Yellow Wings, Silver Planes and Mahogany Decks
Building a Pre-War USS Saratoga (CV-3) from Trumpeter's 1942 Lexington (CV-2)
by Martin J. Quinn

Operational History

Laid down as part of six Lexington-class battle cruisers, Saratoga and her sister Lexington were converted to aircraft carriers as a result of the Washington Naval Treaty.   The other planned  battle cruisers - Constellation, Ranger, Constitution and United States - were scrapped incomplete on the building ways.  Large (they were the largest ships in the world for sometime) and fast, the two carriers became the test bed and proving ground for US Naval Aviation in the 1930’s.

Saratoga performed solid service during the war - she just missed the Battle of Midway and participated in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons - but her record was diminished in some eyes by being torpedoed twice in 1942 and being severely damaged by kamikazes off Iwo Jima in February, 1945.  Saratoga ended World War II as a training carrier, then met her demise as a target during the post-war atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, where she sank after one such test in 1946.   Today, she's a popular diving attraction for visitors to the atoll. 

Building a pre-war USS Saratoga

When Trumpeter’s 1/350 Lexington was released, there was a mix of joy and disdain in the ship-modeling world.   Joy from most that an injection-molded kit of one of the must have ships was finally released in 1/350th scale, yet disdain from some that the kit was released in her May 1942 appearance.  That meant no 8 inch gun mounts, no mahogany flight deck, no yellow winged aircraft.

As a fan of the Lady Lex since I read “Queen of the Flat-tops” as a kid, I was very happy to get my hands on this kit, Coral Sea fit or not.    I put the model at the bottom of the 350th pile of kits, planning to build it “down the road”.   Then in late April 2005, I got an e-mail from fellow ship-modeler Keith Bender.   The Battleship New Jersey Museum was looking for someone to build a pre-war version of Lexington’s sister ship, the USS Saratoga – would I be interested?    Keith gave me the Curator’s number, and after a few phone calls back and forth (and Keith’s recommendation), I was given a commission to build “Sister Sara” for an upcoming exhibit on the Battleship New Jersey Museum.

The guidelines were that the model must portray Saratoga circa 1939/1940, full hull, with a mahogany deck, standard gray paint and yellow-winged planes – including some biplanes.   The other guideline was that the model had to be delivered to the Battleship by November 1, 2005.   Hmm…it’s April.  I had just gotten laid off, so I had some free time on my hands.  The model was due November 1st.  I can build a 350th scale carrier in 6 months, right?

By this time, there were several on-line builds and reviews of the Trumpeter Lexington kit, most of them less than flattering.   Yes, there was a 1/350 injection-molded Lexington kit available, BUT there were problems with it.   Instead of jumping right into my first commission and finding all sorts of problems with the kit as I went along, I elected to build the Trumpeter kit as Lexington at Coral Sea first, then build a second one as Saratoga.   I thought to myself, “I’m unemployed...I can build two 350th scale carriers in 6 months…can’t I?”   So, after picking up a 2nd Trumpeter Lexington from the good folks at Research in Scale, I got to work on my two 350th scale carriers.  (Note:  I tried to group each section of the build together, how I built the hull, island, etc.   In reality, I was all over the road during this project, so while the build is grouped together by section, it's actually not in chronological order.  Not that it matters...just wanted to mention it!)

I started this project by doing research – lots of research.  I already had Classic Warships Lexington-Class Carriers pictorial, as well as The Lexington-Class Carriers, by Robert Stern (both of which are out of print).  I then borrowed John Fry’s book, USS Saratoga CV-3, The story of a legendary carrier, from a friend of mine.  Additionally, I picked up a set of plans the Floating Dry-dock advertised at the “Lexington 1942”.   In actuality, they were more "Lexington Late-1941".

