For almost a quarter of a century, battleship designs had featured ram bows and secondary guns in casemates along the hull. Leading into World War One, American battleship designs were no different in those aspects. When in October 1913 USS Pennsylvania was laid down, she featured these same characteristics. The following class, the New Mexico, changed dramatically in appearance. Although she had hull casemate secondary positions, out was the ram bow, in was the graceful clipper bow. The Tennessee Class completed the metamorphosis by eliminating hull casemate positions during construction. The hull lines of the Tennessee were far sleeker than those of her older consorts. The design of the class was so highly thought off, that the following Colorado Class very virtual repeats with the exception of shipping eight 16 inch guns in place of the twelve 14 inch guns of the Tennessee.
The improvements of the Tennessee over the New Mexico went beyond the appearance of the hull form. Tennessee incorporated a new armor scheme that was adopted for all subsequent battleship designs. The class also adopted turbo-electric propulsion.and increased the elevation of the main armament to increase range.
LAID DOWN- May 14, 1917; LAUNCHED- April 30, 1919; COMPLETED- June 3, 1920; STRICKEN- March 1, 1959; BROKEN UP- Starting July 1959
DIMENSIONS: Length- 624 feet (190.2m) (oa), 600 feet (182.9m) (wl); Beam- 97 feet 5 inches (29.7m); Draught- 30 feet 2 inches (9.2m)(mean);
DISPLACEMENT- 32,300 tons (standard), 33,190 tons (full load)
ARMAMENT- Twelve 14", Twenty-two 5", Four 3"
MACHINERY- Eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers; Four Shaft Westinghouse turbo-electric drive; 26,800 shp; 21 knots; Range- 8,000 nm at 10 knots
Tennesseewas completed in 1920 but trials were delayed until 1921, due to a generator explosion. On June 17, 1921 she arrived at San Pedro, California and was based there for the next 19 years until she, along with the rest of the Pacific Battle Fleet, was transferred to Pearl Harbor, arriving there. It was thought that basing the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii, instead of California, would damper the aggressive moves of Japan. As history proved, it had the opposite effect tragic consequences for the Pacific Fleet.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Tennessee was moored inboard of West Virginia. This protected her from torpedo attack but when West Virginia sank, she was temporarily pinned in position. She received two bomb hits during the attack. One bomb hit the center gun of B turret and a dud bomb hit X turret. On December 20, 1941 Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Maryland sailed for Puget Sound. These were the three least damaged battleships for one common reason, during the attack they were protected from torpedo attack. Maryland was inboard of Oklahoma and Pennsylvania was in drydock. During January and February 1942, Tennessee received full repairs and some modifications. She had her main guns replaced with Mk. 11 guns, had her cage mainmast removed for a short control tower, received additional AA guns of four quad 1.1 inch mounts & sixteen 20mm single mounts, received FC & SC radars, and the five inch 25 cal guns received splinter shields. By June 1942 she received two more 1.1 inch mounts. During this time period she was in TF1 guarding the west coast.
On August 1, 1942 TF1 with Hornet sailed for Pearl Harbor but Tennessee was recalled to undergo a major rebuild. Tennessee, California and West Virginia received the same rebuild and emerged from it completely different in appearance. The superstructure was completely changed to resemble that of South Dakota, hull blisters were added increasing the beam to 114 feet from 97 feet, five inch 25 cal guns were replaced with eight dual five inch 38 cal DP turrets with new Mk. 37 gun directors, main battery received automatic control and new Mk. 34 directors, a new lighter conning tower was fitted, the AA fit increased to ten quad 40mm Bofor mounts plus 43 single 20mm guns, electrical generating capacity was increased by 75% because all of the new gun mounts required additional power. She came out in May 1943 displacing 40,990 tons (full load), which was 7,000 tons heavier than she was at Pearl Harbor.
Tennesseewas back in action on August 1, 1943 when she bombarded Kiska during the Aleutian campaign. In November she was in the Gilbert Islands bombarding Betio. On November 22, 1943 she used her five inch guns on the submarine I-35, which had been forced to the surface by destroyers. From January 31 to February 2, 1943 she shelled Majuro, Roi, Kwajalein and Namur in the Marshall Islands. Other bombardment missions followed; Engebi and Parry Island from February 17 to February 22, Kavieng on New Ireland on March 20, Saipan on June 14, Tinian on June 15. She was hit by shore batteries on Tinian had suffered one 5 inch turret being disabled. After repairs she went on to bombard Guam. September 1944 saw Tennessee supporting the assault on Palau.
