Some historic background:
A little-known fact of Corsair operations is that of the six air forces that flew the type operationally, two used their Corsairs against each other! Furthermore, this occasion was the last air war in which Second World War fighters were first-line equipment - the so-called 'Football War' between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969.
The Corsair, which was the respective fighter flown by both sides,
came to Central and South America in the late 1950s, when the U.S.
military aid program supplied F4U-5Ns to the Argentine Navy, followed
during the next five years by Corsairs provided to Honduran and
Salvadoran Air Forces.
While the Argentine Corsairs maintained their night-fighting capability throughout their service and flew from a carrier, the 10 F4U-5NL Corsairs provided to Honduras lost their night-fighting and winterized equipment before they left Litchfield Park, Arizona, in 1956. Honduras received further eight F4U-4 Corsairs in 1960-61, at which time El Salvador received twelve Goodyear FG-1A and FG-1D Corsairs.
The Football War (a.k.a. 'La Guerra del Fútbol' in Spanish), also known as the 'Soccer War' or '100 hour War', was a four-day conflict fought by El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. While the name made good newspaper copy, it was completely inaccurate as to the cause of the war. The clash was actually the result of long-standing disputes regarding border territory between the two countries, caused by political conflicts between Hondurans and Salvadorans, namely issues concerning immigration from El Salvador to Honduras. These existing tensions between the two countries coincided with the inflamed rioting during the second North American qualifying round of the 1970 FIFA World Cup, hence the rather inappropriate name for the incident.
On 14 July 1969, the Salvadoran army launched an attack against Honduras. Outside of some use of P-51 Mustangs flown by American mercenaries by the Salvadorans, however, all air combat took place between Corsairs of the two air forces, and legend has it that this incident was also the last combat appearance of the P-47 Thunderbolt.
The Organization of American States negotiated a cease-fire which took effect on 20 July, with the Salvadoran troops withdrawn in early August - and the Corsairs remained in service until 1974.
The kit and its assembly
This model kit depicts (or tries to...) one of the Goodyear-built FG-1D/F4U-1D fighters used by El Salvador during the 1969 ‘Football War' conflict with Honduras. When I accidently came across a profile of one of those machines some time ago, I knew that I HAD to build one, because the camouflage scheme is so unique and totally off of what one is used to see on a Corsair. The idea, like so many others, lingered for some time (years...), but finally I decided to take the idea to a hardware stage.
There seems to be a kit available for such a Salvadoran Corsair, from Hobby Craft, but only in 1/48 scale. Because I stay with 1/72 scale, I took a stock F4U-1D from Hobby Boss, a simple and cheap kit which resembles a FG-1A which was flown by Salvadoran forces, and pimped it slightly to my needs, making it Fuerza Aerea Salvadorena's machine '219'.
The Corsair kit was built more or less OOB. Just some details like
typical antennae were added, hydraulic pipes on the landing gear, and
some cockpit flitter like a pilot figure and seat belts made from
masking tape. Nothing fancy, though. The kit is simple, and well
detailed for the price point.
I was uncertain about external stores. I do not believe that the Salvadoran Corsairs actually carried heavy loads during the conflict. The Hobby Craft box art shows the Salvadoran FG-1D carrying eight 5" HVARs, but I am sceptical. Anyway, I did not want to leave the Corsair naked, but I limited the external weapon's load to two drop tanks (The FG-1D had its wing tanks deleted, so carrying drop tanks for long-range missions was typical) and four heavier 6.75" 'Ram' ATARs under the outer wing pylons. These come from a vintage Airfix A-1 Skyraider kit, the launch rails were taken from a Hawker Fury from PM Models. Not perfect, but they fit the bill.
By the way, the original missile rack attachment points were hidden under polystyrene plugs and putty - the Hobby Boss kit features a total of eight HUGE carvings under its wings to hold the eight missiles, but their respective pylons are molded onto the missiles and I found this solution rather clumsy and ugly - one of the few true drawbacks of the kit.