Then, I made the trip from Northern New Jersey down to Keith Bender’s house in Delaware one weekend.   Keith had been kind enough to copy and reduce a set of plans for the as built  Lexington down to 1/350th scale for me.   He had also started a Lexington-to-Saratoga conversion of his own, so I wanted to compare notes with him.     The trip was well worth it.  Not only did I get to pick up copies of the plans and some invaluable advice, but I got to see his collection of amazing 1/350 scale models up close!

Research revealed several things.   First, that there was a dearth of clear photos, drawings or information on the Lexington’s configuration during the final month she was in service.   Using the CW book, I was able to figure out where the 1.1 inch,  20mm and .50 caliber AA guns were supposed to go, and in what configuration.   However, there was no clear documentation on the final configuration on the Lex’s bridge.    Much was written on various message boards about the Trumpeter bridge being 90% inaccurate.  The problem was finding out what WAS accurate.   Based on my research (using secondary sources) and input from other builders and modelers, I made the changes I felt were appropriate to my Lex island – but that (and the details of her build) are a story for a different day.

Fortunately, there were plenty of photographic references on the Saratoga.   Other than some changes to her island in 1932 - when her flag level was enlarged, her director moved up a level and the DF loop room on the bottom of the spotting top was removed – Sara stayed very close to her ‘as built’ configuration from her commissioning until August 1941, when her bow was widened and her AA fit upgraded.

Construction on Saratoga started with some clean-up work.  One thing I found very disappointing with the Trumpeter Lexington model was the amount of flash that needed to be cleaned up.   Almost every part had some flash on it, and certain parts had quite a bit.   There were also an inordinate number of sinkholes – some in very prominent locations!  For a 2005 release, I found this quite surprising and disappointing.

Once the clean up was completed, I got to work on the hull.  I had read that there was a weak point along the top of the upper hull because of the openings for the boat pockets, and found that to be true once I examined my hull, so the first thing was to add the boat pockets.   As advertised, the fit between the upper and lower hulls was atrocious.  Based on other’s experience, I knew the lower hull was narrower than the upper hull.   Taking a cue from Mr. Bender, I inserted some plastic I-beams into the hull at several locations to spread the lower hull, then mated the halves together.    While the fit was better than right out of the box, it still required quite a bit of Tamiya putty to eliminate the seam and get the hull flush.    I also found that the lower hull was slightly longer than the upper hull.   The lower stern overhung the upper stern by 1 or 2mm.  I solved this by sanding the lower hull flush with the upper hull.

Next, I blocked off the air intakes on either side of the hull, using more of the I-beams.  This prevented you from seeing right through the model, and gave the appearance of depth to the openings.   I then used additional I-beam to stiffen the upper hull, by laying a piece from one side of the hull to the other. (Note:  I later found out I had 'spread' the hull of the Lexington too much, and this would have consequences for that build.  Be careful if you try and stiffen the hull.)

Saratoga hull with stiffeners in place (1/700 IHP Lexington-class battle cruiser in foreground)
With the hulls together and sanded,  I now moved onto the props, shafts and rudders.   I cleaned up and installed the prop shafts, which then required some puttying and sanding to eliminate gaps.    The kit comes with four blades props, which is incorrect for the Lexington-class ships.   I decided to leave these off and deal with this later – with either the 3 bladed props from the Gold Medal Models photo-etch set or the white metal 3 bladed props from my Yankee Modelworks Lexington (which I planned to build as a waterline model).    Thanks to some documentation given to me by the aforementioned Keith Bender, I left the rudder off for the time being – the kit rudder is much narrower than the real one, and needed some attention.
I now added the aft deck (this has no part#, Trumpeter simply labels it as the "aft deck) to the aft part of the ship.   On the Lexington, I had used this part right out of the box.   For the Saratoga, I eliminated the platforms and splinter shields along either side of the aft deck piece before gluing it in place.   These were added to Lexington during various refits.   Saratoga didn’t receive any additional AA guns and platforms until 1941. Once the quarterdeck was in place, I glued the bulkheads in place.  Before I got much farther, I drilled holes in the bottom of the hull for the mounting pedestals, leaving the pedestals off until later.

