"We survived the trip intact (almost).
Near to Lingayen took up our posts,
Our fannies exposed to the China Coast
In Doug MacArthur’s Navy.

Said Halsey to his big CVs,
This time we’ll trap those Japanese.
We’ll bait the trap with CVEs
In Doug MacArthur’s Navy.

Oh, we’ll bait the trap with CVEs.
Those ships sure look like a lot of cheese.
And all that we could say was ‘Jees’
In Doug MacArthur’s Navy.

When the war is over I’ll tell it true.
We took whatever the enemy threw.
Weathered it – and MacArthur, too,
In Doug MacArthur’s Navy.
" (Ham Lokey,
Little Giants, 1987, by William Y’Blood)

 

World War Two was the most massive and destructive conflict ever engaged in by humanity. The status of world powers were radically altered by the war. Obviously the vanquished powers of Japan, Germany and Italy lost all or most of their fleets. However, among the victors, the impact was as great. The Soviet Union suffered mass casualties and destruction but shortly would emerge as one of the world’s two super powers. The United States became by far the most powerful naval power in the world. Great Britain on the other hand started her long slide away her preeminence as a naval power. Her economy was shackled with debt and could no longer afford the massive costs of a world class naval building program. For centuries the Royal Navy was the supreme naval arbiter on the ocean’s of the world but no longer. One type of warship may in some part demonstrate the passing of the torch of naval supremacy from the Royal Navy to the United States Navy and that is the Escort Carrier. 

In a way the Escort Carrier had two fathers, the USN and RN. Of course the defining characteristics of an Escort Carrier were the facts that they were based on merchant hulls, were smaller than fleet or light carriers with a smaller air complement, and that they were significantly slower than purpose built carriers. In that regard both of the first Escort Carriers met the standards, however, their designed purpose differed. The Royal Navy commissioned HMS Audacity in June 1941. Converted from a small German cargo/passenger ship, Hannover, the carrier was only 434-feet long and carried a miniscule six aircraft at 15 knots with a displacement of 10,231 tons. Her primary, almost sole purpose was to defend a convoy against enemy aircraft, primarily the Fw-200 reconnaissance/bombers. Across the Atlantic another merchant conversion was underway. As with Audacity, this design matched the description of an Escort Carrier, but was far more capable than Audacity and became the patriarch of all other escort carrier designs.


Profiles
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The actual father of the escort carrier was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a dyed in the wool Navy Man, and if any American President deserved to have an aircraft carrier named after him it was FDR. After World War Two erupted in Europe, Roosevelt had supplemental navy bills pushed through Congress, which would greatly increase the size of the USN in all conventional types of warships, including aircraft carriers. However, it takes a long time to build a fleet carrier and as 1939 gave way to 1940 Roosevelt observed the events in Europe and the Atlantic and saw a need for a ship to supplement the USN until the large carrier program came to fruition. The US was supplying aircraft to Great Britain but it was cumbersome to have them delivered piece-meal in cargo containers. It would be far more efficient to have them delivered already assembled. Another mission would be submarine defense. Aircraft were the great killers of the Atlantic U-Boats but there was a huge gap in the middle of the Atlantic, in which aircraft could not reach at the time. The answer would be a small carrier that could escort the convoy and provide ASW ability. The result was the escort carrier of the USN. 

In October 1940 FDR ordered the navy to purchase a merchant ship for conversion into a platform to carry autogiros, as the first helicopters were called. The purpose of the autogiros would be to locate submarines and mark them with smoke bombs for ASW warships. This proved impractical because the rudimentary helicopters just did not have the performance to adequately handle the envisioned missions. Rear Admiral William Halsey also saw the need for a merchant ship conversion for an auxiliary carrier but his idea was for the design to train new pilots and to transport aircraft. Halsey hated employing the limited number of USN fleet carriers on aircraft transportation missions. It is ironic that on December 7, 1941 it was those very same aircraft transportation missions that had Halsey’s Enterprise, as well as other carriers at sea, rather than in Pearl Harbor. 


