| The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, aka the Jug, has always held a special
place in my heart, simply because my grandfather flew this bird in World War 2, when he was assigned to the European theater. I have spent many a
happy time listening to his stories about the Jug and about the war, and when I was a kid I dreamed of making a Jug in the markings of a plane he actually flew. However, until recently there were no references or decals
available to me, then Aeromaster came through with its 404th FG sheets. Grandpa
was in the 404th Fighter Group, 507th Fighter Squadron, and his war started
for him shortly after D-day, when he married Grandma and then shipped out to
the front. 2nd Lieutenant Lee E. Tucker, the kid from East Millcreek,
then a rural community just east of Salt Lake City, soon found himself in St.
Trond, Belgium, flying close air support missions against the retreating Germans. St. Trond was very close to the front lines, and Grandpa,
along with his squadron mates, flew strafing and bombing runs against German troops, airfields, and supply trains. The squadron also escorted
bombers on occasion, and they had to fly "balls out" as Grandpa put it, to
with the B-26 Marauders that flew very fast through flak curtains.
Fortunately, Grandpa survived the war and is still around, and in very good health. When the Aeromaster sheet came out, I wanted to do a Jug that
he flew, and "Elsie/Lil' Butch" fit the bill. Though Lil'
Butch was his CO's mount (Maj. Clay Tice), Grandpa got to fly it in combat a few times, along with other 507th FS pilots.
| In fact, he remembers flying most of the
planes in the squadron; he was one of the replacement pilots that were shipped "over the pond" as reinforcements, so he never got his own plane.
The war in Germany ended in May 1945, and the 404th FG was earmarked for duty in
the Pacific. Grandpa was 4 days out of New York on a Liberty ship when
Enola Gay dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima. He would not have to serve in
combat any more; the rest of his service in the USAAF/USAF came in peacetime,
with the exception of Korea, when he was in Flight Test, and therefore, got to stay Stateside.
image below to see larger image
The P-47 evolved from the Seversky P-35, which was designed by Alexander Kartveli as a pursuit fighter for the US Army Air Corps in the late
thirties. The XP-47B prototype flew in May 1941, as war clouds were gathering over the Pacific, and was the largest and heaviest single seat
fighter of the time. It was designed around an R-2800 engine and
elliptical wings, and the plane was equipped with eight machine guns as well as a
"razorback" canopy faired into the fuselage. The P-47B
ended up serving Stateside with the 56th Fighter Group, which got familiar with the
The P-47C was the first version of the Jug to go into combat in
spring of 1943. By late 1943, the D version had been developed, with a
deeper underfuselage keel to accommodate drop tanks, to overcome the type's range/endurance shortcomings. Other modifications, such as additional
cowl flaps, and underwing pylons, also aided the Jug's effectiveness. The
Jug began to develop into an excellent all around fighter with the ability to absorb punishment that would bring down other planes, as well as the
ability to hit planes and surface targets hard. Eventually, the Jug set a
record for the most produced US fighter, with 15,683 being built. The Jug
only served with the USAAF in the ETO, Italy, Pacific, and CBI, but also served with the RAF, Free French, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, the USSR, and others.
One shortcoming remained, but it was a shortcoming common to most Allied
fighters. Namely, the "razorback" canopy limited visibility
to the rear. A prototype with a bubble canopy was developed, and the "Bubbletop"
became the standard equipment for P-47 squadrons, such as the 507th. Later,
dorsal fins were added to the P-47D-30RE and up, and retrofitted to earlier aircraft, to
improve stability (though Grandpa says he didn't really notice any difference). The P-47M high speed version with a souped up
engine and supercharger was introduced into the European theater just
before Germany surrendered, and the P-47N with larger wings and fuel capacity, as
well as an expanded dorsal fin and clipped wingtips, was developed for use in the Pacific. It saw service on Ie Shima just before Japan
surrendered. After the war, most Jugs were retired, but some served in the
USAAF/USAF (designated F-47) until 1949, when it was passed on to the reserves, which retired
them several years later. The Jug was almost done as a front-line fighter,
but did serve in combat in the Dominican Republic in 1964. The last
operational Jugs were retired by the Peruvian Air Force in 1969.
