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Gewehr 43

The Swamp Ghost - B-17E 41-2446

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My entry into the Multi-Engine Group Build is B-17E 41-2446, the aircraft that would go on to become the famous "Swamp Ghost."  This site gives a good overview of her ordeal as one of the first handful of bombers the USAAF would throw at the Japanese.  In short, she left Australia on February 22nd, 1942 to bomb Japanese positions at Rabaul.  Shot up over the target and leaking fuel, the pilot, Fred Eaton opted to put her down in a grassy field north of the Owen Stanley mountain range in New Guinea.  As it turns out, the "grassy field" was actually the Agaimbo swamp and the bomber settled into the mud.  The crew abandoned her after dutifully disposing of the Norden bombsight, and ultimately returned to combat duty later. 

 

For many years, she lay undisturbed. 

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Rediscovered in the 1970s, visited in the 1980s, and ultimately recovered and exported over many years beginning in 2006, she is the only B-17E still in original battle condition.  My intent is to build this kit into 41-2446 as she would have appeared at some/any point during her short career prior to her loss.  This presents a couple of challenges.  First, there are - to my knowledge - no known images of the aircraft before she was shot down, so I'll have to make some educated guesses as to configurations and whatnot.  Secondly, and perhaps the biggest challenge, is that she was equipped with the Sperry remotely-operated belly turret.  The HKM kit which I'll be using does not have this, so I'll have to take a shot at building it from scratch.  I've never done any scratch building of this magnitude, so any guidance is appreciated.  Lastly, general references for the B-17E (particularly internal photos) are pretty hard to come by.  Boeingimages.com is turning out to be pretty helpful, though most of the pics of E models appear to be pre-war, factory-fresh aircraft.

 

There were a handful of post-crash photos taken during the war which give some clues as to her general configuration and painting.  She carried the early-war insignia with red center, her rudder was striped red & white, she likely had the large "US ARMY" marking on her underwing, and her vertical stabilizer was a slightly different/lighter OD green than the rest of the ship.  Beyond that, I'm guessing she was a pretty standard early B-17E.  Happily, I visited her in her new location in June of 2018, so I have some first hand pics.  Sadly, however, she's pretty well stripped of most parts and you aren't allowed around the rear of the ship.  So, the pics I could take were limited to the forward section.  Here is the album of my trip. 

 

I'll be using the Hong Kong Models B-17E/F kit for the build with some Eduard extras thrown in.  I started this kit in February 2017, but my heart wasn't in it and the build stalled.  I'm excited to get back to it now as I feel my skills have improved over the last 2 years such that I can make an actual attempt at doing this kit and aircraft justice.  You'll see in some of my "current-state" photos that my initial efforts were sub-par.  I didn't realize much of the floor work is plywood and my chipping efforts were very unsatisfactory.  That said, I'll be repainting almost everything that's been painted so far, so we'll be taking a few steps back from what is the current state.  In discussing it with the mod team, I've been given the green light for the sub-25% rule.

 

That said, here is the current state of affairs.  Work bench on the left, paint bench w/references in the middle, and the big plastic parts in the kit box on the right.  Organization is key to my sanity in the workshop.  I usually spend about a half hour every evening straightening up after a bench session. 

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Assembled references.  Taking suggestions for anything that shows the remote-turret or other interior fittings in detail.

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Everything you see here is the current-state from my 2017 efforts.  I have to eat crow here and fess up to the fact that I clearly did not do my homework with respect to painting the interior.  Sigh.

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The guns turned out passable.

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The step where the previous project died: Cleaning up the bombs.  I remember clearly having a "screw this" moment and immediately boxing the kit back up.

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Fortunately, I had the sense to mask the inside of the windows before painting.  I shouldn't have installed them in the first place, but apparently I was off my medication or somesuch that day. 

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With that said, I'm ready to start tackling this kit properly.

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The first part of this (re)build will be a bit hodge podge.  Where I can easily remove kit plastic parts to replace with more detailed PE parts, I will.  But, I'm not going to stress too much about it if an injection-molded part is used.  I'm not a rivet counter, nor am I overly obsessed with details and having everything just perfect.  Ejector pin marks in hard-to-reach, and hard-to-see places don't bother me.  In the end, as long as the final product looks like a decent rendition of 41-2446 as she would have looked sitting on the ramp at Garbutt Field, I'm happy.  One benefit to having no references of the real aircraft is that I get a bit of creative license.  :) 

 

I have quite a bit of aftermarket interior parts to use on this build.  I bought the Big Ed interior set from Eduard, along with a set of brassin wheels, and .50 cal gun barrels.  The kit barrels are garbage.  After organizing all the plastic, here is a shot of the aftermarket.

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Having slogged through an intense amount of PE on my 1/144 USS Chevalier last summer, PE doesn't really scare me like it used to.  That said, soldering still escapes me, so every bit of PE you see will be constructed and affixed with super glue.  If it worked on the Chevalier, it'll work here.  :)

 

As with any aftermarket, I usually start with the instructions.  This took a bit as I had to go over the plastic, what I'd built, what needed to be built, and determine what could be removed and what could stay.  Anything circled will be added, anything crossed out will remain a kit part that's already in place.  The highlighted parts are unpainted PE parts that need to be stuck in place and painted prior to adding any of the pre-painted bits from the PE sets.  Another boneheaded lesson I learned on a different kit a few years ago.  (sigh^2)

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First, I removed any parts that would be replaced by PE or that would hinder painting the floorboards. 

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And so my PE journey and the rebirth of the 41-2446 in 1/32 form begins with a humble start.  Some quick detail added to the overhead ammo can for the left cheek gun.

