1/48 Revell-Monogram P-38J Lightning

Gallery Article by Chip Berseth on Oct 16 2009


The P-38 Lightning holds its own amongst iconic fighter aircraft from the World War II. By far, the Lightning enjoyed an interesting and eventful combat career. It was flown by many skilled and brave pilots, but it was one pilot in particular that shaped the realm of air combat. This pilot made a name for himself and also earned the coveted title of "ace of aces". His name is Richard Ira Bong, and he was born in my home state of Wisconsin. Born and raised in Poplar, WI he went on to complete his primary education and soon enrolled into college. Enlisting in the Army Air Corps he was given the necessary training to produce a victor of future air combat operations against the enemy. 

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For the foundation I chose the Revell-Monogram P-38J in 1/48 scale. This kit in itself is an older kit and its strengths and weaknesses can defiantly be seen. But with a little patience and understanding they can be overcome, and to good effect. Construction is fairly straight forward, and with the option to build multiple versions this kit in my opinion is truly a diamond in the rough.

When building make sure to save space for the nose weight. The kit comes with a plastic pole attached to the tail but in all honestly how real does that look? Not very, so therefore nose weight must be added. After cramming the nacelles with weight it finally sat on all three wheels. Seeing that college comes before hobbies, no aftermarket parts were used (besides the decals). This is no big deal however, as the model is quite striking without them. Of course, the scratch builders and super detailers could have fun with this kit as the possibilities to add detail are certainly there.

Painted with Plasti-Kote Bumper Chrome it was allowed to dry for a while. After this, it was coated with Future and decaled using a mixture of kit and Aeromaster decals (which were mostly used for the stenciling).

Building this kit infected me. I had to do it. I had to make the pilgrimage to the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center located in Superior, WI. After sitting in a car for a little over two hours we finally arrived. The whole time walking to the main door I was preparing myself to have my mind blown, which it was as soon as I entered the museum. Needless to say there is plenty to look at and reflect upon. There were many interesting aspects of the visit especially photographs of Dick Bong as a child, and then on through the years. Other exhibits included information about ship production in the Twin Ports during World War Two, but by far the most magical is a restored version of Dick Bong's fabled P-38J "Marge". Named after the late aces wife, "Marge" was the steed that Major Bong accumulated a majority of his victories with. Wrapping things up at the museum it was time for lunch.

After filling up we were off once more. This time to the hometown of one of America's greatest men. Poplar is a small town surrounded by pine trees and a few massive fields. After following a few signs we arrived at the cemetery where Major Bong is buried. The thrill was unbelievable and memory forever ingrained.

Building this famous aircraft, and then visiting those historic landmarks was truly an uplifting experience. It made me recognize the tremendous sacrifice given by the men and women of that time. Sacrifice that seems to be taken for granted by younger generations. Visiting those places wrote the final chapter for this build and completed it on a personal note. And also, of course, it was nice to get out of the house for the day.

I am proud to have this aircraft in my collection, just as I am proud to hail from the birth state of American's greatest airman.

Chip Berseth

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Photos and text by Chip Berseth