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Classic Wings Magazine WWII Naval Aviation Research Pacific Luftwaffe Resource Center
When Hollywood Ruled The Skies - Volumes 1 through 4 by Bruce Oriss


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2021 4:01 pm 
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So after building a 1/48th scale Jeep for my father last year for X-MAS, I was wondering how to top it this year. At the same time my parents bought a pre-built shed that was supposed to be the Jeep's home in the case of an emergency. Well that went out the window, and its quickly become a club house of sorts. In the process of decorating, a couple of 1/48th B-24s in 320th markings (that were built by my grandfather back in the day) were hung up, and we figured we needed one more to lead the group. So what better way than to build a near accurate version of my grandfather's B-24? This was to be a gift to my dad for Xmas to hang up in the clubhouse cabin in the backyard.

This was to be a build B-24J in the markings of my grandfather's aircraft: "Queen of Hearts" from the 90th BG "Jolly Rogers", 320th "Moby Dick" Squadron. The aircraft my father and I have come to identify most with his father's (my grandfather's) service while with the 90th BG. Peter J. Soltis flew over 40 missions in 1944-45 in the South Pacific aboard various B-24s in the 320th BS. But it's 0185 we see him most around in pictures. So it's become "his plane" to us.

First, a collection of most of the pictures we have of 0185 to showcase how I went about researching.

How the aircraft we've identified with his time in the 90th BG the most, 0185 named "Queen of Hearts".
This is an earlier image of her before the nose art was applied.
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Another early shot of her. Probably when she first arrived. Note the polished fuselage. It is assumed this is still from the factory.
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A rare port side view of the aircraft. Or at least we believe it to be 0185. There were a few aircraft with near similar shark / whale mouths. We know that the "Queen of Hearts" had bomb tallies later in her career on the port side, and it was the one thing I didn't have confirmation at the time when I built the model. But I am planning on adding then in the future.
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Some sort of PR shot with locals.
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Close up view of the "Heavenly Body" Vargas artwork with hearts in her cape.
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Side profile shot after the nose art was added.
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And finally a lovely painting by an unknown artist that coincidentally featured "Queen of Hearts"!
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So a little info to go along with the pictures. My father has be researching the 90th for years. And we've gotten lucky a few times. Year's ago received the typed transcripts from one of Pete's fellow crewman, Anthony Cerelli. We have my grandfather's diary from during the war and where he kept all the info about each mission. But the descriptions are pretty short, cut & dry, and matter of fact to say the least.

We get a slightly clearer picture when we add Anthony's accounts into the mix.
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The Crew
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On Mission 3, the number four engine is hit, and had to be feathered.
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On Mission 19, engine four is hit again and feathered. I decided I would model the B-24 after this mission.
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So with that out of the way, I started on this build. I found a trusty Monogram 1/48th B-24J and dove in. I approached this build as if a 20-something kid would have, back in the late 70's when this kit first came out. Trying to accurately represent a real aircraft that has personal family history, but not letting myself get bogged down in the weeds or sweat the small stuff.

Shot of the decent interior. Nothing special done inside except for some basic painting and adding a pilot and copilot.
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All the major subassemblies before being glued together. (Note: if I ever build another 1/48 B-24, I'm going to try the subassembly technique. This monster proved to be a handful in my tight workspace.)
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The two pilots: "The Ed's". I scrounged for some decent figures out of the extra box. I found enough for the two pilots and three turret gunners. No ball turret in this Liberator as far as we know.
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I did some hacking on the # 4 engine (as we know this engine was hit and feathered on multiple missions).
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After major assembly. The fuselage windows were masked, canopy masked and glued in place. All major holes plugged, and it was ready for paint.
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The skull and cross bombs were designed in Illustrator and cut out on a cricut machine. They are oversized to the original, but I was so pleased with the rough example after all the tape was pulled, I figured it'd be fine if it was a little bigger.
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The inboard rudders did not come out great. Alot of touchups were needed.
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After touching up the red and white, I applied the vertical blue band on the front of the rudders. After removing very sticky masking tape, it removed some of the red. DOH! Like I said, there was a lot of touchups on this bird.
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I was going to use the Cricut machine do the same for the shark (whale) mouth, but due to the dwindling days until Christmas, I figured it would just be easier to hand paint it. I drew the design in pencil, then thin marker. And then just started applying paint. It was a back and forth process to try and get it as close to accurate as possible.
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I photoshopped the nose art to have the hearts on her cape and printed it out on white home printer decal paper. I made the name in Illustrator and printed it on clear home printer decal paper. I still need to add small bombs on the port side.
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I bought aftermarket props to switch out the inaccurate ones that come with the kit. I also bought a stencil detail set to add small stencils all over the plane.
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I did suffer a pretty major setback during the build though. I foolishly assembled the entire plane before any of the detail paintwork on the tails or fuselage was done. That led me to trying to use a box as a sort of paint shield to spray paint the various sections. While trying to awkwardly handle the plane in my paint booth (aka the backstairs to my apartment building) the model slipped and fell to the floor. The fuselage splitting down the center, with the tail section coming off and cracking in one place. Everything else was fine. Without skipping a beat I picked up the pieces, went back into my office, and started gluing. I had no time for grief or being upset. I was on a deadline!
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I've only ever done a few other 1/48th scale models (this being the largest by far) as I usually stick to 1/144 or 1/72 but I was certainly a challenging build. I might try and build my grandfather's aircraft again, but in a diorama setting on the ground, with alot more detail and trying to get it as close to 100% historically accurate as possible. But that won't be for awhile as I've got alot of other projects in the works.
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Needless to say I do believe the old man liked his present. I received these shots a day after X-MAS.
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The other J and D model were built by my grandfather back when the kits were probably first released. I think he'd be quite proud of the result.
I have alot of bombs that came with the 24 and plan on creating a similar dropping technique like the D model in the back. I also have two replacement props for the other J model.
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Hope you enjoyed. Happy modeling!
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Last edited by Warbird Kid on Thu Dec 30, 2021 4:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2021 4:21 pm 
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Very nice story and I'm sure your father was very happy with the gift and very proud of you building it for him.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2022 4:07 pm 
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Chris, great present idea and nice job... :drink3:

Phil

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2022 11:14 am 
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Wow - looks great - I am impressed!

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2022 8:07 pm 
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Awesome project! It's great that you were able to honor your grandfather and I'm sure your father really appreciated the gift. It certainly looks at home with the other B-24s.

I never would have thought to use a cricut for model markings. That's a creative idea. Major props hand painting that shark mouth, too. That had to have been challenging.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2022 6:30 pm 
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