"At 2341 Moosbrugger signaled to Dunlap, Craven and Maury: ‘Fire torpedoes!’ Eight from each ship went into the water with their particular sshwoonk. Conditions could not have been better….As Kawakaze wheeled to starboard, an American fish gouged her in a magazine below the bridge and her whole forward part burst skyward in a ball of ruddy flame." (Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, Volume VI History of United States Naval Operations in World War II by Samuel Eliot Morison, at pages 216 & 218)
One problem of having a huge industrial base capable of turning out warships at comparatively lightning speed is that sheer numbers produced during a war inhibit further development of those types of warships after the war. Of course most countries would love to have the industrial base to allow mass production of warships but only in the United States was mass production of warships realized to its greatest capacity. At the end of both world wars the USN had a glut of new construction that in effect became a millstone for further development. After all, why should Congress want to fund any new aircraft carriers when the USN still had all of those fine Essex Class ships, not to mention the three big Midway Class already purchased.
In the 1920s the USN was in same situation when it came to new destroyer construction. Congress was not in the mood to fund new destroyer designs. Why fund new destroyer designs when the USN was sitting on 300 perfectly good flush deck destroyers purchased for World War One? After all, most were extremely low mileage and went from the builders straight to reserve, since they were delivered after the war was over. Congress was more than happy to just count numbers and not look a quality or what was being developed for other navies. The staff for the U.S. Navy could not afford to do so. As the 1920s progressed, it was clear that every major navy was making significant advances in destroyer design and capabilities. The Royal Navy, which had their own glut of late war V&W Class ships had started introducing newer more capable designs. France was building some large super-destroyers and most worrisome, Japan had introduced the Fubuki "Special Type" destroyer. Of course the Japanese special became the Japanese standard as Japan saw the manifest silliness of continued building of obsolete designs when you had a superior design on hand. The USN could only watch as Congress simply counted numbers and turned down destroyer construction.
However, the leadership of the USN could do something. If they couldn’t get Congress to fund new construction, at least they could get the different navy boards to submit the characteristics that they would like to see in a new destroyer design. The results were interesting as they reflected different theories of destroyer operations. In early 1927 a base or control design was developed. This design was of 1,600 tons, 34 knots and armed with four long barrel 5-inch/51, one 3-inch/50 AA and twelve 21-inch torpedoes. To get the torpedoes on centerline the base plan called for two six fish mounts with three tubes over and three tubes under in each mount. These plans were sent throughout the fleet to draw comment. Commander of Destroyers liked it and pressed for an immediate lobbying campaign on Congress. However, he wanted to change the guns to 5-inch/25 so that the torpedo fit could be four triple mounts and the main guns could provide AA coverage. Additionally that would free up space because a separate 3-inch AA gun would not be needed. The commander of the battlefleet also liked the concept of the 5-inch/25, the same gun as used on the Treaty Cruisers, as the main armament. He likewise saw that this would greatly augment the fleet’s AA capability. The Bureau of Ordnance also liked the 5-inch/25 as the 4-inch guns on the flushdeckers already could shoot farther than the ability of the destroyers to effectively direct their fire. There was no need for a long range gun if it could not be accurately directed at long range. Ordnance did not like the six-torpedo mount. They considered it far too heavy and urged an improved three-tube mount or a new four-tube mount. Even the Bureau of Aeronautics chimed in with their preferred design. The Airedales wanted a modified flush-deck design with the entire stern dominated by a catapult turntable for two seaplanes. However, the whole exercise came to nothing as Congress turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the navy.
The inter-bureau discussion of optimum characteristics continued. Director of War Plans didn’t like the 5-inch/25 because he felt that ships so armed would be vulnerable to foreign destroyers in a gunfight. Director Fleet Training much preferred the AA abilities of the 5-inch/25 over the anti-surface capabilities of the 5-inch/51. Ordnance had made somewhat of a flip-flop. Now they wanted large destroyers with the 5-inch/51, able to take on the large foreign destroyer designs. However, throughout this there was a group of officers that thought the question of gun caliber was immaterial. For them the reason for the existence and prime power of the destroyer came with its torpedoes.
