(I wrote this back in ’03 and it was published in The Styrene Sheet, Silicon Valley Scale Modelers’ monthly newsletter. It seemed worth putting up here too.)
On the morning of April 19, 1942, USAAF Lt. Col Jimmy Doolittle was sure the raid he’d led against Japan had failed. 15 of the 16 B-25s had crashed or crash-landed and the 16th was interned in Vladivodstok. He told a fellow flyer that he expected to be court marshaled when he got back to the United States.
Instead he received a hero’s welcome, the Congressional Medal of Honor and promotion to General. All the other flyers were decorated as well. Though the physical damage done by the raiders was negligible, the raid raised U.S. morale amid a flood of defeats and reversals. It also confirmed Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s intention to bring the United States Navy’s carriers (The Army Air Corp’s B-25s had taken off from the USS Hornet) to battle and destroy them once and for all.
Barely seven weeks later, in the waters north of Midway Atoll, Yamamoto’s diffuse and over-complicated plan to force the U.S. Pacific Fleet into battle would end in a stunning defeat for the Imperial Navy. Japan would never recover the strategic initiative. In this sense the Doolittle Raid can be regarded as the first turn of what Winston Churchill called, “The Hinge of Fate”.
When Bill Ferrante asked the members of the Silicon Valley Scale Modelers for volunteer builders to reproduce Doolittle’s Raiders in 1:72, back in 2002, I couldn’t stop myself. I had to sign up. I’d read pilot Ted Lawson’s wartime memoir, “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” in the 4th or 5th grade, and built the old box-scale Revell B-25 kit a few years later. I’ve seen two 1:72 aircraft carriers in two different museums and thought they were really impressive. I knew the subject and liked the idea. I even managed to find the kit for myself at Hobbies Unlimited.
Italeri’s B-25B kit is neat and straightforward, with generally good fit and a few, minor, accuracy problems. External detail is mostly raised lines, though the control surfaces and oil coolers are recessed. There is no surface detail on any internal parts, other than two lumps representing seat cushions in the bombardier’s nose compartment. About what you’d expect from a kit of 1970s vintage.
My Doolittle Raider was (4)0-2268, #16, the last to take off from the USS Hornet. Sadly, this crew were all captured by the Japanese Army and two, Lt. William G. Farrow and Sgt. Harold A. Spaatz executed after kangaroo trials. The other three crewmen were P.O.W.s until the end of the war.
I started building by reading the instructions. No, really! There are optional parts for a B- 25B (120 built) or the first mass-produced model, the B-25C/D (3915 built) Bill Ferrante supplied copies of a three view from Bert Kinzey’s, “B-25 In Detail & Scale”, the markings instructions from Accurate Miniatures B-25B Doolittle Raider kit, a copy of the Italeri instruction sheet for the “B/C” kit* and computer-printed decals for each individual plane.
(FOOTNOTE: Some volunteers apparently received the PBJ-1 Navy/Marines version of the kit, Bill Ferrante had to scrounge for kits.)
Kinzey’s book recommends the Italeri kit as the best available but cautions to check references for specific details- good advice! The kit comes with clear parts and markings in the fuselage halves for what to cut-away for two pairs of mid-fuselage windows; horizontal oblongs for the radio compartment aft the with wing spar and vertical ovals at the belly turret sighting station.
All references agreed that the radio compartment windows should be cut open for the plane of the vintage I was modeling, but the sighting station oval windows became my first research obsession. Until long after I ran out of research time, I was unable to find a clear photo or a drawing that showed this area on a Doolittle Raider B-25B or representative sister ship.
After I’d committed myself by gluing the fuselage halves together, I found suggestions that the sighting station windows should be opened, but the window shape not exactly as supplied by Italeri. (Accurate Miniatures’s B-25B kit has TWO windows on each side for the sighting station and no windows for the radio operator. See their on-line build-up at http://www.kithobbyist.com/saw/AM_Online_Builds/b25/b25_build_1.htm)
It was also clear that the radio compartment and navigator’s compartment windows should have rounded corners, and possibly smaller sizes, than the kit supplies. I decided to go with what was in the kit, guessing that this would match most of the other builders’ work. I made the same call in leaving the “C”-and-later tail bumper as molded. The references clearly show a retractable tail-bumper but Bill’s notes didn’t specifically suggest the change, so I left it.
