Thursday, March 14, 2019

Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki's Really Bad Day

December 7, 1941 didn't work out the way Ensign Sakamaki planned. He and nine others were assigned to five midget submarines that were to infiltrate Pearl Harbor and fire a total of ten torpedoes at American warships. If they managed to survive, they were expected to commit suicide rather than be captured. None of the crew were volunteers. Sakamaki and the others were chosen because they came from families large enough to spare one son.

Sakamaki's midget sub, Ha-19, ran into numerous difficulties even before launching from submarine I-24. The gyrocompass didn't work from the start. The boat kept running aground on a reef near the entrance to Pearl Harbor and only came off when she was shelled by destroyer USS Helm (DD-388), which continued the attack with depth charges. Part of the time, Sakamaki was knocked unconscious, leaving his only crewman, Petty Officer Kiyoshi Inagaki, in charge. After another attempt to enter Pearl Harbor and running aground again, the cumulative damage to the boat prevented either torpedo from being fired and allowed seawater into the batteries, filling the boat with toxic fumes. Sakamaki had no choice but to abort the mission and try to rendezvous with I-24, but this would prove impossible. The midget sub ended up on Waimanalo Beach around the eastern tip of Oahu, near the location later used as the site of Robin Masters' estate on Magnum, P.I. Inagaki died that day, like the crews of the other four midget subs. Sakamaki ended up unconscious on the beach and woke up in a military hospital as a prisoner of war, the first captured by the United States in WWII. He asked permission to commit suicide, but of course this was denied, and he spent the entire war as a POW. After the war, he was a committed pacifist. He worked for the Toyota Motor Corporation, heading their operations in Brazil from 1969-1983. So although he may not have been enjoying life on December 7, 1941, it turns out to have been his lucky day.

The model is Fine Molds 1/72 A-Target Type A Midget Submarine, available from Hobby Link Japan. The official nomenclature seems to have been 甲標的甲型 Kō-hyōteki kō-gata, which, if I'm using Google Translate right, simply means "Target A, Type A." The label was evidently an attempt to hide its real purpose, like the British label of "tank" during WWI. The kit is really nice, but I made some modifications based on photos I found of the captured Ha-19 as well as other midget subs of this class. It does not include a figure, so I stole one from Hasegawa's 1/72 Toyota Starter Truck. I cut apart his left arm and left hand reposed them and used a bit of putty to convert his tropical Army uniform to a Navy winter uniform.
The rigging of the sub wasn't covered in the instructions, so I did some research. Eyebolts shown in the instructions on top of the forward hull don't show up on Ha-19, so I filled the holes with putty. A net-clearing cable, apparently about one inch in diameter, goes from the bow to a pulley the top of the sail and is tensioned with a turnbuckle anchored with chain to an eyebolt on top of the hull immediately before the sail. I used one of the kit eyebolts and some chain, and fabricated the turnbuckle from plastic rod and wire. The net-clearing wire I made by twisting several strands of fine copper wire to achieve a scale one-inch thickness. Another cable runs from the periscope fairing to the tailfin.
To prevent nets from hanging up on the periscope fairing, a U-shaped steel frame goes over the top of the sail. This part is included in the kit, but there are also two bent rods welded on top of this and to the top of the periscope fairing. I fabricated these from bits of wire and superglued them on.
As for finish, the paint is mostly Krylon black primer with a coat of Future for the decals and some flat coat and Vallejo black, with some metallic copper and gold for the contrarotating screws on both the sub and the torpedo.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Revell 1/125 Günther Prien U-47 Commission Build

