by: Dariush [ ]
Originally published on:
Shipyard: Yokosuka, Japan (35°17'N 139°40'E)
Layed down: 12 Dez. 1937
Launch: 1st Jun. 1939
Commissioned: 08 Aug. 1941
Length (over all): 250 m
Length (CWL): 236,06 m
Beam (max): 26 m
Draft (max): 8,87 m
Flieghtdeck dimension: 242,2 m x 29 m
Standard: 29800 t
Max: 37000 t
Machine: Four Gihon - 8 Kanpon geared turbines ( Oil fired )
Performance: 160000 WPS
Max: 34,2 kn
Fuel: 3500 t
Range: 9700 sm / 18kn
Ordnance: 16 × 127 mm (5 in) anti-aircraft guns (Type 98)
70 × 25 mm AA guns (Type 96); Since 1943: 70 x 25 mm guns
Airplanes (Full Capacity): 84 (72 12 spare airplanes)
18 x Mitsubishi A6M (Allied Codename: ZERO)
27 x Aichi D3A Kanbaku (Allied Codename: VAL)
27 Nakajima B5N (Allied Codename: KATE)
Flightdeck: 64 mm
Main deck: 116 mm
Final fate: Sunk 19th June 1944 at 14:01 at position 11°40'N, 137°40'O
“Shokaku” translates from japanese language roughly as “Crane flying in the sky” and was the class ship beside her sister ship named “Zuikaku” which translates as “Fortunate Crane”; them together building the 5th carrier division of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN).
The building contracts for these carrier vessels (CV) were granted 1937 within the same national budget the Yamato class was confirmed. The Washington Naval Treaty expired 1936 and the goal of the japanese navy was to not only show predominance in the Pacific theater but also to enable the empire to secure and expand territories.
The Shokaku class CVs were rootedly designed as full carriers and based on a radically modified version of the carrier IJN Hiryu.
One has to acknowledge that there are voices calling the Shokaku class the most modern and able carrier design up until the introduction of the american Essex class in 1943.
The construction of the Shokaku was delayed through demands from the japanese aircraft command. Initially the two smoke stacks were supposed to go one in front and one aft the command tower. The japanese designers turned the smoke stacks down to the side of the fuselage to prevent smoke interfering with the airplane duties on the flight deck. This was possible, since the hangar deck was totally enclosed and protected. However, the japanese aircraft command wanted both smoke stacks to go aft the command tower.
The only peacetime the Shokaku saw was between 08th August 1941 until start of the “Hawaii Operation” (Pearl Harbor) starting 26th November 1941, which the IJN Shokaku attended with 15 ZERO, 27 Val and 27 KAte airplanes.
It will be a most tedious work to list all the missions of the IJN Shokaku. I hope giving you a rough summery will do it justice. Please note the following is heavily based on the information combinedfleet.com provides most accurately and ina broader context:
Over all, the IJN Shokaku participated in many major campaigns of the Pacific war.
Beside the mentioned attack on Pearl Harbor there was
21st Januar 1942 - Launches strikes against Rabaul and Lae
5th - 9th April 1942 - Launch strikes against Colombo Trincomalee
8th May 1942 - Battle of the Coral Sea
0907-0915 severely damaged by three bomb hits. One tore open the port bow and started a fire in the forecastle. The second struck the end of the flight deck to starboard. The third hit the starboard side of the rear of the island, damaging gun tubs and the mainmast. Large fires break out, but evaded all torpedoes successfully. Escorted by USHIO and YUGURE, the carrier is detached at once and able to evacuate the battle area at full speed. 108 officers and men are killed by the fires and explosions, and another 40 wounded.
While running home the Shokaku evades no less than 8 submarines until returning to Kure for repairs and is immediately placed in the Reserve Unit of the Mobile Force on 17th May 1942.
Btw, these damages are the reason the IJN Shokaku could not participate at Midway (4th - 7th June 1942) as designed.
After leaving drydock on 27th June 1942 the IJN Shokaku is reassigned to Striking Force, 3rd Fleet, CarDiv 1. In Hashirajima Kure area.
24th August 1942 - Battle of the Eastern Solomons. Light damage from bomb fragments.
26th October 1942 - Battle of Santa Cruz. The IJN Shokaku gets heavily damaged by bombs. Four, possibly even six bombs struck the flight deck, one aft of the island and the rest all grouped around the amidships and aft elevators. Large fires are started, and the flight deck is completely buckled and burst by the blasts. Though sixty officers and men are killed, since no aircraft were aboard, no fuel was active and damage control is able to extinguish the fires and save the ship. Then, with the also-bombed light carrier ZUIHO, the carrier is detached and ordered home to Truk escorted by HATSUKAZE and MAIKAZE.
