Class Background- The 240-foot Tampa class cutters were designed to be the first true "multi-mission" Coast Guard cutters. The four ships in this handsome class of ships, Tampa, Modoc, Mojave and Haida were suitably equipped for such duties as police work in territorial waters, ice patrol, search and rescue, derelict destruction, and towing. All ships in this class were built by the Union Construction Company of Oakland, California and they had a remarkably heavy armament of two 5-inch guns with room to add more armament as needed. These ships were powered by a turbo-electric drive system which gave them a top speed of sixteen knots. This speed was considered more than adequate for the Coast Guard's peacetime missions. When the United States entered into the Second World War the 240-foot cutters were fitted out with depth charges, additional guns, sonar, radar, and any other gear that could be crammed into them to serve as convoy escorts. The Modoc and two of its sisters, Mojave and Tampa, were assigned to the treacherous Greenland Patrol; the fourth ship in the class, the Haida, spent the war in Alaskan waters.
Ship History - The USCGC Modoc WPG-46 was launched on 1 October 1922 and commissioned on 14 January 1923. Her home port was Wilmington, North Carolina when she was not participating in Atlantic ice patrol service with the International Ice Patrol. This was pretty much her regular duties for most of the next 18 years. The Modoc and another cutter alternated on 15-day patrols off the Grand Banks, using Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Boston as their bases.
When the United States entered into World War II, the Modoc was transferred to the Navy and she joined the Greenland Patrol, under orders to do "a little of everything." "A little of everything" included keeping convoy routes open, breaking and finding leads in ice for the Greenland convoys, escorting the convoys and rescuing survivors from torpedoed ships, constructing and maintaining aids to navigation, and reporting weather conditions. If this was enough, Greenland Patrol ships were also expected to discover and destroy enemy weather and radio stations in Greenland, continue hydrographic surveys, maintain communications, deliver supplies, and conduct search and rescue operations. During the war, the International Ice Patrol was suspended so that the cutters could perform more important escort duty. The British ship Svend Foyne was the only victim of the suspension when she struck an iceberg on 21 January 1943. Before she sank the Modoc rescued 128 survivors.
Probably the Modoc’s biggest claim to fame was her close encounter with the Bismarck and the Royal Navy ships in hot pursuit. Modoc, while in the company with cutters Northland and General Greene rescuing survivors from torpedoed convoy ships, found herself in the midst of an attack in which eight planes and three warships were involved. Antiaircraft fire from Bismarck whizzed dangerously close to the cutter's port bow. HMS Norfolk was about to take the cutter under fire until HMS Prince of Wales identified her as U.S. Coast Guard! The cutters were undamaged, although they were near the fighting and at times only 6 miles from Bismarck. The Greenland Ice Patrol was harsh duty but it was vital to the Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Modoc received one battle star for World War II service. The Modoc was returned to the Treasury Department on 28 December 1945, and served as a patrol cutter until decommissioning in 1947. She was sold to a private owner and was converted to a merchant ship steaming Central and South American waters. After changing hands several times, the Modoc was finally scrapped in 1964.
The Kit- Coast Guard ships have long been overlooked by model kit producers. Granted while there have been a few, like the Revell Taney, Eastwind and Eagle kits, in comparison to other subjects there has been slim pickings. The Commander’s/Iron Shipwright kit of the Tampa class cutter is a very welcome addition for Coast Guard fans.
The kit is a one-piece full-hull model with the main deck housing already cast into this main part. There are a lot of details already included in the casting, such as water tight doors and hatches, ready-ammo boxes, skylights, life rings, hoses and various deck fittings. The model was well cast and it needed only a little bit of cleanup – there was some resin buildup at the prow that needed to be removed and some minor imperfections on the hull at the stern that needed to be sanded smooth. What required the most attention was area just in front of the forward deckhouse. On either side of this structure are two mushroom vents and there was a lot of excess resin build-up around them. I decided to remove the mushroom vents and the excess resin. I later replaced the mushroom vents with small cowl vents which according to my main reference, Dan Jones’ plans of the Modoc in Plastic Ship Modeler #19, were fitted there. The bridge, the bridge roof, funnel and aft 20mm gun tub are the next largest pieces and they very well cast requiring only the usually cleanup. The bridge roof deck has a pair of 20mm gun tubs and flag bags cast into it. I drilled holes into the flag bags for the halyards and into the funnel for the stays to facilitate rigging later on.
The smaller parts include a pair of 26-foot whale boats, boat davits, 5-in and 3-in guns, 20mm guns, cowl vents in a variety of sizes, anchors, depth-charge throwers, searchlights, gun director and the platform for it, the rudder, propeller and the mast. While the casting for most of the smaller parts is good, they require more work with a blade, scissors and a file then the other kit parts. I decided to substitute the resin mast with one made of brass tubing and rod, using the resin version as a pattern. The photo-etch brass is well done and it provides such items as railings in several styles, side support bulwarks, supports for the aft 20mm tub, inclined and vertical ladders, depth charge racks, K-gun racks, depth charge handling davits, the funnel cap grill, 20mm gun shields, bridge wing supports, mast fighting lights, and SA radar.
