On December 7, 1941 the most modern and powerful battleships in commission with the United States Navy were the three ships of the Colorado Class. Two of them, USS Maryland and USS West Virginia were at Pearl on that morning. In design they were a further development of the Tennessee class, except they mounted eight 16-inch guns, rather than twelve 14-inch guns. Together, the three ships of the Colorado class and the two ships of the Tennessee class were called the Big Five, as they represented the most powerful battleships in the USN fleet between the First World War and the Second World War. As perennial favorites among modelers, models of these ships are available as resin kits in 1:350 and 1:700 scale, but so far have not been produced in styrene plastic.
Now there is a monograph available, devoted to the Colorado class, which will be of great interest for the naval historian, as well as any modeler wishing to build one of these beautiful and historic battleships. Colorado Class Battleships by Jaroslaw Palasek is Famous Warship Monograph 2 from the Polish printing house of Okrety Wojenne. This volume is available in an English translation, translated by the author and Iwona Grzyb. The volume is hard-bound and consists of 100 pages, plus three separate back-printed plans enclosed in a pocket at the rear of the volume. Printing quality is excellent and the volume is filled with excellent photographs, many of which are from the collection of A. D. Baker III and Leo van Ginderen, as well as numerous plans and full color plans and profiles by Rafa Kaczmarcyk. The title is broken into chapters, which are entitled Creation; Technical Description; Modernization; Operational History; as well as an extensive bibliography at the end.
Creation This first chapter is devoted to the genesis of the Colorado class. There is a brief overview of American battleship designs from the South Carolina class through the New York class. With the Nevada class, the author goes into greater detail with this and each following class of USN battleship, preceding the Colorado class. In tracking this evolutionary process, the Tennessee class has the most space devoted to the design. Since the Colorado class were basically the same design but armed with larger guns, this makes perfect sense. The last half of the chapter covers the design considerations for the Colorado class, the effects of the Washington conference and Treaty and foreign contemporaries. This chapter is 13 pages in length and contains nine photographs and three tables. These tables address: A comparison of the eight gun design with a ten gun design; class construction dates and comparison of the class with the Nagato and Nelson classes.
Technical Description This chapter goes into the nuts and bolts of the design. Starting with the main armament, each major component of the ship is gone through in detail. Subdivisions include: Main armament; secondary and anti-aircraft armament; torpedo armament; hull, superstructure and fittings; armor; underwater protection; armor and construction materials; propulsion plant; boilers; performance; fire control; and complement. The chapter is 15 pages in length and contains five photographs, two full page plans, and four tables. The two plans are on the sixteen-inch gun turret and on the armor scheme with internal profile. The tables cover 16-inch gun data; metallurgical properties of the various grades of steel used in construction of the ships; trial speeds and SHP; and specifications of the ships as constructed.
Modernization This lengthy chapter investigates and reports all of the appearance changes to the ships, undertaken after their commissioning. The first three pages cover changes made to the ships before World War Two. However the great bulk of the chapter is given to the significant changes made after December 7, 1941. In this there was a divergence among the three ships of the class. As battleships armed with 16-inch guns, it was decided that their fire power precluded them from total rebuilds, except of course for West Virginia. Since the Wee Vee had her port side torn apart by Japanese torpedoes at Pearl Harbor and suffered other crucial damage as a result of fire and her sinking, she was totally rebuilt. Maryland only suffered comparatively minor damage and she and Colorado never received a rebuild. It is interesting to note that although Tennessee received lighter damage than Maryland, Tennessee and sunken California were completely rebuilt along the same lines as West Virginia. Since Tennessee was armed with the less powerful 14-inch guns, it was decided that she could be spared for the rebuild and Maryland could not. Subchapters in the WWII modernization include: Refit of the West Virginia; Late war changes; Anti-aircraft armament; Fire control and radar; Observation aircraft; and Camouflage schemes. The chapter is 29 pages in length and contains seven photographs, eleven plans and twenty tables. Plans include: Inboard plan and cross section of the rebuilt West Virginia; Five-Inch/25 gun; Dual Five-Inch/38 n; 1.1-Ich (28mm) gun; 40mm/56 gun; Oerlikon 20mm (both single and double); Mk 37 director; Radars (SK, SG, SK-2 and Mk 3 FC); O3U Corsair; SOC-3 Seagull; and OS2U Kingfisher.
Operational History This is the longest chapter in the book. Maryland after a short period of repair work and Colorado from the start were almost continuously in service. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor they were tasked with defending the West coast and then in early 1942 with protecting the vital convoy lanes to Samoa and Australia. By 1943 with the arrival of the newer fast battleships, the members of the Colorado class were tasked with shore bombardment. Of course the pinnacle of their careers came at the Battle of Surigao Strait, when fittingly West Virginia and Maryland finally had the chance to use their 16-inch guns against a Japanese battleship. It may be poetic justice that Colorado missed the battle, since she did not suffer the attack at Pearl. A detailed operational history for each of the three ships of the class is covered, so you can follow the exact movement, actions, damage and refits of each ship. This chapter has 39 pages, contains 31 photographs, three plans and nine tables. Plans include December 7, 1941 damage to Maryland; June 22, 1944 damage to Maryland; and December 7, 1941 damage to West Virginia. Tables include operational statistics of Colorado; technical data of Colorado 1945; Maryland Operational Statistics; Commanders of Maryland; Technical Data of Maryland in 1945; Interwar flag officers of West Virginia; West Virginia War statistics; Commanders of West Virginia; and Technical Data of West Virginia in 1945.
Color Plans and Profiles Both the inside front cover and rear inside cover have full color plans and profiles of the ships in the class. On the inside front cover is Colorado in 1924 and the facing page has Maryland in Measure 32/7D in 1943/1944. The rear inside cover has profiles of port side of West Virginia in Measure 32 in June 1944 and Maryland in Measure 21 in August 1945. The facing page has starboard side and plan view of West Virginia in June 1944.
Separate 1:400 Scale Plans and Profiles For the modeler one of the greatest benefits of this title are the beautiful line drawings in 1:400 scale that are separate plans and profiles of these ships. There are three back-printed sheets that fit into a rear pocket strap. Each consists of a starboard profile and overhead plan. Included is a sheet with Colorado in 1924 with the reverse having Maryland 1935. The sheet includes a West Virginia 1939/1940 on one side and a Maryland 1942/1943 on the other side. The third sheet contains Colorado in 1944 and West Virginia in October 1944.
VerdictIf you like the design of the Colorado class, and very few modelers dont love this clipper bowed design, then the Colorado Class Battleships, Famous Warships Monographs 2 is an almost essential reference in your library. In one source you will have an English language volume that has the design history, modifications and operational history of each ship in the class. Combined with the many photographs is a wealth of data found in the numerous tables. For the modeler, the many drawings, color profiles/plans and especially the separate 1:400 scale profile/plan line drawings make this volume invaluable.