The A6M Zero in 1/72: Akagi’s Zeros Prepare for Pearl Harbor Diorama, Part 2.3 – The Decaled Zeros

This is Part 2.3 of a series of posts on the construction of a Pearl Harbor diorama. It will depict the Zeros of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Akagi aircraft carrier preparing to take off during the first wave attack. This post is a follow-up to the previous post and concerns only the pre-built 1/72 scale Zeros to be used in the diorama with renumbered tail markings. To understand the concept of this diorama project, please refer to the previous posts. 

The Actual Akagi Zeros

As previously mentioned, the Akagi contributed nine A6M2 Zeros to the first wave attack. As a refresher, below is a table from a previous post of the Zeros that participated in Akagi’s first wave. Akagi's Zeros JPEG from Excel (2) - CopyThe Prebuilt 1/72 Scale Models

The photo below shows the prebuilt 1/72 scale Akagi Zeros currently available. It is immediately evident that of the nine actual Zeros that participated in Akagi’s first wave, only AI-155 and AI-154 have been produced in diecast. Unfortunately, the Corgi AI-154 is unusable as is, since Corgi used black, rather than red, tail numbers.Zero TailsThe Diorama Zeros

For purposes of the diorama, the goal is to use the five models in the photo above plus four spares — two additional Wittys and two additional FOVs. Only the Dragon AI-155 will be used unmodified; the remaining eight will require new tail numbers as per the chart above. Below is a notional photo of the expected result once the decals are applied. Zeros w New Tails

The Decaled Zeros

I searched extensively for MYK Design’s A-72009 Tora! Tora! Tora! Carrier Akagi 1/72 decal sheet (pictured below), since it includes five of the nine necessary tail numbers: AI-103, AI-107, AI-151, AI-155, and AI-158. (The AI-155 decal is unnecessary as I’ll be using the Dragon model that already carries that tail number.)  Alas, I was unsuccessful as the sheet has been out of print for years.

Ultimately, I had no choice but to make the decals myself. I enlarged the image at left, cleaned it up, enhanced the numbers as much as possible, and then reduced it back to 1/72 scale. I then printed the image on Micro-Mark decal paper.

To my dismay, I found that handling the decal sheet resulted in slight smudging. After rereading the decal paper directions, I reprinted the image and “fixed” it onto the sheet with Winsor & Newton fixative. Failure to apply a coat of fixative to protect the image will result in the image smudging like lead on a pencil drawing when touched.

The photo below shows the decal sheet printed on the Micro-Mark decal paper after the fixative had been applied.With decals in hand, I prepared the three Witty models for application of the decals by removing the tail numbers and yellow stripes as necessary — leaving two stripes for the AI-103; one stripe for the AI-107; and no stripes for the AI-158. See photo below.

There are essentially two ways to remove the tampo markings on diecast models: 1) by scraping them off, preferably with an X-Acto #10 curved blade; or 2) by applying some sort of solvent, such as Testors 1148 thinner or standard acetone for nail polish removal. I found that a combination of the two methods worked best for me. (Note: Do not use enamel thinner on plastic models. It will ruin the plastic finish.) Once the original markings were totally removed, I applied a coat of Pledge (Future) floor finish to ensure that the decals found a glossy base that would prevent silvering. (Pledge’s self-leveling properties are amazing!) After waiting a day for the Pledge to cure, I used Micro Set and Micro Sol solutions to apply the decals.

Micro Set prepares the surface where the decal is to be applied by cutting the oils in the paint, thus allowing the decal to slide on the surface, making it easier to reposition the decal as necessary. Micro Sol softens the decal, allowing it to conform to the surface of the model, which is particularly useful on irregular surfaces such as the panel lines and ridges on the Zero tails. Using these two solutions will help make the decals look “painted-on.” 

After waiting another day for the decals to dry, I again applied a coat of Pledge to completely seal the decals between two layers of Pledge. Of course, the Pledge application resulted in a glossy finish. After waiting yet another day, I sprayed the decals with Testors Dull Cote to give the tails a matte finish that matched the rest of the model. The photo below shows the results after the Dull Cote had dried.

