Monday 17 May 2021

Zegeye's Shichisho-tai Special Attacker

Continuing the Zero theme Zegeye (Zbyszek Malicki) has very kindly shared these images of his Nakajima-built Model 21 special attacker built from the 1/72 Tamiya kit and representing the aircraft of Lt Noburo Miyatake of the 1st Shichisho-tai formed from the Genzan Ku in April 1945.

Zegeye painted the model with Colourcoats paints and added a resin bomb rack and 250 kg bomb from CMK. The decals are from the Create 301 set SP72-06 Special Attack Squadrons of 1999.

On 6 April 1945 Lt Miyatake led 11 Zeros from Kanoya airfield to attack US ships off Okinawa as part of a force of 43 special attackers from the 1st to 8th Shichisho-tai. Shichisho refers to being reborn seven times and to devoting every life to fighting the enemies of the Emperor.  The idiom Shichisho Houkoku originated from a tale of the Samurai leader Masashige Kusonoki (1294-1336) when besieged by Shogunate forces on Chihaya mountain. Kusokoni and his brother fought against impossible odds, declaring their intent to be reborn seven times before killing themselves.  

The attacks on 6 and 7 April, were the first of ten numbered Kikusui attacks in the Ten Go operation and involved 125 Army and 230 Navy kamikaze aircraft escorted by 344 other Army and Navy aircraft. A total of 26 USN ships were damaged or sunk during the two days.   

With very special thanks to Zegeye for sharing these images of his excellent model and for his patience in awaiting their publication here. 

Image credit: All photos © 2021 Zbyszek Malicki

Sunday 9 May 2021

Zero Under Fire by Carlos

Guillermo's friend and troika team mate Carlos built this impressive display for the War of Nation Latin America 60 day challenge using the old Tamiya 1/48 A6M2 with added riveting detail. The Zero being flown low over a furrowed seascape through anti-aircraft fire and about to pull up in a desperate attempt to hit its target bears the colourful markings of a training unit, the Kohnoike Ku. If that seems unlikely bear in mind the words of Hatsuho Naito* describing the Kikusui No.1 operation:- 'Every aircraft that could fly, including old Zero planes from the Tenth Naval Aviation Fleet being used as training aircraft, were commandeered for the suicide attack operation.'  

Guillermo's own Rex and team mate Edgar's Rufe were the other entries in the challenge. 

With very special thanks to Guillermo and Carlos for sharing this imaginative and evocative display which captures the desperation of the Kikusui operations and the tragic courage of the thousands of young men who volunteered to sacrifice their lives by literally flying into fire.

"Tomorrow, I take off for the attack, a robot in a plane. But on the ground I have been a man moved by his emotions and his passions. I will have no fear of death."
Yoshi Miyagi, fell 19 May 1945 off Okinawa

"I am ready. No tear, no friend, no marriage-hymn
To cheer me on my miserable road
On me no more the sun will shed his holy light
Alone I go - no friend, no tears"
The Antigone of Sophocles** 
* 'Ohka hijo no tokko heiki' by Hatsuho Naito (Bungei Shunju, 1982), published in English as 'Thunder Gods' by Kodansha International, 1989.
** Translated by T Kinchin Smith, 1950 and quoted in 'The Sun Goes Down' edited by Jean Lartéguy (William Kimber, 1956) 

Image credit: All photos © 2021 Carlos via Guillermo

Saturday 8 May 2021

Kit Trivia ~ Jo-Han A6M2 Zero

Back in April 2008, the year this blog began, Kit Trivia articles on three vintage Zero kits in 1/72 scale were published. Subsequent blogs covered the Matchbox Zero and the old tool Hasegawa A6M2. Omitted so far are the LS kits of the A6M2, A6M2-N and A6M5, originally released as 1/75 scale (and still available from Arii), and the Jo-Han A6M2/A6M2-N kit, as well as several of odd-scale Japanese kits, some of which have been mentioned but not examined in detail. Unfortunately the Jo-Han kit was also neglected in the summary of 1/72 'Rufe' kits included in the recent blog of Rob Ronconi's excellent Hasegawa Rufe model. To make amends the Jo-Han kit is presented here as an appropriate link from the IJN floatplanes theme to some Zero models forthcoming.   

