Specialized Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) escorts have traditionally taken second place in design and acquisition in the United States Navy behind general-purpose destroyers. Hundreds of flush deck destroyers were built during and just after World War One but only coastal subchasers and the failed Eagle Boats were purpose built ASW craft. From time to time the issue was re-examined but then, it didnít receive impetus until just before the outbreak of World War Two. As the effectiveness of the German U-Boats became clear, the decision was between building an austere destroyer design or a specialized escort vessel. The austere or 2nd class destroyer could hopefully do most of the same missions that a full fleet destroyer could do and not just be pigeon holed for ASW escort work. A design for a vessel for just one mission, ASW, would produce a vessel of limited flexibility. In the end the designs put into production straddled both fences but leaned towards an austere destroyer design. These designs became known as destroyer escorts.  

In 1939 the different bureaus were invited to submit characteristics for a new type of sea control vessel that would be capable of mass production. This design would take the place of destroyers to allow the bigger ships to take on fleet duties. Gun power and speed could be sacrificed but not range or ASW performance. War Plans came up with a simple robust hull capable of being propelled by steam or diesel. Armament could be 3-inch/50 up to 5-inch/38, with at least 24 depth charges, maximum speed of 25 knots and an anticipated displacement of 1,200 tons. This concept basically foretold the characteristics of the World War Two destroyer escort (DE) but the General Board just couldnít recommend a 2nd rate destroyer. After all, the Farragut class destroyers were full fledged destroyers on 1,400 tons. The board did a quick look into putting an improved Farragut back into production for a mass production escort but too much time and too many alterations were needed and there would be no cost savings over a fleet destroyer. However, in the end nothing was done.


Quarter Views, Profile & Plan
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In 1940 Gibbs and Cox prepared two designs for sea control ships. One was of 1,050 tons with two 5-inch guns, two quad 1.1 AA mounts, ASW capability and two quad torpedo mounts with a top speed of 35 knots. The second design was a smaller 750 ton vessel with two 3-inch or 4-inch guns, one 1.1-inch mount and triple torpedo tubes. President Roosevelt ordered the USN to buy two of each type for testing. In September 1940 they were ordered but as the defects of the designs, lack of sea-keeping and low habitability, became clearer, the order was changed in November to four 1,175 ton ships based upon a Bureau of Ships design. These became the forerunners of the destroyer escort.

This particular design came from a proposal from Admiral Stark, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), in 1939 for an escort vessel in the 750-900 ton range, mounting three or four 5-inch/25 and with a speed of 25 to 30 knots. It didnít take long to realize that these requirements were not feasible within the displacement range. An August 24, 1939 came up with three 5-inch/25, one quad 1.1-inch AA mount and two depth charge racks with a speed of 28 knots. A third proposal came up with a ship with four 5-inch/38, two quad 1.1-inch and a speed of 24.5 knots. The length would be 300 feet and displacement 1,175 tons. This third proposal, ordered in November 1940, became the basis for the destroyer escort final design. Support was still tepid because the unit price of $6.8 million was not that much less than the price of a much larger fleet destroyer at $8.1 million. In January 1941 the November order of four ships was changed to the larger 1,620-ton fleet destroyers.

On January 31, 1941 Admiral Stark asked for proposals for small craft to be purchased during 1941. The recommendation of the board was for 50 strictly ASW vessels to defend against U-Boats in the Western approaches. No significant aerial threat was anticipated, so there was no large AA requirement and speed was to be in the range of 17 knots. These requirements pegged the vessels at USN equivalents to the British corvettes. The Royal Navy became aware of his proposal and expressed an interest in acquiring units under Lend-Lease. Captain E.L. Cochrane was placed in charge of the design but he increased the capabilities of the new ship and was influenced by the experiences of the Royal Navy. He went back to the aborted design of the 1,175-ton vessel cancelled in January. His design changed the characteristics to two 5-inch/38 DP guns and wanted a quad Bofors and two 20mm Oerlikon guns for AA. Again the response was tepid and on May 16, 1941 Stark stated that he did not want any escorts built and the 50 ship requirement was cancelled.

