Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A bit off topic but oh so important . . .

Here's a little photo-essay that explains a few things.

(The baby is unrelated. Well, not unrelated, exactly, but not ours.)

This is a little overdue, but hopefully it gets the point across. Thank you.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Tenno Junyokan Banzai! Tenno Senkan Banzai!

Long live the big boys! Long live wagons! Long live guns the size of steers!

But first, God bless the little children:

These are just the sorts of things Japan could have really used more of. Viking Forge sells them as the Etorofu class, but they serve almost equally well as the preceding Shimushu class, for which I have chiefly used them. Collectively the Imperial Navy called these two classes "Type A Kaibokan." These small but handy escorts were upgraded throughout the war, eventually boasting six depth charge projectors, a trench mortor, and a pretty decent sonar suite on a displacement of just under nine hundred tons. They weren't quite Flowers in terms of ASW, since Japan never had anything quite as nice as Hedgehog or Squid, but they were moving in the right direction, albeit with a multi-purpose military hull that cost a little too much. As the war drug on Japan began to realize that they really needed more of these things cheaper and with more and better ASW projection, so they simplified the hull dramatically, but it was a case of too little too late. If Japan had invested in mass producing cheap versions of these from the early forties the submarine war might have been a somewhat more difficult proposition for the U.S.

All or nearly all of Japan's prewar escorts suffered to some extent from one particular problem: all were capable, multi-role ships that cost too much to be economic ASW platforms. The Type A Kaibokan described above are no exception, but the next two classes might be even better examples.

These two are the torpedo boat Otori and the small minelayer Natsushima, both from Panzerschiffe. Both were intended for convoy escort, but both were also outfitted for additional roles: the Otoris had a significant anti-surface capability in the form of several 4.7" deck guns and a triple torpedo mount, and a thirty knot top speed. Natsushima and her sister Nasami shipped over a hundred mines on a five hundred ton hull. The Otoris in particular might well have been very capable ASW escorts had they dispensed with the torpedoes, most of the deck guns, and a large portion of the powerplant. As it was they probably had too much equipment on too little displacement to be entirely satisfactory, and they surely tried to do too many different things. I suspect some of this stems from the same Japanese preference for a few very capable ships rather than many less capable ships that is so evident in major combatants. If you're planning to fight a conventional war with a wealthier opponent this makes some sense. If you need to defend against asymmetric or economic warfare (or both in one submersible package) it doesn't really work out.

Speaking of submersible packages . . .

The above two submarines are different models of the same class from different manufacturers. For reasons that may be self evident I have not used them as such. At the top is a conversion of a C in C miniature, which they market as I-19. Below is Panzerschiffe's I-15. Both of these boats were B-1 types. Since C in C miniatures virtually always seem just a little smaller than their competitors (they claim that theirs are the correct scale) I have used their boat as a slightly less bulky C-1. To do so I stripped off the hangar and catapult track, cut the deck gun off and replaced it forward, and added a guard at the bow for the forward anchor of the radio antenna. I decided to use the Panzerschiffe model for I-19 since the GHQ search plane made a much better visual fit on the larger model. The catapult track is broad, making it easier to mount the aircraft, and the hangar is large enough to look plausible if quite cramped. I made surprisingly few alterations, all considered. I did add a crane, but since this is collapsible it would be quite excusable to leave it off. I changed out the deck gun for one I built up out of stock to make it look a little lighter, but again, this isn't vital. The only alteration I considered truly necessary was the addition of a pair of periscopes.

Among my new-build Japanese destroyers are these two FubukisFubuki and Sazanami.

Both of these ships were quite active in the early war and both were the veterans of many battles in the East Indies, the South Pacific, and ultimately Sazanami of Coral Sea and Fubuki of Midway. Both are Panzerschiffe models. The paint is somewhat speculative and a little inexact, but attempts to portray the fact that different Japanese naval arsenals used different paint formulations resulting in quite different shades of grey, with Sasebo's being darkest and Maizuru's the lightest.

