Friday, May 4

Zotz 1/32 B-25J Mitchell at War Pt. 1 decal sheet Reviewed and road-tested..

 Zotz’ have come to the rescue of all HK Models kit owners with some great new decals to colour up the new 1/32 B-25 kit. There are scant choices for this kit so far – and the fact we may not have gotten decals for this glass nose variant or even the kit itself) have made many modellers very happy – let’s see if the reward is as promising as the anticipation...
Zotz 1/32 B-25J Mitchell at War Pt. 1 decal sheet
Product #   ZTZ32/052
Scales: 1/32 Reviewed here
Colour Schemes: SEVEN B-25J glass nose bombers
Printed by: Zotz in Mexico
Available from:  Zotz Site where you can buy directly - Squadron, Sprue Brothers, Mid-Ten Hobbies , Stevens International , Hannants  and  Scott’s Model Workshop also carry this set if they are closer to you.
Price US $30 + P&P

 I for one thought that this sheet wouldn’t come out – I didn’t think the kit would either - but people want this so badly the kit came to the market. This sheet from Zotz was going to be bypassed or at least put off as it was a surprise when the HK kit suddenly re-surfaced, and Zotz didn’t have the time to plan for it – Eli certainly pulled the rabbit out of his you know what and the sheet – complete with seven different marking choices in 1/32 scale is here.
I have to mention I have a slight interest in this sheet - As I was able to review the HK kit I was able to help out with the diameter of the cowling decal on Sag Harbor Express – but that is as far as my involvement goes on this sheet so I can comment on it impartially. I was just as surprised and happy to see this come out as anyone else.

The sheets come in a plastic Zip-Loc bag all the way from Mexico (with the brilliant stamps they make) and with some cardboard in the pack to keep them safe. Inside the zip loc bag are two decal sheets of 19cmW x 24cmH (7.5 inches W x 9.5 H) and two colour pages of instructions with profile sand history of the aircraft on them. This decal set also comes with a vinyl mask of the front of the B-25 “Sag Harbor Express” so you can apply the blue colour right to the nose instead of forming a large decal to transparencies – a good thing too – this would have been tricky otherwise – more on this later…

For the purposes of this review we will look at the history and accuracy of the decals and then apply them to the kit. As I haven’t progressed with my kit of “Sag Harbor Express” I will just apply the star and bar to the wing to show you how well the decal performs “under fire”

First of all the contents of the instructions:

The instructions come on two double sided sheets of coloured glossy paper which has the front cover image one side – the seven profiles on two sides and the top and bottom profiles on the last side. Let’s start with this page…
The top and bottom profile page comes complete with colour matches for all of the aircraft and a top and bottom profile of the B-25 complete with placement of the decals. The kit’s panel lines were slightly different to the drawings on the top of the wings but it was still pretty easy to work out placement positions on the wings.

This sheet also explains where exactly you place the guns on these aircraft, a really handy tip if all you had a was a picture to go on of one view (and sometimes not even that) For instance you go from a single nose gun on “Angel of Mercy” to nine on the Apache Princess – this is a really handy reference if you cannot fit pictures on the sheets – well done.
This part of the instructions also has the placement of the vinyl masking sheet on it as well – this is for the “Sag Harbor Express” decal choice where the front of the glass nosed aircraft has been painted over in a deep blue colour and this is a much better way of doing it rather than wrapping a large decal around the area and dealing with lots of split decals you have to match together.

 The two sheets of decals:
 The large size of the decals must have been a real Tetris game fitting it all in
Before we look at the decals for each aircraft we will give you an overview of the sheets on offer. You don’t get aircraft stencils, but you do get a large set of stars and bars for one aircraft and of course the individual markings for each kite. The decals are printed by Zotz themselves in Mexico and on examination  they are printed finely with some tiny detail replicated very well in real life – the decals have as little carrier film as the need and are of a satin finish when applied. 