In 1930 new discussions had broken out concerning three possible designs. One was a destroyer leader of 1,850 tons with four 5-inch/25 guns and two quad torpedo mounts with reloads; a 1,500 design that dropped to two triple mounts and lastly a small 1,375 design that carried triple mounts at waist positions. Since the USN had fielded torpedo squadrons on their carriers, destroyer launched torpedo attacks were seen as much more remote and gunpower to match foreign designs was seen as the prime consideration. Finally in February 1931 Congress funded five new destroyers for the FY32 Program with another three for FY33. This resulted in the Farragut Class, which emphasized surface firepower with five 5-inch/38 as the perfect compromise between the 5-inch/25 and 5-inch/51 crowds as the 38 caliber weapon was exactly half way between the poles. Torpedoes would be carried in two quadruple mounts on centerline. It was with the Farraguts that US designers first started coming so close to the 1,500 ton London Treaty limit for standard destroyers, that further development of the design would be hindered.
The FY34 Program saw a greatly expanded naval program. With the country in a depression and FDR in the White House, the former Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy saw increased naval spending as perfect for not only increasing the navy but also adding jobs. FY34 called for 16 ships in the Mahan Class. The class added a third quadruple set of tubes so that one mount was on centerline and two in side positions. However, the raised centerline mount had problems. Torpedoes fired from that position would sometimes not clear the ship. They would strike the side deck before hitting the water, ruining the torpedo. The torpedo enthusiasts were still not satisfied with this 50% increase in torpedo armament. The next year their dreams would come true and for two years the Torpedo School would reign triumphant over the gun club.
Originally FY35 called for another twelve destroyers based on the Mahan design but it would work out differently. Two of the twelve were indeed slightly improved Mahans, as the Fanning and Dunlap, the big difference being totally enclosed forward guns. However, the other ten became the torpedo-man’s dream, designs that emphasized the torpedo over the gun. Bethlehem Steel of Quincy, Massachusetts developed a design that dropped the guns to four 5-inch/38 but in turn added a fourth quadruple 21-inch torpedo mounts with two mounts on each side. To increase deck space the design carried only one stack with massive trunks carrying the exhaust from the boilers to the stack. Bethlehem received an order for two of these ships, Gridley DD-380 and Craven DD-382. The Torpedo School had developed new combat theories to fire all sixteen torpedoes en masse. Called "curved ahead fire" the eight torpedoes on the unengaged side would have their gyros set to have the torpedoes run in a semicircle ahead or behind the firing ship, so that in theory, one of these torpedo-men’s delights could fire a massive volley of sixteen torpedoes. In theory it looked good but by the summer of 1942 with the defects of American torpedoes apparent, if I were the skipper of one of the four mount destroyers, I would have had a severe case of the willies in setting the torpedoes available at that time to circle ahead of my ship. But that was in the future, what mattered at the time was that the torpedo enthusiasts finally had the destroyer that they thought was optimized for offensive action. Further with all mounts positioned on the wings, there was no problem of torpedoes clearing the side of the ship.
However, the other eight 1,500-tonners of the FY35 Program were to be built to plans prepared by the Bureau of Construction and Repair. These plans, although they generally agreed with the Bethlehem plans had some differences. This group of a slightly different design created some confusion. Were they to be in the same class as the Gridley and Craven or were they to be a different class. The navy determined that the eight units of the Bagley Class DD-386 through 393 were listed as a different class from the Gridley. In appearance the Gridleys had much less prominent uptakes or trunks and they were configured in an asymmetrical arrangement. In contrast the Bagleys had a huge set of symmetrical uptakes, trunked very high at the stack. The Gridley stack was also slightly wider and flatter. The Bagleys had the most prominent stack trunking of any USN destroyer. As it turned out there were other significant differences in stability between the two variants, that played a large role during World War Two. The FY36 Program added another twelve 1,500-tonners this time in two variants. Another two ships of the Gridley design were built by Bethlehem, San Francisco with McCall DD-400 and Maury DD-401. This completed the Gridley Class with a total of four units.
The other ten 1,500-tonners were of a new design of Gibbs and Cox based on the same hull lines as the Gridley and classified as the Benham Class DD-397-399 and DD-402-408. The Benhams had exactly the same gun and torpedo armament as the Gridley and Bagley designs. However, appearance changed in that the size of the stack trunking and stack decreased because only three boilers were shipped rather than the four of the two earlier designs. With the Benham Class the reign of the torpedo-men ended. For two years, through three classes, there were 22 destroyers built by the USN that featured the same armament arrangement of four 5-inch guns and sixteen 21-inch torpedoes in four quad wing mounts, four Gridleys, eight Bagleys and ten Benhams. Before the war the Benhams appear to have had the open spaces between their uptake trunks faired over to present a solid pyramid structure for the base of the stack. The FY37 design went back to a compromise between the gun school and the torpedo school. The Sims Class reverted to the three quadruple tube arrangement of the Mahan Class and reintroduced the fifth 5-inch gun position. However, as a sop to the torpedo-men provisions were made for limited reloads. Also with the signing on the London Treaty in 1935 a more robust hull could be provided than the earlier designs that had been constrained by the 1,500-ton limit. Although, there was an overall cap, the individual designs were now allowed to go up to 3,000 tons.
