"Approximately three miles behind this wedgelike phalanx, the carriers advanced in two parallel columns. To starboard, proudly in the lead, the flagship Akagi breasted the waves in grim majesty, followed in less than a mile by her sister, Kaga. To port Soryu and Hiryu plunged recklessly along. Last, as befitted their junior status, rushed Shokaku and Zukaku." (At Dawn We Slept, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981, By Gordon W. Prange, at page 483)

There is no question that it was the Royal Navy that "invented" the aircraft carrier as a type. Yes, I know all about the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania and USN flights off that cruiser. However, the aircraft carrier as a type is designed around the sole mission or purpose of carrying and operating aircraft in combat operations. The first carriers were converted merchantmen but by 1917 the Admiralty had just glimpsed a small portion of the possibilities of a large, fast aircraft carrier. They chose the light battle cruiser Furious for conversion into an aircraft carrier. The first design was a half measure in which only the forward turret was replaced by a flight deck, leaving a single 18—inch gun in the aft turret. A one-gun battery is pretty well useless, so it wasn’t long before the aft turret was landed and a flight deck installed. However, the ship was still flawed as the forward flight deck and aft flight deck were separated by the superstructure, tripod and stack of the ship.

Still, in 1922 the Royal Navy had a huge lead in aircraft carriers in service. This early lead turned into a detriment further magnified by the disastrous decision to place the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) under management and control of an independent Royal Air Force. Never, ever, place naval aviation under control of a ground airforce. Italy and Germany tried the same theory, as a result of which neither had operational aircraft carriers. In marked contrast the two great Pacific powers, Imperial Japan and the United States, kept separate army and navy aviation, resulting in far better consequences in ship and aircraft design. Compared to the British the Japanese and Americans had little experience in naval aviation and only a small aircraft carrier each. The USN had Langley, a converted collier but Japan had built their small carrier Hosho from the keel up as an aircraft carrier. As the events of 1922 and 1923 would prove, this lack of a large number of converted merchant hulls as possessed by the Royal Navy. 


Hull Profile
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The Hosho was not the first carrier for Japan. Actually one of the first ships to launch an air attack upon an enemy was from a Japanese conversion. The ship was the Wakamiya and had started out life as the merchant ship Leviathan launched September 21, 1901. British built but operated by the Imperial Russian Navy, the Leviathan was captured by the Japanese in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. Renamed Wakamiya, the ship was initially used as a transport but in the summer of 1914 was converted into a seaplane carrier. Four seaplanes were carried in the ship’s holds and were moved from the hold to the water by a crane. Japan went to war against Germany when World War One started. She had already picked off Imperial Russian holdings in 1905 and now she went after the Imperial German Pacific holdings. One of those holdings was the main German naval base located on the Chinese mainland at Tsingtao. In the autumn of the 1914 the Wakamiya launched an air attack on this major naval base in a forerunner of the far greater carrier strike of 1941. The attack on Tsingtao was successful, sinking a minelayer and causing minor damage to shore installations. 

During the course of World War One the Japanese and American navies grew far faster than the Royal Navy. Early in the war the British had ceased building battleships but not so with the other two powers. While the German navy was locked in a death struggle with the Royal Navy, Japanese and American construction of heavy ships increased. The focus was of course on capitol ships with large programs for battleships and battle cruisers. Free of war the United States had decided to build a fleet, "Second to None". The 1916 building program was immense with more battleships and battle cruisers funded than ever seen in a naval program before. In the years 1920 and 1921 six battle cruisers were laid down, Lexington, Constellation, Saratoga, Ranger, United States and Constitution. Across the Pacific the Japanese navy responded with their own huge program, the 8-8 plan, which called for the building of eight battleships and eight battle cruisers. Four of the battle cruisers were of the Amagi class, two of which were Amagi and Akagi. The United States, which was the country most able to afford a huge naval program, chose to invite the other powers to a naval disarmament conference in Washington. The result was the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 that with a few exceptions stopped battleship construction in mid-step. Both Japan and the United States had a large number of capitol ship hulls to scrap under the terms of the new treaty. However, there was a way to save a few of these hulls so that their expense was not a total waste. 


Hull Details
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The Washington Treaty authorized Japan and the United States to each convert two of their capitol ships into aircraft carriers. Both chose battle cruiser hulls because of their greater speed and each chose the two hull that were most advanced, Lexington and Saratoga for the USN and Amagi and Akagi for the IJN. However, the great earthquake of 1923 wrecked the hull of Amagi and hull to the battleship Kaga was substituted for conversion in its place. Before these events had even taken place the Royal Navy had already taken the first step in the creation of the true fast carrier. In a memo dated March 23, 1921 it had been decided to take the furious in hand for another refit, which would eliminate and impediment to her use as a full deck, high-speed carrier. As the Furious had also started out as a battle cruiser, although a light one, it is interesting to compare the three carrier designs based upon converted battle cruisers.

