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Louis Gardner
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New 1/48 Airfix P-40 B Warhawk 2nd Lt. George Welch at Pearl Harbor

December 9, 2016 · in Aviation · · 39 Comments

Well here it's finally finished. This one is hot off the work bench, and I doubt the paint has completely dried...

My original intent was to have this completed by the Anniversary of the attack on on December 7th. I thought it would be a fitting tribute to the men involved on both sides on the "Day of Infamy", especially since it was exactly 75 years ago.

I received the new P-40B kit in the mail a few days before December 7th, and got busy on it right away. I decided to build this plane with the decals provided in the kit for 2nd Lt. George Welch due to the upcoming anniversary.

I followed the advice in another "Imodeler" article written by Tom Cleaver. If you deviate from the kit instructions just a little, as described by Tom, you will end up with a very nice model and you shouldn't need any filler at all. My plane required just a very tiny amount on the bottom of the radiator opening, by the coolant flaps. I'm 100 percent positive this was my fault and not the kit, simply because I was rushing in an attempt to get the model completed by my self imposed deadline. Overall I would rate this model as excellent. The fit and details are spot on.

On December 7th, I had the opportunity to stop by and see my friends at American Aero Services. Currently in their restoration hangar is the worlds only surviving plane from the attack on Pearl Harbor. It's a P-40B just like this one by Airfix. I was able to look at it very close and took some excellent up close photos of this plane. (They became invaluable during the detailing of my model.)

The real plane that I was able to photograph, was involved in a ground loop around October 1941, which caused some damage. Because of the damage it was in a repair hangar during the attack. This is probably the only reason it survived through the attack.

However on January 24th, 1942, the "Pearl Harbor Survivor P-40" was lost in a crash. The pilot was on a training flight and the plane was in a spin. The pilot, Lieutenant Wayne Sprankle, was unable to recover from the spin and lost his life when the plane struck the side of a mountain in Hawaii. After his body was recovered, they left what was remaining of the plane where it was. Because it was a very remote area and not easily accessible, the plane remained on the mountain until 1985, when a recovery effort was made.

The airframe had a total of 56 hours... I have included a photo I took on December 7th of this "Survivor" plane after it had been painstakingly restored.

In addition to my pictures of the "Survivor" P-40, I used a book by Dana Bell called "Aircraft Pictorial #5, P-40 ". It's an excellent source of information and has a lot of original pictures along with developmental history of the early Hawks.

I included pictures showing a P-40 that had burned outside a hanger during the attack on Pearl Harbor, a close up of Kenneth Taylor and George Welch (Welch is on the right), a photo of the pilots who managed to get into the air that morning during the attack, and finally a picture showing Welch and Taylor receiving Distinguished Service Cross medals for their actions that day.

To show how this new kit stands as far as accuracy goes, I have included a picture of the "Survivor" plane that I took on the 75th Anniversary, and one of the new Airfix model from a very similar angle. They look to be very close. It's good enough for me. The new Airfix kit looks like a P-40. These are the second to last two pictures. You can look at these pictures and draw your own conclusions.

One last note about the model:

If you look close at the canvas wheel well liners on the main landing gear, you will notice a slight circular impression that almost looks like an ejector pin sink mark. It is very shallow in nature, and isn't very noticeable once covered with paint. It is supposed to be there and is not a flaw with the kit.

In the very last picture I have included a photo of the wheel well liner on the "Survivor" plane. If you look close you can see the circle in the center of the liner. You will also see black marks on the liner. These were made by the main wheel tire. When the landing gear is retracted after take off, the wheels are still spinning as they fold up into the well. The sidewall of the tire rubs against the liner as it is spinning, causing these marks. I didn't take the time to include these marks on my kit, but I might add them at a later date.

2nd Lieutenant George Welch and Taylor (still wearing their Dress uniforms from the night before) were returning from an all night big band dance and poker party in Waikiki, when the attack on Pearl Harbor began. Realizing what was happening, Welch telephoned an auxiliary field, Haleiwa Fighter Strip, and told the crews to prepare two P-40s. Then he drove his Buick at a "High Speed" until he reached the airfield. The ground crews had only enough time to arm the wing mounted .030 caliber guns. The nose mounted .050 caliber machine guns were empty on his FIRST flight. Yes they went back up again...There were only a small handful of American pilots that managed to get airborne that day. Some American planes were shot down by "Friendly" fire (if there is such a thing) that day. In fact a flight of F4F's were inbound from the carrier Enterprise and if memory serves me, 5 out of the 6 Wildcats were shot down. The skies over Pearl Harbor were not a safe place to be that day.

