Then, at 1120, a fourth Kamikaze attacked her from dead ahead. She opened fire with all forward guns, but this Zeke crashed Liddle’s flying bridge and exploded, demolishing the combat information center, radio room and captain’s sea cabin, killing her skipper, Lieutenant Commander L. C. Brogger USNR, and wounding two other officers.” (Leyte, Volume XII, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1958, by Samuel Eliot Morison, at page 383)

After Japan refused to ratify the 1935 London Treaty the United States embarked on a massive ship building program. Carriers, battleships, cruisers and hundreds of destroyers were ordered but one crucial area of warfare was overlooked. Amphibious warfare ships were not glamorous like the other fighting ships in the navy, so there design and construction lagged in the new program. As a sop to the marines the navy converted USS Manley DD-74 an old flush-decker to a fast transport in 1938-1939. Originally numbered AG-28 the Manley could carry 120 marines. Boats for the marines replaced the torpedo tubes. After this concept was tested, Manly was further modified. Two boilers were removed as well as the forward torpedo tubes and one waist gun. In this configuration she could carry an entire company as well as light deck cargo. In May 1940 five more of the old four stack destroyers were ordered to be converted to fast transports, now classified as APDs. Eventually 36 flush-deckers were so converted.  


Profile, Plan & Quarter Views
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For the first six months of the war in the Pacific the shortage of amphibious transports was not so crucial for the USN. The United States was on the defensive and standard transports could move what trained troops there were to Australia or New Zealand . However, this status changed in August 1942 with the allied invasion of Guadacanal and Tulagi, the first American offensive operation of the war. It soon became readily apparent that amphibious warfare ships were a critical shortage. For those who fought in the Pacific, it was only made worse by the higher priority given to the Atlantic Theater. Operation Torch in November had soaked up available amphibious assets. The navy and marines liked the APDs. Ex-destroyers, even with some boilers removed, were much faster than other transports. They could move quickly from place to place and were thought of highly in the campaign in the Solomons.

With the entrance into World War Two by the United States , her large shipbuilding program became massive. Thousands of warships of all types were ordered, including a new type called a destroyer escort. Designed to specialize in ASW the destroyer escort was a design in which the navy was not really interested. However, the concept was kept alive because of the interest in the ships by the Royal Navy, who wanted some for Lend Lease, and President Roosevelt. Over a thousand were ordered but only 563 were built. Although the first of the destroyer escorts entered service on February 28, 1942, the bulk of the ships did not reach the navy until 1943 and thereafter. By mid-1943 the allies had taken over the offensive in the Battle of the Atlantic and the ASW ability of the destroyer escorts were no longer of the importance that had caused their construction. Since the flush-deck APDs had been so successful, it was suggested that some of the new destroyer escorts be reworked to serve as APDs. On May 17, 1944 Admiral King approved conversion of 50 of the Buckley class (TE) destroyer escorts to APDs.  


Hull Detail
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The fast transports of the destroyer escort parentage could carry 160 troops (company level), supplies, plus vehicles, which the flush-deck APDs couldn’t carry. Some of the Rudderow class (TEV) destroyer escorts were also converted to APDs. The amidship area was greatly enlarged in order to accommodate the troops and with the Buckleys an enclosed 5-inch/38 was mounted, rather than the 3-inch guns of the standard Buckleys. With the higher amidships, four double stacked LCVP landing craft and boat handling boom aft the Buckley APDs were much different and beefier in appearance than the destroyer escort design. A total of 95 destroyer escorts of the Buckley (50) and Rudderow (45) classes of destroyer escorts were converted to fast transports. Both types retained a reduced ASW capacity in the form of their stern racks and sonars.

During the war only one of the destroyer escort APDs was sunk. USS Bates APD-47 was a Buckley class conversion and was lost off Okinawa on May 25, 1945. As early as 1945 the APD was evaluated to be of very limited capability but they were retained in the inventory. They were actually more flexible than other amphibious assets. Even with their reduced ASW weaponry, they were far better equipped for that mission than any other amphibious warfare asset. They could serve as ASW escorts of an amphibious force and were earmarked to land advance parties into assault areas. The last three did not leave active service until 1969, which is a pretty good record for an offshoot of a design that the navy never wanted.  





