by: Todd Michalak [ ]
The USS Gato SS-212 was the lead boat of the Gato Class Submarines launched during WWII. The boat was laid down late in 1940 and would not be launched until August of 1941. Sea trials were complete early in 1942 and the USS Gato was deployed to Pearl Harbor for her first mission. On her first patrol, the Gato was successful in sinking a Japanese Converted aircraft carrier before seeing service off the coast of Midway for the Battle of Midway.
The USS Gato was armed with 10x21 inch torpedo tubes; six forward and four aft carrying 24 torpedoes on board, 1 x 3”/50 deck gun, 2 x .50 cal. Machine guns, and 2 x .30 cal. Machine guns. The propulsion system consisted of a diesel electric reduction gear powered by four GM generator engines which produced 5400 HP, four GE main motors producing 2740 HP and two 126-cell main storage batteries.
Completing a total of thirteen patrols from 1942 through 1945, the USS Gato received a Presidential Unit Citation and 13 battle stars for her service. She was decommissioned in March of 1946 and used as a training vessel until March of 1960 when she was sold for scrap.
This was my time having a look at a RIICH Models kit. This USS Gato kit is in 1/200 scale and measure in at a 18 3/8 inches (466.72mm) stem to stern. Upon opening the standard slide-off top lid box I noticed all of the parts trees are sealed in plastic bags. Being a submarine model, there is not a high part count to this kit. I counted 164 plastic parts within this kit including the added Kingfisher plane included.
164 - Blue/Grey Styrene parts (4 sprue trees and a separate deck section)
1 - Clear styrene sprue
2 - Decal sheets
1 – Photo etch sheet
1 – Instruction booklet
Sprue A – This sprue contains the two lower hull sections. For all intents and purposes this is a very nice depiction of the USS Gato, however, there are a few discrepancies and or minor oversights that are certain to popup on some Gato expert’s radar. I will try to cover as many as I can throughout this review. The kit offers the option of modeling the port and starboard middle forward torpedo tubes open or closed which is a nice feature although the forward torpedo doors are not accurately depicted for this particular boat. The shutter doors on the SS-212 were actually a concave scoop-like indentation throughout the entire shutter door. The style depicted on the model’s shutters are a somewhat close to the style seen on the USS Tullibee SSN-597 whereas there is a smaller spoon shape concave on the forward section of the shutter and a single raised reinforcement from the concave back. If desired, this difference in the shutters can be corrected by simply using a low speed rotary tool with a round engraving tool to carefully add the full concaved section in all of the shutters. When depicting the Gato with the two center shutters in the open position, you will need to carefully remove the indented molded section of the center tube section, and add the new concave shutter part (D29 & D33) with the door part (P8) attached to the aft section of the shutter door. The front of the shutter goes behind and forwards the bow section of the shutter opening. Honestly, this modification does not have to be done to build up a nice looking display model; I only mention this in the interest of accuracy depicted within the kit itself. The stern torpedo tubes are incorrect for the 1944 time period. Photographs suggest that there were for rear shutters installed. This is easy to fix, by simply fill in the openings and scribing some panel lines. The hull itself has weld lines to represent the individual plating on the hull and more than tolerable for the scale, however these are a bit pronounced from what is seen on the actual boat. A light sanding will reduce them sufficiently for this scale but with a bit more tenacity, one could soften the line with a little thin plastic cement and by carefully using a sharp #11 blade repeatedly notch the hull lines to rough them up more like welds.
Sprue C (There is no Spue B) - This parts tree contains the two upper hull sections from the conning tower forward, Conning Tower structure, Conning Tower Deck, Hatches, Periscope Array and Center Handrail Posts.
Looking at the two upper hull sections, I first noticed the Bow Limber Holes are incorrect for the SS-212. There is the correct number of larger upper holes but there are too many smaller holes, directly above the top forward torpedo door. In fact, none of the Gato class subs had this configuration from research documentation. This however is closest to the SS-212. There are ten holes starting at the forward side of the fourth larger hole back from the bow and ending at the leading edge of the seventh larger hole. Two more holes are located in between the seventh and eighth holes. There is a hole located evenly spaced forward to first hole. This hole is slightly larger than the smaller holes located below the main bow limber holes. A detailed description can be seen in a .pdf article located at http://amp.rokket.biz/docs/gato_bow_limber.pdf and produced by Accurate Model Parts. These corrections, if desired, are easy to change. Fill all the holes otherwise described and drill the forward most holes.
Further aft on the upper hull section there are a couple of limber holes not added. For the clearest understanding of the placement these hole can be seen and matched from a photograph seen on NavSource located at http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/0821201.jpg . Again, these are not too difficult to create. Make a template using the existing holes on a small piece of plastic card stock and cut out the hole. Place over the location of the new hole and mark with a pencil or marker. Drill a couple of small holes in this traced space, cut out with a sharp #11 blade and then use a small needle file to the line you made.
