These are a series of dioramas I have developed based on the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17). The kit is the 1/700 kit of USS Essex produced by Hasegawa. It is painted in MS 21 using 5-N Navy Blue from Model Master paints. I have produced a series of photos of her at sea and under suicide plane attack on May 11, 1945 and the subsequent efforts to put out the fires and save her. The other ship in some pictures is a scratch-built 1:700 scale kit of the Cleveland Class cruiser USS Wilkes-Barre, which came to the Bunker Hill's aid. Of particular interest to some modelers may be the technique of producing "battle damage" to the kit in such a way that I can easily restore the kit to a clean condition. In the case of the Bunker Hill, she sustained two kamikaze hits which incinerated most of the 34 aircraft on her flight deck, caused her aft elevator to collapse onto the hangar deck and blow a large hole in the flight deck beside the island. Eight Helldiver aircraft parked at the aft end were damaged by fire and smoke, but did not themselves catch fire. I produced the damaged area of the ship I performed the following steps:
1. I cut, trimmed and placed strips of double-sided tape to the flight deck.
2. I removed the aft elevator and replaced it with a balsa wood "elevator" which I gently bent in half to simulate the collapsed elevator.
3. I used cut, glued and painted note cards, with photo-etch pieces glued on in a random manner to simulate the buckled outer edges of the hole in the flight deck created by the second kamikaze hit. I then affixed the fake "hole in deck" on to the sticky tape.
4. I made "burned out" engine housings using short pieces of cut sprue of suitable thickness to simulate the thickness of aircraft fuselage and then glued small photo-etch propellers to the engine housings. I place the engine housing and propellers from "damaged aircraft" onto the sticky tape on the flight deck to simulate the aircraft burned in place.
5. I then sprinkled fine ash collected from previous camp out fires onto the sticky tape on the flight deck.
6. This next step is the riskiest part of the endeavor. In a well-ventilated area with a concrete floor, I would light a thick piece of sprue. When burning properly it will produce a thick smoke, which rises upward. While holding the burning sprue with one hand, I hold the ship upside down over the burning sprue. I hold it sufficiently far away to prevent any heat damage to the plastic kit, but keep it immersed in the smoke produced. The sprue smoke adheres to the kit and has the effect of creating "smoke damage" where the kit is immersed in the smoke.
7. When I am ready to repair my kit I simply remove the tape from the flight deck and gently washed the kit in soap and water to remove the smoke residue. I little touch up here and there may be needed, but the small amount of damage is easily repaired.
The rest of the digital-diorama involves using Adobe Photodeluxe to manipulate the images by adding seawater, fire, smoke, ship wakes, etc. The photos are numbered in the sequence of events for the dioramas, beginning with the (1) ship at sea, ((2) under kamikaze attack, (3) Hit and the subsequent fires, (4) assistance rendered by the Wilkes-Barre, (5) and finally, views of the Bunker Hill with the fires out and underway to Ulithi.
Richard H. Smith