Japanese Carrier Akagi (赤城) Flight Deck, 07 December 1941

 This is the culmination of those three Pearl Harbor aircraft projects I've completed over this last year; a B5N Kate, a D3A Val and an A6M2 Zero.  A series of trips to Hawaii last year got the idea running and here it is finally done.  This diorama represents the flight deck of the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Akagi during the early morning hours of 07 December just prior to engine start.   I discussed the builds of the individual aircraft in previous posts so I will just cover the diorama here.
Artistic License

The configuration of the aircraft and even the figures are actually quite inaccurate. It would have been unlikely for the three different types of aircraft (fighter, torpedo bomber and dive bomber) to have been cued on the flight deck together like this. The fighters took off together first, followed by the dive bombers and then the torpedo bombers.
The crew of the airplane maintenance crews doing last minute checks is somewhat unlikely, since most maintenance would have been done below on the sheltered hangar deck.  The pilots and aircrew would also have likely completed their last minute briefings in their ready rooms, not in the pre-dawn darkness on a pitching flight deck. 
And finally, while the aircraft represented here all flew from the Akagi during the Pearl Harbor attack, they flew in different waves.  Goto’s Kate was in the first wave but Utsugi’s Val and Itaya’s Zero were in the Second Wave.  They would definitely have been below decks when the first wave was preparing to take off.  All this was done simply in the name of artistic license.  I wanted to portray interesting subjects in their natural environment. 
The Deck

This was one of the more simple diorama bases I’ve done but definitely not the easiest. The base is an 18 x 24 picture frame from a discount store which cost less than $10. The deck is made from basswood strips glued to the base with Deluxe brand "Super 'Phatic" aliphatic glue. I replicated the caulking between the planks with three to four strips of simple black construction paper like we used in elementary school. After cutting the basswood strips to scale length I pulled random piles aside and stained them varying shades of brown with heavily diluted Tamiya acrylics. I then randomly placed them in the base to give a nice variant look to the deck.

As I glued the individual planks into place I had to constantly monitor their alignment.  If I found myself going off true I had to pull up what I had done and rest them in place.  It was simple, but also time consuming and tedious.  I was well through watching several seasons of Magnum PI on Netflix before I was finished.  Once everything was in place I lightly sanded the whole piece to blend everything together.   This also served to distress the construction paper “caulk” nicely.  An added bonus was that the black dust from the paper filled previously unseen cracks and marks in the basswood strips which added to the worn look of the deck nicely.
The tie downs are from the White Ensign photo etch set.  I honestly don’t know what I would have done if these hadn’t been available.  They were a huge time saver over fabricating my own.  The white stripes are hand painted as were the originals. 
I’m sure Shep Paine would grumble in disapproval, but I broke a cardinal rule of diorama building on this project by having the scene run parallel to the base.  There was no way around this however due to the amount of space the aircraft took occupied.  I tried every conceivable way to position them on the base and this was the only way to get them to all fit without having them hang over the edge, which I couldn’t do because there is an acrylic cover that fits over the frame.
Once everything was placed I had a dead spot which I didn’t quite know how to fill.  Hasegawa came to the rescue however with their  Isuzu TX40 Fuel Truck kit.  It had a terrific little fire extinguisher included.  I’m dubious as to whether this was standard flight deck equipment in the Imperial Japanese Navy, but with a couple of wheel chocks to keep it from rolling off a pitching carrier deck it looked right at home.
The Figures

Figures are the main reason I shy away from dioramas. I held my nose and drove on with this project though. The air crew are mostly from the Tamiya sets which come with the new A6M kits. They are hands down the best 1/48 Japanese aircrew figures out there.
The poses are all pretty boring though. I had to reposition a few pretty drastically, like the fighter pilot demonstrating an attack angle with his hands and the aircraft commander briefing his crew with the map (which is a shrunk down copy of an actual map taken from a downed Japanese pilot during the attack by the way – a nice little touch that no one will likely notice).
The two hardest conversions were the pilot being helped with his parachute and the ground crewman on the wing of the Val.  They were both conversions using the Tamiya aircrew parts and a set of Luftwaffe aircrew by Italeri.  Pretty challenging but they are ok as long as you don’t look too closely!

The rest of the ground crew are all Luftwaffe figures from Italeri that I reconfigured with putty, scratch built respirators and lead foil belts and straps.  I painted them with Valejo acrylics and oils.
The Final Touch
One of the things that made me want to build this diorama in the first place was a particular photo of the Akagi taken a few weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack. It’s a very dramatic photo showing a large portion of the flight deck with the rest of the fleet in line ahead formation in the background. I enlarged it and mounted it on foam board and set it as a background for a photograph. I was pretty pleased with the results.


  1. I believe there are few words to describe your work, including: masterpiece!

    roberto rossi

  2. Truly fantastic. I enjoyed your bio also. I sounded very familiar!