With the  aft deck down, I turned my attention to the bow.   The Lexington had AA platforms added during a 1935 refit.   These were located forward of the 5 inch gun galleries.    As previously mentioned, Saratoga had no AA upgrades until late 1941, so these platforms were superfluous.     Since Sara didn’t have these platforms, I was able to discard Trumpeter parts B4, B5, B7, B8, B12 and B13.   After measuring the openings, I then took .40 thou plastic card and glued them into place, blocking off the cut outs.   Once dried, I put a bead of super glue along the seam on the inside of the model, then hit it with some accelerator to give the card some added strength.    The outside seam was filled with automotive spot and glazing putty, then sanded flush.   After priming, the process was repeated until I was satisfied with the results.   I also sanded off the raised plastic lines on the forward part of the hull which were for locating parts B16 and B17, the hull sponsons that supported the widened flight deck.
While building the Lexington, I had found that the hull was twisted, so I had to glue the three piece flight deck down in sections, instead of gluing it together and THEN attaching it to the model .   This led to the dreaded seam in the deck, which I was able to fill – but not as successfully as I would have liked.    Still, I decided to use the same method with the Saratoga, since I figured it was easier to fill a gap between flight deck sections than to have a gap between the flight deck and the side of the hull.      Prior to doing anything else, I cut all the molded on safety nets off the sides of the flight deck pieces, then sanded the edges smooth.
Before gluing the aft section of the flight deck to the hull, I had to eliminate a pair of  rounded “cut outs” in the aft section of the  flight deck.  These cut-outs were made to accommodate the 3 inch AA guns (later replaced by 1.1 inch guns) the Lexington received during 1935.  Again, Saratoga didn’t have these, so they had to go.    Using plastic card that was about the same thickness as the deck, I cut small pieces to fit into the notches.   After cutting, sanding and dry fitting to make sure they fit, I super glued the pieces into place and set them aside to dry.   Later, I lightly sanded the plastic card-flight deck joint, so there was no seam where the cut out had been.   I also sanded the filler pieces flush with the sides of the flight deck.   Once this was done, I scribed planking into the filler pieces, so they would (hopefully!) look like the rest of the flight deck.    Then, I glued the aft flight deck section down to the hull, to add more strength to the model.
The notch filled in The bow takes shape
The center and forward sections of the flight deck were dry-fitted and taped down.  Flipping the model over, I used a pencil to trace the outline of the hull on the bottom of the forward section of the flight deck.  This would be the section of flight deck I’d have to remove to convert my Sara to a pre-war/pre-refit version.    The flight deck pieces were removed from the hull, then I used a ruler to score the forward section of the flight deck and remove the now excess pieces as close to the line as I could get.  The forward section of the flight deck was then sanded to the traced line.   Final sanding would take place once the flight deck was installed.
Another disappointment with this kit was the amount of filler that was required to fill small gaps and seams where parts met.   The gaps between the quarterdeck and the hull and the flight deck and the hull were puttied, sanded and primed.  With the hulls joined together, the prop shafts on, and the bow reconfigured for a pre-war version, the pedestals (which I had drilled holes for earlier) were secured in place with nuts, which were then tightened and super glued into place.
Now I added the forward elevator to the center 1/3 of the flight deck, which was glued in the “up” position.    When that was set, I glued the center piece of the flight deck onto the hull, taped it down and let it dry.   The smaller, aft elevator was left out, as I planned to display that in the down position, and had determined during the Lex build that I could add it later.   When the center section was dry and secure on the hull, I glued the forward third of the flight deck into place, securing it with tape.