The decals held to the light so you can see the thickness and carrier film - a plethora of colours are here that all look good and strong.
The white is strong and not opaque and the printing is in register with everything coming in neatly where it should be within the artwork. The decal is strong and settles down very nicely into the laser cut rivets – more on the application of the decals later. I am more than happy with the artwork and the colours, thickness and minimal carrier film.
The profiles and research:
On these instruction sheets you also have two sides dedicated to the seven aircraft’s profile – showing where to apply decal with some little supplemental drawings on the occasional added decal in other spots on the aircraft that need to be identified. We will go through them one by one and I will show you close-ups of the artwork on display.

B-25J "Nasty Nancy" s/n 43-36001 of the 75th BS, 42nd BG "Crusaders", 13th AF, based in the Philippines during 1945. 
 Nasty Nancy is seen here in Olive Drab/ neutral Grey colours with the lovely lady riding a long bomb surrounded by the American style stars on the starboard nose section with the "Nasty Nancy" and the 42nd bomb group's "Crusaders" shields on both vertical tails.
The 42nd Bomb Group's Mission #48 was assigned to the men of B-25J “Nasty Nancy”.  Their job was to fly in circles at 10,000’ over the city of Saigon, in broad daylight and lure Japanese fighters into a dogfight. This aircraft was credited with four shot down in this action - A nice little account of Nasty Nancy's most famous mission is here

B-25J "Milk Run" s/n 43-3890 of the 82nd BS, 12th BG "Earthquakers", 10th AF, based in India during 1944-45.

 A censored pic. from the war With Milk run in the foreground
 The 12th Bomb group all liked to incorporate their mascot into their colourful machines - this one - "Milk Run" was well documented during the war and you can see even in the censored picture the dogs on the front and the ID number on the tail - the Serial number however is censored in this picture
 The decal of the dogs carrying clubs with a nail sticking out of the adorned the port nose of the aircraft and following the big dog - (with teats) hence the expression "Milk Run" - which was also used for and easy or boring mission. Easy i suppose if you carry a big stick! Here is the nose section so you can compare the artwork. I think the artwork is pretty spot on.

There is also the large "46" ID Number on the aircraft and the correct serial number of "33890" on the tail supplied in these decals

B-25J "Sheridan Express" s/n 43-3958 of the 22nd BS, 341st BG,  14th AF, based at Yangkai, China in the summer of 1945.

 Named and painted in a morning in honour of the famous Anne Sheridan who visited the aircraft's CBI base in 1945. Armed with only a rough sketch the artist drew and painted (with the aid of a stick and about  two inches of frayed rope as a brush) the famous lady on the port nose - there are many pictures of the artwork to check the decal artwork here
And the Zotz artwork which is spot on again - the red colour of the hair was apparently the focus point on the real aircraft's art. Apparently on arrival at the base Ms. Sheridan turned out to be a blonde when she finally arrived at the base!!
 apparently the C/O of the unit thought that the artwork was too bright and would attract the attention of the enemy - so it was removed shortly after Ms. Sheridan's visit - what a shame!
There is a nice story of it here in this forum where you will get more information on the back story. 

B-25J "Angel of Mercy" s/n 43-35982 of the 428th BS, 310th BG, 12th AF, based at Corsica during 1945. 
The only natural metal aircraft in this decal set it is also the lightest defensively armed and an aircraft attached to a dramatic set of photographs - first let's compare nose arts

You can see in this rare colour picture from the war that the  nurse has been captured in the artwork in style as well as in the right colours - truly lucky to have such good photographs to work from Zotz have yielded a good result here
This is B-25J "Angel of Mercy" of the 310th Bombardment Group, 428th Bombardment Squadron stationed at Ghisonaccia, Corsica. See the "Angel of Mercy" crash-landing article here - a great little connection to these decals that have been captured pretty well here

 Pictures of the crash - You can see on the tail that the yellow band on the vertical tails is outlined by three black stripes - I think it must have been a late change but it is clearly marked here not to use the second set - kudos to Zotz for holding back and making sure this is just right on the finished product instead of simply just not bothering.

