As 1940 dawned, the supreme importance of an effective anti-aircraft defense for warships stared to dawn upon the Royal Navy and through them to the United States Navy. With the Norwegian Campaign and Dunkirk the vulnerability of warships to modern airpower became apparent. The Mediterranean Campaign had just started and would only strengthen the imperatives of developing an effective AA system.
The USN re-examined its warship designs. In 1931 the 1.1-inch automatic cannon appeared to fulfill the need for an intermediate AA weapon platform. The only destroyer design sufficiently large enough to mount the heavy and cumbersome 1.1-inch system was the Porter Class of heavy destroyers. In part because of the high expectations for the new ordnance, which was pronounced by the designers as "very efficient", the USN approved the mounting of eight 5-inch/38 low angle guns rather than an alternate design of six 5-inch/38 DP guns. It was felt that with the two quadruple 1.1-inch mounts designed into the Porters, the design would have acceptable AA abilities and therefore the design could concentrate on a very heavy anti-surface battery.
By 1940 it was obvious that the 1.1-inch gun system was not the answer. It was too late then for the Porter Class. The Navy looked at replacing the LA guns with 5-inch/38 DP guns but the design would not take the extra weight. The original design had been cut so fine to conform to the London Treaty, as well as packing the greatest amount of weaponry, that there was no margin that could be used to accommodate the increase in weight imposed by the 5-inch/38 DP. The Navy considered it extremely important to replace the LA mounts with DP mounts. A further study was to determine how many DP twin mounts could be mounted in lieu of the twin LA mounts. A twin 5-inch/DP mount weighed 93,500 pounds compared to the 76,840 ponds of a LA twin mount. For some reason the bean counters further stated that it would take three years to procure the necessary directors to go with the DP mounts. Finally it was decided not to interrupt existing production plans with a special order for DP mounts for the Porters and Somers heavy destroyers. It was finally decided that the heavy destroyer main gun upgrade could be put on hold until sufficient equipment and facilities were available, at which time the recommended weapons fit would be for twin DP mounts at the low positions and single DP mounts at the superfiring positions. If the Navy couldn’t change the main guns to DP mounts, perhaps more intermediate and light AA guns could be added.
The Secretary of the Navy approved a new plan to upgrade the AA systems of the ships of the USN on June 1, 1940 and supplemental defense appropriation act of $24,360,000.00 was signed on June 26, 1940 for the alteration and conversion of naval vessels, in which one-third of the sum was earmarked for improved AA defense. The plan was to add additional weapons against dive bombers and low level attacks, as well as providing shelter against bomb splinters and strafing attacks. First priority went to providing additional AA guns for battleships, carriers and cruisers.
In 1941 another Bill was passed that added an additional $300,000,000.00. This time the entire sum was to be spent on improved AA batteries. However, the complexity of the 1.1-inch gun system made rapid production of the system impossible. The Arizona was still awaiting her 1.1-inch battery, although the gun tubs were installed, on December 7, 1941, when time ran out. Two days before the Bill was signed by President Roosevelt, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) suggested that additional AA armament be considered for the destroyers of the fleet. Suggestions were made by the technical bureaus and from the fleet on ways to reduce top weight on the existing warships in order to free up weight and space for enhanced AA batteries and radar. The initial study was sent to the Secretary for the Navy on February 14, 1940 but it was still too early for detailed recommendations for all classes of destroyers.
There was enough information to make some initial simple recommendations. Interim AA batteries were suggested for inclusion of upcoming overhauls. The Bureau of Ordnance had belatedly come to the conclusion that the twin Bofors 40mm guns were "greatly superior" to the quadruple 1.1-inch guns currently being installed on the warships of the USN. Additionally, the bureau reported that one 20mm Oerlikon cannon was better than several .50 caliber machine guns. It was felt that all 1.1-inch mounts should be replaced by 40mm guns. However, the USN faced the same bottleneck, the production rate. It was decided that the 1.1-inch be retained pending sufficient quantities of 40mm guns becoming available.
Dimensions: Length - 381-feet
1-inch (116.15m) oa; 372-feet (113.4m) wl: Beam - 37-feet
(11.28m): Draught - 13-feet (3.96m) mean:
Machinery - Four Babcock & Wilcox boilers; Geared Turbines; Two Shafts; 50,000shp: Maximum Speed - 37 Knots: Complement - 194
Porter Class Destroyers: Early War Fit, Late 1941 to 1943
In the weight and space equations, one 1.1-inch mount could replace one single 5-inch/38 gun and it was recommended that all destroyer designs with five 5-inch guns substitute one 5-inch mount for one 1.1-inch AA mount plus AA director. It was further determined that the new 40mm mounts would not be available until 1942. A further complication was the lack of AA directors, which as with the case of the 40mm system, would not be available in any numbers until 1942. The CNO stated that 40mm mounts should not be installed until there were sufficient directors to go with them. It was considered that a maximum destroyer AA battery of two twin 40mm mounts with additional 20mm Oerlikons would be sufficient. The process of upgrading the AA fits of the warships of the USN began before the attack on Pearl Harbor and was still underway in September 1945 at the end of the war.