All of the 22 1,500-ton four quad torpedo mount destroyers were initially equipped with four .50 machine guns, which future events would prove to be totally ineffective. The Benhams had originally been earmarked for the Atlantic where ASW was the predominant feature. To augment their ASW capabilities two of the four torpedo mounts were landed and ASW Y guns substituted in their place on some of them in 1941. By February 1941 it was obvious through the British experiences, that the AA fit of USN destroyers was woefully deficient. An interim solution was to mount one 1.1-inch quadruple gun to all of the modern destroyers. However, the three classes of four torpedo mount 1,500-tonners was incapable of handling this modification because of weight/stability problems. As twin 40mm Bofors became more available in 1942 and 1943 changes were made. The four Gridleys couldn’t even take those and through the war were the only class of US destroyers to carry only 20mm Oerlikons as their AA defense, exclusive of the DP 5-inch/38. The Bagleys were fitted with one twin 40mm Bofors mount on the aft superstructure with six single Oerlikons, three in front of the bridge and three aft of the funnel. Because two of the torpedo mounts of the Benhams had already been removed to augment ASW capabilities, that class was capable of receiving two twin 40mm Bofors mounts on the aft superstructure, plus four Oerlikons, two in front of the bridge and two aft of the stack.
In 1942 the USN destroyer force was tied down, limited by first the strategic situation and then by employment tactics. For the first 2/3rds of 1942 destroyers were limited to escorting carriers and other heavier surface ships. The USN was purely on the defense, reacting to Japanese moves. That situation was dramatically reversed at the Battle of Midway, when the USN reacted to the Japanese offense and sank four of their best carriers. It was not until the invasion of Guadacanal in August 1942 that the USN went on the offensive. However, the tactical deployment of the USN destroyers was constrained to that of escorts for US cruisers and battleships in the savage series of sea battles around the island. They usually formed the forward or rear part of the USN battleline and suffered tremendous losses primarily to the Japanese torpedo. USN radar was still in its infancy and for 1942 the excellent Japanese optics and 24-inch Long Lance torpedo dominated the barroom fights between destroyers. Additionally American torpedo performance was abysmal. The torpedoes were deficient, often running erratically when fired, more of a danger to the American tin cans than the Japanese and when they did hit, more often failed to explode. While being tied to American cruisers, the Blue and Jarvis of the Bagley Class were lost, along with the Benham. The situation for the US destroyer changed dramatically in 1943. By February 6, 1943 the Battle for Guadacanal was over and Admiral Halsey started planning for a push into the central Solomon Islands. In a meeting with General Mac Arthur Halsey agreed to coordinate his offensive into the central Solomons with MacArther’s offensive in New Guinea, so there developed a lull or breathing space until June 1943 when Halsey started moving north up the Slot of the Solomons chain. There were a series of battles in which the destroyer still served primarily as escorts to heavier ships but that changed in August 1943.
The Torpedo School did have one major triumph with their pet 16-torpedo designs. That occurred in the Battle of Vella Gulf on 6-7 August 1943. The destroyers were finally cut loose from the apron strings of cruisers and battleships. Instead of being merely escorts for the larger ships in line ahead formation, the destroyers were allowed to act independently of the heavier ships. Admiral Wilkinson, who had replaced Admiral Tuner in July, expected another run of the Tokyo Express to the Island of Kolombangara but had no cruisers available to intercept the Japanese force. He did have Commander Frederick Moosbrugger with a force of six prewar destroyers, comprising Destroyer Division 12 and part of Division 15. Organized as TG 31.2, Moosbrugger’s six destroyers set out for the interception in two divisions. Division A1 was Moosbrugger in the improved Mahan USS Dunlap with Maury DD-401 and Craven DD-382 of the Gridley Class and Division A2 comprised of Lang, Sterett and Stack of the Benham Class. The two Gridleys still had all sixteen of their torpedo mounts but the three Benhams had lost half their load as two of their torpedo mounts had been landed in 1941 for increased ASW weapons and then further modified with the addition of two twin 40mm Bofors mounts. In a conference Wilkinson told Moosbrugger that the Japanese appeared to have better torpedoes but that American gun fire was superior, so it might be better to engage at long range. However, Wilkenson wisely left the tactics up to his field commander, Moosbrugger, as he would be the man on the spot. The only area dictated by Wilkenson was the path of the approach but everything else was left to Moosbrugger’s discretion. The exact nature of the Japanese 24-inch Long Lance torpedo was still unknown but it had been obvious for some time that the Japanese possessed a significant advantage in torpedo warfare.
