(This review is a little bit different, as it is bifurcated. The actual kit review is by Andrew Payne and the photographs and history are by Steve Backer.)
When World War One ended, European countries were defeated or broke. At that time there were three types of cruisers, the battle cruiser, the armored cruiser and the light cruiser. The naval powers agreed to restrict future naval construction through the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. The battle cruisers were part of capital ships and their construction was restricted. The treaty’s provisions for cruisers restricted their displacement to 10,000 tons and maximum gun size to 8-inches but did not restrict their numbers or total cumulative tonnage. As a result all powers started building cruisers to the maximum characteristics. This was fine at first for Great Britain but after funding the large County class, it was realized that Great Britain could not afford to purchase large numbers of these expensive cruisers. As a result the British tried to reduce the size of the cruisers and limit gun size to six-inches in conferences at Geneva in 1927. This attempt failed in that the US had just started a massive cruiser program for the US.
In 1930 the British tried again to limit construction of cruisers but unlike three years earlier, this time they succeeded. Under the terms of the London Treaty of 1930, cruisers were divided into two categories, the traditional light cruiser and a new category, the heavy cruiser. The distinction had nothing to do with displacement, as both types had the same maximum displacement of 10,000-tons. The difference was in gun size only. Light cruisers were defined as ships mounting 6.1-inch guns or smaller and heavy cruisers as ships mounting guns larger than 6.1-inch up to the maximum allowable size of 8-inchs. Another new term in the 1930 treaty was that of total cruiser tonnage allowed. Now there was a maximum total tonnage for heavy cruisers and a total maximum tonnage for all types.
Under these new terms the USN only had enough available tonnage for two more heavy cruisers, which became the Indianapolis and Portland. The other available tonnage would have to be used to build light cruisers. The last cruisers that the US had produced armed with 6-inch guns was the Omaha class designed more than a decade in the past. These had proved unsatisfactory as they were over-gunned and top heavy. The USN set about designing a new cruiser from scratch. It was in the middle of the Great Depression and there was no rush. Prime factors in the design were that speed and radius should not be less than those of the heavy cruisers in the fleet. For two years the designers tried out various configurations from a small cruiser with two triple turrets to a full size 10,000 ton design. The deciding factor was the news that the Japanese were building light cruisers armed with fifteen 6.1-inch guns in five triple turrets.
The Brooklyn class was the result. All previous treaty cruisers had the hangar for the spotting aircraft amidships. In combat operations, this proved a very poor placement, as the hangar with the stored aircraft was readily combustible. With Brooklyn the hangar was moved at and placed underneath the quarterdeck. A sliding cover would be opened to enable the crane to put the aircraft in the hangar or take it out and move it to one of the catapults. One result of this placement was that the Brooklyn class had a flush deck. The fifteen 6-inch/47 Mk 16 guns were mounted in three turrets. In practice the third turret, located between the bridge and B barbette, was of limited value as her guns were masked unless the ship was almost firing broadside. For secondary guns the ships were equipped with eight 5-inch/25 DP single open-mount guns as in previous treaty cruisers. For AA defense, the design of the class was held up in order to provide deck space for 1.1-inch quadruple AA guns, which was to be the new wonder weapon of the USN. Displacing 9,767-tons standard (12,207-tons full load), the ships’ machinery developed 100,000 shp with a top speed of 32.5-knots. The main belt armor was a very creditable 5.5-inches. Four ships were ordered in the 1933 emergency program, followed by three more in the 1934 program. On May 31, 1934 New York Shipbuilding laid down the first of these cruisers, USS Savannah CL-42. All the other six ships were laid down in 1935.
A year later it was decided to build two more of the class in order to replace two ships of the Omaha class. However, there were substantial internal and external differences between this second group of the class and the first group. Many have stated that the differences were so substantial that they should be listed as a separate class, the St. Louis class, to distinguish them from the Brooklyns. Externally, the class had a different superstructure arrangement with the aft superstructure greatly reduced. The main mast was moved forward to just aft of the second funnel. The most obvious difference was the replacement of the eight single open-mount 5-inch/25 DP guns with four twin 5-inch/38 DP turrets mounted at the four corners of the superstructure. This not only provided the same number of 5-inch guns on broadside but also provided better guns in protected mounts. This also opened up additional deck space and was a far better arrangement than found in the earlier Brooklyns. Internally, a new high-pressure boiler design was incorporated. These were smaller boilers operating higher pressure than those found in the Brooklyn. The smaller boilers allowed for smaller fire rooms and the separation of boiler rooms from each other by an intervening row of spaces along the centerline. This provided better protection from one lucky hit knocking out all of the boilers. Both St. Louis CL-49 and Helena CL-50 were laid down in December 1936. St. Louis was laid down on December 10, 1936 at Newport News. She was launched April 15, 1938 and completed May 19, 1939. Upon commissioning St. Louis was placed on Neutrality Patrol in the Caribbean. In December 1940, she was transferred for duty with the Pacific Fleet.
On December 7, 1941 St Louis was underway by 9:31AM and made for the safety of the open sea. As she neared the end of the channel lookouts spotted two torpedo tracks coming right at the cruiser. Clearly they had been fired by one of the midget submarines, which had been unable to enter the harbor. The torpedoes missed and exploded on a reef but the Louie was quick in her response. The conning tower of the midget was sighted and Louie opened up. The submarine was never seen again and was probably sunk by the St Louis, making hr the first USN cruiser to sink a Japanese ship. As surged into the Pacific St Louis formed up with the ad hoc task force of ships that made it out of the trap. Admiral Kimmel, Pacific Fleet Commander, had ordered all ships that managed to leave Pearl, to join USS Minneapolis, flying the flag of Rear Admiral Jack Fletcher. St Louis, along with Phoenix, Detroit, destroyers and minesweepers joined the Minnie. Kimmel ordered them to join the incoming Enterprise task force. A scout plane spotted them and reported them as the Japanese task force. Unfortunately, this distracted the USN search for the Japanese to the south of Oahu, instead of the north. The Japanese lost 29 planes on the Pearl Harbor attack and St. Louis claimed three of them, accounting for 10% of Japanese aircraft losses, not to mention a midget sub. Louie was off to a fast start.
In January, St Louis, like all the other cruisers, formed the heavier escort ships for carrier task force. Jack Fletcher had been given command of TF17 and now flew his flag on USS Yorktown. St Louis, Louisville and four destroyers were part of TF17 when it sortied from Pearl Harbor on January 25, 1942. The operation was a raid on the Marshall Islands. While the Enterprise with Bull Halsey took care of the northern Islands, Yorktown with Fletcher hit the three southern islands. Bad weather minimized done to the Japanese but there were no counter-attacks against TF-17. St. Louis continued to escort carrier task forces on raids until late spring.
Northern Pacific Force
Before going north St. Louis had one more mission in the central Pacific. She was as a troop transport, bringing in reinforcements to Midway on May 25, 1942. More ground forces were needed so Louie transported two Marine rifle companies of Carlson’s 2nd Raider Battalion and a battery of 37mm guns. It was only in the summer that the USN finally got around to responding to the Japanese seizure of a couple of the Aleutian Islands. On July 19, 1942 Northern Pacific Force steamed out to bombard Kiska. When they arrived thick fog prevented an approach to the island and the mission was cancelled. The same events occurred in a repeat mission on July 27,which was further aggravated with collisions among four destroyers. Theobald moved his flag ashore at Kodiak and the next bombardment mission was under the cruiser squadron commander, Rear Admiral Smith. The force left on August 3 with Catalinas scouting Kiska. Upon arriving at Kiska there was the usual fog but by the afternoon there was a break in the weather and the ships moved into bombardment positions. There were three bombardment lines with four destroyers located closest at 14,500 yards and the two heavy cruisers the farthermost at 19,500 yards. The three light cruisers were between them. All cruisers launched their SOC Seagull floatplanes to observe the fall of shot, since this was an indirect fire mission. Their observation was impaired by the presence of Rufe, floatplane Zeros, which were much more formidable than the old Seagulls. The SOCs had to dart in and out of clouds to avoid the Rufes but nonetheless were shot up. One SOC had 167 bullet holes and two more had over 100 each. Only one SOC from Indianapolis was lost. The two SOCs from St. Louis couldn’t find their cruiser so they island hopped up the Aleutian chain to reach the safety of Umnak Island. Meanwhile the task force was counter attacked by shore batteries, Rufes and Mavis four engined flying boats. The bombardment did destroy some shore, facilities, landing barges and destroyed three Mavis aircraft. The 8,572-ton freighter Kano Maru was set on fire and finished off later that day by Catalinas.
Only two days after St. Louis bombarded Kiska in the cold foggy waters surrounding the Alaskan island and new operation kicked off in a far different environment. On August 9, 1942 US Marines stormed ashore at Guadacanal in response to the Japanese push down to the southern end of the Solomon Islands. This of course developed into a long, grinding battle of attrition and by October 1942 reinforcements were desperately needed in the South Pacific. For the crew of St. Louis it meant exchanging freezing nights in the north for sweltering nights in the south. Louie missed the climatic battles of November 1942 in which the USN finally prevailed over the IJN in the struggle for Guadalcanal. However, Guadacanal was at the southern end of the chain and the Japanese still held the islands of the chain stretching to the northwest. The climb up the Solomon’s ladder would be in 1943 and St. Louis, as well as the other two Brooklyn class cruisers formerly part of Northern Pacific Force, would be part of this campaign.
Raids up the Solomons
On May 6, 1943 St. Louis with Honolulu and Nashville and four destroyers under Admiral Ainsworth set up a covering force in the Vella Gulf for a mine laying operation in the Blackett Strait to the southwest of the island of Kolombangara, which was regularly used by the Tokyo Express. The mine-laying operation was a spectacular success as the next night four Japanese destroyers entered the strait. Oyashio and Kagero each hit three mines, which did not sink them but set them on fire. Kurashio hit more mines and went down. The blazing destroyers were spotted by a delighted Australian coast-watcher who promptly phoned home. Sixty SBD Dauntless’s were dispatched from Guadalcanal to finish off the cripples but only 19 made it through the bad weather. They promptly put paid to Oyashio and Kagero and only Michishio survived the debacle. With this success Halsey ordered another mine laying operation for May 13-14. The target this time was Ferguson Passage, another entrance into the Kula Gulf. At the same time Ainsworth’s three cruiser and five destroyers would bombard Vila and Munda to fix the attention of the Japanese upon them. Shortly thereafter an anchor on St. Louis carried away and punched a hole in the hull of the ship, which required minor local repairs.
Small Resin & White Metal Parts
I Operation was the last one planned by Admiral Yamamoto. Designed to win back the honor lost with loss of Guadalcanal, it was mainly an air offensive designed to crush American airpower. In early April Ainsworth’s task force made six sorties up the Slot but failed to make contact with Japanese destroyer-transports. However, Ainsworth’s activities had been noticed and the Japanese dispatched submarines to ambush his cruisers. This resulted in RO-34 being caught on the surface at 1,500 yards and attacked by gunfire. She luckily submerged but was sunk two days later by Strong. That same day St. Louis with the rest of Ainsworth’s force was just pushing off for another raid up the slot, when the first big strike of Operation I came swarming south with 67 Vals and 110 Zekes. Ainsworth’s cruisers and destroyers had to steam for open water and the sortie up the Slot was cancelled. So far the Brooklyn cruisers had not encountered any Japanese surface ships and were already down by one cruiser, as Nashville was withdrawn for repairs after an accidental powder explosion in one of her turrets. This lack of surface opponents would radically change in July.
Battle of Kula Gulf
The new radar of Niizuki had picked up the American ships at 0106 and had already shifted dispositions for an attack. However, Niizuki never had a chance. The first cruiser salvos rained down upon her, knocked out her steering gear and mortally wounded her. In the first few minutes the three Brooklyn class cruisers had used their "6-inch machine guns" to pump over 2,500 rounds down range. The blinding flashes of Helena offered an excellent aiming point for the Japanese torpedo men of the other destroyers and 16 24-inch Long Lance torpedoes were launched from the other two destroyers of the Niizuki group. At 0204 a Long Lance reached Helena and blew off her bow between A and B turrets. Many USN cruisers had survived the loss of a bow to the Long Lance and Helena probably would have survived that hit but ore were to follow. Two more torpedoes slammed into Helena amidships underneath the second stack. Helena had already jack-knifed into the water with the loss of her bow but the second two hits finished her. A fourth torpedo hit the stern but was a dud but it didn’t matter, Helena was rapidly sinking. St Louis had to veer to the right to pass the Helena on her unengaged side in order to prevent being silhouetted by the flames from Helena. By 0227 the Battle of Kula Gulf was over. The remaining Japanese destroyers had departed, some with minor damage, but only Niizuki had been sunk. Honolulu, St. Louis and the destroyers continued to search for Japanese but the only thing that they actually engaged was the floating bow section of Helena. Since the Americans thought the battle was over, destroyers started picking up the survivors from Helena around 0341. However, the Japanese destroyers after initially leaving the scene had circled back to re-engage with torpedoes. The troop carrying destroyers unloaded their troops and around 0500 US and Japanese destroyers exchanged torpedoes and gunfire, as Ainsworth’s cruisers had already turned south. No further serious damage was caused in this exchange but during troop debarkations the Nagatsuki had run aground. The following day B-25s found her and attacked until her magazines went up.
