Banner Models
1/350 BB-39 Arizona

By Tracy White


Commissioned in October 1917, the USS Arizona is one of Americas more infamous battleships. She and her sister-ship the Pennsylvania joined the US Fleet in WWI but served on the Eastern seaboard and did not see any action. Steadily modified after the war, the Arizona was transferred to the Pacific fleet and served as flagship for various battlegroups. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor she was flagship for Pacific Battleship Division One with Admiral Isaac Kidd on board

The Arizona was a prime target during the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. Protected from torpedoes by the repair ship Vestal, the Arizona was instead done in by high-altitude bombers from the Hiryu. Of the five bombs that landed in her vicinity, two were near misses and three were hits, with the very last bomb sealing her fate and that of the 1,102 sailors entombed within her today. Striking a magazine on the forward end of the ship, the bomb caused such an explosion that the keel of the mighty warship was broken and the majority of the forward interior was vaporized, causing the main deck to collapse 30 feet down to the level of the anti-torpedo blisters..

The Kit

I've always had a thing for the USS Arizona and had wanted to do a 1/350th scale version for a long time. I could never quite get over the high prices of the resin kits, so I was quite pleased when Banner's plastic offering surprised me with its appearance, and doubly so when I saw it's $35 price tag at Skyway Model Shop. The kit has some problems accuracy wise, the plastic is a bit soft, fit and detail can be less than stellar at times, and detail is a bit heavy. But you have to remember, it's only $35 for a 1/350th scale battleship!! A modeler could spend a little time here and there and wind up with a decent kit that would leave anyone but the nitpickers happy.

Breakdown in a lot of areas is almost identical to the old Revell kit, which is unfortunate in some aspects. They used the same split level for each superstructure deck, so that half of each enclosure on the superstructure is on the deck and half on the bottom of the deck above it. This allows the portholes to be open, but they don't line up that well in spots and it's going to be a pain to clean up. In some cases it looks like it will be easiest to glue sheet styrene over areas and re-drill the portholes.

Oddly, the pattern of open hatches on the main and upper decks is the exact same as the Revell kit. In fact, it looks like Banner used the Revell kit as part of their research because there are some hatches that are incorrect on the Revell 1/420th that show on the banner as well. The tripod masts look the same as the Revell kit as well, with the exception of no railings.

Overall though it is a good parts breakdown The hull is split into five main parts; the hull below water, hull above the waterline with parts of the main deck, and three other deck areas; the stern, bow, and amidships deck are all separate pieces. The decks stack up on each other and lack the molded on railings that the Revell kit had. With the bottom hull separate it is very tempting to do a waterline version but this will not be without work as the break was not at the actual waterline, but at where they needed it to be to do the bulges in the side of the hull correct. The complex shape of the hull is the cause of the breakdown being what it is but also causes some softness in detail in areas.

Detail and molding are so-so. The bow and stern sag a bit on the upper hull but very gently pressure corrected it. Some flat areas of the superstructure decks were rough and a bit crude, but a couple passes with a flat file removed the imperfections. There was little to no flash. The upper deck (The area the 5" broadside guns were mounted at) bulkheads had areas that fit OK, but the forward port area of the broadside guns had a lot of portholes that did not line up. The 5" AA guns on the superstructure deck level have incorrect splinter shields, but not grossly so, and are easy to scratch build if you so desire.

If you have references and a hankering for an accurate Arizona however, be prepared for some Work. I used Paul Stillwell's "Battleship Arizona" when writing this review. Generally the problems are simplification of parts or omissions. The one exception to this are the anti-torpedo blisters on the side of the hull. They are just a bit too rounded out and their fore and aft ends are incorrect (See below pictures). The ledge the torpedo blister provides extends too far back as well. Lastly, the bilge keel is too high and curves up too far.

On to the inaccuracies. These are by no means all of them, I'm still finding them as I pour over the images and drawings. Luckily the majority of them are not all that difficult to fix, just time consuming when you add it all together. These are also inaccuracies that deal with the Arizona as she was in late 1941, there are changes you will need to make independent of this review if you want her as she was earlier in her career. Gold Metal Models has a new set specifically for this kit that should provide a lot of the standard detail you would expect from photoetch and fix a few of the problems. More on that set on the bottom.

Just above the torpedo blister is what looks like a reinforcement doubler or extra armor, its detail is soft and a bit too pronounced; replacing it with sheet styrene would help. Many of the portholes on the hull are wrong, the general layout is there but they're scale feet off or patterned wrong. I question how many people would have plans on them when looking at the kit though, so this is purely a case where the builder and their conscience make the call.

The main deck (The lower deck behind the aft tripod) has some missing details and inaccuracies. There are a couple of miscellaneous hatches and a capstan missing just aft of number 4 turret, and the hatch covers are missing from the larger hatches. The 1.1" antiaircraft guns just aft of the step down from the main deck are incorrect, the tubs were elevated above the deck and the guns had not been fitted at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack.

There are two shapes just aft of the rear tripod mast that I believe are soft patches to allow removal of the Arizona's engines for overhaul. The pictures I have of the ship show these were flush with the deck and covered with wood that had a clear demarcation pattern in the decking; on the model they appear to be metal (indeed, the Revell kit has rivets on these patches when they are really just wood). The pictures I have are from the late 1930's, so there is a chance they were metal by the time the ship was sunk as she went through a couple of overhauls in that time.