Around the time that I got the decals (early 2003) Tamiya came out with its 1/48 Razorback Jug. The decals were only in 1/48, not in 1/72nd, so I
departed from my usual scale for this project. I'd intended to buy
the Tamiya Jug and do this project with it, but the Tamiya Jug wouldn't come
out for a few months, and I didn't want to wait. I wanted to do this
project while Grandpa was alive, and in good health, so that he could see the
model of a plane he flew and I could present it to him. So I got a Hasegawa
P-47D-25 kit. I wanted to make this special, so I got myself a Jaguar resin cockpit on the
advice of several ARC'ers. I also got EZ-masks (by Chris Loney) and weighted wheels from Pend Oreille, and Charlie Arsenault kindly sent me an
accurate Hamilton Standard prop from his Tamiya Razorback kit (thank you Cheetah!).
I started out with the resin cockpit. It took several coats of Polly
scale interior green to get a good finish on the walls. (Grandpa remembers
interior green, the cockpits and wheel wells were painted zinc chromate yellow in the factory, but often repainted
interior green in the field).
I finished painting the instrument panel with flat black, then interior
black on the raised parts, and dabs of white in the instruments themselves.
Then I used clear cement on the instrument faces. My grandpa was impressed
when seeing it, and I found the look acceptable, though the instrument holes looked a little "deep". I was about ready to paint the rest
of the pit
and assemble it when the family cruise to the Caribbean rolled around.
I had a great time there, but when I got back I found myself wanting to do other
projects, like the Lightning. So the Jug languished for a few weeks...then late June rolled around, and for some reason I found myself
wanting to get this done. I think it's because my grandpa had a few
minor health problems and also was leaving for the family cabin in Arizona, and
I wanted to get this done and present it to him when he could enjoy it.
I used the Detail & Scale P-47 book to get the colors right for the
consoles. Interior Black (MM Acryl) was brushed on the consoles, then white and red
were drybrushed on various buttons. I also painted the map box, and
then decided to use the Black Box seat (yeah, I have that too) for the cockpit.
The Jaguar seat has a cushion molded into it, whereas the BB seat was
bare. Grandpa related to me how the seat was bare and how he'd sit on his parachute pack. I'd never known that before.
The assembly and painting of the pit went well, and I painted the
sidewalls of the Jug. The cockpit fit well without problems, and initial
of the fuselage went well. I got the wings and tail on, using Tenax 7R
weld the seams. But there were still a couple of problem areas on the wing
roots, so Tamiya putty went there. But the wing halves were a little flimsy, next time I'll use tube cement for the general join, then melt the
seams with Tenax or other liquid cement. During the subsequent
to get a good finish on the bird, I painted the engine and prop as well as
the resin wheels. The engine was done in overall steel with Tamiya
gunmetal drybrushes, and the crankcase was done in neutral gray. The prop was
gloss black, with SNJ mixed in on the spinner, then after the decals went in, I brushed Testors MM Acryl flat base. The wheel hubs are Tamiya Silver
Leaf, and the tires are done mostly in scale black (more on that later).
THE PAINT JOB
Okay, this is where I ran into a few challenges. One was that I lost
some detail when I sanded the wingroots. The Bare Metal Foil scriber
helped with that. I primed the a/c with Painter's Touch (by Rust Oleum) gray, and
it looked good. But there were a few flaws so I sanded them off.
tried another coat of primer....a bit of surface detail on the left side was
lost, so I used the scriber again, made some missteps, sanded, and applied
Future, then gloss black. Then disaster. There was cracking on the left
where the future was....so I had to sand and rescribe, and sand, and re prime.
I'd run out of Painter's touch primer so I tried a cheaper primer and that was no good at all. So it was back to the Painter's Touch primer, and
this time I got Painter's Touch Gloss black, and that helped considerably.
was now ready to spray Alclad. But I sprayed Polished Aluminum and it
a little too shiny. After talking to a few people, I got the bird reprimed,
polished it with my Twobobs sanding stick and some fine sandpaper Grandpa had, and sprayed aluminum. That looked better, and I used SNJ powder
it, then checked with Grandpa, he really liked that and it gave me the look I was after, the look of the metal in the pictures of Lil' Butch on the
Aeromaster sheet and provided to me by Cheetah. I masked off some
panels where I didn't use the SNJ powder, just to give the panels a duller, different look.
