H-K Models 1/32 B-25J 'Strafer'

KIT #: 321E02
PRICE: $169.95
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


“Betty’s Dream” and the End of the Pacific War:

           The dawn sky over Kyushu, southernmost island of the Japanese Home Islands, was clear on August 19, 1945, as Major Jack McClure of the 498th "Falcons" Bomb Squadron and Major Wendell Decker of the 499th "Bats Outta Hell" Bomb Squadron in "Betty's Dream," orbited their B‑25J Mitchell gunships. The Pacific War had ended four days earlier, but the crews were on the alert for possible attacks by Japanese who did not heed their Emperor's decision to surrender.  This was perhaps the most important rendezvous of the Pacific War as the two bombers from the 345th "Air Apaches" Bomb Group waited to sight the aircraft carrying the official Japanese surrender delegation. Finally, Decker's top turret gunner spotted the white dots to the north.  The white dots soon resolved themselves as two G4M1 "Betty" bombers, their camouflaged airframes quickly overpainted in white, the well‑known Hinomaru national insignia replaced with green crosses, and four Zeros in similar markings.  As the B‑25s swung in to escort the Bettys, the Zeros turned away. It was an acknowledgment of their contribution to victory in the Pacific that aircraft of the Air Apaches had been chosen to escort the surrender delegation to the island of Ie Shima, near Okinawa.

      At the field, aircrews and ground crews of the resident USAAF units, and any other Americans who could arrange to get there waited for the arrival of the four aircraft.  As if putting on a show for the victors, the two Betty bombers made a low pass over the runway before landing.  Once on the ground, American military police quickly established a perimeter around the aircraft and the Japanese government representatives were quickly escorted to a waiting C‑54 transport for the flight to Manila where they would meet with General Douglas MacArthur and the other representatives of the victorious Allies to work out the concrete details of the surrender of the Empire of Japan.

           Once the C‑54 was on its way, the MPs allowed the Americans on the field to surround the bombers, taking photographs of the planes and their crews, who seemed overwhelmed by the friendly response they received from those who they had been told would eat them if an invasion of the home islands had been necessary.  As Major Vic Tatelman, pilot of “Dirty Dora II” and the only member of the Air Apaches to fly two tours, remembered, “It was certainly the biggest celebration I had ever been to.” 

           The C‑54 returned on August 20, with two complete sets of original surrender documents to be conveyed back to Tokyo in the Bettys.  While the surrender delegation had been in Manila, it had been discovered at Ie Shima that there was no fuel available of low enough octane for the Japanese aircraft to use for refueling.  It was suggested that the higher‑octane American fuel be mixed with the low octane fuel remaining in the aircraft, but this was at first rejected.  Late that afternoon, the first Betty took off for the return flight to Tokyo, escorted again by two Mitchells from the 345th.  Rather than land on Kyushu, which was the nearest of the Japanese home islands, the Betty flew on for Tokyo, despite the low fuel reserves.  The bomber flew out over the Inland Sea, taking the most direct route to Tokyo.  Over the water, the Betty finally ran out of fuel.  The pilot attempted an emergency landing ashore, but the plane ended up short, going into the water and breaking up on impact.

           There was now only one set of surrender documents in existence.  The successful return of the second Betty to Japan had just become crucially important.

      Next morning, with the fate of the first bomber known, the Japanese agreed to have American 100 octane fuel mixed with their 87 octane fuel in the remaining Betty.  Once again, “Betty’s Dream” was the lead escort.  This time, Major Tatelman, the top‑ranking pilot in the group in terms of missions flown in two complete combat tours, managed to get himself assigned as copilot to his friend Wendell Decker. “After everything I had gone through in the Pacific, there was no way I was going to miss this,” he later recalled.

     The two Mitchells and the Betty droned north‑northeast toward the Home Islands.  Decker and Tatelman had already determined that once they got over the islands, they would not allow the Japanese to fly over water until they reached Tokyo, and that if anything mechanical went wrong with the Betty, they would force it down at the first airfield they came across, to guarantee successful delivery of the precious cargo aboard. 

     As it turned out, the Betty had enough fuel to make the full return flight to Atsugi air base outside Tokyo.  The Americans stayed with the plane until it touched down, at which point they applied power and climbed back to altitude for the journey home.

     For the crews of the 345th Bomb Group, World War II in the Pacific was finally over.


          This is the second of three versions of the B-25 Mitchell released in 1/32 scale by H-K Models.  It differs from the glass-nosed first release by having a nicely-detailed North American designed “strafer nose” with eight .50 caliber machine guns, as well as decals for an airplane flown by the 498th “Falcons” Bomb Squadron of the 345th Bomb Group.  Other than that it is the same as the original release.


          For me, construction of this large kit begins with the sub-assemblies: the horizontal stabilizer and rudders, the wings and engine nacelles, the engines themselves.  While there is an option to lower the flaps on the wings, I’ve never seen a photo of a B-25 sitting on the ground with the flaps down, so I assemble them in the “up” position.  With careful assembly, no seam filler is needed on any of these sub-assemblies, and fit of the engine nacelles to the wing is excellent.

          The R-2600 engines are models in themselves, but unless you are planning to open up some cowling panels, there is a lot more there than you really need to assemble.  Operating on my rule that “if you can’t see it, I didn’t do it,” I only assembled the two rows of cylinders and the detail parts on the front of the engine, since once the cowling is on you really can’t see very much engine inside.  I also attached the main landing gear legs at this time before attaching the engine nacelles.  You need to pay attention to the instructions and use the specific cowling panels that are called out therein in order to get a good fit of the engine cowling.

