Hobby Boss 1/350 Type IXC U-Boat

KIT #: 83508
PRICE: 1800 yen (about $21.00)
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Includes photoetch



The Type IX U‑boat was designed in 1935-36 as a large, long range ocean‑going submarine. Type IX U-boats were used during the winter and spring of 1942 for patrols off the eastern United States, in a campaign known as Operation Drumbeat, which was successful until the U.S. Navy finally instituted anti-submarine measures like coastal blackouts and escorted coastal convoys. The type’s extended size made for longer dive time and decreased maneuverability, which is why the smaller Type VII was produced in greater numbers and used for the bulk of operations.  The 14 Type IX-B U-boats were the most successful of the class, with each averaging 100,000 tons of shipping sunk.

The Type IX-C was armed with six torpedo tubes, four at the bow and two at the stern, with six internal reloads and five external torpedo carriers, three at the stern and two at the bow, giving a total load of 22 torpedoes. When used as mine‑layers, they carried 44 TMA or 66 TMB mines.  Secondary gun armament included one Utof 105/45 gun with 110 rounds. AAA armament differed throughout the war, being increased in 1943. They had two periscopes in the tower.

The Type IX-C U-boat was a further development of the Type IX-B, with additional storage for 43 tons of fuel oil, giving a range of 13,400 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 10 knots.  54 Type IX-C U-boats were commissioned between 1939 and 1942. 

U-166, a Type IX-C, was sunk by Sub-chaser PC-566 50 miles south of the Mississippi River Delta after sinking the SS Robert E. Lee on July 30, 1942, and was the only U-boat sunk in the Gulf of Mexico.

Type IX U-boats were excellent sea boats, primarily due to their increased size.  They had sufficient range to allo their operation in distant waters such as the South Atlantic, Indian and even the Pacific oceans, with several making it to Japan on extended trips to deliver important cargo such as jet engines and a complete Me-163, for the Japanese to use in their own design developments.  The Type IXs were the only U-boats that operated off of North America.  While they carried more torpedoes than the Type VII, the Type IX was more vulnerable to air attack due to its comparatively slow diving time.

The Capture of U-505: 

The capture at sea of U-505 off the coast of Equatorial Africa in 1944 is one of the stirring episodes of U.S. naval history during the Second World War.

U‑505's keel was laid June 12, 1940, at the Deutsche Werft yards in Hamburg.  She was launched May 25, 1941, and commissioned on August 26, 1941.  The U‑505 conducted twelve patrols, sinking eight ships - 3 American, 2 British, and one each Norwegian, Dutch and Colombian - for a total of 44,962 tons. 

U-505's third and fourth patrols in the summer and fall of 1942 took her into the Caribbean.  On November 10, 1942, she was attacked off the Venezuelan coast by a Hudson which was in turn shot down by the U-boat’s heavy AA armament, after heavily damaging the submarine with depth charges.  U-505 managed to return to Lorient, where she spent six months under repair.

U-505's fifth through tenth patrols in 1943 were all unsuccessful, with the U-boat returning after Allied attacks in the Bay of Biscay.  On her tenth patrol, her captain committed suicide while under depth-charge attack and the U-boat was saved by executive officer Leutnant Paul Meyer, who managed to bring her back into Lorient.  Her eleventh patrol saw her return early because she had rescued the crew of the German torpedo boat T-25 that had been sunk by British cruisers in the Bay of Biscay.

U-505 began her twelfth patrol in May, 1943, assigned to patrol off Cape Verde, Africa.

Enigma intercepts had alerted the Allies that U-boats were operating off equatorial Africa.  On May 15, 1944, Task Group 22.3, a hunter-killer unit commanded by Captain Daniel V. Gallery, USN, consisting of the escort aircraft carrier USS Guadalcanal, and five destroyer escorts under Commander Frederick S. Hall: Pillsbury, Pope, Flaherty, Chatelain, and Jenks sailed from Norfolk, Virginia to patrol the area using high‑frequency direction‑finding fixes ("Huff‑Duff") and air and surface reconnaissance. 

At 1109, June 4, 1944 Pillsbury made sonar contact with U‑505 at 21°30"N 19°20"W, about 150 miles off the coast of Río de Oro, 800 yards off the starboard bow of Chatelain.

The Destroyer Escorts immediately moved towards the position, while Guadalcanal turned away and launched an FM-2 Wildcat to join another Wildcat and a TBM Avenger already airborne. 

Chatelain was too close to U‑505 to use depth charges, and so opened fire with her “hedgehog,” passing over U-505 then turning for a depth charged attack. At the same time, one of the FM-2s sighted U‑505 and dived on the U-boat, firing into the water to mark her position while Chatelain fired depth charges. Immediately after the depth charge attack, a large oil slick spread on the water and the fighter radioed, "You struck oil! Sub is surfacing!"

Less than seven minutes after the first attack, a badly damaged U‑505 surfaced less than 700 yards from Chatelain.  The DE immediately opened fire on U‑505 with all available automatic weapons, while the other ships of the task group and the two Wildcats also attacked.

Wounded and believing U‑505 was seriously damaged, the captain  ordered the crew to abandon ship.  This order was obeyed so promptly that the scuttling was not completed and the engines continued to operate. With engines still running and the rudder damaged by depth charges, U‑505 circled clockwise at approximately 7 knots. Seeing the U‑boat turning toward his ship and believing it was preparing to attack, the captain of Chatelain ordered a torpedo fired, which missed, passing  ahead of the now‑abandoned U‑505. 