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So far, I'm pretty happy with the Eduard PE set.  It's clean, bends well, and the instructions are decent.  My only gripe is that it really should have been marketed as a detail kit for the B-17F, not the "B-17E/F" as all of the instructions are shown for the F-model with the larger cheek windows.  Thus, I'm left to guessing quite a bit on the internals and where parts go or don't go.  

 

Here's an ammo box holder for the bulkhead below the pilots' feet.  I need to go out and get some ultra-thin superglue as having it would have made that rear join much cleaner.  Oh well.  The pic makes it looks worse than it is, and once it's installed, that tiny gap will be invisible.

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Here is the progress I've made thus far.

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Again, I'm starting with the unpainted stuff that will need to be painted along with the interior bulkheads.  Once those are all painted, I'll slap on the Eduard pre-painted stuff.  So far, so good.  I'll be approaching this just like I did my Chevalier... one section at a time.  I intend to treat each compartment as its own mini-project, a tactic aided by the breakdown of the Eduard kits.  

 

Stay tuned, I'm hoping to have a couple updates a week as I push through this project.  

 

 

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Love the woodgrain on that part.. how did you get that look ? Great project.. from the title I was thinking you were going to do her as found in the swamp.

 

:popcorn:

 

 

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The interior skins of the nose section would be natural metal - early E models still had the olive green padding fitted at this point but it was more often than not removed once in theatre. 

 

The only painted area on B-17s was the flight deck and this was just the exposed metal which was dark dull (or bronze) green. The sidewalls were fitted with olive green padding. All other areas of the interior were natural metal. Never, at any point in B-17 production, was US Interior Green used, despite Eduard using it on their pre-painted sets!

 

Again, at this point in time, the radio room was lined with padding but as with the nose, this was usually removed due to the extra weight, fire hazard as well as making maintenance more tricky. 

 

HTH. 

 

Tom

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Excellent choice of topic for sure.

 

Looks great so far - very very nice wood on the desk.

 

Did you notice Eduard/Brassin has done some resin .50 cal belts which seems very nice. I got a couple for my B-25. Perhaps you can find a couple of places where they will do some good

 

These

 

https://www.super-hobby.com/products/Ammo-belts-12-7-mm-22368679.html

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, spacewolf said:

Love the woodgrain on that part.. how did you get that look ? Great project.. from the title I was thinking you were going to do her as found in the swamp.

 

:popcorn:

 

 

I would also like to know this. 

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Thanks for the compliments and I hope you enjoy the ride!  :)

 

Yep, the woodgrain is probably the one dumb thing I did right on this build the first time around.  I more or less followed this technique: https://www.agapemodels.com/2009/09/23/simulating-wood-grain/  Basically, you lay down a base coat of a color, then go over it with oil paints.  Stupid simple.  Clearly if I can make it work, anyone can do it.  :)

 

@tomprobert, thank you very much for the information.  I was operating (this time around) on the understanding that the "control areas" of the Fortress were painted: Nose, flight deck, and radio room.  Apparently, that's not the case for the early E-models then.  Was the flight deck behind the pilots' platform bare wood or painted?

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1 hour ago, Gewehr 43 said:

 

@tomprobert, thank you very much for the information.  I was operating (this time around) on the understanding that the "control areas" of the Fortress were painted: Nose, flight deck, and radio room.  Apparently, that's not the case for the early E-models then.  Was the flight deck behind the pilots' platform bare wood or painted?

 

The nose and radio room had the olive padding fitted still at this point, but the skins themselves were not painted. As I said earlier, the padding was more often than not removed in service. 

 

The floor of the flight deck would be natural plywood but had black anti-slip matting fitted for the vast majority of the area. The raised floor area beneath the pilots’ feet was actually natural metal. 

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4 hours ago, Gewehr 43 said:

 

 

Yep, the woodgrain is probably the one dumb thing I did right on this build the first time around.  I more or less followed this technique: https://www.agapemodels.com/2009/09/23/simulating-wood-grain/  Basically, you lay down a base coat of a color, then go over it with oil paints.  Stupid simple.  Clearly if I can make it work, anyone can do it.  :)

 

 

Many thanks for the link !! That is going to come in VERY handy !!

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Good afternoon, everyone.  I'm finally back with an update on the Swamp Ghost project.  Happy to report it is progressing well, though a busy winter has put this on the backburner a bit.  For the last few months, I've been busy with stuff with my kid, work, and I've gotten sucked into a game of War in the Pacific: Admiral's Edition.  It's a grand strategy game that simulates the entirety of the Pacific war on a day-by-day basis, and while a bit dated, it's pretty amazing.  

 

That said, I've made some good progress in the past couple weeks with the Swamp Ghost.  After my early starts above, have completed the nose, cockpit and right wheel well.  I'm jumping around a bit in the build to keep things interesting.  

 

First, I swapped out the kit barrels on the .50s for turned metal.  The difference is incredible.  I also added a few PE bits from the Eduard kits.

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The nose section involved a repaint from scratch.  I'm banking on the crew (or ground crew) having removed most of the padding and sound insulation in the nose and cockpit before 41-2446's fateful flight, and therefore am going with a natural metal finish throughout.  The veracity of this is questionable as I believe 41-2446 was only in-theater for a day or two before she was lost, so crews wouldn't have had much time to pull out the cloth materials.  

 

Nose sections with Eduard parts before and after oil wash.

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The lighting makes the ammo box look natural metal, but it's actually OD green.

 

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I also pulled most of the parts off the nose compartment floor in order to repaint it as wood.  Pretty happy with the end results here.

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