Bow, Aft, & Quarter Views
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Admiral Stark, the USN CNO at the time, didn’t think much of either Roosevelt’s or Halsey’s ideas. He could ignore the opinions of a Rear Admiral but not those of the President. Two merchant ships, both C3 cargo ships, were acquired for conversion. They were the Mormacland and Mormacmail. The Mormacmail was purchased on March 6, 1941. Roosevelt mandated that the ship be converted into a carrier in three months. The USN didn’t think it possible but the Newport News yard put the new ship on the highest construction priority. In fact only one other ship shared the same highest priority, the fleet carrier USS Hornet. The merchant quickly morphed into a carrier with the addition a 362 feet flight deck. There was no island, as the bridge was under the forward edge of the flight deck, as with some Japanese designs. Displacement was 13,500 tons but 1,650 tons of this figure was through the addition of extra ballast, as the freeboard was so high ballast had to be added to lower the center of gravity for safety. The new design was commissioned on June 2, 1941 as USS Long Island, later CVE-1. In contrast to the six aircraft capacity of HMS Audacity, the Long Island could accommodate 16 aircraft. The other merchant Mormacland was also convert into an escort carrier but was transferred to Great Britain as HMS Archer. This started a string of numerous escort carriers built in the US for the Royal Navy. It may considered that this was a point in which naval supremacy or at least the ability to build a huge fleet passed from Great Britain to the United States. 

The Long Island was designated APV-1, Transport & Aircraft Ferry. Her first squadron was VS-201, which operated F2A Brewster Buffaloes and fixed landing gear SOC-3A Seagulls. The USN experimented with the new design in determining the breadth of the missions this small auxiliary carrier could accomplish. Obviously, she could ferry assembled aircraft. Also with the Seagulls, she could undertake tactical reconnaissance, and observe and report of the splash of shell in a fleet battle action. That summer she provided air cover for a practice amphibious assault, which she accomplished with flying colors. In August 1941 Long Island was part of the squadron, which took FDR to meet Churchill off of Nova Scotia. Undoubtedly both men looked at the Long Island, since Roosevelt had created it and Churchill was acquiring US built ships of the same type. The new baby carrier was designated as ACV, Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier, in 1942 and finally as CVE, Escort Carrier in 1943. Another one-off design, also based on a C3 hull, was built as the Charger but this design added a small island, which was to be found on all further escort carriers. 


Hull Detail
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Shortly after Pearl Harbor, the USN purchased 20 C3 hulls for conversion into escort carriers. This was done not only to supply their own needs but also for ships for the RN, as the British were firmly sold on these new small carriers. This resulted in the first large group of escort carriers of the same design, the Bogue class of eleven ships, capable of carrying 30 aircraft at 18 knots. RN versions were built as the Avenger and Attacker classes. Later in 1942 the Ameer class were built to the same general design but from the start, not as merchant conversions. In addition to the C3 cargo ship hulls, the USN looked for other sources of hulls for further conversions. All of the spare C3 hulls had been gobbled up so another source was needed. They found four T3 oiler hulls, which could be converted. However, because of their critical importance in a greatly expanding fleet, T3 hulls were even in shorter supply than C3 hills. These four hulls were converted to escort carriers as the Sangamon class. They were larger and wider than the Bogue Class, capable of carrying 30 aircraft at 18-knots. Because of the difference in hull shape between the T3 and C3, the T3 conversions had longer hangars and flight decks, with a single catapult of port forward flight deck. The Sangamons were immediate hits and were preferred over the Bogues. However, in the early years of the war, spare tanker hulls were not to be found. There was another, substantial benefit of using the oiler hull for the conversion, over the cargo ship hull conversions. The standard displacement of a Sangamon was 10,500-tons but the full load displacement leapt to 23,875-tons. What on earth could cause a warship to more than double displacement at full load? In the Sangamon’s case it was fuel oil. 