          Since I had a very spectacular forward fuselage decoration to use, I decided to close up the strafer nose.  Like many plastic kits where the “open” or “lowered” option is provided, assembling those parts in the “closed” position can be more difficult, since the open panels are not a good close fit to the nose.  Once I had assembled and installed the guns inside, I needed to use some cyanoacrylate glue to fill the small gaps around the panels when attached, then sand them smooth.  I rescribed the borders, and then rescribed the engraved rivet detail with my pounce wheel.

          I painted and assembled the cockpit, which has a lot of nice detail.  A modeler can do a lot of extra work here if they want to open one of the side windows of the canopy so it can be seen.  Since this model was going to the Planes of Fame Museum where it would be sitting in a glass case and visitors would not be able to inspect that area closely, I didn’t do that.  I also closed up the lower entry hatches, so there were fewer things that might be broken off in the future if museum volunteers who aren’t modelers were to move it around.  I did not open the bomb bay, since those viewing the model would never be able to see anything inside.  Given the need to insure nose sitting, I also didn’t put in any of the detailed interior for the rear fuselage, since it cannot be seen once it’s in there, though it does contribute to weight aft of the center of gravity.  I used two of Terry Dean’s cast nose weights, installed in each fuselage half under the cockpit floor to either side of the nose gear, and this weight insured a nose fit.  Again, with careful assembly of the fuselage halves, I did not have to use any filler on the centerline seam, though I did have to scrape it down and then rescribe the panel lines and re-do rivet lines with the pounce wheel.

          I have seen some other built-up models of this kit, and modelers are making the mistake of painting the cockpit and fuselage interior “Interior Green” overall in shades that range from “Interior Green” to “Apple Green.”  This is wrong.  The pilot’s cockpit in the forward fuselage should be Dull Dark Green (I use Tamiya “Black Green” for this) and the area immediately behind and the entire rest of the fuselage interior should be Yellow Zinc Chromate.  The ammo boxes were unpainted wood for those who intend to install them.  The bomb bay and wheel wells were unpainted aluminum, though some of the sub-contractors painted the inside of the gear doors with Yellow Zinc Chromate, which I did with this model.  The inner parts of the top turret are all flat black.

          With careful fitting and the use of rubber bands to hold it in place while the glue set up, the nose went on without need of seam filling.

          The 345th did not keep the four “package” guns below the cockpit on the dedicated “strafer” B-25s with the 8-gun noses, since the recoil of 16 .50 caliber weapons was found to crack the fuselage skin and some of the airframe, and the 8 nose-mounted weapons were sufficient to clobber anything attacked.


          “Betty’s Dream” was an early-production B-25J that came out of the factory in July or August 1943, prior to the end of factory-applied camouflage.  Vic Tatelman told me the airplane arrived in the 345th BG in June 1945 as a replacement.  Without further knowledge of the airplane’s prior history, an educated guess was made that it had had perhaps served a tour with some other bomb group before going to the Townsend Modification Center in Australia in the spring of 1945, when B-25s in the SWPA Theater were refitted with factory-supplied kits for the strafer nose.  I therefore determined that the model should have sun-faded paint but a cleaned-up airframe, having so recently gone through the center.  I kept the wings off the model while painting, which made painting the inner surfaces of the engine nacelles and the lower fuselage sides much easier.  After “pre-shading” the panel lines overall, I applied a mixed Tamiya “Olive Drab” color (a mixture of Tamiya “Olive Drab,” “Khaki Drab” and “Desert Yellow” to get the late war OD color), which I then lightened with tan and with white to go over the surface and “fade” it.  The fabric control surfaces were faded a bit more than the metal areas.  The Tamiya “Neutral Grey” was mostly left alone, since it wasn’t as exposed to the sun as the upper surfaces.

          Vic Tatelman told me that “Betty’s Dream” was one of the last airplanes to receive the full “Bats Outta Hell” nose markings, so I made sure this looked fresh.  The Eagle Cals provide the side sections of the marking, and I matched that dark blue color with Tamiya “Royal Blue” and some “Semi-Gloss Black”, then painted the nose and the forward rings of the cowlings.  I then gave the model an overall coat of Future to seal it. 

          Eagle Cals are printed by Miceo-Scale and never present any problems.  I applied the “bat wings” and allowed them to set up thoroughly before applying any of the detail markings for the nose.  I chose to use the “faded” national insignia with the dark blue border, since this airplane would most likely have been originally delivered from the factory in the summer of 1943 with the red-surround insignia.


           I applied several coats of Xtracrylix Flat varnish to the model after washing off the decal residue.  I then airbrushed the exhaust staining on the nacelles and wings, and “dinged” the airframe and the prop blades with Tamiya “Flat Aluminum.”  I applied “mud” to the wheels using the Tamiya weathering set.

          I did not glue the wings on, since that really isn’t necessary.  For those of you who want to have the model, but wonder where you would keep it when not on display, attaching the wings this way so they can be removed will allow you to keep the model in a smaller box if needed.  You do need to cut the outer tabs of the wing attachment sparts so they are only half as thick, in order to attach the wing this way.  The joint is very tight and strong, and there is no sag in the wings when you do this.  I also did not glue the props on, since they fit tightly to the engines when pushed on.  I did attach the gun barrels, and glued the upper turret in position.


           These H-K kits make up into the best B-25J models in any scale.  They are not much more difficult than a Monogram B-25J, other than the additional detail in the cockpit and the detailed engines.  With careful assembly, the result is a very impressive-looking model, and is highly recommended to modelers with a moderate level of experience.

Tom Cleaver

March 2013

Review Kit courtesy of H-K Models.

Decals courtesy of Eagle Editions; order yours at www.eagle-editions.com

Nose weights courtesy of Terry Dean: order these at Nightiemission@aol.com       

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page