Even the SOCs snubbed up in unladylike fashion after hitting the arrestor gear that day. As for the F2As, we took a few extra wave-offs, snugged up shoulder harnesses and kept our teeth off our tongues and succeeded in getting all aboard in sound condition just as Captain D. and a good Landing Signals Officer willed it.
” JG Richard S. Rogers USN, on landing the air group of USS Long Island on December 7, 1941 after learning about Pearl Harbor while the carrier was at anchor off Bermuda. (The Little Giants, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland 1987, by William T. Y’Blood, at page 13)

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.

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 land based 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.

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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.

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 in January 1941 with the conversion to be started that March. Roosevelt mandated that the ship be converted into a carrier in three months. The USN didn’t think it possible but put the new ship on the highest construction priority at the yard at Newport News starting March 18. 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 14,005 tons (fl) 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.

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USS Long Island nee SS Mormacmail, was launched January 11, 1940 for the Maritime Commission, started conversion March 18, 1941, and commissioned June 2, 1941. Her standard displacement was 7,886-tons but jumped to 14,005-tons full load. Her overall length was 492-feet, width at waterline 69.5-feet, width at flight deck 70-feet and draught 25.5-feet. The flight deck was 58-feet above waterline. Powered by diesel engines developing 8,500 hp, Long Island had a maximum speed of 16 knots. Her final armament configuration in 1945 was one five-inch/51 surface action gun, two three-inch AA guns and twenty 20mm Oerlikon AA guns. Her complement was 970.

The Long Island was designated APV-1, Transport & Aircraft Ferry. Her first squadron was VS-201, which operated seven F2A Brewster Buffaloes and thirteen 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. 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.

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The appearance of the Long Island yelled “Merchant” with every fiber of its being. There is no grace to the design, as like the Langley built upon a collier, the Long Island clearly feature a wooden deck attached to a merchant hull with a Byzantine roller-coaster of lattice work. The flight deck did not extend the length of the deck, leaving exposed forecastle and quarterdeck. The forward 60% of the flight deck were well clear of the hull, with one exception, and were raised above the hull on a series of steel trusses of different heights. The aft 40% of the flight deck sat atop superstructure in which were the hangar and machine shops.  During summer operations it had become obvious that the ship needed a longer flight deck. At Nova Scotia with FDR watching, one of the Buffaloes came close to smashing into the seas immediately after launch. On September 12, 1941 the Long Island received a refit, which extended the flight deck forward by 77-feet, added two internal transverse bulkheads to increase survivability, added a catapult, removed the bridge that had been underneath the forward edge of the deck, added a short radar mast with SC array to the forward starboard side of the flight deck and threw in five additional Oerlikons. Full load displacement rose to 14,953-tons. With no bridge the ship was conned from open navigation platforms extending for both sides of the flight deck forward. Aircraft complement was raised to 21. As the first of the escort carriers and a one off design to boot, the Long Island primarily served as a training carrier and was not subject to the constant alterations and refits visited upon combat carriers.

One of her first training missions after her refit was for VT-8, later disappear, leaving only one aircrew survivor, at Midway. She was at Bermuda on December 7, 1941 and landed her air group while at anchor. She quickly made her way back to Norfolk, where she arrived December 22, 1941. On the 26th Long Island pulled out of port and headed for Newfoundland in preparation for convoy escort duties. During the month that she was off Canada her only action was when three of her SOCs depth charged a “U-Boat” that in reality turned out to be a whale. On January 28, 1942 she was back in Norfolk in a repeat of her carrier qualification duties for new squadrons. On April 2 the sad sack Buffaloes were replaced by Grumman F4F Wildcats. On May 10, 1942, at the peak of the Japanese conquests in the Pacific, Long Island was transferred to the Pacific. The Japanese carrier striking force under Admiral Nagumo appeared unstoppable, winning victories over hapless allied warships wherever it appeared. USS Lexington had just been sunk at the Battle of Coral Sea, Yorktown was severely damaged in the same battle and Saratoga was laid up repairing from a torpedo strike. With only Enterprise and Hornet available in that month for combat duty, it appeared that even the ungainly Long Island might be required to offer its meager supplement to the fleet carriers in future efforts to stop the Japanese. At the start of June Long Island was at San Diego. The fleet carriers had pulled out of Pearl Harbor. Acting upon intercepts, Admiral Nimitz gambled that he could set up a trap for Nagumo’s carriers at the atoll of Midway. On June 5 Vice Admiral Pye steamed out of San Francisco with seven battleships with the Long Island providing their air cover as a back-stop in case of a Japanese victory at Midway. Even though the immediate crisis passed with the spectacular US victory at the Battle of Midway in June, the Japanese Navy still held the edge in carrier aviation.

