In 1934 a bill was authorized to replace the Navyís overage ships. Out of this legislation came the funding for the new Cleveland class light cruiser, though the funding was not allocated until 1940.
A total of 27 units were built, out of which 22 earned battle stars in WWII.( Birmingham-9 ) As a side note, 9 additional hulls were completed as light carriers (CVL).
The Clevelands were in a sense, improved Brooklyns, being similar in dimension, propulsion and overall appearance. The main difference being the main gun turret configuration, with the Brooklyn mounting 5 triple turrets, 2 aft and 3 forward, all mounting 3-6" rifles each and the Clevelands mounting 4 triple turrets, 2 aft and 2 forward, mounting 3-6" rifles each. This configuration allowed for the mounting of more of the twin 5"38 cal. duel purpose mounts.
As this kit represents Birmingham in late 1944, a little about her. Cl-62 was the 6th of her class, laid down on February 17, 1941 in Newport News, and being commissioned January 29, 1943. Birmingham was destined to hard luck from early on in her career. On November 8-9, 1943 in action off Empress Augusta Bay, Birmingham was struck by one torpedo and two bombs, resulting in four months in the repair yard. She then returned to the Pacific until October 1944, when she was along side the light carrier Princeton helping to fight her fires, Birmingham was showered with steel as a massive explosion ripped the CVL apart! As a result 237 Birmingham crewmen were killed and over 400 wounded. Again back to San Francisco for more repairs, then back to the Pacific, only to be hit in number 2 turret by a Kamikaze off Okinawa 5 months later. She was repaired again, only to see the end of the war Stateside.
Birmingham Battle Damage Photos
Length OA: 610 ft., Beam: 63ft.
Displacement: 10,000 tons(light) 13,100 tons
Armament: 12x6" / 16x40mm / 22x20mm
The Commander Models kit is a one-piece full hull resin kit with photo-etch brass detail parts on one fret. As is usual with ISW, the superstructure parts are cast in two piece molds, which allow support detail to be cast in and eliminate having to sand off a pour block, common to open face casting. These parts are engineered to "lock" in place assuring proper location.
I am still amazed at the amount of detail and structure that has been cast integral to this one-piece hull. Yes there is a trade off......as the hull is poured from the bottom, there will be some air voids and a casting gate to sand off. One other trade off is, with the amount of detail cast on to the hull and 01&02 levels, there will be the occasional void to be filled with 2 part epoxy putty, and minor edge and corner cleanup.
Overall, I feel, this type of aggressive casting technique speeds assembly time, and is well worth the clean up time!( On this kit, this step took about an hour and a half)
The smaller parts are cast in resin, which some having a light "feathery" flash, which is easily cleaned off. I chose to replace the 20mm gun barrels with brass rod, as they donít always cast well. Brass rod is supplied for the mast assembly and propeller shafts.
The kit that I received was a review kit, as so, it did not have the instruction sheets with it. I feel safe in saying that, from the quality of ISWís recent instruction sets, the Birmingham set will be of the same caliber.
The photo etch fret (.006) is a very comprehensive set, complete with various supports, and such items as lookout stations, 1-2 and 3 bar rails, along with the usual radars, catapults, 20mm shields, 3 dimension stairways and ladders. My drawings showed "SG" radars atop both masts, these were omitted from the brass fret so, I made them from stainless railroad screen. * On a personal note, I was paging through the U.S. Light Cruisers book by Squadron/Signal and saw the color illustration of Birmingham reflecting her damaged paint. This gave me the idea of trying to create that illusion in building this kit. As there are few photos of her in this condition (only two at National. Archives) I attempted to extrapolate the resulting damage created when during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, she was alongside U.S.S. Princeton (CVL) helping to fight raging fires. After backing away to fight off aerial attacks from the Japanese, Birmingham, again, pulled alongside just as Princetonís stern exploded, showering Birmingham with steel, scorching and scoring the Birminghamís paint.
This kit conforms quite well, except a few minor details, to the drawings of Birmingham in October 1944 drawn by Thomas F. Walkowiak, these drawings were obtained from Floating Drydock. My overall conclusion is that this kit is very well done, but in keeping with my opinion that no kit is perfect in every aspect, it builds into a fine representation of this ship. The ease of construction should not deter any modeler with basic modeling skills and would make a fine addition to any collection. As of this date, the ISW kit is the only 1/350 Cleveland class cruiser kit on the market.
Drawings by Thomas F. Walkowiak / Floating Drydock
U.S. Cruisers by Norman Friedman
U.S. Light Cruisers by Squadron / Signal
Photos obtained from National Archives