Captain Gallery and his captains had discussed the possibility of capturing a U-boat if it came to the surface.  With U-505 looking like she might stay afloat long enough to make such an attempt, Galley gave the order “Away all bparders!” and an 8-man team from the Pillsbury led by Lt (jg) Albert David was launched while Chatelain and Jenks collected survivors. Albert and the boarding party leaped from the whale boat onto the after conning tower deck of U-505 (the U-boat was down by the stern, allowing them to pass over the rear deck) and entered the U-boat, the first boarding of an enemy vessel on the high seas by the United States Navy since the War of 1812.


 Quickly determining U‑505 was deserted other than the only fatality of the action, a single dead man on the deck, the boarding party secured charts and code books, closed the seacocks and disarmed the demolition charges.

While the boarders secured U‑505, Pillsbury made several attempts to take the U-boat in tow, but collided with the submarine repeatedly and had to leave the area with three flooded compartments.  A second boarding party from USS Guadalcanal managed to connect a towline, and also disconnected U‑505's diesels from her motors, thus allowing the propellers to turn the shafts while under tow.  As Guadalcanal towed the U‑505 at high speed, the propellers acted as electrical generators, powering U‑505's pumps and air compressors to clear the flooding.

Towed by Guadalcanal across the South Atlantic for three days,  U‑505 was transferred to the fleet tug USS Abnaki.  On Monday, June 19, 1944, U-505 entered Port Royal Bay, Bermuda, after a tow of 1,700 miles, the first enemy vessel captured by the U.S. Navy since 1814. 58 prisoners, including three wounded, were rescued. Because it was crucial that the Germans not discover that U-505 with all her code books had been captured, the crew was interned separately from other POWs at Camp Ruston, near Ruston, Louisiana, where they were held incommunicado from the Red Cross until March 1945. The Kriegsmarine had declared them dead and so notified their families in November 1944.

The guards at Camp Ruston included members of the U.S. Navy baseball team, composed mostly of minor league professional baseball players, who had previously toured combat areas to entertain the troops. During their imprisonment, the Navy players taught some of the U‑505 sailors to play the game.  This story is told in “Playing with the Enemy: A Baseball Prodigy, a World at War, and a Field of Broken Dreams,” by Gary Moore.

The Enigma secret was so important that Admiral King, the Chief of Naval Operations, at first considered a court-martial of Captain Gallery for endangering the secret by capturing U-505.  King relented, and Lt.(jg) David became the only USN sailor in the Atlantic Theater of Operations to win the Medal of Honor for leading the boarding party, while TM3 Arthur W. Knispel and RM2 Stanley E. Wdowiak were each awarded the Navy Cross and S1/c James Beaver was Silver Star.   Commander Trosino, captain of the Pillsbury, received the Legion of Merit.

The captured code books were of crucial importance.  These arrived at Bletchley Park on June 20, 1944.  They included details of the special "coordinate" code in enciphered German messages, which allowed a determination of more precise locations for U‑boat operating areas, allowing hunter-killer groups to be directed there while convoys could be routed away.  Other material included the regular and Offizier  Enigma rotor settings for June 1944, the current short weather codebook, and the short signal codebook - which allowed further decoding of intercepted messages - as well as the bigram tables due to come into effect in July and August respectively.  Using this information, the U-boat menace in the Atlantic was virtually ended by the end of the summer of 1944. 

During World War II, 1,162 German U‑boats were built.  Between 1939-45, 790 of them - 80 % - were sunk by enemy action.

In 1947, the Navy planned to use U-505 as a gunnery target.  An appeal was made and the submarine was given to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, where it has been displayed since 1950.  In 2000, after 50 years out in the open during Lake Michigan winters, the U-505 was in sad shape.  Another campaign was mounted to save her, and she is now completely overhauled and displayed within a closed structure that protects her from the elements.  U-505 is one of four Type IX submarines still in existence.  I saw her 40 some years ago, and was impressed (after being inside US Fleet submarines) at how small and tight she was.  U-505 is an impressive display and you should plan to visit if you are ever in Chicago. 


Hobby Boss has now completed the only set of Type IX U-boats in 1/350 scale, having previously released a Type IXA and a Type IXB.  This Type IXC is the early version, which could be easily modified to the late war production standard IXC/41, with the schnorkel mast.  The kit is amazingly well-detailed for such a small model (6 inches long).  The surface detail on the main deck is astounding, with the two conning tower decks being done in photo etch brass, which allows all that deck detail.  The weapons include the 105mm main deck gun, the two twin 20mm mounts, and the Flak-37 mounted on the “winter garden” deck.  These are superbly rendered in very petite moldings.  The splinter shield for the Flak-37 is done in both plastic and photo etch brass, and the plastic shield is excellent.


Construction is extremely simple, but care must be taken with all the extremely-delicate small parts.  Assembly takes perhaps an hour total.  Everything should be attached other than the conning tower and the weapons and the photo etch railings before painting.


I painted the model with Tamiya Light Grey XF-66. This was masked and the hull was painted with Tamiya “NATO Black.”  I did the main deck and the conning tower decks with lightened “NATO Black.”  I applied a thinned coat of Tamiya “Smoke” to pop out detail in the light grey areas and to give a simulation of weathering.


 I attached the conning tower, then glued the very delicate photo etch railings with “Gator Glue.” Once this was all set, I gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Flat clear coat.


I wish Revell would do a Type IX series in 1/144, which I think is the perfect scale for submarines.  However, this 1/350 kit is very nice, and has some of the best detail I have seen in a submarine model.  Placing it next to other 1/350 ships, one sees immediately how small these boats were, which adds to the respect one can have for the men who went down to the sea - and down in the sea forever - in these ships.

Review kit courtesy of HLJ.  Get yours at www.hlj.com

Tom Cleaver

August 2010

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