In the two world wars the United States Navy experienced similar building curves. The industrial infrastructure of the United States had the capability to produce more warships and in faster times than the industrial plants of any other nation. However, in both cases there was inertia to overcome and the industrial plant would have to ramp up to full capacity. By the end of each war the production of warships had reached unmatched quantities.
As the USN saw the German threat when it entered the First World War it was in the form of the U-Boat. The Royal Navy had successfully contained the German surface fleet but the submarine menace was always present. As a consequence the USN concentrated on anti-submarine warfare and necessary naval platforms. Therefore the emphasis on production was on destroyers, smaller ASW warships, and merchant ships to overcome wartime losses to the submarine. At the end of the war the USN had just started the huge building program of the four stack flush deck destroyers. Most of those were completed and served to freeze USN destroyer design and production for over a decade. One design examined by the USN and requested was that of the destroyer leader. The Royal Navy had built destroyer leaders, which were enlarged versions of a standard destroyer class to allow the housing and operation of extra command and staff personnel for the squadron or flotilla command. The RN would use these larger destroyers or light cruisers to lead their destroyer formations.
The USN had nothing similar, as their destroyer classes were homogeneous and the navy had very few light or scout cruisers for such a task. And yet the USN wanted destroyer leaders. Several designs for large destroyer leaders were developed up to 2,200 tons in displacement but in light of the large numbers of flush deck destroyers constructed or still under construction, Congress refused to fund any construction of new destroyer leaders.
Through the 1920s this was the status quo for the USN for destroyer designs. All funding went into the new treaty cruiser designs, which became the inter-war heavy cruisers of the USN, as well as the initial development of the carrier force. The Royal Navy had built a huge number of the excellent V & W Class destroyers during and immediately after World War one but that did not stop them from developing new designs in the 1920s. The RN experimented with a few designs in the early 20s but significant production did not occur until the late 1920s. Starting with the A Class of 1928 the Royal Navy constructed a new class of destroyers each of which had eight standard ships and one larger leader. As an example the A Class had eight units whose names all started with the letter A. Their displacement was 1,350 tons. The leader of the class, HMS Codrington, was 20 feet longer and displaced 1,540 tons standard. With the A Class and B Class the name of the leaders did not start with the same letter as the rest of the class.
USS Porter Class 1936-Early 1941 Vital Statistics
Dimensions: Length - 381 feet (116.15m) oa; 372 feet
(113.4m) wl; Beam - 37 feet (11.28m); Draught -
13 feet (3.96m) mean:
Machinery - Four Babcock & Wilcox boilers, Two shaft geared turbines; 50,000 shp: Maximum Speed - 37 knots: Complement - 194
By 1930 the USN looked around and saw every major naval power building large modern destroyers. Except the USN was still limited to the old flush deck WWI designs. The Farragut Class of 1932 was the first new fleet destroyer design for the USN in 15 years. Hard on the heels of the Farraguts was the first destroyer leader design to be funded for the USN. Actually the design started as a destroyer leader but evolved in concept from that starting point. By November 1930 the combined opinion was that large heavy destroyers were to be preferred over command ships. It was thought that offensive firepower should not be sacrificed for additional command space. The idea was to create a heavy destroyer squadron and for this class of large destroyers to be sort of poor manís cruiser. That is why the class received conventional DD for destroyer designation, rather than the DL for destroyer leader classification.
Several designs were developed, one five gun design with command facilities, one with wing mounted 5-Inch guns and another with six 5-inch DP guns mounted in three superfiring single guns fore and three aft. However, there was another optional design that promised to provide a greater gunfire volume than any other destroyer design in the world. This design would have four twin turret 5-inch/38 mounts on ring bases. The trade off was that they would be limited to low angle surface fire. The Porter Class was the only USN design to receive two LA gunfire directors.
The USN thought that the mounting of LA instead of DP guns was acceptable because they had just developed a new anti-aircraft wonder weapon, the 1.1-inch automatic cannon, which could be incorporated in the class. Another quirk of the design was that initially no depth charge racks were provided. Weights had been cut so closely to the Washington Treaty limitations that it was decided that there was not allowable displacement left for depth charges. The design was planned as a gun fighter, rather than an ASW platform. However, during construction somebody woke up and decided that all destroyers should be equipped with depth charges. After relooking at the design, it was decided racks could be added if the ships only carried a limited number of depth charges in each rack. This was the design that was adopted for the first class of heavy large destroyer leaders, which became the eight ship, Porter Class, laid down in December 1933 and early 1934. Originally only four were authorized but the new President Franklin D. Roosevelt added another four in an increased building program designed to increase jobs to combat the depression.
