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Monogram F9F-5 and F9F-5P Panthers

's first appeared in 1990, the first 1/48 F9F in close to 35-40 years past the Aurora and Hawk kits. At the time, it was the best and most accurate kit of the Panther, and it is still the most accurate (and in my mind, the best) since the alternative is the Trumpeter D-team release (wrong size, wrong outline, wrong detail, totally crappy and unfixably so) F9F-2 "kit."

The kit is the essence of easy, with 29 parts, all of which fit well for its time. Detail is raised, and some modelers might want to engrave the detail with a #11 Xacto.

The last release of the was a ProModeler kit that can still be found, which had a history book included, and very nice decals (the decals in the original release were 1980s Monogram horrid) that include the Panther flown by "Harry Brubaker" in the movie "The Bridges At Toko-ri."

If you haven't seen it, the movie is perhaps the best naval aviation movie ever. It was a failure on first release (audiences walked out in dead silence over the fact the heroes died in the end) but in the late 60s, when it started playing on late night TV, a generation of Vietnam veterans looking for a late night movie responded to the story of a man who didn't like his job, didn't want to be there, was afraid of doing it, and did it anyway. Today it is commonly listed in the top 10 of war movies ever (Tied for #1 on my list with Twelve O'Clock High) and seen as the classic it always was.

Interestingly, the movie cast went to Japan to film the sequences ashore first, and found the opportunity to go aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34) to do the on-board sequences. Mickey Rooney (who later told me that people told him not to do it because he would not have a career doing an "anti-American" movie at the height of McCarthyism in America, "but I said to them 'I don't have a career to lose!') was an immediate hit when he came aboard and said to the Naval Aviators "shake the hand that held Ava Gardner's t*t!". They worked with VF-192 (later VA-192) Golden Dragons aboard ship. Later, when the aerial work was done in the Southern California mountains NW of NAS Miramar, VF-5 - which did the aerial work - had to (reluctantly) paint their airplanes as VF-192 birds (among the pilots doing the aerial work is then-CDR James K. Holloway, later VADM and CincPacFlt). After that, VF-192 named themselves "The World-Famous Golden Dragons."

The F9F-5P was the result of Monogram (Revell) changing the molds to do the photo-recon airplane, which is marked as the F9F-5P at Planes of Fame Air Museum. Rumors abound that they destroyed the F9F-5 molds to do this, which is why you have not seen a re-release of the original kit.

The Panther is my favorite Navy jet. I was fortunate at age 10 to see the Blue Angels in their final season in Panthers at what was then NAS Buckley Field in Denver, Colorado (since 1959, Buckley ANG Base).

The Bridges at Toko-ri was not entirely fiction. James Michener spent 6 weeks aboard USS Essex (CV-9) in the fall of 1951 (during which time he became friends with an obscure junior Ensign in VF-51 named Neil Armstrong) and then aboard USS Valley Forge (CV-45) in January-February 1952, during which time he met a Skyraider pilot named Donald Brubaker, a reservist lawyer from Denver in VF-194, and witnessed the Navy's worst day of the Korean War, 8 February 1952, (the day Valley Forge's crew changed her name from "Happy Valley" to "Death Valley"), which involved an enlisted Chief Naval Aviation Pilot named Duane Thorin who wore a Kelly Green baseball hat in his HO3S-1, who attempted to rescue a pilot named Harry Ettinger, in which all were presumed lost when the rescue failed. Three months after the novel was published the next year, Thorin and Ettinger walked out of a North Korean POW camp. So when you watch the movie, you can know that the real Harry Brubaker and Chief Forney survived.

It's still the best movie of naval aviation ever made. You can watch it on You Tube.

And if you want to read the whole story about "the real Bridges at Toko-ri" watch for "A Long Hard Slog: Naval Air in the Korean War" coming about a year from now.

27 additional images. Click to enlarge.

