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DECAL SHEET REVIEW


Starfighter Decals # 72-152
Bent Wing Birds Part 3: Korean War Rescue
1:72 Scale


In this release, Starfighter Decals by Mark’s Models and Toys provides markings for two 1:72 scale F4U-4 Corsairs that were involved a truly poignant and inspirational example of valor during the Korean War. It deserves a telling here.

Jesse Leroy Brown Jr., was the son of a Mississippi sharecropper, and from a very young age, was seen by the adults around him as a genuine prodigy. Throughout his life, he rose above challenging circumstances.  During his youth in the 1930s, Brown became enthralled with aviation and dreamt of being a military aviator.  Despite the racial barriers that prohibited African-Americans from being pilots, he kept working toward that goal and excelled in his studies - from mathematics to music.  Attending college at Ohio State, he joined their NROTC program, and from there, entered pilot training following the desegregation of the armed services.  Jesse Brown received his wings of gold in 1948 and made history as the first African-American U.S. Naval aviator.
           
Two years later, Jesse Brown was an ensign and a member of VF-32 flying Corsairs off the USS LEYTE (CV-32).  While discrimination still surrounded him, Brown forged close friendships and deep mutual loyalty with his squadron mates, particularly Lt. (Jg.) Tom Hudner (their relationship and the events that played out by the Chosin Reservoir are well described in the 2015 book Devotion by Adam Makos).  On 4 December 1950, Brown launched from the carrier on his 20th combat mission and Hudner happened to be flying his wing.  Some 100,000 Chinese soldiers had crossed the Yalu River trapping 8,000 Marines by the Chosin Reservoir.  Navy air attempted to clear an egress corridor for the Marines, and in the process, Brown’s F4U-4 was hit by ground fire.  Deep behind enemy lines, his only choice was to put down on mountainside clearing. He crash-landed, hitting the ground hard.

Overhead, Hudner could see something was wrong.  Brown’s engine was smoking.  Brown waved from the airplane, but he did not egress. The crash landing had badly injured the pilot, including pinning his legs into the wrecked cockpit.  Hudner called in a SAR helicopter, and with enemy infantry closing in, Hudner proceeded to crash-land his Corsair besides his friend.

In the subzero temperatures, Hudner did everything he could to first keep Brown warm and then to extinguish the smoldering engine fire with handfuls of snow.  Brown was dying, but no matter what Hudner did, he could not pull his friend from the wreckage.  When the SAR helo arrived, a desperate attempt was made using an axe to cut away the cockpit sidewall. Jesse Brown succumbed to his injuries with Tom Hudner by his side.  He was the first Navy officer killed in action in Korea.  With Chinese infantry closing in, Hudner boarded the rescue helicopter and barely escaped.  The following day, a seven-ship formation of Corsairs provided a “warrior’s funeral,” and as the Lord’s Prayer was said over the radio, they bombed the crash site.  In April 1951, Tom Hudner was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Truman, and Jesse Brown was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and Purple Heart.  The destroyer escort USS JESSE L. BROWN (FF-1089) also bore his name.

This 1:72 scale decal sheet provides the markings for Hunder and Brown’s Corsairs:

While the BuNo of Brown’s F4U is known, it is not clear if the Modex number was 203 or 217, so the decal sheet provides both.

The markings are straightforward and look to have the ink printed on quite thick – that’s ideal since they will be laid down on a dark blue airplane.  The markings guide does the job it has to, but it could have noted for the neophyte that Korean War Corsairs were painted in overall Gloss Sea Blue (FS 15042).  The markings look like they can be adapted to pretty much any 1:72 scale F4U-4, from the Revell of Germany offering to the Matchbox or Hobby Boss kit.

Overall, these are very well made and well printed decals, and the story they encapsulate is poignant – a great choice by Starfighter Decals that helps keep alive the story of Jesse Brown and Tom Hunder.  I hope they print this decal sheet in 1:48 and 1:32 scale, too.

Many thanks to Mark’s Models and Toys for the review sample. You can find see more and purchase this sheet at http://www.starfighter-decals.com/index.html.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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