When dry, I wet sanded the edges of the flight deck flush with the hull, then used putty to fill in any gaps.   I put tape down on either side of the seam between the center and fore/aft sections of the flight deck, then puttied and sanded that gap, continuing the putty and sanding process as needed.
With the hull/flight deck basically done, I primed everything again, then got ready to paint.   I masked off the model and painted the boot stripe.  When this was dry, I re-masked the hull and airbrushed the bottom of the hull with a few coats of White Ensigns Norfolk Anti-fouling red.    After this dried, I then painted the upper part of the hull standard gray.    When this was done, I found spots that had to be filled and sanded yet again, which led to touch up painting.   I also removed the molded on platforms for the inclined ladders that led down to the gun galleries and boat pockets.   These all had a small notch in them for the plastic ladders to fit into, which was noticeable when you placed a photo-etch inclined ladder against it.   All of these platforms were replaced with .30 thick strip.   There was also a raised ‘notch’ at the bottom of each ladder, for the molded piece to fit into.  I removed these from the gun galleries only, as they weren’t noticeable on the platforms for the boat pockets.
Well, now my model was starting to look like a pre-war Saratoga.   The next step was to tackle the flight deck.   I airbrushed chrome yellow (again from WEM) onto the flight deck, then using Pactra tape and stencils, masked the flight deck markings – both the lines and the distinctive “SARA” lettering at the end of the flight deck.    When I pulled the masking off, I was very happy with the result – it really brought the model to life!
Mounting the model on a piece of pine board, I began to work on the island and stack.    I had originally planned to buy the Yankee Model Works update set, and use that for my conversion.   But, after chatting with the aforementioned Keith Bender, we decided the better course of action was to cast the island from my YMW 1/350 Lexington kit and use that.    So, I handed off the island and the 8 inch gun mounts to Keith, and he cast two sets – one for me and one for his use (before starting, I checked the YMW website, which said re-casting parts for personal use was permitted – as long as I wasn’t selling them).
The island in the YMW Lexington “out of the box” is close to the configuration of the Saratoga in 1939/1940.     The main difference was that in 1932, Saratoga had her flag level extended and enclosed.   I started by sanding off the over pour on the resin copies of my island, and trying to find definitive pictures of the extended flag level (this was the one area on the Saratoga that is NOT well documented).    Once the parts were sanded down and primed, I set them off to the side and started working on the funnel.
The Saratoga’s funnel was quite different from the one in the Trumpeter kit.  First, the platform that held the .50 caliber AA guns (part D13) had to go.  Then, the small platforms on either side of the funnel, as well as the life rafts on the outboard side of the funnel had to be deleted.    Additionally, the splinter shielding on part C3  also had to go.    I started by using my hobby knife to score the splinter shielding and then broke it off from part C3.   I also had to remove a structure (what I believe are clipping rooms for the 1.1 guns) that held a Mk 44 director from the aft part of the same part.   Once the clipping room was removed, I filled the resulting hole with plastic card, puttied and sanded it smooth.    I also filled in the locating holes for the AA guns.
I built the funnel 'out of the box' from here, except for deleting the aforementioned part D13 for the .50 caliber machine guns.   Next, I filled the holes for the lift rafts on the starboard side of the funnel (part C16) and also the holes for two small platforms on either side of the funnel.   Once this was done, the funnel was wet sanded smooth, removing all the molded on detail.
At this point I realized that I was going to need the Yankee ModelWorks backdate set - there was no way I was going to be able to reproduce the fire control station and pri-fly stations at either end of the funnel and the davits for the ships boats that sat on the starboard side of the funnel.     I had to shelve the project until the backdate set arrived.   Once it did, I continued work on the funnel.   I began by constructing the aft fire control station as per the instructions, then dry fit it to the funnel.  The conversion set gives you a new resin platform, brass fire control station and resin roof for the FC station.   I found that the backdate set parts were too tall - the upper platform was angled up if you used the kit part out of the box.   To me, it looked as if the resin platform was too thick.  So, I decided to use the Trumpeter platform, kit part D21, after removing the molded on splinter shielding.   I carefully removed the brass FC station from the resin part, and added that to the revised Trumpy part D21.
