USS Independence...Building the DML 1/350 USS Independence CVL-22
After reviewing the new DML USS Independence CVL-22 thanks to Dragon USA and MSW providing me with a sample it took me more than a year to actually build and paint her, mostly due to real life issues. A big thank you goes out to those of you who have followed my build log over all this time and especially Tracy White’s support. Tracy also provided us some insights into DML’s internal process up to the release of this kit as he was the researcher behind the project.
The build log with some additional pictures and information can be found here: Build Log
You can find my review here: Review
And here is another take on her by Julian Sallows (Gremlin56) Review #2
Also, some reference material you might find useful during construction, I know I did: Reference Material
USS Independence Reunion Group’s homepage also provides some invaluable pictures: USS Independence
Before you start, I recommend cleaning up your workbench a bit, as there are many sprues to look out for and lots of tiny parts. I also recommend studying the instructions and deciding on your preferred construction sequence. Due to the cramped instruction I recommend ticking off the parts you’ve already fitted so you won’t forget anything. The instructions tell you to start with all the small fittings (AA guns, smoke stacks, conning tower, crane) and then goes on to the hull, hangar deck, catwalks, flight deck and then final assembly. Personally, I didn’t like the idea of having all those small parts lying around for such a long time as they might get lost (and probably would have, since I also moved to a new house during construction...). Other will prefer to get this repetitive work out of the way first. My decision was to start with the hull. Construction started in February 2011.
The Hull (Step 3)
The hull consists of two major parts (X and W), lower and upper hull. Fit is not that tight, so be sure to align the two halves correctly before the glue sets. Some sanding will be necessary, but hopefully not as much as I had to. Be sure to drill out the holes for the stand in the lower hull before you glue these parts together. This is not indicated in the instructions, so naturally I forgot and had to drill them from the outside later.
Next you add the hangar deck and sidewalls, as well as the bow and stern bulkheads. This is a tricky yet very important step: If misalign here, you will have difficulties fitting the flight deck later. Trust me, been there, done that… In hindsight, I recommend test fitting the flight deck at this point to make sure everything’s aligned. Also, I fitted all the inside parts to the side hangar walls before the main assembly. In hindsight I wouldn’t recommend that either, go with the instructions here or you will have gaps between these parts and the hangar deck. The hangar side doors are provided in both plastic and PE. Unfortunately, the inside of the hangar walls have lots of ejector pin marks that are hard to get rid of and will be quite noticeable when the side doors are left open. That’s why I decided to leave them all closed. The DML instructions have no detail painting guide. Thanks to Tracy White’s help I managed to get what hopefully is as accurate as possible:
“With regards to the hangar deck color, the majority of it would be as Martin described, deck gray and white bulkheads and overheads. The "two tone gray" you described is actually black on the top; we know that based on this document (http://www.researcheratlarge.com/Ships/CVL/1943HangarWarmUp.html) I found in the archives and posted. I've never seen any documentation to say what colors the non-black areas were, but it's most likely either 5-N Navy Blue or 20-B Deck Blue. Independence's dark colors extended farther back than just the elevator wells though, at one point. The "Christian Services" photos on the CVL-22 site Gallery Page 3 (http://www.cvl-22.com/pics3.html) show that a good portion of the hangar bulkheads were black. They're undated, but I have some high-resolution photos of the hangar following her November 1943 torpedo hit that show pretty much the same. I just don't know precisely how far forward the aft elevator dark paint was extended... my photos don't show that.”
Based on that the walls would have to be painted black for 6 scale feet, so that would be about 1.9m and that would make about a 5.2mm in 1/350 scale.
Moving to the outside, there are several sub assemblies to be fitted, such as the launches and bow and stern AA assemblies. Here you will have to decide whether you want to model the configuration of the shake down cruise (with one 5in gun each bow and stern) or the war cruises (with quad 40mm AA guns). I decided to go for the quad 40mm AA guns. Therefore, I moved over to Step 1 of the instructions to build two quad 40mm assemblies and four 20mm Oerlikon AA guns. The assemblies are very detailed with lots of PE to be added, including the seats for the crew (40mm), aiming sights and shoulder supports. In the case of the 40mm however, there is one important item missing (also on the dual 40mm to be fitted later): the back railing. On the Quads I had this item left over from a GMM PE set. For the duals I didn’t have any and had to go without. When building the 20mm Oerlikons and using the shoulder supports, you should use part L1 instead of L7 as indicated.
Watch out when assembling the stern details part J10 is the wrong part, it should be H15. Another detail at the stern, are parts D8 and D13. I can’t recommend to add them here as they will likely break off later when adding the flight deck. In my case some substantial sanding was necessary to fit them, however this could be due to misalignment of the major hull parts.
Along the whole of the side, there would be railings. The kit doesn’t provide any for this portion, which is unfortunate. I had lots left over from a GMM PE set and used this to fill the gaps.
The smoke stacks are added in this step, so for me it was back to step 1 once more. I had some trouble assembling the four stacks, as there seem to be some mistakes in the numbering of the parts. However, I could not find out the right numbering and just adapted the parts I had to fit. I cannot give you the correct numbering, so just be careful here, do lots of dry fitting and also check the fit to the hull. I also recommend writing the part number on the main parts, so you will know where it goes.
Flight Deck / The Catwalks
Next I moved to the flight deck and contrary to the instruction I started with the underside (step 9). Here there are some minor issues with parts E5 and E6 that require some modification to fit (see images). Another mix-up of parts: Contrary to the instructions it's not I3 in the back and I2 in the front, but one each (there’s only one way to do it).