Between these patches and just forward of the #3 turret was a chair locker and vent trunk that are missing, the vent trunk was about fifteen feet tall and ten foot wide, so as long as we're quibbling about small hatches we should throw that out as well. Instead of the V shaped blocks provided on the decks, the launches on this deck were on elevated rectangular steel frames that had small wheels to allow them to be rolled over to the side of the ship.

The ladders on the main turrets fore and aft are slanted to the side and they should not be. Not only that, but on every turret they are on the left side, whereas on the Arizona they were on the Starboard side so the guns pointing forward had them on the left and the aft turrets had them on the right. There are no covers for the openings in the turrets' glacis plate, which allows you to chose the angle of your guns but isn't accurate for the Arizona at the time of the attack. Just under the range finders on the extreme aft end of the turret were vents of some sort; these are missing. The range finders themselves stick out a bit too far; #2 turret won't turn broadside without smacking them into the superstructure. Finally, the #3 turret had a catapult for launching scout aircraft; this is a very vague part and is missing the catwalk that ran to the starboard side of the catapult.

The ladders that run up from the main deck are solid like a staircase and should not be. The ones just inboard of the tripod legs should go to a flat platform and not the ledge as the kit represents and there should be another ladder up from this level to the superstructure (this isn't shown in the GMM set instructions). There are some missing portholes as well in this area.

The upper deck level contains a lot of inaccuracies around the broadside guns at the base of the superstructure. In most cases it is the wrong number of portholes in an area or missing doors, but each of the broadside guns may have to be fixed depending on how you are doing your Arizona. In the kit the guns come in what looks like a turret so you can pose them at different angles, on the real ship these turrets were actually fixed and there were doors that were bolted in place to seal them in bad weather. When the weather wasn't as bad they could be taken off and the opening was either covered with a canvas curtain or left open. The pictures of the Arizona clearly show the doors off and the openings without canvas, but with all the fire that was in the water that day the canvas could have simply burnt away.

The area forward of that has some missing deck fittings between the two turrets. Additionally, what I'm going to refer to as the anchor chain runways (I'm not sure of the correct term) are shaped incorrectly, they are generally in the correct area but are incorrect proportionally. The two most forward anchor runways run to the very tip of the bow and disappear into the deck, the holes on the actual HULL are missing!

The Superstructure Deck level has five errors that I can see. Hatches are missing or positioned incorrectly. The forward 1.1" anti aircraft guns are supplied but were not fitted at the time of the attack. There was a loading machine aft of the launches used to train on loading the 5" guns that is missing, and there was an odd box shape just aft and to port of the stack that is not represented at all. Finally, the deck mounts for the launches are incorrect, they provide the V-shaped blocks the lowest layer of boats rested on, but not the metal framework that these were actually elevated above the deck on. As I said before, the splinter shields are shaped wrong but the Gold Metal Models set corrects this. The Tom's Modelworks set does not.

The first level of the superstructure, the flag bridge, is missing a ladder to the deck below on the forward port side. Additionally, there are a couple areas that are shaped wrong, the arches down below are "off" dimensionally (they're too far forward) and the forward wind/splinter shields are incorrect in the area that extend below that deck's level. The armored conning tower in front is lacking any detail for the viewing slits that were present. The two levels above that suffer mainly from improperly spaced portholes on the sides and missing portholes and doors on the aft side.

The tripods are both missing all of the ladders crew would use to climb between platforms to the control tops. The Control tops themselves are missing a lot of the detail, the windows are just rectangles cut into the sides and are missing all of the framework. The fore control top also has completely incorrect yardarms, they're poles that extend perpendicular to the length of the ship as the kit supplies them and they should be swept back tapered rectangular structures. The range clocks that are molded as part of the tripod legs were not carried on the Arizona at the time of the attack; they were removed sometime after January 1941.

A quick note on the Gold Metal models set versus Tom's Modelworks. Each has something the other lacks. The GMM set is relief etched, and after viewing it the flat set of the Tom's set just seems lacking. However, there are some parts that Tom's has that aren't in the GMM set; there were small platforms under the searchlight platforms, presumably for working on the mounts that are missing, as well as some turret detail on number 3 turret and more details for the large cranes. The GMM set has replacement splinter shields and parts for those wanting to do the Arizona's sister ship and overall just looks nicer.

The platforms on the aft platform have some missing or incorrect details as well. On the kit there is a ladder going up the aft leg from the lowest platform; this is incorrect. Instead there was a series of ladders from platform to platform on one side of this leg to the other. Additionally, there was a very small platform just under the control top that is not provided but will be easy to make with styrene. The holes in each platform for these ladders are missing however, so you'll need to create them.


In short, this is definitely a doable kit. In fact, I will go on record to say it is the best injection molded Arizona in 1/350th scale (it's the only one) and probably the best and most accurate in any scale. How much time you will put into it depends on how accurate you want it and how many resources you have. But you could build it straight out of the box with some mid level skills and have a very respectable model.


USS Arizona BB-39 -Naval Historical Center

Banner's USS Arizona is available from Roll Models.

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