Brief History- USS Lagarto was a WWII Baloa class Submarine. She was launched on the May 28 1944 at the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company Wisconsin. Lagarto made two war patrols. She is accredited for sinking four Japanese ships, one of which was the IJN submarine I-371. Almost one year after her launching, Lagarto was assigned to patrol the South China Seas. While she was conducting wolf pack type attacks on an enemy convoy with the USS Baya in the Gulf of Siam, the USS Baya was driven off by heavily armed, radar packing escorts and was unable to establish contact with the Lagarto. Japanese records recorded that their radar equipped mine layer Hatsutaka depth charged and sank a submarine in that area around that time. Lagarto was presumed lost along with its 86 member crew. In May of 2005, the Lagarto was discovered by private deep sea divers under 225ft of water in the Gulf of Siam sitting in an upright position. It is an Allied war grave site and property of the US Navy. 

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Why this subject? - A while ago before the discovery of the Lagarto, I was gathering information to build a Baya and ran across the Baya's 4th war patrol record recording the final sortie with the Lagarto. Upon digging further, I ran into photos of the young crew members on the Internet, and it really sank my heart and that they were still lost. I pray for them, their families, and try to made this diorama as a forever on a patrol type memorial. 

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The Diorama - This diorama is a speculation model based on diver drawings, the limited three dive photos, and photos of the Lagarto prior to her loss. With all the models I have built, I never did a wreck type model, so this was an uncharted area for me. I drew up the wreck on a Revell Lionfish with a marker, and limberhole patterns for Manitowoc. I studied the diver drawings and the rare photos of the Lagarto. I marked out the mortal wound on the hull, some details, and followed the drawing as a guide. I did not add the forward 5" that's drawn on the drawing, since I don't have enough info that the Lagarto carried a second 5" gun. I was also not sure if it had propeller guards. I originally attached the propeller guards, and while I was adjusting them, I realized that in the image, were the diver was above the two screws on the stern, the guards do not appear. So, I omitted them. The real tower in the sketch is more rusted away then on this model. I turned the clock back and left the tower decks, which appear collapsed from the drawing. For this reason, I did not add the discovery placed flag on the array. 

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In order to make the submarine appear as realistic, I decided to build her as if she was brand new, including the interior casing but adding the damaged areas first and then, giving the wrecked effect. The inner casing was built first from a PVC pipe, and the inner details were concentrated on areas that would be more likely visible from damage and deterioration. The submarine was base coated in several shades and textures of rust. Model railroad grasses did the rest starting with the interior. The base was made using model railroad sand and scaled lava rocks. I read that fishing nets were ripping on the wreck, so I added torn netting to the tower. I wanted to create a truly realistic memorial, I pray my effort achieved this goal. Lagarto and her crew are at Peace and Forever on Patrol!

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Mario Grima

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