In the early days of World War II, the U.S. Navy realized that it had need of a land-based bomber force to support its operations, particularly in the roles of anti-shipping and anti-submarine warfare. Of course, the USAAF wanted its bombers all to itself – most famously Hap Arnold’s hoarding of B-17s to support the 8th Air Force’s daylight bombing campaign.
Eventually, a deal was struck. The Navy would give up its new Boeing PBB-1 Sea Ranger seaplane, leaving the Consolidated PBY Catalina to soldier on and freeing up Boeing to develop the B-29 Superfortress. In return, the Navy would receive a number of Consolidated B-24 Liberators, Lockheed B-34 Venturas, and North American B-25 Mitchells. These were redesignated according to the Navy’s logical but annoying naming scheme, where an aircraft was labelled by mission type, model number, and a manufacturer identifier. The B-24 became the PB4Y-1 – marking it as the fourth Patrol Bomber contracted from Consolidated.
By the time the first Mitchells (PBJ-1s in Navy parlance) became available in 1943, the Navy was already happy with its PB4Ys, so the Marine Corps happily took on the smaller Mitchells as its own. In service, the Pacific PBJs were a rather scrappy lot. Against shipping, they practiced a dangerous but very effective tactic known as skip bombing, where they would race in just above the wavetops and drop a stick of bombs that would skip across the water like stones across a pond, right into the ships. Against land targets, they were often as not in among the trees, playing close air support for the troops on the ground. There’s an account – I kid you not – of a PBJ of VMB-611 striking a tree on a strafing run, then turning around and flying the 250 miles back to base without missing a beat!
One pilot, noting that aviators often referred to their aircraft as women – sleek, sexy, and so on, described the PBJ as a “mother-in-law – dumpy, dependable and loud”.
Sadly, nobody boxes a dedicated PBJ kit in 1/48th. Fortunately, they are more or less B-25s. The major modification is the addition of a radar pod, either on the nose or, on later PBJs, located on the starboard wingtip. Lone Star Models just so happens to make a resin pod to convert the venerable Monogram B-25J into a PBJ, and that’s exactly what I’ll be using.
The kit – Monogram’s B-25J “Gun Nose”…which features covered plexiglass and eight .50 caliber Brownings up front…is certainly an older kit, but it’s also one of those that Monogram largely got right, with raised-but-very-good detail all around. The interior detail is a little on the shallow side, but being bomber, there’s not too much visibility to what’s going on in there, so no biggie.
The paint schemes were more or less uniform, with the later PBJ-1Js wearing the Navy’s tricolor scheme of dark sea blue, intermediate blue, and white. Markings will have to be scrounged together, but in general are rather simple, so I’m assuming I can piece them together from some spare decals and maybe a sheet of letters and numbers.
I actually came very close to starting this one months ago, but decided to hold off until after the move, when I would have more space to properly display a build of the B-25’s size. Stay tuned…one of these days I’m building this thing!