Jump to content

Models Go to War


ewahl
 Share

Recommended Posts

All of the thirteen photos I am posting under this topic were shot when I was about 17-18 years old and a senior in high school in 1959. I was heavily influenced by the air combat footage that I was seeing in school and on the television (B&W back then).

 

I had a high-tech studio for a teenager: I used an open room in a corner of our basement that had cement walls and open joists on the ceiling supporting the floor of the bedroom above. I brought in power with an extension cord and a cube tap. I had a 4'x8' sheet of masonite over which I stretched a white sheet to remove folds and wrinkles for my background. My artificial light for the camera was from a giant photo light bulb screwed into a hanging work light cord socket. My camera was the good old plastic Kodak Brownie Bulls-Eye fixed focus camera attached to a tripod borrowed from my father. I used b&w roll film. What little money I had was spent on models and film and developing.

 

From my other threads under Photographing Your Models, you know I enjoyed building models (still do!). Remember that all the models you see here are 1950's vintage, so they have all the inaccuracies, fictional markings, and mushy detail that came from the molds. I recall acquiring and building 3 Me-109's, 3 B-24J's, and 2 B-17's for these shots, so you will see them repeatedly in the various pictures.

 

When I was a high school freshman, CBS ended production on their live historical recreations on You Are There anchored by Walter Cronkite. They followed up with 24 half-hour episodes of Air Power, which caught my attention because of the use of authentic historic avaition footage and the occasional snips from Hollywood productions to fill in where needed to tell a story. As a junior taking the required history classes, the school could order film reels of Air Power, and the teacher DID! I even arranged for personal viewing of the reels after school just to see the action again.

 

From the Air Power episode: Schweinfurt (Black Friday), I made up the following shots with the B-17 models.

 

An Me-109 attacks a crippled B-17, already trailing smoke from an engine fire.

OldPhoto25.jpg

 

This B-17 has a fire in the fuselage and is beginning its final spin to the ground.

OldPhoto26.jpg

 

I recalled the specific shot on film of a crippled B-17 with its right stabilizer and elevator broken off (by a falling bomb from an aircraft above) beginning to slide out of formation. There is a feathered prop and a broken stabilizer (trimmed with bits of aluminum foil) on this B-17 (along with the obvious supporting white thread). I discovered that the white sewing threads against the white sheet background illuminated by the photo bulb would disappear if seen from a certain direction; this angle missed the mark a bit, and the threads stayed visible. Proof: It is a model!

OldPhoto27.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All of the photos here were inspired by the Air Power episode: Target: Ploesti.

 

Suspend your belief that the USAAF flew the B-24D models instead of the B-24J models I used here. No model of a B-24D existed then, so the B-24J had to do. I did not know the difference back then, anyway, so I went blissfully into building the models I had.

 

I made these photos to illustrate my senior research paper on the August 1, 1943, Ploesti mission. I had seen the episode both on TV and recently after school, and I wanted to know more. I wound up in the Chicago Public Library asking for magazine articles dating back to 1944 that told bits and pieces of the story from the perspective of surviving airmen. Actually, I updated my original senior high school research paper into my freshman college rhetoric research paper with the better resources of the University of Illinois Library. When I got my paper with the photos back from my instructor (who was originally skeptical about what I could find on such a wild topic), there were no marks anywhere on the paper until the last page: "A. This was very interesting. I flew that mission, and never knew what went wrong with it." It turned out he was a waist gunner in the third group, and he had not told me this until after class.

 

177 American B-24's, built to bomb at high altitude, are coming into the target at 30 feet. The single richest target in all Europe lies before them. We hope to win it by surprise, before the enemy can organize his defenses. The objective is oil. The Romanian oil field under attack is Ploesti.

OldPhoto28.jpg

 

The lead mission navigator's plane went down without breaking radio silence crossing the Mediterranean, and its place was taken by the first group's commander and the mission general Uzal Ent; their navigator was a new 2nd Lt. Over the objection of the young navigator, Gen. Ent turned one town short of the IP, forcing the second group to follow, and began a bombing run on Bucharest, which was the headquarters of the German air defense command. Seeing the refineries miles off to the left, radio silence was broken, and Gen. Ent informed of his error. Swinging around, the two groups began an approach from the south along the most heavily defended route they had hoped to avoid. They met groups three, four, and five approaching from the opposite direction, and the mission went to pieces.

OldPhoto29.jpg

 

Alerted, the Germans threw up flak and small arms fire at the bombers, setting short fuses and aiming at low to flat trajectories. One German gunner reported sighting a bomber through the empty barrel of his gun, slamming in a shell, and firing it right through the airplane. Gunners in windows and turrets of the bombers were engaging gunners on the ground as they flew past.