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In June 1941 the USN destroyer escort design was revived by the Royal Navy, as they requested 100 such vessels. Instead of 5-inch/38 guns, 3-inch/50 guns were substituted, as the larger ordnance was in short supply. Because this effort came from the Royal Navy an open British style bridge was adopted in which the open bridge was atop the pilothouse. On August 15, 1941 President Roosevelt approved the construction of 50 such vessels for the Royal Navy. So as not to restrict construction of standard destroyers for the USN, production of many of these escorts were placed with smaller yards that had not built destroyers before. Yard space was not a constraint but 5-inch/38 and power plant availability were. The adoption of the 3-inch/50 eliminated the competition for the 5-inch/38 and to remove the power plant shortage, different forms of propulsion were suggested. Diesel engines could be used instead of steam turbines. In fact one of the prime factors which distinguished the following six classes of destroyer escort designs was their form of motive power. The first class would be powered by diesel engines.

  On November 1, 1941 the USN ordered some units to the design. The 1.1-inch AA gun was substituted for the Bofors that were in extremely short supply. This first design was the Evarts GMT class. The letters GMT designated the power plant as GM Tandem diesel. The ships in this class were 289 feet long, mounted three 3-inch/50, one quad 1.1-inch AA mount and an increasing number of 20mm Oerlikons. This design was also known as the ďshort hullsĒ did not have a torpedo mount. Also the diesel plants limited the top speed to 21.5 knots on a displacement of 1,436 tons. This design was reworked to lengthen the ship for installation of torpedo tubes and for different machinery. The result was the much-improved Buckley Class.

  The Buckley Class TE was powered by turbine electric machinery. The GMT hull was lengthened to 306 feet and a triple 21-inch torpedo mount was added amidships. The new machinery configuration increased top speed to 23.7 knots on a displacement of 1,650 tons. Since the design was primarily an ASW platform there was a late addition to the armament mix. The Hedgehog ASW mortar mount was added forward behind number one 3-inch mount, which was not carried by USN fleet destroyers. Additionally, the destroyer escorts carried two more depth charge throwers and many more depth charges than the standard American destroyer.




USS Gendreau DE-639 Vital Statistics
 

Dimensions: Length -306 feet (OA), 283 feet 6 inches (WL); Beam - 36 feet 9 inches; Displacement - 1,673 tons:
Armament: Three 3-inch/50; One Quadruple 1.1-inch AA; Ten 20mm Oerlikons; Three 21-inch torpedoes; One Hedgehog ASW Mortar; Two stern depth charge racks; Ten K-gun depth charge projectors:

Machinery: Turbine Electric Drive (TE) steam plants; 12,000shp; Maximum Speed- 23.7 knots: Endurance - 4,940 nm @ 12 knots:
Complement - 15 Officers, 198 Other Ranks

 

The initial order for 50 destroyer escorts in November 1941 was followed by another order for 250 in January 1942. Orders kept expanding and by the following September 720 had been ordered. Two more destroyer escort classes used the long hull of the Buckley Class and were very similar in appearance. The Cannon Class, known as DET for the diesel electric tandem drive, and Edsall Class, known as FMR for the Fairbanks-Morse Reduction Geared diesels. The initial selection of the 3-inch gun was because they were available and because the preferred enclosed 5-inch/38 single gun mount was in short supply. It had been intended to refit the 3-inch guns with two Ėinch/38 when time and supply permitted. There were 148 Buckleys completed, 102 for the USN and 46 lend-lease units for the Royal Navy. This class was to receive the five-inch mount in refits. However, by mid 1945 only 40 were slated for conversion and finally only 11 received the larger gun by late 1945. The first four classes all shared 3-inch gun mounts and the high, open RN style bridge but the last two classes did not. Both the Rudderow, TEV for Turbine Electric Drive , and John C. Butler, WGT for Westinghouse Geared Turbines, classes received two enclosed 5-inch/38 and a lower enclosed bridge on the 306 foot hull used by the Buckleys. Of the four classes of destroyer escorts completed with 3-inch guns and the high bridge, the Buckleys were the most successful and were kept after the war. The short-hulled Evarts class were too slow and were a disappointment, as was the Cannon class, whose diesel engines produced less power then the Buckley steam plants.