USS Liddle APD-60 Vital Statistics

Dimensions: Length - 306feet (oa) (93.27m), 300 feet (wl)(91.44m); Beam - 37 feet (11.28m); Draught - 12 feet 7-inches (mean) (fl)(3.84m): Displacement - 1,725 tons standard, 2,114 tons full load: Armament - One 5-inch/38; Six Bofor 40mm (3x2); Eight - Oerlikon 20mm: Two - Depth Charge Racks: Four 35-foot LCVP

Machinery - Two Shaft Turbine Engines; Two boilers; 12,000sp: Maximum Speed 23.6-knots:
Transport Load - 162 troops, light vehicles (1/4 ton to 1 ton) & ordnance on quarterdeck, plus 1,000 gasoline storage for vehicles:
Ship's Complement - 206

The USS Liddle was laid down as a Buckley class destroyer escort DE-206 on June 8, 1943 at Charleston Navy Yard. The hull was constructed quickly and on August 9, 1943 she was launched. She was commissioned as a destroyer escort on December 6, 1943 but then was selected in early 1944 for conversion to an APD. The rebuild to APD was finished on July 5, 1944. As the Normandy invasion had already occurred, Liddle was sent to the Pacific. She arrived in time to take part in the campaign to seize the island of Leyte in the central Philippine Islands. On October 20, 1944 MacArthur returned to the Philippines with the landings at Leyte . Of course the Japanese Navy reacted and the Battle of Leyte Gulf occurred on October 24-25 and resulted in an overwhelming allied victory. However, the end of the Japanese naval threat was not the end of the campaign for the island of Leyte . Begun with fanfare and MacArthur’s speech to the Filipinos, punctuated by the greatest naval battle in history, the campaign for Leyte drug on. As with Guadacanal, the Japanese army was not going to meekly surrender the island. The island fell under the command of Lt. General Sasaku Suzuki, commander of the 35th Army. At the time of the invasion, his command was spread throughout the southern Philippines but he quickly concentrated his forces on Leyte . At the time of the invasion, only 21,700 Japanese troops were on Leyte but within three weeks an additional 45,000 troops and 10,000 tons of supplies were landed on the west coast of the island. The allies landed on the eastern end of the island but Suzuki and his 35th Army held the west. Again, as with Guadacanal, the Tokyo Express made runs, mostly at night, to bring in reinforcements and supplies to the 35th Army on Leyte . In November offensive operations ground to a halt as continuous rain made the dirt roads that crossed the mountainous central part of the island impassible. By December the Japanese had been forced back to the northwestern corner of Leyte .

The far northwest corner of Leyte is on the shape of a pork chop with the wide portion called the San Isidro Peninsula . This peninsula runs north to south and is bound on the west by water. To the east it narrows to a bridge before connecting to the rest of the island. At the north point is the town of Pinamopoan on Carigara Bay . A road runs to the south, connecting Pinamopoan with the Ormoc at the southern point of this bridge to the peninsula. Ormoc, on Ormoc Bay , was the headquarters of the Japanese 35th Army and one of the favorite unloading points for reinforcements and resupply. As long as the Japanese could be reinforced and supplied from the west, the longer it would take the allies to conquer all of Leyte . MacArthur was impatient and wanted to mount an amphibious operation against the island of Mindoro but was persuaded to delay that operation until Leyte had been completely occupied.  


Hull Detail
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Pinamopoan had fallen to US X Corps on November 4 but a drive south on the road to Ormoc had been delayed at a mountainous line called Breakneck Ridge. To the south and east the US XXIV Corps was pushing toward Ormoc. To prevent further reinforcement of the island by the Japanese, the USN started mounting destroyer sweeps in Ormoc Bay and the western side of the San Isidro peninsula. Because of the difficulties in moving men and material over the mountains in the center of the island, it was decided to make another amphibious end run in an assault on Ormoc. A force was gathered to carry the 77th Division in an amphibious assault on beaches three to four miles southeast of the town, designated Beach White #1and #2. Rear Admiral Struble, commander of Amphibious Group 9 was designated as the commander of this operation. His force was designated Task Group 78.3. This task force had six component units. The Escort Force was composed of 12 destroyers for surface/ASW/AA protection, as well as fire support. There was a Support and Inshore Control Group of two SC and four LCI(R). Because of the ever-present threat of mines, there was a minesweeping unit of nine AM and 1 APD. For transportation of the army troops there were three transport groups. A heavy group had four LSTs and a light transport unit had 27 LCI and 12 LSM. The third transport unit was the Fast Transport Unit composed on 8 APD.