 Well, that didn't work much better - it now appeared that the resin roof for the FC station was too high as well, so I carefully broke the FC station apart (again) and made a new roof from plastic card.  It took two attempts to get it right, but it looked better.   However, I decided to glue the platforms to the funnel without the FC station, at least until the platforms and masts were dry.  This way I knew I'd get the platforms level.
With the platforms in place, I constructed the pri-fly station, which sits on the forward end of the funnel.   Using the 1/350 plans that I had, I measured and found the correct height for the funnel, then marked the location with a pencil.   While dry-fitting, I found that the pri-fly station didn't sit properly on the funnel, so I used a razor saw to cut a notch in the funnel face, which enabled the station to sit in the correct position.   I also discovered that I had assembled the pri-fly station incorrectly - I had mixed up the location for the brass platforms inside, which may have contributed to the problem I had getting the pri-fly to sit correctly.
Now that the pri-fly was on, I added the walkways and platforms that Saratoga had on her funnel (Lex has the same arrangement when commissioned).   What was needed now was the small structure at the forward end of the funnel on part C3 that carried the saluting guns.    The YMW backdate set's replacement part for Trumpeter part C3 has this structure flush with the deck.   Pictures of the Sara showed this was a raised platform, so I made one out of plastic card.    I also fabricated my own saluting guns out of plastic card, plastic rod and brass rod, then used plastic and brass rod to replicate various pipes and fittings on the funnel, so it didn't look so 'plain'.   Finally, I cut thin rings from a plastic tube to serve as the mounting ring for the 8 inch gun mounts.
With these completed, the funnel was painted standard gray, then masked off and the prominent - and famous - vertical black stripe was airbrushed on. Once the paint dried and the masking was removed, the funnel was then glued in place and clamped down securely to the flight deck.    Once dried, I added the top of the funnel, part D8.   Part D8 is wildly incorrect out of the box.   The real ship had a 'rounded' shape to the top of the funnel - Trumpeter replicated this by putting on 'wings' to each side of this part, making it look more like the Flying Nun (note: obscure 1960's US TV reference) than the Lexington-class funnel.   I sanded the 'wings' off and removed the funnel cap that was unique to Lexington, added the photo-etch funnel grates (rivet counters beware!  Trumpeter got this shape wrong as well)  and glued part D8 to the funnel.
At this point, the hull, flight deck and funnel were complete.  Additionally, my "test" build of the Lexington was about 90% done.  However - time was starting to dwindle.  I had finally found a job, which I started right after a two week family vacation to Germany.   My six month window was now down to three weeks until delivery.   Time to start working on the island...
As I had mentioned earlier, ship modeler/master builder Keith Bender has cast me a resin copy of the Yankee ModelWorks Lexington island to use for this conversion.    Aside from the extended flag plot, the bridge was a near perfect match for the Saratoga.    To get the extended flag plot I wanted, I used the replacement flag plot from the Yankee ModelWorks backdate set in conjunction with my resin copies.   The flag plot in the backdate set had a nice molded on splinter shield that the original YMW Lexington kit did not, so I used that as my starting point, and used the original flag plot for the extension.  I sanded the over pour off, cut the deck off, and chopped the flag plot to the size I wanted, then mated it onto the front of the flag plot I already had.    With some scrap plastic card, super glue and putty, I had a reasonable facsimile of the extended flag plot.

