|The Classic Warships 1:700
scale USS Helena is a waterline
model depicting the cruiser prior to her 6 July 1943 sinking at the Battle
of Kula Gulf. Helena was a variant of the Brooklyn class of US light cruisers.
Designed in response to the IJN Mogami
class, Brooklyns had the same main gun arrangement, three triple 6" turrets
forward and two aft. They were the only US ships with such an arrangement and to my
eye are the most attractive US WW2 cruisers.
July '42 profile view
(Note three turrets forward and two aft, a configuration similar to that of the IJN
Mogami class 6" cruisers)
Helena and her sister ship St. Louis
differed from the other Brooklyn class vessels in their secondary armament. They
shipped 5" 38 caliber guns in distinctive enclosed twin mounts rather than open mount
5" 25 caliber singles found on all other Brooklyn class cruisers. It
is worth noting that Helena is the only class member to have been sunk. The Brooklyn
class hull, designed in accordance with Washington
Treaty limitations, was untested. WW 2 proved the
design robust and capable of sustaining extensive damage. Helena was sunk
only after being struck by four destroyer-launched Long Lance torpedoes (one of which
failed to explode) during the fierce night fighting at Kula Gulf. Two of the
torpedoes struck her at almost the same location amidships, breaking her keel and causing
her to sink within minutes. The long out-out-print Battle Damage Report No. 1: USS Helena by Leeward Publications has a fascinating analysis of Helena's
end as well as excellent photos. I have included some of these US Navy photos in the
Pic of the Week.
The Classic Warships 1/700th kit of USS
Helena consists of a finely cast waterline hull, resin
superstructure/deck levels, and numerous white metal guns and fittings. The hull
includes extensive amounts of cast-in detail, far more than on other Classic kits.
The superstructures and deck levels are clean resin castings. The use of open-faced molds
means the modeler must carefully "flat sand" one side to minimize the seam - and
filling - where the part mates with its neighbor. This can be a touchy process,
especially for the beginner, so sand slowly and test fit constantly.
The kit has a lot of white metal parts. The 5" and 6" gun
barrels are cast integral with the gun housings. This works better than I expected.
After careful cleanup these guns should look just fine. The 40mm quad Bofors are also
white metal and surprisingly sharp. In general this kit's white metal parts are
quite acceptable, though they are not of the quality one finds in the Hi-Mold and Waveline
kits. More importantly, Classic has supplied more white metal detail than in past
1/700th kits. The white metal catapults and cranes will be preferred by those
modelers not wishing to bother with fiddly 1/700 scale etched brass.
No 20mm guns are included. You will either have to scratch-build
your own using sprue and plasticard, or else purchase the Tom's
Modelworks 1/700 20mm fret. The Helena's simple masts are
fabricated from brass rod (not included). This is an easy step. Simply cut
brass rod to the required length in accordance with the instructions.
There is no etched brass. With the exception of the 20mm guns none
is needed, though the more obsessive among you may want to utilize etched brass railing,
catapults, cranes and radar. Tom's Modelworks has all the brass you will need should
you decide to super detail your Helena.
Instructions consist of a clear exploded view and a plan/profile drawing.
There is no narrative to guide the beginner through construction, but for most
modelers it won't be necessary. The USS Helena
is one of the Classic Warship's best 1:700 releases to date. Add etched brass and you can
turn it into a stunning replica of a famous and attractive US cruiser. The model sells for
$60. See the Classic Warships
page for availability.
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