Escort carrier sailors liked to claim CVE stood for 'combustible, vulnerable and expendable.' While their exploits are less well-known than those of the US Navy's fleet carriers, the 'jeep carriers' played a vital role in the Battle of the Atlantic providing air cover for convoys and hunter-killer groups stalking German U-boats. In the vast expanse of the Pacific, escort carrier sailors fought the Japanese and transported replacement aircraft to the front.
The USS BLOCK ISLAND (CVE-21) was one of the BOGUE class of escort carriers. She was launched 6 June 1942 by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation of Seattle, Washington, and commissioned on 8 March 1942. In May of 1943, BLOCK ISLAND sailed to Norfolk to join the Atlantic Fleet. After two cruises transporting USAAC aircraft to Belfast, BLOCK ISLAND joined a hunter-killer group and made four cruises hunting submarines. Aircraft from the BLOCK ISLAND sank U-220 on 28 October 1943 and U-1059 on 19 March 1944. She also shared the credit with escort ships for the destruction of U-801 on 17 March 1944, and U-66 on 6 May 1944. On 28 May 1944, BLOCK ISLAND fell victim to U-549. The submarine's celebration was short-lived, however, as BLOCK ISLAND was quickly avenged by her destroyer escorts, USS EUGENE E. ELMORE (DE-686) and AHRENS (DE-575).
Originally released by Skywave, the Tamiya USS Bogue was relatively straightforward to build. After attaching the base plate to the hull, I used Bondo spot glazing putty to fair in the base plate and deal with some sink holes on both sides of the hull. The rest of the construction generally followed the kit's instructions with the exception of delaying attaching the flight deck and all the armament until after painting. I added external aviation fuel lines from styrene rod to each side of the hull, and replaced the island's supports with strip styrene.
Bob Pearson thoughtfully included some Tom's Modelworks photoetched brass parts for the kit. Included were Set 710, US Escort Carrier, Set 70x, 20mm guns, and Set 706 - USN Radars. Even in 1/700 scale, these add immeasurably to the appearance of the kit. Warships are covered in railings, and most 1/700 injection molded radar fail to capture the delicate look of the prototypes. The Tom's Modelworks sets were all constructed of relatively thin brass sheet. This makes the parts more delicate than thicker brass or stainless steel photoetch, but more forgiving of bending errors. The Tom's Modelworks set was originally issued with the Tom's Modelworks USS Casablanca. The main radar mast is taller than that included with the kit, and may be more accurate for the Casablanca class CVEs. Despite building a bending jig as recommended in the Tom's Modelworks instructions, after several attempts with the photoetch 20mm guns, I elected to use the Tamiya kit parts. Tamiya's 20mm guns are much improved over those in the original Skywave kit, and look better than the two dimensional photoetched guns.
For much of her career, USS Block Island wore Measure 22 camouflage. Ms 22 was designed to present a false horizon to attacking submarines. The vertical surfaces were Navy Blue up to a point level with the lowest point of the sheer of the main deck, parallel with the waterline, and Haze Gray above that point. The horizontal surfaces were Weather Deck Blue. The flight deck was stained with Deck Stain, a bluish-gray. The boot topping was black. I used Floquil paints for the Navy Blue, Haze Gray and Weather Deck Blue, Model Master Neutral Gray for the flight deck and Aeromaster Tire Black for the boot topping. A lightened version of the Weather Deck Blue was drybrushed over the deck to simulate weathering and highlight some of the details on the deck. The flight deck also received a heavier drybrushing of Model Master RLM 79 to simulate bare wood showing through in the landing area.
The kit comes with TBF Avengers, F6F Hellcats, F4U Corsairs and SBD Dauntlesses. USS Block Island's air wing consisted of VC-xx with Avengers and F4F Wildcats. I put a pair of TBFs and an F4F taken from a Fujimi USS Saratoga kit on the flight deck. Landing gear wheels were added from slices of Evergreen styrene rod and a barrel for the Avengers' rear turrets was fabricated from stretched sprue. The aircraft were painted in the Atlantic scheme of white with gray upper surfaces. I painted the canopies Aeromaster Russian Light Blue. After painting and a coat of Future, I applied the kit decals and sprayed a coat of semi-matte clear. A photoetched propeller completed the aircraft.
For a base, I cut a piece of mahogany and routed the edges with a quarter round bit. The Block Island's base is covered with a sea made from artist's acrylic gel medium. I painted the sea surface with a mixture of blue, and green enamels, and picked out the wake with white. After drying, the sea was coated with Future to produce a glossy surface.
The Tamiya kit is less expensive than its Skywave predecessor, and many of the smaller details have been improved. With multiple units of the class built, and serving in both the US Navy and Royal Navy, there are numerous camouflage options.
The Tom's Modelworks photoetch sets add much to the overall appearance and are recommended as well.
Thanks to Hobbylink Japan for the review sample and Tom's Modelworks for the photoetched details