by: Jay Massey [ ]
"MSW crew-mate Jay Massey (treadhead1952) sends us his thoughts and opinions on Tamiya Models 1/350 scale plastic injection kit of the USS Fletcher, in this "inbox" style review!"
USS Fletcher DD-445
The Fletcher Class of Destroyers fielded during WWII was one of the largest at 175 ships and undoubtedly one of the most familiar from that period. Named for Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, uncle to WWII Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, he served from the late 1800’s through to the 1920 period. At the landings at Vera Cruz as senior officer present he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor being at sea and ashore under fire during this battle. He later served in various posts in his long and varied career with the Navy.
The ship was the namesake of the class but not the first one commissioned, that honor going to the USS Nicholas DD-449 on June 4, 1942. The Fletcher followed her on June 29, 1942. She was built at the Federal Shipyard at Kearny, New Jersey. The class was approved by the Secretary of the Navy at 2100 tons, 369 feet long powered by a 60,000 SHP power plant capable of speeds up to 38 knots on January 27, 1940. Originally to be armed with five 5 inch caliber 38 single turrets, a pair of four tube torpedo launcher mounts, a 1.1 inch quad mount, 28 Depth Charges, and four .50 Caliber Single mounts, during the building phases with experiences in the early period of the war this was altered to reflect a better Anti Aircraft suite of a twin 40 MM Bofors mount and the .50 Caliber singles replaced with 20 MM Oerlikons. For her Anti Submarine capability she carried two roll off tracks on the stern as well as three K type launchers on either side aft of the rear stack.
The first three Fletcher Class ships off the assembly lines were sent to the Pacific Theatre upon completion of their shakedown cruises and were immediately involved in action against the enemy. They participated in shore bombardment, patrol, convoy escort and landing support operations. The USS Fletchers’ first major confrontation with the Imperial Japanese Navy was at the Battle of Guadalcanal when the Fletcher, O’ Bannon, and Nicholas in support of the Cruisers San Francisco, Juneau, Atlanta, Portland, and Helena along with some of the older destroyers confronted the Tokyo Express under the guidance of the IJN Battleship Hiei. The Fletcher was relatively unharmed in this first exchange and did rescue work in the aftermath of the battle. At the Battle of Tassafaronga Point she made first radar contact with the enemy forces and also helped to rescue survivors of the cruiser Northampton using cork lined floater nets to take great groups of them from the water at one time.
Her service during the war saw her taking most duties of patrol, convoy escort, along with anti aircraft, antisubmarine, and shore bombardment as well as rescue of ships’ personnel and downed aircrew. She participated in battles in the Solomon’s, Gilbert’s, Kwajalein, New Guinea and the Philippines’ in between refits and overhauls in Pearl Harbor as well as returning stateside for brief periods. She earned no less than 15 battle stars for her performance during WWII.
Laid up in reserve from 1946 until 1949, she was recommissioned as an escort destroyer and overhauled for that role. Once ready for duty she was placed with the Seventh Fleet and at the outbreak of the Korean War she served with the Valley Forge Air Craft Carrier Group. She served in this capacity as well as participation in the Inchon Landings before returning to Pearl Harbor for a refit and then right back to serving with the air craft carriers as part of their screen, participating in shore bombardment and antisubmarine duty. In 1952 she participated in Atomic Tests in the Marshall Islands then returned to the Seventh Fleet for more support duty. Yearly she went to the Far East serving with the Seventh Fleet through 1962. She participated in anti submarine training exercises and in that role with the fleet. In 1969 she was finally stricken from the Naval Vessel Registration and in 1972 sold for scrap.
Displacement-2924 Tons loaded
Armarment-5 5”/38 cal. AA main guns, two 40MM Bofors in twin mount, 6 20mm Oerlikon single mounts, two four tube torpedo launch mounts, 6 K-gun Depth Charge Racks, two roll off type Depth Charge tracks on fantail.
Power plant- 60,000 SHP General Electric Geared Turbines, 2 screws
Speed/Range- 38 Knots Max. / 6500 NM at 15 knots cruising
Tamiyas’ 1/350 scale kit of the USS Fletcher comes packaged in their standard two piece shipping box with box art showing the ship at sea in her early camouflaged pattern during escort duty with an air craft carrier. The long sides of the box shows either side of the camouflage pattern while the opposite side carries a top down view of the deck and upper works in full color. The top box art also serves as a sort of rigging guide, none being provided in the instructions. The contents of the box consist of the sprues contained in clear plastic bags along with the full hull, a small plastic bag contains the soft poly caps used to enable the main gun turret and torpedo launch tube assemblies to rotate in their mounts.
