Reviewed by Timothy Dike
The USS Belleau Wood CVL 24 was originally ordered as a Cleveland Class light cruiser to be named New Haven CL-76 in 1940. However so great was the need for carriers, that she was converted to a light carrier as part of an emergency conversion program. This resulted in a lighter carrier that could still pack a formidable punch. Capable of operating 30-40 aircraft and steaming at speeds of over 30 knots, they could run with the big dogs of the fleet. Belleau Wood arrived in the Pacific in July 43, just in time to take place in the raids on Tarawa and Wake Islands and the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.

Belleau Wood was part the carrier force that supported the Marshall Islands operation, and raids all over the Central Pacific. After helping to capture Saipan  her planes sank the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiyo during the battle of the Philippine Sea. She returned stateside for a brief overhaul, and rejoined Task Force 58 in their march across the Central Pacific. 

Other operations include Guam, the Palaus and Morotai, the Philippines, Okinawa and Formosa. In late October 1944 she was hit aft by a Kamikaze set afire and badly damaged with 92 killed. Belleau Wood again returned to the states for repairs returning in February 1945. After raiding the Japanese home islands, she helped to support Marines in the capturing of Iwo Jima. She spent the rest of the war around Japan launching raids and was there for the surrender on September 2. Her airwing was part of the massive fly over following the signing. 

After the war she participated in magic carpet runs bringing the troops home until being placed out of commission in 1947. Belleau Wood was loaned to France in 1953 and renamed Bois Belleau. She served there until 1960, seeing action in the Indo China before being returned to the US. Sadly on her return, she was sold for scrap, a sad end for a historic ship.

Dragon has once again upgraded an old standby to today's standards. This one follows the recent release of the USS Independence depicts the Belleau Wood late in the war, but all the parts are there for an as built appearance. 

The hull is unchanged from it's original tooling. It is split from the waterline to the bow and stern diagonally. The diagonal slit make for a joint that is easier to hide than an abrupt straight one. The detail is very good, and the hull shape appears to match the layout of the Independence class carrier.
The flight deck and hanger walls are gray plastic on this kit. The flight deck has nice surface detailing and underside bracing. The premium edition of the Independence includes a clear flight deck option. 
This sprue includes the lower hull, propellers, and a mounting base and nameplate.
SPRUE B (x 2)
Two of the old E-6 weapons sprues are included to supply some of the weapons and fittings. Most of these parts will not be needed and you can save them for your spare parts box.
You also get one of Dragons new weapons sprues. Included are the many anti-aircraft guns and various fittings used on the ship. Various radar's and other detail items are also included. The 40 mm guns are not bad but the gun barrels are a little thick. The 20 mm are also a little thick, but I really like the way they are molded. The front shield is offset from the pedestal and the separate gun can be mounted at any angle just like the real ones. 
You also get Mk-51 directors, searchlights and even some pelorus mounts. All are as fine as injections molding permits in this scale. Not to be overlooked are the nice life rafts that have some nice netting molded on. 
The original kit included one TBD Devastator and one F6F Panther, two aircraft that probably never operated on an Independence class carrier. So to remedy that shortcoming, Dragon included some of their highly detailed aircraft from their new Essex class carriers. The aircraft are molded in clear plastic so you can don't have to settle for simulated clear canopies.

TBF Avenger Torpedo Bomber (six included).
These torpedo bombers have recessed panel lines and folding wings. Separate gear and propellers are included.

F6F Hellcat Fighter (six included).
Also molded with folding wings and separate landing gear and props.
A photo etch fret is included with a hanger deck insert. The deck is relief etched in a tiled pattern with tie downs etched on the surface. The real plus, in my opinion, is the replacement mast structure, boat crane, and radar. These are parts that can not be molded well in plastic and are most commonly replaced by more advanced modelers. Many of these wont be needed on this kit, as ship specific ones are included on the other fret. Since I still have my old DML kit, I plan to use the PE with that kit!
The second fret includes some ship specific details. A New bridge assembly and mast, with some yard arm details and some really nice relief etching on the various parts. The new bridge will give you an excellent open bridge effect, however I don't know when she received the enclosed bridge, this looks more like the one used during her French service. The relief etching also really enhances the 3D look of these otherwise flat parts.
The decals are pretty good, with deck markings and and plenty of markings for the aircraft. Deck stripe markings are provided as white dashed lines. The elevator markings are done in black and the elevator opening stripes are done in white. The aircraft not only have two different types of insignia, but they also have squadron markings. A checkerboard pattern to be applied to the tail and ailerons of the aircraft. These decals are sharply rendered and you wont want to replace these with other aftermarket ones.
An 8 page instruction booklet is included to guide you through a step by step assembly process. The parts are all called out and placement is well illustrated throughout. Photo etch parts are shown if you chose not to use the plastic ones. Ms-21 and 22 camo is shown on the last page.
This kit is was a good kit when it was first released. Dragon made it even better. Photo etch, clear deck option and new aircraft, new weapons, sharper decals, and even new dramatic box art, make this a definite must have for your Pacific War fleet. It looks like Dragon is paying attention to what ship modelers are asking for and giving them more.