OldPhoto30.jpg

 

A pilot reported that 12 of his outfit flew into the smoke, and only nine came out the other side.

OldPhoto31.jpg

 

Through the defensive flak, smoke, and dodging aircraft flying over the target from all directions, the B-24's bombed as best they could. [Oops, I was young and did not know that a B-24 had roll-up bomb bay doors, not the clamshell doors used on a B-17. The "bombs" here are just bits of sprue tied together on a single thread.]

OldPhoto32.jpg

 

54 bombers were lost on this mission, with only some of the crewmen able to bail out. Few survivors escaped back to Africa; most were captured or died of injuries.

OldPhoto33.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alerted by the wrong turn of the bombers, the German pilots stationed nearby were able to get into the action.

OldPhoto34.jpg

 

This is another of those famous shots of the left wing of a B-24 breaking off at the root. I set this shot up before I glued the wing onto the fuselage. I wonder how the attacking fighter could have caused such damage.

 

OldPhoto35.jpg

 

Of course, not all of the German fighters escaped undamaged.

OldPhoto36.jpg

 

A few were destroyed.

OldPhoto37.jpg

 

That's all, folks! I hope you enjoyed the history and show.

 

Ed

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perhaps someone more savvy than I am can explain where the checkerboarding came from on many of the photos. This seems to have been added by the software as the photos were inserted into the post. I'll edit and fix the entries if that will help.

 

Ed

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Amazingly well done Ed, especially considering the limited techniques back then! They remind me of those "controversial" WWI pics that for years were passed off as actual combat dogfighting pics from the Great War. Thanks for sharing!

 

GIL :smiley16:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Man, these were the most awesome pics I've seen to date! You were one incredible person Ed! I always dreamed of doing something like this back when I was a kid. But where I just dreamed about it, you did it! Way to go!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You just don't see that kind of creativity from teens anymore. Too many video games and not enough imagination.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You just don't see that kind of creativity from teens anymore. Too many video games and not enough imagination.

 

 

I'm not so sure that kids' imagination is lacking, but more likely the siren call of instant gratification is where the video realm (also texting, etc) captures them.

 

Hence, hobbies like scale modeling may remain more attractive to the older folks who do outgrow that trap and seek out something more personally rewarding.

 

Just my 2 cents.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

MODELS GO TO WAR...as in "WARGAMING" - !

 

A couple of Airfix Shermans, used in miniatures wargaming c.1980. Photographed about fifteen years later:

 

Wargame_2.jpg

 

 

1/72 Hasegawa Stuart tanks, hunkered down in a European town, during a miniatures wargame. The unfortunate Sherman beyond the tree at right was hit by artillery and is shown 'brewing up' by a piece of cotton on top

 

Wargame_1.jpg

 

 

Ummm...since this topic is supposed to be about photo techniques: The two Shermans were photographed with a pinhole lens on a 35mm SLR and the b/w wargame shot was taken by another guy who was a lot better with cameras than I am.

 

 

Edited by VonL
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, Bob,

 

Thanks for joining in the fun on this thread with your armor photos. I like the dimensional quality to the photo that's contributed by the structures. Shooting in b&w also adds that "old" look to the authenticity of the photo. Were there any foot soldiers in the scene? Probably not, but you must have been playing the war game by a set of rules that determined how and when you could move your armor pieces.

 

As you have used cotten to simulate smoke, that's the same wonderful material I used in my aircraft photos. For the flak bursts I added some drops of india ink (I was using the india ink in drafting class for inked mechanical drawings) and then fluffed some white cotten to mix it in. With the harsh light and white background, all the camera saw in some shots was the black ink.

 

Let's hope some our viewers here will add their own shots to the thread.

 

Ed

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Ed - Glad you liked the pix. Yours are likewise very inspiring, to include the inspiration to dig out some more of these golden oldies. Some wonderful nostalgia here.

 

To answer your question: There were a bunch of foot soldiers running around in that scenario, just not in that particular view. The rules comprised a very simplistic fire-and-move procedure with weapon ranges and defensive 'armor values' (dice roll modifiers) assigned to each type of vehicle/aspect to hit and kill.

So the games rolled along pretty fast. But they were bloody...and humbling. As you can imagine, the big, late war German tanks were especially tough opponents. If a foot soldier was hit by anything, he was killed outright, IIRC. But foot soldiers were much harder to hit when prone, shooting from behind cover, etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

I thought I was done with this topic long ago. Apparently not. About three weeks ago I came across the box that has contained the parts for these aircraft models for the last 54 years. I was 17 when I took the photos, now I'm 71. Same numbers, just reversed.