My brother's 6th grade teacher had the Revell 1/125 U-47 with interior, but felt he was too old to build models anymore. He commissioned me to build it, but he wanted it closed up. Closing up those hull openings was going to be quite a task. Revell's U-99 uses the same molds mostly but is closed up with no interior, so I bought one on ebay for about $12 with shipping. Most of what you see is this kit, though I used some bits from the U-47 kit, such as decals. One of these shows the tonnage claimed on the sixth patrol, so I decided to model U-47 at this date, 6 July 1940. By this time, the 20mm flak had been moved up to the conning tower. The U-99 kit has this feature, which the U-47 kit lacks, which makes the former kit a better starting point. The U-99 kit also has deck railings that differ from those on U-47, so I used the U-47 ones. I printed my own flag and tonnage pennants, added fishing line for rigging and fabricated insulators from styrene, filled a few holes that weren't on U-47, and weathered it, making a point of showing the diesel exhaust stains near the stern and the "grass-weeds line," the green band that forms below the waterline. had a lot of useful photos that made my job easier, but sharp-eyed U-boat experts will notice inaccuracies that I didn't bother to fix. I did surgery on a few of the figures to make a variety of poses. The German inscriptions I painted on the base read, "Kiel, July 6, 1940" and "at the end of the 6th Patrol."

Once I was done modifying the figures, I painted them and superglued them in place. Hopefully I took enough photos, since I may never see this model again after I drop it off tomorrow.
I like figures for adding some story interest to a model. Captain Prien his XO stand together looking three or four points off the starboard bow. In the "Wintergarten" ("greenhouse," the nickname for the flak platform with its wide railing), two others who are happy to come home are waving to someone off the starboard beam. Meanwhile, another officer with his hand on the hatch looks down at someone climbing the ladder dressed in engineer's overalls.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Fantastic Plastic Con-Am Shuttle from Outland (Part 2)

Resuming from my last post, which had a really high resolution photograph of the Con-Am shuttle from Outland taken about the time it was used in the movie...

Here's the box art. The kit can be purchased from Fantastic Plastic. Below are more photographs of the original filming miniature. I could not have designed this kit without them, since supposedly there were never any drawings made. The lack of any drawings made it very challenging to design an accurate kit. Working from photos, I drew 3D shapes that I revised repeatedly until perspective views of them matched all the photos perfectly (or close enough that I was no longer able to spot the differences).
Here's another photo of the miniature at the time the effects shots were being filmed, in this case with the late John Stears demonstrating the docking gantry.
This is the "right" side of the shuttle (I call the end with the antennas the "front"). I think this was taken just after Martin Bower finished restoring the model in 2000. The next image shows the model in the condition he found it at Pinetree Studios.

Just above is a beauty shot of the restored model after Arnaud Grunberg bought it from Martin Bower for his Science Fiction Archive. It's currently in a warehouse in France but could go on display any time Grunberg decides to show it or someone contracts to put it on display. Notice the dish antenna is missing from the top in this picture.
Above and below are some images of the shuttle during construction. You may recognize some of the greeblies, and maybe spot some things that changed before the model was completed. For instance, the next picture shows a grey dome that was later removed and replaced with a laser turret from the MPC Millennium Falcon. Bill Pearson (with the moustache) and Martin Bower show up in these pictures quite a lot.

Notice in the next photo of Bill and Martin with the shuttle, that the dish antenna (modified from the MPC Millennium Falcon part) isn't on top of the shuttle. Instead, there's a mast with a bunch of antennas on top of the small rectangular superstructure. Later, this mast is removed. The dome that was replaced by the MPC Millennium Falcon laser turret is still on the model at this point, too.

Next is the photo that was in Martin Bower's article in Starlog 47 about the special effects in Outland. As in a lot of photos of the model, the engine pods are missing, probably because they needed to be separate for the plumbing for the CO2 system used to create the rocket exhaust effect in the movie.
 Speaking of which, here's a beauty shot of the CO2 system in operation. You can also see the undersides of the landing feet have rollers. The struts are 10 degrees from vertical, causing the feet move inward as the struts compress, so without the rollers the feet would drag across the landing pad.
Here are a bunch more shots of the model without its engines, taken before the model was used for the effects shots. Aside from the missing engines, the changes noted above, and markings that were added, the model is substantially the same as in the movie.

 Here's Martin Bower in 2000 looking justifiably proud of his restoration work.
And here are some screencaps from the movie.


Sorry I couldn't share all my photos with you, but some are marked "Copyright Martin Bower" and others he shared with me on the condition I wouldn't share them. You can access his copyrighted photos at the Wayback Machine: