Hasegawa 1/350
1/350 USS Gambier Bay CVE-73

Reviewed by Sean Hert

The Casablanca class of escort carriers were the fifth of six escort carrier classes built in the 1940's. The Casablanca's were the largest class, with a total of 50 built in the short span on 2 years. This was possible due to many liberties having been taken, and comprimises made in their construction. These escort carriers were based on civilian merchant ships and build in Henry Kaiser's shipyards to US Maritime Commision, not US Navy, standards. Some of the comprimises made included reciprocating steam engines instead of turbines, thinner hull plating and no armor to speak of. Decisions made in order of expediancy, as hulls and airplanes were needed to fight the battles being waged on two oceans.

Gambier Bay was the 19th Casablanca built, but is more famous perhaps for being the only US aircraft carrier to be lost to enemy gunfire. Built quickly in 171 days, she had a short shakedown period before she started ferrying planes to the South Pacific. After successfully completing a number of missions in early 1944, she was re-assigned to conduct combat operations in May - and by June, was firing her first shots in anger. Gambier Bay took part in operations around Saipan, the Battle of the Phillippine Sea (also known as "The Marianas Turkey Shoot") and supported the Marine landings on Peleliu in September. One month later, amphibious landings began on the Phillippine Islands, and Gambier Bay was there as part of Task Force 77.4.3, known as "Taffy 3." And on October 25, 1944 Taffy 3 and Admiral Kurita's Center Force would meet their date with destiny off the coast of Samar, and over the course of three hours make history in one of the greatest mismatched battles ever recorded; the combined tonnage of Taffy 3 was less than that of the Yamato- one of the battleships they were fighting that day. Though USS Gambier Bay, along with the destroyers Hoel and Johnston and the plucky destroyer escort Samuel B Robers, would be lost that day, Kurita never made it to the landing beaches, his goal.

This kit of Gambier Bay comes in a large white box, which seems to be the new standard for Hasegawa 1/350 ships. This box is about twice as large as necessary for this kit; the only apparent reason for a box of this length is for the included rolled poster- which is not of the box art.


This kit's full hull comes in two halves, split down the centerline and keel. As Hasegawa has done with previous 1/350 releases, there are bulkheads (See Sprues G&F) spaced throughout the interior to provide rigidity. The halves worked themselves loose from the sprues in this review sample, and were loose inside the over-large box. They do not appear to be worse for wear, and show little signs of wear at that.

The hull halves are mirror images of one another, which seems correct for the Commencement Bay class. The hull itself has raised weld lines to denote the hull plating; these may be a touch heavy for some, but light sanding would easily tone them down. The hull also includes raised lines to denote the boot topping.

There are two mounting holes in the bottom you will need to open up if you wish to use the included display stands.

These hull halves continue up to the flight deck. There is no hangar deck provided in this kit; in fact, the interior support bulkheads would interfere with adding said hangar deck, making this modification an extra challenge. By having the hangar bulkheads molded as one piece with the hull, Hasegawa avoided some of the exterior fuel line alignment issues Dragon's recent USS Independence CVL-22 has.

The hull halves fit together very well, but the hull looks to be about .375" too short. Beam seems to be right on.


Sprue AP is the weapons sprue of this kit, although it is labelled as "US Navy Raft." It does in fact have many life rafts, as well as a motor whaleboat, anchor, paravane and hose reels; but it also has the 5"/38 open mount, twin 40mm Bofors and 20mm Oerlikons as well.

The platform of the open 5"/38 has a molded-in tread pattern, and looks good. The barrel and receiver of the 5" are marred by two unfortunate ejector pin marks. The 40mm barrels look pretty good as well, but the 20mm's are overscale as they tend to be. The motor whaleboat is not too bad, and has many parts. The screws also have some poorly-placed ejector pin marks.

There are also various bridge details present; one item of note is the 2.5 meter stereo rangefinder. This item was removed, and replaced with 2 sky lookout positions in the spring of 1944; while Hasegawa has not specified a date for the this kit, this is one of the things that would need to be changed to build Gambier Bay in as "as sunk" configuration.


Sprue B has the superstructure bulkheads, decks for the bow and stern, walkways for the flight deck, hull sponsons, and the extended prop shaft skegs. The deck piece for the bow has some great elements, like the bollards and decking.

Almost all the parts to complete the stern and transom are here, and look great. The aft bulkhead has good details; watertight doors, fireplugs, etc. The deck plates all have weld lines, and the base for the open 5"/38 looks good as well.


This sprue has the two part flight deck, and also includes the elevators and some of the supports and details for the underside of the flight deck; additionally, the single rudder, the twin props, and a single piece splinter shield for the transom mounted open 5"/38.

The flight deck parts have great details, like the planking and the tie down strips. The openings in the tie down strips aren't quite the right shape, but that's a minor issue. The H2-1 catapult looks good, as do the arresting gear sheaves; the crash barrier arms seem to be missing something, however.

The flight deck supports are present on this sprue as well, and will fit together in a slotted fashion (additional supports on Sprue E). They have the lightening holes indicated on the girders, and will look good if opened up.


