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BB 55 Kit

Trumpeter 1/350 USS North Carolina BB 55 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2005 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject USS North Carolina BB 55 Scale 1/350
Kit Number 5303 Primary Media Styrene
Pros First kit of the BB 55 in 1/350, nice details, waterline or full-hull construction Cons  
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $114.95

First Look

BB 55 Kit
BB 55 Kit
BB 55 Kit
BB 55 Kit
BB 55 Kit
BB 55 Kit
BB 55 Kit
BB 55 Kit

The USS North Carolina was commissioned in April 1941 as the first class of battleship to be built since 1923. While the ship was designed to comply with the treaty constraints, her main armament was nine 16 inch guns and a wide range of self-protection armament. Armor for the battleships was designed to withstand a volley from the equivalent of her own guns. The North Carolina actually had less armor plate than her predecessors, but the hull was inclined 15 degrees which provided equivalent protection at significantly less weight.

The original main armament configuration had been four turrets of twin 14 inch guns, but these were changed to three turrets of three 16 inch guns, again resulting in reduced weight and increased firepower.

The USS North Carolina (BB 55) was actually a class of two ships, her sister was the USS Washington (BB 56). The Washington was getting its own shakedown cruise two weeks after the North Carolina's commissioning. After Pearl Harbor, both battleships entered the fighting in the Pacific. The North Carolina was torpedoed on 15 September 1942 while escorting the USS Hornet. Her damage control parties were able to keep the ship in operations through the remainder of the day. She was repaired, refitted and put back to sea. The USS North Carolina and USS Washington survived the war, fighting in nearly every major campaign on the way. Near the end of the war, the USS North Carolina was even shelling industrial complexes near Tokyo! Today the North Carolina is a museum and memorial in Wilmington, NC.

Here is the first kit of the USS North Carolina class to be released in 1/350 scale. The kit is molded in Trumpeter's light gray and is presented on ten parts trees (duplicate trees not shown) as well as three deck sections and the upper hull. Two parts molded in red represent the waterline hull bottom or full hull bottom (your choice), plus a black base to display the completed model upon.

While I am no naval combatant expert, from what I can glean from photos, the kit represents the late-war fit of the North Carolina, especially the main radar dish that replaced the earlier arrays that were used at commissioning and first refit. If you want to backdate the ship to early or pre-war configuration, there are certainly enough photo-etch sets with the appropriate radars available as well as removing and/or re-locating the appropriate gun mounts. While the North Carolina was periodically updated and repainted throughout the war, the Washington remained basically as-built throughout the war, so converting the North Carolina kit will likely entail the same work as backdating the North Carolina.

The packaging of this monstrous kit is quite impressive, with cardboard frames holding the massive hull parts from shifting around in transit. The engineering that goes into Trumpeter's kits is quite impressive.

According to the literature, the completed kit will be 25 inches long (give or take a millimeter). You can see vast number of parts and fittings provided in the kit, so straight out of the box, it will be impressive. With photo-etch railings and other details, this kit will be awesome.

On the aft catapults, the kit adds a new 1/350 aircraft to the mix, the OS2U Kingfisher. These aircraft are not separately molded, so the only way to obtain one is to get this kit. Two are provided.

Trumpeter provides markings for the 1944 version of the North Carolina while she wore Measure 32 camouflage. If you look through some of the historical pictures of this particular ship, it would almost be quicker to list the Measure schemes that the USS North Carolina didn't wear! This provides you with a wide range of color schemes to choose from!

Unless you opt to build this kit straight out of the box, you're likely to spend more time researching the configuration of the ship at some point in time to match the paint, weapons and antenna configurations, than actually building this kit. As with the previous 1/350 combatants from Trumpeter, this is a nicely engineered and beautifully detailed kit. I wouldn't be surprised to see a variety of photo-etch offerings soon to follow.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!

References:

US Battleships in Action, Part 2, Rob Stern, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1984, ISBN 0-89747-157-1.

Footnote

Thanks to one eagle-eyed reader who picked up an interesting error - the flag to the right has 50 stars - the current US flag. During WW2, we only had 48 states and therefore only 48 stars on the flag. You'll need to replace the flags. The national markings for the OS2U do not have the post-WW2 red stripe through the white bar, so these are just fine for WW2.

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