A comparison of the three designs shows a marked difference in capacity and operational theory. The hull to the Furious was laid down five years before the other two and was further hampered by light construction. The American and Japanese designs enjoyed the advantage of newer, larger and heavier battle cruiser hulls. However, there was only a hundred feet difference in overall length between the longest and shortest of designs and yet the Lexington was designed to operate more than twice the complement of aircraft than the Furious. More than design difference, this discrepancy went to operational theory. Both the USN and IJN used the same operational theory of aircraft carrier deployment. The carrier was a weapon system in and of itself whose primary purpose was to strike the opposing fleet with their aircraft with a supplementary mission of scouting for the fleet. British theory was more muddled with far greater emphasis in scouting and supporting fleet operations as opposed to an independent long range striking force. The USN and IJN were far more interested in maximizing the size of the air group in their designs than the Royal Navy ever was in its designs. The result was the titanic carrier battles in the Pacific between the two powers that emphasized the offensive capabilities of the aircraft carrier. 

Comparison of Aircraft Carriers from Battle Cruiser Designs

Country
Class

Date

Displacement (ST)

Length

Speed/ihp

Aircraft

Armament

USA
Lexington

1920

38,500 tn

888 (oa)

33.2/180,000

80

8 x 8in

Japan
Akagi

1920

29,600 tn

857 (oa)

32.5/131,000

60

10 x 8in

Britain
Furious

1915

22,130 tn

786 (oa)

31.5/90,000

36

10 x 5.5in

The first fast fleet carrier for the Imperial Japanese Navy was Akagi. After the hull of Amagi was wrecked in the earthquake the construction of Akagi was much more advanced than that of the substituted Kaga. Although lumped together the Akagi and Kaga were very different designs in size, speed and appearance. The Akagi was laid down as a battle cruiser on December 6, 1920 but after the Washington Treaty in early 1922 was selected to be converted into an aircraft carrier in November of that year. There was a delay in construction because of need to develop new plans based upon the new function. After the plans for the changes were finished, some items had to be removed before construction as a carrier could begin. The armor belt and armor deck were reduced in thickness to facilitate more aircraft. To reduce top-heaviness the belt was also lowered and anti-torpedo bulges redesigned. The Akagi was launched on April 22, 1925 and commissioned on March 25, 1927. Although the Akagi had more in common with the Lexington in size and capacity, her initial design was far closer to that of Furious.

For Lexington and Saratoga the design was to provide one large spacious hangar with a high overhead on the hangar deck, which would provide plenty of space for new larger aircraft. The design for Furious took a different tack. Instead of one large hangar, the British design had two smaller hangars with cramped overhead. Instead of a single deck, the Furious had a main flight deck on top and a supplementary flight deck out of the front of the top hangar. In theory with two flight decks aircraft could be launched twice as fast. Independently but perhaps, given the delay in converting Akagi, Japanese designers got wind of British multi-deck decision for Furious because Japanese designers did the British one better. The Akagi had two hangars like the Furious but instead of having two flight decks, the Japanese carrier would have three flight decks. In addition to the main flight deck on top, Akagi would have the two additional hangar decks below open at the bow to allow launches from all three decks. The middle deck had a very short take off distance of 50 feet beyond the upper hangar, which was barely sufficient for early light weight fighters but the lower deck had a 175 foot take off distance beyond the lower hangar. To make matter worse for take offs from the middle deck, any aircraft using that deck had to thread a needle. Twin eight-inch gun turrets were placed on each side of the aft portion of the middle deck and a speeding aircraft had to go between them in the take off. Matters were further complicated when a navigational bridge was added underneath the front of the main flight deck adding a vertical constriction on top of the horizontal constrictions imposed by the gun turrets. 


Stack & Weather Decks - Sprues B & C
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This was the last straw because after the addition of the navigation bridge, take offs from the middle deck were of more danger to the ship and pilot than to a possible enemy. Because of the difficulties in taking off from this deck it was very rarely used for that purpose and for all intents the upper hangar served just as a hangar. The main deck had two elevators and a unique deck design in that it sloped up from the aft edge and down from the funnel location. This helped slow the aircraft landing and speed up an aircraft taking off. When Akagi joined the fleet in 1927, she beat the Kaga into service by one year and Saratoga and Lexington by more than half a year. In addition to the two twin eight-inch gun turrets there were three 8-inch gun casemtes on each side. Displacement was listed at 26,900-tons but this was probably far under actual displacement. For anti-aircraft defense Akagi was given six twin 4.7-inch DP guns mounted on sponsons, three on each side of the hull, slightly below the level of the main flight deck.

