Modeler’s Notes:

As some of you saw at our January Chapter meeting I have just finished the “new” Monogram A1H 1/48th scale kit. According to my dated notes, I started this kit in 1981—that’s not too bad….a little short of 20 years! Because no one even peaked at my notes during the meeting, I threatened to send a copy of these notes to our stalwart Editor and Robert said he might even print them in a future Newsletter. Now I finally realized how desperate we must be for material for the newsletter.


As I mentioned, this kit is almost directly built “from the box.” Aside from the antenna and drilling out the exhaust ports and a set of after market decals, this is the way it came from Monogram. It’s a nice kit and I recommend it, especially for it’s age and price, the Monogram kit and offers the modeler a pretty accurate and highly detailed kit and a good value for your modelling dollar. I believe it can be easily located in many hobby shops and though I haven’t seen it listed in the latest Revell – Monogram price lists, like most of their kits, I suspect it will eventually “be back in your modeling neighborhood soon.” I choose the AeroMaster decals over those in the kit which appear to me to be a bit “heavy” in their detail and appearance, not to mention that the film has yellowed considerably and I suspected they might not be up to current standards, expectation or application.

As an average modeler, I took this kit from the box and decided to build the “MiG killer” portrayed on both the box and accompanying instruction sheet and decals. Sounds reasonable, right? Read ahead for a minute or two.

Decal and Aircraft Marking Notes

Probably more than you wanted to know…..but. This model depicts a U.S. Navy “Spad” as marked and flown by Navy Attack Squadron One Seventy Six (VA-176), often known as the “Bumble Bees” and several other lesser nick names. The Squadron’s official name is the Thunderbolts. These markings came from the early AeroMaster decal sheet (no 48-365) and does not portray the well documented “412” a/c discussed below, which was credited with the remarkable feat of shooting down a jet powered MiG 17 in 1966. The Monogram sheet provides the Thunderbolt’s markings for a/c no. “412” (BuNo 135326) and appears to be based on the “photographic evidence” (see the notes below).

Which Aircraft Did LtJg Patton Actually Fly?

This question has often been written about and is discussed with authoritative notes in several publications and books. No less than AeroMaster (Gaston Bernel) and Cutting Edge (Dave Klaus) have both jumped into this fray as well. AeroMaster sort of solves their dilemma by saying the a/c modeled here using their decals is for a MiG killer flown by a “LCDR H. G. Zimmerman, who scored a MiG 17 Kill (sic) while flying this A/C during a RESCAP mission for a downed flyer, on Sept 10, 1966.” Strangely enough, this aviator’s name is not listed among any records or books I can find which list the names of those officially credited with MiG kills during the Vietnam conflict. For example, while there are numerous logs and lists of MiG credits from Vietnam, none I have found list Zimmerman’s name or that date for a kill. The combat records (at least those accessible via the internet) for the USS Intrepid also do not credit any MiG kills from their May – October, 1966 deployment to the South China Sea aside from LtJg Patton’s on October 9th. It is likewise not in either of the two major references by Bob Door. There is likewise no mention of such a claim by such well known authors as Norman Polmar, Peter Mersky, Barrett Tillman nor any notes in the Tailhook Association or the Association of the Naval Aviation Museum articles on Vietnam operations. My bottom line, at least at this date, is “no documentation (other than a decal sheet), didn’t appear to happen.”

While the Cutting Edge sheet notes appear to provide the final ending to this saga, there are lots of notes in well know books and articles about the A-1 which attribute Lt. Patton’s MiG killing Skyraider to a/c no’s 402, 404, 405, 412, 414 and 424 (which doesn’t even appear to be numerically possible for VA-176 a/c during that cruise). There are pictures of Patton taken with both 412 and 414, both of which appear to have been PR shots only. I haven’t seen any shots taken of Patton with other Squadron’s a/c or other carrier air wings, but they may be out there somewhere as well……

As you will see from the attached photo which was distributed widely through the courtesy of Harry Gann (who as many of you know passed away in early December, 2000), it attributes the kill to a/c 412. Even Harry wasn’t there and was at that time serving in his capacity as a public relations person for McDonell Douglas Company, who obviously was proud of their a/c’s successes in SEA. It is now been established that the actual “kill a/c” for Patton’s mission was a/c AK 409, BuNo 137543, not the a/c shown in this famous, often printed photograph. Like many photographs, this PAO shot “I was about to do this when the MiG suddenly turned into my wing…” was probably staged at Tan Son Nhut near Saigon a few days later. You will notice there is another VA-176 a/c in the background on the ramp area as well.