The conning tower is nicely represented but small improvements can be made by adding weld lines and hatchways. There is a series of small drainage holes along the top edge aft section around the conning tower gun deck. These can be seen clearly on a picture seen at http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/0821237.jpg on the NavSource website. If you wish to add a little more detail to the conning tower, small gauge wire can be bent to fashion the ladder rungs fore and aft on the conning tower.
The Periscope array/mast section is decently molded but can be improved a bit by replacing with brass tubes. This goes for the Center Handrail posts as well. Brass rod can be used in place of the molded posts to better represent the scale.
Spue D – This sprue contains the stern plane and bow planes, anchors, propellers and shafts, torpedoes and tubes, deck cleats and here are two anchor included in kit. The bow and stern plane look great. They do lack weld lines but can easily be added by using stretched sprue or putty if this is desired.
Sprue E – This parts tree contains all of the deck guns for the boat. This configuration in 1944 gives tow .50 cal. Machine guns; on conning tower mounted and one aft of the conning tower on the main deck. There is a finely detailed 3 inch deck gun mounted on the rear of the conning tower and a 5 inch forward mounted deck gun.
Sprue F – This sprue contains all the parts for the OS2U-3 Kingfisher. Molded in clear styrene this plane has some excellent detail to it. This is nicely molded showing all the panel lines with separate pontoons, bombs, cowl and propellers. This is a great little kit within a kit with this.
Part H – This is the upper hull section and main deck. The finely molde wooden deck planking is excellent. Hatchways are depicted with panel line only, no option of open hatches. There is a large ope depressed area on the deck, this is the torpedo re-loading hatch. I did notice there are a couple of missing hatchways and cover plates on the deck and a couple of limber holes on the side, these are not needed to make an great static display but as outlined earlier in this review the holes can be dilled out with little effort with some patience.
Sprue S – This sprue contains the finials for the base
The Base is black molded styrene and labeled “Base x 1” in the instructions.
This is the photo etch sheet included in this kit. On this sheet are the handrails for the coning tower, four torpedo hatch lids, propellers for the torpedoes and a name plate etched with the name of the ship which is to be installed on the base.
Decal Sheet A – This sheet is nicely printed and contains a large and small set of the boat identification numbers, draft marking, two sets of the American flag or National Ensign and two sets of the Union Naval Jack.
Decal Sheet B – This is the set of decals for the OS2U-3 Kingfisher
The eleven page instruction booklet is laid out in a landscape format in black and white with highlights in blue for the photo etch and special instructions. The page by page instructions is shown in an exploded view which helps to make construction a bit easier.
Step one covers the installation of the Bow/Limber section to the main deck section, installation of the torpedo tubes and construction of the hull. This section also shows the installation of the photo etch propellers on the torpedoes.
Step two covers the option of depicting the Forward torpedo tubes open or closed.
Step three covers the installation of the propulsion system including the drive shafts and propellers and stern planes.
Step four covers the connection of the upper hull/deck section to the lower hull.
Step five covers the stern plane and propellers protection framing.
Step six covers the installation of the aft deck fixtures.
Step seven covers the installation of forward cleats and the torpedo re-loading pressure hatch tube.
Step eight covers the installation of the bow fixtures.
Step nine covers the installation or the bow planes with the option of a deployed or stowed positioning.
Step ten covers the construction of the 5 inch deck gun.
Step eleven covers the construction of the conning tower and periscope array.
Step twelve covers the optional installations of the photo etch or sprue railing for the conning tower.
Step thirteen covers the installations of the conning tower and the forward deck gun.
Step fourteen covers the optional installation and construction of the main deck railings or the installations of photo etch railings.
Step fifteen shows the connection of the boat to the base section. There is a highlighted option of the 3 inch deck gun however, the part is labeled in the instructions as a 4 inch gun and does not show where this is intended to actually be installed. If you follow the NavSource link I listed earlier in this review there is a clear documented picture of the USS Gato in 1944 and the 3 inch deck gun is installed on the rear deck of the conning tower and the .50 cal. Is installed aft of the conning tower on the main deck.
On page eleven of the instructions are the two steps showing the construction of the OS2U Kingfisher.
There is a separate color chart sheet which also covers the placement of the decals on the boat as well as the plane.
Straight out of the box I have to say this is a great looking model. Cleanly molded parts with little to no flash at all. RIICH has done a decent job on depicting this vessel despite a few short comings in the accuracy department. Adding of some weld lines and reduction and/or modification of others is a possibility on this kit. There are a few missing items I would have liked to see added and can be scratch built if truly desired; forward hull sonar equipment, aft smaller access hatches as well as some hatches on the conning tower, adding some limber hole and removing some. All in all though I like the kit and there is a lot of potential for having some fun building this up with or without the modifications.
NavSource - http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/08212.htm
AMP Accurate Model Parts Forum - http://amp.rokket.biz/
Historical Flags of Our Ancestors - http://www.loeser.us/flags/civil.html
Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Gato_(SS-212)