The IJN Shokaku barely makes it into homeland waters and undergoes several repairs at different shipyards including Yokosuka in the following month to come.
19 June 1944 - Battle of the Marianas. Th IJN Shokaku has CAP/Search duty for CarDiv 1 and lanches seventeen A6Ms.At 1110 the ship recovers ten A6Ms. As these flight landing operations are concluding, at 1122 the shokaku is hit by three (may have been four) torpedoes fired from USS CAVALLA (SS-244) in the starboard side; two forward near the switchboard and generator room, and and one amidships. Large fuel fires are ignited in the hangar and No.1 boiler room goes off line. SHOKAKU remains underway, but begins to list to starboard, and counterflooding to port is carried out, but overcompensates, giving her a port list. Meanwhile flooding and heat of the fires force shutting down of the boiler rooms. SHOKAKU continues to settle forward. Though damage control initially hoped to save her, the flooding forward and the fires intensify in the following hours. By 1210 the ship has come to a halt when fires detonate an aerial bomb on the hangar, setting off volatile gases from a cracked forward tank. Large induced explosions wrack the carrier, and hope begins to fade. The list to port and bow trim both increase. At 1350 her strike planes return, but are ordered away, having to be directed to ZUIKAKU and TAIHO. At this time Captain Matsubara has ordered `Abandon Ship' and crew musters on flight deck for flag lowering. At 1401 SHOKAKU sinks head first, stern raised high. After she has gone under, four tremendous explosions rumble in her grave. Due to this sudden disaster, loss of life is very heavy: fifty-eight officers, 830 petty officers and men, in addition to 376 members of Air Group 601 and eight civilians share the fate of the vessel; a total of 1,272 dead. Light cruiser YAHAGI and destroyers URAKAZE and HATSUZUKI rescued Captain Matsubara Hiroshi among 570 other survivors.
Engineering und Tactics of IJN carriers
Since ever I am interested about the Pacific war I stumble over sloppy comments how weak the Japanese ship design was and how dangerous the carrier design was planned and executed.
Well, let me untilize this in box review to enlighten the mystery by describing what I understood so far by picking up some major design features in comparison. I´ll get on with the in box review right after this, promised.
First off, one has to realise that carrier vessels and their use in the world navies were a matter of try and error. This is true since the tactical role of a carrier was initially never set in the beginning of the evolution. We are talking here the time period just before the Pacific war started. All naval nations based their naval doctrine on Battleships. The bigger, the more cannons the better.
Sure, the US of A, the British Empire as well as the japanese experimented with carrier vessels. Conceptional wise these were supposed to support battleships by doing reconnaissance duties or covering the main battleships operations.
The main reason for any Navy to not favor carrier vessels was among all, that a carrier vessel had no relevant Artillery to defend itself against a battleship hence was vulnerable.
Well, these voices stopped instantly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor with the combined power of carrier vessels. With this attack evidence was provided that carrier vessels could outgun any battleship fleet- at least if they could operate undisturbed.
It may be surprising but at this point of the war even the japanese navy wasn´t fully aware about this fact. This changed of course while the war commenced.
Whoever tries to understand the technical development of carrier vessels soon will figure there were three major building philosophies.
1. British version
The british carrier design preferred closed hangar decks and armored flight decks. This way the hangar decks were well protected and at the same time the ship gained length wise great stability.
The drawback however was, that the armored flight deck brought much weight over the CWL. Also, the elevators themselves needed to be as small as possible since any hole in a given strengthening structure weakens its protective ability. Knowing these disadvantages the british designers preferred building only one hangar deck. This one beeing closed gave less place for airplanes. For this, the british design resulted in a compact naval force with limited ( 40 airplanes ) attack power.
2. US of A
Regarding carrier vessels the USA seeked for a ship with max airpower possible. The british design was out of question since it did not provide enough space to carry a force of 60 airplanes of different types. The designers chose the main deck to be armored to protect the ship itself. The flight deck however was not heavily armored since it was realised it is the most vulnerable area of the ship anyway and a lighter flight deck construction could be repaired more easily and without the risk of losing the ship to enemy attacks entirely.
