VMO-151, U.S. MARINE CORPS
SAMOA, DECEMBER 1941 – JULY 1943
1/72 Curtiss SBC-4 "Helldiver"
Heller; kit number 285
History on the aircraft modeled:
My model represents one of the
twelve SBC-4s assigned to Marine Observation Squadron 151 (VMO-151) and used to
patrol Samoa for Japanese submarines that usually preceded invading forces in
the months just after Pearl Harbor. These twelve "Helldivers"
represented the last biplanes to serve combat duty with the United States and
were replaced by Douglas SBD "Dauntlesses" in July 1943. It should be
noted that VMO-151 (Squadron Marine Observation) was redesignated VMSB-151
(Squadron Marine Scout Bombing) in September 1942, while still flying the SBC-4.
Additions, modifications, etc.:
Heller's kit included an
instrument panel placard with overstated raised gauges. I sanded the placard
smooth and after painting it black I applied individual decals from a left over
SuperScale sheet for Mustangs. The kit also included a floorboard, pilot's
control stick, pilot's seat, and radio operator/rear gunner's seat.
I added rudder pedals from sheet
styrene for the pilot and rudder pedals for the radioman from wire stock. I also
added radio equipment to the rear cockpit from sheet styrene and the hollow stub
for the radioman's control stick from drilled-out styrene rod (the control stick
was stowed when not needed). An antenna reel was simulated with a Waldron
punched disk of sheet styrene. The pilot's headrest was constructed of a Waldron
punched disk and copper wire.
The rear gun mount was
constructed from sheet styrene and Plastistrut U-shaped strip. The radioman's 30
caliber machine gun was scratch-built from hypo tubing and sheet styrene with a
FotoCut photoetched brass sight ring. It was also displayed in the stowed
The directional finding antenna
between the pilot and radioman was constructed from copper wire wrapped around a
Waldron punch of sufficient size, cut, and then soldered to a straight piece of
like-sized copper wire. After the solder had cooled, I sanded the antenna on
three grades of sandpaper double taped to a sanding block. This was painted
semi-gloss black and set aside for attachment just before the canopy.
The entire interior, including
the wheel bays and engine cowling interiors, were painted Model Masters Zinc
Chromate Green acrylic. The antenna reel and radio boxes were picked out in flat
black, whereas the pilot's headrest was brushed in red-brown and given a little
skin-oil wipe to sheen it.
The pilot came from some surplus
figures sent to me from an IPMS member in California. I first primed the figure
in Tamiya Medium Gray and hand painted it using Tamiya and Gunze acrylics. The
entire figure was given a black wash and highlighted where needed. The radio
operator/rear gunner came from the same batch of surplus figures. I primed this
figure and painted it in the same manner as the pilot. Both figures were
cemented to their individual seats and then to the cockpit floorboard, with the
pilot being shimmed so as to sit higher in his seat. Thin strips of masking tape
painted Tamiya Buff were attached once the figures were in place to represent
shoulder harnesses. Harness buckles were cut from True Details photoetched belts
and cemented to the masking tape.
The kit's engine was given some
push rods constructed from fine wire. The ends of the two exhausts on the
exhaust collector ring were drilled out. I painted the engine Polly-S Metalline
Pewter, picked out the push rods in semi-gloss black, and the crankcase in
neutral gray. A one inch section of 3/32nd brass tubing was installed to the
engine to serve as a prop shaft holder.
Although barely seen, all main
landing gear struts were altered and assembled as they would appear in the
retracted position. These were painted Polly-S Flat Aluminum just before joining
the two fuselage halves. I also engineered the struts so that each would be
sturdy enough to attach the main wheels after all painting. I cut card paper
masks to fit the struts and wheel openings during painting.
This is where Heller's kit is a
charm. All pieces, with exception of the canopy, fit as well as any kit today. I
replaced the horizontal stabilizer supports and aerial wire attachments on the
top wing and vertical tail with copper wire.
Before adjoining the fuselage
halves, I opened up the forward machine gun port and cemented a block of sheet
styrene at the rear of the opening to except a hypo tubing gun barrel after
painting was done. The radio operator's reel antenna was simulated with wire
stock also and coated with epoxy to give it the bulb-shape seen in references.
This was painted flat black and attachment held off until final assembly.
Aileron trim tab adjusting rods were done with fine aluminum thread wire.
The kit's rear wheel represented
that of a carrier-borne SBC with the small solid rear wheel. Land-based
"Helldivers" used a larger wheel with a pneumatic tire. I simulated
the rear wheel with a front wheel from some left over 1/144th scale stock and
copper wire. The wheel strut door was cut from sheet styrene.
The bomb came from True Details
resin cast bombs and the bomb cradle was constructed from soldered copper wire.
The pilot's telescopic gunsight/bombsight was constructed from two sizes of hypo
tubing and attached in final assembly through a predrilled hole in the
windscreen. The forward scope mount was made by wrapping the hypo tubing with
The kit's propeller was used
after cutting off the prop shaft and replacing it with a one inch section of
1/16th inch brass tubing. The lower port wing landing light was sanded flush and
drilled slightly. All landing and flying wires were done with stainless steel
wire, whereas all aerial wire was simulated with smoke-colored invisible thread.
Landing and flying wire stiffeners were done with stretched sprue. All aerial
insulators were done with small drops of epoxy painted flat white.
Painting and decaling:
The entire aircraft was first
primed in Polly-S Light Gull Gray (FS 36440), which was listed as the
undersurface color for patrol aircraft of this time period. After masking the
lower surfaces all upper surfaces were painted Navy Patrol Blue Gray. In the
IPMS color guide this is listed as FS 35189, but other references show it as FS
36118, which to my eye looks more like British PRU Blue. I mixed 3 parts Polly-S
Ocean Gray to 1 part Polly-S Duck Egg Blue and achieved a very good match for FS
35189 and this is the color I used.
All National Insignia were from
SuperScale's 1/72nd scale sheet for early World War II. The squadron
identification letter and numbers were done with black dry transfers applied to
clear decal film.
All recesses for control
surfaces, cowling slats, and foot steps were shadowed with a technical pen and
india ink. After a final coat of Polly-S Clear Flat I rubbed the finish lightly
with cotton swabs and cotton cloth strips.
The port wing landing light was
painted bright silver and given a drop of epoxy after the paint had dried.
Likewise all wing, rear deck, and rudder navigation light were represented with
epoxy and painted clear red, clear green, and clear white as required.