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Tom Rodgers
30 articles

“Dorrie R” and Capt Jerry Yellin…The Last Fighter Pilot

I first met my late friend, , in September 2009 at the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) convention in Orlando, FL. I was there with my wife, Kathy ( who was receiving an award for her first novel, “The Final Salute.” Jerry and I hit it off from the start…two old fighter pilots, from two separate eras and two separate wars. He had been a Mustang pilot in the 78th Fighter Squadron on Iwo Jima at the end of WWII and I had flown F-111’s during the Vietnam war. We drank a lot of beer and told a lot of stories, but Jerry never bragged and was always very humble. It wasn’t until several years later that I learned about his final mission of the war, the mission that earned him the title of “The Last Fighter Pilot.” On that mission, Jerry lost his wingman, 1Lt. Phillip Schlamberg, one of the last American casualties of the war. (Schlamberg was the great uncle of the actor, Scarlett Johansson and she and Jerry were very good friends). Sadly, Jerry passed away before I ever got to discuss this mission with him. His story is better told in this article about him from Wikipedia:

For several years now, I have been wanting to build Jerry’s “” (P-51D-20-NA, serial number 44-63422) as a tribute to him. I originally bought a Airfix kit to use as my starting point. Then, came out with their fantastic P-51D, and my plans changed. As there were no kits at the time for the Very Long Range (VLR) Mustangs based on Iwo Jima, I started with an Overtrees kit and began “collecting” all the aftermarket bits and bobs I would need to convert their kit to a VLR version. I used Eduard/Brassin landing gear, tires, external fuel tanks, cockpit P/E, exhausts. Decals and stencils were from Eduard and the Dorrie R specific markings from Callie at that she scaled down to 1/48 for me. Lastly, I used the cockpit stencil decals from Barracuda Studios, which are VERY nice. As a side note, as soon as I began work, Eduard came out with their kit “Tales of Iwo Jima”, 11142.

There is not much to say about the actual build that hasn’t been said before. I loved the way the kit went together. No real issues here. Many folks have said that the Eduard tires are too big for the opening in the gear struts, which is true, but a little work with a file on the top of the strut solved that issue…that’s modeling. I primed with Tamiya acrylic gloss black thinned with Mr. Color leveling thinner which did a superb job. This was followed Vallejo Metallic acrylics using various shades for the puttied surfaces, bare aluminum, and hot areas around the exhausts. Everything was then sealed with Alclad Aqua Gloss in prep for the decals. I printed the Dorrie R specific decals on Testors decal paper, which though not perfect, are “good enough” for me. I loved the way the carrier film came off the Eduard national insignia decals and data stencils. They look painted on, and the process was NO problem at all. The decals were then sealed, and weathering was done with oils, AK weathering pencils, and Tamiya pastels. The final coat was Vallejo Satin Acrylic varnish which I think gives the airframe a “worn” not “shiny” look.

This build took several months longer than I usually take to complete a model. Because it is a tribute to Jerry, I wanted it to be PERFECT. I kept getting stalled when something didn’t turn out like I wanted it to. As Tom Cleaver once told me, “Perfection is the enemy of good enough”, so I plugged along. I hope Jerry thinks it is “good enough” …

21 additional images. Click to enlarge.

18 responses

  1. That is a lovely tribute to your friend and I understand why you wanted everything perfect.

  2. The hardest part of modeling is in-between the ears and knowing what you want from a kit and knowing the perception of what perfection is. I know of two of states; one is death and the other is your higher power. Being able to communicate the later from the former is the easier part. But, having written that, putting together and achieving the perception of perfection is very hard. Which is driven by motivation.

    Some strong work Tom. The words Friendship, respect and honoring a pilot all are apart of this build.

    Two thumbs up.

  3. I would say that "good enough" has scored a Major Goal here. It looks "real," which is the best compliment I can give it. Nice work all around.

  4. Lots of fine details to look at, and a loving tribute to boot... This is fantastic work Tom!

  5. I like the entire work, but particularly a very nice job on filling in the wing panels - looks superb

  6. Absolutely Perfect Tom, a great tribute. The cockpit detail is particularly astonishing!

  7. Absolutely like this! That's a great looking Mustang and a fantastic tribute to your friend Tom; well done on all counts sir! 🙂

  8. This is a wonderful model, Tom. All the extra work and attention to even the slightest detail is obvious. A great tribute to your friend.

  9. Beautiful build, Tom @trod348
    Build to perfection and it is a great remembrance to your friend.

  10. The NMF has the right look, and to me, that’s the hardest part of getting a solid Mustang model. Beautiful work and tribute

  11. Well done Tom, nice tribute to a fellow pilot , I'm certain he would have been impressed with your work. Hand salute to you and Jerry.

  12. Bravo Tom! One of the most beautiful renditions of P-51 I’ve ever seen. A true masterpiece!

  13. Beautifully done and a beautiful tribute!

  14. That really is a beauty - so hard to get NMF looking good alone, but then to weather so nicely is just superb! Love it.

    • I guess I got lucky, Greg. NMF is a pain and I do not like doing them. This is only my fourth try. It’s REAL hard to cover up mistakes…and I make them, hahaha.

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