by: Russ Amott [ ]
The Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Fuso was laid down 11 March, 1912, launched 28 March 1914 and commissioned 18 November 1915. She carried twelve 14in (356mm) guns as well as a variety of smaller armament, and had a top speed of 22 knots. She saw no action in WWI and through the interwar years spent her time in training operations. She underwent a major renovation, being nearly reconstructed. Her superstructure was rebuilt with the distnctive pagoda style forward mast assembly, her coal fired boilers were replaced by oil burning boilers which were much smaller and efficient, improving speed to 25 knots in spite of significant increases in armor protection, especially anti-torpedo protection. At the start of WWII she was assigned to home defense and remained in Japanese waters. Her action in the war was relatively uneventful, mainly being occupied with training and some transport duties. She was present when Musu blew up, rescuing over 300 of her crew and serving as the base for the inquiry into the sinking.
Fuso was only involved in one major engagement in WWII, in which she suffered destruction in a hopeless attack. On 25 October, 1944 Fuso and her sister ship Yamashiro, along with Cruiser Mogami and destroyers Michishio, Yamagumo, Asagumo and Shigure headed into the Suriago strait as part of the "Southern strike force" in operation Sho-I-Go (victory). The plan was to attack the US invasion force at Leyte and destroy it. With Yamashiro leading and Fuso behind, the Japanese force entered Suriago Strait and was attacked, first by carrier aircraft that destroyed the catapults and aircraft aboard Fuso, and then by a force of 39 PT boats. The Japanese continued forward, and Captain Jesse C. Coward's Desron 54 launched the next attack. Destroyers USS Melvin, Remey and McGowan make an attack and one or two torpedoes from Melvin strike the Fuso amidships on her starboard side. She drops out of formation and reverses course. This happens at approx. 0309 hours on. At approx 0345 hours, Fuso is seen to explode. It is believed the fire reached her magazines. She is blown in half, with the two sections remaining afloat for several hours, burning fiercely. At 0531 hours cruiser USS Louisville opens fire on the burning bow section and it sinks. A short time later the stern section also goes down. None of Fuso's approximately 1400 crewmen survive. Yamashiro, Yamagumo, Michishio, Asagumo and Mogami were also sunk in the action.
Aoshima have released a retake edition in their 1/700 waterline series of the IJN Fuso as she appeared in 1944, with the addition of 25mm and 13.7mm AA guns. The kit comes in a medium sized box with box art depicting the Fuso, with Yamashiro in the background, apparently heading into Suriago Strait. There is a US PT boat alongside making an attack.
The kit contents are packaged carefully, with parts in gray plastic styrene, the sprues in clear plastic bags. In spite of appearances, the kit is not parts heavy, with everything clearly marked and verly cleanly molded.
For those not familiar with "waterline" kits, the ship hull is molded down to the point where it would meet the water, rather than with the full hull. This allows for easy placement on a diorama base. The sprues are not labeled in the traditional (at least to me) manner of A, B, C etc. Rather, they are presented as Hull, Botom, Deck/B/D, Bridge, Gun and Funel, with aditional gun and platform mounts for the 1944 configuration. The completed model will be about 15 inches long, 3" wide and about 8" high. (400mm X 80mm X 200mm approx).
The kit hull is molded with excellent detail, including portholes, as well as indentations on the rail and bases where the side mounted guns will go. There is a flat piece that serves as the kit base and fits neatly against the waterline hull. It has a space for weights to be added for ballast to help keep the completed kit from tipping over while on display.
There are two deck sections included, with a larger main section (B/Deck) and a smaller bow section (D/Deck), both featuring plank and other surface detail. The other deck section sprue has mast and platform parts but the deck sections are not for use.
The bridge sprue has the various sections that make up the distinctive "pagoda" style mast, with nice, clearly depicted upper and lower surface molding.
The Gun sprue has the main armament and secondary armament, with gun sleeve detail molded on, as well as smaller AA mounts and platforms. There are two of these sprues included in the kit.
The funnel sprue has the funnel and deck base with side platforms and various small fittings.
The 1944 sprue parts ahve the additional AA guns, mounts and platform added to the superstructure.
There is a small sprue with one PT boat which includes four torpedoes and two small gun tubs but no guns.
There is a bag with additional "W" sprues with parts for extra detail accessories. This includes various AA guns and mounts, smaller caliber guns, boats, different types of float planes and other deck fittings. Decals are included for the planes. This should provide you with everything you need to fit out the ship, plus a few extras for the diorama or spares bin.
There are eight small nylon bushings to go on the main turrets, allowing them to rotate.
A small decal sheet for the ship with decals for flag and windows.
Insructions are printed in line drawing style, on a single, two sided foldout sheet. Complete assembly is covered in 15 steps. The drawings are clear and show optional placement as well as detail placement of parts. There is an arrow indicating which end is the bow so you know how the model is facing during assembly. Small drop boxes are used for the various sub assemblies. A painting guide is provided at the beginning of the instructions, with paint colors called out in GSI Creos Aqueous Hobby and Mr Color lines. The ship is depicted in overall dark gray with tan deck and white gun sleeves.
My impression of the kit is that it is very well molded, with no flash that I could see, no sink marks detected, and seam lines being minimal, though on very small parts they may still appear to be prominent. Because of the size of the parts assembly will require care, but there are decent sized locator holes and pins to aid assembly, with very little guesswork for placement. I have started the build and have not found fit issues or problems with the instructions as of yet. Learning about the Fuso has been an interesting history lesson for me. I think this is an excellent model.
Prices onine ranged from about $26.00 US before shipping to nearly $40.00 US.