Italeri’s kit design traps the three landing gear legs between the fuselage and nacelle halves, so I wanted to paint them before major assembly. This became my second research obsession: What color did North American paint their gear legs and wheels? I even enlisted my loving wife, Jean, to pour over black and white photos and try to guess whether we were seeing gray, green or a metallic paint. She was very kind and agreed with the mistaken conclusion (light gray) I had at the time. I finally concluded a medium metallic gray was right, a “steel” color, and then found Kinzey specified the same in the D&S book. (Which I bought after I started painting). This “steel” color was used for the gear legs, wheels and the flat hubcap on the nose-gear leg.
Doolittle Raider Colors:
Upper exterior surfaces and seat cushions: Poly Scale ANA 613 US Olive Drab (note this is 1940s Olive Drab, not the modern FS 34087 version)
Lower exterior surfaces: Poly Scale ANA 603 US Neutral Grey.
Landing gear, legs, wheels: Tamiya XF-56 Metallic Gray
Interior surfaces, gear wells, turret and engine cowls: Poly Scale ANA 611 US Interior Green
Engine crankcases: Testor’s Model Master Acrylic Light Grey
Engine Cylinders: Metallic medium gray, can’t remember which.
Propellers & spinners, instrument panel, control yokes and pedestal, fake tail guns, fake ‘slots’ in tail dome for fake guns: Polly Scale NATO Tricolor Black (intended for uniform/armor camo?) Note: No safety markings on prop tips or manufacturers decals on blades. The Archers’ book suggests early ‘flat black’ for previously polished props was gloss paint thinned with gasoline!
Tires and deicing boots: Blackish mix of NATO black and Poly Scale US Earth Red FS- 30117
Pilot’s flying jackets, gloves, boots and goggles: Various Brownish mixes of US Earth Red and NATO Black.
Pilot’s uniform pants, shirts, flying helmets: Poly Scale Clear Doped Linen
Pilot’s faces: Various pinkish mixes of Gunze-Sanyo Radome Tan mixed with Poly Scale Red.
Pilot’s inflatable life jackets: Poly Scale USAAC Orange Yellow.
Upper turret machine guns: “Parkerized” gunmetal, NATO Black with trace of Poly Scale Flat Aluminum.
Tips and center of control yoke, landing gear oleo struts: Flat Aluminum
Pitot tube tip, zipper fob on life jacket: Weathered brass: Tamiya Gold and NATO Black.
Exhaust pipes: Rusty metallic red-brown. Mix of Black, Earth Red and Flat Aluminum
Doolittle Raider options/changes in Italeri B-25B/C kit, from front to rear, as built:
Omit machine gun in nose compartment
Smooth cowls with single exhaust stack on outside of nacelle.
Paint deicing boots on wings, horizontal stabilizer and rudders. Asymmetric deicing boots on wings between nacelles and fuselage.
Cut right exhaust stack short
Attach fairings over right side oil-cooler exhausts.
Cut open radio compartment windows above aft edge of wing and install windows.
Replace belly turret with kit-supplied blanking plate.
Make ‘broomstick’ guns from rod, bore two holes in tail dome for them, and paint ‘slots’ for ‘guns’ to elevate in.
Kinzey’s kit reviewer warns that the kit-supplied aft-bulkhead is entirely false- real B-25s had no such bulkhead, though Accurate Miniatures clearly depict a fuselage former that is several inches wide there. Behind the pilots was the navigator’s compartment, then the bomb-bay and wing-spar. I decided to leave it in to hide nose weight behind and so I didn’t have to extend the floor and improvise a navigator’s compartment. It appeared to me that most of the other volunteer builders made the same call.
The nose compartment aft bulkhead is more accurate, the B-25 had one, but it has an opening to what should be the pilot’s rudder pedals in the cockpit. The real B-25 had a crawl-way under the pilot’s side cockpit floor. So the opening is on the correct side, but too big and too high. I left this one as molded, figuring most of the others would too.
