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***Finished and RFI Posted*** VF-34; Who They Were and What They Did. The White Backed Hellcats of Green Island


mark.au
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Hello all;

 

After the odyssey that was the Lou IV project, and a false start with a biplane, I've taken a couple of weeks to get some mojo back and now settled on an F6F-3 Hellcat project for my next one.  Specifically;

 

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Now, in trawling around the interwebs this appears, again, to be a popular subject for modellers (of course it is, loo at the markings!) but there is an absolute dearth of information about the pilots, their unit and what what they actually did.  Eduard has this aircraft as a VF-34 Hellcat, but most of the images on the internet show it as a VF-38 Hellcat.  
 

there’s not much info on either unit.  For example, here's the Wikipedia entry for VF-38;

 

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The markings should be fun to do, and it's a Hellcat, which makes it a meaty topic anyway, but this one will be my attempt to try and put a bit more info into the world on what this squadron did -whichever it was - and the campaign they fought in.

 

I'll be starting into the cockpit tonight.

 

Cheers;

Mark.

 

 

Edited by mark.au
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I’ve got this kit in the stash, but unfortunately not that boxing. Will be following along with interest, both in your build and the added history. 
 

Cheers!

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  • mark.au changed the title to Who Were VF-38 (or was it VF-34?) and What Did They Do?
On 1/12/2021 at 4:18 PM, RadMax8 said:

I’ve got this kit in the stash, but unfortunately not that boxing. Will be following along with interest, both in your build and the added history. 
 

Cheers!


Thanks, glad to have you along!

 

Cockpit progress tonight, mostly done;

 

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These ProfiPack kits are a bit of a joy to work with.

 

Hopefully I’ll have the fuselage buttoned up tomorrow or the next day and be painting by the weekend.

Edited by mark.au
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Things have been a bit quiet around here....  but rest assured I have been modelling and have finished the cockpit and made a start on the engine.  It will soon be time to close the fuselage and then we'll really be on our way.  There's nothing much to show though, so no pics...  But in the mean time I have been very focused on which unit this aircraft really belonged to, what they did, and why is there so little about them on the internets.

 

After many hours of researching, and digging through the US Archives I have finally nailed it down.  Eduard is right (and a lot of the internet is wrong), this was a VF-34 Hellcat based on Green Island (now Nissan Island) in PNG, during VF-34's first iteration as a newly formed Squadron in early 1944, and was assigned to support the final stages of Operation Cartwheel.  The designation VF-34 was used subsequently in mid-1944 when VF-53 was renamed VF-34, and later still when VF-20 worked its way through designations of VF-20, VF-9a, VF-91 and finally became VF-34 in 1950.  

 

The iteration of VF-34 I am interested in is the period beginning 13 February, 1944 when the Squadron departed San Diego for Espirito Santo in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), to 2 May 1944 when its tour was complete and it was disbanded (which is when VF-53 was renamed VF-34).  I've managed to find the War Diary for their tour of duty in the archives and will share some of the interesting parts (interesting to me, at least) in this WIP as we go.  Unfortunately, I've not yet found anything on the markings of these Hellcats, though I have a direction in which to search.  I do know (at least, I'm reasonably certain) that these were second-hand Hellcats when assigned to VF-34 and maybe an earlier unit painted them; or perhaps this was a locally applied recognition marking as it appears other squadrons also painted their Hellcats in a very similar manner.  I continue to search in that direction.

 

So, the picture below of my subject aircraft is definitely not VF-38...  This is Lt. J. E. Lochridge USNR of VF-34; maybe at Piva Yoke on Bougainville, maybe at Barakoma on Vella Lavella Island, or at Green Island.  If I had to guess, I'd go for Green Island because of the three possibilities Green was the only Atoll island and this looks very much like an atoll to me (flat, white crushed coral surface, tropical palm trees).  

 

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It looks to me that the white paint applied to the spine and fin of these Hellcats is pristine which leads me to think it's newly applied.  If that's the case then, these pics are possibly (probably?) early in their tour, though I note that the rest of the paintwork appears considerably more distressed than the white.

 

The journey continues...

