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SBD-4 Dauntless "Operation Torch"

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A trip down Memory Lane

The date, late October 1959. The place, Council Bluffs, Iowa. The ten year old boy arrives home from school to find a note from his mom saying she will be late and to do his homework. Aha, the perfect chance! He jumps on his bike and rides the 10 or so blocks to Tom's Shoe Repair & Hobby as fast as the two wheels will take him. He darts in the door and quickly hands the old guy working on someone's sole $1.49. Back on his bike and home as fast as his legs will take him. Never know just what "I will be late" means.

He bounds up the stairs to his room and removes the box from its brown paper bag. What a beauty! A Monogram 1/48th scale SBD Dauntless. The picture on the box shows an SBD just rolling into its dive and a small scrap shot of the included ground crewman working on the centerline bomb. It is almost like you are there at the Battle of Midway!

The young boy pours over the instruction steps with as much patience as he can muster, but in just a few moments is twisting the fuselage pieces from their trees and doing a test fit. All the features! Retracting landing gear. Interconnected dive brakes. Spinning prop. Best of all a small trigger under the fuselage that releases the center bomb, which swings on its yoke to free the propeller before plunging into the deck of the Japanese aircraft carrier that is sitting helplessly below!

In about 2 hours the plane is together and the boy is testing the flaps and the bomb action. He has been as careful following the directions as his youth will allow and there are not too many glue fingerprints marring the blue plastic. After a few bomb runs he opens his small bottle of Pactra 'namel and begins to brush on the light gray underside of his latest masterpiece. He also does the very best he can hand painting the canopy frames with blue paint. It will take about 4 hours to dry, which should bring him nicely through homework and then dinner.

After dinner, while the rest of the family watches a sitcom downstairs in the living room, he carefully soaks and then slides the decals into position according to the kit directions. While these are drying he takes some time to paint the pilot, gunner, ground crewman and LSO officer. By bedtime that evening he has gingerly rearranged the models already on display on top of his chest of drawers to give the little dive bomber pride of place near the front. Then he tucks the empty box into his secret place behind his dresser and files away the instructions. That night just before he drops off to sleep he reads and then re-reads the small folding brochure included with his kit and makes plans for his next purchase. Should it be the Avenger or the small P-40?

Since that day in 1959 I have probably built at least a squadron of these Monogram SBD's. When the Accurate Miniatures kit came out I really went crazy. An SBD-3 for my Battle of Midway diorama with my TBD and F4F. Another SBD-1 in golden wings markings. When the original AM announced that they were closing they offered a "Double Dauntless" kit which I snapped up. Recently I have completed one as an SBD-5 and the other as a Midway SBD-3 poised in its dive.

While on a trip to my local hobby shop, I saw this kit in the original "4-Star" boxing on the shelf. The owner has purchased a huge pile of kits from an estate and this was one of them. Most of the pieces were off the trees but there wasn't too much damage. The kneeling deck crew figure was the only part missing. As soon as I saw that kit all the memories of building them as a young boy came rushing back. Since it was a "4-star" issue, I probably should have had my wife sell it on e-bay with her account, but some things just do not have a monetary value.

This time I did the best job I could on the seams and I must say that the kit fits very well. I did a few things to make it a little more accurate, but I really didn't want to change it too much. For example, I just could not bring myself to melt the axles with a heated screwdriver to make them spin. I also drilled out all the tiny holes in the dive flaps. This is tedious but makes a real difference in the look of these aircraft. The kit decals were pretty much toast so I used the Operation Torch markings provided with the AM Double Dauntless kit. As I understand it the Mono SBD comes closest to being an SBD-4 because of the prop hub and air intake on the cowl.

The part of modeling I enjoy most is airbrushing so I took my time with this part. I pre-shaded and faded the paint on the control surfaces, etc. to make it a bit more realistic. I think it turned out pretty good.

This old veteran will take its place with the rest of my kits on display in the living room and, if plastic models have feelings, it will be very happy to look around and enjoy the view after it's 45 year wait.

SBD-4 Dauntless "Operation Torch"
Modeler: Michael Stanley
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Monogram 
Notes: 

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10/23/05

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