Since this model would be transported and moved by people other than myself, I worried that my usual white-glue for the clear parts wouldn’t hold. So I decided to glue the clear parts with the same Testor’s Non-Toxic Liquid Cement (blue label) as I use for regular styrene joints. I’d read about people using Future Floor Wax as a barrier to allow clear parts to be glued with cyano-acrylic (‘super’) glue, and so I decided to use Future on all the clear parts, sand it off the mating surfaces and glue with liquid styrene cement. I brushed the Future on carefully inside and outside, avoiding the mating surfaces as much as possible. It dried quickly and the results were beautifully clear and shiny transparent parts.
For the six fuselage side windows and the window above the navigator’s compartment, I taped the clear part in place with a 1/16” strip of blue masking tape, then touched the Liquid Cement dispenser’s tip to each corner of the window. Capillary action carried the glue all around the mating surface. The liquid glue did no damage to the clear parts. I was very pleased and will use this trick again.
When it was finally time to start major assembly, I began by joining the wing upper and lower halves, and taping them, and gluing the cockpit floor and fallacious aft bulkhead in place. Then I taped the rest of the major pieces together and poured small finishing nails into the cockpit unit it balanced level on my fingertips under the inner wings. Taking the fuselage halves apart, I cut the nails to the length of the cockpit floor using gas-pipe pliers and epoxied as many as would fit in the under the floor. Be careful you don’t block the nose-gear when doing this- after my epoxy cured, I had to use a Dremel tool to grind down some nails that prevented the gear from lining up between the fuselage halves.
I wanted the upper turret to work, since it would be less likely to be broken if the guns elevated and the turret rotated freely. So I pre-painted the turret ring exterior with the ANA 613 Olive Drab and also the fairing around the turret, before assembly. This meant that I didn’t have to flood it with paint when doing the whole exterior to get coverage. With these fiddly bits out of the way, I put the fuselage halves, landing gear, wings, nacelle halves and horizontal stabilizer together in about an hour. A little strategic taping held the nacelle halves so the top of the back end of the nacelle was flush with the upper surface of the wing, and the leading edge fillets of the nacelle were lined up with the leading edge of the wing. I was left with gaps to fill, but everything was at the same level as adjacent pieces.
I could see that the cockpit parts could be installed through the canopy opening, so I left the cockpit interior for after major assembly. The control columns are molded with funny little handles on the top, NOT associated with the yokes, and I couldn’t find any pictures or mention of anything in a real B-25 that coresponded to these odd additions. I should have cut them off but I wasn’t sure, so I left them. I shouldn’t have.
I should have sanded down the outside of the belly turret blanking plate, or opened the hole it filled, because the swelling of the plastic as the liquid cement dissolved it caused the blanking plate to heave up out of place. More tape pushed it down flush, but then it popped inside the fuselage. A paint brush handle, poked through the upper turret opening, held it against the tape on the outside, and more tape held the paintbrush handle in place. Crude, but it did the job.
Airfoil-shaped indentations in the fuselage halves really positively locate the wings, but I was worried about a gap requiring filling at the upper wing/fuselage joint. So I taped the wing halves toward the top of their fit and let cement run by capillary action into the joint. Later, I did have to fill the underside of the wing-to-fuselage joint, but not much, and no filler was required on the top.
I made a template from a sheet of corrugated cardboard, with a cutout to miss the fuselage, and checked that the upper surfaces of the wings had a slight anhedral. as the glue dried. B-25 outer wing panels were dead level at their centerline, with the taper in thickness making the top surface descend slightly from the nacelle to the tip All the dihedral for stability was on the inner wings. I had to bend the wings downward once but they stayed in place after that. All three landing gear legs were parallel and looked right. I was impressed with Italeri’s mold makers.
I let these major structure joints dry for 3 days before filling, sanding and adding the rest of the parts. Another trick to the assembly was that the engines are attached by their cylinder heads to a shelf on the inside of the cowlings. Not precisely to-scale, but the fit there should be close.
The rudders have two holes on the inside, each of which fit over pins molded on the end of the horizontal stabilizer. This locates the parts ok, but the strength of the joint is just the side of the rudder butted to the end of the stabilizer. One of mine got tilted after the glue dried; it’s not a very strong joint.
