USS Gato (SS-212) had been launched before World War II started, but she was not commissioned until 31 December, 1941, and she did not start her first war patrol until June 1942.  This kit portrays Gato in her pre-war, “as built” configuration, with the large fairwater typical of a peacetime submarine and a single, 3” 50-caliber deck gun mounted abaft the fairwater.  (Both of these features would change during the course of the war.) This kit consists of three sprues of plastic parts, one fret of PE, a small sheet of decals, a small rubber part, and the upper and lower hull assemblies.  The division between the upper and lower hull is along the nominal waterline, so this kit can easily be built as either waterline or full-hull. The lower hull is pre-molded in a red plastic that is (in my opinion, at least) a nearly perfect match for US Navy anti-fouling hull red.  The rest of the parts are molded in a light grey.  The anchor is on the starboard side, so this kit represents a Gato-class submarine built at either the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton , CT or at the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company yard in Wisconsin .  (The boats were originally designed with anchors on both sides, in keeping with longstanding naval tradition and practice, but this was changed and only one anchor was installed.  Subs built at the U.S. Naval shipyards in Portsmouth , NH or at Mare Island , CA had anchors on the port side.) One interesting feature of this kit is that it includes the pressure hull, which isn’t even readily visible from the outside of an actual Gato-class submarine.  The limber holes at the bow are open, but the smaller holes along the sides of the superstructure are not.   If you hold the upper hull against a light, you can actually see the thin spots in the plastic where the limber holes are, so this would not be a difficult fix for even a moderated skilled modeler, at least in this scale, and I will probably attempt it myself, when I build this kit. When comparing this kit to the blueprints that I have for the class, most of the deck details appear to be complete, which brings me to my biggest gripe about this kit – the forecastle is a separate piece from the upper hull, meaning there will be a large athwartships gap on the forward deck, which will require extra (and in my opinion unnecessary) work to putty this seam, sand, and re-scribe the deck boards.

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The deck gun in the kit appears to be incorrect.  As built, USS Gato mounted a 3” 50-caliber gun.  The gun in the kit is (at least to me) clearly a 4” 50-calber gun.  The 3” gun had a taller pedestal in relation to its overall length (in part because it had a much larger range of elevation, allowing it to be used as a dual-purpose gun, for both air defense and for attacking small ships.)  The larger 4” gun was a “single purpose gun and lacked the elevation mechanism, so it sat lower to the deck.  According to my micrometer, the gun is 218 scale inches long, which is closer to the correct length of a 4” 50-caliber gun (with a 200” long barrel) than the 3” 50-caliber gun (which had a 150” long barrel).  When compared against the blueprints I have, as well as photographs, the gun also looks more like a 4” gun than the 3” gun. Other than these two gripes, the kit appears to be an excellent one, with many fine details, like the deck cleats and the JT sonar head, which will really add “pop” to the finished product. In addition to the instruction booklet, the kit also includes a sheet of drawings, showing various views of Gato-class submarines, including all three major deck guns, as well as the wide variety of appearances that the fairwater showed during the course of the war. The reviewer was a Gunner’s Mate (Guns) First Class and is now curator of the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum , home of the (Balao-class) submarine USS Razorback (SS-394).

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Greg "Gunner" Stitz

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