She participated in the assault on Leyte and was part of the battleline at the Battle of Surigao Strait on the night of October 24-25, the last battleship versus battleship duel, albeit a very one sided action. During this battle she fired 69 rounds from her main guns and obtained hits on the battleship Yamashiro. In February 1945 she bombarded Iwo Jima and in April it was Okinawa. On April 12 she was hit by a kamikaze on the port side amidships but she remained on station. Her final action was supporting minesweeping operations in the Ryuku Islands and South China Sea. After the Japanese surrender she arrived at Wakayama, Japan on September 23, 1945. She was dispatched to Philadelphia and this was the first time she had been in the Atlantic in 25 years. Mothballed in 1946, she was never to be recommissioned. Tennessee was scrapped at Baltimore starting July 1959. (The bulk of this history is from Battleships of World War Two by M.J. Whitley.)
Hi-Mold has the reputation of producing some of the finest resin castings available. Their casting of the parts for Tennessee lives up to this impeccable reputation. Each part is finely crafted with additional detail. The hull displays the clean lines of the prototype, from the graceful clipper bow to the tapering fantail. As usual Hi-Mold has cast the various deck fittings integral to the hull. Winches, bollards, deck plates, access ways and anchor chain all are part of the hull casting. The detail on the sides of the hull are especially nice. Unusual attention to detail was lavished on the often overlooked architectural features found on the outer hull of warships. The armor belt, vertical strakes and hull plating are superbly captured and add layers of detail often missed in other 1:700 scale models.
Complete photographic coverage of all the unassembled components for the Hi-Mold USS Tennessee is found in the "First Look" article linked below.
Superstructure parts fit cleaning into their positions on the deck. Hi-Mold uses locator rectangles to insure accurate positioning of the superstructure. Some manufacturers use locator studs/holes, some use scribed locator outlines, others donít use any locator device at all to help place the smaller parts in their accurate positions. The Hi-Mold method of providing uniquely shaped locator rectangles with the same size receptacles on the underside of the smaller structures insures that no mistake can be made in assembling the model. The model virtually clicks together.
The smaller resin pieces are all of the same high casting quality as the hull. As with the hull, extra detail is cast into each piece. The funnels have banding and steampipes. Every deck from the 01 gun deck through the highest bridge level, as well as the mast top "birdbaths" have the characteristic outer support ribs to their shielding. However, Tennessee of all the battleships at Pearl Harbor, apparently did not have the support ribs on the 01 deck shielding. Also she seemed to have narrower fighting tops with only one window on the side, rather than the more common two windows per side. Barbettes have been given their unique fittings, the rectangular ventilators have scribed louvers, shipís boats are well done, the conning tower has incised view slits; the list goes on and on of the detail given to the resin parts of Tennessee.
WHITE METAL PARTS
I only have one significant reservation about the white metal parts. Hi-Mold provides 5 inch 25 cal deck guns for the 01 deck with splinter shielding. Prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, the Pacific Fleet had started its own initiative to develope splinter shielding for these open mounts in order to protect the crews. The trick was to make them light enough, so as not to interfere with the training and operation of the gun, and to provide adequate observation for the gunsí control. By December 7, 1941 this program was still in the experimental stage. On December 7, West Virginia had at least two of her mounts with shielding and apparently Maryland had at least one mount with the shielding. However, no source mentions that Tennessee had any of her 5"/25 cal mounts equipped with the splinter shielding. To the contrary, most sources state that she received the shielding for these guns in the short January to February 1942 refit at Puget Sound. In describing this early war refit, Myron J. Smith in Volunteer State Battlewagon, states at page 20; "The eight 5-inch/.25 caliber guns were now guarded by semi-enclosed splinter shields." Likewise M.J. Whitley in Battleships of World War Two, also states that the splinter shields were not fitted until the January to February 1942 time frame. Accordingly, it appears that Hi-Mold was in error in providing gun mounts with splinter shielding and not providing open mount 5"/25 cal guns. No one seems to have these open mounts available as additional detail parts, so I raided a Corsair Armada cruiser kit to come up with the right mounts for Tennessee. Granted, this can be an expensive fix. However, there is a much less expensive alternative. MiniHobby released a 1:700 scale Arizona. Priced at $7.00 from Pacific Front Hobbies, the open mounts from the Arizona kit should be acceptable substitutes. I have not seen that particular kit so I canít venture an opinion on their accuracy.
Also included are three sizes of brass rod. Two types are used for the director support on the bridge and the smallest is used in a number of areas such as athwart supports in the boat rack, jack staffs and upper masts. The instructions provide the length in mm for each part. A generic flag and number decal sheet is also included. A small, thin plastic card is provided for use in shaping a limited number of parts.
The following three pages display the assembly process in four steps. No problems, ambiguity or confusion was experienced at any step of this process. Hi-Mold provided inset boxes to show further detail in the assembly of certain structures. As an example, the cage main mast has 14 levels, the inset drawing clearly showed that the searchlight platform is positioned at the junction of level seven and eight. The last page provides a plan and profile in 1:700 scale, although it does show the 5"25 cal mounts with splinter shielding.