USS Gambier Bay In-Box Review

Blue Water Navy's 1/350th scale aircraft carrier

Reviewed by Jeff Herne

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(Photo courtesy of Blue Water Navy)

The 50 ships of the Casablanca class escort carrier saw action in all theatres of WWII.  They were used in a variety of roles, from Hunter Killer operations against German U-boats in the Atlantic, to providing air support for amphibious operations in the Pacific. Unable to keep pace with the larger fleet carriers and Independence Class Light Carriers, they were relegated to support duties, and later in the war, used to ferry aircraft to remote island bases. Built on the hull of the Maritime Commission S4-S2-BB3 hulls (Liberty Ships), these sturdy little ships played a major role in eliminating the U-boat threat, and freed up the larger fleet carriers from support roles.

Blue Water Navy's Kit

The Gambier Bay kit has been around for some time, and ironically, doesn't seem to garner as much attention as other BWN kits. The kit's quality is very good, and a cursory glance into the box reveals a kit that looks like it will be a fun build.


The hull is a two piece, well cast resin part. It allows the modeler to choose between full hull and waterline, but my sample did have some heavy overpour which will need to be removed. This is a typical 'complaint' of most companies that cast two piece hulls, and it's unavoidable. Detail on the bow and stern is quite good.

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Flight Deck

Detail on the flight deck is good, with finely engraved planking, expansion joints, and tie downs. On both the bow and stern, the underside of the flight deck is detailed. Since the detail on the flight is so fine, it's nearly impossible to see in photos, but trust me, it's there.

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Parts details are well done, but the Gambier Bay herself is not an overly complex ship to begin with. The island is a single piece cast resin part, and all of the catwalks and gun galleries are provided. The white metal detail parts are up to the usual BWN standards, crisp and well detailed. An added bonus in my kit was injected molded plastic 1/350 40mm guns, a nice touch from the far more fragile resin parts, or the heavy-handed white metal parts.

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The Casablanca Class carried 16 aircraft, usually a mixed bag of TBFs and Wildcats. The examples in the kit are dated, although well detailed. My example lacked the folded wing Wildcats, but the TBMs included 4 folded wing examples. A serious carrier modeler will probably opt to use the Trumpeter TBFs and F4Fs, while retaining the Blue Water Navy photoetched gear and props. All is not lost, however, as these aircraft well look perfect on the hangar deck of any of the new Trumpeter kits, or even below decks on Blue Water's Hornet, Enterprise, or Yorktown kits. My examples appeared to be cleaner cast than those that appear on the BWN website (BWN photos are black background).

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    Photoetched Brass

One of Blue Water's finer points are their photoetched detail parts. Back when everyone else was using single etched parts, Blue Water was using relief etching to enhance the detail of their parts. This still holds true, as their brass parts are still some of the finest around. Included are rails, ladders, platforms for the island, radar, 20mm guns, and various support braces for the island, flight deck, and gun galleries.

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In Conclusion

This model is a must-have for Jeep-carrier enthusiasts. Due to the minimal variations within the class, it's possible to build all 50 ships by changing the radar arrrays (SC, SC-2, SK, SK-2) and hull numbers. In addition, this wide variety allows the modeler to choose from dazzle, Measure 21, or Measure 22 paint schemes. It's a straightforward, detailed model that is well suited to novice modelers with some experience in working with resin and photoetch. The suggested retail price is $249.00, making it a bit pricey when compared to some of the other plastic carriers on the market, but so far, this is the best example of the 'Baby Flat-tops' available.

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Recommended Materials:

Anatomy of the Ship: USS Gambier Bay by Al Ross

Escort Carriers of WW2 by Stephan Terzibaschitsch

US Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman

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