Saburo Sakai is the most well-known of the Japanese aces in the West, thanks to the publication of books in English of his exploits by Martin Caiden and by Henry Sakaida. He opened his account in China where he scored four victories. He was part of the force which attacked US airfields in the Philippines on 08DEC41 (local time). Over Guadalcanal he was wounded by rear gunners of a formation of SBD Dauntless dive bombers which he mistook for Wildcats, the mistake cost him an eye. He survived the war and was credited with 64 victories. V-103 was one of the aircraft flown by Sakai while a member of the Tainan Air Group. The remains of this aircraft (and those of its’ last pilot) were discovered on Guadalcanal in 1993, and Sakai himself has verified that this is one of the aircraft which he flew while with the Tainan Air Group.
This aircraft is only known from entries and a sketch in Iwomoto’s journal, and is one of three he flew from Rabaul which displayed kill markings. Researchers have been trying to determine the manufacturer, model, and markings for these aircraft, but only one rather fuzzy photograph has surfaced publicly thus far. Tetsuzo Iwamoto survived the war. His personal diaries record 202 enemy aircraft claimed, historians have put the actual total at 80.
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.
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.
Here is White 11 of Oberfeldwebel Heinz Marquart, 13 /JG 51 at Schmoldow, Germany, May 1945. He was shot down in this aircraft by an RAF 41 Squadron Spitfire XIV on 1 May 1945, the day before his unit surrendered. His comrades assumed he was dead, but he survived and was in a hospital as the war ended. Heinz Marquart finished the war with credited with a total of 122 victories.
There is considerable confusion concerning White 11, several sources attribute the White 11 surrendered to the RAF on 2 May at Flensburg as being Marquart’s mount. That aircraft had unpainted gun covers, but it obviously cannot be the same White 11 shot down the day before. Jerry Crandall resolved the disparity during an interview with pilot Heinz Radlauer – mechanics had painted White 11 on two different 13 Staffel Doras!
Red 13 was piloted by Oberleutnant Klaus Faber from the airfield protection flight of JV 44, based at München-Rein in April of 1945. Faber considered 13 to be his lucky number, he survived the war with two victories. Red 13 got the Aeries engine & armament detail set, along with a whole lot of extra wiring. This aircraft had partial striping on the underside, the stripes did not run the length of the fuselage. The JaPo Fw 190D reference also shows partial striping on Red 4, Crandall shows it complete. The fuselage inscription reads, “ ‘Rein MuB er’ und wenn wir beide Weinen!” Which means “In he goes even though both of us will cry!”
Tamiya Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-9 kit with Aeries resin engine, scratch wheel bays, and EagleCals decals.
Red 4 is a Focke-Wulf D-11, piloted by Lt. Karl-Heinz Hofmann from the airfield protection flight of JV 44, based at München-Rein in April of 1945. Most profiles show a White <58 marking under the Red 4, and the EagleCals sheet includes this marking. After studying the photographs of Red 4 I decided to leave it off. Photographs where the <58 can be seen also show the Balkenkreuz to be badly weathered, with streaks of black showing through the white bars. Some of these pictures were taken after the aircraft had sat outside in the elements for several months. My rational is that in April 1945 the paint would have been fresh and the underlying layers of paint would still be obscured. The inscription reads “Der nächste Herr – dieselbe Dame!”, which means “The next man, the same woman!”.
This is a simple conversion from the standard Tamiya D-9 kit, the differences are a resin propelled and carburetor intake scoop along with modifications to the wing and fuselage armament. Decals are from EagleCals sheet #14.
This is Red 3 from the airfield protection flight of JV 44, based at München-Rein in April of 1945. The pilot was Haupmann Waldemar Wübke. Wübke was one of the Luftwaffe pilots who served from the beginning of the war to the end. He was a “Jabo” or fighter-bomber pilot, the inscription on his aircraft reads “Im Auftrage der Reichsbahn”, which means “By order of the State Railway” – a commonly-seen inscription on railcars hauling bombs. Although shot down and wounded on several occasions, Wübke survived the war with sixteen victories to his credit.
This is the Tamiya kit with decals from EagleCals sheet #14.
This a Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-9 of the airfield protection flight of JV 44, based at München-Rein in April of 1945. This flight was tasked with protecting the Me 262 jets when they were taking off and landing, the jet’s engines reacted poorly to sudden throttle inputs rendering them vulnerable to prowling Allied fighters. The undersides of the Doras were painted red with white stripes as a quick recognition aid for Luftwaffe flak gunners surrounding the base.
Red 1 was the mount of Lt. Heinz “Heino” Sachsenberg, who was the leader of JV 44s airfield protection flight. You could say that being a fighter pilot was in his blood, his father was Gotthard Sachsenberg, a First World War fighter ace with 31 victories and holder of the Pour le Merit. The younger Sachsenberg scored his victories on the Eastern Front with 6./JG 52 and was a Knight’s Cross holder. After scoring his 104th victory, he was shot down and wounded over Romania by USAAF Mustangs. He was assigned to JV 44 after his release from hospital. He survived the war, but succumbed to complications from his wounds in 1951. The slogan on the fuselage side reads “Verkaaf’s mei Gwand ‘I foahr im Himmel!” which translates as “Sell my clothes I’m going to heaven!”.
This is the excellent Tamiya kit. I rebuilt the wheelwells and the exposed engine accessory section from plastic card. There is some dispute concerning the uppersurface colors, the JaPo book shows the upper wings and tail surfaces in the 82 / 83 scheme as modeled here, Crandall shows them in 74 / 75. Decals are from EagleCals sheet #14.