The great battleship race leading into World War One. Actually, when the war erupted in August 1914, of the great naval powers, only the United States and Japan kept turning out new designs. All of the combatant European powers stopped building new battleships as they diverted resources to more urgent projects. Of course there were newer designs but the Colorado BB-45 and her two sisterships, Maryland BB-46 and West Virginia BB-48 were the last USN battleships to be completed, as the Washington Treaty closed the door on newer battleships for almost two decades. A fourth ship, Washington BB-47, was never completed. Under the terms of the Washington Treaty, she could not be completed as was consequently sunk in gunnery practice.
The class is also sometimes called the Maryland Class for although Colorado had an earlier number, the Maryland went into commission a year earlier. Authorized under the Naval Appropriations Act of 1916, the still neutral United States had already embarked upon the most ambitious battleship construction program in her history. Colorado was built by the New York Shipbuilding Company of Camden, New Jersey. Laid down on May 19, 1919, she was launched on March 22, 1921 with Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., in attendance. A bottle of muddy Colorado River water was broken over the bow by the daughter of Senator S. D. Nicholson of Colorado.
Soon after commissioning on August 30, 1923 she was sent to Europe to show the flag. Portsmouth and then Cherbourg were visited, after which it was off to the Mediterranean to visit warmer ports in France, Italy and Spain. She returned to New York on February 15, 1924 and went to the Pacific in the spring. In the summer it was off to Australia and New Zealand. The crew of Colorado were clearly seeing the world in her first year of service. In 1927 she went back through the Panama Canal for joint Army-Navy exercises in the Caribbean and went on to an overhaul in New York in April, which was extended when she ran aground off the tip of Manhattan. After the work was completed it was back to San Pedro, California for more service with the Pacific Fleet. The only two highlights in the next two years were exercises off Hawaii in May 1928 and a collision with a steamer in 1929. On June 3, 1930 Colorado suffered another serious accident. A phonograph needle accidentally pierced an electrical cable in the plotting room for the main guns. The resulting short circuit started a fire, which raged for eight hours and was not extinguished until the plotting room and adjacent areas were flooded. Forty crewmen were injured by a mixture of thick smoke and chlorine fumes. With the fire control apparatus ruined, Colorado went to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs and an investigation over the incident.
Throughout the 1930s the Colorado spent most of her time with the Pacific Fleet with visits to the Atlantic every two years for maneuvers. When Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappeared in the Pacific in July 1937, Colorado quickly became engaged in the search for the missing aviators. For a week the ship and her three scout planes searched the reefs of the Phoenix Island Group. When war broke out again in Europe in 1939 the USN had again embarked upon a huge expansion. Although newer battleships were now being built, it would take some time before they would be ready for service. In the meantime it was time for upgrading the Colorado Class. As the newest battleships built when under the Washington Treaty, they were the last class scheduled to receive comprehensive refits. Maryland went in first. Originally, she was to be followed by West Virginia but Colorado went for the refit in the place of Wee-Vee. If it had not been for this substitution, Colorado would have been at Pearl Harbor, instead of West Virginia.
Throughout the spring and summer of 1942 Colorado, along with Maryland, California and the three ships of the New Mexico Class were kept along the waters of the Pacific coast as the last line of defense in case the victorious Japanese Fleet came to raid the United States coastline. In the fall she sailed to Pearl Harbor and then on to the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific to guard the supply route to Australia. It was not until November 20, 1943 that Colorado saw action by providing gunfire support for the landings at Tarawa. Her next action was in the seizure of Kwajalein in January 1944 and then on to Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands in February.
After a quick refit at Bremerton, Colorado was again scheduled to provide fire support, this time at Saipan in June 1944. In July she was off Guam and Tinian, where she received her first battle damage. Twenty-two shells from Japanese shore batteries hit Colorado. After this damage she went back to Bremerton for repairs. She had not yet rejoined the fleet, when the Japanese Navy launched its last great operation that resulted in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. When she did arrive in November 1944 she was hit by a kamikaze, suffering moderate damages but heavy casualties. Instead of retiring, Colorado stayed in action. She provided fire support for operations on Mindoro and Luzon in December 1944 through January-February 1945. Off Luzon, she was again hit by a shore battery, which caused casualties on the navigation bridge and the sky control position. Her last action was at Okinawa. For 63 days she was on station, sending her 16-Inch shells landward to Japanese positions. In spite of the tremendous number of kamikaze missions launched in the Okinawa campaign, none found Colorado. She was awaiting reassignment at Leyte Gulf in the summer and was riding off Okinawa when Japan surrendered in August 1945. Colorado was one of the first ships into Sagami Bay on August 27, 1945, five hours steaming from Tokyo Bay. On September 2 she was with the units in Tokyo Bay for the official surrender ceremony aboard the Missouri.
Coloradomade three round trips between Pearl Harbor and the West Coast in the fall and transported 6,457 soldiers back home. In January 1946 she was deactivated at Bremerton, where she remained until March 1, 1959 when she was stricken, to be sold for scrap in July. (Bulk of history is from United States Battleships by Alan F. Pater)
H-P Models has produced a good kit in their 1:700 scale Colorado. The model depicts her in 1944 with her greatly augmented AA fit. The most noticeable difference between her 1941 and 1944 forms is the substitution of a short solid tower in place of her cage mainmast. Since she was needed for service, when the heavily damaged battleships of Pearl Harbor were being repaired, she never received the total rebuild found in West Virginia, California and Tennessee. Colorado along with Maryland, kept their cage foremasts to the end, the last two USN battleships to be equipped with the classically American cage mast.
Although one the whole, the casting is very good, you may wish to replace the 20mm Oerlikons with photo-etch versions as well as the catapult and crane. One item that really must be replaced is the solid resin cage mast supplied in the kit. After spending the money for this resin kit, it would be a shame to build her with the solid foremast provided. Toms Models produces a 1:700 scale photo-etch fret (#720 @ $8.00) for cage mast USN battleships. Do yourself a favor and buy that fret. Not only do you get the absolutely essential cage foremast but also you will also get some other good replacement items like the catapults and cranes. However, in a first from H-P Models, the 16-Inch gun barrels are turned brass. This is a very welcome change as resin barrels have been a problem in prior H-P Models kits.
The only quibble I have with the overall accuracy of the kit is the appearance of the torpedo bulge blisters. The top shelf appears too wide. Colorado, like Maryland which preceded her in a pre-war refit, received a much narrower bulge than were given to the older battleships being refited after Pearl Harbor. H-P Models may have used the plans found in the Profile Morskie #45: USS Colorado, which depict a wide top shelf but I believe this to be in error, when compared to photographs of the Colorado.
The H-P Models USS Colorado is a good kit. The company has clearly greatly improved casting quality from their earlier offerings. Coupled with the Toms photo-etched fret and you can build a very nice replica of one of the Big Five as she appeared at the end of her service career. This model is available from Pacific Front, so if you are interested, give Bill Gruner a call.