"A new situation has developed and this country’s supremacy is no longer secured. The lessons enforced by the Battle of Jutland have rendered all of the capital ships designed before that event more or less obsolescent, and the United States and Japan are the only two countries engaged in building heavy ships." Preface to Brassey’s Naval & Shipping annual 1920-1, at page x. In 1920 Great Britain woke up to the fact that after a decade of a battleship construction race with Imperial Germany, followed by four years of , up to that time, unimagined bloodshed and the ruinous financial expenditures of "The Great War", her position of first seapower in the world was now facing a challenge more serious than any posed by the High Seas Fleet of Admiral Tirpitz. This challenge was from two of her allies from the war that had finished just two years before. Japan and the United States had enacted huge battleship construction programs in 1915 and 1916, while Britain and the rest of the European powers were unable to consider any significant commitment to the further building of capital ships.
"Yet the British Admiralty have no doubt that the capital ship, in the words of Earl Beatty at Glasgow in March, 1920, is ‘still the unit upon which sea power is built." "It is in the United States that this policy finds its most striking expression. The disappearance of the German Navy left Great Britain and the United States the greatest Naval Powers, but, while England is not embarking upon any naval programme, America is pushing forward to the first place in the building of capital ships, undismayed by the possibilities of disastrous attack from above and below, or by the hint given by the British Admiralty that the big ship may yet become submersible." Brassey’s Naval & Shipping annual 1920-1, at page 41. The United States Naval Program of 1916 was of tremendous size and called for building sixteen capital ships of the greatest size and gunpower. The first four of the Maryland Class were quick fixes that required minimum design time, since for all intents and purposes, they were identical to the California and Tennessee of the 1915 program, with the one notable exception of twin 16-Inch/45 gun turrets instead of the triple 14-Inch turrets of the preceding class. They could be started almost immediately. Six were an experiment for the USN, their first battlecruisers. These were to be huge beautiful ships, heavily armed, extraordinarily fast but abysmally armored. Even after redesign to add more armor, the belt of seven inches was only one more inch of armor than that found in the very first battlecruiser, HMS Invincible, which had blown up at the Battle of Jutland.
"The sixteen ships mounting the heaviest guns will be enough when they are completed to ensure to the United States Navy the first position among the Fleets of the world, unless there should be a new British programme carried out expeditiously." Brassey’s Naval & Shipping annual 1920-1, at page 42. The true centerpiece of the 1916 program was the six battleships of the South Dakota Class, also called in some quarters the North Carolina or Massachusetts Class. This class was unfettered by the need for quick the construction that had characterized the Maryland Class. Following established USN practice, the South Dakota Class would significantly increase the armament over the preceding class. With twelve 16-Inch guns instead of eight, they were 50% more powerful than the Marylands. On top of this, they as well as the Lexington Class battlecruisers would mount 50 caliber guns, instead of the 45 caliber guns of the Marylands. Armor protection would follow the USN practice of fitting the thickest armor possible into their battleship designs.
