Considering that the adventures of Lieutenants George Welch (right) and Ken Taylor (left) and have been featured in two major movies (Tora! Tora! Tora! and Pearl Harbor), it is not surprising that there is more legend than truth surrounding their heroism at Pearl Harbor.
Welch left Purdue after two years to enlist in the Army Air Corps as a pilot candidate in 1939. In February 1941, he was assigned to the 47th fighter Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Field, Oahu, in the Hawaiian Islands. On the night before December 7, 1941, Welch and his friend and squadron mate, Lt. Ken Taylor, partied almost until dawn, then retired to Bachelor Officers Quarters at Wheeler Field. Their P-40's had been deployed to Haleiwa Field, a grass strip on the north coast of Oahu, for gunnery training. They were awakened by the sound of exploding bombs and gunfire announcing the Japanese attack. Dressing quickly, the raced outside to Taylor's car, pausing long enough to warn miles from Wheeler to Haleiwa, but Taylor drove it in 15 minutes despite being strafed by a Japanese dive bomber as they left Wheeler field. Haleiwa was so small the Japanese had overlooked it in their planning, so Welch and Taylor were able to become airborne without being attacked.
In less than a minute they encountered a group of Japanese dive bombers, and Wlech shot one down before his P-40 was hit by enemy fire. Welch paused to determine that his plane was not seriously damaged, and returned to the fight in time to see Taylor flame another dive bomber. Welch then knocked down another Japanese dive bomber and saw a second victim of Taylor's crash on the beach. Low on fuel and out of ammunition, they headed to Wheeler Field. They stayed in the cockpit while their planes were serviced, then began to take off just as the Japanese second wave attacked.
Taylor was wounded in the arm but ignored it. Welch shot down the Zero that strafed Taylor, then splashed another dive bomber into the sea. They landed to re-fuel and re-arm a second time.
By their third takeoff, all the Japanese attackers had departed. Welch was officially credited with four victories and Taylor two. Both were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Welch shot down another twelve Japanese aircraft flying P-39's and P-38's later in the war. Top USAAF General Hap Arnold called on Welch to resign his commission and become a test pilot for North American Aviation. He flew the XF-86 Sabre and was sent to Korea to teach USAF pilots how to use their Sabres more effectively against Russian Mig-15's. Welch was testing en early production F-100A Super Sabre to its limites when the aircraft went out of control and killed him, on October 12, 1954.
(Source: Carousel Leaflet)
Today's model is one of only a few 1/48 models I have in my collection, but I must say, it's also one of my favourites. This is one heavy and nicely detailed piece of diecast from Carousel, which comes with a pilot figure, grass field diorama base and optional retracted landing gear set. The only thing missing is a stand, which I replaced with a HobbyMaster one for the photos. Instrument panel and the rest of the cockpit interior is very well detailed, pilot figure fits-in easily and the canopy can be attached/detached firmly without any pressure on the sides. Even the landing gear itself is extremely easy to put in place, thanks to small squarish magnets which replace the usual plastic fittings. The grass effect on the plastic base is simply a printed sticker, not too fancy but still makes a nice display.
The real thing: P-40B Warhawk Serial 41-13297, part of the stunning Fighter Collection at Duxford. After delivery this aircraft was assigned to the 6th Persuit Squadron of the 18th Pursuit Group, based at Oahu, Hawaii. In October 1941, she had an accident resulting in a wheels-up landing. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 she was probably saved because she was in a maintenance hangar for repairs. 70 years later, she still graces the sky with its beautiful sound. Hopefully 2011 will see this beauty back in action during the airshow season.