The large stack vented downwards and behind that a small stack vented upwards from the starboard side. With Kaga there were long funnels along the sides of the hull on each side and venting outwards at the stern presenting a much different appearance from Akagi. The three flight decks on each ship created a stair step profile with the forward edge of each upper flight deck stepped back from the deck below. It was soon after completion that the navigation bridge was added very few modifications were made thereafter. In 1931 arrestor wires were added to the main flight deck. In 1934 Akagi received a minor refit which added additional sponsons for light AA and a small temporary island placed on the starboard island. By 1935 with the increasing size of aircraft, it was clear to the Japanese Admirals that the multi-flight deck design of Akagi and Kaga had become a detriment to the ship’s ability to operate newer and heavier aircraft. The ships were sent to the yard in 1935. When Akagi went in for her major refit in October 1935, she would be completely rebuilt during a period of almost three years. When she came out in August 1938 she was a completely different ship. Gone were the three decks and in there place was a much more efficient ship with just one long flight deck. The new Akagi could not only operate the newer heavier aircraft but could also operate many more of them compared to her former capacity. She was also much heavier at 36,500-tons standard and 42,750-tons deep load.

Akagi went into service in her new configuration in operations against China. The carrier had always been the pride of Japanese naval aviation and continued to serve at flagship, First Carrier Division. On April 10, 1941 Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo was appointed as commander of First Air Fleet, which comprised the carrier born aircraft. The IJN operated on a seniority system and Nagumo’s time had come. As a product of the system, Nagumo had never had an aviation command. His last sea command had been as commander of a battleship division. Nagumo made his flagship Akagi and the two remained tied together for the next year and a half. It was Nagumo, the battleship commander, that took the Japanese Navy on an unprecedented string of victories stretching from Pearl Harbor to end at the Battle of Midway. 


Flight Decks - Sprues D & E
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However, the Akagi was not short in air specialists. Lieutenant Izumi Furukawa took over Akagi’s horizontal bombers. He immediately introduced new tactics, including a nine plane reverse wedge tapering to a point at the tail end of the formation. In April 1941 the formation was tried against the Settsu, an old battleship since converted to target ship. In an attack from 10,000-feet the formation hit with four of the nine bombs. Following attacks scored between three and five hits per attack. Even if the Settsu was stationary, this percentage from hits from two mils up was spectacular. Furukawa was not the only superb member of the Akagi and First Air Fleet air staff. Lieutenant Commander Mitsuo Fuchida was placed in charge of training the First Air Group and subsequently was placed in command of the actual aerial strike on Pearl Harbor.

The Commander of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Yamamoto, did not want to go to war with the United States. He had spent a great deal of time in the USA and understood its great latent potential. He further understood that Japan could not win a protracted war against its much bigger and richer rival. None the less it was the Army, which controlled the government and the Army would not discontinue the operations against China. For the termination of the war against China was the price demanded by the US to resume normal commercial relations. The US initially protested Japanese advances against China but did not react commercially due to the fear that this might force Japan to move south against the Dutch East Indies, British Malaya and Borneo and French Indo-China. However, an embargo on war materials and then on oil was placed into effect against Japan. The embargo on oil was especially decisive. Prior to the embargo Japan had stored huge amounts of oil to build up a tremendous reserve but the country had no real oil reserves of its own. Eventually the stored supply of oil would be used and the manufacturing and military ability of Japan grind to a halt, unless another source of oil was secured. That was seen as close at hand in Borneo and the Dutch Indies, exactly as foreseen by US planners. Yamamoto saw that seizure of the oil production facilities probably meant war with the US and the Philippines was astride of the communication and shipping lines between the oil producing regions and the home islands. The US Asiatic Squadron based in the Philippines was no problem but the US Pacific Fleet, recently moved from San Diego to Pearl Harbor was the major problem. 


Flight Deck Bracing & Heavy AA - Sprues F, G, & J
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The Japanese had been working with detachable wooden fins for torpedoes since 1939. These tests were used to find a way to launch torpedoes in shallow water, specifically Pearl Harbor. In January 1941 Yamamoto turned to Rear Admiral Takijiro Onishi to develop a detailed operational plan to attack the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. Onishi was a genius at planning but he had no air experience so he needed a SME subject matter expert on carrier based aviation. He was quick to enlist this expertise and in February 1941 Commander Minoru Genda, then aboard Kaga, received a letter from Onishi to enlist him into the Pearl Harbor plan. On October 2, 1941 the first large-scale briefing for the attack plan was made aboard the Kaga, serving as temporary flagship since the Akagi was in the dockyard at Yokosuka for a fast refit. By October 16 Akagi was back in service but air commanders had problems with existing plans. The senior admirals were hesitant of putting their eggs all in one basket. Initial plans called for only using three or four carriers on the attack on Pearl Harbor but air commanders believed in the big punch using all six front line carriers. Genda’s view was to use all six or call off the attack. The admirals gave in and all six carriers were assigned to the attack. 

