P-40N (F-Toys VS9) of the 45th FS - Gilbert Islands, early 1944

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Tim R-T-C
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P-40N (F-Toys VS9) of the 45th FS - Gilbert Islands, early 1944

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Early March 1944, on a dusty, sun baked island a thousand miles from anywhere, a newly qualified pilot recently transferred to the 45th FG is excited to take a P-40 up for his first patrol. After two years of training and an endless journey to the islands that covered more ocean than he ever thought existed, the young Alabamian was hopeful but nervous that he might encounter a roving Japanese plane during the flight. Taking a ride across the airfield in a filthy jeep he is rather disappointed to find his mount is a very well worn and weirdly coloured plane and is especially disconcerted when the mechanic starts ratcheting around a tool box to find a spare part that is apparently needed to open the cockpit as it sticks easily...

The remote Gilbert Islands in the mid-Pacific, midway between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea, were the scene of some bloody fighting in the Pacific War during late 1943 and early '44, notably the Battle of Tarawa which saw bitter fighting between the USMC and entrenched IJA forces.

As part of this operation, the 45th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group were transferred first to Baker Island, then to the newly secured Gilbert Island as they fell to US advances. The 45th FG were famous for their exploits with P-40B fighters, defending Oahu against the IJN on the 7th December 1941, but were subsequently left to defend the Hawaiian islands against non-existant threats for the next two years until finally getting a chance to strike back against the Japanese.

On the tiny Pacific Islands they endured hardships of dysentery and plagues of flies, but were at least able to fly ground attack operations against IJA hardpoints and in early 1944, co-ordinated with USAAC B-25s to spring a trap on Zero fighters and give the Warhawk pilots a chance to claim several scalps. By March however the war had moved on from the Gilbert chain and the 45th FS pilots returned to Hawaii - later training on the ultra-long-range P-51 escort operations over Japan itself.

While operating on dusty, desert islands, many of their P-40N mounts were repainted locally in what is recorded as a 'sand over light blue' colour to disguise them on the ground and from Japanese AA. While several good quality monochrome photographs confirm the existance and bold iconography of these aircraft, no detail of the precise colour is known - reports vary from a light sand to a pinkish hue and as a non-standard scheme it is possible it varied between each aircraft.

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The kit is the F-Toys model from their VS-9 series. The sandy scheme is included in the collection, although it comes pre-painted in all-over sand, which some earlier profiles do show for this aircraft, although most reports suggest a two-tone scheme.

I over-painted the kit with a light sand (AK 3G Iraqi Sand) and a light blue, somewhat randomly chosen because they were the first suitable colours I came across. To add some character, I decided to add some chipping to represent the field-applied paint peeling off and the OD/NG scheme underneath. Although this is not visible in any photos, it seemed plausible to me that particularly after the end of active combat operations and the preparation to return to Hawaii, the maintenance on these far flung islands might not be the most thorough.

The only real difficulty in construction was the decals - the F-Toys decals in this series are incredibly thick and simply would not conform to the fuselage sides. I ended up peeling and sanding them off and replacing with alternatives from the stash. (I made the same mistake on a Ki-44 too, I will definitely be ditching the roundels from the rest of this series).

The double-wire antenna was not the easiest to rig, but looks effective with 0.07mm wire at least making it visible, compared to some of the thread solutions.

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I didn't have a diorama in mind when I made the aircraft, but I did stumble on an old bag of palm trees purchased off Amazon a while ago. The dimensions seemed acceptable and many photos of the islands show these trees. It did have a very shiny plastic look, so I primed and fully repainted it, blending it to the base and adding some laser-cut paper ferns for undergrowth.

The PSP is an offcut from the Sweet Avation sheets, the jeep is a whitemetal piece from Arrowhead Minatures, filled with Brengun accessories. The figures are from Heroes Models - their US Navy pilot and one of the excellent new shirtless figures.

With their addition it was all complete

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