Air Force 1 00113A is this new 1/72 scale diecast model of Northrop P-61B Black Widow #42-39408 “Lady in the Dark” in the night fighter livery of the 548th NFS, USAAF based on Le Shima Island, August 14th 1945.
Length 8.25 inches Wingspan 1 inches
P-61B Black Widow #42-39408 was named “Lady in the Dark” was credited with the last Allied victory of the war on August 14th, 1945. The aircraft was piloted by Lt. Robert W. Clyde and R/O Lt. Bruce K. LeFord on the night of 14 August/15 August 1945, claiming a Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki (Allied codename “Tojo”). It should be noted though, that the destruction of the “Tojo” came without a shot being fired. After the pilot of the “Tojo” sighted the attacking P-61, he descended to wave-top level and began a series of evasive maneuvers which ended with his aircraft striking the water and exploding. Lts. Clyde and LeFord were never officially credited with this possible final kill of the War. However the story is still incomplete and on the following night of 15/16 August (almost 24 hours after the war had ended) Major Sol Solomon (later changing his name to Lee Kendall) and R/0 Lt John Scheerer flying the same P-61B forced another aggressively flown Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki (meaning Demon Queller) to crash into the sea. This was not listed as an official victory since the war was officially over, but the fact remains that “Lady in the Dark” scored the final two aerial victories of World War II without firing its guns. Most apt that such a mysterious looking aircraft should be the cause of such an amazing story!!
The heavily-armed Black Widow—the United States’ first aircraft specifically designed as a night-fighter—first flew on May 21st, 1942. The P-61 had four forward-firing 20mm cannons and a dorsal turret housing four .50-caliber machine guns. The radar equipment in its nose enabled its crew to locate and attack enemy aircraft in total darkness. The twin boom arrangements housed two Pratt & Whitney turbocharged engines and were joined at rear by a large plane and twin rudder formation. The pilot was seated in the main fuselage, with the gunner immediately behind him and the radar operator at the rear of the gondola.
By the time the P-61 appeared in service in 1944, there was little call for its services, since the Axis air forces were by then mere shadows of their former selves. When the airplane first appeared in the ETO, it was rejected in favor of the USAAF night fighter squadrons being equipped with advanced Mosquito night fighters. A fly-off was demanded by the P-61 crews, and amazingly enough the P-61 was “superior” to the Mosquito. The USAAF always thought that the British had “cooked the books” in the fly-off, since they wanted to keep Mosquito night fighter production for themselves.
Over Northwestern Europe, the P-61s went after German night attack aircraft, with their primary victims being Ju-88s and Ju-87s, with several Ju-52 aircraft on night resupply missions being shot down. In the Mediterranean, there was no night air opposition by the time the P-61 replaced Bristol Beaufighter VI night fighters. In the Pacific, P-61s defended the airfields in the Marianas, at Iwo Jima and at Okinawa. The airplane suffered the ignominy of being replaced by Marine F6F Hellcat night fighters in the Philippines in the aftermath of the 1944 invasion, with the Hellcats being demonstrated superior to the P-61s.
One of the more interesting stories about the P-61 involves the P-61B “Lady in the Dark,” operated by the 548th NFS from Iwo Jima from April 1945 to the end of the war. On the night of August 14, 1945, “Lady in the Dark” was flown by a different crew from that regularly assigned. Vectoed onto a bogie inbound at low altitude, the P-61B scored a victory when the Japanese fighter hit the water and exploded without a single round being fired. Officially, the war in the Pacific ended at midnight, but the possibility of night kamikaze attacks against American airfields remained and the P‑61s were kept on alert.