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Paul Barber
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Flight 19 The Lost Squadron 75th Anniversary Tribute: Avenger TBM-1C 1/48, Italeri (Accurate Miniatures)

December 5, 2020 · in Aviation · 21 · 11.3K

As has been well reported for many years, the Accurate Miniatures sprues reboxed by Italeri make up into a sometimes complex, but brilliantly engineered kit of the TBM-1C Avenger in 1/48. During this build I used Eduard canopy masks, photo-etch and belts. Mr Paint lacquers and Tamiya pastels and AK pencils were used to reproduce the standard all-blue scheme of the time. Decals were by SuperScale (the set includes markings for each Avenger of Flt-19). I added some figures and tow tractor from the Tamiya pilots set; a resin figure by Aerobonus, and a (not entirely accurate) Zoukei Mura base.

Much has been written about the loss of both Flight 19 on the 5th of December 1945, and the Mariner that went to search for those 5 lost Avengers and their young crewmen. My information as I researched this project came from a number of internet sources including the magnificent Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum website.

I also kept returning to Steve MacGregor’s book ’The Real Story of Flight 19’, because it contained detailed transcriptions of the radio conversations between the lost Avengers, Fort Lauderdale Operations and Port Everglades Air-Sea Rescue Unit 4. It seems to be a well-researched, realistic and succinct account with some great pictures. It will add just enough detail for those who know the basics of the history of the loss of these cadets and their instructor.

FT-3, the aircraft I have attempted to depict, a General Motors built TBM1-C Avenger, BuNo 45714, was crewed by:

Pilot: Ensign Joseph T Bossi, USNR (Arkansas City, Kansas).
Gunner: Hermann A. Thelander, S1c, USNR (Kinbrae, Minnesota)
Radioman: Burt E Baluk Jr, S1c, USNR (Bloomfield, New Jersey)

Aged 20, 19 and 19 respectively they represented the youngest crew on ‘average’ of Flt-19.

In a very simple vignette I have tried to set the scene before the delayed take-off as the crew study ‘Navigation Problem Number 1’, a standard ‘Dead Reckoning’ test for cadets, who were required to navigate out of sight of land, and carry out a glide-bombing run over a small group of Islands called Hen and Chicken Shoals. In keeping with this narrative, I have put ‘dummy’ bombs into the bays of the aircraft (these types were recovered and reused).

The radio transcripts detailed in MacGregor’s book and elsewhere make difficult reading, but even in grave danger Flt-19 chose to stay together, and although there is no absolute certainty around what happened after the last clear radio signal from the lost airmen, to who we pay tribute here, it is widely accepted that fuel ran low and they decided to ditch.

“All planes close up tight…we’ll have to ditch unless landfall…when the first plane drops below 10 gallons, we all go down together.”

I’d like to thank David Leigh-Smith for inviting me to be part of this project and wish him Godspeed on his own current journey. Stay safe and happy Hogmanay when it comes DLS – out with the old.

As the only Brit left as we hit the deadline (one year later than planned), I’d like to thank the estimable US section for all of their guidance, encouragement and enduring friendship while building a plane that I knew next to nothing about at the start of the venture, and as we navigated a tricky couple of years ourselves.

Tom Bebout (FT-36 and FT-117, for DLS)
Louis Gardner (FT-81)
Gary Sausmikat (Mariner)
Chuck Villanueva (FT-28)

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18 additional images. Click to enlarge.