Of the carriers, Akagi, Hiryu and Soryu did not have the bunkerage capacity to reach Pearl Harbor without refueling and in any event all ships assigned to the strike would need refueling for the round trip. The three shorter-range carriers carried additional tanks to increase their range. Refueling at sea was not an original capacity of the IJN, as Japanese strategy had been to confront an enemy fleet in Japanese home waters as was done at the Battle of Tsushima. It was not until mid-1941 that it was first tested with light cruisers and destroyers following the tankers. That autumn the station was reversed for refueling the carriers and battleships with the fleet oilers following the heavy ships. After more a month of intense training for the operation, the individual carriers slipped off to rendezvous in the jump off position for the attack, far north in the Kurile Islands. "As darkness settled over Saeki Bay, Akagi blacked out, weighed anchor, and slipped ghostlike out to sea in the silent company of two destroyers…Akagi plunged along 100 miles off the cost, far down the Nampo Islands, then swung straight north." (At Dawn We Slept, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981, By Gordon W. Prange, at page 345) 

The destination was Hitokappu Bay, a large desolate anchorage on the island of Etorofu. The Akagi slipped into the bay on November 22 and as the strike force concentrated, the last training and briefings were concluded. "Akagi hummed with activity as key personnel from every ship crowded her wardroom at Nagumo’s call to attend a special conference on the morning of November 23. Here assembled the captains and staffs of the carriers, battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, Imaizumi and the skippers of his three submarines, and the commanding officer of Kyokuto Maru, flagship of the tankers. Nagumo opened the meeting with an electrifying announcement: ‘Our mission is to attack Pearl Harbor.’ A wave of excitement ran through the assembly. This wss the first time Nagumo had openly revealed the objective to all his commanding officers and staffs, although many present had been privy to the plot for months." (At Dawn We Slept, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981, By Gordon W. Prange, at page 373) There was snow over Hitokappu Bay at 0600 on November 26, 1941 when the Bay came alive with the flickering of signal lanterns. Anchor chains started clanked upwards into hull hawse to be stored in the ship’s chain lockers but with Akagi there was a hitch. The big carrier’s anchor chain jammed temporarily in an embarrassing moment for the flagship of the First Air Fleet. The problem was fixed and the Akagi glided out of the misty snow-shrouded Bay and into the Pacific bound for Hawaii. Air complement for Akagi for this mission were 18 Zeros, 18 Vals and 27 Kates, divided between torpedo and horizontal bomb attack missions. 


Sponsons & Supports - Sprues K & L
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In the early morning blackness of December 7, 1941 the Japanese strike force had already turned south and bent on more knots in the final run in for the strike. The aircraft of the first strike wave were already spotted on the flight deck with the second wave spotted in the correct launching order below in the hangar of each carrier. It was already daylight in Washington where cabinet members were already going over diplomatic intercepts. "As Stimson recorded in his diary, ‘Hull is very certain that the Japs are planning some deviltry and we are all wondering when the blow will strike….’ This was just about the time Nagumo’s pilots began preparing for their devastating blow." (At Dawn We Slept, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981, By Gordon W. Prange, at pages 486-7) Starting around 03:30 Japanese pilots started getting up for their missions that day. At 05:30 cruisers Chikuma and Tone fired their seaplanes off their catapults. Twenty minutes later the six carriers turned into the wind. Now 220 miles north of their target and traveling east at 24-knots, it was time to launch. "The flattops pitched violently as the foam-tipped waves rolled in long, high swells, sending spray over the flight decks. Takeoff would be exceedingly difficult with the carriers listing between eleven and fifteen degrees, but it had to be risked; the finely meshed gears of Japan’s military machine were timed to this operation. So combat pennants sped up the mast to wave beside the ‘Z’ flag." (At Dawn We Slept, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981, By Gordon W. Prange, at page 490) As Fuchida walked up to his aircraft, a senior maintenance officer walked up to him with a white hachimaki, or head scarf, marked with the Japanese symbol of hissho or ‘Certain Victory’, which he presented to Fuchida on behalf of the crew of Akagi. Another 20 minutes passed before the first fighters rolled off the pitching decks, to the shouts of the deck crews.

After the last Kate left for the strike, the force turned south again and moved the second strike wave from hangar to deck. At 07:05 the second wave had been spotted and the carriers again turned eastward into the wind for the second launch sequence. At 07:53 "Tora, Tora, Tora" flashed from the radio in Fuchida’s Kate. Complete surprise had been achieved, as the attack swarmed in. It was the first wave that had the Kate torpedo and they attacked in twos and threes to gut the West Virginia, capsize the Oklahoma, mortally damage the California, as well as hits on Nevada and Arizona. It was a Kate horizontal bomber, whose bomb penetrated the Arizona’s deck armor and ignited the forward magazine. At 10:10 the first returning aircraft were seen approaching Akagi from the south. The weather had worsened since launch and the landings were difficult. Fuchida landed around noon and he and the returning pilots to Akagi wanted another strike to take care of oil tanks, repair facilities and the spare missed warship. Nagumo received Fuchida’s report on the attack. After presenting the report Nagumo asked about more targets for a new strike. After hearing Fuchida’s options for targets Nagumo asked about the American’s chance to attack the Japanese carriers. Fuchida could not guarantee that an attack could not be launched from remaining US ground aviation and had to say that US carriers would now be looking for the Japanese carriers. As the first strike aircraft returned to the carriers, they were refueled and rearmed to attack warships at sea, not to attack installations. To make the majority of the strikes that Fuchida wished would require the repotted first wave planes to be rearmed and an attack would occur in the dark. Nagumo has always been criticized for not launching a third wave, however, when examining all of the facts know and unknown by Nagumo, it is hard to fault his decision to retire. An attack in the dark against a prepared Pearl Harbor would have significantly greater casualties but depending upon the timing might have caught Enterprise in Pearl Harbor. 


