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Aoshima's 1/700 scale IJN
Soryu (Blue Dragon)

by Don Hinton


Soryu (Blue Dragon)
Imperial Japanese Navy
December 7, 1941

Aoshima's 1/700 scale Soryu is available online from




Soryu was Japan’s first modern aircraft carrier of WWII.  Built by the Kure Naval Dockyard, she was launched on December 21, 1935.  She had an overall length of 746 feet 5 inches and a beam of 69 feet 11 inches, weighed 18,800 tons and carried 54 aircraft with nine spares for the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Her light construction allowed a high speed of 34.5 knots but made her vulnerable to attack. 

On December 7 1941, Soryu spotted 27 Kates and Zeros for the first of two launches.  One Zero suffered a technical malfunction and didn’t launch, thus Soryu launched 26 aircraft on the first attack wave against Pearl Harbor and other military facilities on Oahu.  On the second Soryu launch, 27 aircraft were again spotted but one Kate failed after launch and returned, again leaving 26 aircraft to attack Oahu.



On 4 June 1942 during the Battle of Midway, Soryu was heavily damaged by SBD Dauntlesses from the USS Yorktown and then the USS Natulus (SS-168) claimed to deliver the final blow with two torpedoes.  Soryu sank northwest of Midway Island.



IPMS Battleship Row’s IJN Carrier Project


IPMS Battleship Row Hawaii conducts several model displays each year at the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center, as well as other displays around the island of Oahu.  

At the USS Arizona Visitors Center we are usually located by the entrance just across from the Arizona’s anchor, ensuring every visitor sees our display around Memorial Day (last Monday of May) and December 7th of each year.  The club’s centerpiece is a 1/2400 diorama of Battleship Row as it appeared the morning of December 7th 1941 before the attack.  In the summer of 2006, to expand our December 7th display we decided to build all six of the IJN aircraft carriers involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Our timeline was December 1 2006 for the 65th Pearl Harbor Symposium.  Due to the short time allowed to build the ships, as well as professional commitments by the other builders, the Soryu was the only IJN carrier displayed at the symposium.



The Model


Being the first “real” ship model I’ve built as an adult, I had a lot to learn about photoetched railings (not as difficult to attach as I expected), painting, weathering, etc; let alone what references and accessories were available.  Time was short, with only six months to go, but a prior modeling commitment allowed me only 4.5 months to work on the carrier.

The only 1/700 model of the Soryu is Aoshima’s old kit.  Though the current issue of the kit comes with a 1990s-era sprue of detailed weapons, boats, anchors and other small accessories, the basic ship itself was very rough.  I started the model by removing heavy details by sanding the deck smooth, replacing gun and deck supports with plastic rod and thinning thick gun shields and other over-scale pieces.   I built the model tough since it will be transported to multiple displays each year for decades.

I scratchbuilt the island and added see-through photoetched windows for the bridge and manned it with nine Eduard pre-painted photoetched figures inside.  I even have a photoetched ship’s wheel with the Captain next to it, but you can’t see it.  Blackened real chain replaced the molded on chain.  Throughout the ship I added photoetched hatches, ladders and other details.  The photoetched details came from Tom’s Modelworks IJN Carrier Set A and Set B, as well as multiple Lion Roar sets.  As these are “working” models for display in public locations, we decided not to add aerials or other easily damaged details.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


The ship is painted with my own mix of Model Master paints with Gunship Gray as the basis.  The deck is painted Valejo Natural Wood color, but this turned out too bright and I toned it down by airbrushing a translucent medium gray over the yellow, yet it is still too bright.  I masked and airbrushed all deck markings, which took a very long time to do and was the most tedious part of the ship build. 

I weathered the Soryu with oil paints, starting with various shades of gray going from dark to light, applied in streaks then blended in with a Q-tip.  I represented rust with oil Burnt Sienna.  I then applied a dark wash across the entire ship followed by light dry brushing of a light gray across horizontal surfaces and some vertical surfaces.

Next, I added over 250 figures from Eduard’s excellent pre-painted 1/700 IJN Carrier Figure set.  The figures are tiny and difficult to put into position without leaving a glob of glue on the deck.   I had to sound the “Man Overboard” drill at least 50 times when I lost figures as I was transporting them to the deck or in the attempt to secure them to the deck.  I’m sure the ship’s tiny Captain was very frustrated with me for losing so many of his sailors.


The Aircraft


For the club project we decided to use Fujimi’s “Japan Naval Plane” 1/700 clear aircraft set.   The aircraft are molded in clear styrene, which molding requirements dictated thick trailing edges of the wings and tailplanes that required a tremendous amount of work to thin to an acceptable thinness. 

As we are representing the six IJN carriers as they appeared immediately before the first launch, each aircraft would be manned and have the canopies opened, though we did not attempt to place figures in the cockpits.  I drilled out each canopy and then squared the openings with microfiles and X-Acto blades.  I cut off the “peg leg” landing gear and replaced them with photoetched gear from the Lion Roar IJN Airplane set.  For wheels I chopped off tiny slices of 20-thousandths Evergreen rod and superglued them to the landing gear.  The most difficult part was attaching the tiny photoetch tail wheels, but I feel this added much to the realism of the aircraft, otherwise they look strange sitting directly on their tails (the Fujimi aircraft don’t come with any sort of tail wheel.) 



