Profile Photo
Louis Gardner
169 articles

1/48 Monogram / Revell P-47D Thunderbolt “Fiery Ginger” Col. Neal Kearby 348th Fighter Group

July 13, 2017 · in Aviation · · 22 · 4.8K

Here's a kit that I built almost straight from the box about 10 years ago or so...

The only change I made was with the leading edge of the wings, and how the .050 caliber weapons were oriented along the edge. On a , if you were to look at how the machine gun barrels are arranged, they would look level with the horizon when viewed straight on from the front.

This causes them to look uneven along the leading edge. The weapons were staggered like this to allow the ammunition trays to feed properly into the individual guns. If they were all at the same height inside the wing, the ammo would have a hard time passing over each weapon to feed the adjacent gun...and there are four in each wing.

This is also why the machine guns are staggered from front to rear, and some barrels protrude out farther from the wing than others.

The kit parts had them straight in a single row, which isn't correct.

Having personally fired a single .050 caliber machine gun on numerous times, I have seen firsthand how powerful these weapons are. I can only imagine how much of a punch, and how much noise that eight of these would cause... One word comes to mind... Devastating.

I used a set of Super Scale decals for it if memory serves me correctly. Since then I have found out more about both the man and his machine... and my errors.

Here's a photo I found of Colonel Kearby, who earned the Medal of Honor while flying over New Guinea on October 11th, 1943.

and another one showing him climbing into the cockpit of one of his "Fiery Ginger" Thunderbolts... he had 4 of them, all the way up to "Fiery Ginger IV".

This photo below shows a with a very similar tail number as the one depicted on my model.
If you look closely at this picture, three things will jump out at you...

The first is the odd "wave" between the Olive Drab and the Neutral Gray demarcation lines between the two colors. This doesn't appear to be a typical way that these planes left the factory, (at least to me) and could have been a field applied touch up.

The next thing is how the white was sprayed around and on the tail of the plane. It looks as if there was a soft edge between the white and the Olive Drab colors. So it's possible that these areas were simply sprayed free hand without masking between the colors.

The last thing is the early War simplified US Insignia. These stars do not have the "Bars" added to them just yet. It probably would have been added shortly after this photo was taken.

These are the types of things you always find out after you have completed your builds... at least for me.

Colonel Kearby earned the Medal of Honor for leading a flight of 4 other Thunderbolts on a recon mission over Wewak on October 11th, 1943. After they had completed their mission and were returning to base (low on fuel), they spotted a formation of Japanese bombers. The bombers were escorted by at least 30 fighters !

Outnumbered and low on fuel, they could have simply ignored this encounter and tried to sneak away while hopefully not being detected by the Japanese crews...but this didn't happen.

Colonel Kearby ordered his flight of five (including himself) to attack the numerically superior enemy forces. In the ensuing dogfight that followed, the Colonel managed to shoot down at least six planes himself ! I'm pretty sure that other pilots in his group scored too. This is how he earned the Medal of Honor.

At one time the Colonel was in a heated race with another leading US Army Ace... Richard Bong, but that's another story...

Unfortunately Colonel Kearby never survived the War.

On March 5th, 1944, the now 21 victory Ace was killed while flying near Wewak (again, since it was a hot spot), when he and his two other pilots he was flying with encountered a group of approximately 15 Japanese aircraft. It is presumed that Colonel Kearby was shot down by a pilot flying a Ki-43 Hayabusa "Oscar". There are some who say they saw the Colonel's plane taking hits on and near the cockpit area. Colonel Kearby was severely wounded, but managed to bail out. He died of his wounds shortly afterwards. His body was found in 1947, but remained unidentified until two years later.

As usual comments are encouraged.

Please stay tuned for another Pacific Jug... Major "Bill" Dunham's T-bolt "Bonnie".

Reader reactions:
10  Awesome

22 additional images. Click to enlarge.

22 responses

  1. Nice T-bolt! I just finished decals on an aircobra with the similar Pacific white tail/wing-leading-edge finish. Love that scheme.

  2. Nice to see a pacific Jug. great job and narrative.

    • Thanks Bob. The Pacific theater took a back seat to Europe. They had to make do with little. The CBI was even worse... I think that's part of the reasons why you hardly ever see these planes painted as such.

  3. Really nice, Lou.

    What hits me with your pics and narrative is that the reality was far more intricate and messy than we often think. The historian Simon Schama notes that "history is a complicated goddess." Just when we get down the dullcoat effect to duplicate the supposed wear and tear, we find out that while that might apply in certain circumstances (such as salt air), it doesn't always, and the plane we just sprayed flat actually had a sheen to it. Oops. Or (as Tom Cleaver pointed out), we work hard to replicate dings...that the Navy crews would have painted over every single day! I presented my P-51B after agonizing over the invasion stripes. But I just saw a pic where the ground crews (sometimes) slapped them on with brushes--producing neither a faded edge nor a crisp line, but an uneven, ragged thing. Same with make-do insignias.

