For the first release of Midshp Models, the Bagley/Gridley/Benham classes of destroyers were chosen. These were the one stack, four torpedo mount destroyer designs, which very alike to one another. These kits all shared a bulk of common parts with specific parts or features distinguishing each of the four. For the second series of USN prewar destroyer designs Midship has chosen the Mahan class, or more accurately the Mahan/Dunlap classes, as the Dunlap was a slightly modified Mahan design. Again Midship has produced four new destroyer kits but with this release Midship has taken even greater strides in distinguishing the four kits one from the other. This class preceded the Bagley group and were characterized by twin slim funnels, three torpedo mounts and five 5-inch gun positions.
One problem of having a huge industrial base capable of turning out warships at comparatively lightning speed is that sheer numbers produced during a war inhibit further development of those types of warships after the war. Of course most countries would love to have the industrial base to allow mass production of warships but only in the United States was mass production of warships realized to its greatest capacity. At the end of both world wars the USN had a glut of new construction that in effect became a millstone for further development. After all, why should Congress want to fund any new aircraft carriers after WWII when the USN still had all of those fine Essex Class ships, not to mention the three big Midway Class already purchased.
In the 1920s the USN was in same situation when it came to new destroyer construction. Congress was not in the mood to fund new destroyer designs. Why fund new destroyer designs when the USN was sitting on 300 perfectly good flush deck destroyers purchased for World War One? After all, most were extremely low mileage and went from the builders straight to reserve, since they were delivered after the war was over. Congress was more than happy to just count numbers and not look a quality or what was being developed for other navies. The staff for the U.S. Navy could not afford to do so. As the 1920s progressed, it was clear that every major navy was making significant advances in destroyer design and capabilities. The Royal Navy, which had their own glut of late war V&W Class ships had started introducing newer more capable designs. France was building some large super-destroyers and most worrisome, Japan had introduced the Fubuki "Special Type" destroyer. Of course the Japanese special became the Japanese standard as Japan saw the manifest silliness of continued building of obsolete designs when you had a superior design on hand. The USN could only watch as Congress simply counted numbers and turned down destroyer construction.
However, the leadership of the USN could do something. If they couldnít get Congress to fund new construction, at least they could get the different navy boards to submit the characteristics that they would like to see in a new destroyer design. The results were interesting as they reflected different theories of destroyer operations. In early 1927 a base or control design was developed. This design was of 1,600 tons, 34 knots and armed with four long barrel 5-inch/51, one 3-inch/50 AA and twelve 21-inch torpedoes. To get the torpedoes on centerline the base plan called for two six fish mounts with three tubes over and three tubes under in each mount. These plans were sent throughout the fleet to draw comment. Commander of Destroyers liked it and pressed for an immediate lobbying campaign on Congress. However, he wanted to change the guns to 5-inch/25 so that the torpedo fit could be four triple mounts and the main guns could provide AA coverage. Additionally that would free up space because a separate 3-inch AA gun would not be needed. The commander of the battle fleet also liked the concept of the 5-inch/25, the same gun as used on the Treaty Cruisers, as the main armament. He likewise saw that this would greatly augment the fleetís AA capability. The Bureau of Ordnance also liked the 5-inch/25 as the 4-inch guns on the flush deckers already could shoot farther than the ability of the destroyers to effectively direct their fire. There was no need for a long range gun if it could not be accurately directed at long range. Ordnance did not like the six-torpedo mount. They considered it far too heavy and urged an improved three-tube mount or a new four-tube mount. Even the Bureau of Aeronautics chimed in with their preferred design. The Airedales wanted a modified flush-deck design with the entire stern dominated by a catapult turntable for two seaplanes. However, the whole exercise came to nothing as Congress turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the navy.
The inter-bureau discussion of optimum characteristics continued. Director of War Plans didnít like the 5-inch/25 because he felt that ships so armed would be vulnerable to foreign destroyers in a gunfight. Director Fleet Training much preferred the AA abilities of the 5-inch/25 over the anti-surface capabilities of the 5-inch/51. Ordnance had made somewhat of a flip-flop. Now they wanted large destroyers with the 5-inch/51, able to take on the large foreign destroyer designs. However, throughout this there was a group of officers that thought the question of gun caliber was immaterial. For them the reason for the existence and prime power of the destroyer came with its torpedoes.
