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Douglas TBD-1 Devastator


Mike
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Douglas TBD-1 Devastator

1:48 Great Wall Hobby

 

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The Devastator was an interwar design for a torpedo bomber that entered service in 1937 during the “Yellow wing” phase of American Naval aviation. Although a capable aircraft, it was outclassed almost as soon as the Americans entered WWII with only around 130 being procured for use by the US Navy. It was a slow beast, and not the most manoeuvrable, which although it performed quite well in its first uses against the Japanese, subsequent attacks suffered heavy losses, rapidly diminishing the numbers, and after the sad but heroic sacrifice of squadron VT-8 (the subject of this kit) during the Battle of Midway, the Devastator was withdrawn from active duty with fewer than 40 airframes still in existence.

 

As mentioned above, this release is of the VT-8 aircraft that flew at the Battle of Midway, sacrificing themselves to throw the Japanese fleet into disarray and draw fighter cover off station, allowing later attacks to sink or cripple three of the Japanese carriers. These aircraft had distinctive twin .30cal machine guns, that were fitted just prior to the ill-fated attack. These parts are included in the kit, as are the standard single gun, which isn’t mentioned in the instructions.

 

The kit arrives in a standard top opening box with a fetching digital painting of a torpedo laden Devastator flying uncharacteristically over a burning carrier. Inside are four sprues of mid-grey styrene parts, a separate cowling part, a sprue of clear parts, two frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, two white-metal wing hinges, a small sheet of decals, and a larger sheet of pre-cut and numbered canopy masks. The package is completed by a colour reproduction of the box artwork and a handsome full-colour instruction booklet, which again has the artwork reproduced on the top of the front page.

 

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On first look, the parts are exceptionally crisply moulded, with slide-moulding used on the two torpedoes and the three .30cal machine guns. The clear parts allow the modeller to pose the canopies open using seven individual parts, or closed using one very large part. Both sets are very thin and clear, and the inclusion of the masks will be a godsend, as each part has a minimum of four panes, with all of the attendant framing that requires.

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Construction starts with the cockpit, and a significant number of the kit’s part count will be used here, due to the quantity of separate parts. The pilot and navigator’s seat have a full set of PE harnesses, and the pilot’s seat is attached to the mid-bulkhead by the correct frame. Separate rudder pedals, plus various large control levers and the control column are also provided, and the gunner’s “baby seat” turret is again made from a number of parts, and has a PE lap-belt arrangement. Following the instructions, you will install the twin .30cals here, but if you decide to model a non-VT-8 aircraft, the twin-mount should be left off, and a single .30cal (part D7) with a goose-neck mount can be fitted in its place. Of course, you’ll also need to source your own decals.

 

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The fuselage sidewalls have ribbing detail built in throughout the whole length of the substantial cockpit, but there are a number of ejector pin marks here. I suspect that these have all been placed either in places where they won’t be seen either because additional parts are placed over them, or because the addition of the cockpit “topper” will render them invisible. If they still bother you however, a piece of styrene strip glued in to replace the missing portion of ribbing should cure it for most modellers. The cockpit sidewalls are festooned with lots of parts, from boxes to control quadrants and wheels, making for a nice busy area without resorting to aftermarket. The small side-windows in the pilot’s compartment are installed at this point, but you’ll need to make your own masks for both sides of these, as none are included on the sheet.

 

The pilot’s instrument panel is split into two parts on the kit, with the upper part set forward from the lower. A full set of dial decals are included on the kit sheet, which is a great boon to the modeller, and a feature that other manufacturers would do well to follow. The separate cockpit floor is a little strange, and consists of a “tray” with a ribbed surface that sits under the feet of the pilot and navigator in the deep recesses of the fuselage, with a single window in the front, allowing the pilot a view from the underside of the aircraft. The radio gear is all moulded in one block, but detail is good, although there are no decals for the two dials in the top box or the data placards on the fronts. The final acts before closing up the fuselage is installing the arrestor hook into its small notch, and a wedge-shaped piece of PE lining to the underside window tunnel, which also has a pair of aerodynamic doors to allow it to be posed open or closed. Aligning the cockpit’s enclosing top deck must be done carefully here, to minimise the seam between it and the edges of the fuselage. Several plastic and PE parts are then added to the cockpit deck, including a large sighting unit for the pilot, and strengthening to the roll-over protection.

 

Once the fuselage is closed up, the engine components are added one by one. The exhaust collector ring is attached to the front bulkhead, and has recessed exhausts either side. The recesses aren’t very deep, so some may wish to drill them out further, using the existing depression as a guide. The engine itself is made from seven styrene parts and has an additional PE wiring loom added to the front. The individual cylinders are crisply moulded, and once the additional moulding reservoir “pips” that help prevent short-shot moulds are removed, the seams can be scraped clean in preparation for painting. The cowling is supplied as a separate part, and has been slide moulded to obtain excellent surface detail all around. Open or closed cowling flaps are included separately, and are glued to the cowling before installation at the modeller’s choice.

