Revell 1/547 USS Midway

KIT #: H-441
PRICE: $ Long out of production
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Tim Reynaga
NOTES:  1974 Boxing


Laid down about a year after the Battle of Midway, the CVB-41 Midway class represented an attempt to address the main deficiency of U.S. Navy carriers of the time by incorporating an armored flight deck on a fleet-sized flattop.  Integrating the armored deck as part of the superstructure, the design succeeded in providing good protection without sacrificing airgroup strength.  In fact, when commissioned the Midway had an airwing of almost 130 aircraft—more than any other World War Two aircraft carrier.

Completed too late for the Second World War, the Midway nevertheless had a busy career including annual deployments in the Atlantic and with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean.  A highlight during this period was Operation Sandy in September 1947, in which she test fired a captured German V-2 rocket from her flight deck—the first such launching from a moving platform.  In 1952, the angled flight deck concept was evaluated in tests conducted on a simulated angled deck aboard Midway by Naval Air Test Center and Atlantic Fleet pilots.  The tests were a success, and between 1955-1957 the ship underwent a massive reconstruction in which she was fitted with an angled flight deck (as have all USN aircraft carriers since).  In addition, the ship received an enclosed “hurricane bow”, a new deck edge elevator, steam catapults, mirror landing systems and other modifications to allow the Midway to operate larger, heavier jet aircraft.

Following her refit the ship began annual deployments with the 7th Fleet in the Pacific.  The carrier was on duty in the South China Sea during the Laotian crisis of spring l961, and during the subsequent Vietnam Conflict the Midway was among the first carriers on station.  Beginning in April 1965, her aircraft flew strikes against military and logistics installations in both North and South Vietnam.   During three separate deployments (1965, 1971, and 1972) her airgroups flew hundreds of sorties including airstrikes, rescues, and mining North Vietnamese harborsMidway airmen also achieved the distinction of scoring the very first (1965) and last (1973) air-to-air victories of the war.

In October 1973 Midway put into Yokosuka, Japan, marking the first forward-deployment of a complete carrier battle group in a Japanese port.  This prepositioning of carriers in the Far East was especially significant at a time when the fiscal cutbacks  had educed the number of carriers in the fleet.  Yokosuka remained Midway’s base for the next eighteen years.

In April 1975 Midway responded, along with her sister Coral Sea and three other carriers, when North Vietnamese forces finally succeeded in overrunning their neighbor to the South. In this last act of the Vietnam War, hundreds of American and Vietnamese personnel were evacuated by sea after the fall of Saigon to the Communists.  In one unusual incident a South Vietnamese pilot escaped with his family to safety by landing a small civil aircraft aboard Midway.  In May 1975 Midway served as a floating airfield in support of special operations forces in the rescue of the cargo ship Mayaguez which had been captured by Khmer Rouge pirates off Vietnam

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Midway served almost continuously as a forward deployed contingency carrier in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. Notable incidents during this time included a dramatic rescue of the passengers and crew of a crashed civilian helicopter in 1981 and the final carrier launching of a USN F-4 Phantom II in 1986.

In 1991, Midway had her last wartime deployment as one of the six aircraft carriers sent by the US against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as part of Operation Desert Shield in the first Gulf War.  Midway’s airgroup participated as part of Operation Imminent Thunder, a combined amphibious landing feint in northeastern Saudi Arabia which involved about 1,000 U.S. Marines, 16 warships, and more than 1,100 aircraft. 

A few months after the war, the Midway was finally decommissioned.  After nearly 48 years of service spanning the surrender of Japan in WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam, the era of détente and Desert Storm during which an amazing 225,000 sailors served aboard her, the ship joined the mothball fleet at Bremerton, Washington.  In 2004 the Midway began the final phase of her long service as the centerpiece of the popular U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier Museum at San Diego, California.


This kit is one of the early polystyrene plastic model ship kits, appearing just a year after the granddaddy of them all, Revell’s 1/535 scale Missouri.  Initially issued in 1954 as the Franklin D. Roosevelt (kit H-307), it was Revell’s first aircraft carrier and their largest plastic model kit to date—and it sold for a mere $2.49!  That kit was identical to the numerous re-releases over the years, except that it had the number “42” in raised outline on both sides of the funnel and on the flight deck fore and aft. It was next issued as a part of the 1955 “Victory at Sea” set, followed by a Picture Fleet kit circa 1960 (H-321) along with a Midway (kit H-373) and a motorized Coral Sea (H-399).  The Coral Sea appeared again without the motor in 1966 (H-374), and once again in 1974 with new box art (H-440) along with the Midway (H-441).  Other than the raised numbering (deleted from all but the earliest issues) and the motor on the 1961 Coral Sea, the only differences among these kits were the box illustrations, decals, and instructions.  With this dizzying array of re-releases over the years, Revell sure seems to have got their money’s worth out of this one!