Flag level before extension Flag level after extension
  Resin island (right) and the original Trumpeter island (left)  
With the flag plot done, I glued the island together.    The navigation bridge was glued to the main portion of the island, then the extended flat plot was glued onto that.   Once this was all dry, I to fabricate the platforms on the port side of the island.   At first I tried using the Trumpeter parts as a guide, but I realized the that Trumpeter island was too fat and not tapered properly.   The Yankee ModelWorks island fits perfectly on the outline of the island on the ships plans, so I used the plans and made my platforms, then attached these with superglue.    It was after I attached these platforms that I realized that I hadn't allowed for the hole in the larger platform for the leg of the tripod mast!   But, these are the things that happen when you are down to about a week until the model it supposed to be delivered...
The only parts used from the Trumpeter kit for the island were the parts for the foretop (parts E10, E15, E16, E17, E19, E27 and E28), which I had previously assembled and set aside.    One of the errors Trumpeter made with the Lexington kit was the foretop.  Not only does the shape look off, but Trumpeter left the back open.  This is wrong.  If you look at pictures, you'll see that this was enclosed by a bulkhead, with doors and windows.  I didn't try and correct the shape, but using some 1/350 ladder stock left over from a Tom's ModelWorks set, some plastic card and PE doors from the GMM PE set, I constructed a bulkhead and enclosed the spotting top.
I dry-fitted the spotting top on top of the flag plot, then, using 3/16 rod, I cut brass rod and made sure everything lined up.   At this point I had to drill a hole through the aforementioned island platform with an hobby knife to get the rod to fit.   Once the alignment was good, I cut the brass rod to the proper length, then test fit the foretop onto the island structure.
  Test fit of island without tripod legs and with Trumpeter foretop  
The foretop from the Trumpeter kit, part E36, looked smallish to me.  The width and depth looked good - and matched up nicely with the plans I had - but the height looked too shallow.   (This seems to be a common problem on scale ship models - the splinter shields always seem to be knee high.)  Additionally, there was no bracing on the underside, as in the real thing.   Since I had a resin copy of the foretop from the YMW kit, I decided to test fit that.    The brass legs of the tripod mast fit snugly into the guide holes on the bottom of the foretop, so I decided to use that instead of the kit part, E36.   I also had resin copies of the tubs that held the range finders on the outer edges of the foretop, but I needed the brass splinter shielding that gave the foretop it's distinctive look.   As they say, in for a penny, in for a pound - so I raided my the brass set for my YMW Lexington and took the splinter shield and lattice yard arm from there.  This meant that my YMW Lexington was now short these pieces, but I figured that would work itself out in the end (many thanks to Chris Decker of the Trident Hobbies empire, who agreed to sell me a new set of brass to the YMW Lex).  The end result was - in my opinion - a MUCH better and much more realistic looking island and foretop.
Happy with my decision, I mounted the island to the flight deck.   One note about the positioning of the island:  On the Trumpeter kit, the island is too far away from the edge of the flight deck.   I removed the molded on outline for the island from the flight deck and re-scribed the lines in the deck for the planking.  The position of the island - determined from the ships plans I had - was marked in pencil on the flight deck, then the island was attached with CA glue.
Time was growing even shorter at this point - I was down to about a week until delivery.    On top of that, my wife was now pregnant and very sick.   Building models - even those with a deadline - took a back seat to taking care of my family.    Which meant that the only time I had to work on the Saratoga was after my 5 year old son and my wife were in bed for the night.   I resorted to bringing small jobs - like the airplanes and the ships boats (stolen from an Iron Shipwrights USS Oklahoma kit) - with me to work, so I could spend my lunch hour in my car working on them.  The other thing I did was get a two day delay in the delivery date from the curator at the Battleship New Jersey museum.   The race to finish this model was on...
At this point, the model was certainly looking like a 1940's vintage USS Saratoga, but there was much work still to do.   I masked off the funnel and the flight deck, and airbrushed the island again.  Once that was dry, I added the small resin piece from the YMW backdate set that extends the funnel deck to the island.    With that in place, I began to add the photo-etch.    For an aircraft carrier, Sara had a lot of railings.  I started with the island and worked my way out from there.   It took me one night worth of work to finish the island.
Earlier, I had mentioned that I had removed the molded on platforms for the inclined ladders that led down to the gun galleries and boat pockets, all of which were replaced with .30 thick strips of evergreen strip.   I went around the edge of the flight deck and made sure the replacements were secured (I had to replace one or two), then added all the inclined ladders.    Then, I added all the railings around the edge of the flight deck.  Check your references for where the railings go - as I mentioned there is quite a bit of railing on this ship.    Now that the flight deck was done, I moved down a level to the gun galleries.   Since I had removed the splinter shields, I now had to rail each of the platforms that held the 5 inch/25 caliber guns.   Talk about tedious!  When this was finished, I added the boats and then the railing to the boat pockets.  Gold Medal Models provides extra pre-cut railings for the boat pockets, which saved me quite a bit of time.