Building the Model - I decided to cut down the full-hull to a waterline version using the Dremel method – I masked the hull at the appropriate height and I removed the lower hull using cut-off wheel. While not the cleanest way to do this, it is quite effective and works for me. The kit comes with parts to allow you to build either a pre-war or a wartime Tampa class cutter. Building a pre-war version will require a little more work in that you would need to remove the gun tubs and the ammo lockers from the bridge roof part or make your own from plastic stock. You would also omit aft 20mm gun tub, all of the depth charge racks and fill in the openings in the stern. Also the positions of the 3-in and 5-in guns are swapped in the pre-war versions.
I decided to model the Modoc as she appeared around 1942 in her Greenland Patrol fit wearing a Measure 16 (Thayer Blue and white) camouflage scheme. By this time, she was fitted with plenty of depth-charge equipment for her anti-submarine duties and four 20-mm guns for anti-aircraft protection. The only modification that I had to make to the kit was to the front bridge windows. While the kit is readily a wartime version, the bridge face has the pre-war large windows. As part of her wartime refit, the Modoc, as most probably all of her sisters, had the windows plated over and replaced with four portholes. This was easily done by removing the panes using an Exacto blade, gluing some strip styrene in place and then drilling the portholes.
The model was a very straight-forward build with few issues. What was a little tricky was fitting the distinctive side bulwarks which also support the 01 deck level. Test fitting the photo-etched parts to the partially assembled hull revealed some gaps. The hull has a pronounced upsweep which is how this class of cutters was designed. The bottom of the photo-etched part has a curved to accommodate the upsweep and the top is straight since it supports the 01 level. I found it easier to first fit a piece of railing a little longer than the bulwarks in place. Railing runs along the entire length of the main deck, including behind the bulwarks. It would be difficult to attach the railing after the bulwarks were in place. I then glued the bottom section of the bulwarks to the deck and them I glued the 01 deck level to the top of the bulwarks since they had a slight warp to them, as resin tends to warp especially with thin deck sections like this, and this would help straighten them out. I used some CA to fill in the gaps which weren’t as bad as I feared. However, there is a lesson learned here: I was so focused on fitting these parts on and addressing the gap issue that I didn’t notice that I essentially placed the bulwarks on backwards! RATS! The thicker support in the bulwarks should go forward under the bridge wings but the way I attached them they were at the back. I could not correct it at this point without damaging the model and I was consistent on both sides so at least it wasn’t too noticeable unless you know what to look for. Sometimes it is best to learn things the hard way.
One other minor problem I ran into was trying to attach the pair of cowl vents that are the furthest aft on the superstructure since they keep getting in the way of the 20mm gun tub. If the skylights were just a wee bit more forward the tub and the photo-etch supports could be affixed and give enough clearance for the vents. The way the kit is I was forced to shorten the vents and point them off center to make them fit. I decided to replace the kit’s 26’ boats with a pair from the L’Arsenal set which are more detailed thanks to the photo-etch that comes with it. I also had some photo-etched boat davit rigging that Jacques Druel was kind enough to send me that was left over from a test run he did which adds a nice level of detail to the model. I added some Gold Medal Models details to the 20mm guns and a half-dozen L’Arsenal resin crew members on the decks.
To paint the model in her Measure 16 scheme, I used White Ensign Models Colourcoats Thayer Blue 5-B and 20-B Deck Blue but for the white and the black boot top I used plain old Testors Model Master paints. I found a photo in a book (I cannot recall the title) which has a small photo of the Modoc in this scheme but heavily weathered and beaten up from wear and tear. To recreate this look I used black and burnt sienna pastel pencil dust brushed on the model’s surface. The areas that were more weathered I actually used the pencil to mark the areas and using my thumb I smudged the markings and blend them – I did this repeatedly until I got the desired look. For the rust stains I used some diluted water color again until I was satisfied. I weathered as my model is, it is not nearly as bad as what appears in that photo – the ships in the Greenland Patrol were subject to terrible elements and they were worked hard. The hull numbers were from a Microscale black alphanumeric decal set and the rigging was a combination of 1lb test fishing line and brass wire. The seascape was created using acrylic gel painted with acrylic paints from an art supply store and two coats of Future gloss.
I was quite pleased with how this model came out, despite the faux pas with the photo-etched bulwarks. I really like the lines of the Tampa class cutters with the tall funnel and how heavily armed they were during the war. Equally beautiful would be a pre-war version in white and buff. This is the second Iron Shipwright cutter model I have completed, the other was the 165-foot USCGC Mohawk (Click for Review) and I hope that they will release more.
Felix "The NY Ice-cream-man" Bustelo