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1/48 ICM P-51A

Gallery Article by Mark L. Rossmann on Sept 28 2010

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“1st Air Commando Grp. P-51A"

History: 

During the Quadrant Conference in Quebec Canada, August 14-24, 1943, Col. Orde Wingate proposed that his Long Range Penetration (LRP later coined as Chindit’s by the news media) concept be expanded to include eight brigades, four for combat operations and four brigades in direct relief.   President Roosevelt approved this idea and agreed to supply aircraft for support of these LRP units.  The initial request by Wingate was for one bomber squadron per LRP unit for close air support and a light aircraft force for each LRP unit to help evacuate the injured and sixteen (16) C-47’s.  Fighter aircraft would also be needed to protect these LRP forces and transport aircraft from marauding Japanese fighters.  General Hap Arnold saw this as the chance to regain the initiative in the CBI Theater and became determined to build a new Air Group that would be wholly dedicated to the support of Wingate Chindit’s

In August 1943 Supreme Allied Commander of SEAC, Lord Louis Mountbatten, met with General Arnold to discuss plans for American support for these British Chindit expeditions into Burma.  The new unit changed name's five times as it evolved, from Project 9 to Project CA 281, then to 5318th Provisional Unit (Air), then to Number Air Commando Force and finally 1st Air Commando Group.   The phrase ‘Air Commando’ was allegedly coined by General Arnold to honor Lord Mountbatten who earlier had commanded British Commandos.

Two individuals were considered for command of the group, first was Lt. Col. Philip G. Cochran, who was a very confident, aggressive and imaginative officer who had an excellent war record as a fighter pilot in North Africa.  (He was also the model for the character of Flip Corkin in Milton Caniff’s ‘Terry and the Pirates comic strip).  The second was Lt. Col. John R Alsion, an ‘Ace’ who had flown with Major General Claire L. Chennault’s 23rd Fighter Group.   After the selection and interview with both men by General Arnold, it is said the General Arnold ended the session with these words, ‘To hell with paperwork, go out and fight’.

The two new commanders were given complete freedom to gather men and materials.  Thirteen (13) C-47’s were acquired along with one hundred (100) CG-4A Waco Gliders for transport operations. Twenty-five (25) TG-5 training gliders were acquired for glider transport use into remote areas.  A dozen (12) Noorduyn C-64 Norseman airplanes were acquired, these to serve in a capacity between that of the C-47 and the gliders and the planned light aircraft which would be used to evacuate the sick and wounded.  For light aircraft, one hundred (100) Vultee L-1 aircraft were chosen due to their ability to carry 2-3 stretchers.  It soon became apparent that this number of L-1’s was not available, so the balance of the light aircraft became the Stinson L-5 Sentinel.  The L-5, although faster than the L-, it could only carry one stretcher and required a longer take-off area.  Last but not least, Lt. Col. Alison convinced the higher ups at Wright Field to send a Technical Representative to India to put to the test, the new Sikorsky helicopter, the YR-4, under actual combat conditions. The fighter requirement was covered when thirty (30) North American P-51A Mustangs were acquired.

Although Lt. Cols. Phil-lip Cochran and John Allison's men were Air Commandos from the beginning, the 1st ACG was officially constituted on March 25, 1944, and activated on March 29, 1944. The 1st ACG continued to support British forces in Burma through April in an impressive manner. The P-51 fighter assault element and B-25 bombers provided close air support for Wingate's columns. A Royal Air Force officer on the ground would pin-point targets by using mortar smoke to direct the Air Commando aircraft to their prey. On other occasions light planes based behind enemy lines dropped down to tree-top level to mark targets with smoke bombs. On April 4, P-51s armed with rockets attacked a concentration of Japanese aircraft at a northern Burma base. Caught by surprise, P-51s destroyed 26 Japanese aircraft along with two probable’s and eight damaged in this seven-minute attack; whereas a single P-51 took only a bullet to the wing. Col. Cochran also used a trick he had developed in North Africa, by equipping his Mustang with a weight on the end of a cable, zooming in low over Japanese telephone lines and ripping them out with the dangling cable. The small force of USAAF P-51/P51A Mustangs was rapidly depleted in combat and stateside training accidents. The Air Commandos had received the P-51A out of necessity and its rugged Allison engine proved to be well-suited to the Air Commandos' primitive operating environment.

The 1st Air Commando Group inactivated after World War II on Nov. 3, 1945. It appeared that the group was doomed to remain a non-entity, especially after the Air Force disbanded the organization on Oct. 8, 1948. However, events in Asia during the 1960s revived the need for the type of air warfare developed by the 1st ACG during World War II.

Mustang. I have built the Accurate Miniature versions also, and would say the ICM detail is comparable. The only thing is the lack of locator pins to match the fuselage halves and tabs for the flaps, but overall the kit is not bad and is about the only 1/48th Mustang “A” kit available in this scale. You can find a smattering of the Accurate Miniature kits in hobby shops or at model shows at times.  

I chose to build; “Carols Daddy” #18 from Broadway Strip Burma – 1943 and Col Cochran’s Mustang from Hailakanda India in 1943.The B-25H shown is the first 1/48 Monogram B-25 kit. I picked up SuperScale #48-992 and built “Barbie III” piloted by Capt. R.T. Smith, flying out of Hailakanda, India.

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Decals: 

I used SuperScale #48-1089 P-51A Mustangs of the First Air Commando Grp. The sheet comes with three aircraft options and two sets of stripes, one set is for “Carolyn’s Daddy”, the other set you need to decide between Cochran’s plane or “Mrs. Virginia”. A note before you apply the US insignia across the stripes, I would recommend putting some sort of white backing first over the stripes. You will notice on Cochran’s plane the stripes slightly bled through of the insignia.

I am curious of the dates on the decal sheet as they reference planes from 1943 and it is noted that the 1st ACG was constituted in March of 1944 and used the Broadway strip in April of 1944. But I will leave that to the reference contributors of the decal sheet.

Paint:  

On Cochran’s plane I used Tamiya Olive Drab spray AS-6, AS-7 USAAF Gray and Testors Silver for the prop nose. On “Carol’s Daddy” used Testors Olive Drab Spray, Tamiya AS-7 USAAF Gray and Testors Silver for the prop.

References:

  • 1.    Squadron/Signal publications #34

  • 2.    Osprey Aircraft of the aces #26 – Mustang and Thunderbolt Aces of the Pacific and CBI

  • 3.    SuperScale decal sheet 48-1089.

  • 4.    Air Classics – Air Commando Mustang 2006 by Michael O’Leary

  • 5.     www.comcar.org

  • 6.   Hulbert Field - Master Sgt. Jeff Michalke 16th SOW History Office: http://www2.hurlburt.af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123031979

Mark L. Rossmann

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Photos and text © by Mark L. Rossmann

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