Island & Elevators - Sprues N & Q
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When the Japanese carriers returned from the strike, they had to replace their lost air crew and make ready for operations to the south. Kaga, which had lost the most aircraft at Pearl Harbor, and Hiryu were left home for the next operation. Akagi and the Soryu, Zuikaku and Shokaku swept south to clean out any remnants in the Java Sea, finding none, the carriers launched an attack on the Australian port of Darwin on February 19, 1942. The raid sank the destroyer, USS Peary, and eight merchant ships, as well as damaging another nine ships. Hiryu joined the active carriers for the next party, only leaving Kaga in curlers back home. The first mission was to the far east at Pearl Harbor to deal with the USN. The next major effort was to the south against Australia but in March it was time to take care of the Royal Navy in the west. April saw the Indian Ocean adventure of the Japanese carriers, minus Kaga, directed against the Royal Navy around southern India. Admiral Somerville commanded the British Eastern Fleet. He had intelligence that the Japanese would raid the Indian Ocean in early April and sortied to intercept. He had sortied too early and the short range of his ships required him to retire to the Maldive Islands before Nagumo showed up. Somerville was at the Maldives on April 4 when word reached him that Nagumo’s carriers had been spotted, steaming "hellbent" for Ceylon. The word went out to scramble all of the warships out of the ports of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and south-east India. They were in the process of doing this when the carrier aircraft caught them and even under way at sea, the RN warships were just as helpless as the stationary USN fleet caught at Pearl Harbor. In the afternoon of April 5 the British heavy cruisers Dorsetshire and Cornwall were attacked and sunk by Nagumo’s carrier planes, including those of Akagi. Somerville would close during the night attempting to get into gun range of the 15-inchers of his old R’s and retire during the day to stay out of aircraft range. On the 8th nine Blenheim bombers made an attack on Akagi. No hits were obtained and five were shot down by AA fire. That afternoon the RN carrier HMS Hermes and destroyer HMS Vampire were spotted. Almost contemptuously, like slapping an annoying insect, the Hermes was hit by 40 bombs and went down in 20 minutes, followed shortly by Vampire. Also swept up in this particular rampage were a corvette, fleet auxiliary and a merchant ship. Having swept aside all British opposition in return for light aircraft losses during four days of operations, Nagumo’s ships were low on fuel and retired eastward. It is fortunate that Somerville had sortied too early to intercept Nagumo. His old R class battleships would also have been helpless if spotted and attacked by Nagumo’s First Air Fleet.

By the end of April Akagi needed to spend some times in home waters, so only Shokaku and Zuikaku escorted Japanese forces on their way to seize Port Moresby. These turned around after the Battle of the Coral Sea but of the two big carriers, one had suffered damage and the other had significant loss to aircrew so neither was ready for the next big operation in June. Since 1928 Japanese strategic plans had contemplated at eastward and southward advance. Many think that Doolittle’s raid against Tokyo spurred the Japanese attack on Midway but this had long been part of the IJN strategic plan, which called for seizure of New Guinea, the western Aleutians and Midway, followed by operations against Samoa to severe the supply lines between the US and Australia/New Zealand. Although Nagumo had to leave Shokaku and Zuikaku at home, he still had four front line carriers to use to support the capture of Midway. Of course USN code breakers had been getting better at breaking IJN transmissions. Thanks to intercepts an ambush would be set up northeast of Midway to bush-whack Nagumo.


Armament - Sprues AF & AH
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For his Pearl Harbor attack Nagumo had two attack waves and waited until the first wave returned to arm it for intercepting ships at sea. For Midway he again had two waves, the first armed to attack Midway, but the second to engage targets at sea. Nagumo launched his first strike against Midway on June 4 but returning pilots reported a new strike was needed against Midway. At 07:15 he ordered his second strike to switch from anti-ship weapons to ground attack weapons. In this period he was under attack by a series of sorties from Midway that just confirmed that Midway was still in business and a threat to his carriers. Six TBF Avengers made their combat debut attacking Akagi from Midway, as did B-26 Marauders, also armed with torpedoes. When the attack was made the Japanese noted the USN torpedoes poor performance. They were very slow and erratic. One was destroyed by machine guns when it porpoised. The only damage caused Akagi in these initial attacks was superficial. One Avenger crashed into the Akagi’s flight deck but bounced off into the sea. At 07:28 a scout from Tone reported US surface ships but didn’t report carriers. Nagumo ruminated about this unwelcome development for awhile until at 07:45 he decided to go back to counter-ship ordnance. It was not until 08:20 that A Japanese seaplane reported a USN carrier. Nagumo was in terrible shape, with his second attack wave broken down and a need to keep his flight decks clear to receive the returning first wave. In all of this time he had to continue to dodge intermittent attacks from Midway and then swarms of TBD Devastator torpedo attacks from the American carriers. 

