Kaiten (回天) “Heaven Shaker” Manned Torpedo

The Kaiten was a manned torpedo employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy during the last months of the Pacific War. It was constructed by using the propulsion section of the successful Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedo, but with an enlarged forward section containing the pilot and a 3,420 pound warhead. The photograph is of a preserved example at the Yasukuni Museum in Japan.
The Kaiten were carried to the target area on the decks of fleet submarines, which could carry between four and six depending on the type. The pilot could enter the Kaiten while the submarine was submerged, but there was no way to recover the Kaiten once lunched. It was intended to be a one-way trip. The photograph shows I-361 with Kaiten aboard on 24MAY45, she was sunk with all hands eight days later.
A pilot poses with two Kaiten on the forward deck of I-36.
Pilots cheer from atop their Kaiten as their last voyage begins. Note the details of the securing arrangements.
Kaiten secured to the deck behind the conning tower as the crew musters on deck for departure. 89 Kaiten pilots were lost in combat, many before they could be launched. Eight IJN fleet submarines were sunk by American forces while transporting Kaiten to their operating areas.
The first employment of Kaiten was against the U.S. Fleet Anchorage at Ulithi Atoll. A total of eight manned torpedoes were launched from I-36 and I-47 on 20NOV44. One of these struck the oiler USS Mississinewa (AO-59) which emitted a column of smoke visible for miles. This was observed by the parent submarines, and assessed by the Japanese as the destruction of three aircraft carriers and two battleships.
The Mississinewa rolled over and sank, extinguishing the fires. One of the more surreal photographs from the war.
The USS Antares (AG-10) is most famous for sighting one of the five Japanese midget submarines attempting to enter Pearl Harbor on 07DEC41, which resulted in the USS Ward (DD-139) sinking the midget with the first shots fired of the Pacific War. Antares’ war with Japanese minisubs was not finished however, on 28JUN45 she was attacked by a Kaiten launched by I-36 off Guam. By this time she had been fitted with defensive armament, and sank the Kaiten herself with gunfire. An escorting destroyer, USS Sproston (DD-577) sank another, but the I-36 escaped. The strange story of the USS Ward here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/01/23/uss-ward-dd-139-apd-16/
The USS Underhill (DE-682) was the last victim of Kaiten. On 24JUL45 while escorting a convoy she detected a swarm of Kaiten launched from I-53. Defending the convoy aggressively, she depth charged the contacts. As she was passing over a Kaiten she had rammed, she was struck by a second and both exploded. She sank almost immediately with heavy losses to her crew.
The Imperial Japanese Navy intended to launch Kaiten from surface vessels to oppose the anticipated invasion of the Home Islands. They began modifying several ships to carry Kaiten, including destroyers of the Minekazi and Matsu classes, and the Kuma-class light cruiser Kitakami. Kitakami could carry up to eight Kaiten in her final configuration.
The Kaiten were carried on deck atop a rail and roller system. This is a launching trial aboard Kitakami.
The Kaiten were deployed by rolling them off the stern. The launching cradles would then separate, and the torpedoes would then attack the American fleet. The surface ships never launched Kaiten in operationally.
While small models, Kaiten kits have been offered by several manufacturers, including this pair from Fine Molds. Finished model here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/kaiten-japanese-manned-torpedo-in-1-72/

Fine Molds Messerschmitt Bf 109F-4 of Josef Zwernemann in 1/72 Scale

This is Josef Zwernemann’s Bf 109F-4 assigned to 7. / JG52 at Beryslaw, Russia, 14SEP41.  Zimmermann claimed his first victory, a Spitfire, over France in July 1940, but he was to achieve the majority of his victories against the Soviets.  He was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross when his score passed 100 in October 1942.  He was transferred to the West in Defense of the Reich in early 1944 where he flew the Focke Wulf Fw 190A-7 against American bomber streams.  On 08APR44 Zwernemann claimed a B-24 and a P-51, but was jumped by two more Mustangs and had to bail out.  He was shot and killed in his parachute as he descended.  In total he claimed 123 victories.

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Fine Molds Nakajima A6M2 Zero of CDR Taketora Ueda in 1/72 Scale

This aircraft is Tora (Tiger) – 110, the mount of the CO of the 261 Kokutai.  This aircraft features prominently in Thorpe’s classic Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage and Markings of WWII, being pictured on the cover, a photograph (below), and a color profile.  Very attractive, but also problematic.  The photograph shows a Type 21, with a dark finish on the forward fuselage and a lighter finish aft.  Various people (all of whom know much more about this than me) have interpreted the difference in colors as two greens, discoloration due to primer, dirt or fading, or even as the aft fuselage being painted red matching the Hinomaru.  Thorpe’s cover artwork depicts a Type 22 with the wing stripes and upper wing Hinomaru moved inward.

For my build I chose the primer interpretation and mixed the green a little lighter for the aft fuselage and sections of the upper wings, but I keep thinking it would look good in red.  Fine Molds kit, all stripes are painted, tail codes are Hasegawa decals.

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A6M Zero Aces Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part III

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A metal rod in the nose makes a good place to handle the model while painting and a convenient way to keep it off the bench while drying. The camo on all these Zeros utilize the same color palette which makes painting more efficient.

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For some reason I always feel “almost done” after the decals are on, but that’s not really the case, is it? Maybe it’s because you can finally start to see something which resembles the finished product developing from the mass of parts. The major sub-assemblies are all complete but there are several smaller parts still on the sprues.

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Decaling is completed here. Quite a few decals, actually. The Tamiya and Fine Molds kits both included extensive stenciling, the FM sheet especially. I purchased a few of the Hasegawa kits at shows, one of the decal sheets in those was ruined, a few more were the older type with the light reds and ivory whites. I used TechMod sheet 72116 for the Hinomaru and Aviaeology sheets for the tail codes to provide the needed replacements. Additional codes were made from an HO scale train sheet from the LHS.

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Here’s the underside of one of the Hasegawa Type 22s, showing the incorporation of the replacement wheelwells. Brake lines are 32-gauge beading wire, tow hooks are HO scale lifting pad eyes. The brake lines run down between the main gear leg and the covers, between the attachment points. The Tamiya covers are molded with a space between the points, the other covers were slotted with a razor saw. The Tamiya kits also came with parts for the U-shaped retraction arms for the inner doors, arms for the other kits were fabricated from wire.

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I used a “sludge wash” to bring out the panel lines, which is just thinned acrylic paint mixed with a small amount of dish soap. I generally like just enough contrast to get the panel lines to show up. A medium grey was used on the underside, but black was used on the uppers because the green is so dark.

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A group shot of all the kits together.

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SUMMARY:

Hasegawa – While they do not have the detail nor refined engineering of the other two manufacturers, these are still good, solid kits.  The main strength of the Hasegawa line is the variety of types offered – from the A6M1 to the A6M8, and everything in between.  Weaknesses are the very basic cockpits and shallow wheelwells.  Overall the shape looks good.  The vertical fin is a little too broad in chord, but that is easily fixed.  The cowling on their A6M2 is a bit small, which is noticeable when compared directly to the other manufacturers (see photo above, Hasegawa kit on the left).  For many of the versions, a Hasegawa kit is still the best place to start.

Fine Molds – These are great kits, some of the best offered in our scale.  Fine Molds kit the A6M2, A6M3 Type 32, and A6M5.  They offer great detail and outstanding engineering.  Their A6M2 kit has several options including open cowl claps, lowered landing flaps, open canopy, and wing tips which can be posed folded.  The main drawbacks are price and their unique distribution method as bundles with two issues of Model Graphics magazine.

Tamiya – The Tamiya kits are every bit as nice as the Fine Molds kits, but in different ways.  Asking which is best is like trying to figure out which Victoria’s Secret supermodel is the prettiest.  The details are superb and the engineering allows the kits to just fall together.  If I were looking to purchase new Zero kits today, the Tamiya A6M2 or A6M5s would be my first choices.

