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Tom Bebout
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Monogram 1/48 P-39 Airacobra 2Lt William F. Fiedler 347th FG 68 & 70FS

September 24, 2017 · in Aviation · · 21 · 3.8K

In my stash were some decals depicting an flown by a 2Lt Bill Fiedler, who had the distinction of being the only American Ace to claim all 5 victories flying the P-39. Being a history buff I was curious as to what happened to him. After some research on the web I discovered Fiedler enlisted into the Army at Ft. Hayes, Columbus, Ohio, on December 21, 1941. He had one year of college, was single with no dependents, and became an Aviation Cadet. Not much is known after that until he ends up on Guadalcanal.

Conditions were pretty primitive on Guadalcanal and the Japanese along with the weather and disease took it's toll of both men and equipment. The following is quoted from an article I discover concerning 2nd Lt Fiedler. [pic 10]

"There was a hard-fighting pilot who sometime seemed to be everywhere at once-2nd Lt William F. Fiedler- who racked up a unique record of achievement. On January 26,1943, flying a 70th P-39D, he shot down a Zero over Wagara Island. In February 1943, twenty two Japanese destroyers speed down the slot near Guadalcanal with 25 Zeros flying cover. The 70th Squadron intercepted the Japanese in late afternoon, and Fiedler shot down a Zero in the fight. It was his second kill".

"Transferred to the 68th Fighter Squadron, Fiedler was in the air again on June 12, 1943, when 50 Zeros made a sweep toward Russel Island and the Americans managed to get an impressive 90 fighters into the air. The American side claimed 31 aerial victories and one of them was a Zero bagged by Fiedler 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Cape Esperance - his third victory."

"Four days later, and Australian coast watcher on Vella Lavella radioed that 38 Zeros followed by another 30 Zeros escorting 50 Aichi D3A Type 99 "Val" dive-bombers were on their way to attack the Navy transports off Guadalcanal. Six P-39's were the last aircraft to take off. They'd been held in reserve to meet the threat to the transports, which had now materialized. Fiedler shot down two "Vals", the second, with the 37 mm nose cannon inoperable, using only his four small .30 caliber (7.62 mm) wing guns."
He now was an Ace, and the only American pilot to achieve that status flying the P-39.

Unfortunately on June 30, 1943, while waiting in his cockpit for take off, a P-38 suffered an engine failure on takeoff and slammed into his aircraft. Both planes exploded on impact. Though pulled from the wreckage he would die two hours later and is buried in the Punch Bowl in Hawaii. One only wonders how he would have finished the war had this accident not happened.

The kit has been around for ever but makes into a decent representation of a P-39. I did add some PE belts and nylon thread for the antenna. Paints were Model Master as well as Tamiya. The pilot figure is from Tamiya's fighter pilot set. A little dry brushing and pastel chalks were used to give her some wear and tear. The decals are Aeromaster Cobras at War PT III.

Reader reactions:
18  Awesome 1 

8 additional images. Click to enlarge.

21 responses

  1. Good story. Nice model.

  2. Very nice P-38. Great history behind your build as well.

  3. Great build! and great tribute.

  4. Very nice build and concept, I like the way you were inspired by the story and the b/w pictures. I like to source old pictures featuring planes or vehicles of the past, then try and build it in scale. It's a tribute to the historic event pictured, but this time in three dimensions.

    • Thanks gentlemen for the kind remarks. Just couldn't get past the fact that he was the only P-39 American Ace and his remaining history seemed to be lost When I discovered he was from Ohio, I wanted to learn more about his fate. Such a shame he died in a terrible accident.

    • Thanks Michel, was quite interested in finding out what happened to him.

  5. Nice presentation, Tom...good work, my friend.

  6. Very nice, Tom! Great "history" lesson, too.
    Like you said; one could wonder what else he might have achieved had he not been in that accident.

    I love P39s anyway. Thanks to the budget button counters, the engine didn't get the supercharger it needed for higher altitude, so this advanced (for its' time) fighter never achieved much praise or fame although it soldiered on the entire war.

    Great model!

  7. Tom, great P-39! I'd heard that someone did shoot down 5 enemy planes in a P-39, now I know whom. And this was during the period when the Japanese were still numerous and certainly aggressive. Poor Larry Bell! All that innovation, and less than successful in terms of really large production. Also rans, thinking the P-39/P63 series being the most produced. Then he got into helicopters, and did better!

    • The Russians had quite good success with the P-39, both as a dog fighter and in ground support roles.Quite a few Soviet Aces flew it. It did well there because most aerial combat in that theater occurred below 15,000 feet.

  8. Hello Tom,
    Interesting story and good build of this old Monogram.
    Regards, Dirk / The Netherlands.

  9. Informatve history, nicely built and finished P-39, and the figure and base set it off very well. Thanks, Tom, I really enjoyed this article.

  10. Very nice model and backstory. Looks great!

  11. Nice narrative and backstory to a nice build and great presentation. I built the P-39 as a kid and all I can say is you've done an admirable job of redeeming the thing for me, Thomas!

  12. I agree with the comments above. You have built another fantastic P-39, and I really like it. Posting a few photos of the actual pilot and his final resting place is a nice touch. Adding bits of history to our builds and telling the story behind them helps to bring them to life.

    Well done Sir !

  13. A very fine job on this classic! Great article too, sir.

  14. Very nice model and history

  15. Great job, Tom. I have built Fiedlers P-39, only I used the Hasegawa kit, and they are the alternative set for the release.
    Great job on a very good, (Still) model kit, which holds its own against the Eduardo and Hasegawa kits. Outstanding work as usual!

  16. Tom, I really like your P-39. Nice work sir! And I so enjoyed the history behind it as well. That was the great icing on this scale model "cake". Thanks for the wonderful story of a courageous and skillful pilot; what a sad way to go.

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