In 1930 new discussions had broken out concerning three possible designs. One was a destroyer leader of 1,850 tons with four 5-inch/25 guns and two quad torpedo mounts with reloads; a 1,500 design that dropped to two triple mounts and lastly a small 1,375 design that carried triple mounts at waist positions. Since the USN had fielded torpedo squadrons on their carriers, destroyer launched torpedo attacks were seen as much more remote and gunpower to match foreign designs was seen as the prime consideration. Finally in February 1931 Congress funded five new destroyers for the FY32 Program with another three for FY33. This resulted in the Farragut Class, which emphasized surface firepower with five 5-inch/38 as the perfect compromise between the 5-inch/25 and 5-inch/51 crowds as the 38 caliber weapon was exactly half way between the poles. Torpedoes would be carried in two quadruple mounts on centerline. It was with the Farraguts that US designers first started coming so close to the 1,500 ton London Treaty limit for standard destroyers, that further development of the design would be hindered.
The FY34 Program saw a greatly expanded naval program. With the country in a depression and FDR in the White House, the former Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy saw increased naval spending as perfect for not only increasing the navy but also adding jobs. FY34 called for 16 ships in the Mahan Class. The class added a third quadruple set of tubes so that one mount was on centerline and two in side positions. However, the raised centerline mount had problems. Torpedoes fired from that position would sometimes not clear the ship. They would strike the side deck before hitting the water, ruining the torpedo. The Mahan class made minor improvements to the Farragut design with one major improvement. The Mahans introduced an advance in propulsion.
It was decided to use the most advanced and powerful power plants available. This was partly prompted by a difficulty found in planning the Mahan class. Major builders wanted to stay with the old Parsonís turbine technology and did not want to use new fangled turbine technology based on Westinghouse designs for land based turbines. To overcome this foot-dragging, small firms with no preconceptions were chosen as the initial builders. They were just happy to get the contracts and would build anything the navy asked. Three builders were awarded contracts for the first six ships. Prior procedure was to select one of the builders to prepare working plans for all ships in the class. However, because of their small size, none of the three chosen companies had a sufficient in-house design staff. Accordingly, the navy entered into a contract with the design firm of Gibbs and Cox of New York. Since Gibbs and Cox had designed passenger ships incorporating advanced propulsion systems, the USN required that these be worked into the design. The maximum rotation of the Farragutís turbines was 3,460 rpm, while the new design used in the Mahans was 5,850 rpm. The plant also utilized very high-pressure steam. The design was compact and allowed 50,000shp from a machinery space that former had produced 42,8000shp. Some critics thought that this powerful plant was too complex and would be a nightmare to maintain. The service of the Mahan class proved them wrong, as later it was said of the Mahansí plant, "the most rugged and reliable of any main drive installation ever installed in the Navy up to that time." However, trial top speed jumped from 35-knots with Farragut to 38-knots with Mahan. Additionally the new machinery was more efficient than Parsonís turbines. Not only did maximum speed jump upwards, but new plants increased the cruising range to 8,730nm from the 7,400nm of the Farragut. From this point Gibbs and Cox became a prime design firm for the USN.
The Mahan class was also designed for greater stress than the Farragut class. This decision was also criticized. Many said that Mahan could not use her extra power because high/stress, light construction would permit too much vibration. They argued that the frame should be reinforced and the weight needed for this strengthening should come from reducing the gun armament to four 5-inch mounts or by reducing torpedo mount to three tubes, rather than four tubes. Other changes were cosmetic, including the introduction of a crew shelter located between the bridge and number 2 mount. In 1934 all 16 vessels in the class were laid down and they joined the fleet in 1936 and 1937. They were also initially given a light tripod foremast instead of the pole mast in the Farragut. This tripod was a design feature for that year because the large destroyers of the Porter class leaders of that year also used tripods. In theory the use of the tripod would enhance AA gun coverage. Pole masts required cable stays, which interrupted the lines of fire of the .50 machine guns and DP 5-inch guns. Tripods used the strength provided by the support legs rather than cable stays and the legs were closer inboard. To improve the efficiency of the gun crews, two crew shelters were worked into the design. One was forward in front of the bridge and the other was aft on the shelter deck between guns #3 and #4. These shelters also provided to be the base for light AA gun positions. Two .50 machine guns was mounted on top of each shelter.
