P-47D-30-RA  57th Fighter Group, 65th Fighter Squadron, Mediterranean Theatre

Should you see a WWII fighter with yellow ID stripes and/or numbers (not letters) on the fuselage, it's a pretty safe bet that it's an aircraft of the MTO.  Famous examples are the airplanes of the 332nd FG (aka the Tuskegee airmen) and another P-47 of the 57th, the Hun Hunter #40.

Norma was, of course, the P-47 now replicated at the New England Air Museum.  They chose a plane from the 57th because the group trained at the Windsor Locks Army Air Base, which was renamed Bradley Field after a pilot of the 57th was killed in a training accident.

"Norma" was the name of a nurse that Lt Brad Muhl (pronounced Mull) added to aircraft #54 to impress a nurse he met at a dance in Italy.  She took that as a sign that he was serious about her and they married in-theatre.  A 1996 feature in the Hartford Courant reported that their marriage was in its 52nd year.

Norma has been kitted by Hasegawa in both 48th and 72nd scales.  Their decal sheets were the only markings available when I started this project in 2005, but I chose to use the Tamiya kit instead of the vintage Hasegawa plastic.  My build was over 80% finished (including decals) and on schedule for display at our NEAM show when my retina detached for the first time in October 2005 and the model got put aside for a couple of years.

Hasegawa's instructions called for painting the topside of the airplane overall OD and their decal sheet included only the Norma name.  I could see in B&W pictures on the web that the coloring was not uniform and that there were additional names (Helen and Little Bunny) on the plane.  This is not proof that the subject never looked differently, but the evidence was strong that Hasegawa's information was incomplete.  I felt I was compromising, but proceeded as they instructed.  Then, during my downtime, Eagle Cals created a decal sheet in all scales for Norma (plus two other P-47's). 

One of the things modelers hate most is new information after we've passed a point of commitment.  Eagle Cals not only had the missing names, their directions also had color versions of the photos that I had previously seen.  They also explained that the aircraft had been reacquired from the Brazilian Air Force and that the color variations resulted from painting over Brazilian markings.  After considering the best way to add the additional color, I made paper masks using low tack "Post-it" glue.  I mixed acrylic paint (so that I might be able to wash it off with water if I had a disaster) and sprayed at very low pressure.  The result was good enough for me.  There were probably more areas of over painting on the real plane, but I've completed all that I'm sure about and don't want any more new information.  A wash of very light tan was used to unify and tone down the upper surface colors.  Finally, I tried to break up the monotones and add a few stains using Tamiya "Weathering Masters" which are like little make-up packs.

Although Muhl mostly referred to destroying ground targets, I did not know what weapons he used.  So I outfitted the model with drop tanks (more typical of an air combat mission) as the picture seems to show.  I would have preferred to change the center metal tank to a another paper tank but not at the cost of another $20 kit.  Although Tamiya's directions show some typical loads without a center tank, they do not point out that you must make that decision early in the build since the kit is molded with an open slot that would need to be filled in before painting.

The Tamiya kit is a gem.  The only problem area was the fit of the windscreen (which I fit after painting).  Due to the molding process, the two short blast tubes (per wing) are molded with a recess while the two longer tubes are molded solid.  I replaced the problem pairs with Cinemeca tubing that I purchased at Craftec.  I'll also note that Tamiya includes two styles of exterior rear view mirror, designed to be butt-jointed via an attachment point that's literally the diameter of a pin, then to forever reside in a very vulnerable place on the model.  Fortunately for me, none of the pictures show Norma with a rear view mirror.  Tough luck for the carpet monster.


  • American Fighters Over Europe; FineScale Modeler Books, 2006

  • Bradley Field, the First 25 Years; Thomas C. Palshaw, 1998

  • Flying High with Norma; Lary Bloom, Hartford Courant, 1996

For additional insights into the air war and daily life in the MTO, I recommend "The Wild Blue" by Stephen Ambrose.  And, of course, the greatest novel ever written (imho) "Catch 22" by Joseph Heller.