A neat but trying feature of this kit is that the entire nose is a single clear part. The floor of the bombardier’s compartment has to be tapered slightly to fit the curve of the fuselage side to fit down onto the shelves molded inside for it. Getting sidewall detail out into the nose would be an accomplishment. I didn’t add any here or in the cockpit. Is pretty bare looking, but at least there are seat cushions molded to the floor. I glued the floor in place and then the nose onto the plane all at once so the floor wouldn’t dry misaligned. The trick I missed was that the clear nose piece is about 1mm wider than the fuselage. If I’d known, I could have shimmed the fuselage joint from the front to the canopy and nose gear cutouts quite easily.
I later found an excellent web site describing how to build a Lend-Lease B-25 as supplied to the Soviet Union, which shows a this shimming and a beautiful cockpit and bomb-bay detailing job using photo-etched parts. (Ilya Grinberg’s B-25 In Soviet Markings. http://www.kithobbyist.com/VVS/ModelArticles/grinberg_b25.html)
I got all the major and minor parts assembled the night I was supposed to turn the completed kit in to Bill, but after the meeting. Luckily for me, he could meet me at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts at Willow Pass shopping center on Sunday, but I missed that deadline too. I did make it the following week. When he collected my kit, it was the 8th he’d received. He later told me that the last one arrived with 45 minutes to spare.
With all the major and minor exterior pieces assembled, I used my usual Squadron putty thinned with Aerogloss Dope thinner for filler and wet-sanded after it dried. A couple passes were required to get the top ends of the nacelles to match the upper wing surface, amost everything else was done in one filling and one sanding.
(note the depression ahead of the cockpit windscreen…)
For Poly Scale paint, I find thorough stirring and at least two brush coats are the key to success. With the Badger 250 paint sprayer, three to five coats with a little tap water for thinner (maybe 1:3, 75% paint, 25% water) seemed right to me. I use a bike tire pumped up to 65 lb/sq-in as an air source, a different air source might need thinner paint. After masking the upper turret, engine nacelle openings and landing gear with tape, I applied Ambroid’s green liquid mask material to the nose, cockpit and fuselage windows. It was hard to see as it went on and I wasn’t sure my canopy frames would be straight. I then sprayed 611 Interior Green for the inside of the clear nose and the canopy frames. Three coats, each allowed to dry to flat, only took about 40 minutes.
I then sprayed Poly Scale ANA 603 Neutral Gray on the undersides. I got horrible fish-eyes on the fuselage, but Poly Scale paint dries quickly and I was able to entomb the first coat in a second, very light one. A couple more light coats over that completed the gray. I let the gray dry for about six hours before masking it with 3M low-tack blue Masking Tape. I turned the edges up in the hopes of getting soft transitions from Gray to Olive Drab and started spraying paint. It was 11:00pm on Saturday night.
(note the various locations, ahead of the windscreen, behind the navigator’s roof window, at the joint of the horizontal stabalizer to fuselage, where I made a final pass filling and sanding after the gray but before the olive drab.)
Of course, everything went wrong. It took an hour to get a couple of coats, the paint was too thick, it wouldn’t spray right and I didn’t want to thin it too much since I was hoping to complete the model in less than 12 hours. If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.
In the cold light of morning I could see another coat of Olive Drab was needed- there was a markedly lighter, browner, streak across the fuselage and both wings. On top of everything else, the paint had settled while I flailed the night before. This time I thinned it correctly, to the consistency of whole milk, and it sprayed fine. Two quick coats, 30 minutes for working on props and wheels and off came the masking. I’d even gotten soft edges in some places, but hard or nearly hard edges in most. Still, it was good enough. You have to look close to see the transition between the Olive Drab and Neutral Grey anyway.
Unfortunately, when I started removing the Ambroid liquid mask from the clear parts, all the canopy frame paint came off with it. The skin strength of the paint was stronger than the bond it had formed to the Future coated clear parts! This was a major disappointment.
I cleaned-up as best I could, masked off the leading edges for the deicing boots and painted them with Poly Scale NATO Tricolor Black toned down with some Dark Red for a brownish, slightly oxidized rubber, look. I also painted the interior of the landing light recesses in the wings black. Then I cut out some appropriate sized circles of aluminum foil and glued them into the recesses, and covered them with the clear covers and more white glue. It looked good even before the white glue dried. After it dried, it looked perfect. If you run your finger along it you can feel that the covers don’t actually fit perfectly, or perhaps I swapped them left for right, but it looked great.
