The USS Thornton (Torpedo Boat No. 33) was laid down on March 16, 1899 at the yards of the William R. Trigg Co. of Richmond, VA. She was launched on May 15, 1900, sponsored by Miss Mary Thornton Davis. The USS Thornton was commissioned on June 9, 1902, Ensign Samuel Brown Thomas in command.

The Thornton participated in the summer maneuvers of the North Atlantic Fleet off the eastern coast of the United States. In November and December of 1902, the torpedo boat moved south to the West Indies for combined winter maneuvers. On January 28, 1903, she returned to Norfolk, and she was assigned to the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla.

On June 19, 1905, the Thornton was placed back in full commission and the following month, she made a brief visit to Annapolis, MD. On July 21, she was again decommissioned and entered the Norfolk Navy Yard. Three months later, the torpedo boat rejoined the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at Norfolk, Virginia. 

USS Thornton (TB-33/CTV-16) -- Blakely-class Torpedo Boat

Displacement: 269 tons (full.load);

Dimensions: Length: 176'0" (waterline); Breadth: 17'6"; Draft: 5'2".

Speed: 27.5 knots: Complement: 28;

Armament: 3 – One-pound rapid fire guns; 3 – 18-inch torpedo tubes


Recommissioned on June 19, 1907, she was assigned to the 3d Torpedo Flotilla and over the next several years she operated along the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. In the fall of 1909 she joined several other torpedo boats in ascending the Mississippi River as far as St. Louis. In December of that year she returned to Charleston, S.C. and on the 22nd, was decommissioned and assigned to the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at Charleston.

Although the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla was abolished in 1914, the Thornton remained inactive at Charleston until 1917. With America's entry into World War I the Thornton was placed back in full commission on April 7, 1917. She was converted to a minesweeper and, on May 22, departed Charleston for Norfolk. She was attached to the 5th Naval District and she performed minesweeping operations in Hampton Roads and off Cape Henry, VA. On April 8, 1918, she collided with Joseph F. Bellows (SP-323) in Hampton Roads. Because of extensive damage, the Thornton was towed to the Norfolk Navy Yard where she was decommissioned and redesignated Coastal Torpedo Vessel No. 16. A board of inspection and survey examined her and recommended her disposal. On May 12, 1919, her name was struck from the Navy list. Fifteen months later, near the end of August 1920, she was sold to the Southern Oil & Transport Corp., of New York City. 

The Model
The model of the USS Thornton is among Iron Shipwright’s recent foray (Editor's Note: Iron Shipwright has launched a full fledged invasion into the era, rather than a foray, raid or reconnaissance) into the US Navy of the Spanish-American War/Pre-World War I era. The resin model is 1:350 scale. The model is based on plans from the US Archives that I happened across while researching the Paulding-class destroyer. I provided those plans to Jon Warneke of Iron Shipwright and he produced the kit along with three other torpedo boats of the period.

The model was cast with a round post pour plug on the bottom which was removed with a razor saw and its location was used to mark a hole to be drilled in order to receive a threaded brass insert. The brass insert was epoxied in place and gaps were filled with Bondoä red putty. The insert and the lower hull were sanded smooth. There was little additional underside details on the kit hull, and the plans showed no bilge keels that needed to be added. I added the prop shaft fairings and replaced the kit-supplied resin V-shaped prop supports with some brass and styrene rod and some strip styrene to finish detailing the underside. The underside was painted with Valsparä American Tradition red oxide primer from Lowes hardware store.

On the topside, I hollowed out the cowl-vents and torpedo tube barrels. The cowl vents were cut down to the appropriate height. The smaller vents were positioned by drilling a locating hole in the deck. The larger vents were drilled to install a locating pin with a hole drilled in the deck to accept the pin. The torpedo tubes were detailed with breech reloading handwheels and some pointing and training gear. The handwheels used on both came from a Gold Medal Models 20MM gun detailing set. The torpedo tubes are correctly positioned facing aft. The tactical doctrine in use at the time was to approach the target – then turn away and launch the attack over the stern as you beat a hasty retreat.

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The kit-supplied one-pound guns were replaced using some Blue Water Navy tripod-mounted 20mm canons. I did not include the shields and added a cut-down 20mm shoulder stock from the GMM 20mm detail set.

I added the flag locker (port) and alcohol locker (starboard) to the area aft of the breakwater according to the Archives plans. These are copies of small ready-service lockers made from another ISW kit. I added some navigation sidelights to the sides of the forward funnel according to the plans. The lenses in the light boxes are some red and green micro-mosaic glass beads from some holiday decorations. The mast is a toothpick, sanded round and smooth. A hole was drilled through it to receive a piece of brass wire for the yardarm. The mast’s fore and back stays are fine stainless steel wire as are the funnel guy-wires.

I added the canvas coverings over the officer and crew’s waterclosets (heads). These were from a piece of vacu-formed product packaging. These were painted "canvas". Further toward the stern I also added the spud locker (port) and refrigerator (starboard), made from some styrene stock and GMM hatches. There is also a scuttlebutt made from a short piece of Evergreen rod stock.

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The anchors at the bow are some leftovers from the ISW USS Katahdin kit. I added a rope made from tightly twisted fine copper motor armature wire. The life ring is from a GMM detail set.

The topside was painted with Humbrol HN-2 Dark Gray. The HN-2 was sealed with a light overspray of Testor’s Dullcoat. I applied some ground pastels to weather the ship. I used black for the soot around the stacks and some light brushes of yellow, orange, and rust-red to indicate rust streaking along the sides. The pastels were sealed with another shot of Dullcoat.

There were no photo-etched details included with the kit. This was a pre-production version of the kit. Jon Warneke and Ted Paris of Iron Shipwright have been busy turning out other pre-World War I models and have not completed drawing the photo-etch. (Editor’s Note: Photo-Etch is completed.)

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