Included in the Fast Transport Unit was the newly arrived USS Liddle APD-60. Commissioned as a destroyer escort the previous December 6 and fresh from the yard from her APD conversion, you could almost smell the fresh green paint on her sides. Another member of the APD force represented the opposite side of the spectrum. One of the eight APD of the Fast Transport Unit was USS Ward APD-16, formerly DD-139. This old flush-decker, laid down in May 1918, was none other than the same USS Ward that had fired the first USN shot in the Pacific, as she had fired on and sunk a Japanese midget submarine trying to sneak into Pearl Harbor early on December, 1941. Converted to an APD in January 1943, she was now serving alongside the brand new Liddle. The transport units of TG 78.3 embarked the army troops from the Dulag beaches on Leyte Gulf on December 6, 1944, one year to the day of Liddle’s commissioning. By 1330 they departed to make their run around the island. They sailed southward through the Surigao Strait , rounded the southern tip of Leyte and then cruised north towards Ormoc Bay . As the force moved into Ormoc Bay a 3-inch battery opened fire on three destroyers of the escort force. USS Barton, Laffey and O’Brien were straddled but they quickly silenced the Japanese gunners. At 0642 on December 7, 1944, almost three years to the minute USS Ward had started the USN fight in the Pacific, all 12 destroyers of the escort force started shore bombardment of enemy positions on the two Beach Whites.


Small Resin Parts
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The first wave of troops were landed from the APDs. They shoved off from the eight converted destroyers and destroyer escorts at 0647. Sixteen landing craft took this first wave in to the two beaches and the troops went ashore with minimal opposition at 0707. The second wave was the other 16 landing craft from the APDs came in. The next two waves were LCIs from the Light Transport Unit and the fifth wave were 12 LSM, which landed vehicles and equipment. After unloading the first two waves of troops, the 32 landing craft of the APDs returned to their ships to load the last of the troops. By 0930 two full combat regiments were ashore and under the command of the 77th Division commander, Major General Bruce. There was little opposition as the operation had achieved complete tactical surprise. Four minutes later, the first Japanese air attack on TG 78.3 was picked up on radar at 12 miles. This attack was unusual and savage in its intensity and was just the start of a day of terror from the air.

Kamikaze tactics had been inaugurated during the Battle of Leyte Gulf but still were not widespread in December 1944. With this attack on TG 78.3 Japanese bombers made conventional attacks on the USN ships but if a bomber was hit, it would change its attack to a kamikaze mission. Although intercepted by four P-38 fighters, the Japanese aircraft flew through to the attack. The attack concentrated on the destroyer USS Mahan and APD-16 USS Ward. Within four minutes, Mahan had shot down three aircraft but three more had flown into her. Abandon ship was sounded at 1001 and 49 minutes later USS Walke sank her with gun fire and torpedoes. Three aircraft went after Ward and although the old Pearl Harbor veteran splashed two, the lead plane hit her port amidships, just above the waterline. For Ward the attack was over by 0947 but she was dead in the water by 0950. With no power the flames on Ward could not be fought and she was abandoned. Destroyer USS O’Brien was ordered to finish off Ward. In a further odd twist of fate the commander of O’Brien was Commander Outerbridge, who had commanded the Ward early in the morning of December 7, 1941. Now, three years later, he found himself sinking his old command.


Further Reading

Destroyer Escorts of World War Two, Warship's Data Special - by Thomas Walkowiak

This volume available from Floating Drydock (http://floatingdrydock.com/) is an excellent and inexpensive ($8.95) source on all six classes of USN destroyer escorts of World War Two, plus the two classes of APD designs derived from the Buckley and Rudderow classes of destroyer escorts. The volume is 48 pages in length and has comprehensive ship listings, textual history, photographs in B&W and color, line drawing by Thomas Walkowiak and color profiles by Paul Bender. Highly recommended. 

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With the loss of Mahan and Ward, the skies cleared of Japanese aircraft and all was quiet. Admiral Struble had three LSMs stuck on the beach and was busy trying to get these whales moving. After an hours respite, Japanese planes came in a second wave at 1112. With this attack Struble decided it was time to get the hell out of Dodge and started his force, minus Mahan, Ward and the three stranded LSM, south for the trip back to Leyte Gulf . The Japanese aircraft came after them. One Zeke make for the APD USS Cofer and was destroyed by fire from Liddle and Cofer. Another made directly for Liddle on a low attack but was blown up only 30 feet from her port side. The Liddle was showered with metal debris. At 1120 an attack came in from the bow and the Japanese plane plowed into the bridge of Liddle killing her captain. Lieutenant R. K. Hawes USNR assumed command and requested medical assistance from Cofer and Hughes, Struble’s destroyer flagship. During this time Liddle was dead in the water as the rest of TG 78.3 disappeared southward. However, at noon power was restored and Liddle chugged off after the rest of the force. The kamikaze strike had killed 36 and seriously wounded 22 of Liddle’s crew.

