The USS Gambier Bay was one of 50 Casablanca-class escort carriers built in World War II, and one of five in the class that were lost when it was sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the battle off Samar during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944.
Hasegawa’s new 1/350 scale USS Gambier Bay is cleanly molded in gray and clear plastic; parts are free of flash, and the detail is excellent. However, no photoetched metal is provided, which is a bit disappointing. Hasegawa does sell aftermarket sets should you decide you want more. A length of anchor chain is provided, as well as three TBM Avengers and six FM2 Wildcats. The aircraft can be built with or without folded wings. The kit is intended to be built with a full hull; surgery would be needed to make it a waterline model.
With its painting guide and masking templates, the 20-page instruction booklet is great. The templates proved useful in laying out the Measure 32/15a camouflage. The box art is beautiful; a large poster and a history of the ship are also provided.
The assembly sequence is simple and clear, as Hasegawa does a nice job of taking you from keel to mast in its well-engineered kit. Numerous bulkheads and internal spacers make assembly easy. I only had to use putty in two places — the fit is that good!
The flight deck and gallery deck went together without a hitch; weapons, boats, winches, aircraft, and other small parts are all finely detailed. Raised details such as doors and fire hoses are to-scale. Be careful when trimming the parts, though. I inadvertently cut off part of J4, thinking it was an ejector stub, and I lost Part J1, the ship’s bell.
The girders under the fore and aft flight decks have recesses for lightening holes. They could easily be drilled, but you do not see much of them after the model is finished.
I painted with White Ensign enamels, but the instructions are not clear on colors. I referred to Anatomy of the Ship: The Escort Carrier Gambier Bay, by Al Ross (Naval Institute, ISBN 978-1-55750-235-3): You will need pale and light ocean gray and deck blue. I also used Floquil railroad engine black, zinc chromate primer, and brass. Using the kit templates, I cut masks out of Tamiya tape and Scotch 2080 Painter’s Tape.
The colors and registration of the decals are accurate, but the clear film was too large and thick. The stripes for the flight deck did not respond to any setting solutions I tried (Micro Set, Sol, Solvaset). I ended up trying to press them down with a cotton swab, with only minor success. The poor decals spoiled the finish of the deck. I had to trim the film on the aircraft decals because it overlapped the wings.
I spent slightly less than 20 hours on the kit — about five to build it and the rest masking and painting. The dimensions are accurate. The only things that could improve the kit would be photoetched metal for the radars and mast, and a good decal sheet. If I were to build the kit again, I would only use the decals for the aircraft and as a guide to paint the flight deck. I can still recommend it to anyone with a couple kits under his or her belt.