IJN CHOKAI

 
 

As seen in Oct.1944 Battle of Samar

 
     
 

Pit-Road no. w 59

Scale 1:700 Water Line Series

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

 
     
     
     

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History of IJN CHOKAI

Chokai (Japanese 鳥海) was a Takao-class heavy cruiser, armed with ten 8" guns, four 4.7" guns, eight torpedo tubes and assorted anti-aircraft guns. Chokai was designed with the Imperial Japanese Navy strategy of the Decisive Battle in mind, and built in 1932 by Mitsubishi's shipyard in Nagasaki.

To fully understand the appearance of the IJN Cruiser design, one have to see the rules of the "Washington treaty" of 1922 - a direct response to the growing arms race in the pre war period. There was restriction on how many battleships and carriers each nation most have, and the total weight of the cruisers was limited to 10,000 tons!  But the loophole in the rules for the IJN was - You could build as many you wish! and how will the other countries know the exact weight of the ships. The ships weight was 10,000 tons and a little more! 

The Takao-class cruisers were build to out gun any other cruiser and out run any bigger ship -They were extremely fast and dangerous to the enemy and they look like they ruled the "High sea".

Operational history

At the start of the Pacific War, Chokai supported the invasion of Malaya and participated in the pursuit of the Royal Navy's Force Z. During January and February of 1942, the Chokai was involved in operations to seize the oil-rich Dutch East Indies and the island of Borneo. Steaming near Cape St. Jacques, the Chokai struck a reef, sustaining hull damage on February 22, 1943. On the 27th, she reached Singapore for repairs.

After repairs, Chokai was once again tasked with a supporting role in an invasion, this time the landings at Iri, Sumatra and the invasion of the Andaman Islands and the seizure of Port Blair a few days later. Afterwards, Chokai pulled into Mergui, Burma.

On April 1, 1942, Chokai left Mergui to participate in Operation C, a raid on merchant shipping in the Indian Ocean. Chokai torpedoed and sank the American freighter Bienville and later the British steamship Ganges on April 6. Her role in the operation successfully concluded, Chokai returned to Yokosuka on April 22.

Guadalcanal campaign

By mid-July, Chokai was the new flagship of Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi and his Eighth Fleet. It proceeded towards Rabaul. On August 7, Guadalcanal having been invaded by the Americans, Chokai headed for Guadalcanal, Vice Admiral Mikawa aboard. In the battle of Savo Island Mikawa's squadron inflicted a devastating defeat on an Allied squadron, sinking four cruisers and damaging other ships. However, Chokai sustained several hits from Quincy and Astoria, blowing off one of her turrets and killing 34 men. Chokai returned to Rabaul for temporary repairs. For the rest of the Guadalcanal campaign, Chokai would pull an assortment of duties, sustaining varied, but minor, damage.

Relieved as Eighth Fleet flagship shortly after the final evacuation of Guadalcanal, Chokai headed back to Yokosuka on February 20, 1943. Tasked with various minor duties for the remainder of 1943 and first half of 1944, Chokai was made flagship of Cruiser Division Four ("CruDiv 4") on August 3, 1944. She survived a harrowing submarine attack on October 23, becoming the only undamaged ship of CruDiv 4.

Sunk in the Battle off Samar

Chokai was then transferred to Cruiser Division Five, where she survived another attack on October 24, this time by aircraft. On the morning of October 25, Chokai, supporting many other cruisers and battleships, engaged an American force of escort carriers, destroyers and destroyer escorts in the Battle off Samar.

Chokai is taken under 5-inch fire from "Taffy 3" escort carriers and destroyer escort USS ROBERTS. She is hit starboard side amidships, perhaps by USS ROBERTS.

At 0859, a secondary explosion, probably caused by Chokai's armed torpedoes on deck, knocks out her engines and rudder. She shears out of formation to port and moves eastward.

At about 0905, aircraft from USS KITKUN BAY attack Chokai. She is hit by 500-lb. bombs in the forward machinery room and set afire. She goes dead in the water.

At 1006, Kurita orders Cdr Matsuzaki Tatsuji's destroyer FUJINAMI to escort Chokai. She and FUJINAMI down an Avenger during an air attack. FUJINAMI removes the survivors including Captain Tanaka.

At 2148, FUJINAMI signals that she scuttled Chokai with torpedoes at 11-22N, 126-22E.

27 October 1944:
80 miles N of Iloilo. FUJINAMI, enroute to Colon, is redirected to a small island off Semirara to pick up the crew of HAYASHIMO. That afternoon, near the island, FUJINAMI is attacked by planes from USS ESSEX and sinks with all hands including
Chokai's survivors.