Flight Deck
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The Sangamon carriers retained a great deal of their tanker fuel capacity. It was twice the capacity of the Bogue class. Their fuel capacity exceeded that of the large fleet carriers of the Yorktown class, but not the Lexington or Essex classes. Nonetheless, if you were an escort and were out of Go Juice, just sidle up to a Sangamon and they would service your needs in a jiffy. Later in the war it was common for destroyers to refill from a fleet carrier but with the Sangamon class, the USN had a small carrier capable of the same operation. With the ability to refuel their own escorts, they were a much more versatile design. A combined carrier/oiler design does have significant advantages. In the meantime with no more T3 hulls available, the next major class of USN escort carriers reverted to cargo ship hulls. This was the Casablanca class of escort carriers based on the S4 hull used for Kaiser built cargo ships. Henry Kaiser was convinced that he could build escort carriers in huge quantities in record time and he was right. The Casablanca class was indeed huge with 50 of the class laid down between November 2, 1942 to March 29, 1944,and became CVE-55 through CVE-104. Although many Bougue carriers went to the Royal Navy, all of the Casablancas were retained by the USN. Still, the USN really preferred the larger hulls and bunkerage capacity of the Sangamons. This preference resulted in the design and construction of the last class of escort carrier, the Commencement Bay class.

If the Casablanca was a 1942 design, the Commencement Bay was a 1943 design. The navy contemplated building 35 carriers in the class, but only 19 were actually completed. The Commencement Bay was the largest escort carrier of the type. With a standard displacement of 11,373-tons standard and 24,275-tons full load, these carriers were 557-feet long and 75-feet wide, slightly longer but heavier than the ships of the Sangamon class. Both Sangamon and Commencement Bay classes were significantly larger than the ships of the Bogue and Casablanca classes. As with the Sangamon class, the Commencement Bay class had a large fuel capacity, so that they could refuel other ships. However, the Commencement Bay was an improvement over the Sangamon. The earlier class had just a single engine room, so that one hit could destroy all motive power. The new design placed engines in different compartments. The Commencement Bay could carry 33 aircraft, two squadrons, at 19 knots but the most noticeable difference was in AA defense. The large size enabled the ships of the class to be bedecked in antiaircraft guns. These Baby Flat Tops were big babies indeed, as they outgunned Independence class light carriers and all of the other CVE classes by a wide margin. With a wide stern, two quadruple 40mm mounts could be placed there, along with another quad mount on the bow. In addition deck side galleries and sponsons added twelve twin 40mm mounts so that the Commencement Bay carried 36 40mm guns and twenty 20mm Oerlikons. They were the only escort carriers to mount two catapults and two elevators, although the Sangamon class also had two elevators. As they entered service, they were equipped with the latest SK-2 parabolic dish radars. Only a handful reached the Pacific to see action before the end of the war. The class had stronger decks so could operate heavier aircraft than other escort carriers. Their elevators were faster. With two elevators and two catapults their cycle time was much faster and with a hangar 20-feet longer than the Sangamon class, they could store more aircraft. 


Smaller Resin Parts
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USS Commencement Bay CVE-105 was the first to commission on November 27, 1944 but she did not see action. She was originally to be named St. Joseph Bay and was put into service in training aircrew. USS Block Island CVE-106 was originally to be named Sunset Bay but was renamed to carry on the name of the first Block Island CVE, a Bogue class torpedoed in May 1944. Commissioned December 30, 1944, Block Island joined the CVE group of Sangamon class CVEs in May 1945 off of Okinawa. Commanding her was Captain Francis Hughes, who had commanded the first Block Island. The crew of the new ship also had 700 survivors of the lost Bogue class ship of that name. Although the threat of the kamikaze had forced the navy to deploy USMC fighter squadrons on the Essex class fleet carriers earlier, the Block Island was the first carrier in which deployment of a marine fighter group was originally intended. MCVG-1, Marine Corp Air Group One, was assigned to the Block Island with three squadrons, VMF-511, VMTB-233 and CASD-1. The Marine fighter squadrons flew the F4U Corsair, so the Corsairs on the Commencement Bay class gave a different appearance than navy squadrons flying solely F6F Hellcats on the other CVE classes. The concept was to have a six ship task group with four CVEs carrying marine squadrons for ground support and two CVEs to carry navy squadrons for CAP and ASW missions.

