1/48 Tamiya F4F-4 Wildcat VF-6, USS Enterprise “6-F-5” Midway Group Build
I really liked this colorized photo that shows F4F-4 Wildcats on the deck of the USS Enterprise, sometime during March of 1942. This picture was originally posted by Rob Pollock as a part of his usual "Friday Briefing" . Thanks Rob, I hope you don't mind...
This photo was the inspiration for my last Midway Group build reveal. The plane I chose to model in this picture is in the very front, lower left corner, and is numbered "6-F-5".
A lot of neat little details can be made out in this particular photo. To begin with, the number "5" only appears on the upper Starboard wing surface on this plane at this point in time. It's almost covered up by the "Chief's" left knee and right foot. I'm sure that shortly after this picture was taken that another "Number 5" was added to the Port side wing.
If you look closely at the next plane, "F-3", it's missing the Squadron Designator "6" (for VF-6) that would normally go in front of the "F" during this era. Shortly before Midway most Carrier Air Units had these numbers painted over to keep intelligence from falling into the enemy's hands. It also does not appear to have a number "3" o the upper surfaces of the wings either. So ironically, this is pretty much how the fuselage side numbers should have looked later during the Battle of Midway. (Simply a plain "F-3"). Another odd thing I noticed about "F-3", is that the US Star National Insignia on the wings is more inboard than it is on the other two Wildcats...by a considerable amount. The Star is centered with the split between the inboard edge section of the aileron and the upper surface (above where the landing flaps would be) of the wing.
On the other two F4F's, the Star is more outboard, using the inner edge of the aileron as a reference point for the inner edge of the blue background on the Star.
The third Wildcat, "6-F-2", is numbered properly as best I can tell.
Most of the Douglas TBD Devastators have canvas tarps covering the wing Insignia, and another set of canvas covers were made to cover the red and white striped rudders. Shortly after the Battle of Coral Sea, these red and white striped rudders became a thing of the past. They were painted over using "Blue-Gray". At the same time the red center in the US National Insignia was also painted over using white. Sometimes it was done neatly using either a paint brush or a spray gun (whatever was readily available) while those in a hurry simply sprayed over the red center, allowing overspray to get onto the blue background of the Star.
One more little bit of information. Look at the lower right hand corner and you will see the numbers "390"... This is an indicator as to how many feet is left to the end of the carrier's deck.
I really think this is an awesome photo...
The F4F-4 Wildcat was just coming into service on US Carriers a few Months before Midway. They operated alongside the earlier F4F-3, which did not have folding wings, and only had four wing mounted .050 caliber machine guns. The "dash 4's" were up gunned, now having six .050 caliber weapons mounted in the wings, instead of the earlier four .050 caliber machine guns. By adding the extra weapon in each wing, it increased the fire power. This came at a cost in performance, and a reduction in the maximum number of rounds that were carried for each machine gun. Because of the reduction in the number of bullets now carried for each gun, it reduced the actual firing time considerably.
The dash 4 Wildcat was the first version of the 'Cat to have Leroy Grumman's "Stow N Go" wing fold, which really allowed 5 planes to be stored in the normal space occupied by two...
Now if you factor in the added weight of the additional two machine guns, and the folding wing mechanisms, you can see how this additional weight reduced the performance of the Grumman fighter.
Initially this was not well received by the pilots, especially those that had combat experience with the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. I believe it was Jimmy Thatch who said "Any pilot who can't hit a target with 4 machine guns, will surely miss with six !'.
This is the Tamiya F4F-4, and it was my first time building the Tamiya Wildcat. I have built the Hobby Boss version though, (and many, many years ago the old Monogram F4F).
It was built straight from the box... almost.
The only addition I did was to fill in the under wing fuel tank mounting holes. These are correct for a later F4F-4, but they didn't become available for use until sometime in late January 1943, which was a little over a half a year later after the Battle of Midway occurred. Starting towards the end of January 1943, these wing mounted fuel tanks became a field installed factory supported option. Some units had experimented a few months earlier with altering the airframes in the field to give the fighter a longer range. This information was passed along to Grumman, who then started incorporating it as a change to the assembly line.
I didn't really find out too much information on this plane during the time it was operated in the Battle of Midway. It does not appear in the combat loss reports, nor did I find a pilot's name listed with it. So in the absence of information, I'm going to venture out there and say that this particular plane survived the "Battle of Midway". If anyone else has any other information on it, I would really like to hear from you.
Overall I really enjoyed building this little kit. It went together very fast, and the fit was spot on. So it doesn't have a proper cockpit floor... I can't see it once everything was buttoned up... so it's really not a problem for me.
They do make an aftermarket resin replacement, and I plan on giving it a try along with a wing fold option on a future build. But for something straight out of the box, it's really hard to beat. This is a fine little kit.
This one was painted using Model Master enamels and given a coat or two of Future, thinned 50 percent with rubbing alcohol. The decals were a mix of kit decals, some from my spares, and I used a "Yellow Wing's decal sheet that had 12 inch numbers and letters in black.
Rather than use the kit supplied red / white decals for the rudder, I sprayed the red stripes on, over a base coat of white.
Here's a link to the build log:
In this log I was building two Tamiya F4F-4's, since I had the "Gardner Iron Works" assembly line fired up and running. The second one I eventually ended up painting as a Joe Foss plane from Guadalcanal.
I'll be building a few more of them for my ever growing Wildcat collection.
I think that Tom Bebout said it best when he called this Wildcat a "Little Gem of a Kit". I couldn't agree more.
Thanks for following along, and as usual, comments are encouraged...