All USN destroyer designs went on a weight cutting campaign by removing all excess top-weight and by lowering essential equipment. Some destroyer classes lost part of their main armament. The Porter Class retained their eight 5-inch/38 LA battery until fairly late into the war. However, there was plenty of top-weight that could be removed from the Porters. The weight reduction plan for the Porters called for elimination of both tripods, cutting down the aft superstructure, reducing the bridge size, removing the torpedo reload facility. In addition to the removal of top-weight the addition of a third 1.1-inch mount superfiring over the existing aft 1.1-inch mount was considered but rejected due to the amount of shipyard and expert personnel time required to install the overly complex and balky 1.1-inch systems.
On September 3, 1941 the General Board suggested that the Porters receive three 40mm twin mounts and six 20mm mounts in lieu of the 1.1-inch and .50 MGs then installed. The new weapons would not be available for some time but the structural reductions and removal could be accomplished in the mean time. So the Porter Class had their top hamper significantly reduced and reworked during 1941. Initially the existing aft 1.1-inch mount was moved to the new position scheduled to receive the 40mm mount, which was on the starboard aft sponson or tub on the new aft AA deck. Machine guns were moved to the new positions which called for 20mm guns. That was the status of the class when the Japanese struck at Pearl harbor. The structural changes had been made, the existing armament had been moved to new positions but the replacement Bofors and Oerlikons had not been installed. Actual installation of new 20mm guns depended upon if the guns were available during the limited refits permitted by operational needs. No special equipment or skilled personnel were needed to fit the Oerlikons, so they were probably fitted fairly quickly subject to their availability. All units of the class also received radar fits on the new pole foremast.
Initially, the weak AA defense of the Porter Class made them a liability in areas that could expect heavy air attack. After the Battle of Midway the Porters were more often assigned to convoy, patrol and bombardment duty. The initial poor decisions regarding the LA 5-inch gun installation and misplaced faith in the 1.1-inch gun mount had come home to roost. With six months of war behind the Navy, on June 30, 1942 the CNO approved the plan that all Porters in the Pacific be armed with the existing two 1.1-inch mounts plus five Oerlikons.
As of December 7, 1941 five of the eight Porters were part of the Pacific Fleet serving as squadron flagships, including USS Porter, which was flagship of DesRon 5. On October 26, 1942, while still serving as flagship of DesRon 5 during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Porter was lost. While serving as escort for the carrier Hornet, Porter was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine, I-21 and was the only unit of the class lost in the war.
The other seven units of the Porter Class went into 1943 still carrying the two 1.1-inch mounts and five 20mm Oerlikons. In 1943 40mm guns became available. On December 19, 1942 new AA upgrade specifications for the Porter Class were ordered, which much more dramatically changed the class. From here different units in the class, went their own ways as far as their respective fittings. However, that is another story. (History from Destroyers of World War Two by M.J. Whitley; United States Navy Destroyers of World War II by John C. Reilly, Jr.; U.S. Destroyers; An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman)
The Early War Porter Class from Combrig
The top AA platform on the second stack also has a new shape with the inclusion of gun tubes for 20mm Oerlikons. Torpedo reload positions have been changed. Since the weight reduction program removed the reloads for the Porters, the empty space formerly occupied by the reloads was made available storage and other purposes, which is reflected by new exterior doors. Of course the masts are changed. Gone are the two heavy tripod masts and now there is just a light pole foremast. The forward funnel now has a cowling, which was added to direct the smoke away from the bridge. This additionally actually was made before the chop job that the class received in late 1941. Winslow had a cowl on the first stack at least as early as 1938.
The forward superstructure and bridge area on the early war Porter from Combrig also show the changes experienced by the class. The bridge itself is now much narrower and cut back from the original wide bridge version found in the pre-war kit. In the pre-war kit the forward 1.1-inch gun sits on a platform atop a circular pedestal. For the early war version the pedestal is gone and a new piece with an oval gun tub serves for the forward 1.1-inch base. The director atop the bridge also now has radar.
There are now only two boats instead of the four found in the pre-war version but in compensation the population of Carley rafts has mushroomed from five in the pre-war version to ten in the early war fit. Quality of the resin parts ranges from the best-seen (1.1-inch guns) to very good. Combrig provides a quality product for the modeler with both the pre-war Porter and this early war Porter.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
This kit can portray the Porter Class from late 1941 until 1943. A late 1941 replica would have the structural changes and have the aft 1.1-inch gun moved to the starboard side. However, most 20mm Oerlikon positions would be vacant. Those positions would have received their 20mm guns at various times for the different ships as operational demands allowed. By mid to late 1942 the class would be up to the full two 1.1-inch mounts and five 20mm mounts as provided in the kit. USS Porter was apparently lost in this fit and the balance would have had this arrangement into 1943 when 40mm mounts came along.
So which Porter suits your tastes? With the pre-war version you get the big tripod masts and bigger superstructure. With the early war version the masts are gone, the superstructure is reduced and there is other minor changes. Basic armament stays the same except for inclusion of six 20mm for the two machine guns. The instructions were not available when this review was written.