Captain Tanaka is promoted Rear Admiral, posthumously. Chokai's Executive Officer, Captain Kamikawa Takeo is also promoted Rear Admiral, posthumously.

20 December 1944:
Removed from Navy list.

(Source Wikipedia.com & combinedfleet.com etc.)

 

Technical specification:

Laid down: 26 Mar. 1928

Launched: 5 Apr. 1931

Completed: 30 Jun 1932

Sunk: 25 Oct.1944 by IJN destroyer Fujinami after laying dead in the water caused by bomb hits by aircraft from USS Kitkun bay

displacement: 11,347 tons - 14,838 full load

length: 201.70 m

beam: 20.73m

draught: 6.11m

ship horse power:  130,000 Shp. (4 shafts)

speed : 35.5 knots

main guns  10 - 8 inch = 20cm 50-cal (5x2)

secondary guns 4 - 4.7 inch = 12cm 50-cal gun (4x1)

AA light guns= 44 25mm AA guns (10x2)+ (24x1)

4 twin 24 inch Torpedo tubes (4x2) with 16 spare torpedoes carried.

8 to16 depth charged 

crew: 1100

2 catapults and 3 aircraft 

Building the kit of IJN Chokai as seen in 1944 Battle of Samar.

The Pit-Road kit of Chokai along Aoshima new mould is one of a few 1/700 model kits that resemble the ship very good, however there are many opportunities to build the model of Chokai in different timeframe appearances such as: As build, prewar, Pearl Harbour, Guadacanal 1942 or as my choice Oct. 1944 battle of Samar were the ship was sunk. "Not because it's easy but because it's hard" ;-)  No seriously because not many models of the ship show this period, and I have a special interest in the IJN ships with all their extra AA guns and anti splinter protection etc. I soon learned that not much references in forms of pictures and reliable tables exist even in the more highly respected books. That maybe has it's out springs in the fact that all of Chokai crew was dead two days after Chokai battle (Oct. 27 1944) There seems to be some indifferences in the counting and placement regarding the ships armament in this late period (Amount of 25mm AA guns and Depth charges) but I will get into this question later on. 

 The kit has been in my stash in a year before I now have the courage to start on it - Chokai will be a milestone in any collection,  not just because of her beautiful shape and sleek lines, but also for it's long battle career and flagship role before and in the war (I remember as a kid when I first saw a drawing of this cruiser I was thrilled by her appearances and it might had laid the cornerstone in my fascination of the IJN ships - as today). Even when my wife saw the model on the box art she commended this was a extraordinary ship indeed.

The Pit-Road/SkyWave kits is my favorite model brand there are so much detailing in the mould and many "spare parts" of aux. (boats guns and gun directors etc.)  -This will be a good addition to an old ordinary ship project in the future. This particular kit comes with identical spur moulds to build any of the four Takao-class cruisers- it was a fine thing for me, as I needed more gun platforms to show the ship in 1944 "dress code".

As today we modelers are spoiled with tons of extra PE-set's to ad our model projects, I have used as many I had in my inventory. But basic you need railing, ladders, boats davits, and 25mm AA sets I also needed a Heavy cruiser PE-set but used my Light cruiser set from Tom's model works as only the lattice crane derrick, catapult and type 22 radar was the crave in this ship. I will here try to list the things I added or altered on the model to get her ready for the last days of Oct. 1944:

Let's start from the bottom and work us up!

The hull:

I started to cut off the in mould details on the freeboard and came down to the clean sides. Hereafter I made the hull plates that running along the sides with small stripes of masking tape. A new Degauss-cable in PE from Lion Roar was glued in place. The scuttles on each side was remade of thin sheets of styrene plastic. At the back propeller guards was made of 0.3mm silver tread and cut railing.  Chokai had nearly all of her portholes covered to increase the water tightness at battles, a feature all the ships of the IJN experienced in late war configuration. I used sliced styrene plastic bars glued on - when dried sanded down to right thickness. The small portion left of open port holes were drilled out also. A feature to identify the hull as belonging to Chokai is reckonable in the pattern of the square/round port holes just under forward 4.7 inch gun. ( I had to cut number 2 sq. port hole off and remake it to a ordinary round one). At the bow and stern towing fairleads was also made of styrene plastic PE-sets and white glue. There are four distinctive davits on the ships hull to hold the boarding ladders deployed when laying at anchor (Lion Roar) as well as boats boom hanging on the hull sides just out from the"Y" gun turrets. The torpedo reloading opening on both sides have a small crane attached - I made them of 0.3mm silver tread and PE- set of boat ropes.

