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David A. Thomas
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“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 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 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..."

Reader reactions:
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3 additional images. Click to enlarge.

29 responses

  1. By golly professor you finished her, and what a finish! Nice job with the desert sand splotches it really does replicate how the field personnel would have done it. The old girl even looks good with wheels up sitting on a pole. Sharp looking figures, crisp lines on the canopy's and very well detailed engines. What's not to like. It may have been a long road but you can be proud of how she turned out, my compliments on a job well done. Now what's next on your to do list besides a gourmet meal of hat en Croute.

    • Thanks so much, Thomas. You played a huge role in my sense of success. Of course, there are the warts, but there would've been a lot more of 'em had you not counseled me as you did.

      I have some "real life" issues to handle, so I'll enjoy things as the builds roll in. I'll have to think about my next build. Something single-engined, Tamiya, no curve spicy get the idea.

  2. David my friend,
    Let me start out by saying a great big "Thank You" for hosting this outstanding Group Build.

    For someone returning to the hobby, (or anyone for that matter), this is an amazing work of art. You have captured the details perfectly, and I have really enjoyed corresponding with you.

    I can remember talking to one of my school bus drivers when I was a kid... He flew A-20's during the "War". I wish I knew which unit he flew with, and more about him. He told me that the "loved flying the A-20", and that it was a really "Hot Ship" as he put it. He is the man who inspired me to build a model of a plane similarly marked as yours.

    The men who flew these planes were true hero's. But I'll bet if you had the opportunity to ask them what they thought, they would all tell you that they were "Just doing their job"...

    Mine was the old Revell 1/72 scale kit. I found a picture of it online and posted it below.

    By looking at the pictures in your article, and reading the associated story, it was a nice trip down memory lane. I can guarantee you that your A-20 turned out much better than mine did, by a long shot... Yours is an absolute jewel my friend.

    I have been following along with your build log, and have been impressed with every step through the journey.

    Well done Sir ! I like it ... a LOT.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • You know, a friend of mine had that kit when we were kids. We literally built it around a web of fuses and firecrackers and blew it to smithereens. The Havoc got her revenge, though: a triangle of plastic imbedded itself in my friend's leg. Ouch! Anyway, I always regretted that and wanted to build this in 1:48. And so I have, finally.

      Thanks for all the coaching and help, Louis. You and Tom and others are exactly what iModeler is for, and what makes it great: a fraternity of friends who help and encourage each other and look on the bright side. Networking at its best.

      Thanks friend, for your comments. Coming from you it's a big deal.

  3. That camo pattern is the "bee's knee's" (and a cool-lookin' stand, too). 🙂

  4. Wow! one great build , David. Looks fantastic wheels up. I remember that Revell kit, I think I built their B-25 instead.

    • I did it wheels up to replicate those photos. Those three A-20s flying in formation, from that angle almost looking like a pack of air wolves prowling over the desert floor--yow. Something about it just grabs me.

  5. David, great work! I had the Revell A-20, and still have the box art. One of their best box tops, IMHO. Lotsa rivets! My favorite A-20 scheme, for some reason... I was pleased when AMT came out with their A-20 series, even a P-70, talking about obscure. I'll use your article as a primer, if and when. Well done!

  6. Dave, thanks for your work hosting this GB , and for becoming a good friend in the process, well done on your build ,the overall finish is striking and a very interesting addition of a aircraft we don't see too often. Well done sir.

  7. Carrying on the theme of the great bard; "how poor are they who do not have patience; what wound did ever heal but by degrees".

    What a feeling to realise a childhood ambition, to wait until you have the skills, the patience, and the resources to lend the project the respect and attention it deserves. And what a job, David! She is a beautiful achievement, her pedigree self evident and the love lavished upon her writ large.

    Bravo, sir. Bravo.

  8. The first picture sure looks menacing, banking to get another pass to some target below...
    I had never seen this had applied camouflage on American planes until today, and your Havoc does replicate the blotches very realistically in my opinion. Bravo!
    It is a very sexy bird, hoping that some day I can get a decent A-20 G to build

    • Thanks, Pedro. I feel the same way about the A-20: large enough to be a multi-crew medium bomber, but fast and maneuverable enough to be used as ground support and even fighter versions. As the war dragged on, more specialized planes rendered the A-20 obsolete in specific areas (the Mosquito replaced the Boston for speed, as did the B-26 for American forces; ground support went to the more advanced P-38s and P-47s; the Black Widow took over the P-70s night fighter role, and so on), but early on the combined capabilities of the A-20 made her a very valuable airplane.

      I enjoy the plexiglass nose, but later A-20s, bristling with guns and/or cannon in place of a bombardier, were simply deadly. I talked to an old warrior once who flew as waist gunner in a B-24 in the South Pacific, and he told me that later in the War they loaded up with nothing but fuel and .50 cal ammo and went out as gunships to sink shipping. Compare what a B-24 could do, with its limited maneuverability and accuracy to the fierce speed and concentrated firepower of a roaring A-20 and the thought is truly frightening.

      Thanks for posting!

  9. Well David, I think it is only right that as the convenor of this GB you have run a very palpable marathon and turned up an absolute gem. There has been some discussion recently about the amount of work that goes into a model and what gets left unseen in the end. I have to say, we know what's inside this piece of work because we have watched, sometimes quietly, but certainly cheering you on at every step of the journey! And the output is big, and unique, and not in the least bit ugly! Your Havoc was an ambitious project and it has been done complete justice

    I admire the way you have described this as a team effort - there's a lot of love about here on iModeler right now! This group build has taken the collegiality here to a different plane (no pun!) and there is a genuine depth to it. There will have been some great models come out of this when we look back in a few months time, not least of course your A20-B, but we are all recognising the other thing too! We all go back to our benches and tables and workshops and lose ourselves in the 'importance' of the things we create, but that process is coming a narrow second right now! And since we are mining the seam of the old upstart crow, I'll add that although 'pleasure and action make the hours seem short' - people are really savouring these collaborations and alliances - and that's in no little way down to the atmosphere you have brought to the group. For all of that, thanks again!

    • You said it, Paul. In my missionary training it was always impressed upon us that relationship not only legitimizes task, it overrules it. Truth be told I probably wouldn't have finished this bird if not for my friendships here.

      I appreciate your comments, your contribution, and your own leadership of the RAF GB. Thank you, my friend!

  10. That's the one I've been waiting to see, and not disappointed in the least! A beautiful build with that unusual scheme, and all the "hidden" details you put into it. And your stand/mounting came out looking fantastic as well - I just love them posed as they were meant to exist! Great work David.

  11. Good lookin Havoc.

  12. Julius Caesar and Othello (twice) in one thread.
    Has ever a modeling site been so well read?
    Friendship does through the pulsing blood flow,
    The Moor, who better, for an African show...

    ...sorry, guys.

  13. Really nice result! That's a scheme that's always interested me. Excellent work.

    • Thanks, Tom. Much appreciated comment. One of your comments in another thread actually informed my choice of paint color. The black and white pics seem to show a base green that is darker than olive drab, and when you noted that earlier American planes in North Africa used (RAF) dark green, that settled it for me.

  14. This group build is certainly a great success, and, no, I haven't forgotten about the Beaufighter... Anyway, this model has turned out brilliantly, all that you hoped for and probably more, and the fact that you've been helped along by your friends on this great modelling site makes it just that bit better.

  15. Looking forward to that Beaufighter! Thanks for the kind words, George!

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