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“Banana Wars” DH-4B

Airco DH-4B “Liberty”

The DH-4 entered service in WWI with England in 1917 and was built entirely of wood construction. After US entry into the war, several companies began building DH4s in US, with changes including the American-designed and built Liberty engine. The aircraft remained in service with the USMC until 1929.

July 16, 1927 – US Marines in Nicaragua were surrounded by Sandino rebels at a town called OCOTAL. Major “Rusty” Rowell from Ruthven, Iowa, led a squadron of five De Havilland DH-4 biplanes armed with machine guns and four twenty-five pound bombs each on A-3 bomb racks and began dropping bombs on the rebels from 300 to 1,000 feet for about forty-five minutes. Sandino’s men, who had never been attacked by aircraft before, retreated in panic with heavy losses. The dive-bombing runs from low altitude made by Rowell and his men marked one of the first coordinated dive-bombing attacks in aviation history. Rowell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his extraordinary heroism and exceptionally meritorious service in action against hostile Nicaraguan bandits during this time.

The kit is from Roden and is nicely detailed. Roden offers several different DH-4 kits, none of which are the “B” model used in Nicaruagua, so I had to do some customizing. I had bought both a Roden DH-4 and DH-9 kits, thinking they might be similar enough I could swap parts, but that was not the case. So I cut up the DH-9 cockpit piece to modify the DH-4 kit to have the “B” configuration, as shown in the photos. Rigging is EZ line. Paint is Model Master enamel olive drab and Model Master acrylic light gray. The roundels came with the kit, but were very brittle, so I sprayed a coat of decal bonder on them to get them to work. Reference photos show some aircraft in Nicaragua had stars and some had the European roundels, so I went with the roundels, just for variety. The rest of the decals are custom-printed. I wasn’t sure what the writing on the side of the aircraft said, but from other reference photos I made a ‘best guess’ estimate.

I enjoyed researching and building this kit. Along the way I learned a lot about US involvement in the “Banana Wars” in Central America in the early 1900’s, which is part of the enjoyment of doing these kits.

11 additional images. Click to enlarge.


3 responses to “Banana Wars” DH-4B

  1. Beautiful work on this, your effort paid off handsomely.

    We’re still paying for those “Banana Wars” – fought for the benefit of the United Fruit Company, which among other things owned Dole Bananas, the largest banana distributor in the world, hence the name of the wars – today, with the instability they introduced into Central America when we installed various dictators willing to knuckle their brows to United Fruit, still wreaking havoc in those countries.

  2. A very nice build, an interesting subject as well.

  3. Good looking model! Well done.

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