, demonstrating his slashing attack ideas.  Kearby eventually proved his technique, downing his first two Japanese aircraft on September 4th, 1943.  Quickly the tactics were becoming more and more successful, and by October the group was beginning to shoot down more and more aircraft, culminating in a historic action on the 11th of that month. 
Neel Kearby won the Medal of Honor for his actions in a battle that took place over Wewak on October 11th, 1943.  Kearby took a patrol of four aircraft up, hoping to draw out some Japanese aircraft and prove his slash and burn tactic once and for all.  As it turned out, a mixed group of approximately 40 aircraft (Ki43s and Ki61s) rose to meet the Americans.  Over the course of the next hour, the greatly outnumbered American pilots managed to shoot down 9 Japanese, without a bit of damage to themselves.  Kearby himself scored 6 victories, not only making him an ace, but setting the record for the most victories by one pilot on a single mission in the Pacific up to that date.  As a result, he became the first USAAF pilot awarded the Medal of Honor.
The resulting hype of this mission set off an unofficial 'Ace Race' between Kearby and P-38 pilots (specifically Richard Bong) in the Pacific.  All were vying to be the first to top WWI American Ace Eddie Rickenbacker's 26 victory tally.  Kearby had a self-imposed goal of 50 victories before stopping flying, but General Kenney thought him too valuable to leave in combat for that length of time.  He want Kearby training and selling War Bonds.  Despite this, Kearby wanted to stay in the action and continued to fly and chalk up more victories.  Both Kearby and Bong had achieved 21 victories by the beginning of 1944.
On March 5th of 1944, Bong's score had risen to 24, and Kearby became anxious that he might lose this race.  He planned a mission the very next day designed to add to his tally.  Taking a flight of 3 P-47s once again over the Wewak area, Kearby spotted a flight of Japanese bombers.  The group attacked, and after the first pass, Kearby violated his own cardinal rules by circling around to see the results of his work.  Kearby always stressed never losing speed or altitude while in combat, yet entering into a circling turn he did just that.  He succeeded in shooting down a bomber on this second go around, but lost all speed in doing so, and was pounced upon by a lone Ki43 from above.  No speed meant no maneuverability.  His fellow pilots quickly caught up to the Ki43 and shot it down, but not before the Japanese aircraft had shot up Kearby's P-47.  His aircraft disappeared from the sight of the other two pilots.  Kearby was carried as MIA until 1948.  It was later determined that Kearby did in fact bail out of his stricken aircraft, but died of wounds from the attack immediately thereafter.  The bomber shot down became his 22nd, and final, victory.
Incidentally, Kearby was probably flying Fiery Ginger IV on his last mission, while the subject of this build is Fiery Ginger III (although no Roman numberals were used on his first 3 aircraft).