Three of the class are prominently featured in the photographic record of the Pearl Harbor attack. The photograph of the magazine explosion of the Shaw and the picture of the battered hulks of Cassin and Downes in dry-dock ahead of USS Pennsylvania, are standard fare in accounts of the event. Six of the sixteen were lost during the war. (History from: United States Navy Destoyers of World War II, 1983, by John C. Reilly, Jr.; U.S. Destroyers, An Illustrated Design History, 1982, by Norman Friedman)
Midship Models Mahan 1938
Midship Models has just released four new 1:700 scale models of USN destroyers based on the Mahan class. Actually three of these are from the Mahan class. This review is on the USS Mahan DD-364 as she appeared in 1938 shortly after being commissioned. Two other Mahan class models from Midship are the Mahan as she appeared in 1942 and the highly modified USS Cassin DD-372 in 1943. The Cassin was heavily damaged with USS Downes on December 7, 1941. The pair shared the drydock with USS Pennsylvania and the destroyers were wrecks after the Japanese air attack. Cassin was rebuilt and emerged with a British style bridge. The fourth model is of USS Dunlap DD-384 as she appeared in 1938 after commissioning. The Dunlap and Fanning are considered a separate class from the Mahan, which basically used the Mahan design but substituted the new ring mounted 5-inch/38 DP gun in fully enclosed gun houses for mounts #1 and #2, open mounts with gun shields found in the Mahan. If you have any of the first four destroyers released by Midship Models for the Bagley/ Gridley/ Benham classes (click for review), you will have noticed that Midship provides a great number of common parts on the sprues, as well as some parts used for specific ships. The new quartet takes this process even further. There are two large sprues, A & B, that are common to all four kits. However, a smaller C sprue is included in two of the kits and three of the kits have a resin pilothouse. They further share a common set of decals but the instructions are of course tailored for each individual model.
The USS Mahan 1938 fit is one of the kits with a third C sprue. This is because of the pre-war architecture, including tripod foremast. With this kit you can build the Mahan class as they appeared upon commissioning. It will be a relatively quick and clean build as there are no AA guns other than the main 5-inch/38 DP guns and four .50 machine guns. Because of the tripod and the pre-war light gray color scheme, the 1938 Mahan will make an interesting contrast with the 1942 early war Mahan in 5N.
Armament & Equipment Ė A Sprue
Sprue A is the weapons sprue and is common to all four kits. On this weapons sprue, youíll find almost every weapon system mounted on USN destroyers during World War Two. It appears that this sprue is the same as the one included in the Gridley/Bagley/Benham kits from Midship. Youíll only use a portion of the weapons in building the ship so youíll also have a great source for spare parts with each kit. There are three flavors of five-inch gun on the weapons sprue. For the 1938 Mahan youíll use the open mount 5-inch/38 and the 5-inch 38 within an open-backed gun shield. Youíll find four open mount guns and platforms on the weapons sprue. Since you only need three of these for mounts #3,4 & 5, that leaves you one spare. You will need two shielded mounts for #1 & 2 guns, four of these guns are found on the weapons sprue but the two gun houses are found on the B or superstructure sprue. The five-inch/38 guns for the open mounts have very nice detail for their small size and are some of the nicest ordnance on the weapons sprue. They are further complemented by the gun platform pieces, which have grid platform, fuse setting positions and other detailed features. The combination is very nice indeed. The guns for the forward mounts have slightly less detail than the open mount versions, as most of the gun will be hidden within the gun shield. However, these parts have significant detail as well, so you are not being shorted in this department. The sprue also contains four closed mount/38 gun-houses and barrels but these are only used on the Dunlap kit. The weapon sprue includes four very nice four-tube torpedo mounts, although you only need three for the kit.
