Tamiya 1/48 F4U-1A Corsair flown by Major “Pappy” Boyington VMF-214 Blacksheep, on January 3rd, 1944
I just finished my first model of the new year. This is the final one of the three Corsairs that I started last year. These planes were from my very first posting here on Imodeler.
I want to thank my friend Jim Sullivan for his assistance with this build.
Much has been written about “Pappy”, “Gramps”, “Skipper”, or just plain old “Greg” as his men often called him. Almost every Corsair modeled that is connected with Boyington is #86 “Lucybelle” (even though many decal companies still have it incorrect as “Lulubell”). To my knowledge he never flew #86 in combat. Instead “Lucybelle” was decorated with kill flags for the press (and in a hurry at that). This is why the kill flags on #86 are mismatched, and some are backwards. (You can see this in the second to last photo.) His name and rank were added to the side of the cockpit. I don’t think that Boyington ever flew a plane in combat with kill markings on it other than the one he shared on occasion with McClurg.
The last picture shows “Lucybelle” #86 with the kill flags replaced. In this photo you can see the name reads “Lucybelle” instead of the more familiar “Lulubelle”.
I wanted to do something different, while still honoring the man.
Major Boyington flew many different planes. VMF-214 did not have any planes assigned to it. Because of this they “shared” aircraft with another unit. I was torn between #740, and #883, that he often flew, or this one, number 915. I like to refer to photos of the actual plane that I am trying to depict when I build a model. I have not been able to find any of 915, so I had to make an educated guess as to how it “could” have looked.
I finally opted to build Bureau Number 17915, the plane in which Major Boyington was shot down in. On his final mission on January 3rd, 1944, Pappy claimed two more kills, which raised his “Official” score to 26. Then he and his wingman Captain George Ashmun were both shot down near Rabaul, while flying in a dogfight over the St. George Channel.
Ashmun’s plane was reportedly on fire and it entered into a dive. He never recovered out of the dive and crashed into the water.
Pappy’s plane was shot up pretty bad and he was wounded. In his book he stated that the Corsair exploded and blew him out through the canopy. Others now say that he ditched into the ocean. There is also controversy as to the number of kills he claimed. The problem stems from when he flew P-40’s with the AVG in China.
Either way, Pappy was taken prisoner by a Japanese submarine crew, (number 181), as he was treading water while bleeding from his injuries in the shark infested waters, while Ashmun was killed.
Major Boyington spent the rest of the War as a POW.
Major Boyington earned the Medal of Honor for his actions and was promoted to Colonel. Several books have been written about him and a TV show was very loosely based on Pappy and the Blacksheep. As a former member of the Squadron 1st Lt. Henry “Hank” McCartney put it , “They got three things right on the TV show. The Squadron designation was 214, the Commanding Officer was Greg Boyington, and the airplane was the Corsair.”.
Pappy Boyington actually made a special appearance on the “Baa Baa Black Sheep” TV show as a General. He was hired as a “consultant” on the movie set.
He also had a guest appearance on the TV show “To Tell the Truth” back in 1957.
Pappy died in his sleep in Fresno California, on January 11th, 1988, after a long fight with lung cancer. He had been a smoker for years and it finally caught up with him. He was 75 years old. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
This is quoted directly from Wikipedia: After the burial service for Boyington, one of his friends, Fred Losch, looked down at the headstone next to which he was standing, that of boxing legend Joe Louis, and remarked that “Ol’ Pappy wouldn’t have to go far to find a good fight.”
Initially I was going to build this plane with the wings folded. But after studying many photos of VMF-214 planes, I only saw a few planes with the wings folded. So I decided to change things up mid stream and have the wings fully extended. This caused me a few problems with the joint at the wing fold. The seam was very visible and I didn’t want that. After some filling, sanding and re-scribing work, I was able to tighten up the gap that I caused by changing my mind halfway through the project.
I was able to use the kit decals to fabricate the tiny bureau numbers on the rudder. I had to cut out the individual numbers for “17915” which is positioned just below the “NAVY” decal. For the White 915, I used “Yellow Wings” 48-024 Standard 12 inch numbers and Squadron Designators in white. The National insignia are kit decals.
I used the Tamiya kit number 61061 which is a F4U-1D version. I backdated it to an earlier dash 1A that #915 was. The parts are in the kit to do this. This kit also gives you the wider “Combat” propeller that was used on later dash 1 D’s and often retro fitted in the field on earlier Corsairs.
The model is typical Tamiya. It was a very nice trouble free build until I decided to change things from a folded wing to an extended wing. That’s when I caused my head aches. If you are building one of these, do yourself a favor and install some sort of plastic shims on the inside of the wing fold area. This will give the wing more surface area to glue and help alleviate any gaps.
Overall I’m quite pleased with how this one turned out. It’s a plane that I have been wanting to build for a long time. Eventually I will build the other two I mentioned earlier, numbers 740 and 883. I just have to get the proper decals in order…
I recently found a picture of what I believe was the Corsair in which Captain Ashmun was shot down in. It was bureau number 17723. I may build his plane too. I thought it would be a fitting tribute for both men.
You can’t have too many Corsairs.
As usual, comments are encouraged.
33 additional images. Click to enlarge.