KIT: Trumpeter 1/350 USS Lexington (May 1942)
KIT #: 05608
PRICE: $129.95
DECALS: provided for aircraft only
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: A lot of you have been waiting, now here it is!

HISTORY

displacement: 41,000 tons
length: 888 feet
beam: 105 feet
draft: 32 feet
speed: 34 knots
complement: 2,122 crew
armament: 8 eight-inch and 12 five-inch guns (as originally fitted)
aircraft: 81
class: Lexington

 

From: Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, published by the Naval Historical Center
Full-screen images are linked from the images in the text below.

Lexington being built

The fourth Lexington (CV 2) was originally designated CC 1; laid down as a battle cruiser 8 January 1921 by Fore River Shipbuilding Co., Quincy, Mass.; authorized to be completed as an aircraft carrier 1 July 1922; launched 3 October 1925; sponsored by Mrs. Theodore Douglas Robinson, wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned 14 December 1927, Capt. Albert W. Marshall in command.
 
After fitting out and shakedown, Lexington joined the battle fleet at San Pedro, Calif., 7 April 1928. Based there, she operated on the west coast with Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fleet, in flight training, tactical exercises, and battle problems . Each year she participated in fleet maneuvers in the Hawaiians, in the Caribbean, off the Panama Canal Zone, and in the eastern Pacific.
 
On 16 January 1930, Lexington completed a 30-day period in which she furnished electricity to the city of Tacoma, Wash., in an emergency arising from a failure of the city's power supply. The electricity from the carrier totaled more than 4.25 million kilowatt-hours.
 
In the fall of 1941 she sailed with the battle force to the Hawaiians for tactical exercises.
 
On 7 December 1941 Lexington was at sea with Task Force 12 (TF 12) carrying marine aircraft from Pearl Harbor to reinforce Midway when word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was received. She immediately launched searchplanes to hunt for the Japanese fleet , and at mid-morning headed south to rendezvous with USS Indianapolis (CA 35) and USS Enterprise (CV 6) task forces to conduct a search southwest of Oahu until returning Pearl Harbor 18 December.
Lexington at sea in 1941
Lexington sailed next day to raid Japanese forces on Jaluit to relieve pressure on Wake; these orders were canceled 20 December, and she was directed to cover the USS Saratoga force in reinforcing Wake. When the island fell 23 December, the two carrier forces were recalled to Pearl Harbor, arriving 27 December.
 
Lexington patrolled to block enemy raids In the Oahu-Johnston-Palmyra triangle until 11 January 1942, when she sailed from Pearl Harbor as flagship for Vice Adm. Wilson Brown commanding TF 11. On 16 February, the force headed for an attack on Rabaul, New Britain, scheduled for 21 February. While approaching the day previous, Lexington was attacked by two waves of enemy aircraft, nine planes to a wave. The carrier's own combat air patrol and antiaircraft fire splashed 17 of the attackers. During a single sortie Lt. E. H (Butch) O'Hare won the Medal of Honor by downing five planes.
 
Her offensive patrols in the Coral Sea continued until 6 March, when she rendezvoused with USS Yorktown's TF 17 for a thoroughly successful surprise attack flown over the Owen Stanley mountains of New Guinea to inflict heavy damage on shipping and installations at Salamaua and Lae 10 March. She now returned to Pearl Harbor, arriving 26 March 1942. Lexington's task force sortied from Pearl Harbor 15 April, rejoining TF 17 on 1 May. As Japanese fleet concentrations threatening the Coral Sea were observed, Lexington and USS Yorktown (CV 5) moved into the sea to search for the enemy's force covering a projected troop movement. The Japanese must now be blocked in their southward expansion, or sea communication with Australia and New Zealand would be cut, and the dominions threatened with invasion.
 
On 7 May 1942 search planes reported contact with an enemy carrier task force, and Lexington's air group flew an eminently successful mission against it, sinking light carrier Shoho. Later that day, 12 bombers and 15 torpedo planes from still-unlocated heavy carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku were intercepted by fighter groups from Lexington and Yorktown, who splashed nine enemy aircraft.
 
On the morning of the 8th, a Lexington plane located the Shokaku group. A strike was immediately launched from the American carriers, and the Japanese ship was heavily damaged.
Lexington on fire and sinking
The enemy penetrated to the American carriers at 1100, and 20 minutes later Lexington was struck by a torpedo to port. Seconds later, a second torpedo hit to port directly abreast the bridge. At the same time, she took three bomb hits from enemy dive bombers, producing a seven degree list to port and several raging fires. By 1300 her skilled damage control parties had brought the fires under control and returned the ship to even keel. Making 25 knots, she was ready to recover her air group. Then suddenly Lexington was shaken by a tremendous explosion, caused by the ignition of gasoline vapors below, and again fire raged out of control.
 
