"Hurry, hurry, hurry! Git chur Peace Cruisers raht chere!" Do your friends in the Bay Area make fun of you for war toys? Are your love beads too tight from inhaling resin vapors of the latest warship model? Fear no longer! Now you can proudly step out of the closet with your bell bottoms and tie-dyed T-shirt, hair rippling in the wind, swigging your favorite bottle of Boone's Farm or Ripple, and rejoin the ranks of the cool. Now when asked about your hobby, you don't have to say "I build warship models." You can stay in the hip crowd and say, "I build Peace Cruisers". A "Peace Cruiser", who can be against that? It sounds as warm and fuzzy as a bunny rabbit. You can paraphrase a popular slogan from the 60's and gleefully shout, "Make Peace Cruisers, not warships!"
The end of the Spanish American War created not a "Peace Dividend", but the opposite, a greatly expanded naval budget. It was the US Navy, not the Army, that had been the star performer during the short war with Spain. Both at Manila Bay and Santiago the USN had crushed the opposing Spanish squadrons. The public was clueless that on both occasions the US forces were greatly superior in quality as well as quantity over their Spanish opponents. To the public, as well as the politicians, the navy had performed wonders and could do no wrong. With the conclusion of the Spanish American War the United States became a colonial power. The republic had always condemned colonialism as exhibited by the European powers and now in the last year of the 19th century the republic had its own colonies. It was now an Imperial Republic. The Spanish American War also marked the entrance of the United States as a world power. Again, prior to the war, the United States had always remained aloof from the affairs of Europe but this changed a great deal after the war. Far removed colonies bring great vulnerabilities with their possession. They are always vulnerable to being seized by a power that is much closer. Money has to be spent on ships and facilities for their defense. Two prime examples are the US pouring money into the Philippines and Great Britain pouring money into Singapore before the Second World War. Both were easily seized by the Japanese because they were too far removed to be defended.
The USN now needed additional ships. They needed ships for a number of reasons. As a world power they needed a quantity of new ships to keep up in the game of international powers. As a world power they needed new ships of higher quality to keep up with the other world powers who played the great game. To maintain their new standing as world power they needed new ships to show the flag across the Pacific, in the Caribbean and along the coasts of South America. With the expansion of the navy in 1899 a new type of cruiser was ordered. Referred to a a "Peace Cruiser", this design was not for working with the battlefleet. It was not designed to scout for the battlefleet. It was specifically designed to show the flag on the world's oceans with another unusual twist. Characterized by light armor, light ordnance, medium speed, they were given large, spacious hulls, which could accommodate soldiers or marines. In a way they were actually given a secondary mission as an amphibious warfare ship. No one would confuse these ships with the very specialized modern gators but the mission was possible with using the ship's numerous boats. Six such cruisers were built and are called the Denver class.
The Denver class was composed of Denver C14, Des Moines C15, Chattanooga C16, Galveston C17, Tacoma C18, and Cleveland C19. Thy were almost 309-feet overall and 292-feet in length at the waterline and had a normal displacement of 3,191 tons. When compared against other cruisers of similar size, they cut a sorry figure because they were much slower and had weaker armament. However, that assessment ignores their mission. They were specifically designed to cruise the Pacific, the Caribbean and South America. Their hulls were large to provide crew comfort on detached missions and for space for troops. Up until the Denver class, each USN cruiser design from the Roach Coach Atlanta and Boston to the unprotected cruisers of the Montgomery class had mounted at least 6-inch guns. Not so with these Peace Cruisers. Their main armament was ten 5-inch rapid fire guns. Four were mounted in unarmored casemates on each side of the hull with additional open mounts at bow and stern. They had no clearly defined wartime mission, as their focus was truly on peace time show the flag operations.
