The Essex class acheived its probably greatest contribution to the Pacific War in June 1944 when the Fast Carrier Task Force (58), operating in the Phillipine Sea was intercepted by the Japanese Mobile Fleet in an all or nothing gamble to change Japanese fortunes in the war. It was the largest carrier battle in history. Not only was the attack repulsed by the USN but they delivered a knock out blow to IJN as a credible carrier-operating navy. No fewer than 6 Essex class carriers (ESSEX, LEXINGTON, BUNKER HILL, YORKTOWN, HORNET and WASP) made up the total of 7 fleet carriers in the force (the other being the ever-present ENTERPRISE).
The Japanese could muster 400 planes from a mix of 7 fleet and light carriers as well as 350 planes from surrounding land bases. These were met by force of nearly 1,000 carrier planes with well trained pilots. The result was a massacre of Japanese aviation dubbed "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot". Around 600 Japanese planes were shot down for the loss of 120 US planes. No USN carriers were damaged although BUNKER HILL escaped with a near miss and the battleship SOUTH DAKOTA took a bomb hit on the main deck. The Japanese lost 3 fleet carriers including SHOKAKU, HIYO and the newly commissioned TAIHO.
This is CV-12 HORNET in June 1944 at the Battle of the Phillipine Sea. She was part of TG 58.1 that included YORKTOWN, and the CVLs BELLEAU WOOD and BATAAN.
Built at Newport News and commissioned in November 1943, she joined the Fast Carrier Task Force in the Marshall Islands in March 1944. HORNET was the first of the Essex class to receive the dazzel camouflague scheme which formed part of her passive defence against submarine attack.
Seeing continuos service for rest of the war, HORNET supported every US amphibious operation afetr March 1944 and her aircraft sank over a million tons of enemy shipping and scored hits on IJN battlship YAMATO. In the air, they destroyed 1,410 planes and 10 of her pilots achieved "Ace in a Day".
Despite coming under air attack 59 time, HORNET received no war time damage although in June 1945, she ended up in a Typhoon and lost the front 25ft of her flight deck. CV-20 BENNINGTON and CV-18 WASP suffered a similar fate and this design weakness of the Essex class was rectified in later modifications with an enclosed hurricane bow.
The deck is coated in #21 Flight Deck stain (revised) and the markings show a standard which came in to use among USN carriers during 1944. I have also redrawn the deck planking and made the tie downs stand out a bit more reflecting their importance to the design. The Curtis Helldiver SB2C is gradually replacing the SBD Dauntless. These aircraft did not prove popular at first and were known as "Son of a Bitch Second Class" due to their poor handling at low speeds (essential for carrier planes). However, after a redesign and various improvements they became worthy machines.