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.

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