The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors Book Review

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The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour

By James D. Hornfischer

Hardcover in dustjacket, 427 pages, illustrated, indexed

Published by Bantam Books, February 2004

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0553802577

ISBN-13: 978-0553802573

Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches

The Battle of Samar is the United States Navy version of the Charge of the Light Brigade.  On the morning of 26OCT44 a small group of six U.S. escort carriers and their screening destroyers (call sign Taffy 3) was surprised to see an overwhelmingly superior force of Imperial Japanese Navy battleships and cruisers steaming over the horizon.  The destroyers nearest to the Japanese armada turned to the attack in order to allow time for the carriers to escape.  The destroyers Johnston and Hoel, along with the smaller destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts were sunk, but they were able to save all the escort carriers except for the Gambier Bay.

Hornfischer tells the story from the perspective of the sailors who fought it, often in their own words.  Even though they each may have served on the same ship during the same action, the experiences of a gunner are very different than a boiler tender, and neither are the same as the Captain on the bridge.  This is very much a sailor’s story.  He also details the ordeal of the survivors who had to wait days for rescue – an often overlooked part of the story.

This is a very engaging book.  The Battle of Samar was just one action in the sprawling Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history.  It is a valiant fight against overwhelming odds and a study of how men react under pressure when – in the words of the Captain of the Samuel B. Roberts addressing his crew as they turned to attack the Japanese fleet, “… survival cannot be expected.”  An outstanding book, highly recommended.

 

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Hasegawa Mitsubishi J2M Raiden 雷電 Lightning Bolt “Jack” in 1/72

This is Hasegawa’s classic Mitsubishi Raiden kit from 1977.  It is a good kit for its time, but suffers from basic cockpit detail and shallow wheelwells.  I replaced both on my build.  There is photographic evidence for at least three Raiden with the lighting bolt markings on the fuselage which is not all that surprising given the aircraft’s name.  This one represents a machine of the 353rd Kokutai at Omura in March of 1945.

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AZ Yokosuka K5Y2 Akatombo 赤とんぼ (Red Dragonfly) “Willow” in 1/72 Scale

This is the “new” AZ Model Yokosuka K5Y2 Akatombo kit first issued in 2013.  This is a nice kit, but like the earlier LS issue does not come with a beaching cart.  The rudder is molded a bit too short and has to built up on the lower edge.  The kit’s seats are ridiculously small and should be replaced, I went ahead and detailed out the cockpit while I was at it.  The markings are from the kit and represent an aircraft of the Kishima Kokutai in 1944.

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LS Yokosuka K5Y2 Akatombo 赤とんぼ (Red Dragonfly) “Willow” in 1/72 Scale

This is the old LS mold of the Japanese Akatombo primary float trainer first issued in 1977.  The kit has a few limitations but still goes together well and can be built into a nice model.  I scratchbuilt a cockpit as there is very little included in the kit.  The beaching gear is scratchbuilt, and I replaced the vertical stabilizer with a broad cord clone from the newer AZ kit as the floatplanes all had the wider stabilizers.  The decals are from the new AZ kit and are of a machine from the Otsu Kokutai in August of 1945.

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Fujimi Aichi B7A Ryusei 流星 “Grace” in 1/72 Scale

The Aichi Ryusei (Allied reporting name “Grace”) was a Japanese carrier-based attack aircraft which was intended to serve as a torpedo-, dive-, and level-bomber aboard the Taiho and Shinano.  Both ships were sunk before the Ryusei could be embarked, and the limited numbers produced operated from shore bases.  The gull wings gave it a distinct appearance, and performance was exceptional for an attack aircraft of the period.

This is Fujimi’s kit from the mid 1980s.  It is a decent kit for its time but could use a little extra work.  I rebuilt the cockpit using Evergreen, replaced the engine with resin from Engines & Things, and deepened the wheelwells. The model depicts an aircraft of the Yokosuka Naval Air Group to match a photograph, the dual horizontal tail stripes indicate a flight leader.

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Hasegawa Kawanishi N1K2-Ja Shiden-Kai 紫電 Violet Lightning “George” in 1/72 Scale

Another build of the 1977 Hasegawa kit, this example has had the chord of the vertical tail reduced to represent a late-production Shiden-Kai.  It is marked as the aircraft of Warrant Officer Kaneyoshi Mutoh of the Yokosuka Kokutai in February 1945 operating from Oppama.  Mutoh was credited with twenty-eight victories total, including eight on the Shiden-Kai.

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Hasegawa Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden-Kai 紫電 Violet Lightning “George” in 1/72 Scale

This is the 1977 Hasegawa kit.  It has all the typical Hasegawa shortcomings of its time – basic cockpit, crude engine, and shallow wheelwells.  An additional problem which is often missed is it displays a shape error concerning the width of the vertical fin.  Kawanishi produced both a broad- and narrow-fin N1K2, Hasegawa’s kit splits the difference and so has to be modified to properly represent either version.  On this build the fin was widened to represent one of the first one hundred examples produced.

This aircraft carries the markings of Chief Petty Officer Shoichi Sugita of the 343rd Kokuti operating from Matsuama Japan in March 1945.  CPO Sugita was credited with approximately seventy victories, including seven in the Shiden-Kai.  He was killed on 15APR45.

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Aoshima Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden 紫電 Violet Lightning “George” in 1/72 Scale

The Aoshima Shiden series are nice kits but are often overlooked.  This is the N1K1 with the redesigned wing incorporating all four Type 99 20 mm cannon internally.  The kit has shallow wheelwells but a passable cockpit.  The clear parts are a strong point and the canopy can be posed in the open position.  The gear doors do need replacing as they are thick and molded into the landing gear legs – an odd choice for such a nice kit.  Markings are from a Kopro decal sheet and represent a Shiden of the Yokosuka Kokutai.

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Tamiya Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden 紫電 Violet Lightning “George” in 1/72 Scale

Tamiya’s N1K1 is a little gem but is overlooked by most modelers.  It has the fit and finished we have come to expect from Tamiya and goes together without any issues.  I detailed the cockpit and replaced the cannon barrels with brass from Master, but this kit looks great right out of the box.  The markings represent an aircraft of the 341st Kokutai at Marcott in the Philippines in October 1944, by January the squadron had been wiped out.

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MPM Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden 紫電 Violet Lightning “George” in 1/72 Scale

This is the limited run MPM Shiden kit from the 1990s.  It is rather crude by today’s standards and has been superseded by the excellent Tamiya offering.  Almost all of the smaller parts have been replaced on this build.  The cockpit was completely replaced and the wheelwells enclosed and detailed.  It can be built into a presentable model but requires a lot of work.

The aircraft carries the markings of Chief Petty Officer Tomeshiro Hiro of the Tsukuba Kokutai in February 1945.

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