The USN never did learn quite what to make out of the Denver class. Sometimes they were called cruisers and sometimes they were called gunboats. In mission selection thy indeed closer to gunboats than cruisers. At the time Admiral Bradford of the Bureau of Equipment criticized them for what he considered an excessively generous level of electrical equipment. The ships had four 24kw generators, which provided far more electrical power than the two 16kw generators on the slightly smaller Montgomery class. When it came to issuing contracts, the navy decided to spread the wealth. Although, the two lowest bidders on the contracts were rejected because it was thought that they were incapable of successfully building the ship, three more unknowns were granted a contract on one of the ships. Three contractors were known commodities, Fore River for Des Moines; Union Iron Works for Tacoma; Bath Iron Works for Cleveland. However, how many have heard of these builders; Neafie & Levy for Denver; Crescent for Chattanooga; and WR Trigg for Galveston? In fact the builders of Chattanooga and Galveston both went bankrupt during construction and both ships had to be towed to navy yards for completion. These ships had a much lower construction priority than the contemporary battleships and armored cruisers. Another interesting construction detail was the ship's bottoms. They of course were steel hulled but on top of the steel, they were sheathed with pine and copper. This was a specific design decision to allow long service in the tropics. They were perfect ships for the Banana Wars. For economy the ships were also given a full sail rig for the two ships, which was rare after 1900 but I have not been able to find a photo of any of the ships under sail.
All of the ships were ordered on March 3, 1899 and laid down in 1900, except for Galveston, which was laid down in 1901. Because of their low priority and the difficulties of untried builders, most of the ships were slow in building. The construction of Cleveland by Bath Iron Works was by far the fastest. Cleveland was laid down June 1, 1900, launched September 28, 1901 and completed November 2, 1903. Denver was launched in 1902 and the rest in 1903. Four were commissioned in 1904 and finally the laggardly Galveston was commissioned in 1905. All were quickly bundled off to tropical waters for which they were designed. Mostly worthless in the event of war, they nonetheless made made effective vessels for gunboat diplomacy. All were modified in World War One. The two forward 5-inch casemates on each side were suppressed, although the ships retained the two aft casemate positions in each side. Two 5-inch/50 were remounted on the upper deck at deck edge between the bridge and first funnel. Additionally a 3-inch AA gun was added on a short platform between the aft 5-inch gun and mainmast. Tacoma was wrecked on January 16, 1924 off of Vera Cruz, Mexico. Cleveland, Chattanooga and Des Moines were sold in 1930 and in 1933 Denver and Galveston were sold for scrap.
USS Cleveland Vital Statistics
Dimensions: Length - 308-feet 10-inchs overall (94.13m), Beam - 44-feet (13.41m), Draught - 15-feet 9-inches (4.8m): Displacement - 3,190 tons, (3,514 tons full load): Armament: Ten 5-inch/50 Mk-5, Eight 6pdr, Two 1pdr: Armor: Protective Deck Slope - 2 1/2-inchs amidships, 1-inch ends; Deck Flat - 5/16-inch: Machinery - Vertical Triple Expansion VTE, 6 Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 2 shafts, 4,500ihp, Two mast full sail auxiliary rig: Maximum Speed - 16.5 knots: Complement - 339
Modelkrak of Poland has been around for some time. The manner in which they cast their kits has not wavered over the years. They still use the same process today, that they used seven years ago. Using open face molds, the hull and smaller castings have a casting slab and casting blocks of significant size. Although the casting method is far from state of the art, Modelkrak does produced subjects not produced anywhere else. Such is the case with the Peace Cruiser USS Cleveland. The Modelkrak Cleveland represents the ship as modified during World War One. The first job will be to remove the thick casting slab upon which the hull rests. Best removed with a belt sander, if you don't have one of those, initially use coarse sandpaper on a sanding block to remove most of the slab before changing over to finer grades of sandpaper. Another option would to leave the casting slab in place and build the ship in a diorama setting with the casting slab as the water surface. The hull sides has some over-scale detail but still presents a pleasing profile. With a straight stem and cutaway stern, the Cleveland certainly has an archaic appearance. At the bow are oval anchor hawse with over-scale anchor chains running to stockless anchors on old-fashioned billboards. A row of square windows is on each side where the most forward gun casemates were located. Right behind that is a very heavy column of rungs running up the hull. They present great relief but are far too oversize but a little sanding will remedy this. The hull amidships is slab-sided with some portholes and four square shutters. The aft hull of course still has the two 5-inch gun casemates on each side. Another column of over-scale rungs is found here.
