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DECAL REVIEW


AoA Decals # 32-016
VF-143 Pukin' Dogs: Taproom 102 - USN F-4J Phantom in the Vietnam War -- 1:32 Scale

 

The F-4J Phantom II in U.S. Navy service carried some of the most memorable and high-visibility paint schemes of all time, from the iconic skull and crossbones of VF-84 to the stylized eagle affectionately known as the “Supersonic Can Opener” on the VF-54 CAG jet.  The Pukin’ Dogs (radio call sign “Taproom”) of VF-143 were no exception to this trend.  This 1:32 scale sheet by AoA Decals follows the life and times of just one F-4J, BuNo 155887, Taproom 102 – which was an airplane that was indirectly associated with the final moments of the Vietnam War.

The decal sheet provides three sets of markings for Taproom 102 as it appeared during VF-143’s combat cruises aboard the USS CONSTELLATON (1968-70), and the USS ENTERPRISE (1971-72, 1972-1973).  The markings on Taproom 102 during first deployment featured a uniquely appointed red trim on the wings and the tail.  By the second deployment, the Griffon emblem (a.k.a the Pukin’ Dog) had moved from the vertical stabilizer to the fuselage while red stripes then adorned the tail and middle and aft sides of the jets.  By the 1972-1973 cruise, the striping and trim switched over to the more familiar Pukin’ Dogs blue.  During that cruise, Taproom 102 was VF-143’s XO’s jet with CDR Harley H. Hall’s name on the front cockpit’s canopy rails.

Hall was a storied and accomplished naval aviator starting out in the A-4 Skyhawk. He later served as a USAF exchange pilot flying F-105s, flew two combat tours with VF-154, and over the 1969 airshow season, Hall took on the role of Blue Angel Number 1.  On the morning of 27 January 1973, literally just before the Paris Peace Accords cease-fire was to take effect, he was flying Taproom 113 and was hit by AAA.  Both he and his RIO ejected successfully but the North Vietnamese captured them both.  

Hall was the last U.S. Naval aviator taken as a POW in the Vietnam War but unlike his RIO, he was not among the men released in OPERATION HOMECOMING.  With no forthcoming information about Hall, his status was changed to KIA in 1980.  A hand-over of some of CDR Hall’s remains was made in 1993, and forensic evidence suggests that he survived for at least a few years after his capture.  It is suspected he was secretly held in captivity and possibly interrogated by the Soviets before his death.  This decal sheet is dedicated in honor of CDR Hall’s memory.
             
The pair of decal sheets in this set were printed by Cartograf of Italy, and they demonstrate outstanding print quality, sharpness, vibrant colors, and highly restrained printing of carrier film.  In a word, these Taproom 102 markings are exquisite decals.  Sized for the Tamiya kit, decals don’t get better than this.  While the sheet does also contain VF-143 specific markings for the centerline droptanks and intake FOD covers, the only thing missing here are airframe stencils.  AoA Decals states on their instructions that airframe stencils were a bit beyond the scope of the this one sheet (quite understandable) and besides, great 1:32 F-4J stencils can be sourced effortlessly – straight from the Tamiya kit’s decal sheet. 

This is a great offering – historic, poignant, and is of the highest quality, from the deeply researched markings guide (including the assistance of Taproom 102’s plane captain) to the decals themselves.  Many thanks to AoA Decals for the review sample. You can find them on the web at http://www.aoadecals.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AOAdecals.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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