Just when I think I've got a handle on Japanese destroyers I learn that they built a quick-firing behemoth during the war as an AA escort for their carrier fleet:

I first learned of the Akizuki class in the "Imperial Council" thread on the World War 2 Forum, www.ww2f.com. Somehow I had repeatedly overlooked them in my previous researches. They're surprisingly large even for a navy known for building large and capable destroyers; weighing in at 3,700 tons fully loaded. With eight quick firing 4" DP guns for a main armament these must have been fearsome AA escorts indeed, almost an AA cruiser. I've used yet another Panzerschiffe model to depict them, albeit with the usual added masts.

But I said I'd also built a few heavies. Admiral Takao, this one is for you:

Years ago, when I built Atago, I rather fell in love with Japanese heavy cruisers. These were large, fast, sleek ships with a tremendous punch and the Takao class, with their enormous flag bridge, had an especially menacing and almost modern aspect. While Atago still looks alright, I've learned a lot since then and I put all the lessons to work on Takao (and Nachi.) Both of these are Panzerschiffe models, but I've added quite a lot of detail. You can see masts, rangefinders, secondary gunbarrels, breakwaters, aircraft cranes, anchor chain, and anchors. Most of these are fabricated from simple styrene stock. For anchor chain I use the smallest cylindrical stock I can find and crush it in a pair of pliers to give it a corrugated surface that looks chain-like from a distance. The aircraft are GHQ details and the ship's boats are C in C. In order to get the appearance of boards I run deck brushstrokes in parallel, painting a light wood color over black. I typically allow a little black to show through this second coat. When you drybrush a light color across the direction of the brushstrokes it actually makes the "boards" pop out just a little and it can be quite convincing.

The last new ship I'll discuss today is Ise, which you will see in the forground of this picture:

This is a nice study of what can be done with a Panzerschiffe model and some patience. For comparison I've placed Ise in front of a C in C Kongo I painted up as Kirishima several years ago. When I first bought the C in C miniature it left me somewhat dissatisfied with my (increasingly large) collection of Panzerschiffe miniatures, but I have more time than money, so the best solution for me was to find a way to make what I had look better. That's when I started trying to find a way to add deck details. It's taken a good couple of years and a lot of practice, but I think you can see that it's paid off. I think my simple Panzerschiffe Ise looks entirely presentable next to the C in C Kirishima. (To which I have also added a mainmast, to be completely fair. I haven't been content to build a model as-is in years.) Ise had the complete treatment described above plus radar. Apparently she was the first ship in the whole of the Japanese Navy to carry air search radar. A very handsome ship, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Minor American Combatants

Minor combatants are often amongst the unsung heroes of naval warfare. (They're in good company with auxiliaries and merchant vessels. Everyone likes solid teeth in their military, but without a good logistical tail the teeth have very little bite.)

I've long been interested in minor combatants and lately I've begun to find more sources for off the shelf models of these. Most notable amongst these is the Seabattles line which is available in the U.S. as recasts from Viking Forge. While the models from this line aren't quite as crisply cast as GHQ, the models have a lighter, more delicate appearance and look fantastic painted up, and since most are one piece castings even inexperienced modelers will enjoy them. I bought two packages in the U.S. range: the Treasury class cutters and the USCGC "Party Pack."

The first contains four models that look something like this:

This depicts them more or less as they looked before the war, so I felt some changes were needed to militarize them. As the war grew longer the Navy added more and more armament to these lovely little ships, but the first round primarily saw the addition of an improved AA suite and some additional ASW weapons. I started with USS Ingham, which was a little less modified early war than some others. I worked from this photograph I found on the Historic Naval Ships Association website:

This is apparently a modified version of what was called the "Thayer" system of deceptive camouflage. Thus far this scheme is unique in my collection. If I understand the early war changes correctly, she had one of her 5"/51s landed and gained 2 smaller mounts forward (possibly surplus 4"/50s), a pair of smaller mounts aft (possibly surplus 3"s), two autocannon/machinegun grade mounts, and some ASW astern. I didn't attempt to depict the ASW, but you can see my changes to the AA and surface fit. [Thanks to Carronade on WW2f for the corrections.]

