1/48 Monogram / Revell P-47D Thunderbolt “Fiery Ginger” Col. Neal Kearby 348th Fighter Group
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 Thunderbolt, 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 P-47 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”.
22 additional images. Click to enlarge.