There are enough AA guns included on the weapons fret to fit out a cruiser. The sheer number and variety allows you to go beyond just the four Mahan/Dunlap ships specifically produced and to model other Mahan variants. As an example, the weapon fret provides two quad 40mm Bofor guns with mounts. These were found on late war fits of Mahan but not until 1944. However twin mount Bofor gun appeared earlier in 1942 and the weapons sprues provides for four of these. Both the quad and twin Bofors are well detailed and I would use them even if the barrels are a little too thick. The sprue also provides two quad 1.1-inch gun mounts. At least one Mahan, the Shaw, had this unreliable ordnance installed at mid-war. The 1.1-inch ordnance is overly thick and not as detailed as the nice Bofor guns. For some reason three small editions of the 1.1-inch guns are on the sprue. Presumably somewhere between 1:1200 to 1:1400 scale, they may be useful to modify warships in this smaller scale but of are no use in 1:700. Eight 20mm Oerlikon light AA guns are provided, which is more than enough for any of the various AA fits found in the class. Each gun consists of the gun and a separate shield/pedestal mount. They to are on the thick side but are useable. One omission is the pre-war/early war AA machine gun. There are none on the weapons sprue. The best solution would be to use photo-etch machine guns because at 1:700 scale they would be small. However an alternative would be to use the 20mm guns from the sprue and remove the gun shield. Although the box art for the 1938 Mahan shows gun shields on the machine guns, I donít think there were shields on these mounts. The instructions do not show any machine guns on the ship but at some time before the start of the war, four were mounted on the Mahan class. Rounding out the armament are two rows of depth charge stern racks.
Although the A sprue is dominated by armament, other fittings are found there as well. These parts will include wartime shipís boats; two types of radar array; stack caps; gun director & director radar; davits; signal lamps; searchlights; paravanes; square edged carley floats; round edged carley floats; cable reels in two sizes; and kingposts. There are also a number of other late-war fittings, which will be covered in a subsequent review. As with the weapons the are plenty of spares for maximum flexability. Both types of carleys are very well done, as are the signal lamps and search lights. However, some equipment can not be adequately portrayed in plastic or resin, in that only photo-etch can capture the open design. Radars are chief among them. There is no worry about that with a 1938 fit Mahan, as she carried no radar but photo-etch parts would be better for davits and stack caps. Although Midship Models will probably have a photo-etch set designed for the Mahan class, it is not out now. However, the Midship photo-etch fret developed for the Bagley/Gridley/Benham class kits will probably fulfill 90% of your photo-etch needs. Although you wonít get the right stack caps, almost every other item should be covered.
Hull & Superstructure Ė B Sprue
The bulk of the kit is found on B sprue, which includes the hull, forecastle and almost all of the superstructure. As with the weapons sprue, not all parts found on B sprue are used in the build of any one kit. The hull is one piece, except for a separate forecastle part. The hull sides forward of the breakwater are significantly thinner than the hull sides aft of the breakwater. This makes it very easy to drill out the porthole/scuttles. There are two rows on each side found only on each side of the bow. This may be a sensible step, as there are not that many and the scuttles are rather shallow if you donít drill them out. Considering the light gray paint scheme, they should be prominent with the finished model. The deck has quite a bit of detail at the deck break. Four indentations are actually locator positions for the trunking of the two stacks. One piece of machinery that will be underneath the separate trunks of the forward funnel is molded integral to the deck. Also, the pedestal for the centerline torpedo mount is found here as well. Other features found amidships are locator holes for the tripod, guides for solid bulkheads, pivots for wing torpedo mounts, locator hole for searchlight tower and a pair of twin bollards. On the quarterdeck are base plates for the two depth charge racks, four more twin bollards, a deck access fitting and the base for #5 gun. The separate forecastle fits well into the well in the hull. Features on this part are four sets of twin bollards, a deck access fitting, anchor windlass and fittings and the base for #1 gun.