The hangar deck itself was recognized as being very vulnerable as well since bombs could break through. For this the USA included maybe the best firefighting crews and designs possible. The hangar deck was open to the sides so dangerous stuff on fire could be pushed off the ship if needed, The ships sides received those rolling gates so assisting fire fighting ships could help from outside the carrier. The same rolling gates provided some security from rough sea rides. Since the hangar decks side was not closed the USA carriers could also carry the desired amount of aircrafts. Further on, these aircrafts could not only be refueled and rearmed on the hangar deck but they could also be warmed up. This was a real advantage above the british design.
Never the less one has to admit that the light flight deck proved to cost heavily on lives and airplanes. This was evident latest when the so called Kamikaze pilots appeared and CV-6 Enterprise tells a real sad story about these actions.
Whatever I summed up about the USA carrier design does not truely apply for the CV-2 Lexington and CV-3 Saratoga, since those were early carrier versions based on a battleship design.
3. Japanese version
Last but not Least let us have a look at the japanese design
Japan was aware about the Us development of carriers and most likely very impressed about the number of airplanes carried by those. For this it was clear for the japanese high command that japan had to have carriers built as powerful as the american counterparts.
OTOH Japan took heavily advantage of british design and knowledge. The british design did not meet the japanese naval needs and was abandoned. Now, what happened is that Japan decided as following:
The carrier was to have a light flight deck with two closed hangar decks beneath. Of course this gave some serious stability problems because there was pretty much weight above the CWL. For this, the japanese designers tried to save as much weight as they could on the superstructure.
Also, since the hangar decks were closed, special fire fighting and ammunition handling measures had to be invented.
From all design features the following one got me surprised: Japanese carriers incorporated the fuel tanks for the airplanes into the strengthening support girder of the hull.
This was decided to save weight since extra fuel tanks would need extra space and therefor generate extra weight.
Now, one can argue how smart all of this was but has to acknowledge, that these design features totally fit with the japanese naval war doctrine. From the japanese point of view their navy was THE naval power in the Pacific theater and therefor any possible battle would be fought with an assumed advantage.
As the war began this even proved to be very true.
The japanese command accepted the given design risks concerning carriers.
After the battle of Midway Japan learned the hard way and tried to incorporate the lesson into the existing ships.
As for the IJN Shokaku, the side panels of the hangar decks were modified so they blow away in case of high pressure inside the hangar. Unfortunately this feature did not work out as planned.
IJN carrier tactic
Before I proceed one has to comprehend that doctrine, as boring as these may be, were the main reason for strategic decisions - this is specially true for the strict japanese navy.
The IJN officer education demanded from each officer to think and act within the current doctrine or he was not supposed to be with the naval forces at all.
Well, the japanese doctrine about the use of carrier vessels changed throughout the war several times.
The carriers took over and evolved to be the main force. Battleships had to stay back pretty soon after war started and were assigned support and reconnaissance missions.
As with the american doctrine the japanese naval command believed that a victory could only be achieved if predominance was secured. If all would fail, Japan and USA would have to fight with equal forces whereas the japanese could benefit from their logistical, technical and territorial advantages.
According to this doctrine the japanese success early in the war can be explained by their ability to tie up the carriers at the right time and the right place. One carrier alone hardly could have guaranteed for the success the IJN was seeking for. Also, the IJN pilots could not only work flawlessly with the different squadrons of their own carriers -something the american pilots could perform easily as well - no, the pilots were also trained and educated to coordinate different squadrons from different carriers at the same time. These well coordinated and professionally trained attacks of 2 or more carriers made the differencecompared to the american pilots, which had not developed such maneuvers in the beginning of the Pacific war.
The japanese naval doctrine proved to be dead on right in the beginning of the Pacific war. This is true since there were roughly equal numbers of Battleships and an overwhelming advantage for the japanese navy regarding carriers.
Now, if you start planning with the japanese doctrine in the back of your head, then you won´t have to expect a situation of inferiority and serious defense. Whatever resistence may occure will be overrun by sheer power of the attacking IJN.
If chances for a defensive situation are quiet low, then why bother with preventive measures?
Understanding this part of the IJN doctrine now makes one understand partly how and why the IJN acted the way they did and it also gives a a good understanding how and why they designed their ships.
Let us have a brief look at Pearl Harbor: It is not only the fact the american forces were not aware of an attack and taken by surprise. This is tragic enough in itself. More importantly the IJN rushed with overwhelming forces holding the predominance the IJN doctrine asked for.
One can only guestimate but I doubt the outcome of the attack at Pearl Harbor would have been very different even if the declaration of war was transefered on time and even if Pearl Harbor would have been warned and had taken precautions in the short time beeing.