Each month a new Commencement Bay class carrier joined the organization, which became CarDiv27 under Rear Admiral Dixwell Ketcham. USS Gilbert Islands CVE-107 carried MCVG-2 consisting of VMF-512, VMTB-143 and CASD-2. USS Vella Gulf CVE-111 had MCVG-3 with VMF-53, VMTB-234 and CASD-3. Finally USS Cape Gloucester CVE-109 joined to round out the six big CVE carrier division, four Commencement Bay ships and two Sangamon class ships. Cape Gloucester carried MCVG-4 with VMF-351, VMTB-132 and CASD-4. However, the war was over before the Division operated as a cohesive unit. USS Block Island’s air complement in May 1945 consisted of eight F4U-1Ds, eight F6F-5(N)s, two F6F-5(P)s and twelve TBM-3s. Block Island joined TU 52.1.3 on May 5 and on the 10th flew their first strike missions against ground positions on Okinawa, losing two Avengers. Block Island was on the firing line until June 16, 1945 when she steamed to Leyte. During her five weeks of combat she had flown 1,100 sorties. During this time she lost four fighters, as well as the two Avengers. The mix of two different types of fighters complicated maintenance and the F4U was favored over the F6F(N) because their hydraulically folding wings were faster to operate than the manually folding wings of the Hellcats and the maintenance crew was just not that familiar with the night fighter Hellcats. Although the Hellcat pilots were not supposed to fly CAS missions, they did fly some just to give some small relief to the F4U pilots. Since the Corsair pilots were trained in ground attack, they flew many more missions than the Hellcat pilots trained in night fighting and were consequently far more worn out than the F6F jockeys. 


Pit Road Plastic Weapons Sprues
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USS Gilbert Islands CVE-107 joined TU 52.1.3 on May 21, 1945 as the second marine aircraft carrier. On June 12 Block Island, Gilbert Islands and the Sangamon class carriers, Santee and Suwannee went after targets on the Japanese home island of Kyushu. It would have been the first CVE strike on Japan proper but when the aircraft arrived over target, after refueling at Okinawa, the overcast prevented an attack. Gilbert Islands flew 750 sorties from May 21 to her departure in June, knocked down one Japanese aircraft but lost one Corsair and two Avengers to ground fire. She joined Block Island at Leyte, along with Suwannee, and steamed south to support landings at Balikpapen, Borneo. The USS Cape Glocester CVE-109, originally Willapa Bay, and USS Vella Gulf CVE-111, originally Totem Bay, made cameo appearances in the Pacific War. Cape Gloucester joined other CVEs in an operation in the South China Sea. Vella Gulf arrived at Guam on July 20, 1945 and thereafter her aircraft bombed the islands of Rota and Pagan. She then steamed to Okinawa. As she pulled into her destination on August 9, the second atomic bomb had just been dropped on Nagasaki. During their combat operations in the Pacific the marine carriers had only a very limited opportunity to strut their stuff in support of marine ground operations. Block Island had eight days of specific CAS mission and Gilbert Island only five days. For the rest of the missions, they were flying standard bombing missions. Rear Admiral Calvin Durgin, Commander Escort Carrier Force Pacific Fleet, an organization created December 10, 1944 was critical of the marine carrier concept. He thought that any aircraft, marine, navy or army, could fly CAS missions and that there was no special bond between marine aviation units and marine ground units. How could one man be so wrong is beyond me. The USMC aviation squadrons continued to excel at supporting the jarheads ashore and continue that tradition to this day. In marked contrast, the newly minted USAF, once it became its own co-equal branch, separated from the US Army, first looked at the strategic bomber as its shining son and to this day is more concerned with air supremacy, which granted is their first mission. However, USAF pilots would much rather fly fast movers than slow platforms such as the A-10 in support of army troops. When the USAF tried to retire the A-10 airframe, the Army was happy to jump up and say, "Fine, give the Warthogs to us!" The USAF certainly didn’t want the Army to have their own dedicated CAS squadrons, so chose to keep the Warthogs in Reserve Squadrons. Those reserve pilots flying the A-10 have done a superb job in supporting Army dog faces, but the USMC fliers are unbeatable in supporting their ground companions. A marine carrier, dedicated to ground support, and fielded in the Commencement Bay class escort carriers, definitely had a place in World War Two and the idea is still valid 60 years later with the amphibious warfare ships carrying helicopters and Harriers. 