At 10:24 the Akagi had just dodged its last torpedo attack and had completed spotting 40 aircraft to attack the USN carriers. Two minutes later SBD Dauntless dive-bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown caught the Japanese carriers. Actually Akagi, Kaga and Soryu were attacked because Hiryu far in front of the other three was spotted but not attacked. The 37 dive bombers from Enterprise were broken into two assaults. Commander McClusky and Gallaher’s squadron went after Kaga, while McClusky ordered the second SBD squadron under Dick Best to go for Akagi. The Yorktown’s SBDs went after Soryu. "We were unable to avoid the dive-bombers because we were so occupied in avoiding the torpedo attacks,’ said Captain Aoki. Her log thus describes the attack: ‘Three bombers dive on Akagi from positions bearing 80 degrees to port…At about 500 meters altitude, bombs were loosed. First was a near-miss about 10 meters abeam of bridge; second hit near the elevator amidships (fatal hit); 9third hit the flight deck on the port side aft." (History of United States Naval Operations in World War II; Volume IV Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, Little Brown and Company, Boston 1958, by Samuel Eliot Morison, at page 124) The third hit set off a fire among the planes on the flight deck, including spare ordnance left over from the decision to change missions. The second hit started fires in the hangar and ignited not only the planes in the hangar but also the torpedo stores, dooming the ship. 


Internal Braces, Tubs, Masts, Rudders, Stands & Anchor Chain - Sprues R, S, T, U & V
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At first Nagumo would not leave Akagi, in spite of arguments by his chief of staff and captain of Akagi. As his chief of staff further states, "Although Admiral Nagumo refused to come down, I finally had to drag him by the hand and talk him into leaving the ship, but couldn’t find a way down, everything was so covered with smoke and flame; there was no way of getting down from the bridge except by a rope which we hung from the bridge….When I got down the deck was on fire and anti-aircraft and machine guns were firing automatically, having been set off by the fire aboard ship. Bodies were all over the place, and it wasn’t possible to tell what would be shot up next….I had my hands and feet burned - a pretty serious burn on one foot. That is eventually the way we abandoned the Akagi – helter-skelter, no order of any kind." (History of United States Naval Operations in World War II; Volume IV Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, Little Brown and Company, Boston 1958, by Samuel Eliot Morison, at page 125

The Emperor’s portrait was removed from Akagi at 17:15 and for another two hours damage control parties tried to gain control over the fires. At 19:15 the Akagi’s engineer reported no hope of saving the ship and the carrier was ordered abandoned. She drifted through the darkness of the night until she was dispatched by torpedoes from a Japanese destroyer shortly before dawn on June 5, 1942. So passed the pride of Japanese naval aviation. Akagi had proudly led the charge in the half year of uninterrupted victories and her departure marked the long atrophy of Japanese naval power. (History from: Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the Present, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland 1987 by Roger Chesneau; At Dawn We Slept, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981, By Gordon W. Prange, at page 483; History of United States Naval Operations in World War II; Volume IV Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, Little Brown and Company, Boston 1958, by Samuel Eliot Morison


Ship's Boats - Sprues AE &AG
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Hasegawa 1:350 Scale Akagi 1941
On March 15, 1941 Captain Kiichi Hasegawa was appointed as commander of Akagi and was still her commander at the time of her loss. It is only appropriate that Hasegawa wrapped up the 2008 releases from that company with a huge 1:350 scale release of Akagi as she appeared at the height of her power in 1941 and early 1942. This release comes hard on the heels of the Hasegawa release of the 1930 fit of Akagi in 1:700 scale. This magnificent kit is certainly among the best kits released in 2008 and certainly is the most massive. Although I still believe that the DML Buchanan/Laffey 1:350 scale kits are the best scale kits released in technical perfection, the Hasegawa Akagi is almost at the same level. Further, there is one obvious difference between the DML release of a 1,700-ton destroyer and the Hasegawa release of a 37,000-ton aircraft carrier. The size and detail of this model hit you between the eyes like a sledgehammer.

Hull Halves- Sprue A
As with the Hasegawa Nagato and Mutsu, the Hasegawa Akagi is full hull divided between starboard and port halves divided along the center line. Other than the original hybrid carrier design for HMS Furious, all carriers have asymmetrical hulls because the exhaust is not on centerline. The hull from the 1:350 scale Akagi is superbly asymmetrical, as there are different ledges and shelves on each side. There are curves and angles everywhere on the hull sides and lots as busy as the skyline of Manhattan while strolling down 5th Avenue. The port side is dominated by the base for the island. It is almost shaped like a five-storied bastion. The bow is very attractive with the graceful battle cruiser cutwater and has large distinctive hawse. You’ll immediately notice multiple horizontal reinforcing strakes and multiple rows of portholes with eyebrows (rigoles). Another feature running the length of the hull is a degaussing cable and the attachment bands securing it to the hull. Amidships there are a series of prominent vertical strakes rising from the large torpedo bulge. The under water bulge is one re where graceful curves replace angles. The model has nice crisp bilge keels molded onto the hull parts. Above the rounded bulge the hull goes out as it goes up until about halfway up the upper hull. At this point there is a narrow ledge and the hull continues upward vertically being stepped back closer to the flight deck. Hull detail includes foot rungs, watertight doors, louvers, ventilation openings, as well as the ever-present horizontal brakes and portholes. 