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by mark.au
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  • mark.au changed the title to Who Were VF-34 and What Did They Do? The White Backed Hellcats of Green Island

Eduard include the markings for Lolly in one of the 1/72 Weekend Edition boxings.  Mine stalled after decalling, but I'm going to finish it one day, honest I am.

 

I really like the Profipack kits.  Lots of the extra goodies I love, with the fit and fettling mostly worked out.  

 

Your research and photo analysis skills will be as helpful with this build as they were with Lou IV.  I'm looking forward to what you turn up, might inspire me to finish mine.  🙂

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On 1/16/2021 at 1:50 PM, Jackson Duvalier said:

I'm looking forward to what you turn up, might inspire me to finish mine.  🙂


I hope so!

 

Work has continued and it’s almost ready for paint.  I’ve a little left to do on one of the wing roots but otherwise the fit is good enough that I’ll be able to attach the wings and stabilisers after painting and weathering, perhaps even as late as the last step.  That approach will make the painting process much simpler with a great deal less masking required.

 

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I didn’t bother with attaching the spark plug lines to the cylinders as that can’t be seen anyway after the cowling is added.  I’ve left a hint of the longitudinal seam on the fuselage aft of the cockpit as there’s a rivet line there on the real thing.  I’ll have to gauge how that looks with paint to determine if it’s overdone or not.

 

The next post will likely include some applied paint; and I’ll update on the VF-34 story, beginning with an description of just how much a rookie outfit it was.

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...Well technically there is some paint applied... Note that the windshield and canopy are spares that will not be used on the finished kit; the windshield's fit is so good that I'll be able to paint and attach that separately - the one seen in the pic is held in place with blutack.

 

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A little bit of preshading will give the underside White and Intermediate Blue some depth.  The subsequent weathering will add more of course.  While I have pre-shaded the upper White areas too, the final finish there will be more subtle as I have come to the opinion that the white applied to the spine, stabilisers and fin was a theatre marking freshly applied to the used* aircraft issued to VF-34.  

 

Speaking of which; here's the first page of VF-34's War Diary...

 

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Two things of note here: The first is that only three of the 45 pilots had any combat experience at all, and the vast majority had not even completed Operational Training!  Furthermore, most had no night flying experience with the Squadron.  This is early 1944 and it's remarkable [to me, at least] that a squadron was sent overseas to active service with such a low state of combat/operational readiness.
 

*The second item of note is that the Squadron "faced the task of equipping itself" upon arrival at Santo Espiritu and that they required help to do so from local resources.  This lends weight to the likelihood that that aircraft themselves were second-hand though of course that's not conclusive.

 

I'll start with the White paint tonight I reckon - it's go time!

 

 

Edited by mark.au
Because I cannot seem to get it right first go!
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Today I completed the basic paint scheme.  The photo below shows the progression, though I forgot to take in-progress pics.  I applied the white first, then used a blutack mask for the Intermediate Blue, and then the same for the Non Specular Sea Blue.  The difference between the middle pic and the bottom is where I fixed the NSSB as the first application stopped too high on the fuselage side.

 

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This is only the first step however.  I’m not good enough with my airbrush to get an accurately tight freehand demarcation and this is just a little bit too tight as finished here.  Next I’ll apply an extremely thin line of the lighter colour to the darker colour (i.e. White on Int Blue, Int. Blue on NSSB) at their boundary to soften it some.  This will give just the right amount of a feathered edge if I do it well enough.  
 

The pic below, which is of a contemporary of my subject aircraft gives a very good indication of just how tight the boundary is (and how often it’s overdone, too).  I don’t have much work to do on mine to get to where I want it to be.

 

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After I’ve finished the main paint scheme, I’ll weather it down with some post-shading and texturing.  Then, when satisfied with that, I’ll apply the white to the spine and fin; the photo of “Lolly” shows clearly that the white was quite pristine as if recently applied - mine will look the same.

 

The photo above also shows the amount of grime that can accumulate on the underside of a Hellcat which is using its guns a lot.  This will be useful as reference because that’s more or less what VF-34 was exclusively tasked with during their tour.  More on that later.