For his part Moosbrugger was confident in his ships and crew. They had been training for radar controlled night torpedo attacks in Division 12 since May 1941 and he felt that his boys could beat the Japanese at their own game. Moosbrugger separated his two divisions by about two miles, with the three Benhams trailing slightly. The plan was to have division A1 strike first with torpedoes if the Japanese were in destroyers or cruisers, followed up by a punch from division A2. If the Japanese were in barges division A2 would take the lead with gunfire as the three Benhams in that division were each equipped with two of the new 40mm Bofor twin mounts, which they figured would be ideal for chewing up the Japanese Daihatsu barges.
The six American tin cans pushed off for the north at 1130 6 August 1943. At this time four Japanese destroyers were running at high speed to the southeast and were still north of Bougainville. Hagikaze, Arashi and Kawakaze were carrying 900 army troops and 50 tons of supplies, followed by the good luck ship Shigure with 250 troops. Their mission under Captain Kaju Sugiura was to land their army brethren at the island of Kolombangara in the central Solomons. Although spotted by American reconnaissance planes, he still planned to be in the Vella Gulf at Kolombangara by 2330. As night fell, there was no moon for illumination and there were periodic rain squalls. Conditions were ideal for the radar of the USN destroyers and abysmal for the lookouts of the Japanese destroyers. By 2323 Moosbrugger and Company were in the Vella Gulf hugging the west coast of Kolombangara. At 2333 the radar of Dunlap picked up a pip in the open waters of the Gulf at 19,700 yards and the pip split into three as they drew closer. Moosbrugger alerted his other cans. "Radarman Savage in Dunlap sounded off: ‘Four in column – I see ‘em! I see ‘em!’ Four ships were heading south at between 25 and 30 knots." (Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, Volume VI History of United States Naval Operations in World War II by Samuel Eliot Morison, at page 215) Clearly these were not barges and Moosbrugger put his first plan in operation. It would be a text book radar controlled torpedo attack but not at long range as suggested by Admiral Wilkenson.
As the columns closed, American torpedo-men continued in making fine adjustments to their mounts. At 2340 the range had dropped to 8,000 yards. With the high closing speed within a minute the range was down to 6,000 yards and Moosbrugger was ready. "Fire torpedoes!" went to the three torpedo carriers of his division. Dunlap, Craven and Maury each launched eight fish at the unsuspecting Japanese. Because of the widely known previous failures of American torpedoes, the magnetic exploders had been disconnected. Moosbrugger would do it the old fashioned way, by contact. Flash suppressers on the tubes hid the powder flash of the torpedoes shooting from the mounts. "On board the Japanese destroyers, everyone except the watch relaxed at battle stations, expecting that if any Yanks were out that night they would be riding PT boats near the entrance of the Blackett Strait, still far away. On deck the shrill whine of the fireroom blowers discouraged conversation. Soldiers weighed down with packs squatted on their haunches and dozed." (Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, Volume VI History of United States Naval Operations in World War II by Samuel Eliot Morison, at page 216)
One minute later a lookout on the Hagikaze spotted a black shape against the lighter gray of the Kolombangara coast. Lookouts on the other three Japanese destroyers also quickly chimed in that there were American PT boats out in the dark. A minute passed and the order was given to swing to the starboard. On Shigure the order went out to ready her torpedoes but the torpedo operator was asleep and the torpedo crew away from their posts on lookout duty. When the American torpedo wakes were spotted it was too late, they were too close. One or two fish hit the fireroom of Hagikaze and two to three tore into the fireroom of Arashi. As Kawakaze tried to claw free, an American fish ignited her forward magazine in a pyrotechnic display. Shigure was always a good luck ship and her crew watched helplessly as the torpedo wakes grew closer but went under the ship without making contact. At 2345 Shigure fired eight of her Long Lances and retired behind a smoke screen to reload. However, the American destroyers were long gone from the area combed by the Japanese torpedo barrage.
