During World War Two, the United States Coast Guard fell under the department of the Navy as of November 1, 1941. From the start a primary focus of the force was anti-submarine warfare. The contribution of the Coast Guard cutters was invaluable in the allied victory for the Battle of the Atlantic.

The cutters of the Coast Guard came in a wide variety of sizes, from small motor launches for harbor patrol to the 6,500 ton Wind class. During the 1920s the Coast Guard received thirteen 750 ton, twelve 1,000 ton and six flush deck destroyers, transferred from the navy. One of the key peacetime missions in an era when almost all cargo and passengers traveled by sea was ice patrol. To address this mission several types of cutters were designed to operate in sea ice conditions. The Algonquin Class was one such type.

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There were six cutters in the class: Algonquin, Commanche, and Mohawk built by Pusey & Jones of Wilmington, Delaware and the Escanaba, Onadaga, and Tahoma built by Defoe Works, Bay City, Michigan. Starting in 1934 these cutters made their appearance. They were designed to operate under severe ice conditions with short length, medium draught, reinforced bow plates and a cut away for foot. This intentional design gave them their short, compact tubby look. At 1,005 tons (fl) they had the displacement needed for ASW augmentation but were hampered by their slow speed (12.5 knots) in stalking submarines. Also because of their short length, deck space was at a premium. Only Escanaba was lost during the war. The first three were broken up in 1948-1949 and the two surviving Defoe cutters were sold in 1954 and 1955. (History and statistics from Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946 and Jane’s Fighting Ships 1946-1947.)

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In addition to having an impressive array of models for the smaller combatants and support vessels of the USN in World War Two, Iron Shipwright has developed a significant line of cutters of the Coast Guard in 1:350th scale. Along with the cutters the Coast Guard manned 30 destroyer escorts, 75 frigates, 22 transports, 9 attack transports, 15 cargo ships, 18 petrol tankers, 76 LSTs, 28 LCIs, 33 smaller USN craft and 288 US Army craft. Iron Shipwright also produces 1:350th scale models of a number of these vessels.

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The ISW Commanche (some photos are labeled after sistership, Mohawk) shares casting characteristics of the YMS-260, reviewed earlier this week. (Click for review of the ISW YMS-260). Details cast integral to the hull cover various deck hatches, ammo boxes, skylights, winches, boat cradles, life rings, fire hoses and the ribbed bulkhead shielding on the bow. The reinforced bow, shortened bow shielding (to improve field of fire) and cutaway stern give the hull a unique look. As with the YMS-260, the parts just click together. Photographs included in this article show the parts pieced together without being glued. The hull requires minimal cleanup. As you can see there will be a small amount of cleanup required for the bridge, amounting to removal of resin pour plugs and a light sanding.

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The smaller parts include the stack, mast, aft 01 level platform, ship’s boats, three-inch guns with separate mounts, 20mm guns, K-guns, propeller, depth charge davits, two sizes of ventilator cowling and anchors. Primary cleanup with these parts involves removal of resin flash, removal of pour plugs and repair of a few pinhole voids. When removing the pour stubs, do so with a scissors or a knife. This is especially important with the ventilator cowlings as they have a delicate thin outer rim that can be damaged blunt force removal of the plugs.

Although there is a higher parts count than with the YMS-260, the Commanche is also a suitable subject for a first resin and brass model.

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The ISW Commanche comes with a small to medium sized brass fret. You get four types of railing in various lengths, deck supports, 20mm gun shields, depth charge racks, K-gun racks, vertical ladder, inclined ladders, boat davits, radar, stack caps, RDF, fighting light and specially designed railings for the tapered bow shielding. There is quite a bit of brass for a model of this size. The quantity of brass will make this kit more of a challenge for the first time builder but not excessively so.

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Instructions run four pages in length. The format is basically the same as that with the YMS-260. First page contains a parts listing for resin and brass parts. Each part is numbered with the number of the part corresponding with the number shown for the part on the assembly page. Since resin and brass share numbers 1 through 11, it s necessary to examine the drawings to determine if the number in the assembly drawing refers to the resin or the brass part. There is no confusion since the parts are totally dissimilar and the drawing is clear on what part goes where. Page one concludes with a text assembly sequence.

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Page two is devoted to the brass K-gun racks, depth charge racks and inclined ladder shaping as well as attaching the shields to the 20mm guns. The K-gun racks in the instructions drawing have a slightly different shape from the parts in the P-E fret. Page three has drawings of the resin parts and a photograph of the fret. It also includes the first steps in the assembly with placement of the bridge and the location of the different types of railings to the hull and superstructure. Page four concludes the assembly with four drawings showing placement of the various resin and photo-etched parts. Although not CAD drawn the assembly drawings are sufficient to allow the builder to complete the model without confusion.

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The ISW Commanche is yet another of the unique models from Iron Shipwright. Depicting a medium sized mid-war USCG cutter, as fitted during WWII, it fills a void not covered from any other source. The parts are there to build the kit into a very attractive model. Only slightly more difficult to assemble than the ISW YMS-260, due to higher parts count and more elaborate photo-etched fret, the kit is still a good first resin build and should appeal to veteran and novice builders alike. Most of all, it should have a very strong appeal to the devotees of the forgotten service of World War Two, the United States Coast Guard.

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