27 responses

  1. Great story, great movie (I watch it every time it's on), and great-lookin' build - and pics - to boot.

  2. Very elegant looking plane and model.

  3. Great story and airplane. At the end of the movie is the "Where do we find such men" speech that is spine chilling.

  4. Still at the top of my list of best war movies about the Korean War. Tom we need more movies to cover the Korean War. Your Panther looks great as usual top notch model and history to go with it!

  5. TC you for got one of the most important talking points of the movie.
    Grace Kelly
    Worth fighting for and coming home too. 🙂
    It is a good movie with some great modeling in the action scenes.

    • TC you for got one of the most important talking points of the movie.
      Grace Kelly
      Worth fighting for and coming home too. 🙂
      It is a good movie with some great modeling in the action scenes. Not mention another Monogram classic done to perfection.

  6. Beautiful Panther Tom. Always nice to see how well Monograms jets come out with the application of a few modeling skills.
    My uncle was on USS Oriskany during the fire in ‘66, so I have a connection, sort of, to the movie beyond the excellence of the film.
    I heard that William Holden said he wouldn’t take the role if they changed the end. Always liked his work.

    • Yeah, at the time Michener wrote the novel, everyone thought Ettinger and Thorin and the others were all dead. I remember the first time I saw it at age 10 - the first movie where the hero died! - it had a huge effect on me and as a writer still does.

      "The Hunters" director's cut directly alluded that Mitchum's character Clete Saville died when he went back to combat, but Jack Warner said "No way! I ain't makin' a money-loser like that damn Bridges movie!" and the voiceover at the end was clipped. In the novel it's clear he did die.

  7. I'm with you, Tom. This plane is my favorite Navy jet, too. (I like the swept-wing version almost as well.)

    Interesting narrative, as always.

  8. Nice looking brace of Panthers. An icon of the era.

  9. Tom, beautiful work! Are the "silver" areas natural metal or corrogard(early version) ? I once had the Aurora, favorite of mine.

  10. Great looking Panthers!

  11. I got Bridges on DVD at EAA last year. It is amazing how crisp the aerial footage is! They must have had the best film and cameras available because it isn't grainy, the color is great and it looks like it was shot with warbirds last week! I too was shocked at the ending, but that's life. Sometimes there are no happy endings and the movie is better for playing it out that way! Still trying to get the community theatre I volunteer at to show it.

    I am almost done with my Brubaker Panther. Furball rescued me with their Cougar set so I could replace the numbers on the nose after I used them on the wings! Tom, any idea why some of the Panthers have silver wing roots while others don't?

  12. The Panther jet and the Movie are both first rate. Thanks for sharing it with us, and answering the questions about the silver on the wing LE and roots.

  13. Excellent models Tom. What a great story to go with them. I loved the bit about Mickey Roone. I had this film on VHS cassette, and bought it again when it was released on DVD. But I still watch it when it comes on the television. Someone once told me, that the film had been edited by cutting a section, where Brubaker went below and stood by the catapult mechanism, to prove to himself his nerve had not gone. I really don't know if this was a fact or just hearsay.

  14. Nice builds, I have both kits and have yet to build them. It's a shame if the rumors are true about the mold, the 1/48 Panthers from the other companies just don't look quite right, somewhere they missed the shape. I have read Monogram has a couple of small shape issues, but I have never been able to spot them, they really captured the look of the aircraft.

  15. How did you handle the windscreen framing? Out of the box, it's way too wide. I remember the trepidation I felt as I started sanding away those frames on my build.

  16. Great job, Mr. Cleaver! Gotta ask: How did you manage to get to meet Mickey Rooney?

  17. He was married multiple times. I often wondered what his alimony payments must have been. Quite a career, Andy Hardy pays alimony, box office gold!

  18. Tom, I didn't know about the mold changes for the Photo version stopping the straight Panther. Bummer, as we used to say back when. Succinct review on the Trumpeter. Somehow, they tend to shoot themselves in the feet, and with gummint backing. Amazing.

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