The three Benhams of division A2 under the command of Commander Rodger Simpson now moved in for the second of the one-two punch. "Simpson, itching to whack the Japanese, spun his column left to a southwest heading, capping the enemy ‘T’ and thus unwittingly steering clear of Shigure torpedoes." At 2346 the first explosion was head aboard the American ships and then a light show sprung up on the horizon, as explosion after explosion rippled from left to right. "Shapes of enemy destroyers stood up against the bright flames like paper cutouts." (Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, Volume VI History of United States Naval Operations in World War II by Samuel Eliot Morison, at page 218) This was the signal for Simpson and the three Benhams opened up with their 5-inch/38s. The first target was only three miles away and Stack also threw the four torpedoes of her starboard mount at the hapless Kawakaze, already missing her bow. She quickly rolled over and went down.
As Simpson was pummeling the Japanese with gun fire, Moosbrugger entered the gunfight from the east with Maury in the lead. The Japanese fired wildly and ineffectually at what they thought was an attack of PTs, destroyers, cruisers and even aircraft. By 2400 the Japanese guns were silent as the Americans continued to pump shells into Arashi and Hagikaze. By 0010 the Shigure was heading back south for the engagement with her torpedo tubes reloaded. But then the magazine of Arashi erupted in another light show. The captain heard a PBY Black Cat and thought that the force was also under air attack. Against these odds he thought that Shigure had no chance, so he turned north and steamed away from the carnage. The Japanese captain believed that one of the burning ships was an American destroyer hit by his torpedoes. At 0018 the remaining hulk of Hagikaze also experienced a magazine explosion and the Battle of Vella Gulf was suddenly over. Simpson had been instructed by Moosbrugger to pick up survivors for interrogation but each time that he approached a group, they would swim away. At 0200 Simpson gave up and turned his three Benhams south behind division A1 for the trek south down the Slot. For the Americans, they thought that they had sunk three destroyers and a cruiser. When Shigure slid into Buin Harbor, in addition to reporting that she had sunk an American destroyer, she wildly over-estimated the American attacking force as cruisers, seven destroyers, PT Boats and air attack.
In reality the American losses were one broken feed-pump on Maury and one gun loader’s hand crushed in Lang, both through accident and not enemy action. Japanese losses were three modern destroyers, two of them Hagikaze and Arashi, less than two years old, plus over 1,500 soldiers and sailors killed. The totally lopsided American victory was all the Torpedo School could have hoped for back in 1935, when they pushed for the Gridleys, Bagleys and Benhams. Vella Gulf also marked the first battle in which American destroyers were sent in alone, without escorting larger ships. It was the first of several battles in the Central Solomons in which the radar of American destroyers proved significantly superior than the excellent optics of their Japanese foe in a total reversal of the Guadacanal fighting in 1942. Later that year the Little Beavers of Captain Arleigh "31-Knot" Burke, commander Destroyer Squadron 23, would become even more famous for his actions in support of light cruisers at the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay on November 2, 1943 and with his own lopsided destroyer victory at the Battle of Cape St. George on November 25, 1943.
The Battle of Vella Gulf was indeed the high point of the prewar Gridley, Bagley and Benhams. As 1943 transitioned into 1944 the nature of the duties of the destroyer began to shift. The big Essex Class carriers were entering the fleet and the USN finally had the naval aviation necessary to make the big moves. Although there were still gun duels ahead at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, aviation would come to totally dominate the Pacific fighting. In this capacity and especially after the arrival of the Kamikaze, AA protection and escort would be the dominating feature for USN destroyers. In this changed environment the prewar Gridleys, Bagleys, and Benhams were ill-suited because of their original construction constraints. The four Gridleys were uniquely ham strung. Because of the very tight original design up to the 1,500-ton displacement cap, the Gridleys were the only modern destroyers that could not be fitted with 40mm Bofors guns. Their maximum AA fit was eight 20mm Oerlikons and to achieve even this two torpedo mounts had to be landed. Their near sisters, the USN designed Bagleys and Gibbs-Cox designed Benhams were better off but hardly ideal.
With the Japanese introduction of the Kamikaze, the USN relooked at each class of destroyer with an eye to maximizing their AA defenses. These were called the Kamikaze fit. Nothing could be done for the Gridleys, as their design could not handle anything greater than the eight 20mm fit. With the Bagleys it was determined that if all four quadruple torpedo mounts were landed, an additional ten 40mm guns could be added to the existing twin 40mm mount. This involved cutting down the aft superstructure to accommodate two quad Bofors with two twin Bofors position forward of them. Oerlikon complement would be reduced to two twin mounts in front of the bridge. However, none of the Bagleys were so fitted and they ended the war as the only class still carrying their four 21-inch torpedo mounts. For the Benhams, as mentioned earlier they had already landed two of their quadruple mounts in 1941 for additional ASW assets and in turn for the addition of two twin 40mm mounts. Their Kamikaze fit amounted to landing the other two torpedo mounts to add an additional two twin 40mm positions, plus four twin Oerlikon mounts. Three of the Benhams were so modified with Lang, Sterett and Wilson receiving the conversion. If the Battle of Vella Gulf was the high point of the torpedo attack school of thought, two years later it had been completely eclipsed by the need for AA protection.
