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Royce Williams’ F9F-5 Panther revisited

This is the Monogram/Revell 1/48 scale F9F-5. I won’t repeat the well done documentation Tom Cleaver provided for his model of the same aircraft. Just to say Royce Williams in this F9F-5 was responsible for downing four Russian Migs in November, 1952. The model is built pretty much out of the box except for the Black Box cockpit I installed. I wanted to do the model with a typical load out for that period and not necessarily for the Mig encounter flight. A friend of mine who is a Navy engineer at Pax River found a copy of the action report for Carrier Air Group 102 of which VF781 was a part on board the USS Oriskany which covered the period before and after the Mig encounter. The report listed the ordinance expended with no mention of 500 lb. bombs. A large quantity of 250 lb. bombs and 5 inch rockets were expended. I chose to go with six 250 lb. bombs. Please note that the kit I used was the Revell boxing which is done in gray plastic. The kit has raised panel lines and I hate re-scribing lines. So, I preserved the raised lines. After painting the model with Model Master Dark Sea Blue and coating with Pledge, I wet sanded the model with 1200 grit focusing on the raised panel lines until they appeared as a fine gray line in the sea of blue. Not all lines came out as they were very light to begin with, but overall I was happy with the results. Another coat of Pledge and the decals came next. The decals were a challenge since those done for the F9F-5 for this squadron are no longer available. I primarily used a Yellow Hammer sheet for the nose flash and part of the tip tank flash. The Hobbycraft boxing of the Trumpeter F9F-2 supplied some more decals as did the Revell kit decal sheet. I think there about 5 different donor sheets in all which contributed to the model. The forward part of the tip tank flash had to be created by pieces of decals since the one on the YH sheet was for the -2 and it changed shape when the squadron got the -5s. At one point with all the decals on and a beautiful Pledge gloss finish, I thought of leaving it that way, but that would not be typical of in-service aircraft. Thus, I finished up with a semi-gloss clear. Enjoy!

10 additional images. Click to enlarge.


24 responses to Royce Williams’ F9F-5 Panther revisited

  1. Nice work. Still a great kit.

  2. Very neat work, got to love those navy colours.

  3. That’s really beautiful – excellent work!

    One of my favorite aircrafts all time 😉

  4. I definitely like this a lot, Gary. You put a lot of effort in, and it shows in the final result. I’m sure Royce would love this.

    It’s funny how that Air Group 102 monthly report is the only thing left now. In 2017, all the Monthly Reports of all the carriers that saw service in Vietnam were available from NHHC as PDFs. I downloaded the November 1952 Oriskany Monthly Report, which had all kinds of useful information as Monthly Reports do, including the whole cover story in detail for November 18. That and several interviews with Royce formed Chapter One of “Holding the Line.” Then in 2019, after the book came out, Admiral Shelton told me he’d gone up to NHHC to download the report for use in their appeal for Royce’s medal upgrade from Silver Star to MoH., and it wasn’t there. I went and looked, and it wasn’t there, the only KW-era Monthly Report that’s missing. But the much-less-useful AG-102 report was there, with the story in bare outline. I e-mailed NHHC about it and they told me that it had never been there, that unfortunately not all reports survive to get to them. So I attached a copy of my copy of the report and replied to them, “Here you are.” I never got a response. Why NHHC continues to deny the truth now almost 70 years later (and well beyond the “50 year rule” for declassifying things) is a puzzler. When I first told them I was putting Royce’s story in the book and asked if they’d like to update their information, they said they can’t make changes unless they have sworn statements of two participants. Royce is the only one left alive from either side, the Russians named the four pilots back in 1992, the story even made it into the Washington Post two years ago f’r chrissakes, but according to the Naval History asnd Heritage Command, the most amazing air combat of any naval aviator on the last half of the 20th century never, ever, happened.

    • Hi Tom, once again history is drowned in bureaucracy.

    • Great comments, Tom; it appears that the NHHC is engaging in a cover-up, for some reason.

      FYI, I just finished two of your books (“I Will Run Wild”, and “Holding The Line”); both of these books are superb. Your books describe just how desperate aerial combat is, and just how close the outcomes of those wars were. I especially appreciate your descriptions of the human-side of combat, and the tolls that these huge events had on single, lone human beings, as they fought to survive the conflict they were in. I am now reading more of your books, about the naval war in WWII Pacific.

      Thanks for your exceptional work, especially the reference sections at the end of each book…your research is most welcome (and useful).

