Imperial Japanese Navy Battleship Nagato (日本海軍戦艦長門)
IJN Nagato was the premier battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy before the behemoth Yamato class superseded her. Together with her sister ship IJN Mutsu, the Nagato was the spearhead of the Japanese surface fleet that followed the carriers on the Pearl Harbor strike force. Built in 1920, she displaced almost 43,000 tons and carried eight 16 inch guns. Continuous improvements throughout the 1930’s gave her the huge “pagoda” in the superstructure that was characteristic of the Japanese battlewagons. Nagato was involved in the battles of Midway, Philippines Sea, and Leyte Gulf. She was the only surviving battleship to be surrendered to the Americans at the end of the war. She sank as USS Nagato in the Bikini Atoll atomic tests with her former nemeses USS New York, USS Pennsylvania and USS Nevada.
This is the photo that I took of IJN Nagato’s battle ensign that was surrendered to the Allies in 1945. This flag is currently displayed in the USS South Dakota Memorial Museum in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
This 1/700th scale Aoshima kit is relatively well-detailed and I enhanced it with photo etched parts from Tom Modelwork’s Japanese Battleships set 2. I wanted to portray Nagato as she may have appeared on naval maneuvers off Lingga Roads in early 1944. This project was done in 2008.
The project started with air brushing the main deck with Deck Tan, followed with brown Japanese deck linoleum and finally the IJN Kure grey for the lower superstructure.
The individual structure were then constructed together with the photo etched parts. The turrets needed special attention because I wanted to elevate each alternate gun in salvo. Also, neither the kit nor the photo etch fret provided the special aerial structure that was unique to Nagato’s B turret, so I scratch-built that together out of photo etch odds and ends. Other sub-assemblies included the aircraft catapult, recovery crane,the main funnel stack and the aft superstructure. These parts then get airbrushed in IJN Kure grey.
The work on the “pagoda” started with a multitude of gun platforms,search lights and gun directors crammed into it. I added in some vertical ladders and staircases to improve on the superstructure detail. The layers had to be carefully laid one on top of the other, finishing the paint work for each layer of deck as I went along because they were no longer accessible after that. The large search lights clustered around the funnel stack were normally wrapped in heavy canvas and these were achieved using painted aluminum foil.
The aft superstructure was again another cluster of gun positions and gun directors. I added brass rods to augment the actual ship’s support structure which was missing in the kit parts. Construction of the seaplane deck also included a photo-etched catapult to replace the simpler plastic one that came with the kit.
The main mast from the kit was lacking many important spars and the “crow’s foot” stand that was a hallmark of British-inspired warship design from which the Nagato was descended from. To make this, a lattice work of brass wires were added onto the original kit mast.
Rigging of the boat handling derrick had to be done before the rest of the rigging work. This was done using .006 in brass wires.
Once all the turrets have been installed and the superstructures completed, the deck lifelines (or railing) were glued on in sections.
Another important detail in the WW2 Japanese warship “look” was the presence of “bedroll” bags lashed to the superstructure and also some gun positions to absorb shrapnel. I made these using Tamiya 2-part epoxy paste, carefully working them with a razor blade while soft and painting them after the epoxy hardens.
Finishing touches are key to these 1/700th scale models, rewarding the eye with many little details. Here one can see the specially scratch-built V-shaped lifeboat sling. The larger cutter have mini rails along its bow as well.
Final rigging took about 3 nights using .005 inch phosphorus copper wire (unfortunately no longer available) but the results were well worth the eye strain and baited breath. The model was then carefully laid onto the final base, sailing through a sea of acrylic gel, firing her 16 inch gun with a big orange plume. This model remains to this day one of my personal favorites and resides in my private collection.