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Louis Gardner
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Updates / Additions to the “Battle of Midway Group Build”

February 12, 2017 · in Uncategorized · · 65 · 2.7K

We have had some great responses and participation with our Midway Group Build so far. I would like to open it up for even more builds.

Here's how:

Chuck Villanueva and I have been talking about another part of the Battle that is often over looked. We both agreed that this area of action was lesser known about, but equally as important.

We were talking about the attack on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

Not everyone knows this, but the Japanese wanted to set up a "diversion" to draw the US aircraft carriers away from Midway Island prior to the attack. Luckily for the United States, the Japanese codes had been broken. US Naval Intelligence decoded intercepted messages that tipped off the Japanese intentions. The US Navy knew that an attack was coming. The only problem was that they didn't know where it would happen...they only knew that the target was called "AF".

So someone came up with the great idea to send an un-coded message in the clear stating that Midway Island had a problem with their water supply. Within a few minutes, Japanese messages were being intercepted that stated "AF" was having water problems.

Now the US Navy knew that Midway was the intended target...

Which brings us to the Aleutian Islands.

This is where the Japanese wanted The United States to believe the attack was coming.

I have done a little research about the Aleutians and the US Army had several garrisons and airfields there. They operated many type of planes from these forward bases.

I'm talking about planes like Douglas A-24 Banshee's (the Army version of the SBD Dauntless), B-17 Flying Fortresses, B-24 Liberators, P-36 Hawks, P-38 Lightning's, P-39 Airacobra's, P-40 Warhawks, ... and even a few B-18 Bolo's.

On the Japanese side another very important thing happened here. That's where the US got their hands on it's first pretty much intact Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero. It was flown by a young 19 year old pilot named Petty Officer 1st Class Tadayoshi Koga. His Zero was hit by American anti aircraft fire, which caused an oil leak in the engine's return oil line. Looking for a place to land, Koga lowered his landing gear and attempted to land his damaged Zero. What he didn't know was that the area he was trying to land on was actually a marsh land.

His plane flipped over when the wheels made contact . He was killed.

The plane became known as the Akutan Zero when it was discovered a month later by a PBY Catalina crew as they were flying on patrol... and were actually lost !

Shortly after recovery, the "Akutan" or "Koga" Zero was restored to flight worthy status and evaluated against American planes. Later dogfighting tactics were developed to use against the Zero. Countless Allied airmen's lives were saved by this first hand knowledge that was gained from the Zero.

Anyhow enough of the history lesson...

What I am going to do is open the up to include things that were in the Aleutian diversionary attacks during the Battle of Midway.

The same rules will apply. The location change is the only difference.

Here are some pictures I found on the web to hopefully inspire someone for another build. The last group of photos show Koga's Zero. Amazingly enough there is a picture of his plane as it is flying away trailing smoke... and I included a photo of the man himself.

Then there is a picture of a memorial service years later, followed by an artists rendition of a Midway B-17E "Old Maid" flown by Col. Sweeny in the "Hawaiian Depot" camouflage pattern.

Lastly I found some color pictures of Hawaiian Air Depot B-17's...

As always, comments are encouraged.


Reader reactions:
2  Awesome

26 additional images. Click to enlarge.

65 responses

  1. Louis, great idea, spreading the net wider.

    George Laven flew P-38s in this campaign, as did John Chennault, Claires kid. The P-40s with the yellow "Aleutan Tigers" nose markings are his unit. Came with the Otaki P-40E as an option and the box art. There were two B-17Bs who'd been doing cold weather tests. They flew missions, had to be the oldest B-17s on active duty at the time.

    The Canadians were also involved, perhaps some of them can tell us more about that. PV-2s, later the Orient Express, bombing the Japanese homeland long before the B-29s.

    Both Dashiell Hammett (Maltese Falcon) and Gore Vidal served, he wrote his first novel, "Willawa" while stationed there. There wasn't a lot of things to entertain you, being at the end of the world, it seemed. And the weather could kill you quicker than the enemy.