The Porter design was built to the maximum displacement allowed under the London Treaty, 1,850 tons. For the USN this design produced giants in almost every aspect. With eight 5-inch guns, eight torpedoes in two quad mounts with torpedo reloads on board, forty feet longer and 440 tons heavier than the Farragut Class and with an additional 7,200 shp, the initial design was as impressive as their appearance. Designed with a large high bridge as well as a tripod main mast, the Porter Class appeared as miniature cruisers, rather than destroyers. However, things were not as rosy as had been anticipated.
Profile Morskie #23
Although the Combrig Pre-War USS Porter has not been released yet, Profile Morskie #23 provides a reference specifically on the pre-war Porter Class destroyers. All text is in Polish but there are plenty of photographs, a couple of color plates and above all a mass of plans.
By the late 1920s the .50 caliber machine gun was the standard anti-aircraft weapon of the USN. It was recognized even then that it was insufficient to cope with the continuing evolution of aircraft designs. In October 1928 the Bureau of Ordnance met to discuss the development of a heavier AA weapon. The design of the new weapon started in March 1929 and resulted in the quadruple 1.1-inch automatic cannon. Tests were run on the initial model from March to May 1931 and the final test version was ordered into production for the Naval Gun Factory in 1933, just in time for the Porter Class. The quadruple 1.1-inch mount was incorporated for the Porter Class from the beginning and these destroyers were the first American vessels to be fitted with this weapon system.
The initial mount proved very heavy and elaborate. The complexity of the gun mount created a system that was prone to mechanical problems and break down. This unreliability was one factor for its replacement by the 40mm Bofors. Another reason was that the 1.1-inch gun did not have the stopping power needed for the aircraft of World War Two. A third reason that the power requirements for the system were very high and often proved to be unreliable or even dangerous. Repair and maintenance of the system took an inordinate amount of time. Although the mount was replaced with the Bofors starting in 1942, this replacement took time. Some warships still had the 1.1-inch gun even at the end of the war. Besides the 1.1-inch mount the Porters carried two .50 machine guns for AA.
USS Porter DD356was laid down by New York Shipbuilding on December 18, 1933. She was launched December 12, 1935 and commissioned on August 25, 1936. Even though thought of as heavy destroyers, rather than destroyer leaders, after entering service, they were still used as in the destroyer leader function. In 1939 there were eight destroyer squadrons, each one of which had a Porter Class flagship.
After World War Two started in September 1939, war experience of the Royal Navy against the Luftwaffe quickly showed that USN AA defenses were inadequate. The USN realized that their choice for surface action LA 5-inch guns on the Porters was a mistake and they considered rearming the class with DP guns. Weight considerations precluded this. They next looked at beefing up the mid range AA armament by adding a third 1.1-inch gun mount superfiring over the existing aft mount but this would cost the aft director. In 1941 the class underwent its first modernization but that is another story. (History from Destroyer Weapons of World War 2 by Peter Hodges and Norman Friedman; 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 Combrig Pre-War Porter
First of all, the mainmast is a give away. This kit comes with the heavy tripod mainmast with an enclosed house halfway up. The tripod mainmast was landed in 1941. The foremast is also a tripod but a smaller less obvious one than the main mast. The built up after superstructure of two levels was also only found in the pre-war fit. The bridge piece in this kit is the large wide version that was replaced with a smaller bridge before the war came to the USN. The AA fit included in this kit is the initial light fit of two 1.1-inch mounts and two .50 caliber machine guns. The stack tops are also flat, as originally built. However, a cowling was added to the first stack well before the war. USS Winslow had such a cap at least by 1938. This combination, which is in this kit, reflects the appearance of the Porter Class from 1936 to early 1941, although some if not all in the class may have had cowlings on their first stack before then.
As also can be seen, the resin parts are excellent. The quad 1.1-inch guns are exceptional, the best version that I have seen in any 1:700 scale kit. They may be the most detailed individual pieces in the kit but there are many others of outstanding quality. The five-inch gun houses, along with the two LA directors really sparkle and the funnels with their very prominent trunking and slab sided ventilators makes this a very interesting release. Searchlights practice loaders, boat davits and the bridge, whose windows can be opened-out to be see-through, are all first class parts.
For the first time Combrig is using brass photo-etch in lieu of the stainless steel frets of previous releases. The fret contains all of the ship specific brass parts as well as vertical and inclined ladders. No railing is included but that can be easily obtained from GMM, Toms or WEM. There is a significant part count with this fret as there are many support braces, depth charge racks, anchor chain, propeller guards, stack grates and many other items.