On the first mission, Welch claimed two Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers. Then he landed at Wheeler Field and had the nose guns loaded too. On his second flight that day, he claimed another "Val" which crashed into a town called Wahiawa, then a Zero, about 5 miles west of Barbers Point.

For these actions, General Hap Arnold recommended Taylor and Welch for the Congressional Medal of Honor. This was denied, but they were awarded the DSC, which is the second highest award following the CMH.

Lt. Welch returned stateside after Pearl Harbor for War Bond tours. He repeatedly requested a combat assignment, and finally went back to war with the 8th Fighter Group in New Guinea flying P-38's. While flying P-38's he shot down 9 more Japanese planes. Welch flew 3 combat tours, flying 348 combat missions, and had 16 confirmed victories.

Eventually he contracted malaria and his combat days were over. He returned stateside, resigned his commission and became a test pilot for North American. As a test pilot he flew with men like Chuck Yeager and Bob Hoover.
Later Welch flew several "Unofficial" missions in Korea in North American F-86 Sabre jets. While "instructing" his pupils, he managed to down several Mig-15's.

On May 25th, 1953, while flying a F-100 Super Sabre, Welch became the first man to break the sound barrier in level flight in a F-100. Sadly a year and 5 months later on October 12th, 1954, Welch was killed when the F-100 he was flying disintegrated in mid air during a 7 G pullout. He was found still strapped into the ejection seat, barely alive. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the Army hospital.

George Welch is buried in Arlington cemetery.

26 additional images. Click to enlarge.

39 responses

  1. Nice build...nice article...nice photos - next time you're goin' over to NSB, lemme know...I can either meet ya there or you can stop and pick me up! 🙂

  2. A very nice Hawk, Louis.

    • Thank you Bernd. I really enjoyed the build once I slowed down...

      • Modelling with a dead line, which is too close its not really fun.
        But when this date is meaning so much to you, you have worked on that kit and thought about this event, not too bad i think.

        • Towards the end when I realized that I wouldn't finish the kit in time, I decided to stop rushing. I didn't want to mess something up. Looking back at it now, I'm glad I decided to slow down. I was able to post something about it on the Day. I'm happy with it in the long run. Very pleased with how it turned out. It's a great model. Thanks again my friend.

  3. Great to see another of these fantastic Airfix kits built up.

  4. Beautiful job. 🙂

  5. Nice job Louis, also enjoyed the article.

  6. Wow, great build, article and pics. Looks like Airfix got it right, from all angles it looks the part.

    • Thanks Bill.

      I'm glad that you liked everything that I posted. I try to make the plane come alive by adding some historical background information. I try to include pilot information if it's available to me.

      I was extremely fortunate to have had access to a real plane during the build. After looking at the real one, then the model (and vice versa), I have to agree. It looks like Airfix really nailed this one. They even have both sets of drains molded into the kit that were located on the bottom of the fuselage. One is near the radiator coolant flaps, while the other is under the rear of the fuselage just ahead of the tail wheel. It's a remarkable kit.

  7. Great article Louis! I enjoyed your beautiful model and the history as well.

  8. Thanks Gary. I appreciate the compliments and I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the article too. This is a great building model.

  9. A great build, a fine tribute too. Great info.

  10. That's cracking job! Brilliant to see the plane you had access to really come alive in the hangar and in this great looking tribute from your workbench! And then the written piece takes it to another level. Love it!

    • Thanks Paul. I consider myself very fortunate to have had access to a real P-40B to begin with. Then add in the fact it was a survivor from the Pearl Harbor attack, and that it was exactly 75 years ago to the date the attack happened, that just takes it off the chart. How lucky can one be?

      I'm really pleased that you enjoyed the article I wrote about the man and machine. Thanks for the compliments Sir !

  11. 'a cracking job'

  12. Nice work, Louis! I just received 2 of those kits, can't wait to start. I'm going to do Welch's and an RAF 112 Sq. shark. Thanks for sharing!

    • The 112 Squadron will look really good, and I'm partial to anything with US Army on it... 112 Squadron is one of the schemes I someday hope to build. You will really like your new kits. They are a really fun build and the fit is fantastic.