USS South Dakota USS South Dakota BB-49 Vital Statistics-49 Vital Statistics
Length - 684 feet (208.5m) oa; Beam - 106 feet
(32.3m); Draught - 33 feet (10.1m); Displacement -
43,200 tons standard; Armament - Twelve 16-Inch/50
(406mm); Sixteen 6-Inch (152mm); Four 3-Inch (76mm) AA; Two 21-Inch
Armor: Belt - 13.5-Inch (343mm); Armored Bulkheads - 13.5 to 9-Inches (343-229mm); Barbettes - 13.5 to 4.5-Inches (343-114mm); Turrets - 18 to 5-Inches (457-127mm); Conning Tower - 16 to 8-Inches (406-203mm); Deck - 6 to 1.25-Inches (152-32mm): Machinery - Two Westinghouse Turbines with Two Electric Motors; 16 Babcock & Wilcox Boilers; Four Shafts, 60,000shp: Maximum Speed - 23 knots: Complement - 1,616
"When Mr. Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, made his report on the year 1919-20 he spoke in glowing terms of the future. The American Navy, he said, had become incomparably stronger and more powerful than before, and was far in advance of any other Navy, in ships, in men, and in every element of strength....With battleships in service equal or superior to any then in commission in any Navy, and twelve battleships (including the California and Tennessee, the last-named since commissioned of the 1915 programme) and six battle-cruisers under construction – some of them larger than any yet in commission, and to be armed with 16-in. 50-calibre guns, more powerful than any afloat – the Navy, he said, was pressing forward to greater things, justifying in peace and war the country’s firm confidence in its ‘first line of defence." Brassey’s Naval & Shipping annual 1920-1, at page 43. With past battleship designs the USN had been satisfied with having a slower fleet speed than contemporaries, in order to carry the most powerful artillery with the greatest protection. Since the birth of the New Steel Navy of the 1890s, American designs had always emphasized armament and armor over speed. However, the Admirals had noticed that Britain with her Queen Elizabeth and R Classes and Japan with all of her battleship designs, had a significant speed advantage over the American battleline. With the South Dakota class the USN attempted to add a new element into the design, heretofore not seen in American battleships, speed. By almost doubling the horsepower over the Marylands, the South Dakota Class was rated at 23 knots top speed. It was a modest jump but significant nonetheless.
"Since the ‘Annual’ last appeared the United States Navy has come under new influence and control, and, though it appears certain that the execution of the great and varied shipbuilding programme of 1916 will not be arrested, it is impossible as yet to predict the fate of the further programme prepared by the General Board of the Navy or to indicate the lines of future policy." Brassey’s Naval & Shipping annual 1921-2, at page 32. When President Harding was elected in 1920 it first appeared that there would be no changes to the 1916 Program. "A big Navy and a big Merchant Marine are necessary for the future of the country." (Warren Harding at Norfolk, Virginia in December 1920) However, the new administration was financially conservative and isolationist in stark contrast to the big Navy, internationalist Wilson administration. In 1921 the Harding administration invited the other major powers to a naval limitations conference in Washington. Construction of the balance of the ships of the 1916 program continued prior the talks. By July 1, 1921 the six ships of the South Dakota Class were complete as follows; North Carolina at Norfolk Navy Yard 35.8% (26.6); South Dakota at New York Navy Yard 32.2% (25.7); Indiana at New York Navy Yard 29.8% (22.7); Iowa at Newport News Shipbuilding 26.3% (22.6); Montana at Mare Island Navy Yard 26.1% (17.3); and Massachusetts at Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation (Fall River) 8.6% (3.0). (First number indicates overall percent complete and second number in parenthesis indicates percentage complete aboard ship.)
"The General Board of the Navy, by the very weight of its authority, undoubtedly influences Congress and the Nation. It expressed its views upon the subject of the suggested ‘naval holiday.’ Through Rear-Admiral Badger, it declared that it would be unwise and dangerous for the United States to adopt a policy of disarmament or limitation of armament in advance of the other nations of the world. When such a policy is put into effect it should bind all alike and not put America in a position of inferiority, from which, by the terms of the agreement, she could not extricate herself." Brassey’s Naval & Shipping annual 1921-2, at page 35. In comparing the designs that led up to the Washington Treaty, it is necessary to compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges. Of the three designs of the USN program, Maryland, Lexington, and South Dakota, all 16 ships were laid down with significant advancement in their progress before construction was halted. Of the 16 ships in four classes, Nagato, Tosa and Amagi, in the 1915 Japanese 8-8 program eight were laid down, Clearly the six ships of the Lexington Class were clearly outmatched by Amagi design. (Click for Review of the IHP Lexington) A belt of 7-Inches just wouldn’t hack it against 16-Inch shells. However, if you look at contemporary battleship designs that were under construction, the outlook was different. The South Dakota compares very favorably with her contemporary the Tosa. South Dakota on a displacement of 43,200 tons carried twelve 16-Inch/50 guns for a broadside weight of 25,200 pounds (11,431 kg) and a range of 33,000 yards at 30 degrees. The armor of the belt, barbettes, and internal armored bulkheads was 13.5-Inches with 18-Inch on Turrets and 16-Inch on conning tower. Deck armor was up to 6-Inches. South Dakota was laid down on March 15, 2003. One month earlier on February 16, 1920 Tosa was laid down. Tosa and sister, Kaga, were of 39,930 tons displacement. They were to carry ten 16-Inch guns with armor of 11-Inches on belt, barbettes, and internal armored bulkheads, with 14-Inch on turrets and conning tower and a 6.3-Inch belt. South Dakota was clearly superior all of the way around, except in top speed. The Japanese had upped the top speed to 26.5 knots in the Tosa versus 23 knots in the South Dakota.