The kit represents the ship as she appeared not long after completion but with the original 40mm Bofors quads replaced with 3"/L50 twins.  The Mk.37 directors are still fitted with the WWII-era Mk. 4 radars though, so I’m not certain of the precise date; somewhere in the early 1950s seems likely.  It is definitely represents Midway before the ship’s major 1955-7 refit because of the open bow, straight flight deck, and numerous 20mm Oerlikon mounts.  The kit comes with a small airgroup consisting of 16 Cougars, 6 Corsairs, 2 Skyraiders, and 2 helos.

As with most of the very earliest plastic ship kits, it is a “box scale” model—that is, scaled to fit a standard sized box on hobby shop shelves rather than to a constant scale.  In this case it works out to about 1/547, an oddball size that makes swapping components from other kits or finding aftermarket upgrade parts a challenge.  Another problematic aspect of this kit is that the Roosevelt/Midway/Coral Sea is one of Revell’s infamous “flat bottom boats”.  In 1954 Revell had not yet decided whether their products were to be marketed as accurate scale models or as children’s toys, so they compromised and made the hulls mostly accurate but with flat bottoms so kids could play with them on the floor.  Some of the plastic ship models of this time even had tiny wheels to make this easier!  While appealing to kids (I remember preferring these to the rounded hull models that tended to roll over during combat ops in the back yard), they made these kits totally inaccurate as full hull models.  Too bad, because the Midway’s hull above the waterline is pretty decent.

While I’m not nuts about the molded-to-the-deck solid railings and molded-in 20mm guns, the shapes and dimensions above the waterline are accurate and convincingly rendered.  And although it is sometimes somewhat heavy, there is quite a bit of detail.  The 3” twins and 5"/L54 mk 39 guns are covered in details which, if overdone, at least add interest.  The island sports both open and closed doors, sharply incised bridge windows, life rafts, and flag bags.  The hull and sponsons are festooned with numerous molded in shapes which impart a general impression of complexity while using only a few parts.  On the flight deck I was impressed with the sharply molded catapult tracks, arrestor gear, accurately ribbed gallery sides… even hundreds of tiny raised dots representing aircraft tie down points.  There are also a number of very delicately sculpted smaller details like floater net baskets (with floats visible inside), deck winches, cranes, and some excellent canvas cover detail on the two lifeboats aft.  These well done touches may be from the hand of the primary pattern maker for the kit, Anthony D. Bulone, a talented sculptor best known as the creator of the face for the original Mattel Barbie doll.


I had bought the Midway quite a while ago but somehow never got started on it.  Not that it was a bad kit; it just wasn’t one of those “must builds” for me that push everything else aside.  Lack of references in my library, the odd scale, heavy detailing and lack of aftermarket goodies for it had eventually relegated the kit to the bottom of the model stash.  More compelling projects always seemed to find their way to my workbench… but with a busy career, growing family and the increasing complexity of the projects themselves I found myself finishing fewer and fewer kits!  With leisure time at a premium and my own ever-rising standards for build quality, was it still even possible to complete a good-sized scale model?  Looking in my closet for a quick build, the relatively simple Midway seemed like a good choice.  I resolved to put the model together right out of the box without worrying about less than perfect details and with no scratchbuilding, replacement parts, or photoetch allowed.  It would be a straightforward, speedy build like when I was a kid (but without the bb guns and firecrackers!) 

So I set to work.  Just as aircraft builds usually begin with the cockpit, so ships begin with the hull.  And that first step was also the first glitch in my plan.  Revell’s rendition of the hull is pretty nice… except for that flat hull bottom.  It is really very strange; this thing is not a true full hull, but it isn’t a proper waterline either.  It is as if some giant were lifting the ship partially out of the sea, exposing about ¾ of the ship below the waterline but without taking it entirely from the water.  No propellers or shafts are provided, and the twin rudders are actually cut in half to match the flat hull bottom.  Even for a quick build, I just couldn’t live with that!

Waterlining the model was the easiest solution, so the first step was to cut away the underwater portion of the hull.  Revell had thoughtfully included a raised waterline to assist painting, so I simply cut along this using my Dremel’s saw attachment.  Ok, so the result was a little ragged, but that cut would be covered by the scratchbuilt ocean base to come later…Doh!  There went my out of the box idea almost from the start!  I guess if I kept it simple the base wouldn’t be that much more work…

With the hull thus summarily dealt with, the rest of the build went very fast.  A mere eight parts built up the entirety of the exterior hangar deck bulkheads, with three more for the forecastle and aft main decks.  These attached easily to the hull, quickly completing the structure up to flight deck level.  No hangar deck is provided, but it didn’t matter since the various hangar doors are all depicted closed.  The exception to this is at the portside elevator.  On this one the hangar door is provided as a separate piece and the elevator includes a sliver of hangar deck about an inch deep.  With an airplane outside on the elevator and the darkened space within you could probably get away with leaving the door open, but for simplicity I just left it closed.

