Launched in Quincy, Massachusetts at the
Fore River Shipyard of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation on September 23,
1941, U.S.S. Massachusetts
- soon known to her crew as "Big Mamie" - was commissioned in May 1942.
Completing her shakedown period just in time to participate in the North
African landings, "Big Mamie" became the first American battleship to engage
an enemy battleship since the Spanish-American War, when she engaged in a
long-range gun battle with the unfinished French battleship
which was moored to a pier. Five hits from the American ship put the French
opponent out of action, but the American shells had similar problems to that
which plagued American torpedoes, as evidenced by the fact that
- which should have been knocked out by the hits - went on to be completed
joined the Pacific Fleet in February 1943. She saw action in the New Guinea-Solomons
area and participated in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November
1943, the invasion of the Marshall Islands in January 1944, the powerful
strikes against Truk in February 1944, and a series of raids against
Japanese bases in the Western Pacific and Asia.
Following modernization in Bremerton,
returned to action in September 1944 with the invasion of Palau and acted as
an escort for the fast carrier task forces using her 5", 40mm, and 20mm guns
to defend the carriers against enemy aircraft.
The one big chance for the American
dreadnoughts to face a similar enemy came in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in
October, 1944. Had Admiral Willis Leeís Task Force 34 been left behind by
Halsey and been standing off the exit of San Bernardino strait on the
morning of October 25, 1944, history might have recorded the greatest battle
between surface ships in history. Instead, the battleships went with Task
Force 38 when the fast carriers took the Japanese bait and left the invasion
area to strike the useless Japanese carriers off Cape Engano, leaving the
invasion forces to face the Japanese battle fleet on their own. To an
extent, this was the unfortunate result of the over-claiming done by the USS
during the Battle of Santa Cruz in October 1942, when the ship claimed 50+
Japanese aircraft shot down and fixed in the minds of the carrier admirals
(who wanted to displace battleships as the head of the fleet) that
battleships were primarily useful for air defense of aircraft carriers and
softening up invasion beaches.
In 1945, "Big Mamie" supported the invasions
of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In July 1945, in company with her classmates USS
Alabama and USS South Dakota, Massachusetts bombarded the Imperial Iron and
Steel Works at Kamaishi, following up with the bombardment of a factory at
Hamamatsu. When the task group returned to Kamaishi,
fired the last American 16" projectile of the war.
Trumpeter is doing a good job of releasing models
of lesser-known - but still famous - ships, and their release of the South
Dakota class after the Washington class marks the first time these handsome
progenitors of the mighty Iowa class have been done in injection plastic.
Comprising more than 400 crisply-molded parts in light grey, with a red
plastic lower hull, the kit is a real "jigsaw puzzle" but there is nothing
so difficult that patience and skill will not reward the modeler with a
As with most ship models, the kit really benefits
from use of photoetch for railings, ladders, cranes and the aircraft
catapults. Fortunately Tomís Modelworks makes a very good photoetch set that
has instructions that fully lay out the detail differences between the three
ships of the class, allowing a modeler to use the kit to do any of them.
Trumpeter has also released a kit of the U.S.S. Alabama, but when I examined
it I didnít see any real differences between it and this kit.
As best I could determine from studying
photographs, this kit makes up into USS Massachusetts as she looked
following her modernization at Bremerton in the late summer of 1944.
Trumpeterís instructions say to assemble the
entire ship above the waterline before attaching the lower hull. THIS IS
WRONG!!! The one place where these kits have a serious fit problem is with
the fitting of the upper hull to the lower. This is best done at the outset,
before there are any decks attacked, so that the modeler can work that joint
from inside and outside to get it as right as possible. Even then one will
use cyanoacrylate glue to fill the seam and a substantial amount of Mr.
Surfacer 500 (assuming you can find it in stores any more) to smooth the
For me, construction and painting of a ship go
hand in hand. After the hull was together and the deck attached, I painted
the lower hull with Tamiya "Hull Red," then masked it off, painted the black
dividing line, masked it off, and then painted the hull camouflage. I used Xtracrylix "Compass Grey" and "Extra-Dark Sea Grey" throughout this project.