In addition to an unmodified Witty model (AI-155), the photo below shows the three decaled Witty models (AI-103, AI-107, and AI-158), plus one decaled FOV model (AI-151). Note that some paint came off the tail of the FOV when I removed the tampo markings, giving it an unintended — though not totally unwelcome — weathered look. (Yes, I’m accepting that which I cannot change.  🙂  )As previously mentioned, Corgi inexplicably applied black tail numbers to the AI-154 (see inset in the photo below), rather than the well-documented red numbers. I removed the black numbers with Testors thinner and applied a decal with correct red numbers following the process discussed above. Note that the MYK Design A-72009 decal sheet did not include the AI-154 so I made the decals using letters and numbers from different fonts to simulate the MYK Design numbers. The lagniappe photo below shows the result. I made the extra decals standing by the tail in case I botched the first application — a common occurrence, at least for me, when applying decals. To summarize, six models are now ready: the unmodified Dragon AI-155 plus five decaled planes — three Witty models (AI-103, AI-107, and AI-158), one FOV (AI-151), and one Corgi (AI-154). I’ve decided not to decal the last three (AI-152, AI-153, and AI-156) as the FOV model did not respond well to removal of the tampo markings. Instead, I’ll use paper covers using the stencil in the previous post.

I apologize for such a tedious post. I realize that except for diehard readers, discussion of the tail numbers can get repetitive and confusing. Still, I think the photos by themselves tell the story. 

Again, thank you for your indulgence and I hope at least some of you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful to other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. Stay tuned for a brief discussion of the Zero pilots who participated in Akagi’s first wave attack in the next post.

The A6M Zero in 1/72: Akagi’s Zeros Prepare for Pearl Harbor Diorama, Part 2.2 – The Diorama Zeros

This is Part 2.2 of a series of posts on the construction of a diorama depicting the Zeros of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Akagi aircraft carrier preparing to take off as part of the first wave attack on Pearl Harbor. Providing the history of the Zero or its technical details is beyond the scope of this article. This post concerns only the prebuilt 1/72 scale Zeros to be used in the diorama. To understand the concept of this diorama project, please refer to the previous posts. 

The Actual Akagi Zeros

As previously mentioned, the Akagi contributed nine A6M2 Zeros and 27 B5N2 Kates to the first wave attack. As a refresher, below is a table from a previous post of the Zeros that participated in Akagi’s first wave. As is readily apparent, the tail numbers are all in the AI-150’s except for AI-103 and AI-107. Up to this point, I had deliberately avoided discussing the tail numbers as creating the correct numbers will be one of the more difficult parts of this project, as discussed below. Akagi's Zeros JPEG from Excel (2) - CopyThe Prebuilt 1/72 Scale Models

The photo below shows the prebuilt 1/72 scale Akagi Zeros currently available.* It is immediately evident that of the nine actual Zeros that participated in Akagi’s first wave, only AI-155 and AI-154 have been produced in diecast. AI-155 — Shigeru Itaya’s Zero — has been produced by Dragon, Forces of Valor, and Witty. A review of each can be found by clicking on the name of the manufacturer. A short biography of Itaya is also available by clicking on his name. AI-154 has been produced by Corgi. Unfortunately, despite all evidence to the contrary, Corgi inexplicably used black tail numbers rather than red numbers, for which there is abundant proof. AFV Club also produced an Akagi Zero — the AI-101 — that participated in the second wave. For the sake of completeness, it will be used in this project so collectors may compare models from all five manufacturers that have thus far produced an Akagi Zero. Zero TailsThe Diorama Zeros

For purposes of the diorama, the goal is to use the five models in the photo above plus four duplicates. The challenge is to create models with all of Akagi first wave numbers other than AI-155. Even AI-154 will be required as the tail number must be in red. The idea is to scrape off the original painted numbers and replace them with appropriate decals so that they match the table above.Corgi AI-154 As thus far I have been unsuccessful in finding the decals, I made a stencil of the tail to cover the tail numbers in the interim. I then scanned the color of each model and applied it to the tail stencil. Matching base colors proved more difficult than I had anticipated.

