Airfix commemorates: The Attack on Pearl Harbour

Categories // Planes, News, Aviation

The year 2011 marks the 70th Anniversary of the surprise and devastating military attack by the Japanese Imperial Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbour.

The attack took place in the early hours of the 7th December 1941 and brought the USA
directly into the Second World War in both the Pacific and European theatres.

Up to that point the USA was in seemingly peaceful but increasingly uneasy diplomatic negotiations with the Japanese who were ruffled at what they saw as interference by the USA following Japanese military action in South East Asia, including territories held by Great Britain, the Netherlands and the USA itself. Indeed, an hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, Hawaii, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and a colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message in which they advised the USA that it seemed useless in trying to reach a diplomatic solution. What it did not say was that the Japanese had already decided on military action and were prematurely on the offensive without any warning or a formal declaration of war.

The Japanese objective was to inflict such devastation on the US base on Hawaii that the US Pacific fleet would be unable to interfere with the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies and Malaysia, in essence
making their conquest a relatively easy one without facing any major

As early as 26th November, a Japanese task force comprising six aircraft carriers had left Japan en route to Hawaii, carrying the aircraft which were to attack Pearl Harbour. The form of attack was to be in three waves, in which the first sortie was the primary attack. This first attack was sub divided into three groups and contained all the weapons
required to attack battleships and aircraft carriers (Group 1), whilst the second and third attack groups were to concentrate on aircraft on the ground in the surrounding area. Of the 183 planes launched north of Oahu, 45 were Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, to be used for air control and strafing.

The second wave comprised of 171 planes, including a further 36 A6Ms, ordered to attack Kane’ohe and Pearl Harbour itself.

The third wave, which never happened, would have probably inflicted more long-term damage and a slower recovery by the USA. The plan was to bomb as much of Pearl Harbour’s fuel and weaponry storage as possible, as well as maintenance and dry dock facilities. Fortunately for the USA, the Japanese decided not to carry out a third strike for several reasons, including lack of fuel to get home. The American anti-aircraft guns had begun retaliating in force during the second wave and finally, Admiral Nagumo of Japan did not know how many US planes had survived the attack and thought his force might be within range of US land-based bombers.

As well as the air attack, a fleet of five Japanese submarines had left Japan on 25th November, arriving just short of Pearl Harbour on 7th December. Early that morning, they deployed midget submarines from the vessels, the first of which was spotted and destroyed at the entrance to Pearl Harbour at 6.37 am on 7th December 1941. The occasion marked the firing of first shots by the USA in WWII. Shortly afterwards,
at 7.48 am, the Japanese air attack on the Harbour began under the command of Chuichi Nagumo and Isoroku Yamamoto.

The base was attacked by 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes. The damage inflicted included four battleships, two destroyers and one other ship sunk; eleven ships damaged; 188 aircraft destroyed and 155 damaged. 2402 American servicemen were killed, plus 57 civilians. Over 1200 military personnel were wounded plus 35 civilians. Against this, four Japanese midget submarines were sunk and one
grounded. Twenty-nine aircraft were destroyed. The US killed 64 Japanese
and captured one survivor who had swum to shore from one of the wrecked Japanese submarines.

He was the first prisoner of war captured by the USA in WWII. On 8th December, a day after the attack, President Roosevelt delivered his famous ‘Infamy Speech’ and asked Congress for a state of war to exist between the United States on Japan. Less than an hour later, his request was accepted. The same day, the Empire of Japan declared
War on the United States and the British Empire.

The new Airfix model introductions to the WWII series of 1:72 military aircraft capture the essence of this historic attack. The A01005 Mitsubishi A6M2 is decorated as it was flown by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1942, whilst on the American side, the A01003 Curtiss P-40B represents one of the key fighter and ground attack aircraft which saw service in the War of the Pacific, particularly in 1941-42.

As well as the individual model kits of the Curtiss P-40 and the Mitsubishi A6M2b Zero, there are also three Airfix sets available featuring the newly tooled aircraft, which come complete with sufficient accessories to complete the kits.

A boxed gift set in 1:72 scale features the Curtiss P-40B Warhawk and the Mitsubishi Zero paired up in a Dog Fight Double, with two model options. They are both decorated as they would have flown during Japan’s deadly attack on Pearl Harbour, with the Curtiss P-40B in USAAF garb, Hawaii, December 1941 and the Mitsubishi Zero as flown from the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers in December 1941. Under model reference A50127, they would make the perfect seasonal gift for both beginners and the more experienced modeller.

Also available, as a small starter set in 1:72 scale, the Curtiss P-40B Warhawk, model reference A55101, comes with one finish option as flown by 112 Sqn, RAF Western Desert, North Africa in early 1942. This set is appropriate for those modellers just beginning your modelling skills, containing few parts and a simplified painting guide.

Similarly, the A55102 Mitsubishi Zero, also a small starter set, is decorated in the livery of V-103, Japanese Air Force, 1941.


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