United States WW2 Naval Ensigns (Flags)

Published: June 3rd, 2018     
Product Image
Figure 1 - Package
Reviewed by: 
Luke R. Bucci, PhD, IPMS# 33549
Scale: 1/700
Company: Eduard
Price:
Product / Stock #: 53203

Thanks to Eduard for supplying the set.

Bottom Line: At first glance these steel, foldable flags look bright and colorful, but there are a few limitations. On a real model, they are good enough. Not to mention the unspoken scandal of oversized flags for all 1/700 WW2 warships kits, decals or paper. In that case, Eduard's flags are at least good enough, sturdier and more flexible than other options.

Aftermarket Upgrade Parts Set Review

Flag Facts

The national flag flying on US Navy ships is called the national ensign (I prefer to use the more common term flags in this review). The blue flag with white stars generally flown at the bow of US Navy ships is called the Union Jack (jack). The jack is the same size as the blue part of the ensign - not adhered to on many 1/700 scale decal sheets. The dimensions of US Navy flags were standardized by Executive Order in 1912, and updated as states were added to the country. Rules exist for when the flag is displayed, where on the ship the flag flies, as well as the proper sizes for ship types. For modelers, the national ensign was displayed from the stern flagstaff when not under way (i.e., in harbor or anchored). When under way, during battle or whenever the skipper chooses, the US flag was displayed from the gaff (diagonal mast, or "battle flagstaff") which varied location from class to class and even ship to ship within a class. Usually the gaff was on the rear of a bridge, behind a stack, or off the mainmast/foremast. Exceptions were many in WW2, but the US flag was flying somewhere on each ship. You have some artistic license for flag placements on WW2 warships (in absence of photographic evidence).

Flag dimensions are standardized: 1.0:1.9 hoist to fly ratio (hoist is width or side of the flag parallel to the flagstaff; fly is the length or side perpendicular to the flagstaff). The uppermost and lowest stripes are red for seven red stripes and six white stripes per flag (all 13 stripes honor the original states).

What You Get

One steel fret with six small and two large 48-star US national ensigns (flags) and one instruction sheet that only shows how to cut out the flags leaving two small tabs to wrap around wire, plastic, stretched sprue or fishing line. The reader is left to their own devices to figure out where national ensigns were actually placed for whatever ship you wish to place the flags.

The flags themselves are pre-painted on both sides. The red, white and blue colors are brighter than decals and look very close to actual Old Glory Red (Pantone 193 or RGB 191,18,56), and Old Glory Blue (Pantone 281 or RGB 0,36,105). With magnification, you can see the stars on the large flags (Figure 2). There are seven red stripes and six white stripes with the first stripe on top being red. The cloth backing that held the grommets (called the tabling or canvas border) was seen on the large flags, indicating great attention to detail. There are two tiny tabs for wrapping around your gaff, lanyard or flagstaff. But these are short tabs - barely fit on a 0.010" thick wire. Will not wrap around most of the plastic/resin kit flagstaffs, so you will need to substitute wire or stretched sprue (which is a good idea anyway since kit flagstaffs are almost always out-of-scale).

On the small flags, the red and white stripes were slightly off register on one side - the upper red stripe was thinner than the others, and difficult to see. But at a distance of more than a foot away, this minor problem is not noticeable.

Another problem is that the smaller Eduard flags are not the 1.0:1.9 ratio, but are 0.92:1.95 (a ratio of 2.125 instead of 1.900 or 12% too long (fly)). They appear to the eye to be a little long, but hopefully if the flag is bent into a wavy pattern this will not be noticeable. The large flags are a correct 1.0:1.94 ratio.

A bigger problem is the size of the flags in 1/700 scale. The smaller flags scale to almost 9x20 feet dimensions, making them a Size 6 (see Table). The large flags scale out to 19.5x38 feet, or size 1. This makes the smaller flags taller (more hoist) than a man, and the large flags gigantic, relegating them to harbor use or special events only, according to the regs. The Table below shows the official Flag Size Number with actual dimensions and daily ship use per ship length. It can be seen that the largest possible size flag was supplied by Eduard, and the small size flags are significantly larger than the daily use size 7 for larger ships (>450 feet long). So the small flags are out of scale for any 1/700 scale US Navy warship (except for size 5 for holiday use in ships >450 feet long). The largest destroyers in the US Navy in WW2 were the Gearingclass at 390 feet. Thus, the small flags are suitable for cruiser-size and larger ships (cruisers, battleships, carriers and some auxiliaries), but will be oversized by about 2-3 times (area).

Flag Size Number, Dimensions, and Length of Ships Guide

Flag Size Number

Hoist (height) length (feet)

Width (fly) length (feet)

Length of Ship (feet)

1

20.00

38.00

 

2

19.00

36.10

 

3

14.35

27.27

 

4

12.19

23.16

 

5

10.00

19.00

Holiday >450

6

8.94

16.99

 

7

5.14

9.77

>450

8

5.00

9.50

150-450

9

3.53

6.69

 

10

2.90

5.51

<100-150

11

2.37

4.50

 

12

1.31

2.49

 

Eduard thus provides Size 1 and Size 6, which turns out to be for shore displays (size 1) and cruiser-size and larger ships (size 6). Looking at decals supplied in other WW2 US Navy warships, I found that overscale 1/700 national ensigns are always oversized. I sampled decals from unbuilt Midships Models destroyers, old Skywave and new Tamiya Fletcherclass destroyers, an old Aoshima Iowaclass and a new Massachusetts(built), and a new Dragon Hancockcarrier kit. The Trumpeter Massachusettsbattleship in Figures 4 & 5 came out to a shortened size 6, the closest I could find in my armada already built to the size it should be (size 7). The carrier and battleship kits had a size 5 Holiday-sized flag, and the destroyer flags ranged from sizes 5-6, with shortened ratios of 1.5 instead of 1.9 (too square). Measure your US Navy WW2 warships' national ensigns - they should measure out to 1.7x3.3 mm for size 7, and about 1.5x3.3 for destroyers. No kit decal sheets I have were correct or even close.

