Hasegawa 1/48 F6F-5 “Minsi III”
This is the Hasegawa 1/48 F5F-5 with the Cutting Edge cowling, True Details canopy, and Aerostar Decals to do “Minsi III,” flown by CDR Dave McCampbell, the Navy Ace of Aces and the #3 American Ace of the war. His record of 34 victories between June 19, 1944, and November 15, 1944, is unmatched by any other American ace. The Aerostar Decals never made it into wide release, with the entire line being damaged in a basement flood in 1998 before they could be shipped. This sheet was a review sheet given me at the 1998 IPMS-USA Convention before that sad event. It is the only sheet ever done with the victory flags the proper size and the lettering of the name in the proper font and proper size.
Dave McCampbell and Air Group 15, which he led as Commander of the Air Group, is the subject of my current book project, “Fabled Fifteen: Air Group 15 In The Pacific War.” I’ve been fortunate to have gotten a lot of previously-unused material (the USNI Oral History interview being most important, the only in-depth interview he ever did) on Dave through his son, also Dave McCampbell, who has given the project whole-hearted support. Air Group 15 was the most successful Naval Air Group of the war, getting the luck of the draw to deploy at such a time to allow them to participate in both the Battle of the Philippine Sea (aka the Marianas Turkey Shoot) and the Battles of Leyte Gulf (aka the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea), the two greatest naval battles in history, as well as Halsey’s Rampage across the Philippines, Okinawa and Formosa, the high tide of the Pacific War (they were the only air group to get this opportunity). Operating F6F-3 and F6F-5 Hellcats, SB2C-1C and SB2C-3 Helldivers, and TBF/TBM-1C Avengers, the group scored 318 aerial victories (68 in one day on June 19, the US record) which was the US record in all theaters for total score in such a short time, 368 destroyed on the ground, and more than 200,000 tons of enemy shipping sunk, including the battleship Musashi and the aircraft carriers Chiyoda and Zuikaku among others. 27 pilots of VF-15 became aces, also the American record.
A 1932 graduate of Annapolis and the Fleet air gunnery champion in 1940, McCampbell first went to war as the LSO on the old USS Wasp (CV-7); he was the LSO who brought the Spitfire back aboard without a tail hook, after it lost its drop tank during the Wasp’s second resupply of Malta in May 1942. Finally getting back into carrier aviation in the summer of 1943, he formed Fighting 15 that September. In January 1944, Air Group 15 went aboard USS Hornet (CV-12), where they were judged not ready for combat when the ship arrived in Pearl Harbor (primarily due to the problems Bombing 17 had with the “Sumbitch 2nd Class,” as the early Helldiver was known) and were put ashore in March 1944 (a case of Br’er Rabbit being thrown in the briar patch) to be later assigned to USS Essex in May 1944, with McCampbell promoted to CAG. Throughout his tour, there were those who faulted him as CAG for building a score rather than leading the group, though he actually managed to do both. He was forbidden to engage in combat other than self-defense after his 12th victory, but still managed to run his score to 34 (defending the strike groups he was leading). He became an “ace in a day” in his first combat mission on June 19, and his achievement includes the US record of 9 in one mission on October 24, 1944, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Air Group 15 received a Presidential Unit Citation for their achievement.
14 additional images. Click to enlarge.