Trumpeter 1/700 USS Minneapolis
KIT #: 05744
PRICE: @ 20 € in Germany
DECALS: one option
REVIEWER: Frank Spahr


The last class of USN heavy cruisers to follow the specifications of the Washington Naval Treaty, the seven vessels of the New Orleans class embodied the inevitable compromises necessitated by designing to a tonnage limit. Nonetheless, every new ship in the class received some improvements as they became available -  and they would need all they could get. Completed in the mid-1930ies, these vessels bore the brunt of fighting in the early years of war in the Pacific. Three of the seven vessels in the class were lost in the Battle of Savo Island, three others survived catastrophic battle damage due to excellent damage control and the bravery of their crews. USS Minneapolis at Tassafaronga

The succession of naval engagements during the campaign for Guadalcanal 1942/43 was every bit as fierce and costly as the fighting on the island. The sound between Guadalcanalīs north coast and the islands of Savo and Florida was duly named Ironbottom Sound after the numerous vessels lost there during the campaign.

Wikipedia has a most informative map of the area listing the wrecks: 

You will find USS Minneapolis listed there, and this is correct, as part of her still rests off Tulagi, and is accessible to divers. Minneapolis belonged to TF 67 under Adm. Carleton H. Wright, deployed into Ironbottom Sound on the night of 30 November, 1942. This force consisted of five cruisers and four destroyers, equipped with radar and made aware by Allied intelligence that a Japanese supply convoy was expected for that night.  

The Japanese on Guadalcanal experienced a serious supply crisis at the time. They resorted to convoys of destroyers making nighttime round trips from their base at the Shortlands to Guadalcanal and back, in order to avoid daytime  attacks by Allied planes based on Guadalcanal (the legendary CAF or Cactus Air Force). That night, six destroyers towing oil drums filled with urgent supplies took the trip, with two more destroyers escorting them. The oil drums were to be cut loose off Guadalcanal and be retrieved by swimmers or small craft.

The superior US force detected the Japanese convoy with radar and prepared to engage them. Only six minutes later, the Japanese visually detected the US ships and also prepared for battle. Excellent optical equipment and expertly trained personnel sometimes made up for the Japanese lack of radar in nighttime engagements. In the ensuing battle, the US ships used both guns and torpedoes, whereas the Japanese solely relied on their excellent Long Lance torpedoes, of which 44 were launched. The US ships quickly sunk the nearest Japanese destroyer Takanami by gunfire, but the 24 US torpedoes either missed or malfunctioned.

The Japanese ships retreated a little later after searching for the stricken Takanami; in the meantime, their torpedoes wreaked havoc in the US line. In all, four cruisers were hit, with one of them (Northampton) lost. New Orleans was hit by a torpedo near her #1 turret. The catastrophic explosion of both the forward magazine and the aviation fuel store severed her bow right at #2 turretīs barbette, killing everybody in both front turrets and ahead of that point, all in all 183 men. Pensacola lost 125 men after a torpedo hit her abreast her main mast. Listing and burning and with her port drive shaft gone, she was also out of the battle. Minneapolis received two torpedoes. Hitting her bow a bit ahead from the point of impact on New Orleans, the explosion was slightly less devastating, nonetheless 37 of her crew perished. Her bow collapsed and folded down at an angle of 70°. A second torpedo hit her amidships, knocking out three of her four boiler rooms and leaving her dead in the water.

As mentioned above, only utmost bravery and excellent damage control work saved the three cruisers. Minneapolis was towed to the nearby PT boat base of Tulagi on the coast of Florida Island and moored there. Getting her away from this extremely dangerous location was paramount, so emergency repairs were carried out immediately, assisted by Tulagi īs Seabees. The ship was camouflaged with palm fronds, her folded bow was cut away and left to sink at the anchorage, where it remains to this day. The open cross section of her bow right ahead of the chainpipes was provisionally closed with steel girders and sections of palm trees. These emergency repairs completed, she was withdrawn from the frontline. After her bow had been plated over in a more orthodox manner, she sailed across the Pacific to Pearl Harbour, where a new bow was fitted. From there she proceeded to Mare Island Naval Yard for further repairs and a thorough refit.

By August, 1943 she returned to the front line and participated in virtually all major naval engagements that followed, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Guam, the Battle of Surigao Strait and the Okinawa campaign. After having her gun barrels relined at Bremerton Navy Yard in April 1945, she returned to the war zone. Minneapolis was the site of the surrender of Japanese forces in Korea; after the war, she took part in Operation Magic Carpet. In 1946, she was placed in reserve, the year after she was decommissioned finally. She was scrapped in 1959.


Trumpeter has produced several kits of this class, both in 1:350 and 1:700. I have several of the small scale kits and have compared them. They are so designed as to represent the individual vessel rather accurately, with different main turrets, superstructures, boat and float fits and the like. This kit is finely molded with credible detail in Trumpeterīs usual way with a waterline plate and optional lower hull. Deck planking detail is obviously exaggerated, yet looks correct nonetheless. We should always bear in mind that a kit should primarily look right when viewed in real life with the naked eye. Hence most close ups of 1:700 kits will look disappointing, with imperfections showing up and effects overdone – at least as far as my models are concerned ;-)

The two float planes are molded in clear styrene, not a favorite of mine and not really necessary with planes with open cockpits. Frankly speaking, using brittle clear styrene for planes in that scale makes little or no sense to me. Iīd rather simulate a closed canopy with a drop of white glue or just paint it.

