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Chuck A. Villanueva
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Battle of The Kasserine Pass: Tamiya Dewoitine D-520 Aeronavale

It's early morning on a cool November day in 1942. The Allies have commenced "Operation Torch" with the invasion of N. Africa. 4 Dewoitine 's of Escadrille 2AC lift off from the Axis base of Port-Lyautey, mission to strafe the landing craft as they try to unload the invasion forces. Along with Hawk 75's (Curtiss P-36) and DB-7's (A-20 Havocs) on the runways also to attack the invasion force. Enroute to the target Lt Pierre Villeze notices in the distance several Hawks in combat with American naval F4F Wildcats. His wing man calls out a flight of aircraft heading towards Port Lyautey, SBD-3 Dauntlasses escorted by Wildcats. For the most part French pilots were already reluctant to attack the Americans and Allied forces with most wanting to fight for the right side. Still already flying combat against RAF aircraft, attacking the base at Gibraltar during the year it has been a rather eventful time for Pierre. Now as some tracers whizz by his canopy, as his flight has been bounced on by a pair of Wildcats. He breaks up hard left as he tries to evade his attacker looking quickly for his mates as he continues his turn away from the attack. Ever since the first flight took off earlier in the morning and attacked the beach unopposed. It has been downhill every since. Aircraft returning to re-arm only to be attacked by Anglo-American fighters and bombers destroying aircraft arming and warming up on the runways. It has been chaotic ever since. By 10:00 am the main runway is unusable at Port Lyautey Air Base, the order is given to withdraw to Sidi Yahia Rharb. Unfortunately this base is not very suitable to accept aircraft like the D-520 as it barely a plowed runway. As several D.520's suffered damage when landing. Which was already a problem for the Dewoitine with landing gear failures. Only 2 aircraft will land without damage. Pierre managed to evade his attacker and turn around to head back to base. On the way he sees 4 Wildcats about to do a run on the airbase, he manages to shoot at one of the Wildcats, and gets a probable. At the end of the battle when in hindsight why even fight the Allies, 19 aircraft were destroyed, the squadron commander was lost, 3/4 of the D.520's were wiped out. All for just 2 probable victories. Such is the fortune of war. Port Lyautey fell to the Allies soon after, and the N. African campaign was just starting. The French sided with the Allies soon after.

's D.520 as far as I know is the only mainstream kit of the nifty little French fighter in 1/48th. Upon opening the box, it is amazing that it doesn't have very many parts, yet the engineering and approach that Tamiya has with this builds up to a very nice gem of a kit. Using Eduards zoom set to enhance the cockpit and Berna's excellent decal sheet for the Aeronavale markings. Being French, it will provide a unique scheme that is quite an eye catcher. Even the cockpit interior presents a color you will not see in another aircraft. Unless the Morane or other French aircraft used it, I will have to look into that if I build let say a Potez or Bloch aircraft of this era down the road. I used a mixture of RLM blue with USN Blue Grey and white to get as close to the interior blue used in the D.520. The exterior was Lt Blue/Grey, USN Blue Grey,MM enamel Burnt Sienna and French Khaki Green. With MM Yellow and Red for the tail and red for the spinner. Doing a little more research after the build, I found images of the actual aircraft that is on the decal sheet, depends on what time frame the photo's were taken, which the date is unknown, looks like the lower section of the nose should be yellow with a red stripe as well. Not unlike some of the D.520's where you see some had the nose fully painted in theatre markings of yellow with red stripes. Another battle that you don't read much about was the combat missions between French and Allied fighters. Wildcats vs the D.520's and Hawk 75's. I would like to thank David Thomas first and foremost for an excellent suggestion and historic significance of this major battle. Though we didn't win this one, it was a lesson learned by the Allies. And because of this setback we changed how we approached the Germans DAK, and prevailed. Next to those who encouraged and advised during the build. And those who submitted excellent work to represent the men, equipment and aircraft used during this campaign. What a great job y'all did. Thanks for the opportunity to honor the men who fought on both sides. Thanks for viewing.


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28 responses

  1. Looks great, Chuck! Your Dewoitine D-520 is a nice example of an airplane many are not familiar with. This one is certainly colorful!