    Crazy, you'd almost think those guys were up to something more serious than cosmetics when they cared for their equipment. I wonder what it might have been. Huh...

    • Thanks for the great response David. You pretty much summed it up. If you're like me you normally find these little details out after you have completed your build... BTW, I really liked how your Mustang turned out.

      Years ago I had a family member (now deceased) who was a crew chief on B-17's in the 8th AF in England. He said that mechanical repairs came first. Sometimes they would have to work for several days straight around the clock to get a plane airworthy again. Then he said "if" they had time "and" the materials were available, then they would take care of cosmetics. But it wasn't high up on the priority list...

      • Exactly. And the visual aspects could be so arbitrary. Like many things in the military, thus and so was inviolable, had to be by the book, while other things could be up to individuals who handled the materiel. But then again, a local commander could impose his wishes, or a squadron might make a group decision (blue noses or red tails all, or shark teeth, etc.) that mitigated individualism. And that "by the book" stuff? Often it was by the book, except when it wasn't...(when my son joined the Navy he was strictly drilled by his instructor that "profanity would not be tolerated in the Navy, so if any of you GD SOBs had a effing filthy mouth he was prepared to beat the living sh-- out of them for it").

        Getting things really precise often has to do with a combo of knowing military protocols, general application, specific situations, and the quirks of historical narrative that are the true special sauce. It can be daunting.

  4. Another great piece of modeling, Louis...a really nice job (and who doesn't love them Jugs...:) ).
    By the way, did you happen to notice that the Colonel's name is spelled "Kearby" rather than "Kirby" ? - At least that's what I'm seein' on that second B&W photo.

  5. Great work on a warhorse of a kit! I've got one with most of the conversion work to do a C, and an OLD Microscale sheet to do Hub Zemke's Moi Tovarisch - with the same early-production wavy camo demarcation.

    • Mike, Lone Star is doing a "C" conversation, complete with that really ugly ferry tank that looks like a goiter.

      • Ha ha Bernard ! that is a great way to describe it...goiter, you crack me up, love it. Reminds me of the similar ferry tank that was used on Bf-110's. I think Fujimi did one like that for the Bf-110 C/ D model in 1/48...

    • Thanks Mike. I ended up building two of them at the same time. The other one was finished as "Bonnie" flown by Maj. Dunham from the same unit, but in a NMF. I like the early T-bolts. Sounds like your Zemke plane will be a good one... Thanks for liking the article too.

      • Luckily I found an old copy of Zemke's biography by Roger Freeman and has a pic of two of Moi Tovarisch with the retrofitted keel and a 75-gallon tank underneath - looks like a fat woman carrying a clutch purse lol. Luckily, it wasn't hard to redo the cowl flaps and I stole a better CE prop from the Tamiya P-47M kit.

        • The Little friends UK website has a lot of very neat pictures. Some are even in color. Please keep us posted with some updates on your early T-bolt. I have a keen interest on these planes every since I met and became friends with a former P-47 pilot who flew over Europe in 1944. It is really an awesome plane. Nice description of the early keel tank 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. Louis, good looking Thunderbolt. Monogram corrected their original P-47D bubbletop error, wing placement on the fuselage. Gave us a good P-47 razorback, until the Otaki, and then the Hasegawa came along.
    Like a lot of Monogram kits, it still holds up well. Good to see a Pacific 'Bolt, also.

    • Wasn't bubble top the old Hawk kit ? I remember building one that was chrome plated as a kid, but I could have sworn that it was the Monogram kit... Wouldn't be the first time I was wrong. Next I'm tossing around the idea of building up one of my Tamiya Jugs as a plane that Eagleston flew with the yellow nose and skull with cross bones on the cowling. I have everything to do it now. I may have a few more Pacific bolts coming down the Pike too...

      Thanks again buddy... For the price you really can't go wrong with these Revell Monogram kits. I think it's still available as a current release.

  7. Really enjoying seeing some of your older builds Louis. No wonder you have your 'work flow' so well organised these days!

    • They say that practice makes perfect... but I am far from that... 🙂 I have managed to improve some techniques over the years though. I still learn new things every day... Thanks for the kind words Paul.

  8. Nice job - well done!

  9. Great job. I read an article in a magazine(Aviation History?)years ago that mentioned that Colonel Kearby, for some reason, never released his drop tank(s?) during his final battle

Leave a Reply