Aftermarket – I used three aftermarket parts on these builds.  The Hasegawa kits all got True Details resin wheels, the Tamiya and Fine Molds wheels looked fine to me.  All the kits received Eduard photoetch seatbelts, from set 73001.  Eduard provides different style belts for the Mitsubishi and Nakajima-built aircraft – something I would not have caught otherwise.  The center section of the canopies are all Squadron vacuforms, the other sections are kit parts.  The front section of the Squadron canopies will not fit any of these three kits, even though they are intended to replace the Hasegawa parts.  I also used the Eduard canopy mask set CX006, which saved a lot of time.  Aviaeology supplied tailcode numerals, and Techmod supplied Hinomarus where needed.

A6M Zero Aces Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

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These are the A6M2 kit engines from the three manufacturers – Hasegawa (upper left), Fine Molds (upper right), and Tamiya (lower). Push rods from 0.010″ round stock were added to the Hasegawa engines. The cases were painted RLM 65 blue-grey, the ignition ring is light gull grey. Ignition wires are roughed in with very fine Copper wire. The Hasegawa engine is definitely smaller when seen with the others, but looks the part inside it’s cowling.

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The Fine Molds kit comes with separate flaps, a nice option. I decided to drop the flaps on one of the Hasegawa A6M3s (top) and the Tamiya A6M5 (bottom) as well. The Tamiya A6M2 is engineered with the entire flap molded into the upper wing piece, while their A6M5 flap is split into halves with the upper & lower wing parts, so I went with the easier job of the two.

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The underside of the wings of the Hasegawa kits were cut out for the resin castings. A bit of a gap on this one, but nothing which can’t be filled and the wheelwells are much deeper now. I like the deep wells a lot better. In this picture you can also see the boattail where the wing underside joins the fuselage. The Hasegawa kits all had small gaps at this joint, and even the Fine Molds & Tamiya kits needed some smoothing there.

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A “conversion” from a Type 22 to a Type 32 – cut off the wingtips and reshape the ends to represent the aerodynamic fairing. I had managed to acquire three Type 22 kits but no 32s, easy enough to fix.

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Construction is almost complete, just have to add the canopies and mask. Now is a good time to mention some of the considerations involved in doing a batch build. The main advantages lie in the efficiencies gained in building kits of same construction and / or color pallet, but that can also lead to confusion in the detail differences between the individual models if you’re not careful. The key is establishing a system to account for the differences between the models. Organization is crucial, just come up with a system which makes sense to you, and stick to it. In this case, I have used the kit boxes as trays, and arranged the model variants in chronological order, from left to right. A post-it note also helps to remind me of the final markings for each kit. This is important, as details such as spinner colors and other painted markings often vary between aircraft. The airframes on the stand are arranged in the same order.

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Sub-assemblies and other parts prepared for painting are kept in front of their respective boxes. Where there are important variations in the camouflage or markings, good notes or pictures are very useful. Notice that the post-it for Tiger 110 says “Nakajima” – many of the colors on Nakajima-made Zero components are different than those manufactured by Mitsubishi.

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The small cards contain parts specific to each model, and are labeled with the pilot’s names like the post-its. They will be sprayed with Alclad lacquers and contain the parts which will be black, silver, or Aotake. The engines are in order on their card, left to right matching the sequence of the boxes. The drop tanks and landing gear covers all get the same color, four are identical parts from Hasegawa kits, the ones on the right of each group are Tamiya.

A6M Zero Aces Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

This is a resurrected work-in-progress build log of a batch build comparison of seven kits from Hasegawa, Fine Molds, and Tamiya.  For me the gains in efficiency from building in batches outweigh the burdens of repetitive construction.  It also helps keep the number of kits in the stash down to reasonable levels.  Thanks to a few “deals I could not refuse” at the shows I discovered I had managed to accumulate several Hasegawa Zeros.  Added to a Fine Molds A6M2 and a couple more from Tamiya, there was a small pile of Zeros waiting to be built.  This is also a good opportunity to compare the kits.

