by Robert Apfelzweig
1/350 USS Ranger, CV-4 late 1944 (Trumpeter)
The USS Ranger was commissioned in 1934 as the first purpose-built aircraft carrier for the US Navy, joining at that time the earlier USS Langley (CV-1), converted from a collier, and the USS Lexington (CV2) and USS Saratoga (CV3), both converted from battlecruiser hulls during construction. The Ranger was relatively small and slow compared with CV2 and 3 and the subsequent 3-ship Yorktown class, and was significantly upgraded during her 12-year career, which saw her involved in many aircraft deliveries across the Atlantic Ocean during the early years of the war, providing valuable air cover for Operation Torch in November 1942, and then eventually transferring to the Pacific in 1944 around Hawaii to train pilots for service with the US Pacific Fleet as it closed in on Japan. She was scrapped in 1946.
Trumpeter's model has several good things about it and the usual bad things one associates with this model company. The ship can be built in either an early war (1942-43) or late war (1944-5) configuration; her AA armament was significantly different for each period and, for the sake of historical accuracy, her island and mast would need to be modified in either case from what Trumpeter provides. There are abundant photos of the ship online (NAVSOURCE is quite helpful) as well as a section devoted to her on the Ship Model Forum website. Trumpeter's kit features a usually good, sometimes sloppy, fit of important parts, especially the hangar bulkheads, and squeezing the insertion margins of the underside of the 1-piece flight deck in between the tops of the hangar bulkheads could only reliably be accomplished (by me, anyway) by using wooden blocks to widen the space between the port and starboard bulkheads (see the final photo). Following the choice of several earlier builders, I cut out the molded doors on the port side of the island, since these were meant to be doorless openings from the flight deck into the island. Getting the bulkheads and sponsons to fit together tightly sometimes required putty filling and subsequent sanding. There is a painting diagram for the MS-33 Design 1A dazzle camouflage scheme that the ship had by July 1944, but Trumpeter's illustrated colors are not reliable -- they should be 5-N, 5-H, 5-O and 5-P, with a 20B deck. Fortunately, there is a good online diagram of this scheme that I was able to print out. If you want to portray the ship in her earlier camo schemes, they are simpler but you're pretty much on your own.
Portrayal of the ship in her July-August 1944 fit means no 5-in. guns, and flattening or sanding away the little round discs on the sponson platforms that they would otherwise use for attachment. Trumpeter provides the usual poorly cast 40mm and 20mm guns; I used Infini quad Bofors and a mixture of Master Model and Infini 20mm Oerlikons (by this date no more .50 cal machine guns were carried). The kit comes with a generally satisfying brass photoetch fret set, which provides nearly all the railing and ladders one will need, as well as the radars; there is no aftermarket detail kit available (yet). The plastic yardarm is too short and I replaced it with a longer brass one from Master Model. Some scratch-building was done to modify the mast and yardarm with additional parts; I also added L'Arsenal loudspeakers and scratchbuilt their supports to the mast and replaced the MK. 51 plastic rangefinders for the Bofors with L'Arsenal brass and resin parts. A photo of the ship taken late in the war from directly above it shows that the sponson decks formerly carrying the 5-in. guns now seemed to be used for storing various equipment in bins or boxes, so I liberally added these from my spare parts stash to fill in some empty space; I also added 20mm ammo lockers left over from my recent build of the Very Fire USS Cleveland (the Ranger kit has none). The wooden flight deck is from Pontos (in 3 sections) but I considered its color much too light a shade of blue and airbrushed it with Tamiya 20B paint. The Ranger had six funnels, three per side aft of amidships, and in the kit are designed to fold down, as they would in real life, but you cannot do this once the kit is assembled per the instructions, as catwalks and brass railings outboard of them would prevent this. One interesting feature of the kit is that the hangar bulkheads are somewhat detailed on their inside surfaces, and a system of girders is installed immediately below the flight deck, but only one area of the hangar deck is open to the outside unless one omits one or more of the kit hangar doors. I chose to place a Hellcat and TBF with folded wings in that one visible region of the hangar deck, just aft of the island.
The easiest alternative to the late war fit would be to portray the ship as during Operation Torch (late 1942); use eight aftermarket 5-in. guns, 1.1-in. quad machine guns instead of the Quad Bofors and .50 cal. machine guns in place of many of the Oerlkons, and some of the catwalk splinter shields would have to be cut away and replaced with additional railing. This project is discussed further on the Ship Model Forum.
The air wing Trumpeter provides consists of 5 each of TBF Avengers, F6F Hellcats and Douglas Dauntlesses. However, once in the Pacific and engaged in pilot training in 1944, Navy records show that the Ranger carried no Dauntlesses and instead had the newer and heavier Curtiss SB2C Helldivers and F4U Corsairs. I had a spare set of Trumpeter Corsairs and added them in my build, but omitted the Helldivers (there was little available deck space for them, anyway). The 1942 fit would use the Dauntlesses and replace the Hellcats with 4F4 Wildcats. Trumpeter includes decals for the aircraft (insignia but no numbers), the two hull numbers and American and Navy Jack flags, and the ship's name for the fantail, but a photo of the Ranger taken from astern during her late ware period does not show her name in that location, so I omitted it.