Regarding Midway one has to acknowledge that the forces were roughly equal. This is true since the only forces in attacking distance were mostly carrier based airplanes those stationed on Midway (I am counting airplane wise; no other naval force was in attack range at that time).
The IJN loss of 4 major carriers was owed to the given circumstances. On the one hand there was order to take Midway with the follow up forces getting closer. On the other hand there was need to fight the discovered american carrier forces at the same time.
Now, this was a tricky situation and would have needed precise timing even if the IJN would have been aware of the situation from the beginning. Since the IJN chose to use closed hangar decks most of the airplanes armament had to be changed there enlengthening the time needed to have the right force with the right armament at the right time. The given predominance over the forces on Midway island itself turned out to be a situation of equal forces if we include the american carrier forces.
Now the second main aspect of the IJN doctrine was not given at all. So far away from the homeland with limited resources there was no advanced logistical, technical and/or territorial advantage for the IJN at this point.
The conceptional flaws of the carrier design with closed hangar decks and light flight decks turned out to be a major drawback. The fire fighting measures turned out to be not effective enough since the given doctrine never indicated any deepened care for this part.
Again, the reason the IJN failed at Midway can not be found by pointing at one or two possibly wrong decisions taken by the admirals or captains being there. If looked at closely it turns out to be a design flaw of the supported doctrine.
If understood accordingly one also can comprehend why the IJN started to upgrade AA measures on al ships so late in the Pacific war.
It may sound futile to start thinking about it, but if the IJN Shokaku had participated with the Midway forces as initially planned, chances are high that the history books would tell us a different story.
The missing IJN Shokaku at Midway turned out to be an advantage in later IJN war operations since there still was the chance to introduce one more carrier power.
However, since the loss of many veteran pilots and somewhat lack of well trained new pilots the advantage may have been less than expected.
Now, let us hit the kit ....
Fujimi represents the IJN Shokaku in the 1941 (Pearl Harbor) configuration. The kit comes within a double protected card box. On the front there is a painting showing the IJN Shokaku in Pacific waters with an airplane just lifting off. Also, in the background there is another ship which might be a destroyer of some sort.
The sides of the package show photos of a built model.
Watching the 1/350 airplane camoflauge promises some difficult task to accomplish.
After opening the box one will notice that each sprue is packed within a clear bag so each sprue is well protected. The parts have quiet enough room within the box.
The hull of the ship consists of two parts and gives no Option for a waterline model. The hull parts are molded with crisp edges. Also, the full hull plating is imitated length wise with recessed panel lines. The portholes are closed and come with the eyebrows. Some of the platforms and superstructure are molded to the side of the hull. The manufacturer even thought about the degaussing cable and molded that onto the hull. This gives some little headache regarding the painting but nothing a modest modelbuilder could not handle.
The Flight Deck...
The flight deck comes as one piece with the wooden structure molded in. You may find one of the close ups interesting showing the holes for the wind breaker and the following elevator. The vertical seems are supposed to take the arresting cable. On the next photo you will notice a closer view of the molded wood structure. Unfortunately the planking appears to go the full length of the flight deck. Well, there is the point missing where one lath hits head on the other lath. On the backside of the flight deck FUJIMI included the supporting structure.
Since this is a big kit lets face the facts so far. The hull will most likely convince the majority of people. Even though it shows the plating throughout the lengt of the hull the vertical joint lines are missing. However this will be an easy fix since one can substitute some thin foil or even just with some lightly sprayed putty.
I love the flight deck since it comes in one piece and gives a nice representation of the original deck. However, since it is missing the vertical joint lines, I can´t call it a perfect deck. The supporting structure beneath the flight deck is nicely done though and a bright idea was put into reality.
I did not arrange the sprues according to their number but took the photos as I took them out of the box. Whoever is interested into the correct numbering might find the parts list at the end of this review quiet useful.
I started off looking at the sprue containing mostly the parts for the various boats. The sprue is named “Kongo” so I guess that is the same sprue as provided in that kit.
One sprue deals with the funnel. Watching the close up photo reveals that some pipes are molded on the side of the funnel a well. Air inlet grill and smoke deflector for the funnel interior are also provided. Platforms and command tower
With this sprue FUJIMI reveals part of the ships side platforms to hold the AA guns as well as some parts of the command tower.
Looking at the following detail photo shows how nicely the gun turrets are done. Also, the following close up shows the supporting structure. Be my guest and check with some of the close ups about how well the perforated steel plates for the platform bases are done.
Command tower, Weapons, Antennas...