Further, I added the mast, the searchlight platform, and the bedspring antenna according to the usual crushed styrene stock method.

The next ship was much more satisfying:

This one took some real research. She came from the "Party Pack." One of my only complaints with Viking Forge thus far is their refusal to sell the other cutters in their inventory individually, selling them only as a random selection from a pile of prewar, wartime, and postwar cutters. (If I were going to be uncharitable I might guess that all the cutters accidentally ended up together and rather than try to sort them back out it was decided to shake up the box and sell them in "booster" packs a la Magic the Gathering [of Your Money.]) It was on me to figure out quite what I had. Careful research helped me identify some of them, but only after I found a complete Seabattles catalog saved in my files, lord knows where I found that, was I able to confirm some and correct the rest.This turns out to be USS Northstar. (IX-148 to the Navy, WPG-59 USCGC Northstar to the Coast Guard.) And I was absolutely endeared by the dainty little ship with the SOC aboard aft. I attempted to depict her as I found her in this picture from NavSource:

Last but not least is a pair of tugs I acquired from Panzerschiffe:

The dark blue one wearing MS-21 depicts USS Vireo, which attempted the rescue of USS Yorktown. She was built as a Lapwing class Minesweeper but later reclassified as a fleet tug (old) ATO-144. The nearer ship, wearing MS-22 graded paint, depicts USS Navajo, AT-64. Navajo survived air attack and numerous tricky tows in the Guadalcanal campaign only to be lost to a torpedo from I-39 en route between Bora Bora and Pago Pago in the Spring of '43 far behind the front lines.

These two models required a bit more work than the Viking Forge acquisitions, but the end result is fairly satisfying. All of the above might call at a South Pacific harbor like this one:

But discussion of that can wait for a later post. Next up: Imperial Japanese tiny terribles (and a few heavys.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Dutch

Among my other recent acquisitions you might recall mention of a modest Dutch force. This force entails most of their forces from the East Indies station. (All of the cruisers and half the destroyers.) It's a modest forced, but nevertheless one worthy of consideration. All of these are Panzerschiffe models which I detailed. I began with De Ruyter.

As I have mentioned before I try to use Midway as something of an anchorpoint, depicting ships more or less as they appeared as close to mid 1942 as I can get them, thus I attempted to depict De Ruyter at about the time of her loss. In this I failed rather spectacularly. I have several reference books to hand, including one specifically discussing camouflage, and I habitually refer to several websites. Initially I could find no photographs of De Ruyter later than the mid-thirties and no reference to camouflage. Later on while researching Tromp I learned that the Dutch ships were ALL camouflaged, generally in a similar pattern, and had the decks darkened with a crude oil stain. Naturally I learned all this later. Eventually I even found a picture at the Australian War Museum. I may eventually correct it, but she stands in her peacetime paint for now.

Not so Tromp and Java:

I did find art depicting Java and several photographs of Tromp in camouflage. For now, I think the former two make a very nice division.

Particularly accompanied by these two Admiralen:

These two depict Kortenaer and Piet Hein, though all four are painted virtually identically. (All are roughly based on a picture of two unidentified Admiralen. A second picture of Witte de With appears to show a similar camouflage scheme, but is much less clear.) Again, the paint evolved as I worked, since I learned of the deck stain partway through my destroyer run, and I also failed to note the false bow wake at first. All in all, however, I'm fairly pleased. A little work will correct the problems, but for now they add variety, which is always good. I've yet to see a photograph of a large formation where the paint schemes were truly uniform. There are some rather famous pictures of large fleets U.S. warships in MS-3x dazzle variants, but even in the midst of these some older MS-21 Navy Blue creeps in.

Anyway, there we have the Dutch. Next we will look at some lighter U.S. combatants before we head on to the Japanese and ultimately the few heavies that crept in.