All of the cruisers with which the US Navy fought World War Two were pre-war designs. If you look at the various classes, they can be divided between two generations. The first generation ships were composed exclusively of heavy cruisers, starting with the Pensacola class and ending with the New Orleans class. Although the classes did vary significantly in appearance, armor plans and other arrangements, all of the first generation cruisers were characterized by a large aircraft hangar in the amidships superstructure and tapered sterns. The second generation of pre-war designs were characterized by squared sterns and a hangar inside the hull at the stern. The Brooklyn, Wichita, Cleveland and Baltimore classes were all pre-war designs. Only the Atlanta class falls outside of these design characteristics.

By July 1942 the USN took another look at the Baltimore, Cleveland and Atlanta classes to see if they could be improved based upon the war time experience to date. This experience consisted primarily of their new use as escorts for the new queens of the navy, the aircraft carriers. There had been substantial experience in that arena, from the original raids, through the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway. Compared to the escort lessons learned, surface action lessons learned were far more limited, garnered from the disaster, which befell the Asiatic Squadron early in 1942. It would be another month before the kickoff of the severe test of Guadalcanal. Another area in which USN cruisers had accumulated combat lessons learned was in damage control through the damage suffered to cruisers by air attack at Pearl Harbor and with the Asiatic Squadron cruisers. The question posed to the designers was how to improve the Baltimore, Cleveland and Atlanta classes. In each case of the Baltimore and Cleveland, the improved designs used the original design but reduced the funnels from two to one. This would free up more deck space and improve the fields of fire of the AA guns. The "improved" Baltimore design was the Oregon City class, while the "improved" Cleveland design resulted in the Fargo class. In addition to the single funnel, each class had the forward superstructure reduced in size, which gives them a very striking profile. Both of these classes have a distinctive family appearance. The Oakland class or "improved Atlanta" class reduced the 5-inch turrets but was far closer in appearance to the original Atlanta design. 

By July 1942 it had become obvious that more antiaircraft guns would need to be worked into the prewar designs. For the Cleveland class the extra weight of more AA guns meant the ships would be significantly overweight with a major impact on stability. The "improved" Cleveland design would significantly address the stability question of the original Cleveland design. By reducing the height at which the main gun turrets were located, the Fargo design would offer substantially improved stability over the Cleveland design. By making minor modifications to the main/weather deck, the designers could lower the height of the main 6-inch gun turrets by one foot. The ships still had the same cutwater and bow sheer but the ships still retained ample freeboard. On the Cleveland design the waist twin five-inch/38 turrets were mounted on the 01 deck of the superstructure with the shell handling rooms immediately below on the main deck. With the Fargo class the waist turrets were placed one level lower, on the main deck, with the handling rooms inside the hull on number two deck. Two significant internal changes were the elimination of all access hatches in transverse bulkheads lower than the second deck and halving the size of the hanger. 

By July 1942 it had become obvious that more antiaircraft guns would need to be worked into the prewar designs. For the Cleveland class the extra weight of more AA guns meant the ships would be significantly overweight with a major impact on stability. The "improved" Cleveland design would significantly address the stability question of the original Cleveland design. By reducing the height at which the main gun turrets were located, the Fargo design would offer substantially improved stability over the Cleveland design. By making minor modifications to the main/weather deck, the designers could lower the height of the main 6-inch gun turrets by one foot. The ships still had the same cutwater and bow sheer but the ships still retained ample freeboard. On the Cleveland design the waist twin five-inch/38 turrets were mounted on the 01 deck of the superstructure with the shell handling rooms immediately below on the main deck. With the Fargo class the waist turrets were placed one level lower, on the main deck, with the handling rooms inside the hull on number two deck. Two significant internal changes were the elimination of all access hatches in transverse bulkheads lower than the second deck and halving the size of the hanger. 


Profile, Plan & Quarter Views
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The original Cleveland class were designed to mount four quadruple 40mm positions but as the war proceeded additional mounts were added in varying numbers on the units of the class, up to six mounts. The Fargo class ships were completed with six quadruple 40mm mounts. Both the Cleveland and Fargo classes had two twin 40mm mounts at the stern. The ships were initially completed with two catapults. Although units of the Cleveland class started landing their starboard catapult in 1945, the two Fargo class cruisers didnít land their port side catapults until after the war.

The changes to the design would require a delay in completion of the "improved" Cleveland class but in light of the huge number of Cleveland cruisers ordered the delay was acceptable. All of the Cleveland hulls through Dayton CL-105 would be completed to the Cleveland design but the last thirteen units, Fargo CL-106 through Chattanooga CL-118 would be completed to the Fargo design. Of these thirteen only the Fargo CL-106 and Huntington CL-107 were actually finished. Construction on four of the Fargo class were suspended on October 5, 1944 and the other seven were suspended on August 12, 1945. These were subsequently broken up on the stocks.

