1/72 Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat – Airfix New Mold
This build has a story.
In 1992 I attended the “1942: Issue in Doubt” symposium by the Admiral Nimitz Museum (now the National Museum of the Pacific War). Featured speakers at the event included several pilots who had fought at the Battle of Midway, including retired Rear Admiral William N. Leonard, Richard Best, and George Gay, I was fortunate to have Admiral Leonard autograph a photo of his aircraft in a book I had with me, and to have George Gay inscribe his book to me. I happened to have a framed R.G. Smith print of the Japanese carrier Akagi at Midway with me in a pillowcase for some reason. I honestly don't think at the time I realized the connection with Best and Akagi, but I may have after he spoke, and when I handed it to him during a break, he inscribed the matt "Dick Best, CO, Bombing Six, U.S.S. Enterprise, Midway, 4 June 42."
Oh. That's who this is.
Anyway, it wasn't until many years later that I realized I had a signature by a pilot from each of the U.S. carriers at Midway, as well as a pilot of each of the three aircraft that flew from the carriers. So in 2019 I built 1/72 models of Best, Gay and Leonard's aircraft, and display them with scans of the signatures.
By 2021 I realized that the paint colors I had used were not quite right, the kits used were poor choices, and my modeling skills had improved with experience. So I have started replacing the 2019 versions, starting with Bill Leonard's F4F-4. The retired kits will be repainted into other subjects - the Academy Wildcat will become a beat-up Guadalcanal veteran, the Airfix TBD will unfold its wings and move to the Lexington at Coral Sea, and the Airfix SBD will likely shift to mid-1943 on the new Lexington.
The 2021 Bill Leonard F4F-4
Lt. Bill Leonard was XO of VF-3 on Yorktown at Coral Sea and Midway. On 4 June he flew CAP over Yorktown during the Japanese attacks on the carrier, and after she was torpedoed landed on nearby Enterprise, where as the senior VF-3 pilot he reported to Admiral Raymond Spruance about the condition of the stricken carrier.
For his updated mount I chose the new mold Airfix 1/72 F4F-4, which includes the option for extended or folding wings, as well as a canopy in the open position. I opted for the folding wings because I already had two extended wing versions, and, candidly, I'm running short of display space. As with the other new mold Airfix planes, the kit is an absolute joy to build. I used Vallejo airbrush paints (which I am switching over to) and Starfighter's Midway decal sets. They don't actually include Leonard's "13", but do include enough numerals that I could cobble it together.
The folded wings really do conceal most of the detail, but as I mentioned, I'll have several other Wildcats with extended wings, so one with folded wings will be a nice change.
The build log is at https://www.scalemates.com/profiles/mate.php?id=48557&p=albums&a=new
11 additional images. Click to enlarge.