'Mikey’s First Build' – Tamiya 1/48th Focke Wulf D9 – ‘Rudel’s Dora’
When we relocated to Australia from London, the shipping container with our possessions included a small number of partially started kits that I put away, upon our arrival, into 'the cupboard', to finish at a later point. The youngest of my two sons, Mikey, was five in January. Around that time, he said that he wanted 'his own model'; to do some gluing and some painting, some 'sprue-cutting' and some sanding. I showed Mikey three boxes and he made his choice immediately: a Tamiya FW 190 D-9 (in 1/48th scale). He passed over a P51-D and an A62M. The kit had been sprayed with Tamiya gray primer just before we left the UK.
I showed Mikey the Eagle Cal 'FW 190 Doras' decals I had bought for this plane and his eyes lit up. All of the options included are 'Defence of The Reich' aircraft - the schemes are based upon research in Jerry Crandall's second volume on the Dora. None of the planes sport very 'clean' camo schemes, most appear to have been repainted to some extent. I tried to 'row back' on the Dora a little, since the other kits would have been much easier to complete, but Mikey had chosen a specific plane already, and I couldn't bring myself to disappoint him!
Mikey likes a bad guy. Star Wars, for example, is all about Darth Vader and Kylo Ren - no interest in Skywalker et al, it is all about the dark side. I guess he has learned to play pantomime villain to all of his brother's good guys. Anyway, his radar was unerring on this occasion as he chose the Dora attributed to none other than Hans Ulrich Rudel, by rank Geschwaderkommodore SG2 'Immelmann', but in short, the most decorated German serviceman of the second world war, a ground attack pilot renowned for his career flying Stukas, and one of the most committed Nazis before, during and long after the conflict.
Recently there has been discussion here on iModeler, about whether you could be a good man and fight for those committing atrocities (and no side is absolved in this). As much as we can make the case that the likes of Galland and Marseille thought and behaved in a different way, Rudel, while an outstanding fighter and the toughest of opponents you could encounter (for the Russians especially) was, ideologically, aligned with his monstrous masters.
Books have been written by and about Rudel. The CIA dossier on him depicts him as a potential Neo-Nazi 'Fuhrer'. He was awarded the Knights Cross with every additional honour possible including some that had to be invented just for him. Of the holders of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, only he was awarded golden Oak Leaves. He flew more than 2500 combat missions. His final tallies are said to be 11 aircraft, 519 tanks, 4 trains, 70 landing craft, 2 cruisers, a destroyer, a battleship, and over 1,000 trucks and transport vehicles. On a single day during The Battle of Kursk he destroyed 12 T-34s. Flak accounted for one of his legs, but he got back to flying and fighting.
After a brief internment post- war, he moved to South America where he set up a support network for fleeing Nazis. He was still well enough respected however to work as consultant for many aircraft producers and is said to have been influential in the design of the A-10 'Warthog' (although I can't find anything to substantiate this commonly posited claim, it is said that defence analyst Pierre Sprey, while writing the detailed specifications for the proposed A-X project, in the late 60s required that Rudel's biography be read by everyone on the program). Rudel's politics remained staunchly fascist however and he was a highly controversial political figure, as he attempted to lead Neo-Nazi parties. In 1950 he advocated attacking in the East once more to acquire 'lebensraum'. While I am not convinced I would particularly want to read his book 'Stuka Pilot' I can say that just the briefest of looks on the web will throw up many more stories of his exploits than I could write about here. None of which yet interests, or is on the radar of my son!
The kit itself is a fairly typical Tamiya offering - good detail (although inaccurate in many well-documented ways) and no fit issues. Mikey and I worked together, and we got to the point of masking and painting in fairly short time (the engine and cockpit are not complicated and were boosted with photoetch dashboard, instrument panels and seatbelts. We used Vallejo Model Air paints mostly, and Alclad Lacquer for the bare metal parts. Mikey was remarkably dextrous for a 5-year-old and enjoyed cutting parts from sprues and using the sanding sticks particularly (he may get the job permanently in a year or two!).
I have watched with interest as Louis has painstakingly tried to track down a photo of a specific FW190 A, for the Kasserine Pass group build. He has found a large number of beautiful drawings of the aircraft but no clear photos. Our search threw up many artistic/technical drawings (interpretations) of the Dora's scheme - often at odds over shades and patterns, but only one photo. We stuck approximately to Jerry Crandall's version from the decal sheet guide for colours but relied on the photograph for patterning. The photograph has been developed in such a way as to create a very high contrast. Monochrome photos are often developed so that the lightest areas look white and the darkest look black. This makes interpretation even more difficult. Many have created builds of this plane - in essence none are definitively right or wrong based on evidence. Ours tries to show less contrast than the photo for the reasons stated. It is possible that our darks are still too dark! (Thanks to Louis G for the idea of this kind of presentation - posing the model next to an original image!).
Looking through most references for 1944-45, Doras were in use as the Germans fell back from their Eastern disasters, and the defence of the Reich took shape as Germany fought on three fronts (Rudel went via Bulgaria and Romania). There are also difficulties too in interpreting the evidence as to how often D-9s flew and so how much wear and tear would be accrued. If you read the accounts of Adolf Galland, he fought for airmen to be given time off - they were asked to fly many times each day, were under extreme stress and were ever less experienced as time passed. Losses ranged between 30% and 50% depending on where they flew. Hitler told Goering to stand Rudel down, but he refused to stop flying. He flew with a cast after having his leg removed below the knee. He was ordered by Hitler to take control of Jet Fighter operations - but again refused preferring to fly. Experienced German pilots were given opportunities to take time out of combat as instructors to the young men learning to fly, but few took that choice and Rudel certainly didn't, wanting to fly combat missions until the bitter end.
Weathering and fading on this build was therefore a difficult call. Rudel flew 430 missions in FW190s - how many he flew in this Dora is unclear. Jerry Crandall suggests that stencilling was 'not visible'. It is debatable whether a highly revered Major would have shared his plane, especially as the number of aircraft generally wasn't an issue when compared with dwindling numbers of pilots, until the very end of the war, when supply was cut off. During the last phase of the war the Allies added many fighters to their numbers, while the Germans suffered monthly losses in the hundreds which they eventually had little hope of replacing. By the end of May 1945 they only had 240 single-engine fighters operational to defend the Reich. Paul Kennedy states in his book 'Engineers of Victory' that 'Rather than intercepting bombers beleaguered German fighter pilots spent most of their time being chased by hordes of Mustangs, Thunderbolts and Spitfires'. Rudel's Stukas were fairly austere machines, so an extravagant scheme, often repainted for looks alone, seems very unlikely, especially at that point in the war.
Mikey enjoyed splashing on washes and dabbing away with pastels, which despite my internalised conniptions, was more important than either historical accuracy or a faultless model anyway! As such this is as much an 'artist's impression' as many of the other builds and depictions (with respect of course to all of the fantastic research that has gone into getting those drawings done and models made). As we have just finished this Dora, I don't know what Mikey will want to do next - maybe he will forget modelling for a while, or maybe he will ask to 'go again'. Bill, my oldest (nearly 7) has started an English Electric Lightning but hasn't looked at it for a while (school and sport are currently higher on his agenda). When the dull coat set on his 190 Mikey was beaming at being able to handle it and was running around pretending to shoot and dive and turn, with all appropriate sound effects! I took a deep breath, fearing the worst for Rudel's Dora, but said nothing because it was busy fighting a snap together Harrier jump jet.