The prewar 1,500-ton destroyers did not long survive the war. With a glut of large Fletcher, Sumner and Gearing war time construction, there certainly was no need to retain ships built under the artificial 1,500-ton London Treaty constraints. All four Gridleys survived the war and went to the scrapyard in 1946 and 1947. The Bagleys had lost three of their eight, Blue, Henley and Jarvis, during the war. Of the five survivors, Mugford and Ralph Talbot were earmarked for expenditure in the Bikini A-Bomb tests and the other three broken up in 1947. The ten Benhams had lost two in the war, Benham and Rowan. Four of the survivors, Mayrant, Trippe, Rhind and Stack were sent to the Bikini tests with the other four placed for disposal between late 1945 to 1947. After the Bikini tests in 1948 there were no more of the 22 torpedo-man’s dreams in existence. (History from Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, Volume VI History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1950, by Samuel Eliot Morison; U.S.Destroyers, An Illustrated Design History, 1982, by Norman Friedman; United States Navy Destroyers of World War II, 1983, by John C. Reilly, Jr.; United States Destroyer Operations in World War Two, 1953, by Theodore Roscoe)
Midship Models Gridley
One of the most frequently seen questions in regard to the Midship destroyer kits is, "What year is their fit?" With any of these kits the answer is frankly, "Have it Your Way." All four kits contain the identical two sprues of parts. On those two sprues you’ll find a wide array of optional parts that allow for a prewar fit, A 1942 fit, a 1943 fit and even, with some modifications, a late war fit. What is unique to each kit are the box art and enclosed instructions. As an example, the instructions for the Gridley show the assembly of the prewar Gridley with no Oerlikons or Bofors and yet the parts are there to replicate a multitude of wartime fits to a certain extent.
Midship has been extremely ambitious and daring in providing multiple options for three classes of US prewar destroyers with this kit. So, did Midship achieve its goal? With some caveats, the answer is yes. All three classes had basically the same hull with differences measured in inches. The three classes all had two enclosed forward 5-inch/38 turrets and two open aft 5-inch/38 mounted in the same location. All three classes were originally fitted with four wing mounted quadruple 21-inch torpedo mounts, again mounted in the same location. The forward superstructure was the same. The initial differences among the three classes came in the form of aft superstructure arrangement and the size and shape of the single stack with its uptake trunking. For the aft superstructure, Midship provides optional structure to replicate the three classes. However, there is a slight divergence when it comes to the parts for the stack/trunking. The ship’s sprue comes with two sets of stacks and uptake trunking and yet each class had a unique trunk design.
For the eight ships of the USN designed Bagley Class, the parts are dead on. Even though the Bagleys were USN derivatives of the Bethlehem Gridley design, the stack and trunking were different from the four Gridleys. The stack uptakes/trunk arrangement was much bigger and more distinctive than that found in the Gridleys or Benhams. They had indeed the largest and most distinctive trunks of any class of US destroyers. The trunks of the Bagleys are present in the Midship parts assortment/options, so with the optional parts discussed later on, any of the eight Bagleys should be able to be modeled from prewar appearance to, with some research, a late war Bagley. For the ten ships of the Benham Class the optional parts are there but probably need minor modifications. The Benhams used three boilers instead of four but the optional Benham stack trunks have four uptakes instead of three. It is possible that the Benhams used four uptakes for the three boilers but I make the assumption that there was one uptake per boiler and I have not seen a plan of the deck arrangement, so I could be wrong. However, that should be a moot point. The uptake trunks of the Benhams were quickly faired over to create a solid pyramid shaped base for the stack, which was significantly smaller than the massive trunks of the Bagley Class. Midship provides separate optional parts for this smaller Benham trunk and stack but the Midship trunk part shows separated uptakes, rather than the single faired over base. This is simple to change by either filling and sanding the gaps separating the trunks with putty or by using very thin plastic sheet to place a fairing over the trunk base and sanding the seams. It is with the four ship Gridley Class that I had the greatest quandary. In the Midship USS Gridley kit, the instructions show that the same stack/trunk is used as on the Bagleys. Yet on the subject of the Gridleys, Norman Friedman states at page 91 in U.S. Destroyers, An Illustrated Design History, "They could be distinguished from the Bagley class by their much less prominent uptakes." But how were they