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Long Island stayed in the Pacific fulfilling other duties. In July she ferried aircraft from San Diego to Pearl Harbor and then took another load from Pearl to Palmyra. She was integral in the planning for Operation Watchtower, the invasion of Guadalcanal. On August 2, 1942, loaded up with USMC aircraft (19 F4F Wildcats of VMF-223 and 12 SBD Dauntlesses of VMSB-232) and accompanied by the destroyer Aylwin, Long Island glided out of Pearl, tasked to transport them to Guadalcanal to stock the Japanese airfield to be captured by the Marines on August 7. Because of the unmitigated disaster of the Battle of Savo Island, the carrier was redirected to Suva in the Fiji Islands, to await an opportune time to continue her mission. From Suva she made her way to Efate New Hebridies, where she picked up Helena and two destroyers as an escort. In the afternoon of August 20 she reached her launch location, 200 miles southeast of Guadalcanal. All aircraft were safely launched and arrived without mishap at Henderson Field. Long Island then received a new mission in support of the Guadalcanal operations. Directed back to Efate, she loaded nineteen F4F Wildcats of VMF-224 and twelve SBD Dauntlesses of VMSB-231. There was a difference in her delivery this time. Instead of approaching Guadalcanal for the launch, on August 28 and 29 she launched the aircraft to land at Espiritu Santo, from which they would then be flown to Guadalcanal.  

With her month in the Big League complete, FDR’s baby was sent back to the safety of San Diego where she arrived on September 19, 1942. There were a number of reasons for her lack of further missions to combat areas. New and better escort carriers were steadily entering fleet service. In contrast to the high deck of Long Island, their decks were much lower to the waterline giving them improved stability with better compartmentization and stronger construction, as well as being faster than the glacially slow Long Island. For the balance of 1942 and into 1943 the Long Island provided a platform for west coast pilot training. In 1944 and 1945 she served primarily as an aircraft and personnel transport. Also in 1944 she traded her SC radar for an SC-2 array. After the Japanese surrender she returned US servicemen to the US in Operation Magic Carpet. On March 26, 1946 she was stricken from the navy role. However, unlike most of her newer combat veteran sisters who straight to scrap, FDR’s baby had more than two decades of life ahead of her. First she was sold to a shipping company and reconverted to the merchant ship Nelly. In 1953 she was renamed Seven Seas and continued on shuttling cargo. Then in a rebirth she became a floating classroom, until permanently anchored at Rotterdam in 1968 as a floating dormitory for medical students. (History from: The Little Giants, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland 1987, by William T. Y’Blood)  

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The Loose Cannon Long Island
"Cool!" I couldn't help it. As I first looked at the hull of the 1:700 scale USS Long Island from Loose Cannon, I expressed my first gut impact of this resin and brass model of FDR's baby carrier. I'm a sucker for the oddball and with grotesqueries such as the Long Island, it is no wonder the producer of this kit chose the name Loose Cannon. This box this kit came in is packed the rafters with the glorious and bizarre. The kit reflects all of the hallmarks of this one off design. The original was an emergency rushed conversion whose completion was ordained, not by military necessity or by a prudent development timeline, but by arbitrary presidential fiat. The design is so ungainly with a flight deck high above the waterline, supported at the bow by an intricate, byzantine welter of riveted trusses worthy of the skeleton of a skyscraper and at the stern by a soaring hangar slaped onto a bluff, obviously humble merchant hull. The Loose Cannon Long Island has all of the ingredients to duplicate this intoxicating design mixture. The Loose Cannon instructions contain this warning, "This kit is a complex assembly...." Trust them, because of the numerous, intricate support trusses forward, this kit is not for the beginner. No aircraft are provided, hover of companies provide Wildcats and Dauntlesses for Long Island's Guadacanal appearance but good luck finding a 1:700 scale Brewster Buffalo.