 

Of the three Me 109 aircraft models, I had the parts for two complete models. The third one was missing one horizontal stabilizer piece and the pilot's head piece. The decals were still snugly attached after 54 years without peeling. I had applied them all back then. I washed the accumulated grimy dust off the parts and reassembled them. The prop disks are the originals. I have no idea what happened to the landing gear pieces or the prop blades. I simply reassembled them as they were originally built without any effort to "improve" them.

OldPhoto38.jpg

 

I had three B-17G models, but I only assembled two because I ran out of time to get the photos set up. The third one had all its paint and decals applied, but the parts were never glued together. I had all the pieces with the exception of one top turret clear piece to complete all three. I had to make four new prop disks because the old ones had curled over the 54 years. I used all the new prop disks and a scratchbuilt top turret piece (made from a slice of acrylic rod and carved to shape and painted) on the bomber with the broken tail (I found the broken piece in the parts box, too). I needed to make six national insignias to replace the old decals that had fallen off. I used the main landing gear pieces for the one model not previously assembled along with the two remaining props with blades. Somehow 54 years ago I reasoned that the tail numbers should not be the same on all three, so I cut up the decals and created two new numbers (they all contain the same digits). Notice that the models had clear pieces for the nose, top turret, ball turret, radio compartment window, astrodome, and waist gun stations (which are not staggered and both in the forward position), but no clear pieces for the nose windows, cockpit windows, and tail gunner's windows. There were no guns for the top turret, ball turret, or waist guns, yet the chin turret and tail gunner had them. Notice also the huge rivets all over these aircraft, which is typical of early plastic models.

OldPhoto40.jpg

 

OldPhoto41.jpg

 

While I did not mention it, I also came across the B-24J models mostly in parts. I am rebuilding one as it looked back then. For the second one, I am removing all the rivet detail and otherwise cleaning it up for a natural metal Alclad II treatment. I have one original decal sheet for the rivet model, and I'll use aftermarket for the metal model. Pictures will be posted when they are completed and shown side-by-side.

 

This detour down memory lane has been fun. The models will never see a contest table, so I never gave a thought to doing anything more than to making them look as I originally needed them to look.

 

Which company made these models? Lindberg and/or Aurora are my guesses. They look so much more real in b/w with my old Kodak Brownie Bulls-eye than they do in color with my digital Sony.

 

Ed

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ed, I think these models deserve to be at a show. Maybe not on the contest table, but certainly on the display table along with the original Brownie photos. Do you still have the camera? That would really complete the display!

 

p.s. I didn't know Starfix existed back in the late '50s!

Edited by DaveDeLang
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Hi, Jim,

 

Thanks for the nice words about my teenage ancient history photos.

 

Hi, Dave,

 

In the garage while looking through an old box for something else, I FOUND the old camera and its flash attachment. I'll post a photo of it here one of these days.

 

Ed

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...
  • 4 months later...

It seems appropriate to call attention to this old thread today because August 1, 2013, is the 70th anniversary of the August 1, 1943, low-level mission by the USAAF flying out of Africa against the oil fields of Ploesti in Eastern Europe. Look at the model photos above and read the brief narrative of the mission. Over 50 bombers and 500+ men were lost on this day. We should not forget them.

 

How many of us built the 1/48 ProModeler B-24D in "Hail Columbia" markings? The box art on this kit is great!

 

Ed

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good call - !!!

 

Upcoming is also the 70th anniversary of the Schweinfurt raids by 8AF. In honor of these fallen warriors, here's a redux of a few snaps taken years ago in the Wichita Hobbytown. The formation comprises a bunch of the old Revell Memphis Belle B-17's, plus a few Academy 144th and 240th birds, arranged in a forced-perspective formation/diorama overhead by our club. The store owner described at least two instances of old bomber crewdogs eagerly describing it to their great/grandkids. This was a FUN project, that started with the store-owner's lament that the old Revell kits weren't selling.

 

B-17Formation_HTUSAb.jpg

 

B-17Formation_HTUSAa.jpg

 

B-17Formation_HTUSAc.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, Bob,

 

Thanks for posting these new old photos. Take away the ceiling tiles in the pictures and you have an authentic look to the b/w fuzzy images high in the sky above the clouds. I liked that old Revell 1/72 B-17F except for its poorly shaped front cockpit windows and the extra wide cowling openings. There was a day when it was the only kit in that scale available, and I built one back in the 1960s. I finally tossed the model out because of irreparable damage over 40 years of keeping it around.

 

Ed

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 years later...

Simply amazing and wonderful work.  Some of the miniature work in Hollywood movies from the time was not much better.  Thank you very much for sharing your work.

 

David

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...