Around 1400 Liddle had closed with the destroyer Lamson. Lines were being passed to take off Liddle’s wounded, when the third air attack of the day came in. This time Liddle was lucky as Lamson and the destroyer Edwards were the targets. Lamson was hit by a kamikaze and suffered 21 killed and 50 wounded. For ten hours TG 78.3 was under air attack but by nightfall on December 7, 1944 they again rounded the southern tip of Leyte for the trip northward up the Surigao Strait . Although the force had been pounded, the landings had been perfect as any text book example. Commander of 6th US Army Walter Krueger later said, “The landing of the 77th Division near Ormoc, serving to split the enemy forces and to separate them from their supply base, proved to be the decisive action of the Leyte Operation.


Niko Liddle with Major Parts Dry-Fitted
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The USS Liddle needed repairs but she would return to action in the Philippines . By spring 1945 the Philippines had fallen to the back burner of publicity as the marine operations at Iwo Jima and later Okinawa grabbed the headlines. USS Liddle was assigned to take part in the invasion of the largest of the southern islands in the Philippine group, Mindanao . Conducted on April 17-18, 1945 and was an unnecessary invasion. The main island of Luzon had already been liberated, although there was still some mopping up to be done. On Mindanao he Japanese were cut off and only controlled 5% of the island. However, MacArthur had said he would liberate the Philippines and that included Mindanao . US X Corps was sent to do the job with little fanfare or publicity. USS Liddle was in this action, however, she was a back burner asset within a back burner operation, as she served as a floating reserve. Although USS Liddle APD-60 had hit her peak after less than a year of first being commissioned, she still had a long life ahead of her after the war. She was finally sold for scrap in June 1967. (History from Destroyer Escorts of World War Two, Warships Data Special, 1987, by Thomas Walkowiak; Leyte, Volume XII, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1958, by Samuel Eliot Morison: The Liberation of the Philippines, Volume XIII, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1958, by Samuel Eliot Morison; U. S. Destroyers, An Illustrated Design History, 1982, by Norman Friedman)  

The Niko Model Liddle
If you look just at the bow of the Liddle up to the bridge, you can see that it is based on the Buckley class destroyer escort, except that the enclosed 5-inch/38 mount looks out of place on this high bridge design. However, when you look at the hull as a whole, the specialized nature of the ship is readily apparent. Some turn of the century designs featured raised forecastles and quarterdecks with a lower main deck connecting them. They looked decidedly anachronistic with the flush deck designs or only those with the forecastle raised. However, the Liddle is just the opposite, as the forecastle and quarterdeck are lower than the raised main deck. Of course the amidships hull area was raised and internal volume increased to house the troops and supplies that these APDs could carry. This raised amidships with the two-story landing craft racks really creates a very high profile for the design and gives the Niko model a level of attraction beyond the normal.  


Niko Liddle with Major Parts Dry-Fitted
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For detail, as one of Niko Model’s newest, the modeler will receive an excellent quantity of quality detail. The hull casting will need to be sanded along the waterline to remove the last traces of a casting sheet. The hull sides are dominated by the raised main deck with curving solid bulkheads at both the fore and aft deck breaks. The casting has plenty of deck detail starting with the short forecastle. A lot of this is very small but finely done. There are to short anchor chain plates at an angle to raised hawse fittings. Behind this are four small windlasses and other fittings. Two twin bollard plates flank a detailed mounting plate for the 5-inch/38 gun house. As the forward superstructure begins the forecastle narrows on each side to narrow passages leading to the forward deck break. Two more bollard plates are found here. The low quarterdeck at the stern has its own share of detail. Since these APDs could transport light vehicles in addition to troops they were equipped with tie down points on the quarterdeck. The Niko Model Liddle has duplicated these tie down points very well. In fact they are so delicately rendered that you may miss them at first. At the very stern are the depth charges over which photo-etch racks are fitted. This is the ASW capability retained by the class in their conversion to APDs. Other detail on the quarterdeck includes smoke discharger, one windlass, two bollard plates, two angled winch plates and a raised centerline plate. Although not included in the kit a few Jeeps and a 1-ton truck or a howitzer on this deck would add an extra level of detail and interest.