Clear Aircraft & Ship Parts - Sprues AI & W
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The aft third of the port side hull is dominated by the long ledge ending in the three eight-inch casemate gun positions. Th armor belt continues past the torpedo bulge ending before ending just short of the stern. There are support braces to the ledge above the casemate openings. However, there are a number of large openings to the hangar. There is another ledge flaring out from the hangar openings. More foot rungs and watertight doors also appear in this area. On the starboard side a lot of the hull features from the bottom up to casemate level match those to port but there are major differences above this level. The most significant difference is the huge inset ledge from which the massive funnel emanates. The starboard side has far fewer vertical strakes but the few it has are much taller and more prominent than those found on the port side. On the starboard side the large hangar openings are forward in front and beneath the stack. This side is also festooned with portholes with eyebrows (rigoles), foot rungs, degaussing cable, ventilation openings, bilge keels and louvers. The starboard side does have one open lattice support as part of the molding. Hopefully, this can be replaced with photo-etch. Even one open lattice position portrayed as a solid plastic position, is one position too many.

The Stack – Sprue B
With every past 1:700 scale Akagi I bet you didn’t know that Akagi had five trunks leading into the one massive stack. With this kit there are the five trunks with a ladder down each trunk. For the last two they continue all the way down the stack to the lower stack lip. There are also twelve hand/foot rungs running horizontally along the stack. Although tedious, I would prefer photo-etch foot rails. Another feature about this massive piece is what appears as a very large access panel encircled by rivets. Two other large parts are side bulkheads with supports at the bottom to have the raised above the forecastle. These parts have the same detail as found on the upper hull of sprue A.

Decks – Sprue C
There are three structural decks on sprue C. One is the forecastle with anti-skid deck cross hatching from the bases for the anchor windlasses forward and linoleum strips from those positions aft. There are three positions for the windlasses and three deck hawse at the forward tip of the forecastle. Other forecastle detail includes bollards of assorted sizes, chain locker fittings and four odd fittings with anchor chain rising from a covered channel running to fixed end fittings. Another forward deck covers the bottom of the forward end of the hangar. This part has no detail on the top but the top is not seen because of the hull sides. The underside has support bracing. The sprue also has the sides to the forward hangar upon which the hangar cover fits. The large quarterdeck, which was primarily used for boat storage, is mostly linoleum panels ending in a short metal deck with the anti-skid cross-hatching. There is a small fluted base for the stern windlass base, a hawse for the deck hawse, deck access doors, two more of the odd chain fittings found on the forecastle, bollards, and three unique fittings offset to port. Other major fittings include the propeller shafts and shaft struts. 


Decals
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Fore & Aft Flight Deck – Sprue D
The flight deck has three parts. The D sprue has the two largest parts, the fore and aft flight deck parts. Each part has an elevator opening offset to starboard. Deck detail is excellent. Wooden deck planks run lengthwise and have butt end detail. There appears to be a metal tie down strip separating every five wooden panels. The aft deck has fittings for the arrestor gear and a significant turn down. Also included are two circular depressions, which were positions for retractable searchlights. Also on the sprue are interior bays for the hangar, which are seen through the hull openings.

Mid Flight Deck and Hangar Bulkheads – Sprue E
The largest piece is the middle part of the flight deck. This also has an open elevator, again off set to starboard. To the port is the base for the island. The deck detail is of the same outstanding pattern found on sprue D. In front of the island is an asymmetrical metal fitting, which was the base for a director. Most of this fret is composed of parts for the aft hangar bulkheads. The largest part fits just forward of the quarterdeck and has large spaces on either side for boat storage. On this part is railing for movement of the ship’s boats. Another very conspicuous part is a large grate, which fits underneath the flight deck on the port side just in front of the island.

Flight Deck Supports, Heavy AA, & Sponsons– Sprues F, G, J & K
Both of the F and G sprues consist entirely of supports for the underside of the flight deck. Between them there are twenty unique parts. J sprue on the other hard has the heavy shielded AA gun positions. These are found on sponsons on the starboard side and the sponsons are also on this sprue. Also found on J sprue are cranes/derricks and short supports. K sprue has assorted side sponsons found at different locations of the hull. Most of these sponsons/platforms have base plates for AA guns, searchlights or other fittings. Most of these have the standard anti-skid cross hatching and low solid splinter shields. 


