|1st Angle-Deck by Paul S Teixeira|
|Modeler:||Paul S Teixeira|
One of my favorite modeling subjects is late WW-II, and early post-war naval vessels and aircraft. Especially military hardware which exemplifies the experimental, “can-do” attitude of military engineers, pilots, and crews who were involved in the fast paced technological advances of this era. The “jet-age” pushed many involved in this era to the limit, as well as, the naval hardware to support it. Early jets were faster, more complicated, heavier, and not as agile, as their proven piston powered cousins. This was especially notable in the growing field of Naval Aviation. The straight decked fleet carriers of the era did not suit the jet age very well. If you missed the number 3-wire, and hopped over the fourth, you were heading for the fragile barrier, or worst yet, aircraft parked at the bow of the ship. Not a good end to a perfectly good day. As a result, something was needed, in relations to straight decked jet-borne carriers.
This is were the subject of this article made her mark. The USS ANTIETAM CV/CVA-36 was the 1st American aircraft carrier to be retro-fitted with an angled-flight deck to accommodate the high speed world of jets. The keel was laid on March 15, 1942, and the vessel was launched on August 20, 1944 from the Philadelphia Naval Yard as a typical straight deck Essex class carrier..
After a significant amount of time conducting shake-down exercises the Antietam arrived in Pearl Harbor on the 19th of June 1945 and remained in the Hawaiian Islands conducting training missions until August 12th. On that day she shaped a course for the western Pacific. Three days out of Oahu she received word of the Japanese’s capitulation and the consequent cessation of hostilities. Throughout this early post-war exercise she conducted missions related to the support of occupied Japanese territories, and other related far-east support missions. Early in 1949 she finished her mission and headed back to the United States for deactivation. The Antietam remained in reserve at Alameda, Ca. until communist forces from the north invaded South Korea in the summer of 1950. She began reactivation preparation on December 6th and went back into commission on January 17, 1951. The Antietam arrived in the Far East later in the fall of 1952 and by late November began the only combat deployment of her career. During that tour she made four cruises with Task Force 77 in the combat zone off the coast of Korea.
The aircraft carrier returned home in April and rejoined the Pacific Reserve Fleet briefly. She was reactivated later that summer and in August transited the Panama Canal to join the Atlantic Fleet for major alterations. In October she was redesigned an attack aircraft carrier, CVA-36. In December the Antietam emerged from the yard as America's first angled deck aircraft carrier. She operated out of Quonset Point, R.I. until the beginning of 1955.
Being a native Rhode Islander and spending many years in, and around the carrier docks of this historical industrial naval base I decided to re-create a typical, “day-in the life” of this fabulous, break-through vessel as it may have appeared shortly after its modification while docked at Quonset. The funny thing is that although I have collected many aircraft carrier kits over the years, and have not built one in over 5 years, I did not know anything about this particular vessel until I decided to build one. I had ordered this particular kit because it appeared different than my others, and the box art depicted a post-war Essex class carrier with post-war looking aircraft, as I mentioned earlier, being one of my favorite topics. I did not know this was the 1st angle-deck carrier, or that it was home-ported at Quonset Point until I decided to pull it out of storage, and conducted research looking for the correct color schemes. Something I still am not sure I got right, because there is such little available color photos, or paint chips, illustrating early post war naval colors. It was at this point that I decided to not just build the kit, but to display it in it’s native environment of Quonset Point during it’s mid 50’s hay-day. I started with the Dragon 1/700th CVA-36 USS Antietam kit, #7064, released a few years ago. As are all the new tooled dragon naval vessels, this kit is outstanding with excellent fit, and many options, including an optional clear flight deck, detailed hanger bay, photo etched details, 50’s era aircraft, and excellent deck markings and other decals. The kit allows you to produce either the early style modified angle deck, with temporary external deck braces, or the more permanent style fully enclosed deck bracing. I choose the earlier external bracing option due to it’s interesting appearance, uniqueness, and it allowed more side hanger deck doors to be viewed, the