Battle of Kolombangara
This time the Japanese opened up first with a Long Lance barrage at 0108. One minute later US destroyers fired their torpedoes. The cruisers opened fire at 0112 at 10,000 yards aided by the Black Cat. Again, the Honolulu and St. Louis filled the air with steel. In 18 minutes Honolulu fired 1,110 6-inch and 123 5-inch rounds, while St. Louis unleashed an even more impressive 1,360 6-inch and230 5-inch rounds. In an interesting contrast, Leander managed a paltry 160 6-inch rounds. The cruiser radars had painted the Jintsu as the largest pip and the gunfire smothered her. The Jintsu’s machinery area received at least ten hits and she instantly went dead in the water. Then two US torpedoes caught her amidships and blew her in half. She went down with almost all hands.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
One torpedo from the initial Japanese salvo caught Leander and knocked her out of the battle. She limped off, escorted by Jenkins and Radford. Eventually she would reach Boston for repairs but was out of action for a year. So far so good for Ainsworth, he had sunk a cruiser in exchange for one of his being damaged. After the Jintsu had made her final plunge, the cruisers could not find new targets. They were not helped by the Black Cat, which reported four Japanese ships fleeing north. Ainsworth thought there were still four or five Japanese cripples in the area so he was eager to go hunting for baby seals. He ordered his destroyers "To go get the bastards." However, the Japanese destroyers were still in good shape and had only retired to reload their Long Lance tubes. Only the Leander had been touched with the first salvo but they were eager at another go at Honolulu and St. Louis. Suddenly at 0156 the radar on Honolulu picked up ships at 23,000 yards but Ainsworth didn’t know if they were his detached destroyers or Japanese, so he withheld fire. At 0203 he orders starshell to be fired but by then the subjects had turned north. They in fact were Japanese destroyers and had just launched their second salvo of torpedoes. Before either cruiser could open gunfire the first Long Lance reaches St. Louis at 0208. The Louie is lucky as the torpedo hits close to the cutwater, blowing away the forefoot. Honolulu also took one in the forefoot but destroyer Gwin was hit amidships and was mortally wounded. Both cruisers turned about, pushing water ahead of them with their damaged bows acting like a snowplow. Both cruisers had temporary repairs but were sent back to Mare Island to replace their 6-inch guns and replace their 1.1-inch AA guns with quad Bofors. Neither cruiser would be back until November.
When the Louie and Blue Goose arrived back at their old stomping grounds in November 1943, Pug was still there to get them back into the fold, however the fighting had now shifted to the northern Solomons at Bougainville and Buka. She operated in operations in the Shortland Islands, the upper Solomons, the Bismarcks and New Ireland. On February 14, 1944 Ainsworth took his TF38 with Honolulu, St. Louis and five destroyers as part of the covering force for the seizure of the Green Islands as Halsey tightened the noose around Rabaul from the southeast. In a Japanese air attack the St. Louis was hit in the stern by bombs, which destroyed both of the ship’s aircraft, killed 23 and wounded 20. She was sent off to the yard for repairs, which were completed at the end of the month. In May she was reassigned to TF52. She then had a variety of assignments. On June 10, 1944 her gunfire supported the Marine invasion of Saipan and a week later was escorting the fast carriers during the Battle of the Philippine Sea and then returned to Saipan. On July 14 she bombarded Guam in support of landings. On July 29 she left for a refit on the west coast and did not return to Hawaii until October. As a consequence she missed the Battle of Leyte Gulf, as she did not arrive there until November 16, 1944.