The decals are nicely made yet do not contain enough national insignia for the planes. The instructions in the usual concise and clear Trumpeter style lack a decal placement guide for the planes. The ridiculous idea of attaching the lower hull only in the last construction step is present again – if you should build full hull, donīt even think about following that sequence.

I bought the very finely detailed WEM PE set for the class of ships, containing oodles of hyper-gossamery parts designed for all the ships of the class in their various refits. It looks to me like at least  partly scaled down from their 1:350 set, and many of the parts take very capable and very patient modelers to be assembled successfully. There is an older yet updated GMM set which is less detailed but may be easier to handle from the looks of it. Apart from the PE set, I bought machined brass barrels from BMK for the main artillery, and resin 5“/25 DP mounts from Loose Cannon, which are a bit finer detailed than the kit parts but seem to be not the correct version of the weapon. I of course only learned that after gluing them to the model –  where else would be the fun of it?

The dio idea

In researching this ship online, I happened upon several images of Minneapolis after the severe damage sustained at Tassafaronga. A friend scanned some more images from the Squadron book on US Heavy Cruisers for me, amongst them one showing crewmen standing inside the open cross section of the vessel after cutting away the bow. I soon decided I would try to depict this scene.


I started by determining where to make the cut, orienting myself on the locations of the chainpipes. Hence, both the deck and hull were sawed at this point. The styrene was then thinned with a rotary tool to arrive at credible thickness. The plastic was then bent a bit. The scuttles in that area were drilled open. Following the images, I built some sort of interior from styrene and PE stock. Both LīArsénal and Lion Roar offer pretty useful structural parts for tasks like this. The PE was annealed to resemble the bent and damaged look. The inside of the ship was then sprayed a light grey.

The images showed the vessel with a slightly deeper draught at the bow, less than when the bow was still attached but still noticeable. So I sawed the waterline plate two inches from the stern and glued only this part to the hull. Square styrene stock was added ahead of that, and the whole assembly was carefully sanded to a taper. Hence the stern would stick out just a little.

At this step, the base was prepared. Using a standard Trumpeter display case, I applied coloured wall paint with a large brush in a stippling motion after masking the borders. That resulted in the desired slightly irregular surface. After letting the paint dry thoroughly and sketching the vesselīs outline with a pencil, I sprayed the base in the desired shade. I started with a rich blue and applied darker shades where I assumed oil was leaking from the ship. After again letting the paint dry thoroughly, I sealed the surface with several layers of solvent-based clear gloss from a hardware supermarket rattle can. That resulted in a nice and rather credible surface.

Further assembly of the kit went well, hardly any filler was needed. The usual task of cross-checking kit and PE instructions complicated things a little, even though I marked all the constructions steps pertinent to my vessel in the PE instructions. The PE turned out to be a veritable bugbear, with several parts simply beyond my skills, so I ended up using most of the kit AA. I fought my way through the most visible PE assemblies, namely the searchlight tower, the cranes and the catapults. The latter almost gave me fits, as they are very, very iffy to construct and glue, and I found the interior part with the machinery too high to fit with the framework all around. The surrounding platforms with the gossamery railings also taxed my skills and patience a lot. I was very happy when I called it quits and attached the parts to the pre-painted hull. This is a serious case of YMMV – you might like this PE much better than I did!


At the time, Minneapolis was painted in the rather bland scheme of Ms. 21, 5-N Navy Blue on all vertical surfaces and 20-B Deck Blue on the horizontal ones. That eased painting as I didnīt need to mask a thing, but it took some shading and washing and drybrushing to bring it to life. I used Vallejo acrylics as I couldnīt lay my hands on dedicated naval camouflage acrylic paints. For the washes, I used Humbrol thinners and artistīs oils.


The masts were substituted with machined and tapered brass items from BMK, for the yards thin brass wire was used. They were glued with CA glue. Having attached almost all the subassemblies (I had painted the turrets and DP guns separately), I sprayed the vessel and then completed the process of accentuating and weathering. Acrylics do a lot to speed up a build, as they are almost immediately dry and ready for the next step.

I still have a fairly big number of 1:700 Lion Roar PE figures I painted for our Liverpool docks diorama but didnīt use at the time; some of them were repainted and spread across the vessel, with a number around the damaged bow, some on the superstructure, around the guns and so on. When that was done, I applied Xtracrylix satin varnish to the model to seal the paintjob and hide any glue spots.

Rigging a ship is always a very tedious subject for me. I used tan stretched sprue for the signal halyards; it was trimmed and glued with liquid plastic glue. The stays were made from UNI 8/0 flyfishing thread, the antenna wires from UNI caenis ultra fine flyfishing thread. Some of the UNI products were glued with white glue, others with CA – both works. All the rigging was tightened using heat from a dental waxing instrument heated over a spirits burner.

After touching up the inevitable shiny glue spots with satin coat, I attached the model to the base using artistīs heavy clear gloss acrylic gel, applied with spatulas and brushes. Although it takes a long time to dry if applied in heavier layers, it works fine nonetheless. The water spouts from the pumping going on amidships were made from stretched clear sprue and acrylic gel, painted with white artistīs oil paint after curing. The mooring lines are also 8/0 UNI flyfishing thread.


Despite the serious amounts of bad karma emanating from the kit while working on it, Iīm pretty happy with the end result. I would consider trying GMMīs plainer and simpler PE set if I built another kit of this class, though, as Iīm afraid that would better fit my skills. As I pointed out above, your experience might be a lot more positive than mine!

Frank Spahr

December 2009

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