A late war feature was that many major IJN ships had an emergency rudder made of steel and wood hanging at the rear side (I have not seen any confirmative evidence on this subject on Chokai but to my knowledge Takao and Maya had the device at the time -so why not on Chokai !) I build the e-rudder of styrene plastic and the heavy-duty steel bolts was CA -gel droplets when weathered it gave a good effect I think

Deck:

The major part of the deck on Chokai is covered in linoleum with brass bars attached as support of the linoleum. PitRoad model kit's have a very fine pattern of brass bars molded in on the plastic deck. - I  painted the deck over all with a acrylic Vallejo chocolate red/brown paint in a thin layer, hereafter I use my small electric drilling machine with a swab instead of a drill !  With a steady hand you can polish off all the paint on the "brass supports" - when the process is done to your satisfaction, you can preserve it with a couple layer of varnish. At the far end at the stern Chokai is credited for having Depth charges (some references state two sets of rails with 2x8 DP, but in the "Cruiser bible" ( by Wells & Lacroix) only one is shown (Maya). I used a DP rail device from Tom's model works destroyer PE-set.

Chokai had 24 single 25mm AA guns on deck and ? super structure, but the precise placement is unknown. I have used the surplus from the PE-sets of Yamato from Tom's model works.  Up on front the in mould anchor chain was removed and small PE chain (Lion Roar) was attached also four small sounding platforms was made of railing and fine gifts ribbon as floor.  At the bow and stern flagstaff and supports for the antennas was made of treads. The davits were PE from Lion Roar and new cable drums was also made of copper wire and styrene bars. I added many mushroom vents made of styrene plastic.

The main attraction on the deck is the cruisers 8 inch gun turrets and the three are arranged on the foredeck. On their base small PE triangular supports is added (Lion Roar) and on the middle turret "shark teeth's" supports was made of paper. But for me the most challenged task was to made the ventilation ribbon running along the turrets front and roof. A trick leaned from a fellow modeler Dan Kaplan's Chokai saved me the frustration by adding PE ladders cut up and formed CA glued in place. Also the pattern on the sides of the turrets (which is a strange thing PitRoad haven't made in the moulds) is a notable feature that can be added by PE-set from Lion Roar - but I made mine by cutting groves in the plastic. The antenna masts on two of the gun turrets roofs are made of thin copper wire. The turrets own distance measurer/gun director was drilled out and painted white inside. The 8 inch gun barrels was drilled out, but it is possible to purchase real brass barrels if desired. I added a lot of extra ammunition boxes to place around the single 25mm AA guns on the deck.

Tin foils as canvas covers, copper wire as ropes, netting made from painted textile ribbon (gift shops) emergency wood planks made of styrene plastic is responsible for giving the hectic life on the deck along with 100 crew men from Eduard PE-set. 

The aircraft deck has small rails for handling the aircraft in and out of the hanger. I added PE ladders as new rails to give them more detailing. The Takao-class ships had their aircraft types changed when new types were in commission, but that was not in the case of Chokai, she remained her 2 "Dave" and 1 "Alf" plane to the very end.

Superstructure:  

The searchlight towers needed new top platforms and the windbreaker around the railings are made of white glue painted in light kaki color. The most challenged modification on the model for me was the "opening up" of all the windows in the superstructure. In the different bridge levels there are many pattern in the windows glass supports, I was lucky to have 1/700 and 1/350 ladders PE-sets from Tom's model works and Lion Roar and a combination of these will do for new windows. But the most notable different change of Chokai 1944 is the extra AA gun platforms. And the two forward platforms is made of extra platforms for use on Maya as a AA cruiser, they were easily changed to use here for my model.

Late in the war the IJN used anti splinter protection around woundable areas such as Command bridge, gun director towers and around open AA gun platforms. They used all from the crews kapok mattresses, to sandbags and steel plates, but also rope as in Chokai. I learned a trick from Mr. Jeff Lin Taiwan, that the ropes could be made of plastic putting half hardened were a hacksaw teeth can made the pattern of rope arranged in tightly pattern -when dried it can be attached with CA-glue and give a good effect!

The gun platforms on the side of the funnels is also identical to Maya, if I follow the drawing in the "cruiser bible" maybe Chokai will not have the platforms just behind the outer search light tower -But following the drawing from Gakken No 16 of Chokai and the in pages of ModelArt No 26 of Takao-cruisers they are evident !. With that in mind - Chokai 25mm AA guns are: 10 twins + 24 single = 44 guns in all (Lion Roar) incl. the two twin rear platforms over the aircraft hangar that I made with surplus pieces from the Maya spur (2 twins to many if If the Cruiser bible statement stands).