"American naval policy is now largely dominated by the need for economy, and that Navy, like every other great Navy, will be profoundly affected by the provisions of the Washington Treaty." Brassey’s Naval & Shipping annual 1923, at page 34. Many point to the last battleship design of the 8-8 Program, the four battleships designed by Admiral Y. Hiraga and given the numbers 13-16, as proof that the South Dakotas were outmatched. (Click for Review of the IHP 13-16 Design) These four, to be armed with eight 18-Inch guns, were never ordered and furthermore the USN had plans for battleships newer and more powerful than the South Dakotas. The USN wanted additional battleships, beyond the 1916 Program with one battleship for 1922, 1923 and 1924, an additional battlecruiser for 1923 and ten cruisers in each of the three years. By October 1, 1921 the ships of the South Dakota Class averaged 28.5 percent complete. The Washington Conference on naval limitation and disarmament met on November 12, 1921 and the Treaty was signed on February 6, 1922.
"More effective, as a reduction of fighting strength, is the inclusion on the condemned list of the Washington of the ‘West Virginia’ class, which was launched in 1920, and is about three parts completed. This to be done in order to bring down the Navy to the required standard in capital ships. In addition , the 6 battleships of the ‘South Dakota’ class and the six battle-cruisers of the ‘Lexington’ class, which promised to lay such a heavy burden upon the taxpayers, will not be carried forward." Brassey’s Naval & Shipping annual 1923, at page 35. Under the terms of the Washington Treaty the USN scrapped 11 of the 16 ships of the 1916 program. Washington of the Maryland Class, four of the six Lexingtons and all six South Dakotas were sacrificed to world peace and national economy. Maryland, Colorado and West Virginia survived as battleships and Lexington and Saratoga morphed into aircraft carriers. Japan scrapped four of the eight ships laid down in the 8-8 Program. She kept Nagato and Mutsu as battleships, with Akagi of the Amagi battlecruiser design and Kaga of the Tosa battleship design being converted into aircraft carriers. Tosa and three of the four Amagi battlecruisers were broken up on the slip. Although the Royal Navy had ordered four Invincible Class battlecruisers, of nine 16-Inch guns, similar armor to South Dakota but at 32 knots, far greater speed, none had yet been laid down when the order was cancelled. (Click for Review of the IHP Invincible, 1921 battlecruiser) However, the USN would see the names of five of the six South Dakotas again. North Carolina, South Dakota, Indiana, Massachusetts and Iowa would all be names used for USN fast battleships of World War Two. Only Montana was not used, although it was the name ship of the last American battleship design, it was never constructed. Oddly, Montana appears to be the only state that never had a battleship to sail under the state’s name.
Imperial Hobby Productions South Dakota BB-49
However, South Dakota has its own architectural quirks. Chief among them is the two story aft superstructure. It towers above the main deck and has twin double-story 6-Inch casemate positions on each side. The decks have plenty of other features such as anchor chain plates, plenty of bollards, cleats and other deck fittings. The hull sides with their long line of portholes over the thick armor belt is also very well done. The only qualification on the hull that I have is that the casemate positions seem to have too much pronounced brows.