With the dark grey color masked off, I then painted the light grey.
I painted the main deck parts using Gunze-Sangyo
"Navy Blue" for the stain of the wood decking, and Xtracrylix "Extra-Dark
Sea Grey" for the metal parts of the deck. I also used the Gunze color for
the stained 01 deck.
I then assembled the main parts of the separate
superstructure sections, the main gun turrets and the 5-inch turrets. I
painted all these parts, the superstructure bulkhead parts, the deck parts
and the 20mm and 40mm guns and mounts with "Compass Grey," then hand-painted
the deck areas with "Extra Dark Sea Grey," which is easy to do since
Xtracrylix is a very easy paint to use with a brush. I finally shot a
thinned mixture of Tamiya "smoke" to pop out detail.
Once all the painting was done, I assembled the
superstructure, starting from the main deck and working my way up. The
hardest part of any of this was attaching the various gun tubs and splinter
shields for the light AA weapons. As I went along, I attached the photo-etch
railing and ladders as appropriate. This was considerably easier than any
other work with photoetch I have done, since I used Gator Glue, which allows
the parts time to position, doesnít glue parts to your fingers, and dries
hard fairly quickly.
I then assembled the main turrets and the 5-inch
turrets, and the 40mm mounts. I used white glue for the canvas blast covers
on the 5-inch mounts.
The photoetch catapults and cranes were a little
time consuming to construct, but were easily assembled with Gator Glue, and
look vastly better than the injection plastic parts they replace.
When all this was done, I gave everything a coat
of Xtracrylix varnish.
I attached the masts and radars. The photoetch
tops for the masts are another vast improvement over the plastic parts, as
are the radar antennas.
I attached the 5-inch mounts next. These are all
displayed aimed out and up, per a photo of USS Massachusetts at the end of
the war, and make for a very nice display. I then attached the main turrets,
which are left in overall Compass Grey and do not have the
surface in dark grey as the kit painting instructions would have them - that
scheme is completely post-war, and all the wartime photos I could find of
"Big Mamie" show these turrets and the 5-inch mounts in overall light grey.
I then attached the 40mm mounts, and proceeded on
to the most time-consuming part of the whole project, which was attaching
the splinter shields to the 20mm cannon and then getting them properly
positioned. I finished off by attaching the cranes and catapults.
The OS2U Kingfisher airplanes are pretty accurate
for 1/350 models, I painted them with Xtracolor white, "Blue Grey," fort he
intermediate blue and "Intermediate Blue" for the dark upper color, which
allowed for "scale effect" on these small models. Unfortunately, the
kit-supplied decals are worthless. I used Starfighter Decalsí 1/350 US
insignia set, which provides several different sizes of insignia so you can
get the right ones for wings and fuselage positions. These decals are
printed on an ALPS, and are very good, though you have to be careful since
they do not have separate backing for each insignia. The photoetch catapult
mounts made attaching the airplanes in their correct position easy.
The last thing I did was attach the screws, which
were painted with ModelMaster Metalizer "Brass."
I am sure that the for-real "ship guys" can go
into detail about any detail inaccuracies of the kit, as I could with an
airplane model. But for me, I know no one who ever looks at the model will
ever know that sort of information, so I need only worry about the fact
is a very impressive-looking model in the end. I have to say that given my
relative lack of "advanced modeler knowledge" about the kit, I had a lot of
fun doing a model that looks "close enough," and am starting to think that -
once one gets past the issue of major shape accuracy - the philosophy of
"Looks like a (insert designation here) to me" isnít really such a bad
thing. Itís a good cure for AMS. I only took about a month to do this model,
which is proof that the learning curve softens as one gets a bit more skill
into the work.
Overall, I really like the model, and like the
response of those who have seen it out on display in the living room
bookcase. Doing a project like this is the best antidote I can think of to
both AMS and the boredom that sets in if one does the same kinds of models
over and over.
I really hope Trumpeter does a
class heavy cruiser in 1/350 soon, and perhaps a model of the battle
Thanks to Stevens International for the review