This PitRoad kit as said before, is in my opinion very fine with many details and resemblance the cruiser well. But small alternation can be needed if you are willing to go a little further. I added some of the cruisers many ventilation ducks down the boiler and machine rooms - there are two running from under the signal-flag deck to just forward on both side of the forward stack. Two small floodlight platforms were added as well as vents under. All this was easily made with styrene plastic and paper. Many of the vents in the super structure are well made in the kit, I added some grill in front in the openings made of painted textile ribbons (gifts shop - much cheaper then PE-sets!). All over the ship were needed, I added extra watertight doors (PE-set from Voyager Model)

Chokai masts are also modified (In the kit the masts are "as build") some of the pieces from the lower parts are used, but the higher parts is made by metal bars and wire. In 1943 Chokai front mast were cut down to the top of the lattice, and later radars (Type 13, 21,22 and 45) were installed (PE-Set from Tom's model works IJN light cruiser). Inside the front mast two levels of "radar rooms" were made in styrene. In front of the mainmast - just between the rear search light towers - a little building was made in styrene.

For the rigging I use "Invisible tread" - very thin plastic tread run though a black permanent marker. The white spots on the rigging resemblance the porcelain isolators that the IJN rigging is famous for. Signal flags is also added, Chokai call-sign flag code was J, G, X, A  and on starboard side is flying the number flags 2 and 4 - Chokai is my 24th. IJN model ship! The flags is made of household tin foil hand painted.

The stacks were worked on too. I drilled out the openings and used a combination of surplus PE-set (Type 22 radar and railing) to make the upper grills. I added new pipes running up along the stacks with silver tread (The amount and shapes of the pipes is also a good detail to identify the individual ships in the class!) All the bars running around the stacks and in some case on the superstructure are Tom's model works PE-set railing. I cut the railing down to one bar high - wrap it around the stack with the small spikes facing upwards - This give the effect of the spikes facing inward to the stacks when the observer looks down at the model. This little trick is for me easier to handle! 

Presentation/diorama:  

The water is a clear glass plate from the local glass shop (The glass type that was in many front doors here in Denmark in the old days). I was lucky to see the many types in the store and fund this one to be the best suited to scale 1/700. The blue color comes from a curled trash plastic bag underneath, the curling gives a good 3D effect in the "water". The small bubble waves on the front side of the glass plate sparkles in the sunrays a give it a feeling if real water. The white foam is NOT Cocaine! ...;-) - it's just potato powder arranged with brush, cloth and fingers! (Can be a little mess and will not do in windy conditions). The background is made of pale blue cardboard. I have placed  the cardboard 1 inch under the glass plate to make the horizon more sharp (please see Picture 1). The last picture (Picture 26) is a manipulated Photo of real sea and the model)   

I hope this gave you a feeling of my thoughts and working process, and I hope to inspire other fellow modelers to go out and seek a Takao-class cruiser and enjoy the building as much as I did.

Reference:  

Books form my own library :  

Japanese Naval Warship Photo Album Cruisers from Diamond Sha books.  

Model Art no. 26 Takao-class cruisers

SUPER ILLUSTRATION The heavy cruiser TAKAO 1927-1937 

Profile Morskie no. 7

Japanese heavy cruiser CHOKAI

photo de

Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War by Lacroix / Wells

Referred to as the "Cruiser bible" in the text above

Tamiya Random Japanese warship details vol. 1

Tamiya Random Japanese warship details vol. 2

Gakken Takao-Class cruisers no.16

Websites:

Nihon kaigun:

http://www.combinedfleet.com/chokai_t.htm

Mr. Dan Kaplan beautiful model of Chokai 1942 on Model warships:

http://www.modelshipgallery.com/gallery/ca/ijn/chokai-700-dk/dk-index.html

Mr. Claudio Matteini fantastic model of Maya 1944 on Model warships:

http://www.modelshipgallery.com/gallery/ca/ijn/maya-700-cm/cm-index.html

And a special thanks to the experts on J-aircraft  Mr. Ed Low and Dan Kaplan who contributed with photos and drawings and there vast amount of IJN knowledge.

http://www.j-aircraft.com/

 

The building time was 6 weeks. 

May. 2008

If you have any questions, remarks or things you will share, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Aeronautic.

 
 
     
     

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