The USS Gendreau DE-639 was among the last of the Buckley class to be completed. She was laid down on August 1, 1943 in the Bethlehem yards in San Francisco , California . Launched on December 12, 1943, Gendreau was commissioned on March 17, 1944. Although her service life was four days four years, when she was decommissioned on March 13, 1948 she still had quarter of a century of life left. Gendreau was finally stricken and sold for scrap on December 1, 1972. (History from Destroyer Escorts of World War Two, 1987, by Thomas Walkowiak; U.S. Destroyers, An Illustrated Design History, 1982, by Norman Friedman)

The Niko Model USS Gendreau
Of course a model of a destroyer escort in 1:700 scale is not a large model. However, the Niko Model Gendreau model comes packed with detail on the resin castings in spite of the small size. On the hull sides I noticed what appeared to be a slightly recessed panel that curves down from the bow, following the sheer line, to the waterline and then all the way to the stern. When you examine photographs of units of the Buckley class, you will find this same feature on the actual ships. I still donít know why the ships had this feature but Niko has captured it in their hull casting.

Two of the first things that I noticed about this hull casting were the solid bulkheads amidship. They really are not completely solid as there is a line of drainage vents running along the bottom of each bulkhead at deck level. This was a typical USN destroyer feature found in many classes. What caught my eye with the Gendreau casting was presence of drainage vents. These were not merely indentations showing their presence but actually went all the way through the bulkhead in the casting and had the support ribs on the inboard side. This is just part of the fine resin casting found on this model. The ship has a short forecastle but you will still find detail crammed into the small space. The anchor runs have short fittings with a trough ending in a semicircular hawse on each side. The troughs do seem to angle downward and the hawse brackets have the chain opening in the middle. The fact that there was no resin film inside of these openings is indicative of the care exercised in the casting of these models.


Smaller Resin Parts
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Each of the three 3-inch gun positions has a uniquely styled splinter shield surrounding it. The first gun is in a U shaped position. Since it is closer to the waterline and correspondingly more exposed to the pounding of the waves and green water over the bow, it had to reinforced with supports. Niko Models captures these support ribs on the outside and inside of the splinter shield. This position ends with two ready ammunition lockers, on each side and to the rear of the gun. The second 3-inch gun position was on the 01 level superfiring over #1 gun and the hedgehog mortar. The splinter shield here is more oval without the support ribs of the 1st position. However, this position does have a feature typical of US and RN destroyers, a spray break in front of the position. Designed to break up a sheet of water before it hit the gun this tapered shelf overhangs the hedgehog position. Open triangular supports are underneath the shelf. With the Niko Gendreau there was rein film inside of the triangular supports. These can easily be opened but considering the precision in having openings in other fittings, it is somewhat surprising that Niko missed having these supports open. Two ready ammo boxes are also found in this position. The third 3-inch gun position is the aft gun. It sits atop a short deckhouse in an abbreviated tear drop shape. Unlike the first two positions, which have access openings in the splinter shield to the rear, the splinter shielding of number three mount completely surrounds it. Access to the mount is by vertical ladders on the deckhouse sides and internally through access hatches. Two closely spaced ready ammo lockers are present in the forward point of the position.

On the main deck the model features the standard assortment of shipís fittings but in this area Niko Model has changed its approach somewhat. I compared the plan of the Niko Gendreau with the plan of the Buckley class found on page 14 of Tom Walkowiakís Destroyer Escorts of World War Two. There were the twin bollard plates in all six fittings forward but the closed chocks along the deck edge were not present in the casting. That is because in the kit they are done in the photo-etch fret. Since they are found at deck edge, the modeler would have to adjust his railing to fit around each chock. However, since Niko provided the chocks in brass, it is a simple matter to place the railing down first and then attach the brass chock to the deck edge. Six more bollard fittings are found on the main deck amidship to aft. Their location of the model matched the reference plan. Four K-guns are found on the stern on each side. These are very delicately cast as part of the hull. Be very careful how you hold the hull at the stern, as I accidentally broke two of the launchers from the hull casting.

