1/72 Academy YB-40 - Destroyer Escort

Gallery Article by Douglas Conrady on May 25 2009

  Memorial Day 2009 


Well, here it is, my 4th submission to this great site.  Its a 1/72nd version of the destroyer escort version of the famous B-17.  I built this for a Reich Raiders group build. 

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Everyone knows what a B-17 does.  Some of you all out there might not know what a YB-40 does.  During the early years of the WW2 ETO and before the long range escorts were invented, the USAAC was losing bombers at an alarming rate.  The problem was the German fighters would wait until the fighter escorts ran out of fuel and left the formations.  Then they would pounce.  The Germans found out that an attack from the front was the least dangerous and most effective way to bring down a B-17.  And if they brought down the lead flight, so much the better.  Our solution?  Armed escort.  The thought was, build a heavily armed bomber to fly in the formation and escort the formations to and from the target.  The YB-40 was born.  They took normal Vega built B-17F's and flew them to Tulsa, OK to be modified into a gunship.  A chin turret was added to help protect from frontal attacks.  A second dorsal turret was added to improve the amount of lead being thrown, and the waist guns were doubled to help fend off those pesky ME's.  This brought the total of .50 cals up to 16.  Some other variations existed, but never made it past the mock up stage.  Another modification was that most of the bombing equipment was removed from the bomb bay and more ammunition was added in its place.  The YB-40 carried almost twice as much ammo per gun than a standard B-17.  There were 20 YB-40's made.  They were send to England in the spring of '43.  I haven't been able to find out where exactaly, but I think most of them went to the 92nd BG.  Although, several groups used the YB-40 at some time.  They found that the YB-40 concept was sound, but it did have a few flaws.  The biggest, and it's what killed the program, was that after the B-17's dropped their bombs, they were faster than the YB-40's.  This was due to the extra turrets and ammo that the YB-40's carried.  The operation commanders decided it was not worth slowing the whole formation down for a few planes.  Operationally, the YB-40's usually flew with the lead craft to protect it.  On the way home, they sometimes acted as a wounded B-17 to lure a few hapless Germans in close.  What a surprise that would've been find out that the "B-17" wasn't wounded, and it wasn't a B-17.  By the fall of '43 long range fighters started showing up, so the need for a destroyer escort wasn't needed anymore.  All YB-40's were sent home and were either converted back to B-17 configuration or used as gunnery practice ships.  All were melted down after the war.  The legacy of the YB-40 was carried in the chin turret and staggered waist guns.  Those were such a good ideas that they were adopted in the next version of the B-17...... the famous B-17G.

I started out with an Academy B-17 marked for the Memphis Belle.  After lots of research, I had decided this particular model had the look of a Vega B-17F.  For the conversion to YB-40, I got ahold of the Paragon set.  For the gun barrels, I picked up 2 packs for the B-17G from Quickboost.  I had to get 2 because of the extra guns the YB-40 had.  Decals were Super Scale for the B-17, Thunderbird. 

The basic B-17 kit went together perfectly.  I've never done an Academy B-17 before, but rest assured, I will be doing another.  Probably in my grandfathers unit, the red checked tail from the 385th.  The only issue I had, was the gun barrels.  They are nothing more than sticks.  There are no details on them at all.  I did have to do some modification to the B-17 to get everything to work for me.  The instructions say to put the top and belly turrets in when I glue the 2 halves together, but since I wanted to paint first, I made a shelf from plasticard for each turret, and cut the ledge off the turrets.  This way all I had to do was drop the turrets in the holes and glue to the plasticard.  This made it where I can't rotate the turrets, but I wasn't planning on doing any of that anyway.  Also, the area around the cockpit window was badly misshapen.  I went in and added more plasticard in several places to get the 2 halves to line up better.  The last hurdle was one of the wing roots.  The dihedral was off, so out came the plasticard again.  Got that fixed and it was all good. 

The conversion set is done in resin.  This had me concerned for a bit, since it was my first time using resin.  Paragon was smart, and had me cut along existing panel lines for the dorsal turret.  The only issues I had with the resin parts, was when I was working on the dorsal turret, I broke one of the guns off.  I was able to find and repair the part without further issue, but I had to make sure I was careful from then on.  The mold blocks on all the parts were thick, and I thought for sure I'd have issues with those, but upon careful inspection, one cut with the razor saw and the parts came off with almost no flash. 

Quickboost has done an awesome job recreating gun barrels.  All I had to do was cut them off and glue them to the turrets.  Can't get much easier than that. 

I couldn't find any decals for the 92nd, so I had to go find out which YB's went where.  A few went to the 303rd.  This is the same BG that Thunderbird is from.  There are several decal sets for this particular plane.  I did some looking, and the group and radio code that T-bird was using, wasn't in use when the YB-40's were on base.  So..... with some artistic licensing, I'm saying that a YB had that code before T-bird came.  The other info that made me use that set, is the grayed out letters that were in use at the time, the no bar on the insignia also correct for the spring of '43, and a larger insignia on the fuselage that adorned all Vega B-17's. 

When I blew the white primer on I had forgot to cover the top turret.  I thought, no big deal, I don't think I hit it that hard.  So.... I went on with the rest of the paint, not wanting to peel off my homemade set of masks.  (by the way, a Hasegawa B-17 mask set from Eduards won't fit an Academy, trust me)  After having issues with beading of the paint.  I still don't know what caused that.  I got everything looking the way it ought too.   I peeled of the masks, and much to my horror, the cockpit windows were white.  ARGH!!!!!!!!  Well, I took a Q-tip and removed the cotton and dipped it in the paint remover and swabbed all over the inside through the front dorsal turret hole.  SUCCESS!!  Miraculously, almost all the white primer came off.  You can still tell there is some, but only if you look just right.  Ok, now on to the decals.  Those went off without a hitch.  It was my first set of Super Scale, and I liked 'em!  To get the serial number correct, I had to cut and paste all the numbers.  

The bomb truck you see in the pics started life being an ambulance.  This was the Academy ambulance and bomb cart kit.  I heavily modified it to be the dodge WC-??.  I don't remember the model number.  The I-beam was square tubing that I cut in half and glued backwards, and then heated with a candle for the bends.  The trailer is completely scratch from odds and ends from my stashes.  I ordered a set of resin wheels for a M-8, this way I could get 6 wheels and have to only bought the 1 set.  The ammo crates are from Czech Masters.  I haven't done it yet, but there will be a few ground crew members loading up the ammo boxes. 

That's about it.  All in all it was a good build.  Most of the build couldn't have gone better. 

As a side note, about halfway through the build I found out the Oklahoma connection of the YB-40.  I thought that was pretty cool, seeing as I'm an Okie too.  Later, I was asked if I could bring the YB-40 to be in a display at the Tulsa, OK international airport.  The only planes allowed in, were planes that were either built or flown in Oklahoma.  I put a photo of the display in this set of pics, taken by my friend David Horn.  He is the one that coordinated the display. 

Thanks for looking and don't throw rotten tomatoes!

Douglas Conrady

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Photos and text by Douglas Conrady