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Modeling History: A Tribute To 1LT Arnold Jaqua

Andy Mason presents Jack Jaqua with a model of 1LT Arnold Jaqua's P-40.

Modelers are often very interested in history, reading not only about the details of the kits we model, but about the lives of those who used the machines we model. it’s always wonderful to see our hobby intersect in a meaningful way with history. Andy Mason submitted this wonderful story about helping a WWII hero’s brother connect with history through a model.

Five years ago my youngest son’s 5th grade class hosted a “Bring A Veteran to School” day and my son, Max, invited a former USAF pilot from our church to be his guest. Mr. Pennington brought an old bare plastic model of the jet he flew in the 1950’s; a North American F-86. I had been on a modeling hiatus for close to 12 years, but when I saw Mr. Pennington holding that unpainted 1:48 Sabre, I thought to myself, “He really needs to have a detailed model of his jet. So two years ago at Christmas I surprised Mr. Pennington with a custom built 1:32 Kinetic F-86 complete with his squadron emblem and his name on the canopy rail. His reaction to the model when I presented it was priceless. His joy at receiving the piece was outdone by my joy of giving it to him.

Fast forward to this year. Jack Jaqua, a member at the church where I minister, is a U.S. Army veteran. He knows of my love for military aviation. Most of my parishioners do since I have my church office decorated with pictures and models of some of my favorite planes. So he told me one day that his brother flew P-40s in North Africa during WWII. He brought me a book – “P-40 Warhawk Aces of the MTO” from Osprey- chronicling the operations of the 65th FS/57th FG. His brother, 1 Lt. Arnold Jaqua is mentioned several times in the book and was credited with 3 Bf-109 kills before he was killed in action.

I thought it would be cool to build Jack a model of the plane his older brother flew but, being a modern jet guy myself, I didn’t know much about P-40s. So it took some time to solicit more details from my friend to accurately depict his brother’s plane. I was learning a lot about short-tail and long-tail, Allison and Merlin powered, desert pink or middle stone over earth P-40s. Now I just needed to find a kit. This past October at the Modelpalooza at Orlando, I sought out fellow Agape member Gil Hodges and picked his brain on what kit would work for my project. Gil offered some helpful advice and solidified my desire to follow through on my second tribute build.

I settled on the AmTEch kit of the P-40F that comes with a Merlin-powered resin nose. As I stated to build, my next dilemma was trying to locate decals to complete the tribute. Jack said that he read in his brother’s diary something about flying in “White 47”. Since I’m a jet guy I didn’t have any WWII style National insignias or numbers (i.e, my spares box was kind of sparse!). I contacted Jon Bius, knowing his affinity for Spritfires and P-40s. I asked if he might have any spare markings that I could cobble together to complete my build. Jon promised to see what he had and get back with me. Within 24 hours Jon emailed me with the following news:

Ever hear the saying “JACKPOT”? 🙂 I found a set at the local hobby shop (Hayes Hobby House). Now, it’s for the long- tailed version of White 47 that was flown by someone after Lt. Jaqua was KIA. BUT, it’s a white 47, and more importantly, it’s got the squadron crest that goes on the lower cowl! 

The build went smoothly and I decided to place the P-40 on a diorama base for easier display. I wanted to incorporate a simulated desert base along with a photo of Lt. Jaqua. I asked Jack’s wife if he had a photo of his brother in uniform and she sneaked an 8×10 photo to me. I took the photo to a local CVS Pharmacy and copied the picture and printed it on a sheet of 9 wallet photos. This was the perfect size to fit on my base.

So I had my friend and his family over for dinner. Afterwards I brought out the P-40 diorama as a surprise. I think he was pleased with it. I also learned how his brother died. Apparently 1LT Arnold Jaqua was returning from a bombing/strafing run of a German base on an island in the Mediterranean. His plane had taken a hit from ground fire that had punctured his radiator. As the coolant leaked out on the egress home it was apparent to Lt. Jaqua that he was not going to make it back to base. He decided on a water landing and his commander, Gilbert Wymond, stayed with him and noted that Lt. Jaqua had put the P-40 down remarkably well for a water landing. It was early in March and Jaqua was forced to survive in the cold Mediterranean waters until rescuers would arrive. Arnold Jaqua’s body was recovered from the frigid waters many hours later. Though young and fit, the exposure to the elements proved too much for 24-year-old
Arnold Jaqua.

Arnold’s younger brother – my friend in the picture (Jack)- was 16 years old when he received news that his older brother had died in action and lamented the fact that he never got to enjoy having an “older brother” in life. Jack Jaqua is an Army veteran himself so this tribute build was a way to honor two members of America’s Greatest Generation!