      Thanks for the compliments.

  13. Great work on the model.

    Just as an aside, when Welch went to New Guinea with the 8the Pursuit Group, they were still all flying P-39s. By late 1942/early 1943, General Kenney managed to get one P-38 squadron in each of the fighter groups (8th, 35th, 49th), and that was when Welch went to P-38s. He did score two victories in the P-39, then three in the P-38 that gave him his 10 total..

    • I didn't know that he scored in a P-39 until I read this information about him. I thought he had 16 total victories though.

      I read this on Wikipedia: Welch was dissatisfied with flying the poorly performing Bell P-39 Airacobra. When asked by a journalist what aspect of the P-39 he liked, then seven-victory ace George Welch said, "Well, it's got twelve hundred pounds of Allison armor plate." This was a reference to the center-mounted engine (i.e.: behind the cockpit) rather than to actual armor plating.

      I copied this information from Wikipedia:
      Between June 21 and September 2, 1943, flying a P-38H, Welch shot down nine more Japanese aircraft: two Zeros, three Ki-61 Tony's, three Ki-43 Oscars and one Ki-46 Dinah.

      Thanks again for the building tips.

  14. Fantastic build, Louis! I just got my P-40, and I can't wait to build her. You have definitely inspired me to get cracking at it, and finish a load of others I have stalled on the bench. Great job!

  15. Thanks for the compliments Sir ! I'm sure you will enjoy the kit. By my concentrating on finishing this single model, it helped to inspire me with other kits that have been sitting on my work bench too. Now I have a fresh start back on my Corsairs that have been idle for a while. I needed a break with something different I guess.

  16. Louis, Great model of a Cool looking fighter. My favorite part of Tora, Tora, Tora is when the two P-40's were up and pulling high G's with con trails streaming off their wing tips while turning into a flight of Vals.
    Thanks for Posting.

    • I'm glad that you Liked my build. Thanks for the compliments Sir ! Tora Tora Tora was one of my favorite movies too. I remember my Dad taking me to see the movie in the theater when it first came out. He took me to see the "Midway" movie a few years later. Both movies were very impressionable to a youngster... Thanks again...

  17. As some of you may know, over at THAT OTHER SITE the management just told the (blatant steal from Tom Cleaver) Very Serious People Indeed
    to stop their neverending chatter about this kit.
    About time.

    • I have heard this. I agree that it's about time. I've seen the real plane in person, and built the kit rather fast. I really don't see what all of the fuss is all about. I personally like the kit. It looks like a P-40 to me. All of these "nay sayers" can eventually kill our hobby. They gripe about this part is off by .02 MM here and the other part didn't capture the look quite right. They never considered the problems faced by a kit manufacturer. There are things like tooling that cost quite a lot to manufacture. Engineering features that allow you to build the kit in the first place. Art design consideration for the box and instructions. Injection molding processes which are not easy with small parts and so on. Marketing etc. All of these things must be considered when a manufacturer decides to produce a kit. It's not a very simple thing to do I'm sure. By these people knocking a model based on what they have seen on the internet or gathered from a drawing is simply absurd. By making these comments about something in a negative manner they are costing these companies sales. Sales are what is needed to keep a company profitable and profit is needed to keep a company in business. So in the long run making comments about this or any kit that are not picking is one way to kill the future of the hobby. They should simply get a life or go look at a plane in person before the cast stones.

  18. Sorry that should say "nit picking " and "they cast stones". Spell check. Love it or hate it.

  19. Hi Louis, excellent finish. I'll be happy if I can make mine half as good as yours.

    • Thank you Julian ! Sorry for the late reply, I just noticed your comment. I'm sure you will do just fine my friend, as I have seen some of your work posted here.

      This kit goes together rather well which is a plus in my book...

      I followed a few building tips posted on here by Tom Cleaver with his build and they worked great. The only areas that may cause you problem are the multi part nose and how tight the cockpit fits into the fuselage. Do yourself a favor and deviate slightly from the instructions following Tom C's advice.

      I liked this kit so much that I purchased several more, and they are working their way to the top of the build pile...

      I'm sure that your Airfix kit will look fantastic my friend.

      In my humble opinion it's the best 1/48 early P-40 on the market.

      Please post some photos of your build if you don't mind.

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