Book Review

Gakken Pacific War series 21 - IJN BB Kongo Class - by Tom Kristiansen
Pacific War
Book Title
Pacific War 21 - Kongo class
Gakken, Japan
ISBN Number
Retail Price
1800 JPY (ca. $17 USD / €14 Euro)
Imperial Japanese Navy Battleships Kongo, Haruna, Kirishima, Hiei
Japanese text + a handful English captions
Gakken Pacific War series 21 - IJN BB Kongo Class - Book Review
The Pacific War series from Gakken are highly regarded by IJN modeling-enthusiasts as a fantastic source of information of Japanese IJN ships. Altough the books are written in Japanese, they contain enough visual information to be of invaluable help for a non-japanese IJN modeler.

Book Contents:

190 pages:

31 pictures of superdetailed 1/200 Kongo & Haruna anno 1944

106 B/W-photos

62 drawings

3 illustrations/paintings

4-page foldouts:

- illustration of Hiei, July 1942

- (?) table of re-construction/re-fittings on Kongo-class ships (?) Japanese text

- color photos of 1/200 Kongo & Haruna 1944, 1/500 photoscale, top & side

- BW-photo Kirishima 1938

- line drawing Kirishima 1/350, top & side

The 4 Kongo-sisters were laid down and completed as fast battlecruisers in the period 1911 to 1915 at shipyards in England and Japan. Kongo was built in England as all the previous capital japanese warships, but as the Japanese expanded their shipyards and shipbuilding capabilities, the remaining 3 battlecruisers could be built under licence in Japan. The Kongo-design was similar to the british Incincible-class battlecruisers, but with 365mm main guns instead of 300mm. The Japanese design also had an additional 75mm armourbelt added. (In response the brits designed the Tiger-class followed by the Renown-class). The steamboilers used coal as fuel but with the new technology of spraying extra oil into the boilers to get higher temperatures, the Kongo battlecruisers was able to reach 28 knots on trials. This made the battlecruisers among the fastest of its kind during WWI.

Two modernization and refitting-periods in 1927-32 and 1933-1939 gave the 4 Kongo-sisters increased armour, increased length and beam, torpedo-bulges, better aircraft-facilities, 2 funnels, new controltower behind funnels and a completely new brigdeconstruction. Altough the weight was increased by 10-12% the new machinery added 2 knots to the original top speed. Kongo, Haruna and Kirishima had similar brigdeconstructions but the Hiei differed from her sisters with an experimental brigdeconstruction that would later be used on the Yamato-class battleships. By the Japanese the battlecruisers could now be rerated from battlecruisers into fast battleships because of the added protection from the two modernization-periods.

In Dec1942-Mar1943, Kongo and Haruna received a third re-construction of the brigde in addition to the fire-direction/ AA-refittings that was gived to all 4 kongo-class battleships during their respective servicelifes in WWII.

Haruna and Hiei was sunk at Guadacanal in Nov1942. Kongo sunk Nov1944 and Haruna in July1945

The PacWar21 does a good job in showing most of the differences between these 4 ships. The trademark of the GakkenPacWar-series is the superb color-pictures of superscale models depicting the subjects. However not all ships in the classes are honoured with a photoshoot. As an example only Ise is depicted in her 1941-configuration in PacWar26. The sistership Hyuga is not depicted. In PacWar21 only Kongo and Haruna are depicted. As usual with the PacWarbooks the quality of the supermodel-photos are fabulous! The models are among the cleanest 1/200 models I have seen. I could not find any bent railing or rough finish at all. The antenna lines are almost completely free of any twisting. In other PacWarbooks one can find some of theese imperfections but not in this volume. The detaillevel is not as superdetailed as fineartmodels's, but not so far behind.

Photos are sharp and mostly the photos are in overall-focus. With this I mean that you can study the details that are furthest away from the camera as well as the details that are closest to the camera. Of many of the model-photos I have seen only a part of the photo are in focus, the rest of the photo is blurred. The photos are arranged in pairs of the same area so that it is easy to compare the ships.

51 B/W photos of the Kongo-class shows the ships constructional evolution and their servicelifes. Mostly the pictures are taken in peacetime and during trials but there are also photos of Harunas demise and afterlife damage photos. The close-up photos provide interesting views of details interesting for modelers.

A techical historysection provides several useful drawings and photos of the hull and superstructure. The drawings of the superstructure are particulary valuable when it comes to comparing the ships differating details. The captions are in Japanese, but it is easy to identify the Japanese Katagana-symbols for the shipnames from the english cations other places in the book. This section also gives an insight in the contruction-process and the mechanical aspects of the ships armament. Several drawings and photos shows the foundring-process and the cutting/drilling of the main gunbarrels.

The 4-page foldouts of this volume are also worth taking a closer look on. A huge illustration of Hiei points out the brigde-details and other differences. The illustration shows Hiei in July1942. The scale is probably close to 1/350. Kirishima also gets some attention as a linedrawing in 1/350 is provided. Turn the linedrawing over and you will find a famous B/W-photo of Kirishima in 1938 enlarged to 1/350 scale. The detail on this photo is slightly soft, but sharp enough to be interesting. The 1/200 supermodels of Kongo and Haruna is minimized to 1/500 photoscale and shows the top and sides of the two ships. Many details are pointed out in Japanese captions.

A historical section with Japanese text deals with the ships' operational history with some photos, seabattle-maps and other illustrations/ greyscale paintings.


As always the conclusion with the PacWar-books is: This book is a excellent source of visual information on the Kongo-class battleships. I would have love to see supermodels of Kirishima and Hiei as well since there are several differences to be aware of if one wants to superdetail a 1/700 or a 1/350 model of this class. But luckily the PacWar-series gives enough illustrations, drawings and photos of the ships not supermodel-depicted as a compensation. So do not worry - you are never left in the dark by Gakken if you just use some time in finding the details you are wondering of. For a Japanese reader it would be easier to find these differences in the text so PacWar21 would probably be the only source you would need for your project. For an english reader it will be of great help with an extra english source to help you interperate the timeperiod of the drawings. For me the Classic Warships Pictorial 13 - IJN Kongo battleships provided just the help I needed. With the comments and tabular movement records in CWP-13 at hand it is easier to get a hold of the secrets hidden in the drawings/photos in PacWar21.

As an afterthought I would like to say that every time I look into a Gakken Pacific War-series book the same prayer pops into my mind:


I am not sure of the sizes of the Japanese IJN modelwarket vs. the rest of the world but I would think that the Japanese could sell a whole lot more books of this series if they were translated into english. Let us hope someone pick up my (and many other IJN-enthusiasts's) prayer and translate this one.

Tom Kristiansen

Gakken Pacific War series 21 - IJN BB Kongo Class - Scans from the Book

Where you can buy the book (if not sold out):
HobbyLink Japan, Ltd
Nishitakane-cho 43-6
Gunma 374-0075
Fax: +81-276-80-3067
Tel. kom: 0-601311877

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