The deck planking is somewhat stylized. Each raised plank is separated from the next by a slightly recessed plank. Some my be disturbed by this but I am not. All planking detail amounts to artistic license in 1:700 scale, as the human eye could not discern individual planks. Could you see individual planks from a 700 feet distance? That would be the scale distance if your eyes were one foot from a 1:700 scale model. I have always liked the archaic anchor billboards and the Cleveland has a billboard on each side of the bow with cast on anchors. Each side has two sets of twin bollard plates and an anchor windlass. Down the centerline are four fittings ending in the forward centerline 5-inch mount. Amidships there are five centerline deck houses. The first one is the 01 level for the bridge. It has oversized doors and square window shutters, although I do wonder if those windows should be recessed, rather than raised. Also found on each side of this structure is a solid inclined ladder with no rails. Remove these and use photo-etch if at all possible. Aft and on each side of the superstructure are the two mounts for the forward 5-inch guns that had been placed on the deck as a result of the refit. Amidships aft, you'll find two more open mounts, one on each side of a circular structure. These mounts are for smaller 6pdr guns. The circular structure is the base for the 3-inch AA gun added as a result of the refit. The aft main deck has pleasing detail with five coamings or fittings and the mount for the aft 5-inch gun. A twin bollard fitting is at deck edge on each side and a depth charge rack is offset to the starboard at the stern. Since the refit was made during World War One, depth charges were added for possible employment against the Kaiser's U-Boats. Just the appearance of depth charges on a turn of the century design presents a very unusual contrast. Fittings lack detail but are serviceable.
The Modelkrak standard is to provide numerous extra small resin parts in the bag of smaller resin parts. As a result you get a big bag of parts but don't use all of them. As an example, the model only needs seven 5-inch guns but there are 17 such guns in the bag. You will have to reduce the length of the casemate mounted guns to reflect the portion of the breach end of the gun that would be inside the casemate. There are five superstructure parts, which represent the enclosed bridge, upper open navigation bridge, two funnels and circular 3-inch gun platform .The pilot house has the same raised square windows, which probably should be recessed, rather than raised, unless the ship was equipped with external shutters to cover the windows. Both levels of the bridge have nice plank detail, which is better than such detail found on the main deck. Both funnels have recessed top openings and cast on steam pipes. A large number of J-style ventilator cowls are provided in four different sizes. They do have sufficient depth at the opening to present a three-dimensional appearance for the intake openings. Eleven ship's boats are included, which are mounted either on raised skids for six boats or on side davits for two boats. The skids are not provided and thin rod or wire must be used to fabricate these. Davits are not provided as well but these can be provided from spare photo-etch or with sprue stretched with a curve. Other parts are signal lamps, searchlights, solid inclined ladders, and mast platforms. No masts, yards or booms are provided but these can be easily made from plastic or brass rods for the masts with stretched sprue for yards and booms. Again, I recommend using photo-etch inclined ladders instead of the solid resin parts provided in the kit.
The adjective rudimentary would be charitable in describing the instructions provided by Modelkrak. There really is no set of instructions, just a profile and plan drawing. However, Modelkrak does provide a color photograph of the completed model in the kit. This is a big advance over earlier Modelkrak kits that did not have a photograph because the photo provides a much better reference for parts attachment locations than the drawings. The average modeler can use the included photograph to confidently attach the smaller parts to the hull. It is also an excellent source for determining which parts to fabricate. This is not a complex kit, so with due care in examining the photograph and drawings, the kit can go together without major complications or pit-falls.
The Modelkrak 1:700 scale USS Cleveland presents the World War One fit for the Denver class "Peace Cruiser". Significant cleanup is needed for the parts in the form of removing casting blocks/ slab and detail is definitely on the "heavy" side. However, the effort is well expended, as the Modelkrak kit is the only one on the market for this class of cruiser, designed for peace, not war.