Shark week continues: 1/48 Monogram P-40B – Charles Older
Back in 2004, a modeler sent me what turned out to be a Monogram P-40B kit in a box of other parts. Looking at it, I realized it was a first-generation mold, from way back in 1965 when the kit first came out (a date I remember since it was the first model I bought after getting home from the war). Nice and sharp, parts that fit well. Having a resin cockpit for the P-40B, and the great Aeromaster "American Volunteer Group" sheet (that can do just about every airplane they flew), and a Squadron P-40B canopy, along with all the first-hand knowledge I had from being around the first flying restoration of a P-40B out at Planes of Fame (the airplane now owned by Paul Allen up in Seattle), decided to proceed. I sanded off the rivets ahead of the main spar, but only sanded them down a bit overall, since the P-40 has raised rivets, and resribed panel detail. Paint was Gunze-Sangyo.
I decided I would do the airplane flown by Charles Older, first AVG ace in the battles over Rangoon, later Deputy Commander of the 23rd Fighter Group with Tex Hill and (at the time) top-scoring surviving ace of the CBI Theater, a man I had been privileged to know over the previous 5 years since I had met him and written about him (he was a Los Angeles native, with a beautiful home over in Holmby Hills near UCLA). Most of you may not know this, but six months after Governor Reagan appointed him to the Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Older w as given the world-famous Manson case, and was the man who sentenced Manson and his followers to death in 1973. He was a man of strong convictions and opinions throughout his life, and I felt fortunate to never "cross a line" with him
Joining the Marines in 1940 following his graduation from UCLA, Older found the emphasis on the ability to fly a parade-ground formation not what he had joined up for, so when the recruiters for CAMCO came around in the spring of 1941, and and his buddy Ken Jernstedt (who just passed away last week, the last of the AVG pilots) joined up. Over Rangoon on the first Japanese attack on December 23, 1941, he shot down three Ki.21 "Sally" bombers, following up with a Ki.21 and a Ki.43 on Christmas day to become the first AVG ace over Rangoon (Bob Neale had become the first AVG ace two days earlier over southern China flying out of Chongqoing). He scored five more before the monsoon came in May and the AVG was disbanded on July 4. Returning in 1944 to back up fellow Tiger Tex Hill at the 23rd FG, he shot down eight more in the wild battles over central China in the summer and fall of 1944, stemming the final Japanese advance of the war. He additionally served in the Korean War with the 17th BG flying B-26 Invaders.
I've had the privilege of being good friends with the late Erik Shilling, who invented the shark mouth (and didn't do it from the influence of 112 Squadron, but from a photo he saw of a Bf-110 of ZG 26 "Haifische Gruppe"). Erik drew each shark mouth with chalk, which is why no two were the same. I also knew R.T. Smith, who was truly one of the war's real "characters."
Shameless commercial plug: you can read all about these Tigers in my book, "Air Combat Annals".