There is an oval shield for two single 20mm Oerlikons in a position between the aft 3-inch gun and depth charge racks. This is not found in the reference plan, which was USS England February 1944, but photographs show that the AA position was added or built there in most ships in the class. This position has two long ready ammo lockers on inside and one outside the shielding. At the very stern are the depth charge racks, which overhang the fantail. These are actually the rows of depth charges as the racks themselves are photo-etch parts that fold over the rows of charges. Between the two rows of depth charges are four fittings. The aft two fittings at the edge of the stern are smoke dischargers but there is a fitting in front of each of these two. These two fittings are a puzzle as I have been unable to find any photograph showing their presence and they are not on any of the Walkowiak plans in the mentioned reference. They are apparently 20mm ammunition lockers as Destroyers of World War Two #1 on USS Gendreau, Matsu and HMS Brissenden shows these as present between the depth charge racks and lists them as ammo lockers. This is a series of volumes on destroyers from the same firm that publishes the Profile Morskie series. It seems probable that Niko Model used the detailed plans in this volume as the source for their USS Gendreau. Other main deck detail includes the centerline windlass and anchor windlass plates forward and a deck access hatch and a couple of fittings aft.


Gendreau with Major Parts Dry-Fitted
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There are a number of nice details with the 01 level of the hull casting. The Buckley design was flush deck so there was no deck break found in destroyer designs with a raised forecastle. Raised forecastles make for drier ships than flush deck designs and to provide some level of dryness the shipís designers gave the forecastle a prominent upward sheer and provided a breakwater at the aft end of the superstructure. These took the form of triangular wings coming to the deck edge on each side from the 01 level. The solid deck edge bulkheads started at the rear edge of this feature and ran to just before the start of the amidship Oerlikon positions. An access door allowed passage fore and aft. These features were placed to limit the amount of water coming on board amidship. I have already mentioned the exceptional detail of the deck edge bulkheads but the wing positions themselves are hollowed out to the rear with a closed access door on the forward face. If you wanted to portray one or both of the access doors swung open, it would be a simple procedure to drill through the bulkhead at the access point and add separate brass doors in an open position.

There were two wing Oerlikon gun positions flanking the bridge at 01 level aft of #2 gun position. Each of these had a solid splinter shield with prominent lip at the top outboard edge. Niko Model actually provides the lip on the splinter shield but it appears to be slightly too prominent. You may wish to reduce its width very slightly. Ready ammo lockers are provided in the casting on the inside forward edge of each position. Other positions on the 01 level with solid bulkheads are the two amidship Oerlikon semicircular positions and the 1.1-inch AA mount position at the aft end of the 01 level. Thatís right the class still had 1.1-inch Chicago pianos late in the war as their ASW mission in the Atlantic didnít rate upgrade to 40mm mounts, which went to the Pacific fleet first. Even in the Pacific, they had to wait until all of the destroyers received their Bofors. The 1.1-inch mount has a base plate for the six-piece photo-etch gun and two smaller fittings on the inboard surface. A small raised tub is provided for a Mk 51 AA director just forward of the Chicago piano position. All splinter shielding is adequately thin without excessive susceptibility to breakage. Other level 01 bulkhead detail includes indentations below the 1.1-inch position, access doors, ventilation louvers, additional ammo boxes and other fittings, odds and ends. There was some light flash along the waterline of the hull casting. I left that flash in place for the hull photographs just to emphasize the excellence of the casting. That flash is the only notable problem that needs fixing and that is minor and easily done.

Smaller Resin Parts
With the concentration of fittings on the hull casting and with the heavy emphasis on photo-etch, there are not that many smaller resin parts. The bridge is the largest and is a delight. At the aft end of the 02 level there are detailed flag lockers. There is good splinter shielding on both levels. There is a detailed tread grid for the open top bridge. On the front face of the bridge, above the pilothouse windows is a small triangular platform that were fitted to many but not all units of the class. This platform seems to be slightly larger on the model than it appears in photographs of the actual ships. Underneath that platform is a loud speaker. Niko even portrays the center cone within the bell of the loud speaker. On top of the 03 level aft of the navigation bridge are four fittings, two to each side in splinter shield sponsons overhanging the sides. I was puzzled by their purpose. They were pillars with a flat top. After examining photographs these are apparently flat top manual range finders.


