USS Forrestal CVA-59 by Bob O' Connor

Brand: Italeri
 Scale: 1/700
Modeler: Bob O' Connor
 AddOns: Scratchbuilt parts to backdate to the 1956 version, Gold Medal Model PE parts




The USS Forrestal was commissioned in 1956 as the first of the supercarriers. She was the largest warship built in her time, and was the prototype for the American carrier design plans of the future, and influences the ships of today.

My model is the Italieri kit somewhat modified to backdate it to 1956.


Let me walk you through the major reconstruction. Using the Detail and Scale book of the ship was invaluable for research purposes.

Hull: The hull was not too bad, and I left it as a waterline kit, as that’s what the rest of my collection is. I needed to add the fore gun sponsons, and after conversing with another modeler, Marc Johnston of California, he sent me resin castings of his sponsons (he was doing the same project, and we compared notes on several things- Thanks, Mark!!). I faired the sponsons on to the hull after carefully measuring their placement, then puttied the seems. Added detail on those was limited to the catwalks and gun decks. I also had to modify both aft sponsons and add the catwalks and gun decks. Some other smaller hullside decks were added based on historical data (line drawings and photos). I also added the hullside fuel lines with plastic rod.

Flight deck: I had to remove a small extension at the waist cat extreme port side of the deck to straighten it out from the portside elevator astern. I removed the molded on arrestor cables. I filled the trenches in the deck representing the catapults and JBD’s.

Island: This took the most time and effort. I rebuilt much of the island- the bridge and prifly windows were all replaced with angled ones made of angled plastic and photoetched bridge window sections from GMM frets. I also rebuilt the funnel to reflect the slanted one Forrestal had in her early years before it was flattened. I had to rebuild the entire port side to reflect the mast trough originally built in. Her mast could be laid onto the flight deck to clear low bridges and obstructions, and it was hinged at the flight deck. The mast was housed in a trough of sorts that went up the port side of the island.

Markings: I love the USN carrier markings of the early to mid 1950s- cavalry yellow markings which were not always very visible as compared to white, but certainly different. I had to cut the “59” on the bow and stern deck areas by hand and apply them, along with researching the other yellow markings, particularly the landing area. Carrier decks were often a mix of white and yellow markings, and those are shown here. I ran out of some minor marking material, like white dashed lines a safety zone parallel to the starboard of the landing lines. Early photos show Forrestal’s deck to be a dark blue, similar to the blue used on WWII ships. I used Testors Dark Sea Blue for the flight deck, at the risk of being wrong. I weathered it slightly at the arrestor cable area for realism.

Aircraft: Thanks to White Ensign Models, I can show my Forrestal with period aircraft. In ’56, Forrestal conducted deck trials with a wide variety of Naval aircraft, and one photo in Detail and Scale shows this to great advantage- Furies, Banshees, Cutlasses, Skynights and Skyraiders all cohabitating the flight deck. I added a couple of AJ-1 Savages for good measure. They were soon replaced by A-3 Skywarriors.

Click on the images to enlarge!



The ‘50’s were an exciting era in Naval aviation- Big defense budgets to counter the menace of the Red Threat. The politics of defense budgeting resulted in contracts for weapons systems that did not always perform as planned. Often carrier aircraft were obsolete soon after they reached the fleet due to the speed at which technology was developing, and they were quickly relegated to the reserve units as the newer, hotter planes graced the big ships. I chose to show a combination of blue, grey and natural metal birds. Not only was that period famous for the rapid change in technology, but also in ’56 the Navy announced a change in paint schemes to the gull grey over white scheme. From ’56 through about ’58, it was not uncommon to see combinations of blue planes and grey planes on flight decks across the fleet.

Hope you enjoy USS Forrestal, 1956!

Photos and text © 2005 by Bob O' Connor

April 21, 2005