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Fine Mold’s kit is spectacular. It is incredibly detailed, and includes options such as dropped flaps and folded wingtips. It comes molded in four colors approximating the finished colors of the different components. FM produced three variants, an A6M2, A6M3, and an A6M5. Each was distributed by bundling half the sprues with an issue of Model Graphics magazine. The magazines featured references, a gallery of finished Zeros, a build article, kit instructions, and even a cut-out for those wishing to make their own box! All in Japanese, of course, but still useful.

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Here is a comparison of the interior components of the three kits. At the top is Hasegawa. While not as detailed as the Fine Molds or Tamiya offerings, the older Hasegawa kits offer every Zero variant except the -K trainer, and are generally accurate in shape. The liabilities are typical for Hasegawa – Spartan cockpits and shallow wheelwells. The middle components in the green plastic are from Fine Molds, an outstanding kit in every respect. At the bottom Tamiya’s Zeros, are some of the best kits ever produced in 1/72 scale.

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The lower wing parts are finely engraved and feature recessed panel lines on all three kits. The Hasegawa offering at the top has shallow wheel wells molded into the part, the other two have deep wells which go all the way to the upper wing part. Note the cut-outs on the Fine Molds wing in the center which allow for variations.

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The lines of FM and Tamiya’s A6M2’s are a very close match, with just a few differences in engineering. Here is a shot of the FM (near) fuselage taped up with the Hasegawa. The vertical stabilizer is a bit too broad on the Hasegawa Zero, but this is easy enough to correct.

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To update the Hasegawa kits, I decided to substitute castings of superior components from the other two. Here are the wheelwells cut from the Fine Molds kit and prepared for casting.

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The borrowed components are ready for the pouring of RTV rubber molding material. The frames are made from Lego blocks, with masking tape underneath. The masking tape seals the bottom of the molds, and allows the masters to be fixed in place. I mainly used FM parts because the cockpit floors were slightly narrower than those in the Tamiya kit, which fit the Hasegawa fuselage better. The Tamiya kit parts would also work. The white assembly in the upper left corner is made from Evergreen stock, and will fit behind the horseshoe-shaped frame aft of the pilot’s seat. When the castings are completed I will have the parts needed to update the Hasegawa kits, and add a little more detail to the visible area behind the pilot’s seat on all the builds.

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Once the RTV molds have cured, the actual casting doesn’t take much time. Pour, wait, pop, repeat. In between pours, stringer detail and other details can be made from 0.010″ square Plastistruct and added. Here is a shot of the progress on a Hasegawa, Fine Molds, and Tamiya cockpits, from top to bottom. The Hasegawa kits will get a whole new cockpit, the others get a few enhancements.

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Here are the basic colors in place, which allows some of the detail to show. The interiors were first primed with Alclad black. The Aotake translucent protective coating could vary in shade from blues to greens, mine is a 50 / 50 mix of Alclad transparent green and transparent blue over Aluminum. I used Model Master Interior Green FS 34151 for the Mitsubishi cockpit green. This was misted down over the black primer to leave a shadow effect in the nooks and crannies. Two additional lighter mixes were sprayed from directly above to enhance the highlights.

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Here’s all seven cockpits in the basic colors, no washes or detail painting have been added at this point. These assemblies are about 1.25 inches long (32 mm), much smaller than shown in the picture. The cockpit in the upper left was painted with mixes of Model Master Interior Green, Light Gull Gray, and Radome Tan to represent the early Nakajima color. From above, the effect of misting the color layers on to leave the black shadowing is more subtle, but still provides the definition needed to show detail.

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I have added pads for the seats, painted as either canvas or leather. Seat belts are Eduard PE, and Eduard provides different style belts for each manufacturer. Most of the wire detail was added with 32 gauge beading wire from the craft store, levers are 0.010″ & 0.015″ Plastistruct rod. Instrument decals are from the kits and the spares box, Fine Molds provided the most comprehensive decal sheet of the three.