The USS Huntington CL-107 was laid down on October 4, 1943 and launched on April 8, 1945. She was commissioned on February 23, 1946. In July she was assigned to the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. Her short career was spent either in the Mediterranean, along the East Coast of the US or with occasional cruises to the Caribbean Sea. On September 22, 1948 she started her last cruise, which took her around Africa and South America on a goodwill mission. On June 15, 1949 Huntington was decommissioned and sent into mothballs. There she lingered for another decade until September 1, 1961 when she was stricken from the navy lists and subsequently sold for scrap. Since the Cleveland class had overweight problems from almost the outset, it is understandable that they were in reserve by 1950 and were not selected for further modernization with some exceptions. The Baltimore and Oregon City classes had a much greater displacement and did not suffer from the overweight condition of the Cleveland and to a lesser extent, the Fargo designs. The heavy cruiser designs were much better suited for modernization in the 1950s and 1960s. It is somewhat odd that in the 1950s, when the USN pulled five of the Cleveland class out of mothballs for conversion to CLGs, that the two Fargos were not selected for the conversion, since they had less active use than some of the Cleveland class selected. 


Hull Details
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The Niko Huntington
It is doubtful if any injected styrene manufacturer will produce ship models of the Fargo class. There were only two of them, they didnít see combat and had short operational careers in the late 1940s. Only a resin manufacturer would produce a kit on this esoteric subject. Modelers are fortunate that the Polish firm of Niko Model is the manufacturer who chose the Fargos for production. Niko Model kits are known for very good quality and completeness. Niko has produced both ships in the class, the Fargo as completed in December 1945 and Huntington as she appeared in 1948 after the starboard catapult was landed. The casting on this kit is excellent. There are no casting voids or breakage. Some clean up will need to be done at the waterline to dispose of the minimal casting flash.

Hull Casting
The Huntington hull exhibits the same characteristics of a Cleveland hull, a high freeboard, almost slab sided appearance, devoid of portholes. Just behind the cutwater on the forecastle is a small notch and further back below deck level is a collar for the hull anchor hawse. The sides of the hull curve nicely into the squared stern. Niko has cast four levels of superstructure integral with the hull casting, which simplifies assembly and removes pitfalls associated with aligning superstructure parts found in some models that use the wedding cake assembly of adding one level at a time. It is with this superstructure as opposed to the hull sides where youíll find abundant detail. On each side are three deckhouses, the center one higher than the flanking two, which elevate the 40mm mounts and provide open fields of fire. Each of these deckhouses has two fine support braces, which support the separate gun tub overhang. At the different levels of the superstructure there are found the access doors with detailed dogs. Also found at Oerlikon positions are ready ammo lockers. Four shielded platforms are found on each side for Mk 51 directors or Oerlikon. The gun shielding here as well as other cast on shields has a very good thinness. There are also three open platforms without shielding on each side, which are also excellently cast as part of the hull casting.

Casting detail is not confined just to the sides of the superstructure. There are abundant details on the decks as well. On the main/weather deck this starts with the metal deck forecastle. Two shielded Oerlikon positions with ready ammo lockers are not far behind the cutwater. Raised anchor chain support plates run fro beautifully incised hawse fittings to the cast on windlasses and equally detailed deck fittings for the anchor chain to run into the chain locker. Six other ventilators are deck fittings are also clustered around the two windlasses. Two interior access hatches are found offset to starboard. There is a small one near the cutwater and a large one to starboard of the anchor chain plates, which include hinge detail. To round out the forecastle detail are three twin bollard fittings and four open chocks. Behind the windlass fittings cluster is another small access hatch offset to port and two ventilators fittings. 


Superstructure & Armament
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The majority of the main deck has wooden deck paneling. This starts just in front of the forward 6-inch turret barbette and ends just aft of the rear 6-inch turret position. All four 6-inch turret positions have raised barbettes into which the turrets cleanly fit. Six fittings are found before reaching the superstructure. These are a locker, an access hatch, two twin bollard fittings and two open chocks. Just aft of the second main gun barbette are found two shielded Oerlikon positions, one on each side of the superstructure with two pedestals in each and ready ammo lockers. Inboard at the 01 level of the superstructure are two more deck fittings as well as the base for the forward 5-inch gun turret.

The waist five-inch gun positions also have raised base fittings. Also amidships on the main deck are more twin bollard fittings, cable windlasses, are other asymmetrically arranged fittings. As previously mentioned there are three deckhouses on each side for the Bofors positions. Towards the rear of the superstructure are two more Oerlikon positions with fine shielding, two pedestals and ammo lockers on each side. Various cast on fittings are found on the superstructure decks, as well as gun director bases and the aft 5-inch turret base. Flanking on the main deck the X turret base are two more detailed access hatches as well as a third hatch offset to starboard below the aft face on the 01 deck. At this location more deck detail is included with two more twin bollard fittings, a ventilator and a locker. More clusters of fittings are found aft and outboard of the Y main turret barbette. These include a windless off set to starboard, twin bollard fittings, single bollard fittings, ventilators and other machinery fittings.