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The Hull
There are no sleek warship lines to the Long Island, just the tubby form of a peaceful merchant, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The hull sides are rather slab sided with a wide civilian bow of a cargo ship with a modest cutwater in place of the knife-like thin cutwater of a warship. At least the Long Island was built on a modern cargo ship with a graceful, if wide, cutwater as opposed to the straight stem older merchant designs. Also, there is a good sheer forward, which adds a touch of a warship appearance to the merchant hull. At the top of the cutwater is a drainage hole flanked by one on each side through the solid bulkheads surrounding the raised forecastle. There is a raised line, almost like an external degaussing cable that runs the length of the ship. For most of the ship it is flush with deck level but at forecastle and hangar it runs below the top of the hull. A degaussing cable was the only purpose that I could come up with for it. It is near the stern of the model where the sides of the hangar were added atop the merchant hull. Instead having a fleet carrier’s roller doors to open to provide ventilation, the hull has a series of sliding covers, which serve that purpose. The aft face of the hangar has a good detail of detail with duct work and support beams and doors at quarterdeck level. Casting is very good, as I could not find any voids or other defect. There is a very small bit of casting flash at the waterline that is easily removed. It is only with feeling it with your fingers that you know that it is there because it is so minute that you don’t notice it with the eye.  

Deck detail on the hull really adds a good amount of character. Very few structures are built on centerline, which only adds character to the model. The actual forecastle deck is a separate piece, so there is no detail on the hull casting. About the first half the ship is entirely open at deck level and will have a forest of brass flight deck support trusses soaring a good height above the main deck. The most significant structure here is an oddly shaped deckhouse offset close to the port side of the hull. There are a couple of doors but most of the interest comes from the odd shape. Aft of this deckhouse are a couple of nicely detailed winches and a small deckhouse. Four deck coamings round out the deck detail for the first half of the model. At this point is the 01 level of the superstructure, slightly inset from the hull edge and have portholes running the length of the level before ending with the hangar. The short quarter deck has a solid bulkhead with a drainage oval on each side. The drainage vents needed to be opened up with a hobby knife. There are twin bollards cast as part of inboard bulkhead. I would have preferred these features to be cast from the deck, since there was separation from the bollards and bulkhead but this is only a minor quibble. Free standing quarter deck detail consists of a winch and windlass.

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Smaller Resin Parts
The largest part of the model, other than the hull, is not even resin. The flight deck is some sort of plastic, different from standard injected plastic. Deck detail includes the single elevator outline and single catapult off set to port. Arrestor gear equipment plates are shown, as well as athwart ship metal panels. The plastic flight deck rests on top of a two-piece resin sub-deck. Since the plastic deck is attached on top, most of the top of these parts have no detail. Rather, these parts provide the deck edge galleries and Oerlikon gun tubs, which were slightly below deck edge. The resin sub deck also allows support structure running along the bottom of the flight deck to be detailed. A large resin casting sheet provides the largest additional resin parts, other than decking. Found on this sheet are the 02 and 03 levels of the superstructure, the navigation bridge, forecastle deck, and three gun mount bases. The superstructure levels have portholes and doors but it is the navigation bridge that will be located underneath the flight deck that adds another large measure of quirky detail found throughout this kit. It has wood panel deck detail and separate deck houses on the bridge wings but quirkiest of details is a long t-shaped observation platform jutting far forward like a spar torpedo or bowsprit. Use a hobby knife to open up the platform, as there would have been no internal blocks to stop walking up and down the platform. Loose Canon provides an additional, separately cast version of this same part. Apparently you use the separate part as opposed to that cast on the sheet. The only difference that I noticed was that the separate part had a slightly reduced length of the forward observation walk. The short forecastle piece is covered in detail. You can’t turn around without tripping over some fitting or another. Detailed anchor machinery, bollard plates, deck access hatches, and multiple lockers are all found on the short forecastle. The smallest resin parts include: ship’s boats, detailed deck guns, ducts, mast house and pole mast, mast platform, bollard fittings, various sized carley floats some of which are double stacked, anchors, search lights, supports and a few other fittings.

