Shangri-La P-51B Mustang
Here’s my take on Don Gentile’s P-51B Mustang “Shangri-La” based on Tamiya’s 1/48 scale kit. This rendition does not include all of the “kill” markings and shows the spinner with the two-tone red/white finish as the machine appeared sometime before Gentile crashed it while “exhibiting his flying skills” to the press.
Last time I built this plane, it was in the guise of Revell’s 1/32 scale model 50 (yikes!) years ago. I don’t remember how well that model went together, but I do remember liking the results mainly because it was the first time I painted a canopy frame. This kit was very easy to assemble, though I did have some issues with the left wing leading edge where it meets the fuselage. It doesn’t have a decal for the instrument panel or the seatbelts, which I took care of with dry-brushing and fabrication using strands of copper wire and masking tape. It looked OK to me, but not good enough to build the kit with an open canopy.
As I’m building models once again a half century later, the glories of the internet have allowed me to learn more not only about the machines, but the men who flew them. Don Gentile was quite a character and his story as a first generation Italian American resonates with me. My father served as a Coast Guard torpedoman and gunners mate on Destroyer Escorts in WWII and, like Don Gentile, he was first generation Italian American.
During the war, my father the chance to get into the Coast Guard Academy, but was soon washed out the all the other Italian and Polish American enlisted men because of the “o” at the end of his last name. This drove my grandfather, who was the most patriotic person I’ve known, to drop the “o” from our family name. Not being deterred, my father continued to serve through the end of the war and went on to college on the GI Bill and to a career as an engineer in the US Air Force.
7 additional images. Click to enlarge.