There is a fascinating exposition of the Jo-Han story on You Tube by Max's Models and I'm grateful to reader Warren for that discovery. Jo-Han released five 1/72 aircraft models in 1973 including the A6M2/A6M2-N as kit A-105 featuring their 'Frame-Pak' sprue frames, fairly innovative at the time because most kits contained loose parts cut from the sprues or partial sprues for small parts (although the Hasegawa old tool Zero of 1972 also had the parts on sprue frames). The Zero kit was moulded in white and uniquely offered the option of building the carrier fighter 'Zeke' or floatplane fighter 'Rufe'. That choice of model was facilitated by the provision of alternative lower fuselage centre sections and tail cones, with no concession to the more recent controversy over the size of the float fighter's tail feathers.

There are evident similarities between the Jo-Han and LS kits but they are not absolutely identical. The Jo-Han kit features similarly neatly engraved panel lines and fabric flying surfaces with boldly represented but not unattractive rib detail. The wings are slightly shorter in span than the 1972 Hasegawa kit with less taper on the outer trailing edge and shorter span ailerons but the fuselage halves are more or less the same in dimension. There is no interior or wheel well detail and the pilot sits on two pegs common to many kits of the time. The interior colour call-out is 'metallic blue' - aotake. The engine is a separate two-row construction but only the forward cowling is a separate part, the cowling sides being moulded integrally with the fuselage halves. Blind holes have to be opened in the lower wings for the attachment of the outer floats for Rufe. The undercarriage is conventional with separate legs, doors and wheels and can be assembled down or retracted. A two-part drop tank is also included. The clear sprue consists of a three-part canopy with windscreen, centre section and rear section, together with a rather nicely designed two-part stand. There is no mention of displaying the canopy open. 

The instruction sheet combines sharply drawn exploded views with explanatory text and there is a simple colour chart for each option, the Rufe depicted as 'violet' over 'blue gray' and the Zeke as overall 'light gray'. No suggestions for hobby paints are made. An equally simple decal sheet is included but a curiosity is that the Rufe tail code on the sheet is O-105 in white, but depicted as black on the box art and shown as '52-102' in the instruction sheet schematic. The 'O' code is representative of the float fighter  hikotai of Tokoh Ku which operated a detachment in the Aleutians campaign. The Zeke is presented as V-103 of Tainan Ku as flown by famous ace Saburo Sakai, but the blue fuselage band and white tail stripes are not included on the decal sheet and have to be painted on by the modeller. The single set of hinomaru have white borders on the upper wing and fuselage discs, out of register in the kit examined.The attractive box art shows both Zeke and Rufe but the artist is unidentified, although the style looks familiar.    

This was undoubtedly an attractively presented kit for its time but I have no idea how it compared price-wise to its contemporaries - anyone remember?

Image credit: All © 1973 Jo-Han Models Inc.

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Colourful Nate Fest Trio from Lifelike Decals

Aviation of Japan Texas correspondent Mark Smith has very kindly provided this review of Lifelike Decals new trio of sheets for the Type 97 fighter, Ki-27 'Nate' offering no less than 25 subjects in 1/48 scale.

'Some of this blog’s readers may have been lucky enough to have picked up Lifelike Decals 1/48 Ki-27 'Nate' decals several years ago (sheets 48-020, 021 and 023).  I was too late, as they were Sold Out quite a while ago. Now Lifelike has given us another crack at these colourful birds through this newly released trio that is even better, featuring more recent research as well as additional subjects not available on the earlier sheets.  Due to this the original trio remain as Parts 1, 2 and 3 with these latest sheets labeled as Parts 4, 5 and 6. They are printed by Microscale, and on my samples the colours, registration, and detail are up to Lifelike’s typically high standards; the accompanying detailed information sheets also offer much information about the units, pilots, and in certain cases, colours of these aircraft which is often not generally available in English.  But on to particulars…

48-056 Type 97 Fighters Part 4

  • A/C # 1 Ki-27 Otsu of 246th Sentai , flown by its Commander, Major Takeo Miyamoto, Kakogawa AB / Hyogo Prefecture, December 1942.
  • AC # 2 Ki-27 Otsu of 246th Sentai 2nd Chutai, flown by Corporal Susumu Kajinami, Kakogawa AB / Hyogo Pref., January 1943.
  • A/C # 3 Ki-27 Otsu (probably) of some training unit in Manchuria, time and location unknown.
  • A/C # 4 Ki-27 Otsu flown by 2nd Lt. Iichi Yamaguchi, leader of the 68th Shinbu-tai, Tenryu AB / Shizuoka Pref., March 30, 1945.
  • A/C # 5 Ki-27 Kou flown by M. Sgt Katsutaro Takahashi of 59th Sentail 1st Chutai (probably) Hankou AB / China, end of 1939. The unit lightning flash is printed black but Lifelike acknowledge uncertainty about the colour and helpfully provide a masking template to permit modelers to apply their preferred colour.
  • A/C # 6 Ki-27 Otsu of 13th Sentai 2nd Chutai, Kakogawa AB / Hyogo Pref., May 1940.
  • A/C # 7 Ki-27 of 18th Sentai, Chofu AB / Tokyo, Spring of 1944.
  • A/C # 8 Ki-27 Otsu of 85th Sentai 1st Chutai. 
  • A/C # 9 Ki-27 Kou of 1st Sentai 2nd Chutai, Kagamihara AB / Gifu Pref., July 1938 to May 1939.
Individual notes for each of these aircraft are helpfully keyed to 20 references on the instruction sheet. Masking templates are also provided for the synchronisation calibration markings on the forward cowling for those aircraft with over-painted cowlings. This attention to detail, typical for Lifelike, is highly commendable. 