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Brass Photo-Etch Frets
The brass included with the Long Island is another of the many strong points of this fine kit. There is extensive use of relief-etching, which reaches run-amok proportions with these frets. There are actually three frets and the one with all of the relief-etching is of a substantially heavier gauge brass because of the nature of the parts. The brass is of a heavier gauge because most of the parts on this fret are for the numerous and heavy support structures rising from the main deck to support the flight deck high above. More than half the length of the flight deck is supported by these structures, so they are very prominent on the model. In the bridge building business, each of these support structures would be called a bent. It is extremely important to pay very close attention on all parts used and to constantly double check that the right parts are used at the right location. Because of the deck sheer the bents are of different lengths with shorter bents at the bow where the deck sheer rises and the longest bents amidships where the freeboard is lowest. The locations are not interchangeable. I recommend only removing the parts for one bent at a time to avoid mixing up the parts. Build and attach that bent first before going on the next, in sequential order. The instructions are very specific about the procedure and because of the complexity of this stage of assembly, the kit is not recommended for beginners. The parts are metal panels with weight-saving voids, flanked with heavy support beams and pillars. It is a high iron workers dream come true and promises to be spectacular on the finished model. This fret also contains so other parts as well. Among them are the arrester arms less the wires, davits and assorted other parts.

Another large fret is of much finer brass and contains light weight structures. All of the light support structures are found here for radars, platform supports, carley racks, platforms, railing, inclined ladders, accommodation ladders, vertical ladder, radio tower, Kingfisher wheels for those that wish to convert the SOC floatplane to a wheeled version, two bladed and three bladed propellers, life buoys, carley raft bottoms (you would have to remove the cast on resin carley bottoms to use the brass parts), ducts, and arrestor wires. There are a lot of parts on this fret. The third and smallest brass fret provides parts for 28 Oerlikon guns. Each single gun consists of gun/pillar piece and gun shield with folding gun cradle and shoulder rests. Loose Cannon also provides two decal sheets with 1941 markings with red circle and 1942 circle-less markings. Unfortunately the red circles are not centered in the star. Also included on the sheets are US NAVY markings and two sizes of flags.

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Instructions
Loose Cannon provides a very comprehensive set of instructions with special care given to the exact sequence of construction of the flight deck support structures. Some pages are back printed and some are not. The majority is stapled together but three sheets were loose, apparently having been late additions after the initial collating and stapling. Page i of the main body contains a assembly warning/alert about tricky parts in assembly in order to eliminate pitfalls for the modeler. Page ii shows support structure assembly. An unnumbered page has photos of the two large brass frets. Page 1 starts with superstructure assembly with pages 2 and 3 completing this sequential process. Page 4 starts the attachment of bents from superstructure forward showing attachment of individual pieces attached before the bents are attached. Get these parts in place before attaching the support bents go on because if the process is reversed the attached bents would likely preclude attachment of the resin parts. Page 5 jumps forward to the bow to the navigation bridge and includes all of the other supports for things such as the navigation platform wings. Page 6 goes to the bents between the bow and superstructure steps and includes boat and davit placement. Page 7 goes back to the bow for the bents in front of the navigation bridge. On page 8 you start attaching the resin flight deck support base with the smaller bow part and page 9 features the larger aft resin base and plastic flight deck attachment. Page 10 has quarter deck details, flight deck light support details, flight deck attachments/bracing and floater net baskets. The next page is unnumbered and has profile and plan details to clarify part attachment locations. The last page of the stapled instructions has colored profiles for both sides of the Long Island for the Ms 12 (mod) camouflage pattern of 1942 and Ms 39/9A dazzle pattern of 1943, as well as a single plan view of Norfolk deck stain 20-B flight deck. All three of the loose individual sheets are back printed. One is unnumbered and shows all three brass frets on one side and a resin parts laydown on the reverse. The next sheet is numbered 11 on one side and has railing and carley position details while the reverse is page 12 with Oerlikon and arrestor gear details. The last sheet is numbered 13 on one side with 1943 mast, radar and mast platform assembly and the reverse is page 14 with 1942 mast assembly, radio tower detail and smaller support and mast stay detail.

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Verdict
The Loose Cannon 1:700 scale USS Long Island is an extraordinarily impressive kit packed with detail and a large number of parts for construction of FDR’s baby, the first USN escort carrier. It presents a delightful mixture of odd, asymmetrical and generally bizarre construction features for a carrier conversion slapped on a merchant hull at the President’s direction and features a profile higher than any other escort carrier. Because of the intricate and numerous brass flight deck support structures, the Long Island is not really suitable for beginners.

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