On November 27, 1944 St. Louis was with three Cleveland class cruisers in Leyte Gulf, escorting Maryland, West Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico and Minneapolis. Their mission was to provide anti-aircraft defense for supply operations in the gulf. CAP was grounded due to the increasing murkiness in the weather when 30 Japanese aircraft appeared. Some were armed with torpedoes and bombs and used conventional attacks but others had a new tactic, the kamikaze. St. Louis took two kamikazes in the stern. These hits destroyed the catapults and their planes and knocked out the two aft turrets. The November 29 attack was also part of the initial use of the kamikaze. St. Louis was with Colorado, which had also been damaged on November 27 and the two were preparing to depart for repairs. This time the kamikaze hits were on other ships. After 11 days of operations from hr refit on the west coast, it was time to go back to repair the new damage. This kept her out of action until March 1945. Upon arrival she was assigned as escort for the fast carriers on attacks on the Japanese main islands. In May and June it was back to bombardment missions in support of the Okinawa landings. In July she was operating with TF95 in operations in the China Sea and stayed at this until the end of the war.
From November 1945 to January 1946 St. Louis completed three Magic Carpet missions in returning US troops to the USA. In February she was transferred to the east coast and was decommissioned on June 20, 1946. With plenty of newer Cleveland and Baltimore class cruisers available for post war missions, the USN really didn’t need the Louie anymore. On January 29, 1951 the USS St. Louis ceased to be such as she was formally transferred from the US Navy to the Brazilian navy and became the Tamandare where she served well into guided missile age.
Midship Models USS St. Louis Kit Review by Andrew Payne
Some details & observations: The kit consists of a one-piece resin hull (W/L only) with very fine resin castings (superstructure, stacks, main & secondary batteries & gun tubes), white metal SOC aircraft (2) & ship's anchors, a full photo-etch set (including railings, a/c catapults, and 20mm guns), two sets of the MM USN weapons sets in plastic, a length of brass rod for the masts & yards, and a full sheet of decals (including foreign flags). Packaging is a very sturdy cardboard box with a 1944 aerial photo of the original on the cover. The parts are individually bagged (except the hull) and well secured to a cardboard insert. I found no broken parts, although the PE fret was slightly bent near one corner. I was impressed by the quality of the resin castings. No bubbles or incomplete castings anywhere and the small bits on a paper-thin runner – on a par with some of the finer 1/700 resin makers. The two SOC "Seagull" aircraft are littered with flash, but seem well cast. Details include separate upper wings and all three floats.
The PE is also very fine, perhaps too delicate for my big, fat fingers. It’s done in brass, much like the Tom’s sets. I prefer stainless steel in 1/700, again because of the aforementioned fingers. I would’ve preferred a PE option for the 40mm/1.1" quads, since the plastic details are much too coarse In fact, the plastic 40mm seem about the same diameter as the resin 6" barrels! Decals seem quite good, and the sheet seems identical to the set in the MM Gridley class kits. Instructions seems pretty complete, although ambiguous in the period represented Specifically:
There are no rigging diagrams or painting guides included, nor any other detailed ship’s diagrams. This is disappointing, indeed one of my pet peeves – the manufacturer has obviously gone to great effort to make a fine reproduction, obviously working from detailed references. Why not include a small reproduction of the prints as part of the kit? Even smaller side and overhead images would a great deal of help to the document library-deprived builder.
That said, judging by the location of the after deckhouse, the uniquely-shaped secondary battery gunhouses, and the AA fit called out for in the diagram provided, I believe that the kit will represent either an earlier-war St. Louis (CA-49) or, with little work, USS Helena (CA-50) before her loss. Building her as an earlier Brooklyn-class would require significant modification. (Editors Note: This version of St Louis from Midship Models represents her appearance in the summer and fall 1942. She has oval tubs for two 20mm on each side of the forward bridge and two single 20mm tubs on each corner side of the aft superstructure. She did not have 20mm on December 7, 1941 and in November 1942 these 20mm positions were replaced with twin 40mm guns with one twin gun mount at each corner of the superstructure. The kit will not make a Helena, as the two ships had significantly different forward superstructure during the was with St Louis retaining the old style and Helena a new modernized style. )
I paid $55 (US) for the kit at the Norfolk Naval Station LHS (Support the Local Economy!) and bought it purely on impulse (not really, since I had seen it at the shop the week before and fought off the impulse then, before finally succumbing…) Overall, the kit looks like a gem, and the (nearly) all-inclusive outfit is the kind of advantage that will move this ship ahead of others in the assembly line. In fact, I’m aching to start putting this thingy together!