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Tribute to the USS Princeton and the men and Hellcats of VF 27 (50 posts)

  • The USS Princeton (CVL-23) was lost on October 24th, 1944 at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. A single bomb hit the aft elevator and ignited several ‘locked and loaded’ Avengers, causing a huge inferno. At the time, eight F6Fs based on Princeton were on patrol and engaged around 80 Japanese planes; horrible odds, and despite their heroism their home ship was lost and the group dispersed amongst other carriers.

    The ‘Catmouth’ Hellcats.
    My plan is to build a diorama with two Cats on board the USS Essex, where several VF 27 kites landed shortly after the Princeton was lost. This build will give me the chance to model a bird from the Fighting 27 and another of my favourite air groups, Essex’s own Carrier Air Group 15 (if you haven’t read Tom Cleaver’s great book, ‘The Fabled 15’ then you are missing a treat).

    After landing on the Essex, Admiral Sherman was so incensed by the nose art of the 27th’s Hellcats that he ordered the planes to be repainted that very night. So the build will showcase the very last moments of those infamous Fighting 27 Catmouths.

    The Grumman assembly line…
    I’ve never built two of the same kits simultaneously before (albeit different manufacturers) and it will give a great chance to appreciate their relative merits. I shamelessly ripped this idea from fellow iModeler, Louis (hi Louis).
    After the attrition of my last build (an ancient Revell P38) I chose two easy builds, the Eduard 1/48 Hellcat (weekend edition) and the (rather infamous) HobbyBoss F6F5.

    After just a weekend I have almost got to the stage where I’m ready to button up the fuselages and so far it’s been nice and easy with both kits.

    The photo of the Hellcat (above) comes from the incredible book, ‘The Great Book of World War II Airplanes’ illustrated by the amazing Rikyu Watanabe. This book is as close to modeler’s heaven as it is possible to get. It is huge, crammed with unbelievable technical drawings, more detail than you could dream of, and beautifully painted colour schemes. Also full of historically accurate and passionate love of history, it’s a must have (this is less a build in progress and becoming more of a book review…)

    Although the photo below is of the USS Yorktown, I couldn’t resist adding it as a great example of the gorgeous drawings in the book.

    Tags: aircraft carriers, CAG 15, Hellcat, Pacific war, VF27

  • Excellent David !!!!
    I’ll be following along for sure………………………

  • Louis, I’d expect nothing more from a ‘Pacific’ guy.

  • So setting out on this project I said to myself, “what I need right now is a nice, easy, relaxing build”. But we are modelers, no? So I found the other voice in my head (you know the one) whispering, “easy is for the nursing home when you can make an airfix 1/72 spitfire every day and not remember the one you build yesterday”. With the Midway build nearing an end and Louis’s ‘Cat Theme’ inspiring me, I’ve decided to expand on my original idea a little (more of that in a moment).
    Staying with the theme of an ‘Essex’ diorama, I have some progress with the two cats…

    And as you do, I just had to lose myself in the research element of the build. I ordered this book, ‘Return to ‘Midway’ and it is a great read and a terrific tribute particularly to the 141 men who lost their lives with the sinking of the Yorktown on 7th June, 1942 at the battle of Midway. Ballard set out to find the iconic ships that were lost (both American and Japanese) and as a (sometimes) professional diver, the images of these grave ships in their final resting places really resonate with me, both haunting and timeless.

    I managed some plumbing on the Pratt &Whitneys. It’s an interesting thing changing scales and getting out of your comfort zone. I’m really enjoying the change much more than I thought I would and I can see how switching scales can really enhance your skill set.

    Although there are flaws with both of these Hellcats (and boy, does that HobbyBoss have flaws) I am enjoying how completing the two simultaneously highlights their different engineering and approaches. My plan is to have the HobbyBoss with its wings folded to cover its worst excesses (namely the insanely oversized cockpit and subsequent fuselage width problem).
    I found an Eduard WW2 1/48 ‘Carrier base’ and couldn’t resist it. Of course, this inevitably led to more purchases, including a great little Tamiya kit with a tug and some pilots.

    Thanks for looking, and happy building.

