-class light carriers were a stopgap solution for the U.S. Navy in World War II as nine Cleveland
-class light cruiser hulls were converted to small carriers. They were not the ideal ships, but they proved to be indispensable as the Americans advanced across the Pacific.
The tooling on Dragon’s USS Independence
is great! The fidelity of the parts is remarkable — 20mm ammo drums in 1/350 scale! The extensive use of slide moldings produces superdetailed parts with very few seams and no flash. The parts breakdown is logical. The kit includes a fully detailed hangar, exceptional 5", 40mm, and 20mm guns, and a delicately detailed flight deck. The aircraft (SBD, F6F, and TBF) are fine little kits by themselves, complete with pistons and crankcases.
In terms of details, the kit is great. The photoetched-metal parts are good, particularly the radars. However, the railings are a bit heavy and are only supplied where life rafts are attached.
The aircraft have the optional makings of circles with stars, stars and bars with red surrounds, or blue surrounds. The thin decals went down well, and the registration is dead-on.
But the instructions are a huge letdown with errors throughout. Steps 1D and 1C tell you to build eight 40mm twins and Mk.51 directors — but you need nine assemblies each. Each funnel is unique; be certain to mark them so you can keep track of them. The instructions have the wrong parts on the wrong funnels. (Test-fit everything as you build!) The placement of parts I15, I18, and I19 is unclear. Instructions for placing the chocks and bollards are poor, too; I relied on photos to figure that out. Bollards H15 are not in the instructions, but you will need them. I have no idea if I put the right ones in the right place. Some of the photoetched-metal parts are numbered wrong in the instructions. I glued Step 2’s Part K5 to the hull and flight deck assembly; it was easier than what the instructions suggest.
The assembly of the mast was straightforward. I do recommend adding Part H32 after you glue the mast to the island. Assembling the weapons requires patience and a really good tweezers. I used a fine razor saw to remove delicate parts and minimize breakage.
Painting options for the kit are limited. You have the choice of modeling the ship as it was built or as it appeared on two of its early operations. As launched, the ship may have been ocean gray instead of navy blue, but I used White Ensign 5N navy blue, 20B deck blue, and flight deck stain 20. The boot topping and lower hull are Floquil railroad zinc chromate primer and engine black.
For references, I used Squadron’s U.S. Light Carriers in Action
, by Michael Smith (Squadron, ISBN 978-0-89747-407-8), and consulted www.navsource.org
. According to published dimensions, the scale measurements are right on.
The kit is a great one for advanced, experienced modelers. I spent about 38 hours building it, and probably 20 more being frustrated by the instructions.