  5. An excellent build, Gary.

  6. Great result. It looks like a well maintained naval airframe should look.

  7. Really great looking Panther, love the old Monogram kits so many happy memories building them

  8. This is such an excellent Panther, Gary!
    The Black Box cockpit looks nice and busy!
    Excellent painting and decalling.
    Well done!

  9. When ever one of these builds get posted the first thought that comes to mind is the movie ” The Bridges at Toko-Ri “. Michener’s tribute to the pilots who fought in Korea. Based on events that loosely happened but, where edited and improved for a movie audience. Some good P. R. for the Navy with regards to bravery and professionalism of its pilots. A bummer for the public since the ” hero” doesn’t make it in the end. The movie didn’t do so good at the box office. But, it was safe enough for the Navy. Fast forward to the current story of Royce Williams who is proof that reality is stranger than fiction and that there are real flesh and blood hero’s beyond the current crop of Mandalorian Star War’s characters or Tom Cruise “Top Gun” characters and action figures for the toy market. Great P.R.. Appalling to know that Williams and the lack of transparency of his experiences and heroism is being denied. Something that needs to be maintained by a healthy democracy. At least we have modeling and folks who take the time to spread the good word.

    Two thumbs up Gary on some excellent modeling and reminding us that there are flesh and blood hero’s.

    • @stephen-w-towle:

      You’re right that the movie “Bridges at Toko-ri” didn’t do well at first with the public because of the downer ending (I remember as a kid walking out of the theater with the audience dead silent). However, when it started playing on late night TV in the late 60s, it got rediscovered and recognized as the masterpiece it is. It’s commonly listed in the top 5 of “Best War Movies” lists.

      • Two different audiences. One from the 50’s fresh from WWII and the atom bomb and another from the 60’s in the middle of the Vietnam war and the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The 60’s audience caught up with Michener’s level of sophistication in story telling. You had movies like Easy Rider, Catch -22 and the The Sand Pebbles. The rise of the anti-hero. Questioning authority and the institutions they where apart of. I’m sure when the Bridges was made it was seen as showing the Navy in the best light and it did pull back the curtain just a little. Folks are being spoon fed the violence that really happens in combat. Saving Private Ryan and Fury comes to mind. No glam, borderline raw and with out the support of the Government. Everyone likes to be seen in the best light. Its finding the truth and making it transparent to people so they can judge for themselves is my issue.

        Where not knocking Hollyweird by the way. Youtube plays many of the carrier scenes of the movie and has a whole catalog for the viewer. A wealth of color schemes for the modeler. Any movie that has Grace Kelly can’t be bad.

    • I read somewhere recently the characters and the event where the lead characters died in the movie was based on an actual event in the war. The difference being that in real life both pilots were taken prisoner and they were both released at the end of the war. Note also that the events in the movie take place in November 1952 on the actual ship, the Oriskany, from which Williams flew in the same month of 1952.

  10. Superb modeling, Gary. That old Monogram kit still builds up very nicely, in the hands of a skilled modeler like you. Congratulations on an excellent build.

  11. Gary, @glgslewis
    This is a fantastic looking build. I recently finished my Panther as “Brubaker’s” jet from the Toko Ri movie. My copy had warped wings, and it fought me every step of the way, but the problems I had were mainly related to painting the model. Once I even stripped the plane down and started over fresh.

    I like what I see here. Did you modify the kit parts for the fences next to the intakes ?? I used thin plastic card and removed the thick molded kit parts here on mine. I also like you background setting and base. It looks very similar, if not identical to how I have been photographing my models and posting them here. The blue finish on your Panther looks amazing, and you did an excellent job with the fiberglass reinforcement on the inside of the canopy.

    You might have just inspired me to finally post my Panther in the headlines section. Now that it’s finished………… after almost two years of on again / off again building.

    This is a remarkable story about Royce Williams………….. one that needs to be heard, but chances are it’s going to remain classified for years to come.

    I pressed the “liked” button too. Thanks for sharing this beauty with us. The Panther is one of the most eye appealing early jets, and next to the Me-262, it’s my favorite from this early jet era.

  12. Good looking Panther, and nice process for using the raised panel lines to their best effect!

  13. Thank you everyone for the kind comments. Have a great Thanksgiving.

  14. That’s an outstanding Panther build Gary, my compliments to you.

  15. Excellent built Gary. Beautiful paint and markings!

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