Hasegawa 1/72 Republic P-47D Thunderbolt

The Hasegawa P-47D in 1/72 scale was first released in the 1970s and has been continuously available ever since.  Razorback and bubble-top versions have both been available from the outset, with few differences.  Though not a terrible kit for 40 years ago, it has not held up as well as other kits from the same era.  It had even less cockpit detailing than the typical Hasegawa kit of that time, which is to say about the same amount as Hasegawa’s British and American competitors.  The wells for the main landing gear not only were not detailed, but had a plastic flange running through them where the wings join the fuselage that was structurally unnecessary for the model and that would have blocked the wheels from retracting.  Worst of all for the purist, both versions were the wrong shape, with wings too narrow in chord and undersized rear fuselage and tail.

Despite these faults and the emergence if at least three superior kits in later years (by Revell AG, Academy and Tamiya), this kit continues to be bought and built.  The box art and decals have gotten more sophisticated and prettier, and the price has gone up from around $2.00 in the 1970s to about $15.00 now.  Why do serious modelers continue to build this thing, when they have abandoned many other misshapen kits of this vintage?  I suspect that the kit’s accuracy issues might have been forgiven because they actually make the kit look better than a real P-47.  When completed, this model looks lean and sleek; quite attractive, but not quite P-47.  Compare with, say, a model of a Spitfire, which to the extent it doesn’t look like a Spitfire, can only look not as good.

I threw this model together (my copy was a 1980s issue) using some 1990s Aeromaster decals for 42-27884 of William Dunham of the 460th Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group based in the Philippines in early 1945.  I left the shape issues alone but did some detailing in the cockpit and wheel wells.  At least 2mm, maybe even 3mm, has to be removed from the landing gear struts to make the Hasegawa kit sit at the correct angle.  Removing a section near the top, right under the kinked peg that inserts into the wheel well socket, seems to work the best.

I chose the color scheme because I liked all the stripes.  The 348th Fighter Group is one of several American units that have tried, at various times, to revive the red/white/blue tail stripes that were used on most U.S. military aircraft during the 1920s and 1930s.  The black stripes on the wings and fuselage were theatre markings intended to distinguish American fighters from those of Japan, which by 1945 were frequently seen in bare metal, as the Japanese aircraft industry was too desperately short on time and material to bother to paint them.  Some researchers think that the top of the fuselage should be painted black rather than olive.  My model reflects the majority opinion and I think it looks nicer too.

William Dunham (1920-90) commanded the 460th Fighter Squadron in 1944 and later became deputy commander of the 348th Fighter Group.  He stayed in the Air Force after the war, climbing the ranks to Brigadier General by the time of his retirement in 1970.  Dunham was credited with 16 air-to-air kills while serving with the 348th, five of them in 42-27884.  During this time, the 348th was engaged primarily as a tactical bomber rather than a fighter unit.  It “prepared” territory in front of the American lines for advance by attacking military targets, pioneering the use of jellied gasoline incendiary bombs, early versions of napalm.  These had the same horrific effects as later in Vietnam, often killing several hundred enemy soldiers in one mission.

I know of no restored P-47 painted in 348th FG markings.  In mid 1945 the group switched to North American P-51Ds and there is at least one restored Mustang that wears them.