So I got to work on the flat black anti glare panel. I figured I
might as well start with flat black simply because I wasn't sure about using the
regular glosscoat/flatcoat technique on a BMF (though I understand
Alclad's pretty tough, I wasn't sure how it would affect the metal sheen). I
brushed MM Acryl flat black and used Tamiya tape to mask it off, which worked well
for the most part. I masked off the D-day stripes area on the lower
fuselage, then used MM Acryl 2 marine (formulated for brushing) Bulwark White, which went on great with 3 coats. MM Acryl flat black stripes
were then painted on, and I got the engine/prop assembly onto the a/c. I
now ready to weather the aircraft. Juan Martin provided me with very
helpful hints about oil washes, which I'd never used before. I used a small
dab of Grumbacher Academy black oil paint (available at craft stores) mixed in turpenoid and a fine camel's hair pointed brush to draw the oil in the
panel lines, and used a cloth to wipe off the excess. I liked the results
much that this technique will be a regular part of my modeling. I used
black pastel chalk powder and rubbed it in to make the gun stains. I was now ready to decal the aircraft....I spent 2 nights doing this, and
then I brushed on MM Acryl flat base on the decals to make them look
painted on. The red stripe below the black anti glare panel was the most challenging decal to deal with in this project, and I ended up with some
silvering in that area. Not too bad, but next time maybe I'll paint
the glare panel gloss black, then put the red stripes on, then brush flat base (there's another 404th bird with that marking I intend to do). I
finally was satisfied and ended up with painting the landing gear with Tamiya
Silver Leaf spray paint, then using the kit landing gear and Pend Oreille
weighted wheels, and came up with another problem. I'd never used weighted
before and may never use them again.....I'd superglued the wheels on at
the wrong angle! ("D'oh!" in my best imitation Homer
Simpson voice). I
tried to use debonder to get them off but they never came off, and in fact the debonder marred the Alclad finish on the right wing. So I sanded and
polished the area, then used SNJ powder, and finally got the area to look decent again. Next time I'll just use the regular kit wheels and sand
a little on the bottom if I want a weighted look. As it was I used
putty to make the tires look semi-okay, and used Polly Scale scale black
on the tires, plus some interior black closer to the wheel rims. A
little black pastel powder helped with making the tires look good.
Now a word about the clear parts. I used the EZ masks on the kit
and they worked like a charm when I sprayed Tamiya Silver Leaf onto the
Unfortunately, the force from the spray blew the canopy and windshield on their sides and I ended up getting unsightly overspray into the other half
of the clear parts. Next time I'll keep them pinned down or use
another method to do the frames. As it was I used a Squadron vacform canopy -
cut it out, sanded the frame bottom smooth, then used a Sharpie silver pen to draw the frames. It worked well. I painted the interior frames
a/c interior black, then glued them on. The windshield was a little
as the kit windshield is a little smaller than the vacform windshield.
(I have learned that the vacform windshield is correct, there is no
"step" like the kit depicts.) I simply glued the windshield with clear parts
cement around the area where the old kit windshield went, and glued on the canopy
in the open position. After attaching the guns, antennae and small
as well as belly tank and bombs, I was finished. I presented the model
to Grandpa and he loved it. He really likes the job I did on it and it
enjoys a place of honor on his computer desk shelf. The model also brought
memories to him, and lately I've learned a lot about his outfit and his wartime buddies.
images below to see larger images
I enjoyed doing this build, and I learned a whole lot. The Tamiya
sprue snipper was simply invaluable for all the small parts, and I introduced a couple of new techniques. I've also learned what NOT to do in some
areas. The bottle of debonder is likely not to see any use for a very long time,
if ever. And I've tried to improve my photography techniques, mainly by
taking pictures at 1280 by 960 fine resolution on my Fuji Finepix 1300, then resizing them to 640 by 480 in Paint Shop Pro 7. Also I tried doing a
with the prop spinning, with a fan in front of the Jug, after quite a few takes I found a couple I was semi-satisfied with. The PSP 7 grayscale
feature is great for "war period" shots too...and one shot was
the sepia effect. What really made this project special, though, was
doing it for Grandpa and learning a lot more about his war service....one of the
things he showed me was a photo album with him standing atop the wing of "Lil' Butch". That was the best part of the entire project.
REFERENCES: Bert Kinzey's P-47 Detail & Scale. Many thanks
to all who
have helped on this project.