Huge 1:6 Scale Aircraft Carrier Discovered in FL

Smith's first photos of the aircraft carrier proved quite the "tease." What a massive construction! (Photo: Ricky Smith)

Ricky Smith’s reports of a “1:6 scale aircraft carrier” in FL were quite intriguing. (Photo: Ricky Smith)

The Mystery of the 1:6 Scale USS Oriskany (CV-34)

Toy dealer and GIjOE fan, Ricky Smith, wrote in to The Joe Report recently to tell us about something exciting he had discovered in Pensacola, FLβ€”a 1:6 scale Aircraft Carrier! No, we’re not talking about the 1980’s U.S.S. Flagg playset by Hasbro, we’re talking about a MASSIVE, 60-foot behemoth, currently “dry-docked” on an equally lengthy semi trailer. To better illustrate the ship’s size, Smith placed one of his Sailor GIjOEs onto its deck and took the following photo (see below):

Though not in perfect 1:6 scale, this shot reveals the carrier is indeed, GIGANTIC. (Photo: Ricky Smith)

Smith’s 12″ GIjOE Sailor is placed on the ship for a quick size comparison. Bring the hand railings up a tad and you’re good to go! (Photo: Ricky Smith)

Holy Hull Size, Batman! Ricky was right. This ship is huge! The mystery of its origins quickly deepened. Who built it and why? Why was it sitting out in a field in Pensacola? Perhaps it had been built by some enterprising Florida GIjOE club members to pose with their GIjOEs? Or as a display in a museum? Or…? Smith didn’t know, but he offered to help learn more, telling us…

“When I first saw it, I freaked out! I’d love to place a blue Panther Jet up on its Carrier deck and take a picture of that. When I have the time, I’ll try to find out more and send you another picture with a person standing next to it so you can get a better idea just how MASSIVE this thing really is!”

Closeup of the bow. Note all the painted windows, ports and handrails. (Photo: Ricky Smith)

Closeup of the bow. Note all the painted windows, ports and handrails. (Photo: Ricky Smith)

By now, our curiosity had been seriously peaked. Though clearly not an accurate “museum-quality” 1:6 scale replica, the ship exudes a serious amount of “play value” and its incredible size was almost too big to be believed. Who would build such a colossus? To construct something this large required serious dedication and extensive construction experience. We set out to discover the ship’s secrets, and what we would find is amazing.

The carrier float was modeled after the USS Oriskany (CV-34), made famous in the film, "The Bridges at Toko-Ri," based on the book by James Michner. (Bantam Books)

The carrier float was modeled after the USS Oriskany (CV-34), made famous in the film, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” based on the book by James Michener. (Photo: Bantam Books)

The Truth Revealed

Closer examination of Smith’s photos, coupled with our own research, ultimately solved the mystery. It turns out that this massive construction was originally built to be a parade float for the 1955 Armed Forces Day Parade in Philadelphia, PA. Sponsors of the float (and their families) were able to sit in, on, and around the float as it was towed down Main Street in the parade. According toΒ Ted Sherman, author of a 2007 article recounting its origins:

“It was several months before Armed Forces Day 1955 in Philadelphia, and our Naval Reserve Air Group was asked to create and ride a float in the parade. Most of us had returned two years before from active duty deployment in the Korean War. We decided to make our float a replica of the USS Oriskany (CV34), the aircraft carrier many of us had served aboard in combat off the North Korean coast.

The Oriskany had also gained quite a bit of notoriety after returning to the States the previous year and starring as the fictional carrier in the movie, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” based on a novel written by James Michener and starring William Holden, Mickey Rooney and Grace Kelly.”

As recently as 2012, the venerable parade ship had been rigged with electric lights and appeared in the Mardi Gras night parade in Pensacola, FL. (Photo: divemasterking2000)

As recently as 2012, the venerable parade ship had been rigged with electric lights and appeared in the Mardi Gras night parade in Pensacola, FL. (Photo: divemasterking2000)

Construction of a Colossus

Mr. Sherman’s account of the ship’s construction revealed just how large an undertaking it would become, requiring a small army of helpers and specialists to make it a reality. Here is the excerpt:

“As for our float-building task, we started with a big flat-bed truck. With the help of many reservist volunteers, carpenters and painters, we built a flight deck and painted in all the usual carrier markings. We also made a fake bow with USS Oriskany CV34 painted in large letters. Carpenters built the superstructure, complete with all the compartments, weather decks, gun tubs and other realistic items. One clever worker took a child’s large motorized backyard spinner toy and strung on it several models of our aircraft at the time, F6F fighters and TBF torpedo bombers.”