    • Thanks for the additional information Bernard. I didn't know that the Canadians were involved. It would be great to hear more about that side of the story. There are some videos and pictures out there showing the horrible weather conditions that these men and planes operated from. I remember watching a P-38 landing in what looked like an ocean of water and mud.

      Several years ago, I met an elderly gentleman who suffered from a real life medical condition called "Attu-itus", named for the Aleutian Island called "Attu". It's a condition that is very painful and was caused by having prolonged contact with the frozen ground. He was a US Army Infantry "Grunt" who almost froze to death there. Some of these men lived in misery for months at a time.

      Thanks for posting !

      • Louis, my late Brother-in-law was a Marine machine gunner in Korea, His feet were never the same afterward.
        The military does some great stuff, but encountering environments not like CONUS or Europe kills them issue boots and we meet our old buddy Mr. Trench Foot. Or Frostbite. In my sojourn, immersion foot. Love them paddies.
        The winter of '44-45 in the ETO. Korea, '50-'51. My old neighborhood, the Mekong Delta, '68 on,

        • My Dad was in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in Korea. God bless you brother. So you're a "Rice paddy Daddy" ?

          • Once in a while, they show a film clip of P-38 taxying down a runway in the Aleutans, and it's making a bow wave! There's some color pictures in one of Jeff Ethells books, the runways and "hard standing" looks like black volcanic mud seeping through the marsden mat. Lotsa puddles. Neverending cold. Summer was yesterday. If you've ever seen Victory at Sea, it's the segment titled Magnetic North.

    • Actually, John Chennault flew P-40s, which is where the "Aleutian Tiger" scheme comes from. He commanded the 343rd Fighter

  2. The JNAF had Rufes, I think that's where the idea of the purple Zeros came from. Maybe other float planes, as well. Jakes, Petes?

    • I have heard that the purple was actually a base primer coat of paint that had faded after exposure to the elements. I'm not 100 percent sure about that though... It does open up the possibilities of many more types of models. The Japanese did use a lot of sea planes. Some are labeled on the reconnaissance photo I posted.

      • Hey, I'd do that just to stir up the masses! I've got a Tamiya, which is a nice little understated kit. Hot dog! This is gonna be fun!
        Stampede of the rivet counters! Heresy! Chinchillas eating their young!

      • Louis, the Osprey book on building the Zero had a revelation about Zekes. They were primed RED. Supposedly, right up to the end. Caveat: It isn't clear whether BOTH Mitsubishi AND Nakajima did that. I'm leaning toward both, myself.

        The author suggests Modelmaster RUST as a match.

        Nope, I'm NOT gonna prime all over red, but I thinking showing wear 'n tear.

        There's a couple color photos of old Zeke components showing faded red undercoats. And some interesting photos from a restoration showing that transparent green/blue internal primer.

        So, IF the really harsh weather up there had an effect on external finish, could it possibly be the red undercoat starting to show thru (thinking ame-iro-to-gray-to-whatever)?

        Food for thought.

        • I saw a A6M that was displayed in Kermit Weeks "Fantasy of Flight" museum. It was displayed as found in the Southern Pacific. It may have been found on Rabaul or New Guinea ? Not sure.

          Anyway the plane was mostly a reddish color since the upper colors had long since vanished. There were some areas that looked kind of "purple-ish" and I'm sure that was a direct cause of exposure to the elements. The reddish color looked more like a red lead color used on the bottom of boats for anti fouling.

          • The "reddish-bown" was Mitsubishi primer. Mitsubish built about 1/2 of the A6M2s, all the A6M3s (22 and 32), about 1/3 of the A6M5s. The majority of A6M2s, all the A6M2-Ns and 2/3 of the A6M5s were built by Nagasaki. About the only way to know which is what is with the factory-applied green-grey camouflage of the A6M5: that from Mitsubishi has a straight line demarcation on the rear fuselage that goes under the horizontal stab to the tip of the fuselage; that from Nagasaki has the curved demarcation line from the trailing edge of the wing to the leading edge of the horizontal stab. The other distinguishing item is that the Mistubishi-built A6Ms all had exterior-color gear wells while Nakajima's were in aotake. Also the Mitsubishi cockpit is in Mitsubishi's cockpit color, close to British grey-green, while Nagasaki's cockpit color is close to US Interior Green.