I picked out this kit to build with the idea of doing a quick and easy one.  As usual, things didn't quite work out that way.  Here the fault is all mine, not Hasegawa's.  I had been working on several projects at the time, including applying brute force to Hobbycraft's Ar234.  Well, Hasegawa announced their impending Ar234 issue, and I decided that was a sign.  So out came the P-47 for an 'easy' build.
I wanted to build it as Neel Kearby's aircraft, and with that being one of the kit decal options I thought things would be even easier.  I dug out the references, and of course immediately ran into a few snags.  The markings on Kearby's aircraft evolved over time, and I found various discrepancies in each of my references.  I ran out and bought 'Kearby's Thunderbolt's,' published by Schiffer, thinking surely my answer will be in here.  Wrong.  A few posts on the Hyperscale board resulted in the friendly help of Ed Dixon - he sent me copies of an article in FSM specifically discussing Kearby's markings.  Unfortunately, once again, contradictions popped up -- even with another work by the same author (Osprey's Aces book)!!
The main sources of markings contradiction that I found are:
Tail number: blue (same as fintip color) or black?
'Fiery Ginger' writing colors?
Which combination of national markings/victory flags/theater id markings (white tail) are correct?
I relied on most of the article in FSM to arrive at these markings, with one major exception.  All the profiles of Fiery Ginger I have seen depict the entire tail surfaces in white, with a swept-forward demarcation line.  There are many in-flight shots of this a/c with just such markings.  The problem is that these are all early photos, showing no victory flags and carrying the star/circle national markings (no bars).  I wanted to show some victory markings on my aircraft.  Aeromaster's sheet includes 12 flags, and displays this a/c with bars on the national insignia (but with a blue tail number).  Hasegawa's sheet has no bars, fewer flags, and a blue (but different stencil style) number.  The 'Fiery Ginger' name is black and white on the Aeromaster sheet, and red/yellow in Hasegawa's.
The FSM article suggests the tail number was black, and in most of the photos there seems to be enough contrast between the numbers and the blue fin tip to suggest that is true.  So issue number one was solved in my mind - black numbers.  This article also has the name in black and white, and I would agree with this assessment.  Several other aircraft from this unit had names painted in a similar style, and photos I have seen all seem to have a very high contrast between the colors, which certainly appears more black/white than red/yellow to me.  I'm no photo interpretation expert, but this seems right to me.  Issue two solved (at least in my mind).
I had almost been ready to use the 'barred' national insignia, combined with 12 victory flags, and a full white tail (as per the Aeromaster sheet which should have been a warning in and of itself!!).  The national insignia/flag combo had to be right, as Kearby did not score this many victories until October of 1943.  By this time the bar had been on the insignia officially for several months.  So Aeromaster's combination of insignia and victories was correct, or at least plausible.  Hasegawa's might have been correct as well, but I tend to think the bar was already added to the national markings by the time any victory markings were applied (Kearby's first victory was Sep. 4th, 1943).  Most of this issue was therefore solved.
One photo I found caused me to question the all-white tail for Kearby's a/c appearance at this time (late Oct 1943).  This photo shows his a/c revving up on the flightline prior to take off (page 191 of Kearby's Thunderbolts).  It shows a 3/4 view from the front, the bar is on the national insignia, and very clearly the white tail markings are swept upwards at an angle, BUT ending at the leading edge of the tailplanes.  The white on the vertical tail surfaces clearly ends at the fuselage join.  In other words, there is olive drab on the fuselage area between the vertical and horizontal tail surfaces.  No other photos show this that I have found.  Most of the later photos unfortunately only show the front sections of this a/c.  However, there are many photos of 348th Group P-47s that show very clearly the all-white tails have had the upper horizontal stabilizers (and fuselage up to the beginning of the vertical stab) repainted in olive drab.  Unfortunately the one photo of Kearby's with the white on the fuselage ending at the stabilizer's leading edge does not show the topsides of the horizontal stabs.  Using a little deductive reasoning, one could argue that Kearby's Thunderbolt was similarly repainted.  The photos of other group a/c show that this 'repaint' was done in a variety of ways, from extremely neat to having loads of overspray.  Overspray was by far more common (i.e. they just got the airgun out and sprayed), but I would imagine the Group Commander's aircraft had a little more attention paid to it.  Issue three now solved in my mind.  Back to the build.
The kit itself has been written up more than once on various modeling sites (including this one).  It has a great fit with one exception, and pretty much falls together.  The one exception to it's great fit is the wing trailing edge join with the fuselage.  Either I consistently have some major problem in this area, or every Hasegawa kit I build has this 'feature.'  Nothing remotely difficult, just a fair amount of putty and sanding.  Pretty much the only place I used any filler.  Unfortunately all this sanding/filling takes place in an area with a lot of beautifully scribed detail.  I cringed at having to obliterate it, but had no choice.  Some patient rescribing of the panel lines was then done.  I used a pin vise drill to recreat the rivet holes that had also been obliterated.  The one-piece cowling had some molding issues - a slight dimple in one area that not only created a depression, but also made the panel line running through it rather wavy.  A little putty and rescribing here and problem solved.
The cockpit is a mixture of good and bad.  I originally was going to build the canopy in the closed position (remember this was to be quick and easy...).  But after painting the instrument panel, I decided it looked too good to hide.  Some of the other cockpit details are well done, but others are very plain.  I rebuilt the throttle area, added some detail to the oxygen hose (molded as just a solid tube) and replaced the seat with a True Details resin one.  I also replaced the gunsight reflector with a piece cut from the clear plastic collar insert of a new shirt and added the back-up crosshairs gunsight (brass piece from an Airwaves detail set).  I am not sure if Kearby's a/c had this, but many early T-bolts did, and I liked the look.  Once again, the quick and easy build began to be a little less quick, although still pretty easy.
The rest of the build was smooth sailing.  The surface detail on this kit is beautiful.  Other than the underside issue, the rest of this kit falls together so well that none of the detail will be damaged with filler or sanding.  Hasegawa did make one error that I had read about in an earlier review here on MM.  Both ailerons have engraved trim tabs on the kit.  Only the left one should have this, and the right aileron should have a small fixed, extended trim tab.  I filled the engraved lines on the right aileron, and added a small extension out of sheet plastic.  One of the easiest fixes yet!  One other error which I didn't catch until too late regards the windshield.  Early P-47s had an additional brace running at around a 45 degree angle on each side of the windscreen.  This extra framing is clearly visible in photos, but I missed it until after my model was complete.
After painting the little details went on pretty quickly.  I like the way Hasegawa molds at least 1/2 of the wheels separate from the tires, making painting very easy.  The tire tread is well-done, and after joining the tire halves together and sanding down the seam, it was easy to rescribe the lost detail,  I slightly flattened the tires to give the impression of the massive weight of the P-47.  After the landing gear was mounted, I added hydraulic lines out of copper wire. 
I drilled out the openings on the pitot tube, as well as all eight gun barrels.  Lining all these up did take a little time.  All the lights are provided as clear parts (at least the covers are), but the little formation lights on the underside of the wing are so tiny they might be better off being created with drops of white glue or epoxy or some other clear liquid.  I used the kit parts and attached them with Future.  I cut a small piece of aluminum foil to use for the mirror attached on top of the windscreen.  The last bit was adding a stretched sprue antenna and I was done!