In going for the simple build I had decided to ignore the crude 20mm Oelrlikon mounts cast into the sponsons as well as the molded-in railing along the edges of these parts, which I would have normally scraped off and replaced with photoetched brass.  Although making for a much better scale appearance, this sort of thing also tends to bog down my projects for weeks…. but not this time!  I slid past, just taking time to clean flash off the parts and glue them down.  It was the same with the island, where again I left the molded-in railing and took time only to clean up the parts and conceal the seams.  The tripod mast and radars also went on without alteration.  Man, this was modeling!  I couldn’t believe how much I was able to get done in a single afternoon!

The flight deck came next.  This big part comes molded as a single piece with the centerline elevators, arrestor gear, catapults, tie-down points and other details all crisply molded in.  Sure, the tie down points are raised dots instead of depressions and the dashed aircraft guide lines are raised outlines, but the details still look reasonably good.  Best of all, the various galleries are cast directly onto the deck edge so there is no need for any assembly—so it is just a matter of slapping it on and gluing it down.

Next came the smaller details.  Assorted bits such as anchors, cranes, and sensors, though by no means perfect, went on without enhancement.  The 5 inchers came molded as single pieces, and the 3 inch twins attached to bases already cast directly onto the sponsons.  These parts look only generally like the real things, but I didn’t let myself fuss over improving them either.  Basic flash clean up and paint was all these little beauties got from me before they went aboard! 


U.S. Navy ships of the 1950s were painted 5-H Haze Gray over all vertical surfaces, with darker 20-B Deck Blue or 20 Deck Gray over the decks.  Aircraft carriers usually had 21 Flight Deck Stain (similar to Deck Blue) over their flight decks, but since the Midway class didn’t have wooden flight decks their armored steel flight decks were Deck Gray as well.  In the spirit of keeping things simple I used Model Master (Testors) Dark Ghost Gray for Haze Gray and Model Master Gunship Gray for the decks.  These colors were reasonable matches for Haze and Deck Gray right out of the bottle but, more importantly, I already had them on hand!  These were brush painted on, starting with the light gray vertical surfaces followed by the darker decks.  Recessed areas on the lighter gray vertical surfaces were then given pin washes of Gunship Gray, later drybrushed with the base color to tidy things up but still leave a bit of depth.  The flight deck received a coat of Gunship Gray with the elevators receiving a slightly lightened color to help them stand out a little.  Small details of the arrestor gear and catapults were picked out in the lighter gray.  The aircraft guide lines on the flight deck were painted Floquil SP Armor Yellow.  The repetitive process of painting these dozens of dashed lines was made much easier by Revell’s decision to represent them with raised outlines.  All I had to do was to put a drop or two of thinned paint within the little rectangles and capillary action filled them in neatly and uniformly.  Apparently the model had been designed with brush painters in mind!

At this point I wished I had one of the early releases of the Franklin D. Roosevelt which had the hull number “42” in raised outline on the funnel and flight deck. This would have made painting in those markings as easy as the dashed lines had been.  As it was my model was one of the later issues from 1974, by which time Revell had removed these numbers from the molds.  So instead the kit had come with decals for these areas:  a pair of large yellow “41”s for the flight deck, shaded white ones for the funnel, and “MIDWAY” in large black letters for the stern.  Unfortunately, the 35 year old decals in the box must have at some point become damp, because they were stuck solid to the backing paper and were unusable. 

Replacing the shaded “41”s for the funnel was no problem.  The Gold Medal Models 1/350-1/400 scale Naval Ship Decals (set 350-1D) contains perfectly sized shaded USN style numbers—they are even a little sharper than Revell’s decals would have been.  The white “M-I-D-W-A-Y” letters for the fantail were also Gold Medal Models, in this case aircraft codes cut individually from a decal sheet for 1/350 scale USN WWII aircraft (set 350-6D).  Like the kit decals these were slightly too big, but accurately scaled letters would have been almost invisible in this location anyway, so they worked just fine.  For the yellow “41”s on the flight deck I painted a swatch of AP Armor Yellow over some spare solid decal sheet.  Then, using the yellow “4’ and “1” numbers cut from the ruined Revell sheet,  I traced the outlines on the painted over sheet, cut them out, and presto—new decals for the flight deck!  

I refrained from any weathering as the Midway class carriers were the pride of the U.S. Navy of the time and were carefully maintained.  Besides, it would have slowed things down, and this build was really cookin’ along! 


