USS Bowfin from Revell 1/180 USS Lionfish kit…
January 28, 2014 in Ships
The USS Bowfin, SS-287, was a Balao-class Fleet submarine. She was laid down at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine, on 23 July 1942, and launched on 7 December 1942. She had a distinguished career in the Pacific, based mainly out of Freemantle, Australia, sinking a good number of Japanese merchant ships. In the later part of her WW2 service, she was based mainly out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She is now the focal point of the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park at Pearl Harbor.
I have always been very interested in the US submarine fleet campaign in the Pacific in WW2, and the Gato and Balao class Fleet submarines that participated. These were beautifully designed boats that were well suited to the task, with their long range and potent weapons. This submarine force was undoubtedly one of the greatest factors contributing to the defeat of Japan.
The ubiquitous 1/180 Revell kit of the USS Lionfish probably seems an unlikely kit to choose nowadays, with the amazing Revell 1/72 kit available. But apart from the considerable difference in cost, I would have a hard time finding space enough to build the Revell 1/72, let alone a place to display or store it. I guess Trumpeter has released a kit or two in 1/144. These would maybe be a better choice in a smaller scale, but a little larger than the Lionfish, which would make adding details easier (and I guess there is probably a bunch of aftermarket stuff available for these 1/144 kits).
I built this model quite a few years ago (when my eyesight was better). I tried to do the best job I could on my own, without any aftermarket additions (I don’t think there were many at the time), just scratchbuilding. The deck of the Balao Class subs was not entirely wood slats, and I tried to “fill in the gaps” with Evergreen strips, and sand down to give the appearance of these areas. Boring out the limber holes the Portsmouth boats were associated with, was quite a project in itself. I did it on the patio in our back yard, to benefit from full sunlight. It took some very careful work with a Dremel, and totally occupied my attention! The conning tower/bridge structure, periscope shears and various radar fittings, etc. took a bit of scratch building as well.
A very interesting and helpful reference for this project was “The Floating Drydock’s Plan Book-Gato and Balao Class Submarines” by Thomas F. Walkowiak. This book is now out of print, but apparently available on CD from The Floating Drydock (www.floatingdrydock.com). I would recommend it to anyone interested in US Fleet submarines. I also used a couple of other books, the US Naval Institute book “The Fleet Submarine in the US Navy” by John Alden, and the Squadron book on US Fleet submarines. There are several other books, one by Leeward Publications on the USS Bowfin specifically. Anyway, there is a lot of reference available on US Fleet submarines in WW2.
For background info and “atmosphere” Theodore Roscoe’s bible by the US Naval Institute “US Submarine Operations in WW2” (commonly referred to as “Sub Ops”) and Clay Blair’s “Silent Victory” are excellent. And Forrest Sterling’s “Wake of the Wahoo”, and of course Dick O’Kane’s “Wahoo” and “Clear The Bridge” are classics that will get you in the mood!
6 additional images. Click to enlarge