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Life has been getting in the way of this project lately.  Not in a bad way, I hasten to add, just a bunch of things going on that have taken me away from the bench a bit more than expected.  Nonetheless, there has been progress.

 

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I've finished the main paint on the fuselage.  I thought I'd finished the wings too, until I looked at the pics I've taken for this update;

 

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I need to be a bit more careful with the overspray...

 

 

Edited by mark.au
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Progress...  I really like decals, it’s when the model takes on its personality.

 

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Decal placement continues.  It didn’t get off to a good start when I quite quickly realised that Eduard’s decal placement guide was hopelessly mismatched to their own decal ID’s.  For example, the fuselage and wing insignia, marked 1 and 2 on the decal sheet respectively were switched on the placement guide such that the wing decals were indicated to the fuselage and visa versa.  That was relatively easy to spot.
 

Worse though, were the stencils.  The decal ID letters on the sheet were completely wrong, and as they’re impossible for my old eyes to read, even with my glasses, I had to take a picture of the decal sheet and blow it up to read them.  Then, by cross referencing what they actually said with where they were supposed to be placed, I am able to work through the stencils too.

 

On more session should get me to the end of the decals, then on to the weathering.

 

 

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Crikey,  I completely missed this, sorry Mark.  Great work so far and good tip for reading the small decals.   I joined before the weathering stage so at least I get to see you work your magic with that.  

If you don't mind me asking, what happened with the Camel?

Chris

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6 minutes ago, bigbadbadge said:

If you don't mind me asking, what happened with the Camel


Hi Chris, I just wasn’t feeling any love for the Camel so I shelved it.  For me, there always needs to be a story that the model illustrates to hook me into a project and there wasn’t one with the Camel.  There will be one day though, and I’ll dig it out and finish it.

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3 minutes ago, mark.au said:


Hi Chris, I just wasn’t feeling any love for the Camel so I shelved it.  For me, there always needs to be a story that the model illustrates to hook me into a project and there wasn’t one with the Camel.  There will be one day though, and I’ll dig it out and finish it.

Got yer, I can understand that,  I often look for an unusual feature or paint finish to add interest.  Like your style. 

Chris

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Excellent work on the research and the build. I have the FAA version of the kit, I hadn't realised it would be such an easy build. Especially by leaving the wings of until after painting.

 

Great build thread.

 

Colin

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7 hours ago, heloman1 said:

Excellent work on the research and the build. I have the FAA version of the kit, I hadn't realised it would be such an easy build. Especially by leaving the wings of until after painting.

 

Great build thread.


Thanks Colin.  The wing fit is great, though I did have to make a small shim for the port wing to get a really nice fit.  Overall, the build is a very easy one, yes.

 

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On 1/31/2021 at 3:41 PM, Dunny said:

Coming on nicely Mark - I think your demarcations are spot on!

Thanks Roger, I appreciate the comment.

 

Not much of a modelling update this time; I spent last session on the undercarriage and sealing the decals with the top coat of Future.  I'm going to let all that cure nicely for tonight (I do realise that it doesn't actually "cure" though, just a figure of speech) before going at it with a wash and other weathering.  I'm also getting close to the point where I'll begin final assembly.  Completion is actually not that far off, now I think about it.

 

So in lieu of an actual modelling post, here's my decision-making process on how, and how far, I'll be weathering this one.  Below is the only reference photo I can find of a VF-34 Hellcat.  I know this is a VF-34 aircraft because its war diary lists its pilots and Lt. Lochridge is amongst them; it further states that none of the full Lieutenants were operationally trained, ergo Lt. Lochridge cannot have seen active duty prior to deployment with VF-34.  This *must* be a VF-34 aircraft and that's important in determining the weathering.  

 

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*All* other photos I've found in multiple searches show what I believe are VF-38 Hellcats based at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal.  I base assertion this on a couple of things; the markings are different and Guadalcanal had very different terrain.  The pic above is taken on an atoll indicated by the typically flat coral white ground and abundance of palm trees.  Guadalcanal was more mountainous and forested.  See below;

 

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Very different terrain.  The second reason is the markings; while VF-38 clearly applied the same markings to their Hellcats the aircraft numbers were applied to the fin rather than the fuselage.  This seems to have been consistent with every other pic I can find of VF-38's Hellcats.  Note also that VF-38 appear to have painted the forward cowling with a white band whereas VF-34 did not.

