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Year of the Cat: Monogram F9F-5 Panther "the Bluetail Fly"

USS Princeton’s deployment on the line at the beginning of her final Korean deployment in April-May 1953 saw nine pilots shot down, with seven of the nine killed or missing. Among the dead was Lt(jg) Richard “Stretch” Clinite of VF-153, who was part of one of the more interesting stories to come out of the war at this time, that of “the Bluetail Fly.”

parts in this final period of the war were increasingly difficult to obtain, which combined with the losses and the high number of aircraft damaged by the increasingly-effective enemy anti-aircraft defenses meant that carrier maintenance personnel had to become creative when it came to keeping aircraft in commission. Clinite was assigned one of the -5s in the experimental unpainted aluminum finish. On 5 May, the airplane was hit in the tail section by flak that resulted in heavy damage. At first, it seemed the Panther would be grounded until extensive repairs could be performed back in Japan. However, Ensign W.A. Wilds returned from a mission in a blue-painted airplane that sustained heavy flak damage to the forward fuselage. In an all-night session on the hangar deck, the maintenance crews took the tail from Wild’s blue Panther and mated it to Clinite’s silver airplane. The result was named “The Bluetail Fly,” and Clinite flew it on several missions until it was so badly damaged by flak on 12 May that it was permanently grounded for major repair.

On 13 May, Clinite flew another Panther that took a major flak hit during the mission that forced him to eject over the sea. Clinite drowned when the wind prevented collapse of his parachute and the rescue helicopter was unable to pull him to safety due to the billowing chute.

VF-153 would later become VA-153 and fly A-4 Skyhawks in the Vietnam War, where the squadron took the name “Bluetail Flies” in memory of this event.

Thanks to a modeler now doing his work at the Big Workbench in the Sky for the kit obtained cheap at the LHS estate sale, and to Eagle Strike for doing the decals (also obtained at the LHS estate sale).

Yes, I am the ghoul who buys those kits you never got around to. 🙂

10 additional images. Click to enlarge.

22 responses

  1. I’m sure the departed modeller would be happy enough to see this, Tom. I guess there is a sense of doing it justice - which you certainly have! Enjoyed the history and the photos! Thanks.

  2. Always nice looking aircraft the Panther/Cougar and a great story Tom - thanks

  3. Nice looking Panther Tom, interesting story as well.

  4. Yeah Monogram! Nice work.

  5. I like this one a lot, TC...very nice work. She's a beauty..!

  6. Tom, great looking Panther! The history of the plane and the pilot is interesting as well.

  7. Tom, I can see that you are more than a simple modeler, you’re a storyteller and a damm good one.
    To a guy like me, that has remote interest in the Korean War, your story is just what sparks interest about that war. That and the goul looking after the departed modelers stashes ?
    Anyway your Panther looks stunning, and I assume it’s and old mould kit, right? 1/48 or 72?

  8. A really nice one Tom! I love unusual subjects, and Bluetail definitely qualifies!

  9. Very interesting story Tom, thanks for sharing! I recently finished the Edu's A-4 and there is a "Blue Tail Fly" plane among the colorful options - maybe I choose that next time 😉 . I always wondered what are the stories behind these squadron names so thanks for enlightened me with this one. Oh, and a beautiful build here as always!

  10. Tom, your "Blue Tailed Fly' is a welcome edition to the "Year of the Cat" GB. As usual, the back ground story is well told. Thanks for sharing it with us... I hope someone takes time with what will be left of my stash... and builds the remaining kits in it like you have done this one.

  11. "Yes, I am the ghoul who buys those kits you never got around to" - it's exactly comments like why I love this place.

  12. "Yes, I am the ghoul who buys those kits you never got around to" - Tom, that's exactly the sort of insensitive comment that makes me love this place.

  13. Just saw the Blue Tail Fly in the F9F In Action book a few days ago. I thought it would look good as a model. Nice to be right once in a while! The Monogram Panther really is a nice build!

  14. Fantastic work! And a very interesting story as well.

  15. Tom, great Panther! Fascinating backstory, as well.

  16. As always with your builds, interesting history and quality work.


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