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Yamamoto's Betty
April 18, 1943

by Bobby McElroy


Yamamoto's Betty


Tamiya's 1/48 scale G4M Betty is available online from Squadron.com




I decided to build Tamiya's 1/48 scale Betty kit depicted as Yamamoto's personal transport on April 18, 1943, immediately before he met his fate.



Let me just start out by stating that this is an excellent kit. Tamiya has done an outstanding job with the production of this kit. Everything fits together nicely with a minimal amount of sanding on the seams. The transparencies are crisp, clear and thin. There are several options that one can choose as to which version of a G4M1 to build. Bomber, Torpedo Bomber, or simply the Transport version as I have chosen. The Decals are super. Thin, and the proper colors, they even lay down with no problems. The fit of the engine nacelles to the main wings always seems to be a problem with many of the kits out on the market. Tamiya has remedied this and they have done a wonderful job. They have expanded their creative genius to the way the main landing gear doors attach into the nacelle. The fit is superb and one does not have to worry about breaking a fragile gear door off at the little seam. As far as details are concerned, the interior is nice, it could be enhanced with scratch- building or an after market supplement. The exterior is really smooth. The panel lines are nicely recessed and lend themselves to enhancement during the finishing process.






My first task was to mask all of the transparencies. I accomplished this by using a variety of methods. I wanted to see which one gave the best results, and which medium was the easiest to work with. My second task was to modify the tail cone to match the version used by the crew of Adm. Yamamoto’s Betty. This was a bit tricky but rather easy now that I look back. I used my tabletop belt sander to remove the sections of the tail cone I did not want. I was concerned about splitting the transparency if I tried to cut it with a razor saw. Sanding it down was a cinch. I left just enough to be polished off with 600 grit sandpaper. I was rather pleased with the out come.




Possibly the best time I had was while constructing the interior. This section of the kit went together with no flaws, and I was surprised at how easy it was. While under constructions I painted the sections before gluing them together. By doing this I was able to get the extra details looking really good. I tried to make this part of the kit very accurate, and Robert Mikesh’s book, Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945 was especially helpful. I suggest if you do not have this text it is a must!



After completing the interior it was time to start piecing the fuselage, the nacelles, and wings together. Due to the excellent job done by the manufacturer these subassemblies fit together very well, and I came across no problems.



After completing the attachment of all of the subassemblies it was time to place the transparencies on the fuselage. Before gluing them into the proper places I sprayed the main canopy and the nose cone as well as the window frame that would be open, with interior blue/green. I did not want this color to interfere with the exterior colors.




Painting and Markings


Once all of the sections were glued into place I tried a different method to highlight the panel lines. Using Model Masters Enamels I thinned down Italian leather to almost a 5:1 ratio and sprayed the wing, covering just a small section at a time and then wiped the surface leaving the brown paint in the panel lines. It worked very well.



After finishing the highlighting of the panel lines it was time to start getting this Betty looking right. I used model masters Imperial Japanese Navy Gray on the underside. After letting the paint dry over night I masked the identification lines on the leading edge of the wings. I referred to the Francillion book for the proper areas to apply these. After they dried I sprayed the top of the AC with a mixture of Imperial Japanese Navy Green and Japanese Army Green. Why? The Navy green is just TOO green so by mixing the colors it dulls the Navy Green down. It is still very green. Yamamoto’s AC was almost new but not brand spanking new.



Upon completing the majority of the painting on the upper and lower surfaces, I decided to start putting the flaps and other larger pieces of the model together. I left the antennas, props and other protruding parts off until after I was finished painting, weathering and detailing. Once I finished that process I applied the decals and all the final touches. The decals provided by the kit were pretty good. I was concerned the white background for the insignia on the side of Yamamoto’s Betty would not work when it was time to put the Hinomaru on top. It worked out fine. The only problem is the way the decals do not allow the details below come through. They are not thick, and I did try solve-set to make the decals suck down and adhere better but to no avail.  I am working on a new technique for painting the Hinomarus on to a white background; I shall let you all know how it turns out.



Finishing Touches




This angle gives a good view of the tail gunner’s position. Next time I build this kit I would like to attempt to add to this interior section. I just have to get better resource materials that cover the interior of this AC. I would love to be able to root around in the example up in the Smithsonian.



Antenna Rigging

Although this part of the kit can be tricky and downright a pain in the @$$, the antenna wires are one of my favorite things to put on a kit. This is also my wife’s favorite part too. She loves to break these, well…not really but this seems to be the parts that always end up broken when she is around.

The G4M1 had a tricky antenna to copy. I chose to used a long piece of stretched spruce and connect it to the various points as one long continuous piece. I used Tenax liquid welder to attach the wire to the various antenna points and the tail. I was very pleased with the outcome, and it was one of my better jobs. I feel that adding the antenna wires adds a vital finishing touches on an AC model. 







Over all I believe this to be one of the better kits on the market.

Although it is somewhat pricey, the kit has many elements that make this a good-looking model built out of the box. The fit of the many parts, the several options that are offered and the detailed instructions as well as the decals make the kit worth the price. I have not honed my scratch-building skills to the level of proficiency that I feel comfortable putting into a kit of this type, but for those of you out there in MODEL LAND that are; you guys and gals could have a field day with this BETTY. The interior really lends itself to that type of modeling expertise.

Soon after completion of this kit I gave this kit to a good friend of mine who is also an avid historian and shares the day of April the 18 as his birthday. The same day and year Yamamoto was shot down. He was very impressed with the final results and now has the kit displayed nicely in his library.





  1. Imperial Japanese Navy Bombers of World War Two Dr. Rene J. Francillion, Illustrated by Ronald Percy 1969. Hylton Lacy Pub. Ltd. Coburg House, Sheet Street, Windsor, Berkshire, England

  2. Osprey Combat Aircraft 22 Mitsubishi Type I Rikko “Betty” Units of World War  Two. Osama Tagaya.

  3. Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945. Robert C. Mikesh. Monogram Aviation Pub.


Images and Text Copyright © 2003 by Bobby McElroy
Page Created 03 July, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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