    • "Purple Rufes" are a figment of the imagination of so-called "hex-spurts" back in the 1960s. There was never a color like that used as primer in the IJNAF. Nakajima (the company that built the A6M2-N) used aotake for primer, then the familiar "willow green" overall for Rufes in 1942.

  3. Really looking forward to the many possibilities listed for potential models to be included in this project. Louis. Once again, I think you've definitely got a winner here. Thanks for all your hard work making this happen.

  4. Hey guys, can I join in here? I have a 1:48 scale, Great Wall Hobbies, TBD that I just finished painting. Am I too late?

  5. Koga San didn't realize the field he was gonna land on was muskeg, looks solid but is actually swamplike, water close to the surface.
    To take off or land a Zero, the pilot has to jack the seat up to see over the nose, so his head was up above the opened canopy. The Zeke caught, flipped, and went over, breaking his neck.

    • The people who recovered the Zero were not certain if he was killed by breaking his neck or by suffering from head trauma. The end result was however the same...

      The Japanese were under strict orders to not allow any Zero's fall into enemy hands. They were supposed to destroy the plane. However his flying mates couldn't bring themselves to do it with him still in the plane. They didn't know if he was still alive, so they left the plane intact.

      I've seen photos of Japanese pilots taking off raised up pretty high in the cockpit. HIs plane was smoking too, so it could have been a visibility thing.

  6. Fantastic, the subject choice increases dramatically. Keep in mind hat you now may have whatever the USAAC had in inventory at the time in the Alaskan theatre. So this GB gets quite interesting.

  7. It was a good catch on including a point in the war that is rarely mentioned but significant. Tough environment, on both men and equipment.

  8. A slight correction on the Aleutian Campaign if I might add..

    The attack on the Aleutian Isles, was actually a separate, and specific attack, designed for different reasons than what has been written about previously.
    It was actually, it OWN attack, that was to coincide with the Midway assault. The reasons for it, were to establish a Japanese presence in North America, that would be able to guard the northern approaches to the Japanese Home Islands. It was also intended for those Japanese forces would be able to help defend Midway from American attack should they materialize. The Aleutian campaign was on the planning stages BEFORE midway was, albeit by a very short amount of time.
    Most western accounts of the battle, list the Aleutians as a sideshow to confuse, distract and lure out the US Fleet to it's presumed doom, at the hands of Kido Butai.
    I am currently reading Shattered Sword, by Tully and Parshall, which really gets into the meat and potatos of Japanese operational planning regarding both the Aleutians and Midway, as well as where the Japanese were headed after their victory. It's an amazing read, and there is a lot of stuff in the boom I had no idea about. Definently changed my whole mindset about the battle. I absolutely recommend it to everyone here.

    • Freddie, thanks. I'll get that book, you're the second person to recommend it. I've been fascinated by Midway since high school.
      Walter Lord, James A. Mitchner, Gordon Prange.

      • I've read Prange, Lord, Lundstrom's First Team books, Sakida and now this one. I've also read "A Glorious Day in our History" , by Robert Cressman over at Naval Institute Press, (which is a book I highly recommend)
        Shattered Sword really gets into the mindset of the Japanese, their operational planning, infighting, not just with the Army, but between the naval personnel themselves. It's very well detailed and researched and sheds new light on every aspect of the battle. You will love it!

      • Redo" not Mitchner (the novelist) (!) but Samuel Eliot Morison.Official Navy Historian. A little light reading in high School. So were my friends.
        That's what I get for reading about WW II.

      • Shattered Sword reveals a lot of Lord and Prange as "not quite" history. It is the definitive book on the battle from the Japanese perspective. Explains how/why the carriers were lost (the Japanese did not follow US carrier doctrine, which had a major effect on how the carriers were sunk).