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The other ships of the Commencement Bay did not see service in the Pacific. However, as the newest and largest of the escort carriers, they still had a future. They went into reserve status in 1946 but with the Korean War, most were reactivated. Their primary missions were training and aircraft transport. Many of the ships were aircraft transports during the Vietnam War. Some served as ASW carriers, until supplanted by ships of the Essex class. Other members of the group received diverse missions, which required unique modifications. Gilbert Islands became a Major Communication Relay ship, AGMR-1, in the era before satellite communications and was not stricken until 1976. As such, the Gilbert Islands was the longest serving member of the class. Disposal of the ships of the Commencement Bay class started in the late 1950s but Gilbert Islands, veteran marine carrier of Okinawa, hung on until October 1976. Two of the class, USS Rabaul CVE-121 and USS Tinian CVE-123, were completed after the war but held the distinction of never having been commissioned. Both stayed in a reserve capacity until 1971 when they were sold for scrap. (History from: Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the Present, London 1984, by Roger Chesneau; Escort Carriers and Aviation Support Ships of the US Navy, New York 1981, by Stefan Terzibaschitsch; and The Little Giants, U.S. Escort Carriers Against Japan, Annapolis 1987, by William T. Y’Bood)






USS Commencement Bay CVE-105 Vital Statistics


Dimensions: Length - 557 feet over-all; Beam - 75 feet; Flight Deck Width - 105 feet; Draught - 32 feet: Displacement: 11.373 tons standard; 24,275 tons full load: Armament: Two 5-inch/38 DP: Thirty-six Bofor 40mm (4x3, 2x12): Twenty Oerlikon 20mm (1x20): Aircraft Complement - 33: Block Island complement May 1945 - Eight F4U-1D Corsairs, Eight F6F-5(N) Night Fighter Hellcats, Two F6F-5(P) Hellcats; Twelve TBM-3 Avengers.

Machinery - Allis Chalmers geared turbines, four boilers, two shafts, 16,000shp: Maximum Speed - 19 knots. Bunker Capacity - 3,134 tons of fuel oil: Complement - 1,066.

The FleetNet Commencement Bay
FleetNet of Japan has just released a 1:700 scale resin and plastic model of the Commencement Bay class escort carrier. The components include resin hull, flight deck, and a single large sprue of fittings; two injected plastic Pit Road weapons sprues and instructions. The kit does not include photo-etch parts but a number of photo-etch producers have products that will complement this kit. The kit portrays the class as they dribbled into the Pacific Theater in the closing stages of World War Two. Changes were subsequently made to units of the class, such as enclosed bridges, so to model the ships in their later incarnations will take some modifications. No aircraft are provided in the kit but 1:700 scale Corsairs, Hellcats and Avengers should not be difficult to acquire.

Resin Hull
The hull is a single resin casting in a light cream color. Casting is of a uniformly high quality. The hull casting was flawless with no voids of any type and no breakage. The forecastle has the large quad Bofors position cast onto the hull with thin splinter shielding. Most noticeable is the excellent anchor winch with finely done anchor chain leading to prominent oval, angled deck hawse. Two oval cable openings are found at the lower edge of the splinter shielding. They are cast with the openings closed but should be opened with a hobby knife. Other detail includes a small tub for a Mk51 director, four sets of twin bollards and two open chocks. There is also a small deckhouse on the front face of the hangar bulkhead. The deck edge also has six locator indentations for vertical support pillars for the flight deck overhang. The hull sides have a commendable level of detail. The graceful lines of the cutwater and sheer belie the merchant ship original of this ship. Anchors are cast on the hull on top of hull hawse.