    2 attached images. Click to enlarge

  • This morning took advantage of a quiet Sunday morning (oh the joy, I woke at 05:20 thinking it was a work day) and did some work on the cats. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and there’s a whole day ahead; cooking, model making, messing around with the kids, and a nice glass of something cold at five bells!
    Next phase is rubbing these kites down and getting some primer on. Have to say that I’m impressed by the wing fold mechanism on the HobbyBoss cat, it’s very solid and seems to get the angles all correct – which has to be a bit of an ask in the numbers that they’ve produced this kit.
    Hope you are having a great weekend, wherever you are.

  • A little more progress. Sprayed some primer and put on a coat of paint to the underside of the HobbyBoss cat.

    Attempted some minor surgery to the Eduard plane also cleaned it up a bit (might not be 12 years old anymore but still can’t seem to make a model without a ‘glueprint’ appearing at some point).

    Talking of 12 years old, I think the sun has officially gone over the yard arm. Somewhere in the world…

  • Looking at the first picture I think I need a little more filler…

  • So not much progress today as I was working from 9am – 9pm, but I did start putting together the little deck ‘tug’ which is just going to be great fun painting up.

    I spent some time looking for any good photos of the tie down chains and ratchets used on the USN carriers with no great luck, but I did find a great photo of why they were needed…

    Apparently there were over a hundred lost planes in the Pacific theatre due to deck crew not securing aircraft. As if life on board wasn’t tough enough can you imagine being the guy who forgot to chain down a hellcat/TBD?

  • Good looking pair of Hellcats coming along! I did a 2-build project not long ago also (Soccer War Adversary Corsairs) and really enjoyed it. I may do it again sometime, once I have a good idea for some contrasting builds of the same aircraft. Oh yeah – forgot – I’ve got a pair of F-5’s in my 2017 build plan…now where did I put that plan…?

  • Oh yeah…the plan. I remember that; lasted 10 minutes.
    Love the F-5, beautiful lines, especially the Tiger II – would love to follow that build…if you can find the plan.

  • It looks like your Hellcat builds are really taking shape !!!! You have definitely made some great progress. I really like the wing fold on the HB ‘Cat.

    Yes I have one of those build plans too………………. So many choices, so little time………………. at least that’s how it seems on occasion.

    Great job Dave !!!!!

    Man I would not have wanted to be onboard the USS Cowpens when that picture was taken……………. There has been times in the past where planes were lost overboard…………… some smaller ships even capsized.

    My Dad told me horror stories about how so many GI’s got sea sick during several of his overseas voyages on troop ships during some of these storms back in the day. He said the smell was absolutely horrible………………….

    Now days we are very fortunate to use planes to transport our troops overseas instead of using ships.

  • Hi Louis,
    So many choices, how right you are. At the moment I’m working a lot and when I do sit at the bench I’ve got the Merit 1/350 Big E just staring at me, begging me to get started on her.

    Yeah, those long voyages must have been just horrible, not only the conditions but the anticipation of what was to come or the horrors of the memories of what they’d just been through. Words just can’t say what we owe those men.

  • Today I was supposed to work. But no, the cats were calling; “David”, they said, “call work, tell them you have a couple of important things to take care of and need some leave”. So I did.
    And I painted one Hellcat…

    There was a disaster, a loss of confidence, a good self talking to, but at the end I painted a second Hellcat…

    And look…this is a colour of sky we don’t really see much in London…and it was warm. And sunny. My second son popped around and he seems happy and healthy. My wife scored a great result in her degree course. Some days just work out. Maybe should have bought a lotto ticket today.

    I primed the carrier deck base and I’m looking forward to painting and weathering it. I have some techniques I want to try in preparation for the Enterprise (I think you can just see the plans on the wall).

    I’m really enjoying this build. I’m enjoying the iModeler community even more (Rob’s Friday briefing is now a highlight of the week) and it’s a great motivator to build.

    Hope you are all enjoying a great weekend!

    1 attached image.

  • I’m glad to hear that you had a great day Dave…………….. It looks like you did too !!!!

    Sometimes you just need a day off to do what you really want to instead of what you have to. There is a big difference. I call them mental holidays………….

    The Cats are looking good !!!!!

  • We used to call them mental health days. Both looking good, David!