The upper turret looked great too, in spite of having almost no detail. The kit supplies only the turret ring, two guns joined with an axle and the clear dome to cover it all. After painting the dome with Future, it looked thinner than it really was. I lightly sanded its bottom edge and glued it to the lightly sanded joining surface on the ring.
The first trip to Krispy Kreme was high drama or low comedy, with me gluing the main gear strut braces and wheels onto the kit while Jean drove and our son offered helpful advice. There were no decals or canopy frames, I faked the fake tail gun with one barrel from an unused kit machine gun and the rear dome with the one hole molded in. It wasn’t really done, but we’d missed Bill because I delayed our departure while I painted the deicer boots anyway.
There’s a children’s entertainment place called “The Jungle” around the corner from Krispy Kreme, and we went there on this trip and the next; that’s how this model ended up costing me nearly $100!
Returning home, I got out my #000 brush and tried hand painting the interior green for the cockpit canopy framing. It wasn’t too bad, and in 15 minutes I completed all of the framing. After half an hour to dry, I got out the Olive Drab and painted the outer color on the framing. The overall effect was of too-thick canopy framing, but at least I had something. After the paint dried for a couple days, I discovered that I could trim it using a toothpick, something I read as a hint in Fine Scale Modeler. In an hour I managed to trim most of the framing down to size and straight lines.
There are clear photos of Doolittle’s plane showing two fake guns added to the tail dome. Besides the ‘gun barrels’, which appear to be thicker than the broom sticks of legend, someone had painted black ‘slots’ on the tail dome for the guns to ‘elevate’ in. Some references suggest different planes had different improvisations here, but I decided to copy the #1 plane’s installation for #16.
For my model I used 0.025 rod, 1.8” in scale, which appears smaller than the kit’s upper turret gun barrels. I cut two pieces about the same length as the kit machine guns and painted them black. I thought about different ways to bore holes straight through the tail dome but off-center, not an easy hole to drill. In the end I just bored through with a brand new X-acto #11 blade, working from outside and inside so the holes weren’t too tapered. I glued the “gun barrels” in place with white glue and glued the dome onto the fuselage with liquid cement.
Bill Ferrante’s custom computer printed decals came in two pieces, full size, color images and slightly reduced white backgrounds to go under each of the color images. Each was printed on clear material, so I had to cut them out very carefully, as close to the image as I dared. The red dots for the U.S. stars were separate. Some of the white backgrounds had streaks that I didn’t spot until I put them down on the model, but the blue star surround covered most of the streaks. I didn’t quite get the red propeller warning stripe lined-up over its background, and two of the tail numbers folded slightly as I applied then, as suggested, individually, over the background white versions. I applied a few decals every morning during the week, using Micro-Set to snuggle them down.
The trailing wire antenna guide has no locating hole or pin, so I picked a spot and glued it on, after scraping off the paint down to bare plastic. The two antennae on the top of the fuselage have locating holes, but the ADF “football” doesn’t, so more guessing and scraping were required to position it. The “football” had a big sink-mark that required filler and sanding before assembly.
No hinges or operating arms are supplied for the landing gear doors, so I just glued them in place after brush painting. I’d broken-off one of the prop-shafts at some point, so I bored into the back of the spinner with my trusty X-acto #11 blade and used Zap cyano-acrylic to glue a piece of round toothpick in place of the original shaft. A little sanding and it turned as freely as the stock part. As I added the last parts and decals, I touched up various deserving spots with paint.
I didn’t completely fix the sink-mark and glue blob between the windshield and the nose transparency until I’d sprayed the paint and removed the masking. Luckily, I was able to fill, sand and gently brush-paint without hurting anything else. And finally it was done. It was the second Sunday morning after the club meeting. I made an official travel box with a foam liner cut out to clear the landing gear and props, tied it to the foam with a big red ribbon, and we went back to Krispy Kreme’s parking lot. Bill Ferrante drove-up and parked on schedule, and I handed him the model while Jean took our picture. We headed for “The Jungle”.