On March 30th, 2012 I had occasion to visit the Annual Sun 'n Fun Fly In at Lakeland-Linder Airport in Lakeland, Florida. One of the many interesting aircraft at his event was Boeing EA-18G Growler BuAer #166899. At the time this was one of the newest additions to the fleet but it also had a very interesting paint job. The EA-18G Growler which was painted in the three color scheme, that was used through the middle years of World War Two, and there was a lighting bolt on the tail and right wing. The Growler was part of the Navy's Heritage Paint Project which was initiated in order to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of US Naval Aviation. Originally intended to repaint 18 aircraft as part of an effort to create living history of Naval Aviation the project would eventually encompass 30 aircraft.

       It occured to me that it would be a good project to build two model aircraft, one of the Growler and another of an aircraft from the era the Growler's paint scheme represented.

       I was aware that the US Navy instituted a system during World War Two to mark aircraft with geometric symbols on the vertical tail surfaces to identify which carrier the aircraft was based on. A chart showing those markings and the name of the corresponding carrier can be found on wikipedia by following this link: U.S. Navy Carrier Air Group Identification Symbols, January 27, 1945 - July 27, 1945.

       The lightning bolt on the EA-16G's tail was used by Air Group 85(VF-85, VBF-85, VB-85 & VT-85) which was assigned to CV-38 U.S.S Shangri-La. This was confirmed by a document found on a U.S. Navy website:Centenial of Naval Aviation - Heritage Paint Project. Which lists the aircraft involved in the Heritage Paint Project and what they are intended to represent. There is a typo in this document as the text for EA-18G BuAer #166899 says it was meant to represent an aircraft from CV-34 U.S.S. Shangri-La, the Shangri-La was CV-38.

       Knowing the lineage of the markings on the Growler gave clues as to what the "heritage" aircraft was to be for my two plane project. I started searching the internet for pictures of aircraft from Air Group 85 and came across a a site dedicated to VBF-85 that has lots of information and pictures about the history of Air Group 85 in general and VBF-85(Fighter/Bombing Squadron 85) in particular.

       By spending some time on VBF-85.com one can trace the history of the Air Group. Training began in the summer of 1944 and the Air Group was deployed on board the Shangri-La in January of 1945. These dates are signifigant because in March of 1944 the Navy directed that all fighter aircraft were to be painted overall glossy sea blue. There are pictures of Air Group 85 aircraft in the tri-color camouflage scheme from the training period, but they do not have the lightning bolt squadron designator. There are pictures of aircraft with the lightning bolt but they are all solid blue.

       At this point I contacted VBF-85.com who in turn contacted the Navy and it turns out there were some liberties taken in choosing the lightning bolt scheme for the Growler. The scheme was deemed not "historically accurate" but historical in representation. So there went my idea for aircraft from two eras with the same scheme. However, VBF-85 is dedicated to Lt. Richard T. Schaeffer who was lost on July 30, 1945, just days before the end of World War Two. On that day Lt. Schaeffer was piloting Goodyear FG-1D Corsair side #14 BuAer 86884. I decided to make this aircraft the subject of my next project.

       I chose the Tamiya F4U-1D (in the real world there is virtually no difference between the Vought F4U-1D and the Goodyear FG-1D) for this project not only for the aircraft kit but also because it included the moto-tug and I wanted to model a diorama representing a carrier deck scene. As I intended from the start to not only make a wings up carrier deck diorama but also to create a aerial diorama I built a second Corsair with the wings in flight position.

       There really isn't much to say about the assembly of the kits they went really smooth. I did dry fit the major parts and saw that there was not going to be any problems with gaps or fit. I then painted most of the parts while they were still on the sprue trees and just touched up the seams after assembly.

       Superscale Decal sheet 48-1042 includes markings for a Corsair assigned to VF-85. I used the lightning bolts on both sides of the tail but wasn't happy with the fit of the right upper wing decal so I created a stencil mask by laying a piece Tamiya's wide masking tape on a pieces of sheet plastic, cutting out the shape and then transferring the stencil to the model's wing. Between the kit decals and the superscale sheet there were plenty of warning stencils that I applied appropriately.

       The aircraft history card(available on VBF-85.com) shows the airframe was taken on charge by the Navy on February 6, 1945 and lost on July 30, 1945. This along with the pictures of corsairs on board the Shangri-La led me to believe that the weathering to be applied to the model should be kept to a minimum. The aircraft was painted with Model Master FS35042 gloss Sea Blue paint, the decals were applied using the Microscale system and then Model Master Clear Gloss Lacquer Finish was applied over the entire model. Once the gloss was dry Model Master Clear Flat Lacquer Finish was applied sparingly to the top surfaces and leading edges of the wings and tail.

       For the base of the carrier diorama Just Plane Stuff item # 18 "US & British Carrier Flight Deck" was purchased from Hobbylinc.com. My sample arrived warped and required some flattening if it was going to usable. By applying heat from a 100 watt incandesant lamp to the bottom of the base while it was on a flat surace the distinctive curl to the outside edges eventually disappeared.

       The first step in painting the carrier deck was to paint the lower base dark sea blue. Once this was dry the base was masked off and the entire deck was airbrushed using Model Master Wood. The next step was to mask off the tie down strips and paint these area Model Master Steel. When dry Model Master Rust was applied sparingly. The final step was to remove the masking from the upper deck area and apply Model Master 20-B Weather Deck Blue USN (S6). The Weather deck Blue was sprayed on unevenly to represent the weathering that is sure to occur on a carier deck.

       One of the Tamiya kits (#61805-3000) comes with a BNO-40 flight deck tractor and tow bar that added to the scene I wanted to portray. Also included in the Tamiya kits were crew figures. I used one of the pilot figures and the deck crewman who is driving the tractor. I also purchased Verlinden Products #1295 "US Navy WWII Flight Deck Crew" and used three of the figures from this kit. The driver and two of the crew are meant to represent plane handlers so their vests are blue, while one of the crewmen is the plane captain so his vest is brown.

       I wanted to try my hand at creating a scene of aircraft flying over their carrier. I started by purchasing a 1/700 scale Trumpeter kit (item # 05737)USS Hancock CV-19 which was the same long hull Essex CLass carrier as the USS Shangri-La CV-38. The ship was painted in Measure 21 camouflage of 5N Navy blue vertical surfaces and 20-B Weather Deck Blue that was the scheme of the Shangri-La in 1945. The # 38 decals were printed at home on my inkjet printer using Micro-Mark decal paper. The ship came with a clear plastic base that I painted to represent the waves around a ship in motion.

       I then took pictures of the completed ship and imported it into Adobe Photoshop Elements. I chose a poster size 20" x 30" canvas and electronically painted the entire area to look like the ocean. Pictures were then taken of the Corsair and then superimposed over the carrier.

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