It was now the end of weekend - the Saratoga was due to dock at the Battleship New Jersey the following Wednesday.   My next move was to add the photo-etch safety nets on the edge of the flight deck.   One painful lesson I learned from building the Lexington was that the safety nets didn't go on easily.   My method for applying photo-etch in vertical portions of a model is to brush on some CA accelerator  (known as 'zip kicker' here in the US), put a small thin bead of CA onto the PE part, then attach it to the model with tweezers.   Normally, that works like a charm for me.   Did it work when I added the safety nets to the Lexington?  Nope!    Luckily, I had discussed this (after my Lex experience) with another modeler working on his own Lexington.   He ran thin evergreen plastic strip around the hull to mount the photo-etch safety nets on.   So, I did the same thing (I had added this strip of plastic prior to adding the island).    What took me two nights and a lot of pain when building the Lexington took me about 90 minutes on the Saratoga.   I was very pleased with the result, it looked MUCH better then the nets on the Lexington did.
In between my photo-etch work, I had been working on the air group and the ships boats.   I had promised the curator of the Battleship New Jersey museum that there would be about a dozen planes on the flight deck, that at least one elevator would be down and have an aircraft in it, and that there'd be a few bi-planes.   In 1940, the Saratoga's airgroup consisted of TBD Devastators, SB2U Vindicators and SBC Helldiver bi-planes and F2A-1 Buffalos.   The TBDs  came from Trumpeter.   The rest of the aircraft came from Iron Shipwrights, which had released resin Vindicators, Helldivers and Buffalos in July 2005 at the IPMS/USA National Convention.    Since I was unable to attend the convention, I asked a friend pick me up two packages (each package contained 6 aircraft) of each aircraft.    He returned with two packs of the Vindicators and Helldivers, but only one package of Buffalos, which had apparently sold briskly at the ISW stand.
Frankly, I was disappointed with the ISW planes.   Out of 36 aircraft, I was only able to use 9 aircraft.   Each plane had a lot of flash.  Most planes had wings that were badly bent.   Some were missing their landing gear.   Several had holes in the wings or the tail planes, had undersized tail planes or were missing one (or both) of their tail planes altogether.   The small set of photo-etch included was the same for all three planes, when the Vindicator had a different propeller.  There were no instruction.  It wasn't until I called ISW that I was able to discern that what I had though were oversized tail hooks were the struts for the Helldivers.
Cleaning up what ISW planes I could, I filled holes, sanded flash and seams and then primed the aircraft.   I then partially assembled the Trumpeter TBDs, which had fit problems of their own.  Owing to the time restrictions, I used acrylic paint for the aircraft.  I airbrushed all the aircraft aluminum, then brush painted the yellow onto the upper wings.  Once this was dry, I painted the tail of each aircraft white, which was the designated color for the Saratoga's aircraft.
I used Tamiya Smoke for the canopies on the ISW aircraft - I left the TBD canopies clear.    At this point I had 15 aircraft.   I decided to make each a different section, and painted the cowls accordingly.   Some were the black sections, some blue, some red.   Either the whole cowl, the upper half or the lower half of the cowl was painted the appropriate section color.   I didn't paint the band around the fuselage on the section leaders aircraft, due to the time constraints.   When everything was dry, I brush painted the chevrons on the wings.   Being that I was in rush mode, this didn't come out as well as I would had liked, but they looked okay enough from a few feet away, which I figured most people would be viewing the model.   At this point, the aircraft were put aside to dry.  It was now Tuesday night.
The model was complete except for the boat davits, boats, rigging, final construction on the aircraft and dull coating.    I decided to add the photo-etch boat davits from the Yankee Model Works back-date set.     Overall, the quality of the set and the photo-etch is very good.   However, the boat davits are - in my opinion only - totally over-engineered.   The davits consist of about 13 pieces each, and were a nightmare to put together - at least for me.   It took me over three and a half hours to assemble and mount the davits to the outboard side of the funnel.    If you are using the YMW backdate set davits on your Lexington or Saratoga, TAKE YOUR TIME with these - they are very complex.
By the time I had finished working on the davits, it was early in the morning on the day of delivery day, which I had taken off from work.   I retired to bed around 430 in the morning, then had to get up at 730 to take my son to school.   I also had to take return an expired lease the day of delivery, never imagining that I still wouldn't be finished with the model.    After taking Junior to school (and arranging for someone to pick him up!) and turning in the lease, I returned home and got back to work.  (You'll also notice that as time started to grow short, there are less and less got to a point that I didn't have time to stop and snap many shots).
I now added the boats outboard of the funnel, which were super-glued into place.   I finished touching up the aircraft, then decaled them.   Since time was non-existent, I only added the national insignias on the wings, since I realized (too late) that I had no appropriate squadron codes.    While the decals dried, I did some touch up painting on the ship, then did some simple rigging.     When the paint dried to the touch, I airbrushed a light coat of flat on the model.

