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USS Hornet CV-8 from Merit International

By David Popp, Model Railroader Video Plus producer
Published: February 14, 2012

Product: After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States' handful of aircraft carriers bore the brunt of keeping the Imperial Japanese Navy in check in the Pacific Theater during the first full year of the war. The U.S. Navy did a masterful job of keeping those carriers on the move, fighting famous battles with names such as the Doolittle Raid, Midway, Guadalcanal and Santa Cruz, making it seem as though they were everywhere at once.

Those battles were not without a price: By the end of 1942, only CV-6, the Enterprise, was left serviceable before new carriers could join the fleet in the Pacific.

The early World War II aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) is the subject for Merit International’s first factory-assembled ship model. The detailed plastic carrier is modeled in 1:350 scale, measures an impressive 28 inches from bow to stern, and stands 7 inches on its display base. Merit presents the Hornet as it appeared in the April 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan, as well as a version of the carrier decorated for the June 1942 Battle of Midway, the turning point in the war with Japan. Merit also produces a line of assembled and detailed 1:350-scale aircraft for the model, including U.S. Army B-25B medium bombers for the Doolittle Raid, and F4F Wildcat fighters, SBD-3 Dauntless dive-bombers and TBD-1 Devastator torpedo planes as they appeared in the Battle of Midway. Included with the model is a black plastic display plaque with the name of the carrier printed in white lettering.

Performance: The model comes fully assembled and painted, and it includes a variety of add-on details, such as aircraft and ship’s launches. The ship is a full-hull model and features many details, including the rudders and screws, cranes, anti-aircraft guns, and antennas and towers on the superstructure.

The decoration of the Hornet is really what makes this model stand out. It is painted in the camouflage scheme it wore during most of the ship’s active service life. Merit has included some weathering detail as well, most notably dark washes of paint of the hangar deck doors, vents and life rafts, which is a nice, realistic touch.

My only complaint is that the takeoff striping on the deck is a decal, and its clear film is noticeable on top of the painted deck. Modelers wishing to correct this can spray the model with a flat clearcoat.

Our sample Hornet is the Doolittle Raid version, which requires some explanation, as it includes a unique configuration of aircraft for any carrier during World War II.

In April 1942, the U.S. conducted a joint Army and Navy operation to make a surprise attack on the Japanese home island in retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Using the USS Hornet as an forward airfield, the Army launched 16 specially modified B-25B Mitchell medium-range bombers from the deck of the carrier. Led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle, the bombers attacked Japan and then continued on to China, where all but one crashed after running out of fuel. It was a daring plan, taking the carrier within 600 nautical miles of Japan, and it served as a great morale boost for the U.S. in the darkest days of the war.

The ship includes 12 B-25B bomber models, and Merit sells additional six-packs of bomber models, so you can add the full compliment of 16 as shown in the photo.

The bombers are painted and decaled, and they feature delicate landing gear and propellers, and clear canopies. The B-25 models are tail-heavy, so they will need to be cemented to the ship’s deck to keep the noses down.

Marketing: Merit’s Hornet is impressive, and in the week it has sat on my desk, it attracted a lot of attention, which means it should in your store, as well. Although it is not as well-detailed as some other aircraft carrier kits, for someone lacking sufficient skills to build and paint a more complex model, the Hornet is a wonderful choice. And it still has some build value to it. I spent a very enjoyable two hours researching photographs and gluing the planes and ship’s launches to the model with small dabs of Woodland Scenics' Scenic Cement.

And that brings up another point: With add-on packs of airplanes, the Hornet can be made to appear as it did just about anytime in its wartime service life, allowing the modeler to set up the ship to match a specific photo. I found photos from the early part of the Doolittle Raid voyage that showed the B-25s tied to the deck with several SBDs and F4F planes parked in between them.

The model buyer may also want to use the Hornet as a starting point for another project. Since 1:350 is a common ship modeling scale, there are a number of brass detail parts for the Yorktown-class carriers to which the Hornet belongs. These would be appropriate to take the model to that "next level" of detail. It may be worth mentioning to customers that you could special order these items.

Merit’s Hornet is a fun model of one of the heroes of the war in the Pacific, and it’s sure to get noticed in your store.

Product: USS Hornet CV-8
Maker: Merit International Ltd.
Scale: 1:350
Stock number: 89001 (Doolittle Raid), 89006 (Battle of Midway)
MSRP: $159.95

• Fully detailed and assembled
• Alternate presentations possible
• Includes display base and plaque