by: Tim Reynaga [ ]
Originally published on:
The Imperial Japanese Navy carrier Shinano began life as the third Yamato class battleship. However, after the devastating carrier losses in the Battle of Midway she was completed as a flattop, the largest ever built until the USS Forrestal in the late 1950s. Possessing only a small air group of her own, Shinano was intended to be used as a carrier task force support vessel. Her battlewagon ancestry and armored decks were presumed to give her the ability to absorb massive battle damage, enabling her to provide forward support the attack carrier forces with fuel, stores, and extensive machine shops.
She never got the chance. On November 29, 1944, while in transit for final fitting out from Yokosuka to Kure, Shinano’s starboard side was slashed open by six torpedoes from the submarine USS Archerfish. Had she been completely finished Shinano would probably have survived even this massive damage, but her full interior compartmentation had not yet been installed. After lingering for some six hours she went down suddenly, taking with her over 1,400 of her crew who had assembled on her flight deck waiting to be evacuated. She was just 20 hours into her maiden voyage.
A recent release, Revell Germany’s Shinano is definitely not a new molding. As with other Revell 1/1200 MINISHIPS like the Yamato, Enterprise, Hornet, and Missouri, it has been released variously over the years by Casadio (also called "Mini-Ships") Almark, Sablon, ESCI/ERTL, Model Products Corporation (MPC), and probably others. This early 1970s model is a simplified, snap-together kit engineered for quick building. Because of the lack of information available on the Shinano I can’t comment much on its accuracy, but it looks reasonable. The hull is recognizably a Yamato class, and the outline does mostly match the handful of surviving photographs. It has a stolid, chunky look reminiscent of Tamiya’s original 1/700 scale offering from the 1960s. The only changes Revell has made over previous issues of the kit were new box art and some decals for the flight deck.
Though simplified, the kit has a number of thoughtful design features. One is the lowered aft elevator through which you can see a little of the hangar deck. I also liked the open hangar deck side doors, a feature absent even on most larger scale model carriers. Realistically, these enable the viewer to actually see completely through the hangar deck in places. Very cool. There are also some open panels (intakes?) on the island outboard sponson which add a sense of depth and complexity to the model. Even the bridge windows are see-through! These touches do a lot to offset the model’s toylike appearance. Raised porthole and scupper details seem a little heavy, but at 1/1200 I suppose they would be nearly invisible if done in-scale; the more delicately rendered flight deck details nearly disappeared once painted.
The model was snap-together simplicity, and it went together easily for the most part. I had a bit of difficulty getting the flight deck to lie flat onto the hull, but widening the large locator holes took care of this. Parts had a lot of flash, but that’s not unusual for such an old molding. After clean up, I filled in the locating holes for the aircraft on the flight deck. Though the unfinished ship never carried them, the model comes with a small air group. Unfortunately the planes provided are not very realistic, unrecognizable as any specific type. I glued them to the flight deck from the underside, so the pegs in them filled those awful locator holes in the flight deck above.
The numerous triple 25mm guns are molded directly onto the galleries, but don’t look bad. The larger 127mm guns, molded as separate units, are simplified but acceptable in this tiny scale (the model is less than 9 inches long). Strangely, the aircraft handling crane is a duplicate of that found in the battleship Yamato kit – completely wrong for Shinano. Amusingly, there is also a crane included that the guys at Casadio apparently recycled from their USS Missouri kit! This isn’t really a problem, though, since the flight deck cranes on Imperial Navy flattops were retractable and weren’t always in view anyway. The ship’s boats, also identical to those in the Yamato kit, are pretty good.
This was an out of the box build, so it went together quickly. Even with flash clean up, assembly took maybe half an hour, if that.
The reason I chose to build this simple Shinano kit was for the fun paint job. I had read that, strange as it may seem, the flight deck of the Shinano was a very un-military shade of pink! (The box art from the old Tamiya 1/700 scale model actually depicts this.) According to Lynn Lucious Moore's “Shinano: The Jinx Carrier” (US Naval Institute Proceedings, February, 1953), the steel flight deck was covered with, “...a thin, shock-absorbent latex-sawdust...” composition. The origin of the wood is unclear, but Japanese red cedar (sugi) or Japanese red pine (akamatsu), both common in Japan, would account for the pinkish color noted by observers. The deck would have undoubtedly have been camouflaged before she entered service, but it had not yet been done when Shinano was sunk on her way to final fitting out. The improbable color is well attested by several eyewitnesses, both former crewmen and civilian workers. The original Japanese source for this information (a well known industrialist) had been a civilian worker on the Shinano in 1944; his potentially embarrassing revelation was at first quite controversial in Japan, but eventually other observers came forward confirming his unusual story.
The hull color was also interesting. Until recently, Shinano renderings have almost always shown her in basic IJN gray overall. However, a photo of her taken as she was conducting steering trials in Tokyo Bay shows that she actually carried a two-tone camouflage. This was almost certainly the IJN "Type 2 Hull Color" scheme of light/medium greens 2 and 21, a pattern used as an anti-submarine measure on other late war Japanese carriers. The idea was to make the high-value carrier look like a humble tanker or merchantman from a distance. (Evidently it was effective too: the captain of the Archerfish recorded that he initially mistook Shinano for a tanker.)
Pink and green…I just had to give that outlandish scheme a go! The hull colors were, fortunately, readily available from White Ensign Colourcoats. Based on the trials photo I sketched out and applied the pattern using White Ensign IJN06 Type 2 Camouflage Green and IJN07 Type 21 Camouflage Green. The greens turned out to be vivid and attractive, a stunning departure from the usual. For the flight deck I mixed my best-guess version of mauve/pink. No airgroup was ever embarked, but a few landing tests were conducted, so I felt justified in adding “temporary” white lines to break up that plain deck. Since the kit decal sripes seemed too wide, I substituted 1/64 inch white dry transfer lines from Woodland Scenics.
I’m not a big fan of snap together models, but I have liked this little kit since I first built the MPC version of it when I was a kid. It is simplified and a little basic, but it builds quickly into something that looks reasonably like a Shinano.
I can honestly say that this is the best looking pink and green aircraft carrier in my collection!