Painting a PSP Base

I have one in my stash of shame.


By: Wayne Hui.

Most forward American air strips from WWII to Vietnam were built from the Marston Mat. The technical description for the Marston mat is the pierced steel planking (psp). It was an ingenious solution to quickly build a stable, flat, non-eroding operating surface for aircrafts in forward area where concrete tarmac were not available. The solution was to prefabricate light weigh (66 lbs per piece of plank) steel planks airfield surface which can be lifted and installed on flatten dirty fields by men without the need of machine. One side of the plank had pre-formed hooks with which to latch onto the plank ahead of it. The planks were installed in staggered pattern and the completed surface were strong and flat. It was the forefather to the modern day vinyl plank flooring which even my wife can simply click into place (almost, but still requiring my engineering assistance).

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One thought on “Painting a PSP Base

  1. Pierre Lagacé March 14, 2021 / 12:41 pm

    Interesting comment left on the original post…

    That’s really good, but there is one thing we all forgot (I learned this during research on one of my books): the original color of the PSP is Olive Drab, and it was well done, with a primer coat, because they had to fight rust..

    Depending on the age and level of use, there may be anywhere from some to very little left of the original OD, but if you start with the OD base, then do everything Wayne has shown here in his excellent post, we finally arrive at a really accurate base. Wayne’s result is 99% there – the PSP put down at Henderson Field probably looked worse that what’s here after six weeks of the use it got.But along the edges of the strip, one could likely find some OD even there. So this isn’t a criticism, but one thing I learned from a very good diorama builder who is no longer here, is to think thoroughly about the question, “Where are we?” A good “for instance” of that would be the Forward Landing Grounds in western Europe after D-Day. Those in France got heavy use, but only from a squadron or two that was there, from – say – mid-June to late August; after that, the battle line moved on and they got little or even no use. Any one of them individually probably didn’t get 1/3 the use Henderson Field got in six weeks.

    There’s also the matter of rust, which I brought up at the outset. This is why the pieces were painted OD with a good base to begin with – steel doesn’t like water. Rust around the edges (that brown Wayne used does it mostly). for that I randomly spray a bit of Tamiya “Bronze” while blotching the other colors. I once asked a ground crewman at the 57th Bomb Wing about maintenance of the PSP on Corsica and he told me that was why guys behaved – you could get a “punishment tour” to PSP maintenance, removing and replacing the worst pieces, that’s because as it weathered, it got thin and brittle, and a piece coming up and stabbing the main wheel of an airplane just at the moment of lift-off was the worst possible thing – and it happened more than anyone wanted to admit.

    Hope I didn’t open a can of worms here. I’ve found that worrying about “background detail” is the key to creating something that stands out from things around it.

    Thanks again for the4 tutorial, Wayne.


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