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Tom Cleaver
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Hasegawa 1/48 F6F-5 “Minsi III”

March 20, 2013 · in Aviation · · 14 · 2.7K

This is the 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 -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.

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14 responses

  1. Looks like another Cleaver Classic of a "Air Superiority Blue Cat" showing some clear photos with a excellent liquid finish and some under stated exhaust stains. This would be appropriate for a A/C being photographed for PR releases. Most of the pic I've seen of McCampbell ship have shown the "Ace" in a factory new finish. There are photos of one of his machines that got peppered with what looks like ove 50 rounds and made it back to the Carrier. That would be a interesting build...

    Two thumbs up on a Classic.

    • Actually, Minsi III was only operated between mid-August and mid-November (although the markings were removed and the airplane was flown by the CAG of AG-4 that replaced them on Essex, and was lost about 6 weeks later). The USN glossy sea blue would have had no trouble standing up to weathering for 90 days. And it was the CAG's plane, which meant it benefitted greatly from the old Navy rule, "if it moves, salute it; if it doesn't move, paint it."

      The airplane that got shot up was his first F6F-3, "Monsoon Maiden" (named per request of his plane captain), which took some serious AA damage on his second mission over Marcus Island, the group's "break in" mission in late May 1944. The airplane was put over the side after he landed. It was hit in the lower rear fuselage and screwed up the hydraulics so he could only use emergency air to get the gear and hook down to land. As he said in his USNI interview, it was the only time he was ever concerned about not getting back.

  2. Another lovely model Tom. I'm just wondering where you get the time to crank them out what with all your other modelling interests! I was hoping global warming would somehow help me as I build at a glacial pace...alas, or maybe just as hasn't!

  3. Pretty Kitty. The old Hasegawa still works. Looks good with that big scoreboard on both sides.

  4. Another nice job sir, especially enjoy the comments/history on your models as well as pilots.

  5. Hasegawa does make a pretty nice "Hellcat", and she'll look good right out of the box. Nice job Tom!
    Question I have is, how do you feel the Cutting Edge replacement cowl worked ?
    I have a couple Hasegawa F6Fs in the stash and was thinking of hitting it..

    • The CE cowl fits perfectly, and it gives the Hellcat the "chin" it has in side profile, which the kit cowl sadly does not. I used the one with the open cowl flaps. Be sure to get the TD canopy, since you cannot pose the kit canopy open. The kit cockpit works just fine if you have seatbelts. Be sure to make a "ledge" in the rear fuselage for the one-piece lower wing to attach to and you'll have no gap problems to deal with.

  6. Nice build Tom, it must be nice to just "rediscover" some beautiful builds! Great history lesson as well, very impressive.

  7. I know the Eduard kit gets more hoopla, but i think the Hasegawa F6F kit is one of those well kept secrets. Aside from the cowling the rest of the kit is rather nice. Definitely has one of the better Hasegawa cockpits as their US Naval stuff goes (which admittedly isn't much).

    • Agreed. From the firewall aft, the Hasegawa kit is better in detail, and the prop is certainly superior. Both kits fall down in the gear well, but if you look at the HB and Trumpy kits, that's hard to do. And Obscureco does (or did) a good replacement cowling also. And a bit of putty on the lower part of the kit cowling and "some modeling skill required" can also straighten things out. If you have the old Otaki kit (which is another very well-kept secret since all it needs to be current is a True Details resin cockpit and TD canopy) you can even take that cowling for the Hasegawa.

      • Thats exactly what i did with my Otaki Hellcat. I'd post photos of mine, were it not for the busted antenna mast. It was the 'last straw" and from that point on i made antenna posts out of brass and/ or aluminium rod.

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