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.

The A6M Zero in 1/72: Akagi’s Zeros Prepare for Pearl Harbor Diorama, Part 2 – The Tail Numbers

This is Part 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 tail numbers of the Zeros of Akagi’s first wave. To understand the concept of this diorama project, please refer to the previous post. 

The Akagi Zeros and Their Tail Numbers

As previously mentioned, the Akagi contributed nine Zeros and 27 Kates to the first wave attack. Below is a photo of the Zeros on the deck of the Akagi just prior to take-off.Akagi_Pearl_Harbor_Second_Wave_PrepTo create the diorama, it is necessary to determine what tail numbers were used in the first wave. In the aftermath of WWII, there was some controversy and confusion concerning the tail numbers of the various aircraft that participated in the attack and whether they Tamiya AI-101were in the first or second wave. Plastic model manufacturers, including Tamiya, even issued models of the AI-101 Zero with yellow command stripes. Photos later proved conclusively that the AI-101 did not carry the horizontal yellow command stripes on the tail and, in fact had participated in the second wave, not the first. Further research shed more light on the tail numbers and at this point the issue is mostly settled.

The table below provides context regarding where each of the Zeros fit within the organizational framework of Akagi’s aircraft. As in the past, I created the table for learners like me who want to visualize where a small piece fits into a larger whole. As I’ve previously made clear, I’m just an amateur enthusiast (redundancy intended) so please use the table at your own risk. I relied on a number of sources, particularly Peter Smith’s Mitsubishi Zero, photos of an Akagi display at the USS Arizona Memorial Museum, and bits and pieces from the internet. Note that the squadron was made up of three flights (shotai) of three aircraft each. The Zeros with horizontal yellow stripes led each three-plane flight. The two Zeros below each yellow-striped Zero belonged to the shotai’s wingmen, in order of rank. Akagi's Zeros JPEG from Excel (2) - CopyFor purposes of the diorama, I will be using nine prebuilt models made by AFV Club, Corgi, Dragon Wings, Forces of Valor, and Witty Wings. 

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. Stay tuned for a photo overview of prebuilt 1/72 scale Zero models made specifically for the Akagi to be used in the diorama.