Gendreau with Major Parts Dry-Fitted
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Next in size is the stack. One distinction of the Buckley class escorts from the other three classes of high bridge, 3-inch gunned vessels was the stack. Because it used a standard steam plant rather than diesel it had prominent feeder trunks to the central stack. These trunks came out of the 01 deck fore and aft of the stack. They joined the stack at such a high point that the area beneath the trunking was open. The Niko stack captures this type of trunking and has the stack steam pipes cast integral to the stack. There is some light flash under the fore and aft trunks that will need to be removed. Both the bridge and stack will require some clean up on the bottom where the parts were connected to a casting sheet.

Resin armament includes the 3-inch guns, hedgehog and torpedo mount. The hedgehog ASW mortar is a very detailed one-piece casting in which you can actually seem the individual mortar rounds. With the 3-inch mounts and torpedo mount Niko has followed a pattern of providing the main weapon mount in resin but to greatly enhance the detail with additional photo-etch parts. With the 3-inch guns I would be very happy with just the resin parts, as these guns already have considerable detail worked into the resin piece. They have very fine barrels with detailed recoil cylinders and breach block detail. Other small resin parts include signal lamps, Mk 52 range-finder, square edged carley rafts, round edged carley rafts, two different gun tubs for the raised 20mm positions aft of the stack, Mk 51 directors and shipís boat. All these parts are of excellent quality.

Photo-Etch Fret
As mentioned more than once, the photo-etch fret for the Niko Model USS Gendreau is very extensive. In fact the model is very photo-etch intensive with entire weapons systems composed of multi-piece brass parts, such as the 1.1-inch AA mount and 20mm Oerlikons. In this approach Niko appears to have adopted the White Ensign Models approach to fine detail in resin models by including major portions on the brass fret. Even at this the significant brass photo-etch fret does not include railing. You will still need to use 3rd party railing. Because of this extensive use of photo-etch and the very detailed and delicate nature of some of the subassemblies, this kit will pose a significant challenge to the new modeler or those uncomfortable with photo-etch. However, for the folks up for the challenge this photo-etch fret promises some exceptionally detailed ordnance.


Brass Photo-Etch Fret
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As mentioned, two of the weapons systems are exclusively in brass and all of the other systems have brass detail to be attached to the resin parts. The 20mm Oerlikons symbolize the detail and complexity taken by Niko with this kit. Each of the 20mm guns is composed of five parts and three of these parts need to be folded. The combined gun shield/barrel/ shoulder rest piece is folded three times; first the gun is folded behind the shield; then the thinner barrel folds 180 degrees above the thicker gun block and through the slot in the shield; lastly each shoulder rest needs to be folded out; and that is only one piece of the 5 piece gun assembly. Each of the Oerlikons has a beautifully relief etched base plate. The pillar is one piece with two halves folded together to create a more three dimensional form. However, before you fold the halves together the base of each half needs to be folded out to sit flush with the separate base plate. Each side of the pillar base even has 5 rivet positions where the gun mount was attached to the base plate. There is a separate sight that goes on top of the barrel and a one piece set of training/elevation wheels that fit underneath. Since there are 10 Oerlikon mounts on the model, youíll probably spend more time building Oerlikons than anything else and there is plenty more to see.

Like the Oerlikons the four-barreled 1.1-inch AA gun, known as the Chicago Piano, is all brass. With this ordnance for which there is only one on the model, six pieces are provided on the fret. Three of these parts are used for the square mount/barrel part and as with the Oerlikon guns, require some folding. The other three parts are gunners seats with foot supports, top sight and gun cradle. The gun cradle is numbered B1 on the fret but B2 in the instructions. Just follow the drawings in the instructions. Although the K guns are resin cast integral to the hull, the depth charge racks for each gun are part of the photo-etch ensemble. Each rack is one piece of brass that must be folded to the correct shape and is very detailed. Likewise the stern racks are one piece brass sittings that are folded and placed over the depth charge runs at the stern of the hull casting.

