by: Karl Zingheim [ ]
The USS Chevalier was one of the few Gearing-class destroyers completed in time to see combat in World War II. Commissioned on 9 January 1945, she participated in a bombardment of Wake Island just a fortnight before the Japanese surrender. Occupation and demobilization duties occupied her time into 1946. As essentially a brand-new unit, the Chevalier was kept active and cruised in the Western Pacific as well off California. Redesignated radar picket destroyer (DDR) in 1949, she saw extensive service during the Korean War, primarily as an escort for the carriers of Task Force 77 in the Sea of Japan and as part of the security patrol in the Taiwan Straits.
Afterwards, the Chevalier returned to a peacetime schedule of deployments throughout East Asia and the Pacific. She reverted to her destroyer designation in 1962 and entered the yards for a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) upgrade. She resumed her service with the Pacific Fleet and can be seen in the background during a rare burial at sea service conducted by the fire-damaged USS Oriskany in 1966. In July 1972 she was transferred to the South Korean Navy and was renamed Chung Buk. She served in this capacity until paid off in December 2000.
Dragonís kit depicts the Chevalier in her World War II appearance, including her tripod radar mast stepped amidships. The box art represents the ship steaming through a harbor with a massive aircraft fly-over in the background, suggesting itís during the Japanese surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay, although the Chevalier was not present at that time. The box topís side panels show CAD drawings of the completed kit as well as a color rendering of the full hull ship.
The kit is molded throughout in a medium haze gray plastic. The hull comes in two parts, the freeboard and underwater portions. Both are extensively reinforced inside with molded baffles to prevent warping and the fit between them is tight. The underwater hull is molded with bilge keels and a skeg with recesses for the placement of the propeller shaft struts and bearings and the twin rudder posts. The only details on the upper hull are the hawse pipe openings which are hollow. The distinctive sheer line of the class looks right and the rake of the stem has the correct gentle curve, instead of a straight line as depicted in other kits.
The Main Deck
Bering a flush decker, the Chevalierís deck is a single piece that fits inside a step shelf molded inside the hull. Deck fitting attachments are moderate with sloped troughs leading to the hawsepipes, the foundations for the deck-level five inch gunhouses, and the fantail 20mm gun tub being most prominent. A relatively deep depression is molded to contain the superstructure part. A particularly nice touch is a gentle tumblehome to the deck.
Inventorying the sprue trees against the diagram in the instruction sheet showed that sprue trees F and G were missing in the review sample provided. The absence of the G tree is important as detail parts like deck-edge depth charge throwers are listed in its contents. In general, the parts are crisp and fully molded with a complete lack of flash or sinkholes. More complex parts like the sides of the deck houses and the lengthy gun deck have additional details like lockers and gun tubs with stiffeners molded on, though the cross sections of the tubs and other bulwarks are slightly thick.
The five inch gunhouses are crips with access doors recessed on the sides. Unfortunately, Dragon also included thick external ladders which will be tricky to remove without damaging the superb doors nearby. The main gun barrels are paired off to a common trunnion but appear almost cylindrical, though they are bored at the muzzle. There appear to be no provisions for blast bags, however.
Most major structural components like the boxy bridge and funnels are sturdily molded with complete sub-sections, obviating the need for delicate joining of bulkheads, although this will be faced with the smaller pilothouse. The funnels each come as a single piece from the foundation up with the caps also molded as whole parts.
A quintuple and a quadruple set of torpedo tubes are provided, a boon for the spares box (to go with that fourth twin five-inch mount) and the 40mm Bofors quad mounts appear to be moderately complex assemblies. The 20mm Oerlikons, however, are simplistic with the early war style shields. The depth charge racks have the charges molded inside the racks but are crisply molded.
All other detail parts are well formed and proportioned, although the planking on the motor whaleboats are exaggerated. The propellers are sharp with a significant twist to the blade faces. The pole mainmast is very delicate and tapered to a point. A single sprue with just three crew figures is also included.
Photo etch and Decals...
Three frets of PE are included which feature watertight doors and hatches, ladders, antennas, mast supports, and even tillers for the whaleboats. Two decal sheets cover national ensigns and a modicum of signal flags and pennants. The other larger sheet includes hull numerals and draft markings and an extensive set of non-skid walkway paths.
Dragonís ship kits have developed a reputation for conflicted and often confusing instruction sheets (check out their 1:350 CVL kit, for example), but this oneís relatively straightforward. The walk way decal placement guide is clear and the construction sequence appears logical. Perhaps the more simplistic subject matter helps, but most builders should have little difficulty interpreting the directions and illustrations. A three tone painting guide and recommended paint chart are included.
The Dragon 1:350 USS Chevalier is a worthy contribution to the growing line of larger scale injected ship kits and should be a pleasant build for expert and novice alike.