This sprue has the AA galleries and catwalks that surround the edge of the flight deck. Also, the bulkheads that form the gallery deck behind the catwalks and under the flightdeck. These bulkheads have some good details, like hatches, watertight doors, and fire plugs molded on.

The AA galleries have molded on supports and framework underneath, and between them the walkways are textured to resemble pierced steel grating. The shields for the AA guns, both the 20mm galleries and the 40mm tubs, could be thinner; the 40mm in particular. However, they are not as thick as has been seen on previous plastic kits in the past. These walkways are also missing 2 sky lookout positions, one at each corner of the flight deck.


This sprue has more of the detailed support for under the flight decks, as well as the halves for the funnels, and stiffeners for the flightdeck. These stiffeners also serve as the mounting points for the walkways and AA galleries.

Another part on this sprue are the stowed hoses used for underway refueling.

SPRUES F and Gx2

These sprues are the bulkheads to reinforce and strengthen the hull, the display stand parts, and some additional supports for the flightdeck and the elevators.

Sprue F

Sprue G

This sprue has the parts to make the bridge and conning tower, and the central mast with the yards, radars and platforms. The conning tower has a square internal frame, like those used throughout this kit, that should make aligning the four flat bulkheads a snap.

The central bridge piece, part J15, has similar supports molded on as seen elsewhere in this kit, but has a number of circular ejector pin marks that may be difficult to get to. Fortunately, they are not in obvious spots.


Sprue K is a small sprue of clear parts. The searchlights and signal lights being molded in clear, as well as the bridge wind screens. Like with the rangefinder mentioned earlier, by the time of Gambier Bay's loss, the aft facing 24" searchlight had been removed.

The kit also includes a length of metal chain to simulate the anchor chains through the hawse pipes.


The kit includes 3 large aircraft sprues, all molded out of grey plastic. Each sprue has 3 aircraft sub-sprues of FM-2 Wildcats and TBF-1C Avengers, for a total of nine aircraft in this kit. (Casablanca class Escort Carriers typically carried a complement of approximately 30 aircraft when not ferrying)


There are 2 of these sub-sprues per larger aircraft sprue, giving you 6 total of these aircraft in this kit. The general shape of these planes is good, and Hasegawa has modeled the higher tail of the FM-2 Wildcat well. The panel line detail is nice and extensive, and the landing gear look good as well.

The horizontal stabilizers are modeled separately from the fuselage, and do not appear to have any sort of positive-locator. Check your references to insure your tail surfaces have the correct angle, and are aligned properly.

There are 2 variants of the lower fuselage/wing root areas; modeler's will have to decide before beginning construction if they wish to model each Wildcat with the wings folded or extended.


Only one Avenger is included per, giving you only three TBF's in this kit. Like the FM-2, you have a folded wing option that requires the use of different lower fuselage. Interestingly, there is an internal hollow molded in the belly on both pieces; perhaps some intrepid modelers will build one with the doors open, and a tiny mk 13 torpedo being loaded!


Hasegawa has placed all the clear parts, in this case the canopies, all on one sprue. The TBF canopy includes the turret, and has some great detail present. The FM-2 canopies are pretty basic, as befitting the simple shape they had. Each canopy has a raised section for the sliding portion- a nice touch. This sprue also includes a canopy for the SBD- none of which are included in this kit, but they are available in the US Navy Carrier Based Aircraft Set.


As with the canopy sprue, the decals also include markings for SBD-5's. The set include the markings necessary for Composite Squadron VC-10 on board Gambier Bay during her short life in 1944, as well as a variety of markings with Stars and Bars from different era's during the war.


The decal sheet includes flight deck and flag decals, and load lines for the bow and rudder. Unfortunately, Hasegawa has included a 50-star US Flag; there were only 48 states at this time, so this is incorrect.


A 20 page instruction book is included, with an additional page/flyer correction for step 11. There is also a full 1/350 scale poster with a painting guide on one side, and a rigging guide on the reverse. Also included is a poster of Gambier Bay, and a guidebook with the particulars and story of USS Gambier Bay in both Japanese and English. Interstingly, the guidebook has a copyright of 2008.

The instructions are pretty straighforward, and the kit seems uncomplicated in assembly. The instruction book's final page has a set of masks for painting the MS32/15a. These masks and the painting guide seem to vary slightly from photos of Gambier Bay, so as always, check your references.

There is at least one minor error in the directions; on page 14, the funnels halves are mislabelled as "AP13" and "AP14"; these parts are on sprue E.


For many modelers, a Casablanca Class CVE, especially USS Gambier Bay CVE-73, as been a long suffering dream. Hasegawa has released a fine kit in this CVE, one which any modeler with some experience can build and enjoy. This kit should have included the 2 sky lookouts she had at the time of her sinking; the box art and included artwork certainly imply this kit was intended to represent her appearance in October of 1944.

The apparent ease of the assembly and parts breakdown should not prove to be a challenge. As mentioned, to build a Gambier Bay at the time of her loss will require some modification. Nevertheless, this is a great looking model and should build up into a very nice CVE.

Thanks to Great Planes Model Distributors for the review sample. It is listed as #40027 1/350 US Navy Escort Carrier USS Gambier Bay CVE-73 with a MSRP of $149.95 US. Great Planes is the exclusive US importer for Hasegawa.