Corgi Aviaion Archive

Product Spotlight: They Flew from Shangri-La

Corgi’s 1:72 scale replica of USAAC North American B-25B Mitchell Medium Bomber – 40-2249, “Hari Kari-er,” Doolittle Raid, USS Hornet (CV-8), April 18th, 1942

When asked about the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo in April 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt played coy with the press, claiming the bombers had taken off from “Shangri-La,” a fictional location in the 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.”

Corgi, on the other hand, is happy to report that the 16 B-25 Mitchell medium-bombers actually flew off the deck of the USS Hornet, and that 2017 marks the 75th Anniversary of the Raid. While they have replicated other aircraft involved in the Raid, their latest warbird pays homage to one of the lesser known B-25 Mitchells, one known as “Hari Kari-er” (AA35313), which was piloted by Captain Charles Greening.

The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, on Saturday, April 18th, 1942, was an air raid by the United States of America on the Japanese capital, Tokyo, and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, the first air strike to attack the Japanese Home Islands. It demonstrated that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack, served as retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, and provided an important boost to American morale. The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle of the United States Army Air Forces.

Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China-landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. Fifteen aircraft reached China, but all crashed, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. All but three of the 80 crew members initially survived the mission. Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of those were later executed. The B-25 that landed in the Soviet Union was confiscated and its crew interned for more than a year. Fourteen complete crews, except for one crewman who was killed in action, returned either to the United States or to American forces.

After the raid, the Japanese Imperial Army conducted a massive sweep through the eastern coastal provinces of China, in an operation now known as the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign, searching for the surviving American airmen and inflicting retribution on the Chinese who aided them, in an effort to prevent this part of China from being used again for an attack on Japan.

The raid caused negligible material damage to Japan, but it achieved its goal of raising American morale and casting doubt in Japan on the ability of its military leaders to defend their home islands. It also contributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s decision to attack Midway Island in the Central Pacific – an attack that turned into a decisive strategic defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) by the U.S. Navy in the Battle of Midway. Doolittle, who initially believed that the loss of all his aircraft would lead to his court-martial, received the Medal of Honor and was promoted two steps to brigadier general.

 
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Product Spotlight: Fly Softly and Carry a Big Stick

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“They have retreated, our troops reached the outskirts of Port Stanley. A large number of Argentinian soldiers have lain down their arms. White flags are flying over Port Stanley. Our troops have issued the command to shoot only in self-defence. Discussions among the commanders on the capitulation of the Argentinian troops in the Falklands have begun.”

– British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, reporting on the British victory over Argentine forces, June 14th, 1982

Back in 1982, Argentina attempted to wrest control of a group of islands in the South Atlantic, known as the Falkland Islands (a.k.a. The Maldives), from the clutches of Great Britain, citing their proximity as the principal reason why it should become Argentinian soil. In response, the British sent the bulk of their fleet and Royal Marines to retake the islands from the Argentinians, and supported the attack with Avro Vulcan strategic bombers carrying conventional ordnance. On May 1st, British operations on the Falklands opened with the first in a series of “Black Buck 1” attacks (of which there were five) on the airfield at Stanley. A Vulcan bomber from Ascension flew on an 8,000-nautical-mile (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) round trip dropping conventional bombs across the runway at Stanley and back to Ascension.

As the final RAF Avro Vulcan squadrons were contemplating their impending withdrawal from service in early 1982, developments in the South Atlantic would see this mighty bomber go to war for the first time in its 26-year service history. Operation “Black Buck” would require a Vulcan to drop 21 conventional 1,000 lb bombs on the runway at Port Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, preventing Argentine forces from using their most capable strike and support aircraft. It would also send a strong message to Argentina’s political leaders that Britain would stop at nothing in re-taking the Islands.

The raid would be launched from RAF Ascension Island, which was some 6,300 km from the Falklands and presented something of a logistical nightmare for military planners. Flown almost entirely over the sea, the Black Buck raids would require the support of twelve Victor tankers on the outbound leg, with a further two for the return flight and all the associated contingency plans.

Taking off from Ascension Island at midnight on April 30th, 1982, Avro Vulcan B.2 XM607 piloted by Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers was to fly as reserve aircraft to the primary bomber XM598 on this highly complex raid, but was quickly promoted to lead aircraft on “Black Buck 1” following technical difficulties encountered by XM598. Embarking on what was the longest bombing raid attempt in history, XM607 was refuelled seven times on its way to the Falkland Islands, before successfully releasing its payload of bombs across the Port Stanley runway.