There is a scale sized paper sheet representation of the ship in her camouflage pattern showing both sides to allow you to paint this pattern a little more easily. You could make copies of this pattern sheet, clip the various parts of the pattern out and use the pieces as masks for the model, quite a handy feature. The decal sheet that comes is replete with numbers for four ships including the Fletcher and two US Flags, one straight and one slightly waved. As to stars, there just ain’t any, so the question of whether or not it is a correct 48 star flag or not is avoided. They also include a glossy stick on pair of self adhesive backed numbered and named pieces to apply to the included base.
The Instruction Sheet is a single page printed on both sides in Japanese and English. In addition to the copy of the box art in black and white a history of the ship is provided. Next comes a painting call out guide in Tamiya paint colors only as well as a decal placement guide. There is a small section dealing with methods and tools helpful in assembly and a multilingual paint list. The rest of the sections deal with assembly of the kit itself in pictograph blow up style with bi-lingual brief instructions where needed for details.
The hull of the ship is nicely molded in light gray plastic with lightly raised weld lines to represent the plating lines, the outline of the hull closely resembles the photos, drawings and plan sets that I have found to compare it to and features molded on chocks that can be drilled out for the lines if you would like to show it in port tied to the dock. As I pointed out, this is a full hull model so if a waterline presentation is your choice, it will require some surgery. The four sprues that carry the parts are nicely molded with no flash, two of them are duplicates. The sides of the main gun turrets feature raised junction boxes and simple hatch shapes to be glued to the one piece front, top and rear sections with a separate gun barrel. There are no blast bags on the barrels so you will have to replicate them on your own.
The 20MM Oerlikon single mounts are two separate pieces, the gun and its’ base with a shield for each, the guns are not too bad and could benefit from some sort of sights and better training arms. The single 40MM Bofors twin mount is a three piece affair that can stand a little detailing work but is not too bad either. The torpedo launcher tube sets are a single piece mount in the forward end and a two piece affair for the after one. The main guns and torpedo launcher tube sets mount to the model with poly caps. If you don’t care for moveable parts, a section of styrene tube can be a replacement for the poly tube sections. The kit provided Depth Charge Roll Off racks are made up from two sections for the main racks with depth charges as well as a two piece set to make up the ramps that led from the rear of the racks to over the fantail. The K-Gun launchers are single parts with a set of three to a side as well as a stowage rack section with three depth charges for each and a davit used to load the K-guns. The stowage racks lack any sort of cage and would benefit from some PE to replicate that detail.
The deck houses are made up with a roof and separate side bulkheads. The bulkheads carry simplified hatches with drip shields over the tops as well as a couple of junction box shapes and ladders. The deck itself is relatively straight forward with anchor chains and capstans molded on as well as a few hatches here and there. The tread plating that runs the length of with side is raised somewhat but not very detailed. There is a decal set available as an aftermarket purchase item if you would like to use it. The detailing of the rest of the parts is not bad and does feature the odd junction box, ladder sets and hatches. The splinter shields that are molded as parts of the various decks are nice and thin and don’t really require replacement. At the rear of the main deck house are a set of the dreaded “Aztec” type stairs that could be replaced. The Main Mast is not too bad and has a molded on radar mattress at the top. With a little help it would be adequate out of the box.
There are no ejector pin marks on the topsides of any parts, a nice engineering feature. I did not find any flash on any of the parts and light parting lines here and there means very little cleanup is needed for the most part. It looks to go together in a fairly straight forward manner so construction shouldn’t be too difficult if you have a kit or two under your belt. As it comes right out of the box, it is a good representation of an early square bridged Fletcher Class Destroyer, although a little on the plain side.
Now if you suffer from AMS as I do, this little kit has a lot of things going for it as well as a number of accessory sets that can be used to modify it into a real stunner. Gold Medal Models, Toms’ Model Works and White Ensign all carry kit specific sets depending on your favorite. Toms’ Model Works also has a number of extra sets such as hatches, 40MM Bofors railing sets, netting for the rails and floatation basket sets. There are even Photo etched, resin and styrene sets available to use for various parts of the ship if you want to get way into modifying the basic model.
With some dedicated research you could modify it to represent any of the square bridged Fletchers that were made at any period of their use. As their service life was rather long as well as use by other navies during and after the war there is a long list of ships that could be made from this one kit. Paint and camouflage variations also make it ideal for more than a couple of looks. As these ships were modified in many ways, some careful research will provide an ample field of changes in looks and features from the standard, to a seaplane carrying version to any of several up gunned variants as well as anti submarine versions. Not too bad for a kit that can be had for under $40 in most hobby shops as well as online merchants.