For those interested in how the colors of the five manufacturers compare, below is a plate showing a scan of each model’s base color. The color of the Corgi model is actually beige and the inset at left matches the model reasonably well. I’m perplexed, however, by the difference in the color of the Corgi model in the photos and conclude it’s due to the lighting. The FOV and Witty colors look very similar but that’s as close to the models as the scanner could make them. Once I made stencils for all five colors, I covered the tail of each model with a new number.The lagniappe photo below provides a notional idea of the intended result. At this point, the tail numbers appear to be a weak part of the project. That will change, however, once the decals are applied. Zeros w New TailsAgain, thank you for your indulgence and I hope you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful to other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. Stay tuned for photos of the models once the decals are applied.


* Witty also produced AI-101 and AI-102 but both were used in the second wave and, except for the tail numbers, are identical to the AI-155. While Atlas/Oxford (same casting) also produced aircraft carrier A6M2 Zeros, they did not make an Akagi Zero. Instead, Atlas produced a model from the Kaga while Oxford produced one from the Ryujo. 

The A6M Zero in 1/72: Akagi’s Zeros Prepare for Pearl Harbor Diorama, Part 2.1 – Prebuilt 1/72 Models

This is Part 2.1 of a series of posts on the construction of a diorama depicting the Zeros of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Akagi aircraft carrier preparing to take off as part of the first wave attack on Pearl Harbor. This post concerns only prebuilt 1/72 scale models depicting Zeros from the Akagi. To understand the concept of this diorama project, please refer to the previous two posts. 

Prebuilt 1/72 Scale Akagi Zeros

As I’ve indicated in the past, I lack the modeling skills to build the aircraft necessary for this diorama. Thus, I’ll be using nine prebuilt diecast 1/72 planes. To my knowledge, five manufacturers — AFV Club, Corgi, Dragon Wings, Forces of Valor, and Witty Wings — have tried their hand at producing models of the A6M2 Zero — the version of the Zero used at Pearl Harbor — specifically representing Zeros from the Akagi.*

The photo below shows the Akagi Zero models from the five aforementioned manufacturers, in alphabetical order from left to right. Note the difference in the base color, which reflects the continuing debate over the true color of the actual Zeros.Zero Fronts 3Below is an overhead shot of the five models. Note that the AFV Club and Dragon models have “inked” panel lines, burnt umber and black, respectively, which make the lines stand out. By contrast, the panel lines on the Witty, which are widely considered to be close to scale, are barely visible. My preference is the middle route taken by both Corgi and FOV — while their panel lines may be overscaled, the fact that they were not inked results in a Goldilocks look.Zero OverheadFinally, the lagniappe overhead shot below allows better comparison of dimensions. As is apparent from the photo, the difference in dimensions is de minimis (couldn’t resist the alliterative flourish). Ultimately, however, the reader can make that judgment.Zero Pentagon 1For purposes of the diorama, the plan is to use these five prebuilt models plus four duplicates to complete the nine Zeros in Akagi’s first wave. Since these manufacturers combined have produced only the AI-154 and AI-155, the project will require disguising the tail numbers so that they match the nine tail numbers used on the Akagi (see table in previous post). That is the subject of the next post. 

Again, thank you for your indulgence and I hope you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful to other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. As mentioned, stay tuned to see these Zeros with the nine new tail numbers in the next post.


* While Atlas Editions and Oxford Diecast also produced A6M2 Zeros for aircraft carriers, neither made an Akagi Zero. Atlas produced a model belonging to the Kaga aircraft carrier (AII-105). Using the same Atlas casting, Oxford Diecast later produced an A6M2 Zero model belonging to the Ryujo aircraft carrier (DI-108). In any case, the Atlas/Oxford models are wheels-up only (wheels are molded retracted into the lower fuselage), requiring a stand and making it difficult to pose them next to other models.