Then I went back to steps 5-8 in the instructions where you build all the catwalks and attach them to the flight deck. Now the real fun with all the little AA guns started for me as I built as many as I needed for each individual catwalk subassembly. Unfortunately DML have even here not provided enough railings to cover everything so I had to fill the gaps from the spares box. It seems DML provided railings mostly in those places, where a life raft had to be fitted to them. Another decision is necessary in step 5: there is a difference in AA armament midships. For the Rabaul raid there were 2 less 20mm Oerlikons. I decided on the variant with the added AA, mainly because I thought part E7 was broken. However, what seems to be one part is actually two parts, E7 and E11. A few more wrong parts are pointed out in step 6 (MB10 is actually MB10; F32 is actually F20), as well as in step 8 (parts I23 are actually I25 (twice). The instructions tell you to continuously attach the catwalks to the flight deck. I cannot recommend this. When I attached the flight deck there was some use of force necessary and I broke several parts on the way. Next time I would therefore attach the deck to the hull first and then the catwalks.
The conning tower was the last subassembly that I constructed, therefore I had to go back to step 2. This was an extremely fiddly assembly and the instructions are not very logical in the assembly. For example, they tell you to attach part H32 to the complicated mast assembly without any indication as to where it goes exactly. In this case I decided to attach the part to H7 to get a firm bond and exact location. Also, I attached part H58 from Sub assembly part K3 to part H1 in sub assembly K2 for much the same reasons. Another strange sub assembly is K5, as there is virtually no way to actually glue the parts together. I attached the parts directly to the main conning tower, otherwise I would not have known where to put it and it would surely have fallen apart several times. Two more issues I encountered: Parts H27 and H29 are switched (there is not other way to do it) and the life raft you have to add in this step: It doesn’t exist. The kit has 2 J-sprues with 12 rafts each and the kit requires 25…
As mentioned before, final assembly was a bit difficult due to some misalignment on my part. Some parts broke off and hat to be reattached later, also some modification of the flight deck underside was necessary to make it fit. It will be interesting to see other modelers’ experiences with this. Finally I managed t pry the flight deck on and fix the broken details. Due to the tight fit I required no glue.
The last bits to add were the conning tower (the supports required some shims to fit to the main deck, but again, I assume this was due to my misalignment in the first steps) and the elevators. Here was another mistake in the instructions: part E31 is actually F31.
I tried to add some rigging but failed utterly, other than one piece to attach the flag to… Riggin instructions would be very useful in these kits!
Painting was done during assembly with the Lifecolor US Navy set, thinned with Windex. This was my first try with Windex and I was very satisfied with the results, though next time I will lighten them a bit to account for the wash. Hull red and the black waterline stripe were painted with Tamiya acrylics. The Indy was painted in measure 21 with the sides in Navy Blue, the decks in Deck Blue and the flight deck in Flight Deck Blue. Decals were added to represent Independence during the Marcus Island Raid in September 1943. I had no problems fitting the decals, with the sole exception of the yellow elevator-opening surround. I decided to paint this section. I used my standard decal procedure of applying a coat of future and the decals with decal solution on that. That was then sealed with clear.
Planes and Vehicles
As mentioned in the review, there are three types of planes: Avengers, Hellcats and Dauntlesses. However, it is doubtful whether the Dauntless actually served in combat on the Independence, as the limited space on the CVLs meant that there was little room for planes without folding wings. I nevertheless assembled one for completeness sakes and encountered no difficulties.
The Hellcats were a bit of a different story. I had problems fitting the wings to the fuselage and some sanding was necessary. Other than that, the planes were ready for painting quite quickly. No problems were encountered with the Avengers. Of both types, there are three each with folded and deployed wings. I built all planes with closed bays and cockpits, as well as no rockets. Painting was done with Tamiya acrylics and the little details were added after. The windows were painted over and once the painting was done I scratched off the paint with a toothpick. This worked pretty well mostly. The modeler has three choices of decals: The older star in blue roundel, the star and bar in red surround and the later standard star and bar. I could not find any pictures of the red surround insignia and the plain roundel would not have been very likely on a rather newly equipped unit in fall of 1943. Maybe someone can shed some light on this issue? Unfortunately there are no other decals than the national insignia.
There are two types of vehicles, Jeeps and tractors. I added two Jeeps and one tractor and encountered no issues apart from the fact that the instructions call out part MA11 as a steering wheel for the Jeep and I could not find such a part. I added none of the figures. Blooper Reel
There are a number of mistakes and omissions in the instructions, not least of which is he missing detail-painting instructions. All construction issues are listed below by construction step.
Step 1: - When building the 20mm Oerlikons and using the shoulder supports, you should use part L1 instead of L7 as indicated. - Be careful when assembling the smoke stacks (sub assemblies F – J) as there seems to be a general mix up of parts. I cannot give you the correct number, so be sure to dry fit often, also with the hull. - Sub assembly H: Part I16 is actually I22. -
Step 2: - Parts H27 and H29 are switched -
Step 3: - Be sure to drill the holes for the stand in the lower hull (part W) if you want to use it before gluing on the upper hull (part X). - When assembling the stern details, be sure to use part H15 instead of J10. -
Step 5: - In the uppermost sub assembly, parts I18 and I15 are actually I11 and I10 respectively. - E7 actually consists of two parts: E7 and E11 -
Step 6: - PE part MB10 is actually MB12 - Part F32 is actually F20 -
Step 8: - parts I23 are actually I25 (twice) -
Step 9: - it's not I3 in the back and I2 in the front, but one each (there’s only one way to do it) -
All in all this was a fun project, even though with the limited time I had at the bench in the last 12 months, it meant I did little else and progress seemed at times very sluggish. Be careful with the instructions at all times, dry fit, and don’t necessarily follow the instructions. Build the major assemblies first and then add the details. Thanks again to all who followed the build log and gave their support!