Superstructure parts can be very well detailed. The bulkheads are especially nice. When it comes to the superstructure the shape of each Mahan diverges from the other because of the parts required for the different fits vary. As an example there are four long superstructure bulkheads but only four are used for the 1938 Mahan. When it comes to the various decks of the superstructure, there is even more of a divergence. The B common sprue contains three large shelter decks but only one of these for the forward shelter deck is used. The aft shelter deck is found on sprue C, which is actually an extension of B sprue. There are two different bridge faces, one with square windows (used in prewar and early war versions) and one with portholes. There are two different navigation decks. Only about 70% of the parts on B sprue will be used for any one fit of the Mahan kits. The stack trunking is excellent, as each funnel rises from four separate trunks. The stacks have reinforcing bands and steam pipes. Since they are in two pieces, divided at centerline, you will probably need to smooth seams. Be careful in doing this so that you donít remove detail or damage the steam pipes. Three stack caps are provided. The 1938 Mahan as a special hooded cap for the forward funnel. Also found on B sprue are: pole foremast (not used on 1938 Mahan); various tubes; platforms; gun shields for #1 and 2 guns of Mahan class; DF loop, davits; side deck edge bulkheads; solid propeller guards (use photo-etch if possible); as well as other parts for the war-time fits. Nothing on B sprue strikes me as being oversize. To the contrary the parts strike me as very well done and some such as the pole mast and DF loop appear more finely done than are commonly found in an injected plastic kit. I do have one bone to pick with the kit Ė anchors. Plastic anchors were omitted in the Gridley kits through oversight. However, there are no plastic anchors in the Mahan kits either. Iím sorry anchors are part of the basic ship and should have been included on one of the sprues.
Mahan 1938 Fit Specials Ė C Sprue
Although I call this C sprue, the parts numbering sequence is actually a continuation of the numbers on B sprue. This small sprue contains parts specifically designed for the 1938 fit Mahan. There are only 10 parts on this sprue but the do give the 1938 Mahan a unique appearance. Three of the parts are for the tripod foremast. These parts are the center leg; side legs, and topmast. Another part is for a short pole mainmast extending from the searchlight tower. The aft shelter deck is found on this sprue as is the aft gun crew shelter. The other four parts are two large launches with their support frame/cradle. One other part to be mention comes by itself in a plastic bag. This is the charthouse or bridge piece and it is of resin. For the 1938 Mahan, you simply attach the square window bridge face to this piece and attach that to the pre-war navigation platform.
The decal sheet included in the Mahan kits is also the same one included in the Midship Gridley kits. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, as the sheet is very comprehensive. Printed by Microscale, the sheet has about every adornment that a World War Two destroyer would have. There are 36 pairs of signal flags for your message hoists that will certainly add color to the finished model. There are two sizes of national flags and two jacks. The balance of the sheet is composed of seven sets of numbers. Two sets are shaded white numbers in two sizes. Both of these sets come with four rows of numbers from 0 to 9. This should handle any ship, except for one with number requiring three of the same digit. There are three sets of numbers in black in three different sizes. The largest set has only three rows, so it presents a problem in that any ship with a number that includes two of the same digit can not be represented. The other two sets of black numbers have four rows, so only ships with three of the same digit, such as DD-444, could not be represented. There are two sets of numbers with all white numbers in two different sizes. The larger sized set comes in six rows and smaller size in eight rows, so there are no restrictions as to numbering with either of these two sets.
All of the Midship Mahan/Dunlap kits come with one sheet of back-printed paper, folded to create four pages of instructions. The first page contains a variety of information. On this page are sections on the statistics of the ship; painting chart with Model Master and WEM Colourcoat paint codes listed; parts display; class listing with fates; general instructions; and computer generated color plan and profile of Mahan in 1938. In 1938 the Mahan was painted a light gray with large white shaded numbers. The next two pages are the actual assembly diagrams. This is accomplished through 13 modules. The first nine cover subassemblies. These are on: open gun mounts (3,4,5); mounts with gun shields (1,2); forward stack; aft stack; gun director; bridge; forward superstructure; aft superstructure; and tripod. The next four steps illustrate attachment of structures, forward armament & fittings, aft armament & fittings, and lastly a view of the finished model. The assembly steps are illustrated primarily through clear drawings, although some text explanation is included. The last page is sort of a throw-back to the classic Revell and Aurora kits in that it shows the other kits in the Midship range, except these box tops are shown in full color.
The Midship Mahan 1938 presents a distinctive build for this class. Dominated by the tripod foremast the model reflects the clean lines of this pre-war design. With the Mahan line Midship has improved on their initial release of the Gridleys and provides more distinctly different designs with the four models in this release.