|B.24D in RA Service by Gabriele Luciani – Lecce
IPMS Italy Card. No. 2112/91
During the second world war many enemy aircraft were captured by the Regia Aeronautica (the Royal Italian Air force 1923-1943): aircraft that would envitably undergo evaluation and comparative testing. The largest aircraft to fall into Italian hands was the Consolidated B-24 D 1-CO “Liberator” s/n 41-23659, nicknamed the “Blonde Bomber II”, based at Bengasi airfield (Libia). This B.24 was used by the “Pyramiders” squadron, the 98th Bomber Group formed from a mixed crew of anglo-americans of the 47th Bomber Wing, a formation of 15th Air Force. On 20.2.1943 after a bombing mission at Napoli, the “Blonde Bomber II” landed at Pachino, a small airfield near Siracusa, in Sicilia. The pilot Lt. Dan Story, deviating from his course as the sun was setting and believing to be heading in the direction of Malta shot several flares to confirm his direction, and apparently seeing return signal flares from the ground, according to Allied practice. Interestingly after the war, Lt. Story claimed his aircraft was hit in one of its engines by Italian anti-aircraft guns during the bombing mission over Naples and attempted to land his B.24 at the nearest airfield in Malta. However photos after the landing at Pachino do not confirm damage to the engines and the propellers do not appear to be feathered...The landing was not all happy because the Blonde Bomber II came off the runway sliding into mud... Immediately Italian units surrounded the “Liberator” and it took only one volley of machine gun fire to persuade the crew to rush from the aircraft, leaving the aircraft intact. In the following days, the B.24 was pulled out and repainted with the national Italian insignia over the previous USAAF/RAF insignia: interestingly the nickname on the right side and the pin-up girl painted on the port side of the front of fuselage remained unchanged as did the camouflage “desert pink” and neutral gray. On 24.2.1943 members of Centro Sperimentale (Test Centre) of the Regia Aeronautica at Guidonia (near Rome) arrived at Pachino. A few days were necessary for the pilots to familiarize themselves with the B.24 and on 4.3.1943 Captain Giovanni Raina, using the remaining “American” fuel in the tanks of the aircraft took the Blonde Bomber II into the air at Fontanarossa airfield, near Catania: Italian aviation fuel was too strong for the allied tanks and in Fontanarossa airfield there was only German fuel on hand. From Fontanarossa on 6.3.1943, Cap. Raina flew to Guidonia: during the months of March through May 1943, the B.24 was thoroughly checked over at the Centro Sperimentale. The plane was was then transferred to Foligno airfield, near Perugia in June. On 19.6.1943, by demand of the Luftwaffe, the Blonde Bomber II was transferred to Germany at Rechlin test centre for evaluation: after some days, a German ferrying crew of some experience lead the B.24 to the end of a special runway used to test undercarriages ... only for it to rupture !!! The fragile front undercarriage of the B.24 then broke and the Blonde Bomber II so remained in German hands...
Modelling the Blonde Bomber II
Until the early 1990s, the only way available kit of a B.24 D in 1/72 scale was the old Revell kit: luckily, from 1992, a new kit was available from Academy-Minicraft and is still the best kit on the market. That firm produced a series of models of the B.24 D each with different decals: one of these, Cat. No. 2135 (named “Nose art B-24D") is just devoted to the Blonder Bomber II, before its eventual capture by the Regia Aeronautica! This kit captures well the lines of the aircraft and the detail of the kit is quite acceptable: the panels of fuselage and of the wings are all proportionally engraved. The best (but also the simplest) manner to build this kit is to close the bomb bay doors and the two openings in the fuselage: Academy provide several parts for the interior however these are only acceptable and greater detailing is needed ... However when the Blonde Bomber was tested by the Italians, it was never used for bombing missions and so, it is quite acceptable to eliminate the bombs and the bomb arm-racks: utilizing the bulkheads and the floors gives more solidity to the model. The cockpit, the forward layer position and the rear turret are sufficient: the thickness of the clear canopies are hardly transparent so little can be seen in the interior ... Only the guns are unacceptable; an after-market detailing set would suffice. During assembly take note of the connection between the central fuselage and the forward part of fuselage. If you apply some care, putty is not necessary to use and you avoid erasing some rather beautiful injection molded lines and panels. The Blonde Bomber II does not have the forward landing gear panels; there was only two forward 12,7 mm guns (one on the left and one central) and the two rather oversized pitot tubes. Unfortunately, the transparent pieces (for the cockpit and forward layer position) are a little large for the pertinent quarters. Before closing the main fuselage, do remember to add ballast to avoid the model sitting on its tail!!! Joking aside, the instruction set (at least with a clear style) do not mention this rather important particular... There were no problems with the wing assembly which have a very good and strong connection between the wings and fuselage.
Camouflage and markings
As other Liberators of the 98th and 376th Bomber Groups, the Blonde Bomber II left the factory with the top surfaces in Sand 49 (F.S. 30279) and undersurfaces finished in neutral gray 43 (F.S. 36173-Humbrol 156 ) but after some operational use, the sand 49 was easily faded by the hot sun of the African desert. The colour undergoing some change into a quaint “Desert Pink” (F.S. 30213): for my model I used an old but precise paint of Gloy firm, the A 333- (ANA 616), however other acceptable alternatives are Humbrol 250 or Xtracolor X-32. The interiors were painted F.S. 34151, the structures of the landing gear in silver, the propeller and the edges of the wings and tails in black. The nickname and the pin up are from the kit supplied decals : this is the only subject, with the internal tail fin that you can use from that decals set if you'd like to build a model in Italian markings. For the latter, on the wing areas you must use four roundels with the three “fasci” with white background (use the four roundels of the Italeri 1/72 kit of Caproni Ca 313/314; however the roundels have 18 mm of diameter); on the fuselage you must paint the typical white theatre band used on Italian aircraft, appearing from 1941 onwards (in 1/72 scale the white band is large about 27 mm; loacted behind the wings and between the first window and the machine-gunners slot; also on the tails you must paint (also this is typical of RA aircraft) the cross of Savoy: large about 5 mm (1/72 scale) and overpaint part of serial number.
Building the Blonde Bomber II from Academy you can construct two birds in a single stroke: you can build a B.24 D and a four-engined 'heavy' of the Regia Aeronautica, the only four engined RA bomber availble to the modeler until the appearance of the recent Piaggio P.108 of Special Hobby and Mister kit ...
Aircraft: Consolidated B-24D
Manufacturer: Consolidated Aircraft Corp.
Engine: Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 Twin Wasp, 14-cylinder radial, air-cooled, 1,200 hp
Wingspan: 110 ft 8 in (33.52 m)
Length: 66 ft 4 in (20.22 m)
Height: 17 ft 11 in (5.46 m)
Weight: 60,000 lb (27,216 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum Speed: 303 mph (488 km/h) @ 25,000 ft (7,620m)
Ceiling: 32,000 ft (9,750 m)
Range: 2,850 miles (4,585 km)
Armament: 10 machine guns ; 8,800 lb (4,000 kg) of bombs
|Academy-Minicraft 1/72 B-24D
by Gabriele Luciani
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