Ruthie; Hasegawa B-25J Mitchell in 1/72nd scale

by Ed Potkai


Freshman English 101 required that I read a then-recent novel by Joseph Heller. Bitterly funny, Catch 22 turned out to be the greatest novel Iíve ever read. Heller based the work on some of his experiences as a navigator on the island of Corsica during 1944. For a long time Iíd wanted to pay tribute to Heller and his great characters. When Bombshell Decals released its 1/72 Corsica B-25 sheet, I could finally do it.

Heller served with the 340th Bomb Group, 488th Bomb Squadron. Bombshellís sheet covered only the 488th sister units, the 486th and the 489th. I chose to do Ruthie, arguably the finest nude painted in WWII. The big ď9Ē on Ruthieís tail identifies her as belonging to the 489th.
In March of 1944, most of the 340th B-25Cís and Dís were destroyed by an eruption of Mt Vesuvius. The unit was moved to Corsica and the aircraft were replaced with new B-25Jís in natural metal. After a raid on their base by German bombers, the group scrambled to camouflage the topsides of their airplanes. The aircraft were painted in the field with scavenged paint, thought to be British or Italian dark green.

In building this model, I wanted to develop skills in highlighting and shading, especially in the interior of the aircraft. To that end, I sprayed the interior with burnt umber as a primer. Then interior green was applied sparingly to portray the actual color. OD was applied to the bomb bay as shown in a reference. Washes and, finally, lightened shades highlighted the stringers and other details. Moving to assembly, as I began to glue parts, I found them often breaking off, taking the paint with them. A little research revealed the problem. That primer coat of burnt umber was an acrylic paint that I had mislabeled as enamel.

I was not happy to see that the nose gear strut (as well as the tail guns) needed to be attached before the fuselage halves were united. It is a thin part and I was certain that I would snap it off before the model was completed. Fearing that the repair would be forever fragile, I decided to forego adding weight to the front of the aircraft. Amazingly, I never did break the strut and balanced the model by attaching it to a PSP (perforated steel plate) base by Eduard.

The most challenging part of the Hasegawa kit is the nose, especially the bombardierís station. The model offered only bare sidewalls so I added a few black boxes that were depicted in a reference. I hacked away the boxed base of the bombardierís seat to make it look more like a folding chair than a place where he could keep his toys. The kit is molded to mount four forward guns while it appears the 340th only retained one. Test fitting the main windscreen revealed it to be slightly wider than the fuselage so I used a thin shim to broaden the opening. The bulkheads did not fit well and needed to be fine tuned before everything fit correctly.

I had past success in using Floquil Platinum Mist to depict weathered metal. But apparently I did not thin the paint enough to match my air pressure and I wasnít especially pleased with the result. A mist of Testors silver helped improve the look but next time Iíll use Alclad II. The top was Testors British Dark Green with oversprays of tan to vary the coloration.

The Bombshell Decals (get it? theyíre nudes on bombers) were superb and snuggled down beautifully when assisted by Mr Mark Softer and Mr Mark Setter. I did not apply the stencils surmising that they were probably sacrificed during the in-field paint-over.

As I added parts to the model, I became more and more afraid to touch it. With wings and tails and gear and guns pointing out in every direction, I was sure that disaster lurked. But somehow it became time to hang the props. With a salute to Orr, Nately, McWatt and, most of all, Yossarian, Ruthie was finished.