The 3-inch guns and torpedo mount are predominantly resin but both do have substantial embellishments and detail provided in the brass fret. The torpedo mount has four photo-etch parts that really pump up the level of detail far beyond standard. Each of the three-inch guns has to brass pieces that provide gunnerís seats, foot pedals, sights and other relief etched detail. Of course you donít have to use all of this detail. Even if you chose to substitute a simpler Oerlikon assembly, you should try your hand at adding this wonderful detail for the torpedo mount and three-inch guns. The hedgehog also has additional fine detail added from the fret. Use care in any fold of the photo-etch, as some of these parts look very delicate.

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The mast is a multi-piece affair as well. The pole is comprised of three brass layers that attach together to add depth to the piece. The center of these three parts, already has a side inclined ladder, yardarms and other fittings. Other fittings, such as the radar, are separate and are attached to the mast later. Many may wish to substitute the more common brass or plastic rod for this assembly and clip off the fittings for attachment to the rod. However, I recommend trying out the three layered assembly of the Niko mast first without the additional separate platforms and fittings. If you donít like the result, you can always substitute rod with no loss. Other brass ship specific parts include: davits, enclosed chocks, floater net baskets, raft brackets, anchors, hull numbers, bridge wind screen, cable reels, stack platform, lower mast platforms, torpedo loading kingpost, flag & jack staffs, Mk 51 detail and other fittings. As mentioned no railing is provided but there is generic inclined ladder, vertical ladder and anchor chain. The vertical ladder and anchor chains are useable but donít use the larger inclined ladder strip. This strip has no handrails and is accordingly a let down on a fret packed with so much fine detail.

Instructions
The instructions for the kit include two sheets, one of which is back printed. With this model, it is probably best to start with the subassemblies as there are a number of them and they can be complex. One sheet is solely devoted to blow-ups of the different subassemblies. Included on this sheet are separate drawings for the Mast assembly, Torpedo mount assembly, Oerlikon assembly, 1.1-inch assembly listed as B presumably for Bofors although it is not a Bofors gun, 3-inch gun assembly listed as A; and K-gun rack assembly listed as 16. It really doesnít matter how they are listed, as you have to be blind to get them confused with one another. The inset drawings to these subassemblies are on the average clear but some, such as the 1.1-inch assembly, deserve special care to make sure you make all of the proper folds in the photo-etch.

The main assembly sheet is on one page with three sequenced photographs/drawings. The first shows attachment of most of the resin fittings plus some photo-etch fittings such as the 18 closed chocks and hull numbers at the stern. The second photo in sequence shows attachment of 3-inch guns, Oerlikons, depth charge racks and floater net baskets. The last photograph is for the mast, hedgehog detail, boats, carleys, platforms, cable reels,  kingposts and other odds and ends. On the whole the assembly diagrams work. The locations for attachment of most parts is evident, however, when in doubt refer to the plan and profile drawing on the reverse side. These drawings are also in 1:700 scale. As such they are a little small and would be clearer in a larger scale. Also provided in the same scale are profiles and a plan of the dazzle camouflage scheme of Gendreau in 1944. Humbrol colors are listed by number (H32, H33, H77, H128, H144, H157) but not by name. The design appears to be listed as Measure 32 design 11d in the Polish reference, comprised of dull black (BK), ocean gray (5O), light gray (5L) with decks in deck blue (20B) and ocean gray (5O) with Gendreau going to Measure 21 Navy Blue (5N) in 1945.


Box Art & Instructions
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Verdict
Niko Model has produced an extremely detailed model in their
USS Gendreau, Buckley class destroyer escort. The resin parts are beautifully executed and almost blemish free. The model has a very sizable brass photo-etch fret and can be said to be photo-etch intensive. Because of the size and complexity of the brass fret, this kit is not for beginners but for any modeler with experience in brass, it should prove to be a memorable, if challenging, building experience.

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