However well constructed the ship, it is the airgroup that really makes or breaks an aircraft carrier model.  This kit comes with 26 aircraft including sixteen F9F-6 Cougars (eleven with folded wings), six F4U Corsairs, two A-1 Skyraiders, and a pair of Piaseki HUP-2 Retriever helicopters with folded rotors.  The planes are simplified but basically accurate, and there is even a modest amount of raised detailing.  Landing gear on the fixed wing aircraft is depicted with solid pegs.  No decals are provided for any of the planes.

I started by cleaning up the flash and mold lines and assembling the prop planes.  It was nice to work with such uncomplicated planes after Trumpeter’s 1/350 scale multi-part masterpieces that seem to take forever to complete.  Midway’s aircraft are all just single parts, except the Corsairs and Skyraiders which have their engines/propellers as separate pieces.  They were prepped for painting in no time, except that my old kit was missing three of the engine/prop parts (so no Skyraiders and one less Corsair).  Despite their simplicity they looked pretty decent, if a little plain. 

I brush painted the first of the planes in gloss Sea Blue.  Looking at them as they dried, though, they didn’t seem quite right.  The paint, Testors Dark Sea Blue (FS15042) was the correct color for USN planes of this era, but it looked too dark, almost black on these tiny airplanes.  I tried lightening the Sea Blue with white for a better scale effect, but for some reason that looked even worse!  So using a little artistic license, I repainted them with Testors Blue Angel Blue (FS15050), a much lighter, bluer shade.  Although not the technically correct color, the effect was much more convincing.  The planes now actually looked blue. 

After painting the glazed areas silver and making my best attempt at canopy framing, the airgroup was ready for its markings.  Since the kit provided no decals, I used some aftermarket stuff I had on hand.  The national insignia on the Cougars and Corsairs came from Gold Medal Models 1/700 scale Naval Aircraft Insignia Decals (set 700-3D), as did the white “NAVY” and “MARINES” fuselage markings on the Cougars.   As for the white “N”, “R”, and “M” codes on the wings and tails, these letters were borrowed from  “MARINES” markings from the Gold Medal Models 1/350 WW2 USN Aircraft Decals (set 350-6D).  Following a recommendation from a fellow IPMS club member I applied the decals a little differently than I usually do, placing each on a little pool of Future applied to the aircraft, followed by another brushed on coat of Future when dry.  It worked just fine, and the hand brushing saved the need to deal with the airbrush.  I hadn’t intended to use any aftermarket on this project, but the GMM decals went a long way toward dressing up those plain little birds!

My favorite aircraft were the two Piaseki HUP-2 Retriever helicopters.  Molded as single pieces with folded rotors, I painted and decaled them along with the rest of the aircraft.  They looked good mostly, but those heavily molded, pole-like rotors really bugged me.  They looked less like folded rotors than a clumsy, over thick attempt at a single blade.  When my twelve year old daughter actually asked me what had happened to the other blades, I finally gave in and replaced them with thin Evergreen sheet plastic strips.  Yeah, I was disregarding my own “no scratchbuilding” rule, but it only took a few minutes and they looked SO much better!  


Setting aside the completed airgroup, I turned my attention back to the ship.  Things looked good, but that jagged waterline demanded that it be placed on some sort of sea.  I made a simple one from Celluclay paper maché over a piece of scrap plywood.  The sea base actually didn’t add a lot of time to the project, and it made the model display much more interesting.  After painting it up and attaching the ship to it, I couldn’t resist adding a few small extras, so the mast received a brass wire yardarm with some rigging and little decal flag.  A couple of “yellow gear” tow mules borrowed from a 1/500 scale Nimitz and some horizontal brass wire antennas rounded out the detail on the flight deck.  Finally, I suspended one of the Cougars on a blue-painted wire just off the bow as if it were just taking off. 

And with that it was done—a finished model!  Not only that, it was accomplished with only a few evenings of pleasant, intermittent effort among the demands of the job, wife, and four busy kids.  It certainly isn’t the most detailed model I’ve ever done, but it was a quick, fun diversion from those more elaborate builds I so rarely seem to actually complete. 


Revell’s Midway is not the greatest kit ever produced, but considering the fact that it  first appeared in 1954, it really isn’t bad at all.  With the exception of that dopey underwater hull it has “good bones”, and at 21½ inches in length it is eye-catching on the shelf.  The basics are there for a impressive superdetailed replica if you are inclined to make the effort, but if you are looking for something more relaxing it can also be assembled without fuss into an attractive display piece almost right out of the box.   

This one was so much fun my next project will likely be that old Revell box scale USS Wasp lurking in my closet.  Now if I can just get past the idea of improving the hull and scratchbuilding a nice little hangar deck for it…


USS Midway museum website

Pawlowski, Gareth L.,  Flat-Tops and Fledglings : A History of American Aircraft Carriers ; NY, Castle Books, 1971.

Tim Reynaga

January 2009

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