FleetNet USS Commencement Bay with Four Parts Dry-Fitted
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On both sides of the forward hull  there is a prominent knuckle where the vertical hangar bulkheads joined the slanting lower hull. As with most carriers the side detail is asymmetrical. Each side has two large inset cutouts into which large sponsons from the resin sprue will fit. Like the larger fleet carriers, the ships of the Commencement Bay had a series of roller doors, which could be opened to ventilate the hangar. FleetNet has depicted these doors in a closed position. Roller doors have readily visible segments. Cast on doors have hinge and dog detail. On each side, between the sponson positions there is a platform with support ribs. Prominent external fuel lines run along hull sides most of the length of the hangar. The upper port side forward has gun positions cast onto the hull with prominent support members underneath. These are for the two forward twin Bofors positions and one Mk51 position on the port side. These two positions are lower than the corresponding starboard positions, which are at deck edge. There are long narrow walkways with ribbed splinter shielding on both sides of the hull aft. The broad quarterdeck is of course dominated by the splinter shielding for the side by side quad Bofors mounts. Other quarterdeck detail include two Mk51 director tubs; locator holes for 5-inch/38 open mounts, one on each quarter; another large winch; two twin bollard fittings inboard; two open chocks and two closed chocks at deck edge. As with the forecastle, there is another small deckhouse that is on the aft face of the hangar bulkhead.

Resin Deck
The one-piece resin flight deck is cast with side galleries and other positions integral to the deck. Both elevator positions are prominently incised on the deck and are offset to starboard. Of course with the Commencement Bay class, the distinguishing two catapults are clearly shown on the casting. The gallery and gun position detail is very nice. On the starboard side are two gun tubs for twin Bofor mounts in front of the island. These are at two levels. The forward mount is in a gallery slightly below the edge of the flight deck and the aft position is at deck level. These positions could fire over the flight deck to port but the hull mounted port positions could not fire to starboard. A small Mk51 tub is found just in front of the locator holes for the island. Side galleries on both sides are well done with vertical support ribs. A series of widely spaced incised lines running the width of the flight deck adds additional detail but I would have preferred more planking detail. This is a matter of taste, as realistically planking detail would probably not be seen in this scale.


FleetNet USS Commencement Bay with Four Parts Dry-Fitted
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Starting amidships are a series of arrestor cables cast onto the deck ending in arrestor equipment plates. These are slightly over-scale but I like their representation, as smaller cables would probably be lost in the deck blue paint scheme. The narrow side galleries flair out on each side for the Oerlikon 20mm galleries. At the aft end of the flight deck are found the second elevator and flanking it at deck edge the second Oerlikon galleries on each side. Bomb disposal ramps are found at different positions along the exterior edge on both sides. FleetNet has also spent time to craft the support bracing underneath the flight deck. When you flip the flight deck casting over, you’ll instantly see the intricate waffle pattern support ribbing found on the deck overhang forward and aft. Also readily apparent are the large triangular supports with circular weight-saving voids for the twin Bofors positions.

Resin Sprue
This resin sprue is remarkably cast like a injected plastic sprue. There are 44 parts attached to it. With some of the parts the modeler will have the option to use the resin parts or plastic parts found on the Pit Road weapons sprues. Major structural parts are the island, hull side sponsons, mast, and fore and aft structure resting on top of the fore and aft deckhouses found on the forecastle and quarterdeck. The one-piece island has support ribbing underneath the wide top platform, port detailed door for flight deck access, steam pipes and aft vertical ladder cast onto the part. In the case of all four gun sponsons the centermost twin Bofors positions are raised above the end positions. The sponsons are symmetrical on each side but the fore sponson differs in design from the aft sponson. The forward sponsons are longer with the raised aft gun position cast onto the part. Also found here are paravanes, small winches for paravane deployment and a closed chock. With the aft sponsons there are separate shielded platforms for the raised forward twin Oerlikon positions. The aft sponsons also have chocks, twin bollards and a small winch for included cast on detail.