48-057 Type 97 Fighters Part 5
  • A/C # 1 Ki-27 Otsu flown by Capt. Shigetoshi Inoue, leader of 1st Sentai, 1st Chutai, Nomonhan/China, September 1939. 
  • A/C # 2 Ki-27 Otsu (s/n 5362) flown by M. Sgt. Totaro Ito, 5th Sentai 3rd Chutai, Kashiwa AB/Chiba Pref., end of 1940. 
  • A/C # 3 Ki-27 Otsu flown by Capt. Kenji Shimada, leader of 11th Sentai 1st Chutai, Nomonhan/China, May ~ June 1939.
  • A/C # 4 Ki-27 Otsu of 50th Sentai 3rd Chutai (Hoshi Hikoutai), Clark AB/Philippines, January 1942.
  • A/C # 5 Ki-27 Otsu (probably) of 76th Shinbu-tai, Chiran AB/Kagoshima, April 1945. 
  • A/C # 6 Ki-27 Kou, #30 of 84th Independent Chutai, Kwantung/China, October 1939. 
  • A/C # 7 Ki-27 Otsu flown by Capt. Yoshiro Kuwabara, 77th Sentai 3rd Chutai, Mingaladon AB/Burma, December 1941.
  • A/C # 8 Ki-27 Otsu of 111th Fighter Training Group, Ryompo AB/Korea, March 1943. 
Again individual notes for each of these aircraft are helpfully keyed to the 23 listed references. 

48-058 Type 97 Fighters Part 6
  • A/C # 1 Ki-27 Otsu flown by 4th Sentai Commander, Lt. Col. Saburo Hayashi, Kikuchi AB/Kumamoto Pref. September 1940.
  • A/C # 2 Ki-27 Kou flown by Major Tateo Kato, Commander of 64th Sentai, Kwangtung AB/China, April 1941. 
  • A/C # 3 Ki-27 Otsu flown by the leader of 1st Chutai, 50th Sentai, Moulmein/Burma, January 1942. 
  • A/C # 4 Ki-27 Otsu of 14th Fighter Training Unit, Nanyuan AB/near Beijing, November 1943. 
  • A/C # 5 Ki-27 Otsu (probably) of some unknown Special Attack unit, location unknown, soon after the war. 
  • A/C # 6 Ki-27 Otsu of 4th Sentai 2nd Chutai, Tachiarai AB/Fukuoka Pref., end of 1941. 
  • A/C # 7 Ki-27 Otsu flown by Capt. Hyoe Yonaga of 24th Sentai 2nd Chutai, Nagilian AB/Philippines, December 1941.
  • A/C # 8 Ki-27 Kou flown by 1st Lt. Iwori Sakai, leader of 64th Sentai 2nd Chutai, Nomonhan/China, fall of 1939. 
Individual notes for each of these aircraft are also helpfully keyed to 23 listed references.     

'Each of the three decal sheets has appropriate hinomaru markings and the small adhesive paint masks that will save much time for undertaking the cowling markings on certain aircraft – very thoughtful.  If you purchased the original Nate Trio, now Sold Out (Parts 1,2 and 3) note that there are ‘new’ options on Parts 4, 5, and 6. Lifelike Decals are as good as any I’ve used, and like their recent Tony and Claude trios, these comprehensive and exacting sheets should set the standard for a long time.'  – Mark Smith

With very special thanks to Mark Smith for providing this review and to Keishiro Nagao of Lifelike Decals for very kindly providing the review sheets. I can vouch for Mark's observation that these sheets are superbly printed. They are designed for the excellent Hasegawa (ex-Mania) kit, offering some strikingly colourful and well chosen subjects which will no doubt inspire many a stash rummaging.

Image credit: All © 2021 Lifelike Decals