And just remember, Vietnam happened just recently, is well documented and we had lots of “live pictures at 5:00” and numerous PR types following the daily action in that conflict. It makes a guy wonder what really happened during WW I and WW II. It also goes to show that the modeler can only do so much research and the best job at your documentation, then fate seems to take over.

Color Notes

Another aspect of this aircraft and this particular squadron is the long standing discussion of the color the bee’s Flightpath. As you will see from some sources, it is often shown in a red color. From many color photos, written documentation and comments from former squadron, it is a “reddish orange,” not just red and certainly not a standard orange, but a very dark red-orange. On both the AeroMaster and Cutting Edge (#CED 48096) quarter scale sheets, both of which are out of print and becoming rather hard to find, you will notice there is a slightly different hue to the red in the bee’s “swoosh” and the efficiency E (which is definitely red). The Monogram “thunderbolt” is red as well and appears to be incorrect.

Monogram vs. Tamiya Kit

From my viewpoint, as a modeler just now “discovering” quarter scale kits again, the Monogram kit, built here, is far from the kit available almost 20 years later from Tamiya. Aside from the 20 year’s price increase, I feel the Tamiya offers greater detail all around. Since I have been working (with my apologies to of our “Modeling Deans,” Ted Holochuk, since he probably looks at my meager efforts and wonders: “what the heck is he trying to do anyway”) – I am trying Ted, honestly! In any case one of the key ingredients (as I understand Ted Sermon # 4 & #5, is that we need to work with the weathering on the model, any model, using the panel lines and they really need to be engraved. The Tamiya has these essential little details finely engraved…..well, o.k. not so finely done, but at least engraved. Whereas the Monogram, while it has all of the basic shapes and outlines done nicely, uses “surface details or panel lines” in most locations. These are much more difficult to work with and from all I can tell, downright impossible to replicate as a modeler? Hence I would strongly recommend the Tamiya kit, in spite of the price; this appears to be one of those many instances where the modeler really does get what you what you pay for.

LtJg. Tom Patton on the left, explains to Lt. Pete Russell how he maneuvered during the MiG engagement. (this photo courtesy of Harry Gann, who as many of you know passed away in early December, 2000) 

* It is now been established that the actual “kill a/c” for Patton’s mission was a/c AK 409, BuNo 137543, not the a/c shown in this famous, often printed photograph. Like many photographs, this PAO shot “I was about to do this when the MiG suddenly turned into my wing…” was probably staged at Tan Son Nhut near Saigon a few days later. You will notice there is another VA-176 a/c in the background on the ramp area as well.


Skyraider MiG 17 Kills
VA-176 Thunderbolts
9 Oct 1966

While flying a RESCAP mission over North Vietnam from the carrier USS Intrepid on Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf, four A-1 Skyraider pilots were engaged by four North Vietnamese MiG-17s. During this encounter, one MiG 17 was confirmed downed, another was probably downed, and a third was damaged.

This tape was provided by Walt Darran, Skyraider pilot from VA-165, a sister Skyraider squadron on the Intrepid (see notes below).

LtJg. Tom Patton on the left, explains to Lt. Pete Russell how he maneuvered during the MiG engagement. (this photo courtesy of Harry Gann, who as many of you know passed away in early December, 2000)

LCDR Leo Cook and his wingman LTJG Wiley were the lead section of Skyraiders working to locate and hopefully rescue a downed US pilot in North Vietnam. While maneuvering at low altitude between ridges and cloud layers, they were jumped by what turned out to be two sections of MiG 17s. Calling out the attack on their common radio frequency, Cook and Wiley fought for their lives. LT Pete Russell and LTJG Tom Patton soon arrived in the area and immediately gained a position of advantage on the MiGs.


Use the Internet To Study History for Modeling Research

The details of this encounter were taped by the intelligence officer on board the Intrepid after the incident. It is available to listen to, using the internet. While this tape recording lasts about 25 minutes, it is fascinating to listen to. The primary reason I recommend this is that many, if not most of us, were not involved in the Vietnam conflict and this a unique way for us to hear and “feel” the mission, as it was flown on that day, over 24 years ago now. This recording was made on the October 9, 1966 aboard the USS Intreprid. There is also a very nice color copy of this print on their web page.

The way to initially get into this subject is to access debriefing tape from the “Official A-1 Skyraider” web site. It’s URL was: <http// www.skyraider.org/skyassn/sartapes/migkill/migkill.htm>. I am not sure if this site is still available.


© Bob & Helen LaBouy 2014