Saturday, April 24, 2010

IXO Models 1/72 Ki-43-II Hayabusa &
Corgi 1/72 P-38J Lightning

2 models in one review today for one particular reason.They represent aircraft whose pilots engaged one another in combat over the skies of the pacific in 1945.

The P-38 represents a 475th Fighter Group aircraft, flown by the second highest scoring American ace during WWII: Major Thomas B. McGuire.

The other model represents a Nakajima Ki-43-II code name "Oscar" of the 3rd Chutai,
54th Sentai.It was flown by Japanese Warrant Officer Akira Sugimoto.

During my researh I came across two slighly different descriptions of the engagement. There is no particular evidence to know which one is correct, so I quoted both:

Richard Ira Bong (left) & Thomas McGuire in 1945On Jan. 7, 1945, Tommy McGuire led a flight of four planes on an early morning fighter sweep over the Japanese airdrome on Negros Island. Flying McGuire's wing was Capt. Edwin Weaver, whom McGuire had given demerits to when they were cadets in San Antonio. Major Jack Rittmayer and Lt. Douglas Thropp formed the second element. All were veteran combat pilots. The P-38's each carried two 160 gallon external fuel tanks. They spotted a single Jap fighter coming right at them. They departed Marsten Strip around 0615 and leveled off at 10,000 feet, but in the vicinity of Negros the weather forced their descent to 6,000 feet. McGuire led Daddy Flight to an airdrome over Fabrica Strip and made a futile attempt at provoking an enemy response by circling the area for approximately ten minutes. They were now flying at 1,700 feet.
When this effort failed, McGuire proceeded to another airdrome on the western coast of the island. En route, Rittmayer throttled back while breaking through the clouds and became temporarily separated from the rest of the flight. McGuire ordered his pilots to regroup, but learned that Rittmayer's aircraft encountered engine trouble. Thropp, therefore, moved into the number-three position.

Suddenly, Weaver spotted a Japanese fighter heading in their direction, 500 feet below and 1,000 yards ahead. The Ki-43 Oscar, piloted by Warrant Officer Akira Sugimoto, passed below McGuire's P-38 before either pilot could react. Meanwhile, Sergeant Mixunori Fukuda, piloting a Ki-84 Frank, was attempting to land and noticed his comrade's plight. Sugimoto fired into Thropp's aircraft, destroying one of the turbo-chargers. The Lieutenant's first thought was to drop his belly tank, but McGuire anticipated his intention and ordered his pilots to refrain from doing this. It is assumed he issued this order to avoid an early return to Leyte, thereby scrubbing the mission.

Rittmayer, meanwhile, had rejoined the flight and maneuvered his malfunctioning fighter to an advantageous position. He fired into Sugimoto's Oscar, frightening the Warrant Officer off Thropp's tail, but the enemy pilot didn't flee as anticipated. Instead, he turned his fighter tightly and fired several long bursts into Weaver's P-38. Weaver summoned McGuire's assistance.

McGuire's response was immediate as he turned sharply to the left, but something went wrong as his Lightning shuddered and threatened to stall. He sharply increased his turn in an attempt to get a shot at the enemy fighter, but his plane lost momentum and snap-rolled to the left. It was last seen in an inverted position with the nose down about 30-degrees.

Weaver momentarily lost sight of McGuire's fighter, but a second later witnessed an explosion. Sugimoto broke off his attack against Weaver just before McGuire's plane crashed. Rittmayer and Thropp pursued the damaged Oscar as it climbed to the north, and the young Lieutenant managed to deliver one last burst into Sugimoto's aircraft before it crash-landed in the jungle. He died shortly thereafter from six bullet wounds to the chest. Now Sergeant Fukuda arrived on scene and charged head-on at Thropp's P-38, but Weaver recovered from his ordeal in time to fire at the Frank. Rittmayer turned his aircraft to assist, but Fukuda caught the Major in a vulnerable position and fired a burst into his aircraft. The bullets struck the P-38 with telling effect, and it exploded outside the village of Pinanamaan. McGuire had crashed near this area a few minutes earlier.

Thropp's aircraft bellowed smoke from its engine, while Fukuda tried to advance on Weaver. When this failed, Fukuda chased Thropp and discharged a burst from his guns, but the lieutenant escaped to the relative safety of a cloudbank. Weaver sought to locate the Frank, but could not; he and Thropp returned to Dulag about ten minutes apart. They gave their combat reports, which disagreed on several points; and it wasn't until after the war that it became known that two, not just one, Jap planes were involved.


"Akira Sugimoto flew the KI-33-II on numerous occasions on rather monotonous home defence patrols along the norther coast of Japan during 1943/44. He finally saw action when the unit was posted south to the Philippines in late 1944, and on 7 January 1945 he took on a quartet of P-38s from the crack 431st FS over the Negros Islands. He was belatedly aided in this combat by the 71st Sentai's Sgt.Mizunori Fukuda in a Ki-84. During the swirling low-level dogfight, Sugimoto managed to force a P-38 info a fatal stall, its pilot, Maj Tom McGuire, crashing to his death. The Oscar II had been badly shot up during the engagement, however, and its pilot, realising the he would never make it back to base, force-landed the stricken fighter in a jungle clearing. Despite landing safely in a textbook wheels up landing, Sugimoto was shot to death by Philippino guerillas as he tried to extricate himself from the his crashed fighter."

Source: Japanese Army Air Force Aces 1937-45 By Henry Sakaida

The models: Mc Guire's P-38J in 1/72 is only featured in this model from Corgi's Warbirds series. Wheels up (or in-flight) configuration is fixed, no additional armament is provided and there is no pilot figure inside.

Sugimoto's Ki-43-II is the only 1/72 Oscar available in diecast.Apart from the dark panel lines and no-pilot figure, it's a decent model. Comes with optional tanks, stand and landing gear.

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