Chief among the smaller resin parts is the two piece trunked funnel. This was a unique architectural signature of the South Dakota Class. When I looked at the parts I noticed two trunked funnel pieces. One clearly ended in the sack cap but the other did not. What I did not realize until I studied the instructions was that from overhead the stack arrangement resembled the letter T. Two side by side trucks arise from the well amidships to trunk into one, which forms the base of the first fore/aft trunk of the main stack. This feature sets the South Dakota Class design apart from every other battleship design. Add the high conning tower with multiple platforms running aft to the main superstructure and the characteristic American battleship charthouse and you have a design that has the family resemblance but retains its own unique stamp.
A number of the smaller resin pieces are the same as those included in the IHP Lexington. Control tops, crane kingposts, crane arms, and cage mast platforms are the same. Two comments about the smaller resin parts – (1) Replace the crane arms with photo-etch. When I made the same comment about these parts in the Lexington review, somebody posted on the message board that the replacements were already present in the USN Battleships fret by Toms Modelworks., Additionally the fret has catapults, turret mounted as well as stern, in case the modeler wished to add those upgrades, which were subsequently added to all of the pre World War Two battleships. That is good advice. Since the South Dakota does not have the lattice search light towers, as in Lexington, the Toms fret should give you akk of the additional detail you need, together with generic photo-etch railing, vertical ladders and inclined ladders. (2) The kingposts appear too long. Drawings seem to show the crane kingposts as equaling the height of the funnel. With the IHP South Dakota the kingposts are significantly taller. The answer of course is simply removing a portion of their length so that they are of the same height as the funnel.
IHP provides quite a few parts in white metal. These are guns and fittings that are smaller than those represented by the resin pieces. On average they are very well done. Parts include the open 6-Inch guns, open 3-Inch guns, gun platforms for both types, ship’s boats, searchlights, anchors and paravanes. The open 6-Inch and 3-Inch gun platforms are especially well done, featuring a deck grid. The 6-Inch guns are also very nice pieces with clearly delineated features. The 3-Inch breech blocks appear a trifle oversize. The white metal parts will require minor cleaning with a hobby knife to remove minor flash and clean the point where they were attached to the sprue. One point brought up as a result of the Lexington review was the design of the open mount secondary guns. The South Dakota as well as the Lexington, had part of the secondary in casemates and part as open mounts on deck. They were 6-Inch (152mm) pieces, the first 6-Inch secondary in 20 years. One person posted on the message board that the pieces were five-Inch guns. It is possible that IHP may have used a five-Inch gun as the basis for the pattern of the open mount 6-Inch guns.
In addition to the white metal parts, IHP also included brass parts for their South Dakota BB-49. IHP has been especially thoughtful in this arena. They include brass barrels for the 16-Inch/50 guns with hollow muzzles and additionally they provide brass barrels for the casemate 6-Inch positions. You will have to drill locator holes for placement of the casemate guns. IHP provides photo-etch brass cage masts. These come from the Toms US battleships fret (mentioned above) and IHP is to be highly commended for including these fine brass parts instead of solid resin masts found in some other companies kits. Another distinguishing addition is the inclusion of black metal anchor chains, another feature for which IHP should be lauded. Rounding out the brass parts are two brass rods for topmasts and yards.
One last caveat concerns the box. With the IHP Lexington the box was long and deep with more than sufficient space for all of the parts of the kit. With the South Dakota a different box size was used. It appears to be too shallow. All of the parts are tightly packed and it requires maneuvering to get them all back in the box. Although the South Dakota had no casting defects, my copy did have one piece that had broken off of the hull, one of the splinter shields on the 01 deck. Although it is easy to reattach this to the hull, the breakage probably occurred due to the shallowness of the box.
In a remarkable forecast of the future, in 1923 one German newspaper speculated that the terms of the Washington Treaty made war more likely not less. Since it froze the implementation of naval advances and created an artificial ceiling of 35,000 tons for new battleship construction, any new ship built under the terms of the Treaty would be unsatisfactory, significantly shorting one of the three prime components of battleship design, guns, armor or speed. The artificial limit would encourage cheating in order for one country to get the edge on the others. Indeed that is what happened. However, with the South Dakota you can avoid that trap. With the IHP South Dakota, you can safely ignore the economies and isolationist views of President Warren Harding and build your USN to the glorious heights that it deserves.