At 1558 Capt. Frederick C. Sherman, fearing for the safety of men working below, secured salvage operations, and ordered all hands to the flight deck. At 1707, he ordered, "abandon ship!", and the orderly disembarkation began, men going over the side into the warm water, almost immediately to be picked up by nearby cruisers and destroyers. Admiral Fitch and his staff transferred to cruiser USS Minneapolis (CA 36); Captain Sherman and his executive officer, Cmdr. M. T. Seligman insured all their men were safe, then were the last to leave their ship.
 
Lexington blazed on, flames shooting hundreds of feet into the air. The destroyer USS Phelps (DD 360) closed to 1500 yards and fired two torpedoes into her hull. With one last heavy explosion, Lexington sank at 1956 on 8 May 1942 at 15 20' S., 155 30' E. She was part of the price that was paid to halt the Japanese overseas empire and safeguard Australia and New Zealand, but perhaps an equally great contribution had been her pioneer role in developing the naval aviators and the techniques which played so vital a role in ultimate victory in the Pacific.
 
Lexington received two battle stars for World War II service.
 

Historical background courtesy of the Naval Historical Center.

THE KIT

I'd have to say that Trumpeter has done it again. Now I'm at a bit of a disadvantage to many of you as ships are not my forte, however, it seems from what I've heard and seen regarding their other nautical releases, that Trumpeter gets things done pretty much spot on when it comes to the design of its ship models. You'll have to excuse my not showing all the sprues, but there just isn't room for them. I've shown the hull as packaged and the flight deck. That is a one foot ruler

Since the Lex and Sara were based on battle cruiser hulls, it should be no surprise that these are both long and skinny ships. As a result, the length of the hull is nearly a meter long. Finding a spot for this one will be a real challenge for modelers. The level of detailing is excellent, just as we have come to expect from Trumpeter kits. There are the usual mass of ejector pin marks on the backside of parts and filling those for the deck bits that stick out will be a chore for those who want to have a contest quality model. Most of us will blow them off.

This is the Lexington as she was at the Coral Sea. This means no big guns, those being replaced by additional anti-aircraft guns. You get a nice batch of aircraft to go along with it. Nothing like the normal complement of 81, but you do get 6 SBD-3s, 4 F4F-4s, and 3 TBD-1s. Naturally, those who want a busy flight deck will be able to get extras as 13 planes will not look very crowded on that deck! Even though you can do the wings folded on the TBD and F4Fs, you'll want the wings fixed on the Wildcats as the F4F-4 with the folding wings didn't come until Midway, and the Lex was sunk at the Battle of the Coral Sea. I've shown the TBD sprue and should note that the instructions would have the folded wings being vertical when done. This isn't correct for the TBD as the tips met over the canopy when the wings were folded. You may have to do these with the wings spread. The build instructions for the TBD also show an SBD for the first half of the build (guess they figured we wouldn't notice!). Trumpeter also missed the corrugated wings and tail planes.

As with previous Trumpeter ships, this one can be built with a full hull or as a waterline. The flight deck is in three sections that interlock with each other, providing a good mating surface that should require no filler. In terms of sheer parts, most of what is in the kit are for the AA guns and for the aircraft. Regardless, it should be a relatively quick build once the bits have had the usual seam scraping and other general cleaning prior to construction. I did note that the large openings on the side were very thin near the top and were warped. Careful construction should amend that.

Instructions are excellent with four of the 20 pages being devoted to a parts guide. Then you get into the 21 construction steps, three of which are for the aircraft. No color information is given during the construction phase. For that, there is a separate sheet in full color showing Gunze paints that are to be used. They show the area below the waterline as cocoa brown. I'd always thought that was red. The deck is given as 'Deck Blue' so I guess that Gunze has a few naval colors as well. There are decals for the air wing and they are quite well printed. They are also teeny tiny so break out the magnifying glass for this one!

CONCLUSIONS

I know a lot of folks have been taken aback at the high cost of Trumpeter's airplane kits. Perhaps it is justified, but in today's shrinking hobby, I don't think it is as bad as it seems. Certainly ship builders are getting a bargain. In the past, one either did without or forked out many times the asking price for this one. In terms of the quality of the kit, the detail that is provided and the subject matter, I think that ship builders should be flocking to pick this one up.

February 2005

REFERENCES

Naval Historical Center.

A big thank you to Steven's International, importer of Trumpeter and other fine hobby lines.

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