One of the prime reasons for Japan attacking the allies and entering into World War Two was the desire of the Japanese government to become self-sufficient in oil and other natural resources production. The major goal of the initial Japanese attacks was the rich oil fields in the Dutch East Indies. The attacks on Pearl Harbor and Singapore were designed to neutralize the American and British Fleets in order to allow the unfettered seizure of the desired natural resources, to be followed by a negotiated peace.

Since the Japanese home islands lacked oil, the Japanese had two choices. Station the fleet near the Dutch East Indies, close to the fuel source but far from the home islands or bring the oil to the home islands and the fleet. The later course is what was initially attempted.

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The USN submarine offensive was slow in getting started. Initially the submarine force was used as an adjunct of the fleet, with the goal of attriting the Japanese fleet. Poor torpedoes, aging boats, and initially over-cautious skippers failed to achieve results commensurate with the effort expended. However, by 1943 the initial difficulties had been overcome and new aggressive submarine skippers had inaugurated a campaign that would strangle Japan of the natural resources that it needed to effectively continue the war. There have been three great submarine campaigns in history, the German U-Boat campaigns of WWI and WWII and the American campaign in the Pacific. Only the American Pacific effort was ultimately successful and overwhelmingly so.

Tatekawa Maru was built in 1935. Displacing 10,009 tons, she was 157.5 m long and 20.3 m in beam. Originally a civilian tanker, she was requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1941. By May 1944 she was part of the desperate Japanese effort to supply the home islands with oil.

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The USN submarines, USS Ray, commanded by Brooks Harral and USS Gurnard, commanded by Herb Andrews were patrolling off the Philippine island of Davao in May 1944. On May 21 Ray attacked a nine ship convoy and sunk a 6,000 ton freighter. However, on May 24, "Ö Herb Andrews in Gurnard picked up a tanker convoy and attacked, sinking one of the fleet tankers, Tatekawa Maru, 10,000 tons." Silent Victory; The US Submarine War Against Japan, Clay Blair, Jr., page 607.

The H-P Models kit of the Tatekawa Maru comes with the hull and four sheets of resin parts. There are no photo-etched parts in the kit. H-P Models has made major strides in the quality of the resin casting in their models and the H-P kit of Tatekawa Maru shows the benefit of this improvement. The hull, measuring 9 inches by 1 1/8 inches, has most of the detail cast integral with the hull. Anchors, anchor chain, anchor winch, deck winches, bollards, deck piping and other deck fittings all have good detail. The breakwater on the forecastle and the deck side bulkheads are admirably thin. The only deficiency that was noticeable was the absence of four scuttles per side that are shown on the plan and profile. These can easily be added with a pin vice. The casting sat flat and was free of any air bubbles or other defect. All in all the hull is very well done and sits low in the water, representing a fully loaded oiler.

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The four sheets of smaller resin parts are cast on suitably thin wafers of resin. Unlike some of the early H-P kits, very little sanding, if any, is necessary to get a proper kit of the superstructure components. I did notice that the after deckhouse and deck above it had a slight warp. This is no problem for the very thin deck as the warp will disappear when attached to the deckhouse but the deckhouse will probably have to be heated to eliminate the warp and achieve a snug fit. The various deckhouses and decks also show significant detail with doors, deck fittings and thin boat chocks. The different decks have square widows indented in the pieces and appear to be easy to open with a pin vice and hobby knife. As with the hull these pieces were free of defects, other than the slight warp to two parts as mentioned above. There are no locator holes or lines on the hull deck to aide in aligning the deck houses. With this model this appears to be a minor problem as the ship's design makes it difficult to go seriously astray, however it would be best to use white glue to attach these parts to allow sufficient time to fiddle with alignment. Most but not all ventilator locations are shown with ventilator locator holes. 

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One resin sheet contains the smallest resin pieces. It comprises 28 ventilator cowls in five different sizes, 21 cat-walk supports and six pieces of masts and yards. I especially liked the inclusion of the cat-walk supports. When I reviewed the WSW generic tanker (click for review) , my only complaint with that kit was the lack of cat-walk supports, since the cat-walks were integral with the deck with no individual support bents underneath the cat-walks. The H-P kit has these supports. Although these supports appear to be a trifle oversize and would better be represented as brass or stainless steel parts, I nonetheless welcome their inclusion with the Tatekawa Maru. They will represent the busy frame work for the cat-walks. There is resin film on the small parts. Care must be taken in removing this film to prevent breakage. One omission is the lack of davits for the shipís boats. Also included is a set of generic Japanese flags. This includes various sized national flags, Imperial Japanese Navy flags and admiralís flags.

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The instructions for the H-P Models Tatekawa Maru are fairly rudimentary, however, they appear to be adequate for the job. The key sheet is an isometric view of the assembly. All masts and yards are shown with their measurement in centimeters, I assume. The only pitfall that I observed was the lack of differentiation among the location for the various sized ventilator cowls. Also included is a plan and profile sheet that will assist in placing various components as well as showing where to drill out the bulkhead scuttles. The kit also contains a statistic sheet in German with a short history of the ship, statistics and color guide. Three colors are shown as being used; Ocean Gray (Humbrol 106) for decks, light gray (Humbrol 64) for vertical surfaces and black (Humbrol 33) for waterline and stack cap.

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The H-P Models Tatekawa Maru is a good kit. It will benefit by the addition of photo-etched railing on the superstructure, inclined ladders and davits for the boats. H-P gives you more than the basic building blocks for this fleet oiler. They have placed some nice detail in the parts for this kit and with a little photo-etch and some minor additions, you can bring it the rest of the way.

Pacific Front Hobbies (Phone: 541-464-8579, Fax: 541-957-5477, E-Mail is the exclusive distributor in the United States for the Tatekawa Maru as well as the rest of the extensive H-P Models line of 1:700 waterline kits.