different? You can compare the line drawings in the Friedman book of Maury DD-401 Gridley Class at page 101 with that of Ralph Talbot DD-390 Bagley Class at page 102. That comparison clearly shows that the Gridley uptakes were less high and less prominent than that of the Bagleys and yet the profile doesn’t show the overall design. Photographs did not shed much light on the subject. However, I was fortunate to locate the deck plans for the USS McCall DD-400, the third Gridley. The deck plan for McCall is reproduced from BuCR #276321. Since these are official Bureau of Construction and Repair plans of one of the Gridleys they present strong evidence that the four Gridleys had an asymmetrical trunk arrangement. Two trunks run directly into the side of the stack base through short trunks from the portside. However, there is a different arrangement on the starboard. On the starboard there are long low trunks running forward and aft to uptakes slightly to the starboard of centerline. Since McCall and Maury were the last two Gridleys from Bethlehem San Francisco in the FY36 Program, this arrangement may be different than the arrangement of the first two Gridleys, Gridley and Craven, built by Bethlehem Quincey in the FY35 program but I have no other evidence on the subject. Therefore, I base my conclusion on the BuCR plans and one photograph from page 135 United States Navy Destroyers of World War II by John C. Reilly, Jr. of McCall that seems to confirm the short trunks on the port side, which also reflects that they were not faired over like the trunks in the Benhams. However, some of you may have other references that rebut this assumption. OK, after that rather lengthy discourse, will any of the optional parts in the Midship kit serve as a basis for the asymmetrical Gridley trunk arrangement? Again, I believe the answer is yes. Although I have not tried it, it seems possible to modify the Benham symmetrical trunk to the Gridley asymmetrical trunk. This would involve fairly simple scratch-building/shaping of scrap resin or plastic for the two short port side trunks and a slight lengthening of the starboard forward trunk. This should not be beyond the capabilities of the average modeler. Lastly, it appears that the stack on the Gridleys was slightly bigger and broader than that on the Bagleys.
The Midship hull provides two lines of portholes on the bow. As originally built all three classes did have two lines of portholes but the lowest line was covered over in World War Two. So if you are building a war fit, you should fill and sand the lower line of portholes. At first glance the lower line of portholes appeared very close to the waterline but after considering that you add the base to the hull, roughly analogous to the area of the boot-topping and examining photographs it does appear that this lower line of portholes was very close to the waterline as replicated in the kit. For the most part the injection parts are defect free. The most significant area for cleaning will be where you remove the parts from the sprue, which is true with any injected plastic kit. My copy of the kit is a pre-production copy of the kit, which was produced before the final corrections. I do know that some things shown in the accompanying photographs were corrected in the production run of the kit. As an example, the round port-hole bridge face shows a dimple or sink that would require filling. However, in a conversation with Chris Decker last Friday (October 28), Chris told me that this dimple was corrected in the production run, so if anything, the kit that you receive should be cleaner than this preproduction example. I only found one area where I thought there was a defect in the injection, other than an occasional dimple on some smaller parts. On my sample the sides of the hull at the deck break were a little bit rough but would only require minor sanding, however, this may have been corrected in the production run.
When you examine the ship’s sprue by the versatility and flexibility of these kits. As mentioned Midship provides the optional parts to build almost any of the 22 ships in these three classes in almost any fit in their career. Your only limitations are your references and a modest degree of skill. The sheer number of options sets this kit/kits apart from any other injected plastic kit that I have seen. In addition to two different stack/trunk arrangements, other options include the 01 deck in front of the bridge. On part is for prewar appearance and the other for wartime fits with the presence of two Oerlikon tubs. Three different bridges are provided and two different bridge faces, one with square windows and one with round portholes. There are optional parts/structures for the aft superstructure, depending upon the class and year fit. Some ships carried solid bulkheads on the main deck at the break and some did not. Midship provides those solid bulkheads as optional parts. However, as many optional parts as Midship provides in the Ship Sprue, the second sprue of parts of the Weapons Sprue really opens the floodgate of options.
