“Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war”… Kasserine Pass Build Group A-20B Havoc
First, a thanks to all who’ve participated in the Kasserine Pass/Tunisia Campaign Group Build, which has been a blast and has already seen some remarkable submissions with more to come. Before I get into my own contribution, I would like to offer special thanks for Louis Gardner for his general coaching and encouragement on this build for a resurgent modeler such as myself, and to Tom Bebout, whose experience and sage counsel with the 1:48 AMT Havoc kits saved my bacon on several occasions, not to mention the loaner of his Havoc manual. Many, many thanks, big brothers. Also, special thanks to Greg Kittinger, who coached me on how to mount the bird for a clean “wheels up” presentation. These friends made my final result better, no question about it.
As previously, I will begin with the model and move to the story behind this particular aircraft, because it does have a story.
Building a 1:48 A-20 has been a bucket list item for me since I was a kid. I love the A-20 and consider it woefully underrated and under-represented amidst all the models out there. This was my opportunity to try and do it justice. AMT is really the only kit out there (Italieri being essentially the same kit). I chose the B/C version because of its presence in some iconic photos I’ve appreciated since childhood.
There’s something gritty about the earlier version with the open gunnery nest in the rear; it was the B version that flew at Kasserine Pass.
The kit itself was OK, with some hitches attaching the nose canopy, but mostly a decent fit. It lacked detail in some areas, but happily the decals properly reflected the plane I was building (especially the blue and white “Big Bad Wolf” insignia of the 86th Bomber Squadron to which it belonged). My iteration includes a number of modifications. I basically exhausted the field on aftermarket items, using Quickboost resin engines, Vector resin pilot’s cockpit, Vector control surfaces, Squadron canopy for the pilot’s cockpit, and Eduard canopy masks.
Additionally, I scratch-built the rear gunnery nest interior (which was pathetically underdone in the stock kit), added ignition rings and copper wiring to the engines, modified the interior of the bombardier’s area to make it more detailed, created shims and hinges for the aftermarket control surfaces, added exhausts to the nacelles (again, Tom Bebout pointed out the need for this as the stock kit entirely missed them), modified the landing lights with Bare Metal Foil and Krystal Klear, and pirated figurines from other kits (and modelers 🙂 ); I printed my own serial number for the tail to square with the particular aircraft I was reproducing (see below). The paint is with Tamiya rattle can lacquers, sometimes dispensed so I could use an airbrush for control and effect, and sometimes straight from the can; enamels and acrylics come in on some details. I used liquid mask for the sand splotching effect. I made extensive use of Mr. Surfacer paint-on primer (both 1200 and 500) to fight the Battle of the Seams, and much less use of putty, though I needed it a couple of times. The log of my progress on these modifications can be found in the “Groups” section, under the Kasserine Pass Group Build. The long and the short of the presentation is that it mirrors as best as I can tell the planes as they were delivered to North Africa with field modifications made by ground crews shortly thereafter. It seems pretty obvious that they were painted a dark green upper/neutral gray underside originally, but then hand-painted with sand splotches for camo purposes according to no specific pattern. In the process some of the nose canopy was painted over to provide shade for the bombardier (a close look at the photos shows that nose canopies on some planes were more covered than others).
This particular model is a replica of A-20B Havoc, Serial Number 41-3141, of the 12th Air Force, 47th Bombardment Group, 86th Bomber Squadron, piloted by Lt. John Simmons and crewed by John Edson and Edward Butts, based out of Youks-les-Bains, Algeria.
The 47th performed vital service during the Battle of Kasserine Pass, flying low-level bomb runs and harassing German forces in what would ultimately be judged as a mitigating rather than conquering effort. Truth be told, coordination between ground and air forces was terrible, and at the risk of denigrating what was surely a valiant effort, the USAAF was probably looking for a bright spot in an otherwise dismal episode when it awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for combat actions during the battle. Overall, operations were successful. There was one especially dark day, however: Washington’s Birthday, February 22, 1943–75 years ago today as of this posting. On that day the 47th suffered its greatest single loss in its entire history, before or after: three aircrews lost in one day as the BG flew multiple sorties to turn back the Germans, who approached their airfield from two directions. Simmons’ Havoc #41-3141 was one of those losses. Records show that about 18:00 hours on February 22, 1943, near Thala, Tunisia, the plane was hit by German flak and went down. Simmons somehow survived and escaped capture, and as of June, 1945 was listed as retired and back in the States; Edson and Butts were both KIA.
My build is an homage to these brave men, and to the ugly, beautiful brutes they flew. “Once more, unto the breach, my friends, once more…”
3 additional images. Click to enlarge.