FleetNet USS Commencement Bay with Four Parts Dry-Fitted
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Another distinguishing characteristic is the mast. It is a solid conical structure rather than the lattice work masts found on earlier escort carriers. The center pole is off set on one side of the conical tower. This should be attached to the island with the pole forward. Some of the photos of the model with dry-fitted parts show the pole on the aft side, which is incorrect. A series of platforms are found on the conical portion of the mast as well as the pole portion. There are six twin Bofors guns and six mounts found on this sprue. Since the Commencement Bay class carried twelve twin Bofors guns, both resin (6 mounts) and plastic (6 mounts) twin Bofors will have to be used. Two open mount 5-inch/38 guns are on the sprue for the aft quarter positions on the quarterdeck. Other resin parts include the deck support pillars for the forecastle, small platforms, vertical island support pillars for the hull sides supporting the overhang, two ships boats, two Y shaped rigs for the boats and yardarm. 

Plastic Weapons Sprues
FleetNet includes two Pit Road weapons sprues for half of the twin 40mm mounts, all of the quad 40mm mounts, Mk51 directors, director tubs, carley rafts and radar. There are for more parts on these sprues than you will use for the Commencement Bay kit, so you’ll have a lot of spares for your spare parts bin. Although I show photographs of all of the plastic parts, you’ll obviously not be attaching triple 6-inch turrets, 1.1-inch guns, depth charge racks, quintuple torpedo tubes or float planes to the ship. Pit Road is known for high quality plastic parts and the quality of these weapons sprues are no exception. The twin and quad Bofors are very nice for plastic parts with a great deal of detail. The barrels are a trifle too thick. The 20mm guns are somewhat over-scale but do have gun shields and good detail. If you wish finer Oerlikons, you may seek third party ordnance, however, most modelers should find the Pit Road parts perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, I strongly believe that the solid radar arrays should be replaced with photo-etch, as there is no way a solid plastic part can do justice to the open mesh pattern of the arrays or the concentric open circles of the SK-2 dish. The sprues have really nice carley rafts with bottom cross-hatching detail. 


Decals
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Decals
There is a moderate size decal sheet which provides flight deck numbers for the first five units of the Commencement Bay class. Included are Commencement Bay CVE-105, Block Island CVE-106, Gilbert Islands CVE-107, Kula Gulf CVE-108 and Cape Gloucester CVE-109. I would have preferred decals for Vela Gulf CVE-111 instead of Kula Gulf since CVE-111 saw some action and CVE-108 did not, but if you wish to model Vela Gulf the sheet still has enough number 1s that you can cut up the number sets and use the number 1s of the other ships. However, it is probably a moot point, as the decals for the dazzle painted Commencement Bay and two units that flew CAS missions at Okinawa, Block Island and Gilbert Islands, are included in the mix. Most modelers will probably gravitate to building one of those three. The deck numbers come in two sizes, large numbers for the stern and smaller numbers for the bow. A series of light gray dashed flight deck lines are included. Cape Gloucester also has open white numbers. The sheet is rounded out by hull side bow numbers. 

Instructions
FleetNet supplies three pages of instructions with their Commencement Bay kit. These are professionally done with a series of assembly modules in which parts are identified by drawing number and sometimes, English text. Page one starts with a listing of the ships in the class, followed by a parts lay down in which each part is numbered. At the bottom of the page is the assembly of hull sponsons, gun assembly and forecastle fittings. If a plastic part from the weapons sprue is used, FleetNet so indicates with "Injection No." with the number of the part on the Pit Road sprue listed. Page two continues the assembly sequence with modules on quarterdeck fittings, flight deck fittings, additional hull side fittings, Oerlikon placement and ship’s boats attachment. The instructions are so thoughtfully laid out that it is difficult to see any area where the modeler might go astray. Page three has the decal placement at the top and five color scheme profiles. The upper two show the dazzle pattern initially worn by Commencement Bay in 1944, in which the port side differed from the starboard side. After that are starboard patterns for Block Island 1945, Gilbert Islands and Cape Gloucester. At the bottom of the page is a White Ensign Models Colourcoat guide as to which paints in the line are needed for each ship. 


Instructions
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Verdict
Send in the Marines! If your gyrines and jarheads are going to hit the beach, they need close air support from the "Marine Carriers" of the Commencement Bay class. With the FleetNet 1:700 scale resin and plastic model of the big baby flat tops of the Commencement Bay class, your fleet can have the platforms for those Corsairs and Avengers providing the CAS the mud marines need, as well as F6F Hellcats for their nighttime entertainment. 

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