Which brings up an interesting issue. I wonder if judges at model contests even know about this major discrepancy in the world of 1/700 scale warships and perhaps give more points for bigger, brighter flags? Oops. So now that I have just opened a can of worms, expecting Vienna sausages instead, let's get back to reality. So what if the best after-market and all kit-supplied US Navy flags are too big for 1/700 scale, by a large amount for destroyers. As you can see from the photographs of larger ship models (Figures 4 & 5), the ensigns do not look too big and are hard to see, especially if they are wavy. They certainly look fine and do not arouse suspicion of being oversized (except maybe destroyers or smaller cruisers).

At almost $2.00 per flag, and realistically, $2.50 for the useable small flags, it can add up if you have a large fleet to fit. But at least these flags will not crumble, fall off, get cloudy or look like every other ship.

The Build

I chose my previously built Hancock, CV19, to try Eduard's flag, because it had none. No flags were supplied with the kit and none were illustrated in the Painting Guide. Research of photographs showed a tiny, very blurry, but unmistakable national ensign hanging from a gaff from almost the top of the mainmast, hanging over the flight deck (not directly behind the funnel or large SK radar array like other fleet carriers). Also, showing the Hancockat an IPMS contest incurred damage to the uppermost mainmast that still needed repair - I could kill two birds with one rebuild.

After rebuilding the top of the mainmast with broken original parts and some new parts, I then added a 6 mm gaff at an upward angle of 45 degrees from the first small platform. It should have gone on the second platform a little higher. I twisted the flag with small jaw pliers, and managed to coax an S curve, something no mere decal can do. The paint did not chip off, which is a credit to the workmanship of these flags. Nevertheless, careful handling is needed to bend and twist the flag into shape, and choice of pliers, hemostats or tweezers needs to be considered so as not to be too rough on the flags. I attached the wavy flag to 0.006" plastic rod, carefully cut to hang from the gaff and attach to the mainmast yardarm as the lanyard. The flag was not too heavy for plastic rod (equivalent to stretched sprue). Although in retrospect I placed the gaff and thus, the flag, too low, on the Hancock, it looks bright and distinctive. Only a real aficionado of WW2 warships would notice the flag is a little too large. But a scale sized flag would be tiny, difficult to see and have little to no detail. In my opinion, outfitting larger US Navy WW2 warships with the smaller Eduard flags is fine.

Summary

Pros

  1. Very fine detail & bright colors;
  2. Stronger and more rigid than decal or paper flags;
  3. Convenience (no assembly required - just remove from fret, twist to desired shape and attach to gaff or flagstaff);
  4. Paint did not chip off or fall off after manipulation (a problem with some other pre-painted 1/700 scale photoetch personnel sets);
  5. Capable of more realistic waving - can carefully twist and bend the flag to customize appearance, even an S shape;
  6. Looks fine on finished model;
  7. Probably very good for HO scale model railroad dioramas (buildings, marching bands, etc.);
  8. Another use is to add flat to sides of captured ships to denote they are US property, or use the large flags for shore dioramas attached to buildings or marching in parades, or on name stands/bases of US Navy models.

Cons

  1. Flags were too long (too fly);
  2. Small flags upper red stripe was not as thick as the other six red stripes (not apparent when folded and installed on a model);
  3. Smallest size flag is for cruisers or larger ships; therefore, not accurate for destroyers or smaller ships;
  4. Largest flag is parade size and not often carried in WW2 (maybe OK for after VJ Day) - would look out of place and exaggerated even on largest ships (carriers & battleships);
  5. Might be costly to outfit a large number of US Navy 1/700 model ships.

Fortunately, in spite of the scaling oversize, the flag looks very good on a real model. A forgiving grace of 1/700 scale is that perfect detail and/or accuracy is hard to discern from good enough. Looking forward to other navies' WW2 national ensigns, but hopefully there is still time to get the ratios and scale sizes correct.

References

Figures

  • Figure 1: Eduard 53203 USN ensign flag WW2 STEEL 1/700 set
  • Figure 2: The fret showing six smaller and two larger flags, which are too long (too fly) and too large for 1/700 scale warships to be accurate, but they look fine and so far there has been no furor over flag scale sizes in the 1/700 warship world. If you look closely enough, the large flag stars actually are stars, not just dots.
  • Figure 3: Instruction sheet for US Navy WW2 flags
  • Figure 4: A comparison of kit decal flags (bottom panel of Trumpeter's USS Massachusetts BB59) with the Eduard smaller flag on the USS Hancock, at typical viewing distances. Note that the flags look small and hard to discern details, even though both are oversized. At this distance, the oversize is not noticeable.
  • Figure 5: Close-up photographs of the bridge structures for each ship comparing the kit decal on the battleship and Eduard's metal flag on the carrier. It is easy to see the decal is rather stiff, and the Eduard flag has a realistic wave. Also notice that the flag is placed too low and not far enough out - the gaff should have been twice the length used to account for the overscale flag size.
  • USN Flags Figure 2
    USN Flags Figure 2
  • USN Flags Figure 3
    USN Flags Figure 3
  • USN Flags Figure 4
    USN Flags Figure 4
  • USN Flags Figure 5
    USN Flags Figure 5