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Aleutian P-38E Mystery Markings

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Hello everyone!


This will not be a "normal: WIP, because the model is already built. However, I feel that certain aspects of the model deserve some comment. Without further ado...


I was researching the colorful aircraft flown by Col George Laven (mostly his F-104C and F-84E and F-100C aircraft), when I began to uncover more of  his interesting story. While he didn't get the first kills in the Aleutian campaign, he did get two early ones, in 1942, flying in his P-38E "Itsy-Bitsy", buzz #76. (His F-100C had the same buzz #, which is why he "adopted" it as his own). He also had two additional Aleutian kills, I think in his second P-38E, also named "Itsy-Bitsy", which featured rather "unusual" markings. I believe he had the next two kills in the second aircraft, because there is a press clipping on-line showing his first P-38E #76, on the runway at Dallas, Texas, where he had flown it home for repairs. I do not know whether this first aircraft ever returned to the war.


Interestingly, Laven got the last confirmed P-38 kill of the Pacific campaign, flying a P-38L-5-LO, named "Itsy-Bitsy II" -- the subject of the Hobby Boss 1/72 P-38L kit. See a pattern developing here? Also of curiosity, he is often left off the list of P-38 aces, even though he clearly had 5 confirmed kills! But, I digress.


Back to the subject of THIS story, the RS Aleutian P-38E Lighting kit (which has parts to build the P-38 E,F,G,and H models, if you are so inclined. You'll have to furnish your own decals for other marks). The RS kit conveniently provided the decals for BOTH of then Major Laven's P-38E's, #76 AND #80, which is the subject of current discussion. The kit looks like this:




As would be expected, the detail on this kit are finer than those of the venerable Airfix kit of yore, but that kit is still very presentable. For me, the deal sealer was the decals.


I plugged along, and the first thing to be aware off, if you're a beginner, is that there are NO locating pins anywhere on this model, so nothing snaps together. You must hold the pieces in alignment and apply very thin cement, to the inside of the parts where possible, and on the outside, where not. This resulted for me, in virtually every seam needed a little (but only a little) filler:




Here, let me put in a plug for the Montex Mini masks #SM 72208, for the RS P-38 model. It says it's for the G/H models, but worked fine, as you can see in the photos. They are black, as shown above, and sturdy enough that I'm going to attempt to use them twice, being the cheap sort of miscreant that I am. These are particularly useful for the canopy side windows, as trying to otherwise mask the tiny frame would be maddening. They also give you wheel masks which are not perfect, but okay, and you really don't need them anyway, as the wheels aren't that hard to paint otherwise.


In any event, I had struggled along to this point, when I discovered that Cookenbacher had built one last year or so for the WW II group build. (I saw that thread one time, and wish I had had it to start with, but didn't. Also, after seeing it once, I couldn't find it again!


Cookenbacher, if you see this, please feel free to post a link to your work, as there is no need to duplicate it here, when your work is certainly worth seeing!


There was also another workup of an RS P-38D, but all the pictures had gone away, so it wasn't very useful -- pity.


I had two major problems with the kit. One that Cookie described -- the fit of the cockpit was pretty bad. I managed to straighten out most of it, except the seat, which despite much sanding to lower it into the cockpit, still prevented the canopy from fitting down properly. I finally laid it back a bit, somewhat like a recliner!  RS makes a resin cockpit for this kit, and I have acquired on for the other P-38E that I hope to eventually build, and will see whether the resin kit solves that problem.


The other major problem I had was the fit if the wheel wells into the booms. I never did quite get that right.


One other thing -- this aircraft has props that rotate counter to each other. On many forums, I have read of the problems that many modelers have when trying to align propeller blades that simply don't "snap" together nicely.

I have therefore decided to put forth my own method, which is both cheap and certain. (Some of you have already seen this on my P2V-3 Neptune thread, so you can just skip this part!


My method requires a piece of cardboard with a tiny hole in the center of a circle that is divided into four, and also three parts. You could go crazy and draw 5 parts too, for those of you who might use such things (You know who you are!)


Anyway, my cardboard in the side of my Doc O'brian's Weathering Powders box, on the theory that I'll probably not lose the poders, and so therefor might not lose the propeller jig!




To the left, above, are shown the box with pattern, and the props, painted and with decals installed. The second pic shows the prop hub installed into the hole in the cardboard, which fortuitously, happens to lie approximately in the center of the alignment pattern. Also shown is one piece of plastic card glued on it's edge, and on either side of it, more scrap card; these both to raise the tip of the prop, to keep it in the same plane as the hub. This is, of course, so the the prop blades lean neither for nor aft from their arc of motion. The edge-glued (all white glue) piece is simply to establish the angle-of-attack or "thrust pitch" of the prop blades, as shown i picture 3 above.


You can add the extra bits and do all blades at once, or do as I do, glue up one blade at a time, let dry, then rotate the glued prop and glue up another blade, etc. End result looks like this:




Since the blades are "handed", just use the opposite side of the alignment lines on the jig for the "other" sided prop. Duck Soup!


The last point of interest for this project is the rather unusual marking of the aircraft, hence the "Mystery" title of the thread. There was a cover of a 1943 issue of Life Magazine that featured this aircraft:


Discussion thread here: 3-toned lightning






If you read the thread you will probably determine that the most likely meaning of this photo was than supplies being hard to come by in the Aleutians (The Forgotten War), maintenance crews used whatever they had on hand, probably Neutral Grey to paint surface badly eroded by the volcanic, pumice-like dust of the Aleutian Islands. I preferred to imagine that this photo depicted a trial of the "Haze" type paints, originally used on the F-4 Lightning reconnaissance type, and rumored to have been tried (and liked) by some fighter groups.  Not sure we'll ever know for certain, but until/unless we do, my guess is as good as anybody's.; though probably not as informed!


Lastly, by way of a teaser photo, and as a way to show the results of the canopy masks as well as the result of my first attempt at the "salt" technique of depicting paint weathering, I present the following photo of the completed model:




If you want to see more, RFI is here:  RFI Link


Thanks for looking,









Edited by TheRealMrEd
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First of all, congratulations on completing the RS P-38! I think there's a reason you don't find many of these completed on the web.


Your weathering and paint work is just amazing.


4 hours ago, TheRealMrEd said:

Cookenbacher, if you see this, please feel free to post a link to your work

Here is a link to my attempt at Laven's first 'Itsy Bitsy'.

Don't look too close! - especially the obviously non-aligned props. I wish you had built yours first, and I could have seen the above jig.

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Thanks for posting your link, Cookie! By each of us posting our wins and loses, perhaps the next guy up can beat ALL the issues. We'll see.



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