Continually maintained by volunteers since its construction in 1955, the massive USS Oriskany parade float ship is still utilized in annual parades in Pensacola, FL. Note how it dwarfs the extended-cab pickup truck struggling to tow it! (Photo:

Continually maintained by volunteers since its construction in 1955, the massive USS Oriskany parade float ship is still utilized in annual parades down in Pensacola, FL. Note how it dwarfs the extended-cab pickup truck struggling to tow it into position for a parade in 2012. This thing is HUGE! (Photo: farm6)

Great advice for Future Float Builders

In case you’re getting any ideas of your own for building giant 1:6 parade floats, especially floats supporting our military or honoring our veterans, Mr. Sherman concludes his article saying:

“When it was all completed, along with masts, lines and signal flags, the slowly spinning aircraft made our float look almost like the real thing in miniature. If there can be any tips we can pass on, it is that if you get an assignment to build a float for an Armed Forces Day parade, make it as realistic and respectful as you can. In planning and building it, you should always keep in mind that you’re not celebrating Disney characters nor Rose Bowl flowers, but honoring those who served in America’s wars.”

The USS Orikansy float appeared again in the 2008 Mardi Gras Parade in Pensacola, FL (Photo: Meyer Muse)

The CV-34 float in a recent daytime parade in Pensacola, FL, honoring USN personnel and their families. (Photo: Meyer Muse)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Ricky Smith for bringing this amazing story to our attention and to Ted Sherman for his detailed history of the ship. Its continued maintenance is an ongoing testament to the love and support Americans share for the men and women of our beloved United States Navy. If you’d like to learn more about the “Big O” (the USS Oriskany), click HERE. For a great clip of the opening scenes of The Bridges at Toko-Ri, featuring REAL Korean War-era USN Panther Jets taking off from the deck of the USS Oriskany, click on the link below. And…GO NAVY!

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14 thoughts on “Huge 1:6 Scale Aircraft Carrier Discovered in FL

  1. Jason says:

    The float was built in 2004 exclusively for the parades in Pensacola. It did not start from a flat bed truck, it is a completely custom frame, built from the ground up. It was built by a bunch of divers from Pensacola.

    • Hmm… Well, I guess it’s possible that TWO parade floats of the same ship were built, but that seems unlikely. Maybe the first was reenovated by the group you mentioned. Anyway, here’s the link to Ted’s account again, see HERE
      Seems pretty trustworthy. Would you have any specific intel to support your version of the float’s construction? Or maybe the names of those involved, or some pics? Thanks for writing and any additional insight! πŸ™‚

      • Bill says:

        Jason is correct. I know the builders and owners of the float pictured in this article and his account is 100% accurate. They are aware of this article and I will leave it to them to correct it or not with specifics but, rest assured, they worked very hard building it and continue to work hard maintaining and upgrading it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not sure whatever became of the float from Philly, but I assure you this one was built in 2004 by MBT Divers in Pensacola Fl as a Mardi Gras float. I know this, as I’ve worked for several years as a dive instructor there and helped maintain the float and get it ready it for parades. Drive by the dive shop sometime and you’ll see it parked under the overhang there. The only reason it gets pulled into the field next door, is for cleaning and maintenance purposes. Thank you!

      • Anonymous says:

        Stop by “MBT Divers,” they’re the current owners of the float. You’ll also find the float parked there, so you can get its measurements.

      • Kevin Trusler says:

        Try looking on MBT Divers of Pensacola’s website. They own it.

      • William O'Brien says:

        There is no maybe about it. Whoever came up with the 1955 story should put down the bottle, this was absolutely done in 2004 by a bunch of divers in Pensacola Florida to enter in parades by MBT Divers and friends from the ground up. I know I was there.

  2. Greg Bleakley says:

    This is a Mardi Gras float. It was built in Pensacola. Fl. by a dive shop and their friends. MB T to be exact. I have been using this shop since 1999 or so and I remember when they built it. I don’t know if another one is out there, but the photos posted here are of the one in Pensacola.

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