    • There's a part in "Incredible Victory" where one of the Japanese Admirals made mention of feeling like a hunter chasing two hares at once. There was a major problem with objectives there, IMHO. Are they capturing an Island or luring the US Carriers to battle? Then you can throw a third hare in there, the Aluetian "diversion". IF that succeeded, and drew out the US fleet, it would have drawn it out to where the main Japanese forces WEREN'T. Overall, the whole thing fit right in with the Japanese tendency to overcomplicate plans, and this time it bit them in the buttocks, HARD.

  9. You're trying very hard to lure people into this group build, Louis, maybe the biggest yet on iModeler!

  10. Well now this opens up a lot of possibilities. I have an Academy P-38E in the stash as well as a bagged AMT P-40 with some aftermarket Aleutian Tiger decals. Dare I try 4 completed models by June? Only the Shadow knows.

  11. Gotta check my stash, might have an Aleution P-40.

  12. I was thinking about the Academy P-38E I have also and the Monogram P-39 as well, kicking it around. Just need to research the markings that were used in that theatre is what is the kicker, And I'm thinking the P-38 I will not finish as it is not a quick build kit for me.

    • Either one would be a great choice. You really don't see them built that often. Not like a Mustang, Corsair, Spit or 109... nothing wrong with these planes, its just nice to see something different.

    • I think the first allied air victory was scored by a P-38E, shooting down a "Mavis" flying boat? Can't remember the pilot's name exactly, Stanley was in there somewhere...

  13. A quick peek and looks like the 343rd FG, 54th Fighter Sqd would be the assigned P-38's in theatre. So will do some research and see if it is doable for me.

  14. George Lavens "Itsy Bitsy" 1? 2? He's the one with the striped F-104 "Just George" later on in his career. Talk about gaudy! Hey, if I was a Colonel, I'd be in real trouble.

  15. "Itsi Bitsi 1" would be correct. #2 is a later model P-38 L and is in a natural metal finish.

  16. Louis, Bernard, Tom, Chuck, & anyone else I may have missed - this is great! I knew most of the history about the Aleutians & the recovered Zero, but you all have really added a lot of little tiddley-bits of information (about painting, manufacturing, etc.) to this topic. I wish I could add something to the build, but alas; time and other stuff (I'm slower than pond water) keep me from contributing anything except encouragement here. I have seen the video of the P-38 with the bow wave (thanks for the great description, Bernard!) and a few other pics, but I had never seen 99% of your photos, Louis! Awesome! I'm defiantly following this build. Thanks, y'all!

    • I'm happy to hear that you are enjoying this. It's a group effort for sure.
      Who knows, things may change, and you could end up building something of your own in this group.
      Either way your support is appreciated.
      Thanks for the kind words my friend.

  17. Maybe an H-K B-17E as Col. Sweeney's "Old Maid" in Hawaiian Depot camouflage.

    • Every since I saw that camouflage pattern in my book "Air Force Colors" I have wanted to build that plane. I even went as far as purchased another B-17 F and had planned on back dating it to an earlier E model. Once I found out the cowlings were different, I shelved the project for now.
      That would be an excellent choice and MOST welcomed to our Midway Group Build. I think I speak for all that we would love to see this one built...

  18. Tom, I have always wondered about that camouflage pattern, and I'd love to see one done..

  19. There is a TON of history out there concerning Midway, even Coral Sea could be argued to add to the list...
    This is a GREAT idea for a Group Build, Thank You for the effort Louis!

  20. I just added some "Hawaiian Air Depot" camouflage pattern B-17 E model pictures, with some in color... These B-17 pictures may have been clipped from the color film by John Ford that was taken at Midway.

  21. Wow! Looka at the B-17 in them funky colors! And it lasted 'til Guadalcanal!
    I see it as the final expression of all them 30s war games schemes they did with water soluable paint. That and the splotched A-20s early on in North Africa. Anything offbeat, folks!

  22. What dates cover the Aleutian campagne?

    • Sorry Bob, I forgot to mention this.

      The Aleutian attack happened during the same time as the Battle of Midway. I'd like to keep the time frame the same as the Midway build, (since it's now considered a part of the Midway Group Build) . Hope this helps to answer your question. Please don't hesitate to shoot me a PM if you want to.

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