Historical Pamphlet & Plan and Profile
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Supports & Island – Sprue L & N
The large flight deck supports are found on this sprue. For the large sprues there are two different patterns. One design has circular voids and the other style has a lattice pattern. With either style, photo-etch would be better, as it would have actual openings. There is a host of smaller lattice supports, which again would be better suited in photo-etch. Sprue N has the island. The island sides have great detail with portholes, waters, piping, handrails and even electrical cables and junction boxes. The upper level incorporates clear plastic bridge windows. For the island platforms there is interior face supports for solid splinter shields and anti-skid tread pattern decks for some parts.

Elevators, Sections, Masts, Rudders, Clear Parts – Sprues Q, R, S, T, U, V & W
Internal elevator detail for all three elevators is on Q sprue. Internal elevator bulkheads have ribbed detail. Also found on this sprue is an internal bay seen through the openings on the forward starboard hull. All parts on R and S sprues are internal sections that add stability and rigidity to the hull. Sprue T has the smaller AA tubs for light single 25mm guns, landing signal and various masts. Two U sprues supply the rudders, deck edge radio antennae and more deck supports. The two display stands are designated V sprues. Sprue W includes the clear ship parts. These include the bridge windows, signal lamps and search light lens.

Ships Boats - AE & AG Sprues
There are four AE sprues and two AG sprues. Both sets of sprues are mostly ship’s boats and davits. AE appears to be a generic boat sprue as only about 40% of that sprue is used but all AG parts are used. The boat deck detail is really good with wooden plank detail, skylights, open cockpits, cabin windows, anchors, bumpers and fittings. AG also has propellers, anchors, DF loops and rafts. 


Box Art & Print
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AA Armament and Secondary Armament – Sprues AF & AH
There are five AF sprues, which contain the AA armament. Each of these sprues has a DP 5-inch gun mount, fourteen single 25mm guns, three double 25mm guns and four 25mm guns. The AA guns have excellent detail with highly detailed shielding for the DP guns, and separate barrel and recoil assembly parts. The 25mm guns are first rate with flared flash suppressors, ammunition magazines and breach detail. Other parts are beautiful paravanes, detailed directors, binocular pedestals, and cable reels with cable detail. There are four AH sprues. Each sprue provides two casemate positions with gun barrels for the secondary 8-inch guns, which include blast bags. Also included on each sprue are the mount and guns for the fully shielded starboard heavy AA guns, and deck searchlight position covers.

Aircraft – AI Sprues
There are three clear AI sprues, which supply the aircraft for the Akagi. Each sprue has four aircraft, one Zero, one Val and two Kates. These are beautifully done miniature aircraft. Each aircraft has finely done panel lines on the fuselage as well as the wings. The Val comes with a bomb, the Zero with a belly drop tank and the Kate with a torpedo and a larger bomb than that on the Val for horizontal bomb equipped Kates. Hasegawa also provides metal anchor chain in the kit.

Decals and Graphics
The Hasegawa Akagi has four sets of decals. The largest sheet is for the flight deck. On decal is for the red and white stripe turndown. The largest is a white panel with red disc, as worn by Akagi at Midway. For the Pearl Harbor strike the Akagi didn’t have this feature. In addition to the turn down stripes there was a large white character designating the ship as Akagi, solid centerline stripe, broken flanking stripes and multi-rayed arrows at the bow and amidships. A white circle surrounds the aft elevator. The second largest sheet has the aircraft markings with each Zero, Val and Kate given optional aircraft numbers. The third sheet has peel off flags of various ensigns, national flags, Admiral’s flags and signal flags. The smallest sheet only has two flags, one or both of which are probably Togo’s Z signal flow at the Battle of Tsushima and also flown by Akagi for the Pearl Harbor strike. Hasegawa also provides graphic goodies. One sheet has plan and profile. Actually there is a profile of each side and a hangar plan as well as a flight deck plan. In examining the hangar plan, you can see why Akagi carried less aircraft than Lexington, as there is a lot of wasted space on the Japanese carrier. Another goodie is a large poster of the box art. Since this comes rolled, it is very suitable for framing. A historical booklet is included separately from the instructions, which includes numerous photographs from the history of the ship. 


Instructions
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akY2687.JPG (64130 bytes) akY2689.JPG (114005 bytes) akY2690.JPG (115447 bytes) akY2691.JPG (125721 bytes)
akY2692.JPG (142014 bytes) akY2693.JPG (153707 bytes) akY2694.JPG (130902 bytes) akY2695.JPG (128490 bytes)
akY2696.JPG (124336 bytes) akY2697.JPG (101332 bytes) akY2698.JPG (106188 bytes) akY2699.JPG (101644 bytes)
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Verdict
Big, bold and beautiful perfectly describes the 1:350 scale Akagi from Hasegawa. Always a flagship, the Hasegawa Akagi will be the flagship of any Imperial Japanese Navy collection. This is a massive kit of the proudest of the Japanese fleet carriers and about the only thing missing is brass photo-etch. 

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