Next I added Lion Roar drop tanks to the Zeros and thickened them to near circular shape by painting them with thick gloss enamel paint.  For the Kates I added the appropriate number of torpedoes or bombs as carried by the first Soryu wave.  Then finally, again from the Lion Roar set I added the propellers after twisting each blade to a somewhat realistic pitch. 

I hand painted each aircraft and added the Fujimi kit decals for the Hinomarus as well as blue tail bands cut from a Hasegawa 1/72 Zero decal sheet.  I must say, the 27 aircraft took a long time to build, paint and apply decals, a most tedious process that I didn’t think would ever end.




The Base


Mine was the first of the six carriers finished and we needed a temporary base to display it at the 65h Pearl Harbor Symposium held in Waikiki. 

The base is a simple Johan acrylic display case you can buy at many hobby shops.  For the ocean surface I used “wavy” Plexiglas that I sprayed with Tamiya spraycan Transparent Blue.  When placed against the black base of the case, the blue looks exactly like the incredibly beautiful blue of the Pacific Ocean around the Hawaiian Islands. 



I used my daughters acrylic craft paint to create the bow wave and wake, using a bright blue and white.  I mixed the two together in various shades and dry brushed it on the wavy Plexiglas, getting lighter and lighter as I went, finishing with pure white.  The paint has a flat finish so I coated it with Future floor finish (a clear acrylic) to make it glossy.   I drilled two holes and glued thick brass rods to temporarily secure the model to the base. 

The model is not glued to the base so it can be removed and placed on its final base when the other ships in this project are finished, thus I made no attempt to blend the ship’s hull to the water.




65th Pearl Harbor Symposium


In four and a half months I had the Soryu 95% complete for the 65th Pearl Harbor Symposium, lacking the fold-down aerials, figures and other minor details.  On the evening of December 1 2006, IPMS Battleship Row hosted the IJN Pilot’s mixer at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki prior to the beginning of the Symposium the next morning.   The Soryu and several other models were displayed at the mixer.  Three Japanese aviators were present, along with the staff of the USS Arizona Memorial and other dignitaries from the US National Parks Department, as well as a several prominent historians and authors.   No December 7th veteran US pilots were present at the symposium or mixer due to age and health issues. 

The Japanese aviators included Zenji Abe, commander of the Akagi’s 2nd Chutai Val dive-bomber unit, who dive-bombed CL-7 USS Raleigh on the northwest side of Ford Island.  Warrant Officer Takeshi Maeda from the carrier Kaga was a gunner aboard a Kate torpedo bomber that attacked Battleship Row.  Later, at the Battle of Midway he was wounded by a bomb that struck his ship.  Jiro Yoshida was an A6M5 Zero pilot who trained near the end of the war but didn’t have a chance to fly in combat before war’s end.

Early on December 2 2006, we arrived at the banquet hall to set-up our model display for the opening of the Symposium.  Our display included a scratchbuilt 1/6 model of a Japanese Type 91 torpedo as used on the Pearl Harbor attack, a 1/12 December 7th P-40B, 1/48 models of the main US and Japanese aircraft involved in the attack, as well as two 1/72 Type-A midget subs, my 1/700 Soryu, and of course, the club’s 1/2400 Battleship Row diorama.  We manned the display through the entire four-day symposium and met some very interesting people.  It was an incredible experience.   Club President Brad Sekigawa built a 1/48 Val in the markings of Zenji Abe’s aircraft and presented it to him at the symposium.   



Zenji Abe passed away on April 6 2007. 



Photography and Donation of the Model


After the symposium, I took six months to almost finish the remaining 5% of the model. 

I had recently retired from the USAF and was moving from Hawaii to Spokane, Washington, in the summer of 2007, so I had a strict deadline.  

My last Battleship Row model club meeting was on 28 July 2007 and by 4:00PM that afternoon I was still only 99% complete with the model.  After my last session working on the model, I quickly took the model outside in the late afternoon sunshine and using a plain white sheet as a backdrop, photographed the model in the direct sunshine with my Olympus E-500 digital SLR.  I did not have my studio equipment with me, as all my family and I had with us was our baggage to fly with to the US mainland three days later.   

At first I was dismayed that the sun was so low and the shadows harsh and long, but then I realized this is probably how the Soryu looked during the second launch against Pearl Harbor when the sun was just above the horizon, so I was pretty happy with the pictures. 

Immediately after taking the pictures I rushed the model to my last Battleship Row club meeting.

At the Battleship Row Model Club meeting, I donated the Soryu into the capable hands of club president and friend, Brad Sekigawa, where the model will continue to educate people from around the world on the events of December 7 1941.

I would like to thank my friends from IPMS Battleship Row for their advice and support on this project—mahalo Brad, Val, Neal, Dean, Mark, Gary, Glen and Layton.

If any of you readers plan on visiting Oahu, I suggest you attend the IPMS Battleship Row club meeting if possible; you will meet a great group of fun people.  You can check the club calendar here: http://ipmshawaii.tripod.com/



Additional Markings


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Text and Images Copyright 2007 by Don Hinton
Page Created 06 December, 2007
Last Updated 24 December, 2007

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