While the flat coat dried, I finished construction on the planes, adding the props, the canopies for the TBDs and upper wings for the Helldivers (what a chore that was).     When these were barely dry, I started adding them to the flight deck.    Using white glue, I secured the aircraft onto the flight deck.  One SBC Helldiver went into the aft elevator.   The Buffalos were spotted by the island, the Vindicators and remaining Helldiver (one lost it's upper wing and I didn't have time left to mess with it) by the funnel, while the TBDs were spotted aft.   I then lightly airbrush one final coat of flat finish onto the model.

It was now 130 pm on the day of delivery.

The Battleship Museum closed at 5pm.

I lived 2 hours north of the museum.

It was time to go.

I placed the acrylic cover over the model, taped it down to the base, placed it (securely) into my Jeep and headed south.  I was happy the model was done.   It had been a frenzied final week just to get it done.  While it looked okay, I wasn't totally happy with the results.  My biggest worries now were that:

a) I would get it to the Battleship New Jersey in one piece (remember, I had three hours sleep) and that

b) The Curator of the museum would be happy with it.

Meeting a good modeling buddy of mine in Cherry Hill, we headed off to Camden New Jersey and the museum.   I called the Curator on the phone a few blocks away from the museum.   When I introduced myself, he was a little terse - I'm sure he thought I was calling to postpone again.  When I told him I was a block away, his whole demeanor changed, and he instructed me where to meet him.

So, about 4 pm on Wednesday, November 2, 2005, I presented the Battleship New Jersey with my first commission - a 1/350 model of a 1940's vintage USS Saratoga, CV-3.     The curator looked the model over, looked a me and smiled, then told me how great my model looked.     A huge wave of relief washed over me, and I was able to relax for the first time in weeks.   I had successfully completed and delivered my first commission...I had converted a Trumpeter 1942 vintage Lexington to a 1940 vintage Saratoga.    The long modeling odyssey was over.

I would like to thank the following people for their assistance, input, guidance, and patience with me during this project:  Keith Bender, Ron Smith, and Tracy White.   Thanks guys - I couldn't have started or finished this project without your help.