 

The clear parts, as already mentioned are supplied either in seven separate pieces, or as one continuous mould. Separate canopy masks are included for each option, as presumably, the sizing is slightly different for each option.

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The central wing section is a single part on the underside, with the two upper wing stubs as separate parts, and the flaps separate again. A cylindrical intake on the starboard underside of the wing is installed with a PE mesh grille at the end of the intake greeting enquiring eyes. The aerodynamic doors over the pilot’s lower window have PE skins attached to them to improve detail, which really compels the modeller to leave them open, even though it spoils the look of the aircraft slightly. The wing stubs are closed off by a pair of nicely detailed wingfold bulkheads, with matching pairs on the outer wing segments, which are of course made from top and bottom halves. If you are posing the wings folded, the white-metal fold mechanisms will hold the wing at the correct angle, and strengthen what is usually a weak point on models with folded wings. Some nice little PE parts are also added to the wing fold area, improving the detail and giving the area a better scale look. Again, it would be a shame not to fold at least one of the wings here.

 

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The ancillary or “sticky out bits” are next on the agenda, including the prominent aerial on the front fuselage, the sighting tube that penetrates the canopy (which has a hole moulded in), and of course the wheels, which can be built up in either up or down pose just by cutting off one of the retraction struts. Here appears to be a little weak spot of the kit, because the wheel recess – I hesitate to call it a bay, as it is simply a cut-out under the wing, has no detail within the wing, other than what is moulded into the underside part. I’m not sure at this time whether there should be any detail here, but it will look a little blank to the inquisitive viewer. The next job is the torpedo recess under the fuselage. If you want to depict the aircraft loaded with a torpedo, there is a shaped part, and if unloaded, there is a flat blanking piece. The two torpedoes provided are the Mark 13, which proved problematic to begin with, and the version with the rudders behind the props were the initial batch. The later modification to add wooden fin stabilisers slowed the torpedo on entry to the water is also included, although the wood grain texture is only engraved on the outer edges, and the inner edges have some ejector pin marks that could possibly show up on the finished item. If you elect to leave the torpedoes in the spares box, there are a pair of bomb carriers in the box that can be added to the fuselage underside, but you’ll have to source your own 500lb bombs, as none are included in the box.

 

The decals are made in China (as is the kit), and appear to be in good register, with thin carrier film. Based on past experience, the decals should settle down well over the ribbed wings with a little Mr Mark Setter. The long black walkways are provided as decals, as are the multi-coloured prop tips, although if you wanted to paint them yourself, there are very faint lines where the demarcations are.

 

If you would prefer to paint your national markings and the walkways however, GWH have thoughtfully included a set of masks next to the canopy masks to do just that. Circles and stars are provided, so the process would be a coat of white, apply the star correctly oriented, a coat of dark roundel blue over the star and apply the roundel, being careful to line them up properly. Then apply the top coat and finally unmask the roundels once you’re done.

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From the decal sheet (or masks) you can portray one of two aircraft from VT-8, 8-T-14, the mount of George Gay, the sole survivor from that fateful mission, or T-16, piloted by LCDR John C Waldron, the commander of the squadron on that day.

 

This link to the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) is quite interesting, as it shows a submerged Devastator that the society wants to recover, and includes some interesting detail pictures that may be of use if you're planning on super-detailing your model.

 

Conclusion

Although the Devastator was a comparative failure as a fighting aircraft, this kit seems to hit all the right spots in terms of detail (with a few remarked upon exceptions), simplicity of construction, and quality of moulding. It’s a fitting tribute to the brave men that lost their lives on VT-8’s most famous attack, and should sell well.

 

The inclusion of two frets of PE parts, the alternative canopy parts, masks etc., are all good to have, and the care with which the canopies are packaged, in their own bag and then a further protective expanded foam bag will ensure your kit is well protected until you’re ready to build it. Choice of two extremely nicely moulded torpedoes is a nice feature, although a pair of bombs for the underside would have been helpful. I understand that the twin mount for the rear gunner was a late addition to the squadron’s equipment, so if you’re modelling the aircraft prior to the raid, please check your references to see if they’re installed, and use the alternative parts if required.

 

Highly Recommended

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  • 8 months later...

I have been debating about buying this kit. It looks like the a person could run into the same problem with the corrugated wing as they would on the Monogram offering. I am surprised that they didn't do this differently.

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