A tough task, in many ways. Finding pictures for an authentic Salvadoran Corsair is not easy, and I learned not (only) to rely on painted profiles and artwork. I did some legwork and tried to figure out how and with what to paint this special Corsair, with little success - even professional sources like Aztec Decals (who offer a sheet for 'Football War' Corsairs from both sides!) are careful with schemes and color suggestions. Anyway, some inspiration for my kit was taken from David W. Aungst's nice 1/48 scale kit review, though (see hsfeatures.com/features04/fg1ddwa_2.htm), and my motivation for this Corsair sounds pretty much the same as his: "Here I have a shape that everybody recognizes, in a color scheme that just looks wrong." Totally agree!
'FAS 219' is one of those machines delivered from the United States
that actively served during the conflict. To me the paint scheme (or
its depictions in side views) looks like an originally overall Gull
Grey, with additional, improvised and heavily worn jungle camouflage,
and finally adorned with extra deep yellow high visibility markings.
Information is contradictive whether the Football War Corsairs already carried the prominent yellow ID stripes (against friendly fire – the enemy flew that plane, too!), of if they had been applied later? More controversy concerns the lower surfaces: most references show a light grey underside. Some sources claim that the dark, upper cammo scheme was wrapped around the whole aircraft, though. Maybe they were even white (see below)? On so it goes on and on...
As a side note, there must have been at least one formerly all-dark blue Corsair with makeshift green cammo from above, but I could not find sufficient info about it. But THAT would look even more daring!
Well, I build 'for the overall impression'. So I stayed with the concept of a hastily painted, grey machine. Since no (good) real-life color pictures were available (at least to me), the number of colors and their actual look remain speculative. I settled for three tones from above: a sand tone, probably a faded tan like FS 30219, a light grey/green and a dark/forest green. I tried to use lighter tones for upper surfaces, adding the darker tones for side areas like the flanks or vertical stabilizer to simulate sun-bleaching. All was painted by hand, with an intended "hand -made" look.
For basic colors I chose:
Humbrol 63 (Sand, FS 30257?),
mixed with Humbrol 118 (FS 30219) in lower regions
Humbrol 78 (Cockpit Green, ~FS 34159),
toned up with Humbrol 120 (Light Green, FS 34227) on upper surfaces
Humbrol 105 (Marine Green, FS 34097),
toned down with Humbrol 117 (Fs 34102) in lower regions
Humbrol 129 (US Gull Grey, FS 36440) for below,
dry-brushed with Humbrol 28
Interior surfaces were kept in US style interior green. I used Humbrol
224, dry-painted with 80, for a dirty zinc chromate look inside of the
cockpit and the landing gear wells - it could even be that the latter were all white, since the Corsairs carried a
fancy all-white livery with neat blue trim during the mid 60ies, which
rumored to have been taken into the plane's interior. But again: who
knows for sure?
The drop tanks were painted in a lighter shade of gray (Humbrol 196), just to add to the shaggy overall look of this machine.
The characteristic yellow identification stripes are all decals, cut by hand from a large sheet from TL Modellbau's 'Colour Series' (approx. RAL 1003). Numbers, letters and insignia also come from various TL Modellbau decal sheets. National markings are actually Hellenic, remains from the Gloster Gladiator project some time ago.
The machine was weathered with a black ink wash and dry painting with olive drab, light grey and hemp, esp. with lighter shades of the camouflage tones on the upper surfaces. Normally, such a treatment is rather used on military vehicles in larger scales, because it can make small scale kits and esp. planes look very shabby. But with the improvised look of the Salvadoran Corsair, its age, the harsh climate and probably rather poor maintenance during the days of conflict, it matches IMHO well.
A very nice and exotic model kit – far from perfect, since anything is rather improvised and guesstimated, but I like the plane’s weird look. I do not claim to be historically correct, heck, but this Corsair really has a sweet and "different" style. And it has more historic value than one might think!