One sprue deals with the main command tower parts. Please not that the portholes have eyebrows as well and the doors even copme with hinges. The following detail photo shows the platform for the AA guns. The supporting structure of the AA platform looked at from the other side. This proves my statement about the IJN need to loose weight above CWL at all costs.
Even more boats...
The next sprue deals with even more boats. Please don´t be fooled by the one detail photo showing some noticeable sink marks. This one photo is showing the backside of the boats super structure and will be not be seen once properly asembeled to the boats hull. The oars do not come seperately but are molded into the top part of the boats assembly. This micht cause some headache when it comes down to paint all the bits and pieces. This close up shows some Armament so one can imagine how much work will be involved.
Now we are coming to the sprue containign the parts for the elevators. FUJIMI offers a rectangular Opening fitting the size of the elevator holes on the flight deck. These parts do show some supporting inner structure. Also we do get the elevator platform itself so I guess this will give some nice option to show at least one elevator in action with an airplane on top.
The close up shows the wind breaker unit and the ships screws all very nicely and sharply molded. Now the supporting structure underneath the aft flight deck. As one can see it might turn out to be slightly off scale. However, I think this can be resolved by smart painting or even better, by scratch building the structure with thin brass rod or foil. One can take the original plastic part as a guide to accomplish this. Details over details. At the lower end of the picture one can see parts for the AA turret and at the top of this picture some transport hooks.
This sprue shows for the most part the impressive Armament of the IJN Shokaku. What you get to see here is really stunning. This is one of the few cases where I feel no need for after market parts. Even the muzzle of the AA guns are connical. Sorry if the photos do not justice to what I am writing but my camera does not allow any better close up than provided. Looks like FUJIMI is getting better and better every time they issue a new kit in 1/350. The gun barrels and AA guns barrels are parallel and show issiue whatsover.The gun body itself could have been a little more detailed but from all I ahve seen in this scale this is a really nice representation. Because these parts are so nicely done here is a nother view. If you look close enough you can even see the seperately provided seats of the AA gunners. Bravo FUJIMI!
The Main Deck...
The IJN Shokaku comes of course with a main deck. However, most part of it is beneath the flight deck. Also, sionce the hangr decks were designed to be all closed there are few areas left so one could see it. The manufacturer provides whatever could possibly be seen with this sprue.
This is a close up of the bow section. You may notice that the chain for the anchor is not molded on. FUJIMI provides a metal chain that comes with the kit. Again a nice view of the perforated steelplates regarding the aft section and some platforms. The following closeup shows clearly the supporting structure under the platform being molded on. Last but not least the supporting structure aft the flightdeck with the molded on cones for the vertical support.
Reinforcing the hull...
These parts reinforce the hull and give it some decent strength. I guess if you take measures of these parts and their placing inside the plastic hull you could even build your own hull from scratch.
The manufacturer gives us a few models of each airplane, which come in clear plastic. It is difficult to photograph them so I hope the following pictures give you some nice impression about how well and detailed FUJIMI worked on this. The airplanes have recessed panel lines. The propellers are the only part that seem too thick and out of scale. Would have been a nice move if those could hav been provided as photo etched parts.
The stand comes in black plastic and surely provides a nice way to represent the finished model.
The provided decals come on a big sheet and contain all the flieght deck markings, the ship markings as well as everything one needs for the few airplanes provided. From all I can say there is no color distortion whatsover. Also one receives some self adhesive signal signs and the name of the ship in japanese language.
The arresting cables as well as the saftey nets are provided as photo etched parts. This is a really nice move since I can see no way to provide that with plastic parts. Since I obtained the first production run some pre measured guardrails are also included. I guess in future production runs these may have to be obtained separately.
Most of the detailed painting instructions are included into the building instructions. However, FUJIMI provides a poster sized over all view of the IJN Shokaku in 1/350 scale showing two side views, top view, view aft and view bow.
The building instructions comes totally in japanese language. This aint as bad as it sounds because the 25 sections guide you quiet precise to your finished model by giving well laid out drawings.
The paper size of the building instruction is quiet impressive with a folded DIN A2.
The b/w reference photos provided - and I am sorry to say this - are not really helpful. I don´t think this is a printing error but most likely the original photographs were not clear enough to start with.
This is honestly a deniable beauty of a ship kit with few weaknesses. Most of them not being the fault of the manufacturer. The first true IJN carrier vessel is more interesting to me than e.g. the IJN AKAGI, even if that ship gained more popularity due to its role in the 1st IJN carrier division. From all I can check about the hull everything seems to be spot on. The wealth of provided details like the transportation/lifting hooks, the boats and last but not least the armament show how well FUJIMI worked on this ship kit.