Following a further rendezvous with a Victor tanker on the way home, XM607 returned to its base on Ascension Island and a place in the history books – if nothing else, this raid illustrated Britain’s determination to take back the Falkland Islands and that they had the capability to do it. Of the seven Black Buck raids planned against Argentine forces on the Falkland Islands, five actually took place and proved to be the only time that Britain’s Mighty Avro Vulcan went to war.

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Corgi’s RAF Avro Vulcan B.2 Strategic Bomber – XM607, RAF No. 44 Squadron, “Operation Black Buck”, Falklands Conflict, South Atlantic, 1982 (AA27203) is expected later this holiday season.

 
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Product Spotlight: Dancing with Doodlebugs

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Perhaps the most curious development arising from the Second World War was the so-called Wunderwaffe (Wonder Weapons), which came about when the German military sought a qualitative solution over the Allies as they closed the noose around the Third Reich during the final stages of the war. One of the technological breakthroughs was the Vergeltungswaffe 1 or V-1 (also known to the Allies as the buzz bomb, or doodlebug) – a rocket propelled, unmanned aircraft filled with explosives that was flown off of low slung ramps from the westernmost bases along the English Channel towards targets in England. Once the V-1 reached its target, its engine would cut out and the aircraft would descend vertically towards its target, which was usually a dense civilian population center. To defeat these high speed threats, the RAF employed their fastest interceptors to either shoot down the bombs from a distance before they could reach their targets or tip them over using a highly risky wingtip-to-wingtip toppling technique (“the Doodlebug Dance”) that put the pilot’s life in jeopardy, as well as his aircraft.

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Corgi’s upcoming set consisting of a Gloster F.1 Meteor and accompanying Doodlebug is a fitting reminder of what air-to-air combat had become towards the waning stages of the War (AA27403).

Under the cloak of extreme secrecy, Britain had been testing the viability of a jet-powered fighter since early 1941, with the Gloster E28/89 Pioneer proving that this was indeed possible. The race was now on to produce an effective, operational jet fighter, at a time when every available resource was required for the war effort and experimental technology was a luxury that often proved to be more of a distraction. Work continued apace and the twin-engined Gloster Meteor neared a test flight.

This work was so highly classified, that any test flight required the roads around the airfield to be sealed off by the local constabulary and all residents ushered away from the immediate vicinity. All non-essential personnel were forced to leave the airfield for the duration of the test flight, even though they would have clearly seen (and heard) the strange new aircraft once it was in the air! Following completion of the flight and the safe recovery of the aircraft, life could get back to normal.

As the Gloster Meteor entered RAF service, it was originally charged with destroying the V-1 flying bombs that were being sent indiscriminately in the direction of southern Britain. The first Meteor victory over a Doodlebug occurred on the 4th August 1944, when Flying Officer T.D ‘Dixie’ Dean spotted a V-1 flying in the direction of Tunbridge Wells. Placing his Meteor EE216 in a shallow dive to build up speed, he lined up the V-1 in his gunsight and fired – after a short burst, all four guns jammed.

Dean was determined not to let the Doodlebug get away and maneuvered his Meteor alongside the flying bomb, wing tip to wing tip. When he was positioned as close as he safely could, he flicked the control column of his Meteor and banked sharply away – the sudden airflow disruption caused the V-1 to go out of control and crash without causing injury on open ground. Dean had the first Meteor victory over the V-1 and was the first pilot to use the risky ‘tip and run’ tactic to destroy one these feared flying bombs.

 

 

 
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Corgi Revises its 2013 Release Schedule

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Previously, we were under the impression that Corgi’s eagerly expected B-17/F Flying Fortress bomber and Bf 109G-6 fighter set were slated for an early 2014 release, however, according to their latest information has been moved up to an October ship (#AA39915). Likewise, their massive 1:72 scale Avro Vulcan strategic bomber has been advanced to a pre-Christmas debut, no doubt terrific news for everyone that hoped to find one under the tree this holiday (#AA27201).

 

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On the flip side, no dates have yet been set for their pair of 1:72 scale Swordfish torpedo planes, which was being offered in two configurations. No reason has been given for the indeterminate release so we’re not sure what the hold up is behind their delay (#AA36310). Other aircraft have been pushed up in the schedule while others have been nudged back, so we recommend you peruse our Corgi Aviation Archive section for the latest information

 
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