Having solved (at least to my satisfaction) markings issues, painting was a relatively easy process.  These early Thunderbolts had a wavy demarcation line between the olive drab and gray. I used paper masks to keep this pattern uniform.  Made one set for the right-hand side, then used this as a template for the left-hand side to keep things consistent.  I used Aeromaster Neutral Gray for the undersides.  I used BluTak to hold the paper masks off of the surface and keep a feathered edge between the colors.  Aeromaster faded Olive Drab was used topsides.  I still have a stash of these out of production paints, and think they are great.  I sprayed Model Master Flat White on top of the camouflage colors, as these markings were done this way on the real a/c, and I wanted to be able to weather through to the underlying paint in some areas.  Yards of masking tape later, the white was successfully applied.  I had to go back a few times and retouch various oversprays.  Aeromaster Blue was used for the fin tip.

I was determined to use Future as my gloss coat, but have had minimal success trying to spray it with my airbrush.  I had read about the ease of hand-brushing the stuff, and thought I would give it a shot.  Worked like a charm.  I hand painted about 3 coats of Future over the entire model, and a nice smooth gloss coat appeared.  I was a little hesitant to try it, but very happy I did so.  It goes on a little thick, but the brush marks quickly vanish and the entire coat slightly shrinks, so absolutely no detail is hidden.
Most of the decals were from the Aeromaster sheet.  Stenciling was from the kit's decals.  Every Hasegawa kit seems to have different quality decals.  These were rather thick, but with enough setting solution (and plenty of gloss coat underneath) they worked out ok.  Were I to do it again, I might try and pick up an aftermarket stencil set (I think Aeromaster used to make one).  The black tail numbers were from an ancient HIS-AIR-DEC sheet I have had forever.
I sealed everything with one more hand painted coat of Future, followed a day later by a couple of coats of Testor's dullcoat in the spray can.
For weathering I primarily used pastels.  The Pacific theater was particularly brutal on paint and airframes.  US paint tended to hold considerably better than that used by the Japanese, but it still got pretty beat up.  I used dark brown and gray pastels to highlight panel lines, and some different green shades to change the tones on the flying surfaces and some panels.  A watercolor black wash was used to highlight some panels and openings.  Black and gray pastels were used for exhaust staining.  I used a silver colored pencil, as well as Testor's aluminum to chip away at the paint a bit.  Further chipping was done using olive drab along the leading edge of the wing.



Hasegawa makes a great P-47.  There are some tiny corrections to make, but it certainly looks the part.  I spent much more time researching markings than I did with the build.  I definitely plan on building another at some point.



Bell, Dana, Air Force Colors, Vol. 3: Pacific and Home Front, 1942-47, Squadron Signal Publications, 1997.
Famous Airplanes of the World No. 37, Burindo Co. Ltd., 1992.
Stafford, Gene B., Aces of the Southwest Pacific, Squadron Signal Publications, 1977.
Stanaway, John C., Kearby's Thunderbolts: The 348th Fighter Group in World War II, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. 1997.
Stanaway, John, Mustang and Thunderbolt Aces of the Pacific and CBI, Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1999,
Stanaway, John, "Fiery Ginger: Colonel Neel Kearby's Thunderbolts," in Fine Scale Modeler, November 1999.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly by a site that has well over 100,000 visitors a month, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to Main Page

Back to Reviews Page