 

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But then, there's this...   At first blush this also appears to be a VF-38 aircraft with its white cowl ring and the second pic showing the number painted on the fin.

 

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...but pictured from the other side it looks like a very different situation.  The ground in particular looks like coral again, and the palms behind.  The palms though are only on the fringe, there's thicker forest behind.  It's also interesting that the VF-38 Guadalcanal aircraft are numbered in the single digits and the VF-34 aircraft are numbered on the 100 and up.  The mystery aircraft #100 above could be a VF-34 aircraft later in its tour when markings were applied differently; it could be a VF-38 aircraft parked in a different part of the airfield; it could be something else entirely!  I'm a bit stumped by this one but on balance I think it's VF-38 on Guadalcanal.

 

I've gone into this much (too much?) detail here because it's important in determining the level of wear these aircraft would have seen and so how much weathering to do.

 

Weathering

 

At the time Lt. Lochridge was photographed in his "Lolly" I reckon his aircraft was relatively new, perhaps early April when established and operating from Green Island.  The "smoking gun" for this is, in my opinion that the windscreen framing, indeed all of the canopy framing paint is still unchipped.

 

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This tends to be the first place chipping begins (aside from the wing root, which we can unfortunately not see) and there's not a chip to be seen.  There's also no chipping on the portion of the engine cowling we can see.  There is however a general griminess and exhaust staining visible on #117 and #118 in the background that indicates these aircraft are used.

 

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The white theatre marking on the spine of all visible aircraft appears newly applied though.  Look at the contrast between the white fin and spine on #118 and the white under the port stabiliser and lower fuselage. Also of note (and contrary to Eduard's instructions) none of the aircraft visible in the photo are carrying auxiliary fuel tanks so I have left mine off.

 

Based on the foregoing then, I'm going to finish my Hellcat as it appears here; used, dirty but not worn out or weathered to within an inch of its life. There will also be a good deal of the gun residue on the undersides of the wings so typical of Hellcats.  The field it operated from was a coral strip and so some level of wear will be evident of course; the wing roots would have had some wear and tear simply because of the crushed coral that would have inevitably been carried on the pilots and mechanic's boots when climbing up on them.  Likewise, the prop blast would have sent some of the coral into the leading edges and the prop blades themselves would have shown some level of wear.  But eight weeks isn't long enough to have significantly faded the paint on the wings so no patchwork-quilt-post-shading effect on this one.

 

I'd better get started...  

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by mark.au
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20 hours ago, bigbadbadge said:

Excellent research and deductions Mark and some cracking photos. 

Chris

 

Thanks Chris, your support is always appreciated.

 

Tonight I began weathering with a panel wash.  I don’t do this often but for these white undersides in particular it’s crucial to a realistic finish.  Green Island being an atoll meant copious amounts of light coloured coral dust deposited on the airframe which would have turned a dark buff colour when combined with the inevitable oils and greases present on all machines.

 

I’m not very good at this aspect of our craft but this one turned out quite well I think.  I mix up my washes with my wife’s craft paints, water, and a dash of Windex to break its surface tension.  On this model I used a mix of special beige (not sure what’s so special about it) and black and applied it with a medium brush.  After it dries, I gently rub the excess away with a very lightly dampened cotton bud.  Here’s the results;

 

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...and here’s the set-up;


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All in all, progress is good at the moment.  I’ve also begun the detailing on the undercarriage and will finish that tomorrow, hopefully.  Moving ever closer to the final assembly and finish, I hope to have this one done by the end of the weekend.

 

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Simply stunning--what color grey did you use for the engine crankcase (sorry if I missed it)--actually the color run down would be great for the engine--you are hitting this one out of the park!  Thanks for sharing--will use your info for my Hellcat build... best, Erwin

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  • mark.au changed the title to ***Finished and RFI Posted*** VF-34; Who They Were and What They Did. The White Backed Hellcats of Green Island

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