The quarterdeck is also steel decked. The aircraft handling fittings dominate this area. The most prominent feature is the open hangar sunk into the quarterdeck. Since Niko molded the hangar cover as a separate piece, you can model the ship with the hangar open and portray the seaplane inside the hangar below the main deck. This is a very nice touch that allows something much different than the traditional positioning of the aircraft on the catapult. Of course you can also place the aircraft of the catapult if you wish. The single catapult base plate to port has an overhang over the deck edge. At the stern are gun positions for twin Bofors mounts with fine gun shielding and Mk 51 director tubs. Other quarterdeck detail includes two more twin bollard fittings, two open chocks, small deck access hatches, ventilators and a couple of other fittings. 


AA & Smaller Resin Parts
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Smaller Resin Parts
Although the bulk of the superstructure is cast integral to the hull casting, there are still many finely detailed smaller resin parts that go into the Huntington model. Prominent among them are the various types of ordnance. The six-inch turrets are finely done with range finder "ears", detailed blast bags, shell case ejection chute covers and other side and crown detail. The twin 5-inch/38 turrets have detailed access doors to the rear, turret commanderís cupola on the crown and additional fittings on the sides and front face. The gun barrels are resin and include good detail and taper. The Bofors mounts are spectacular, as they are crammed with fine detail. The Bofors guns themselves are nicely detail but some of the gun barrels are warped so that they are nor parallel to each other. Minor corrective action will be necessary to remove the warp. They Bofors platforms are incredibly detailed with an intricate open grid pattern and fine gun shielding. 

The largest of the smaller resin pieces is the bridge. It is highly detailed with solid splinter shielding, numerous external braces, detailed doors, an open platform on the rear face and piping on the sides. A couple of lonely portholes are also found here. The second largest part among the smaller parts is the single stack. It has a very distinctive stack cap, forward siren platform near the top and ventilator louvers at the base. A single detailed late war floatplane is included for either the catapult or in the hangar. To position it in the hangar, youíll have to remove the wings at the hinges, which are clearly delineated on this small part. The aircraft also has nicely done centerline and wing floats. The Mk 37 AA directors are also finely detailed with hatch detail on their crowns, hand rungs, and extended range finder "ears". Smaller detailed sensors are found at the tops of the bridge and aft superstructure. Each of these sensors is mounted on separate distinctive detailed pillars. The convex hangar cover fits smoothly on the deck guides and includes axial strengthening strakes. A host of smaller resin parts include: large steam pipes for the stack; anchors; shielded stack platforms; Mk 51 towers; paravanes; carley rafts; main gun directors; flag lockers; signal lamps, Mk 51 directors; shipís boats; twin Bofor mounts; crane base; and assorted other fittings. All of these smaller parts are uniformly well cast and detailed. 


Brass Photo-Etched Fret
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Brass Photo-Etch Fret
A medium sized brass photo-etch fret includes the details too small for resin. The largest of the brass parts are for the catapult and crane at the stern. The catapult platforms have relief-etched hatch-grid detail and the catapult crown has raised shuttle runners. The crane is one piece with the open lattice grid and folds for assembly. Numerous relief-etched platforms are found on the fret. Some are solid with the anti-skid cross-hatched pattern and some are open square grids. Others are solid Bofors platforms with attached safety railing, which bends up and is fitted around the edge of the platform. Two bridge position parts with open windows are included. The twin Oerlikon mounts are found on the fret with shoulder rests and gun shields attached, to be folded in assembly for the correct configuration. Other photo-etch parts include: bridge wind screens; cable reels; anchor chain; two-piece anchors; staffs; davits; assorted radars; radar mounting lattice and brackets; yards; booms; stack louver covers; platform railing; platform bracing; carley bracing; mast platforms; stack cap detail; other mast detail; Bofors shields; main gun director towers; aircraft propeller; catapult shuttle; smaller crane detail; floater net baskets and inclined ladders. About 45% of the fret has deck railing, including the curved railing for the bow to fit with the deck sheer. Separate turned brass masts are included to be cut to the dimensions shown in the directions.

Instructions
There are three sheets of instructions included, two of which are back printed. Niko uses a photographic approach, rather than drawings. The front side of the first sheet has photographs of the resin and brass parts in reduced form. All parts are numbered or lettered with the same designation appearing in the assembly sequence. The reverse has two primary photos, one for bow assembly and the second for initial amidships assembly. The second sheet has pages three and four. Page three again has two photographs, which continue the progressive build up of the superstructure. Page four concludes the superstructure build with funnel and mast assembly. The 3rd sheet, which only has page 5, has the assembly of the quarterdeck. The instructions are solid but nothing fancy. 


Box Art & Instructions
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Verdict
Niko Model has produced an excellent 1:700 scale model of USS Huntington in her 1948 fit. One of only two ships in the "improved" Cleveland design, as the Fargo class was called. The Huntington, along with the Fargo, had very short careers. However, as a design, their single stack and reduced superstructure, made them rather beautiful, balanced cruisers.

The Niko Model 1:700 scale Huntington in her 1948 fit, as well as the Niko Fargo in 1945 fit, are available from Bill Gruner of Pacific Front.

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