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This is a tub posed with the sidewalls from a Hasegawa kit. Everything was sealed with Future (Kleer), then given a wash of thin black enamel. Switches were drybrushed with silver to bring out details.

Fine Molds Messerschmitt Bf 109F-2 of Major Günther Lützow in 1/72 Scale

Messerschmitt Bf 109F-2 of Major Günther Lützow Stab / JG3, Russia,  Summer 1941.  Fine Molds kit.

Günther Lützow scored his first five victories as a member of Germany’s Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War, including the first victory ever credited to the Bf 109.  During the Battle of France he added nine more to his score, with another nine during the battle of Britain.  When Operation Barbarossa began he was a Major and Geschwaderkommodore of JG 3, this is Lützow’s mount depicted in the model.

Lützow continued to score regularly against the Russians and on 24OCT41 he became the second Luftwaffe Jagdflieger to achieve the one hundred victory mark (after Werner Mölders).  He was outspoken in his beliefs and made no secret of his distaste for the SS and the National Socialist Party.  This resulted in his being transferred to various staff positions, but he was a central figure in the Fighter Pilot’s Muntity where he criticized Herman Göring directly, which resulted in his exile to Italy.  He returned to Germany to fly the Me 262 with Galland’s JV 44 and was credited with two additional victories, bringing his total to 110.  On 24APR45, just two weeks before the end of the war, Oberst Günther Lützow went missing in his Me 262 while intercepting USAAF B-26s over Donauwörth, Germany.

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Fine Molds Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2 of Oberleutnant Günther Rall in 1/72 Scale

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2 of Oberleutnant Günther Rall of 8. / JG52, Russia, SEP42.  Fine Molds kit.

Günther Rall flew this aircraft upon returning to 8. / JG52 after recovering from a broken back sustained when he was shot down on 28NOV41 after his 36th victory.  By the end of the month he had brought his score to 90.  The aircraft shows signs of overpainting on the fuselage sides.  Rall was superstitious about the number thirteen and preferred that number on his assigned aircraft.

Rall was promoted to Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 52 in July 1943 and in September was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.  In April 1944 he was transferred to the Western Front and command of II./JG 11.  Like so many Experten transferred from the Eastern Front, he found combat against the Americans and British to be a much different thing than fighting the Russians.  On 12MAY44 Major Rall found himself facing the P-47 Thunderbolts of Colonel Hubert Zemke and his “Wolfpack”.  Unable to evade or outrun the powerful Thunderbolts, Rall bailed out of his damaged Messerschmitt with a severed thumb.  He survived the war as the third-highest scoring fighter pilot with 275 victories.  Post-war he served in the German Bundesluftwaffe, retiring with the rank of the rank of Generalleutnant.

Günther Rall passed away on 04OCT09 at the age of 91.

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Fine Molds Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 of Leutnant Helmut Lipfert in 1/72 Scale

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 of Leutnant Helmut Lipfert of 6. /JG52 at Bagerovo, Russia, DEC 1943.  Fine Molds kit.

The model depicts Leutnant Helmut Lipfert’s mount when he was Staffelkapitän 6. Staffel of JG 52.  He had claimed eighty Russian aircraft at that time.  His final score was 203 victories, for which he was awarded Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.  He was shot down himself fifteen times but survived the war.

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Fine Molds Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 of Leutnant Walter Wolfrum in 1/72 Scale

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 of Leutnant Walter Wolfrum of 5. /JG52 at Grammatikovo, Russia, March 1944.  Fine Molds kit.

Walter Wolfrum flew his first combat sorties with 5./JG 52 over the Crimea in February 1943.  He flew with JG 52 on the Eastern Front throughout the war.  He scored a total of 137 victories, but was himself shot down twelve times and wounded on four occasions.  He and the rest of JG 52 were turned over to the Russians at the end of the war, but Wolfrum was released due to his injuries.  He became the German National Champion in acrobatic flying in 1962.

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