  2. Thanks Jeff, appreciate that.

  3. Chuck, first rate Dewoitine. And a French Navy one, too!. That squadron insignia later appeared on their F4U-7 Corsairs. One of the squadrons that opposed the landings was the former Esquadrille Lafayette, on Curtiss Hawks. Later one, they got P-40Fs as our Allies. One thing about those Vichy "pyjamas", no doubt who you were fighting.

    • Thanks Bernard, when the GB was first announced the D.520 was my choice to build. However it would have been a French Air Force one originally. But then the GB expanded to include the entire operation for the N. Africa campaign the it allowed me to build this while serving in the Navy. The scheme does pop with that yellow and red.

  4. Great work, here, Chuck. Beautiful colours and a great story. I especially like an underrepresented subject, and you've done her proud. Those French navy roundels are terrific.

    • Thanks David, according to the research the anchor was only applied over the RH wing roundel during this point in time. If they were applied later on or maybe other units had the anchors in all 4 positions. I couldn't find any more photos to show that.

  5. Good lookin' build, Chuck...(glad to see you got that article "straightened out") 🙂

  6. Nice work, Chuck. French camo is always fun to paint.

  7. Thanks John, it was something different, unique and fun to do.

  8. Nice to see something unusual, nice job.

  9. Hello Chuck !
    I have been waiting for this posting 🙂 🙂 🙂 The story behind this plane helps bring your work to life.
    Your D520 looks fantastic. It would look great parked next to my current project, the Curtiss P-36 (Hawk 75), that I am going to paint in Vichy colors. You normally don't see too many planes wearing Vichy markings such as yours.
    Well done Sir !

    • Thanks Louis, it was a fun build. Looking forward to your project on the Hawk 75. Something I wish I had to work with. I may pick up a Hobbycraft or Academy P-36 for a future build and a companion for the D.520. I believe Hobbycraft even had a Morane-Saulnier Ms-406 kit as well. Anyway thanks for the praise.

  10. Chuck, a simply indispensable build and you did a great job on her. I am very grateful for your involvement and the presence of a Vichy aircraft, especially the Dewoitine. As usual, you captivate us with the "you are there" narrative.

    Many thanks, my brother, for your contribution!

  11. Thanks so much David, it was a pleasure to participate with something a little unique. Those who submitted amazing models that represented all aspects of the N. African campaign. It was fun to do.

  12. Really enjoyed watching your build of the D.502. Came out exceptional well, especially in that French camouflage. Great addition to the group build Chuck, job well done.

  13. Fantastic work. I do have a soft spot for these French aircraft. Camouflage colours are wonderful done. All in all just great work and interesting story as well. Thanks!

    • Thanks Ferry, they do have a unique camo pattern that is unlike any other nation. Which also involves a variety of colors that are not the typical greens and greys. It was very interesting to learn a little more of the French involvement in WWII.

  14. Very nice 502! Those Vichy schemes really pop out, and it is such a pleasant aircraft to look at overall - I think it's always been one of my favorites.

    • They really do Greg, looking forward to seeing Louis's P-36/Hawk 75 project. The D.520 doesn't seem to get much love as I still don't believe anyone else makes a kit in this scale.

  15. Nice subject matter you do not see much. I always wondered what this kit looked like. It looks good as you made it. Great Job! Thanx for history.

  16. Thanks Paul, seldom seen built up, i am really happy that Tamiya stepped up and produced a very nice kit of the D.520. Goes together well, not very many parts compared to their Spits, and Mustangs which have a little more to them seems like. Turned out to be a pleasant build.

  17. Well Chuck, this really lived up to the promise of your WIP thread - I reckon you have nailed the interior blue - somewhere between the restoration and the heat of the battle! And your story really brings this build to life. It would be easy to turn this into an 'explosion in a paint factory' but you have expertly dealt with the scale effect again! Lovely build of a very particular subject. Congratulations!

  18. Thanks Paul, I do enjoy to read up on the history of the subject. Keeping in mind that these planes carried honorable men for the most part. It was overall quite inspiring.

  19. Hi Chuck, another great posting from you, they really make you feel as if you are there, and then there's the model to admire as well, very enjoyable.

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