Kit No. A501
Decals: Two versions (Japanese Army)
Comments: Engraved panel lines and flush rivet detail; option for bomber or torpedo bomber
The Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Attack Bomber ”Nell” was the Japanese Navy’s main land-based torpedo and high altitude bomber in the years before the start of the Pacific War. Although it was in the process of being replaced by the G4M ‘Betty’ at the end of 1941, since 1937 the ‘Nell’ had played an important role in early Japanese conquests in China, Malaya and the Pacific. Its most successful moment came on 10 December 1941, when sixty G3M2s took part in the attack that sank the British warships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, shattering British naval power in the Far East.
The G3M’s combat debut came on 14 August 1937, during the Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese Navy attacked Shanghai in an attempt to end the war quickly. Japanese troops began to land at Shanghai on 11 August, and three days later G3Ms from the Kanoya Kokutai (Naval Air Corps) launched the first ever trans-oceanic bombing raid, attacking Shanghai from their bases on Taipei (Taiwan). There the unescorted bombers ran into unexpectedly strong Chinese fighter opposition, masterminded by General Claire Lee Chennault, military consultant to Premier Chiang Kai Chek who would later form the Flying Tigers. Six of the eighteen G3Ms that attacked the flight training school at Hangchow were shot down. On the following day 24 G3Ms from the Kisarazu Kokutai, operating from Omura on Kyushu made a 1,150 mile round trip to attack Shanghai and Nanking, once again suffering heavy loses.
The long range bombing programme had to be halted until the Mitsubishi A5M1 ‘Claude’ fighter entered service in September 1937. By then the G3M units had moved to bases in China, and once the Japanese fighters had swept the older Chinese types out of the skies the bombing raids resumed. By the end of the year the Chinese capital of Nanking had fallen, but any prospect of a short war soon ended. During 1938 the G3Ms once again had to operate without fighter escort, this time coming up against Soviet fighters operating in support of the Chinese government. Once again the G3Ms suffered heavy loses, but these Japanese setbacks were overshadowed by the bombing of civilian targets further south.
By the end of the initial Japanese attack in the Pacific in December 1941, the G3M had fought in the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, Malaya and as far as Rabaul. After that the Japanese were forced onto the defensive. Rabaul would be the last important posting for the G3M. By the autumn of 1942 five G3M units were based there, taking part in the desperate fighting on Guadalcanal, but all five units would soon convert to the G4M ‘Betty’. By the start of 1943 very few G3Ms remained in front line units.
The Nell ended its service career as a very effective sub hunter. From the end of 1943 modified G3M3 Model 23s, half equipped with radar, were used by the new Combined Escort Fleet to guard the vital Japanese shipping lanes against increasingly effective Allied attacks. In July 1944 the first MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detection) equipped G3M3s entered service, and by the end of the war were credited with sinking 20 Allied submarines.
The Type 96 G3M Mk. 21 “Nell” is molded in grey and black plastic and consists of 96 parts. The cockpit is spartan but does provide seats and control columns for the crew. This appears to be an older kit, perhaps from the 1980’s (the box lacks a copyright date), but is impressive in its engraved panel and flush rivet detail. The instructions are almost entirely in Japanese, and while the assembly steps are well illustrated, there is no profile drawing to assist with decal placement or selecting a paint scheme — modelers are left to rely on the box art and their own research.