With the Weapons Sprue Midship throws everything at you. Other than machine guns about any type of weapon system carried by almost every US destroyer class in World War Two is covered in the fret. One exception are the open backed 5-inch/38 mounts carried as #1 and #2 guns in the Farragut and Mahan Classes. The original weapons sprue design had those as well but although the guns are present, the gunshields were destroyed on the master and are not present. Since the Gridley, Bagley and Benham had enclosed forward mounts, there is absolutely no effect on these kits. No matter which ship you select and which fit you select, you’ll find that you will have oodles of spare parts left over for other projects. This kit has over 200 parts but you only use a portion of them, no matter what your choice may be. None of the three classes ever carried quad 40mm Bofors. Although the Kamikaze fit for the Bagleys called for them, none of the Bagleys were ever converted to this fit. The eight single Oerlikon 20mm provided on the fret is enough for a late war Gridley with 8, late war Bagley with 6, or late war Benham with 4 Oerlikons. There are no twin Oerlikon mounts, so you would need these for Kamikaze fits for the three ships of the Benham Class that received this. Four twin 40mm Bofors mounts are provided, which is enough for any of these classes for any fit, including the Kamikaze fit Benhams, which carried four twin 40mm mounts. What about Chicago Pianos, as the 1.1-inch guns were called. Although none of these three classes ever received them, Midship provides two Chicago Pianos on this sprue. As an interesting side-trip, you’ll find some guns that may stump you. When I looked at the Weapons Sprue, I was stumped by part #7. There are actually three of this part that look like miniatures of the 1.1-inch gun mount. I was puzzled. What were they? Machine guns? I had never seen them arranged four in a row. So when I talked to Chris Decker, I asked what ere these guns. Chris told me what happened. When the weapons sprue design was originally sent to the plastic injection company, there was a mix up and the 1.1-inch guns were reproduced in 1:1400 scale, as well as some other parts. Of course at extra expense to Chris, he had the entire sprue redone to the correct sizes. Since there was some spare room left on the weapons sprue, he decided to throw in three of the 1:1400 Chicago Pianos, as some what of an odd bonus. However, that does open up a new field for those that collect and modify 1:1250 scale models.
There are four enclosed 5-inch/38 and four open mount 5-inch/38 guns. I especially like the platform and gun detail on the open mounts, which look as good as or superior to resin versions that I have seen. The barrels for the enclosed mounts also have very nicely rendered blast bags. Other finely detailed parts are depth charge racks, 5-inch gun director, quad torpedo tubes with separate cupolas and of course the twin and quad Bofors. The Bofors even have a spiral recoil mechanism reflected rather than the more common practice of showing them as a set of rings. Other fine small parts are the numerous Carley rafts, searchlights and paravanes. There are clearly some parts that could better be represented with photo-etch. Number one of these is the aft searchlight tower (Part A19a), which is represented by a solid tower, rather than a lattice tower. Of course there is a simple answer for this in a generic USN destroyers fret, available from Toms Modelworks and also probably Gold Medal Models. The Oerlikons are a little too thick for my taste as are the boat davits, so that even though I like the three-dimensional aspect of the plastic parts, I would be tempted to replace them with photo-etched Oerlikons. Lastly, the barrels of the twin Bofors, quad Bofors and quad 1.1-ich AA are on the thick side but can be reduced though some gentle sanding. I probably not replace these because I really like the detail on these Midship parts, especially the two flavors of Bofors. All in all the Midship Weapons Sprue presents a truly comprehensive approach to the weapons systems and other fittings of USN destroyers.
Instructions & Decals
White Ensign Models Colourcoat lines, so there is no guessing as to what shade of paint to buy. The front page also includes the statistics of the prewar Gridley and listing of sisterships, although the Gridleys and Bagleys are lumped together. The listing also fails to show the FY36 Gridleys, McCall DD-400 and Maury DD-401. The bottom of the sheet shows the subassembly of the open 5-inch, enclosed 5-inch, torpedo mounts, stack (Bagley stack shown) and gun director. The reverse of the directions has the main assembly drawings. One of the two isometric drawings shows attachment of superstructure parts and the second shows attachment of weapons and fittings. The attachment of some of the smaller fittings, such as the cable reels on the Weapons Sprue are not shown. Since this was the prewar Gridley, these instructions did not have all of the additional fittings added during the war, such as augmented AA and Carley floats. Although the instructions could have a little more detail, it is a good first effort with hign production qualities and should not confuse the modeler.
In keeping with their "Have it Your Way" motif, Midship includes a very comprehensive set of decals printed by Microscale. As with the ships sprue and weapons sprue, Midship provides about anything you could want. The sheet includes a full set of signal flags, two national ensigns, a jack, prewar large shaded numbers, two smaller shaded number sets, wartime small numbers in white in three sizes and black in two sizes. The only items not provided are ship’s names.