 B-25J "Sag Harbour Express" s/n 43-36030 of the 499th BS, 345th BG "Air Apaches",  5th AF, based in the Philippines during early 1945. 
 Take note that this 345th BG "Air Apache" machine had an extra MG in the nose just like "Apache Princess" which is also featured on this sheet. It is nice to get the information on the sheet - very hard to find a picture of this aircraft.
The decals and the mask for the blue nose colour - much better than a massive decal it would be a lot easier to just trace the outline decal around the nose - smart thanking and easier for the modeller. the writing is looking like a match to me in the size and font - I couldnt really find any other wartime photos of this bird. Also included (and noted on the decal sheet are the white bands around the engine cowling to edge the blue, the small bat around the centre nose .50cal gun an the large mouth and eyes on the nose which simply go on top of the blue nose.
"Sag Harbor Express" piloted by Lt. Arthur Browngardt of Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY of the 499th Bomb Squadron "Bats Outa Hell", 345th Bomb Group "Air Apaches" based in Tacloban, Philippines. The aircraft was on a low level strafing mission and dropping parafrags over Clarkfield on January 7, 1945 when it was hit by Japanese anti aircraft fire on the right engine. Loosing power and altitude, it lost control and clipped the roof of the Catholic Parish Church in the town of Angeles (now Angeles City) and crashed to a nearby school Holy Angel Academy (now Holy Angel University) killing the entire crew. Parts of this aircraft are on display at the Holy Angel Academy museum and a helmet from it was donated to another local museum.
B-25J "Apache Princess" s/n 43-28152 of the 501st BS, 345th BG "Air Apaches", 5th AF, based in the Philippines during the spring of 1945.

 Apache Princess is currently flying today - but don't be taken in - this is not the wartime airframe but a different aircraft painted new 9 not very good) nose art. This aircraft S/N 43-36030 was another Olive Drab/Neutral grey ship from the "Air Apaches" bomb group. Note the red cowling intakes and white stripe mid way through the wing.The nose art again matches very well the original wartime shot.
Again pictures of this wartime aircraft are scarce - the real kite was shot down by Japanese AA fire in May 1945 - here thought at least is a picture of the tail art of another aircraft from that group so we can see the similarities

B-25J "Green Dragons" s/n 43-27971 of the 405th BS, 345th BG "Sunsetters", 5th AF, based at Morotai during late 1944.

 Oww well here I go again only one picture of this quite famous aircraft from a well known group - all of the dragons in this group had slightly different green dragons on their fuselages - so I am going only from this picture but what Zotz have done passes for accurate to me.

The shot is colourized so ignore that - but just look at the shape is all I can say.
This bird is well known from the dispatches - here is the gun camera footage from the mission in which it took on the Japanese freighter the "Takasu Maru"
 As far as I am concerned I put a lot of work into researching this review and if the guys at Zotz did their due diligence they must have doubled that in research - It is clear to me the replication of these decals and the artwork here shows that the research has been done and the artwork is great - only one more thing to truly test a decal - Apply them to a kit.I could sit around all day and talk about them being in register and the colour strength etc......

Road test - The Application:
The deals for the wing are the lager star and bars - the smaller ones are for the aft fuselage - don't mess it up! ( he says to himself) Anyway the decals were going down on a bed of Testors aluminium plate and a coat or two of future to seal it.

With some Micro sol in these pictures you can see how well these decals adhered to the fine detail of the kit.
The normal steps I take with decals apply here - tepid water and after applying the decal - positioning it and then lightly pushing the air bubbles (a BIG decal so lots of scope there) and then left to dry I wanted a while to make sure then  applied three consecutive coats of Micro-sol to the decal to make it sin into those tiny laser cut rivets - this would be a challenge!

Challenged passed - and passed easily - the decals settled down and these pictures tell it all - I got the decals to reflect light at every different angle I took the picture so you could see any imperfections - this is without even a sealing gloss coat! so the decals performed just how I thought they would - flawless!
A well-researched set of decals – accurate in their reproduction of the seven aircraft depicted, a large decal which took a lot of handling and still held together, affixed itself and settled down onto the aircraft perfectly – Even in the tiniest of rivet holes - could you ask for much more? ( a bit more time to make the kit will be good) - 'till then I can wholeheartedly recommend these decals.

Adam Norenberg

You can order this decal sheet from the Zotz Decals website or from the other stores mentioned in the header of this review