latter covered much of the port side detail below the flight deck. I also used the “Battlefleet models” 1/700th Dock set #704A for the main dock sections and resin dock style structures. I built the external aspect of the model mostly out of the box using the included photo etch, and decals. I also added much of the Gold Medal Models Essex Class Photo etch details, especially deck railings, electronics gear, and catwalks. I purchased an extra set of post-war 1/700th cyber-model aircraft to allow for a more crowded flight deck, with more aircraft left over to also populate the hanger deck. I did a significant amount of scratch building to busy up the appearance of the hanger deck, especially around the open deck elevators. Even though the kit includes a clear flight deck option, I utilized the standard opaque deck because of it’s far superior deck detailing, and I don’t enjoy working with clear styrene. If you do not use the clear deck option I would think twice about building up the hanger deck as I did due to not being able to really see it.. The included hanger deck detail should suffice for most. I do recommend building up some details around the deck elevators if you have them in the down position. The other after-market detail I strongly recommend is a 1/700th detail set for the aircraft. The included kit parts are thick for the scale, and the clear styrene of the aircraft parts make it very brittle and hard to work. I modified these parts slightly but I’m not happy with my results. I may re-do this in the future. In regards to painting I airbrushed Model Masters acrylic Haze Grey for most of the hull and superstructure with white/black added to create subtle shades as needed. I also dry brushed highlights extensively. Many oil washes of rust, wood, black, and burnt umber were applied liberally to create stains, rust, and usage. In regards to the flight deck the kit recommends intermediate blue. The box cover art shows what appears to be a brownish color, and/or stain, with the landing section depicted as a black, or darker grey, with landing stripes. I could not find any photos which duplicated this appearance, although late model, heavily modified Essex class ships such as the Lexington, Bon-Homme, and Oriskinay come close when shown in training roles, or on Southeast Asian tours during the 60’s. It does appear that many modified post war Essex class fleet carriers do have a blue like stain reminiscent of WWII carriers. I went with this look and airbrushed WEM enamel Flight Deck Blue Stain to simulate this appearance. Future followed by significant oil washes to simulate wear and tear.
Building up the diorama scenery was the most fun. Experimenting with different techniques helped to reproduce the water. Essentially, its fairly straight forward and easy to replicate. I started with a plain white poster board. Sprayed a combination of dark blues and greens to cover the board completely. I then follow with 3 to 4 coats of “Mod Podge” applied using a sponge brush, while experimenting with different brush stokes to simulate texture appropriate for scale. Finally small detailed waves, flow, and wakes were simulated with “Woodland Scenics Water Effects”. An outstanding and very simple product to use. Finally some Model Masters Flat White was lightly applied with dry-brushing to highlight these effects. This was all finished off with several coats of “Future” to give it a nice “Wet-Effect. In addition to the “Battlefleet” Dock sections and buildings, I also used sections of poster board to simulate the land sections of the docks topped with engraved sheet styrene. I also purchased 2 sets of Hasegawa’s “Harbor Set” to busy up the docks. Although not 100% accurate to the Quonset Point scene it “fit the bill“ in regards the look I needed. Finally the Dragon Antietam kit also includes a nice bonus. A very detailed, mini kit of a Navy Harbor Tug. This complimented the scene nicely. Finally, I hit up the “Spare Parts Bin” for everything else including some left over photo-etch 1/700th dock buildings, resin vehicles, styrene small boats, model RR rocks, various bits of model marine equipment, and 1/700th photo-etch sailors.
Overall, this was the most fun I have had with a naval model project. The kit is outstanding, and easy to assemble. It fills a nice gap in Naval Aviation progress, and is slightly more unique than a typical WWII carrier. Although the scene is not 100% historically accurate I am satisfied with how it captures a “point in time“, and recreates the basic surrounding of this historical naval base. I am actually considering adding another kit I have from the same year, a 50’s post war “tin-can” to these same docks, although I had so much fun, I may just create another dock scene. Improving upon the outcome. More to come…
Photos and text © 2009 by Paul S Teixeira
October 2, 2009