The raised main deck amidships will be very crowded. The bridge superstructure as at the forward edge, followed by the trunked funnel. At both the fore and aft end are clustered AA weapons tubs. The casting of these tubs is very thin and without damage. The four small tubs are fore single Oerlikons and the two large for twin Bofors. A third twin Bofors mount is in the superfiring position over the 5-inch gun. There are four Mk 51 director towers cast onto the deck of the Liddle. It is really fine casting to get these small tubs on their pillars with the small directors inside. Perhaps to accommodate the ground troops deck entrance hatches for the interior were not just hatches on the deck. Rather a small structure was built, like a telephone book, where the inclined ladders leading below were located. The side doors are clearly shown on these structures on this model. There are also some other structures, such as small deckhouses and ready ammunition lockers that are cast into the raised amidships deck. The base for the bridge rises two levels from the forecastle but only one level from the amidships deck. This is not the bridge itself but provides the base for the British style Buckley bridge. The centerline Bofor position has a discernable lip at the top of the splinter shield. Two shielded Oerlikon positions take up side locations. Also found here are more ready ammo lockers and two flag lockers at the aft end. Casting of every feature of the hull is crisp and without defects.


Brass Photo-Etch
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There is not a great quantity of smaller resin pieces as Niko has worked a tremendous amount of detail into the hull casting. The bridge casting is superb with incredible detail cast integral to it. There are details about anywhere you look on this piece. The sides have portholes, access doors and navigation light positions. However, it is the bridge decking that really concentrates detail, including forward bulkhead detail for the open navigation bridge. The stack comes with the fore and aft trunking found in the Buckley class and has fine steam pipes cast onto the funnel. The five-inch/38 gun house has side doors, rear detail, and front vision ports. Of course the raison d’etre of the Liddle and the other APDs was to land troops. The entire design is dominated by the double stacked LCVP structure amidships. Niko provides all four landing craft. These are very well done with side support ribbing, thin bow ramp, deck tread detail, control position detail and boat keels. The other resin pieces include carley rafts, breach pieces for the Bofor guns, Bofor base plates, deck winches, signal lamps and 5-inch gun barrel.

Brass Photo-Etch Fret
The Niko Model photo-etch fret is very extensive. Measuring 5 ½ by 2 ¼ inches, the fret is rather large for a small model. At least half of the parts on this fret use 3-D relief –etching. The high storage racks for the landing craft are assembled exclusively from multiple photo-etch parts for very intricate, detailed structures. There is also a very large aft derrick/crane assembly at the aft end of the amidship’s deck. This is another multi-piece brass structure. Eight six-piece Oerlikons are included, as well as four brass pieces to supplement the resin breach blocks for the twin Bofors. The actual Bofors barrels must be fabricate from 0.2mm wire, 2.5mm in length. Each of the two stern depth charge racks are made up from three brass pieces. This is somewhat surprising, as folding one piece of brass would have been better for these racks. So the design of these parts seems somewhat clunky. The mast is layered with three levels of brass to give it a more three dimensional aspect. It may be easier to clip of brass details and add it to a brass or plastic rod for the mast. The mast is not just the three brass levels but also the mast head radar, various platforms and fittings. Other brass detail include the name plate; floater net baskets; hull numbers; hull side doors; raft supports; anchors; closed deck chocks; bridge windscreens; stack platform; deck reels; and jack/ensign staffs. Anchor chain, inclined ladder and vertical ladder is provided, but no deck railing. The anchor chain and vertical ladder is fine but I would not use the run of inclined ladder as it has no handrails.  


Box Art & Instructions
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Instructions
For the model of USS Liddle the instructions consists of two sheets. The major sheet is back-printed. The front side has 1:700 scale plan and profile line drawings at the bottom. As with instructions from many resin ships companies, the inclusion of these line drawings is to assist assembly by providing a detailed reference of the fittings and their location on the ship. When in doubt, always consult the P&P. The other portion of the first page shows the start of the assembly process. Four detail inset drawings are included. These show assembly of the Oerlikon guns, depth charge racks, deck reels, and life ring rack. The second page has a greater emphasis on subassemblies. There are four major subassemblies included here as the landing craft racks, boat crane, twin Bofor mounts, and mast. There are two smaller insets that show assembly of the stack platform and floater net baskets. The central photo/drawing of the assembly on this page is also useful in determining locations of parts shown on the first page. The small third sheet portrays the green paint scheme for the Liddle. Drawings for starboard and port are shown, as the scheme was different on each side. Colors are listed by Humbrol number and are H78 for the deck and H91 & H151 for the sides.

Verdict
The Niko Model USS Liddle presents a very interesting and unique model. Because of their mission, the 50 Buckley class destroyer escort APD conversions had a very high and distinctive profile. With the high quality hull casting and accompanying smaller resin parts, coupled with a large brass photo-etch fret with extensive relief-etching, the Niko Liddle is a standout kit. To add further allure to the kit, the multiple green camouflage scheme really makes it different from other warships.

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