A 1/48 USS Iowa

By Mike Whye

Anytime I visit the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines, I always walk into the spacious hall on the east end of the main floor. That's where a 1/48 scale USS Iowa is displayed in a large glass case. That's right, I wrote 1/48, which makes an 18-½-foot-long model out of the ship which measured 888 feet. For a comparison, I shot a picture of me--standing 6-foot, 4-inches tall--near the model.

I can't say I know a thing about how the model was made. It looks like the majority of it is a resin of some sort plus sheet styrene and I can't begin to imagine how heavy it is. The ship is in two basic colors - tan decks and battleship gray. I'm not sure what period this color scheme reflects in the history of the Iowa but it's clear that the ship is in its WWII regalia - something easy to tell from the preponderance of anti-aircraft guns everywhere you look.

The detail is immaculate. Small chains secure the positions of the 20mm gun positions at the bow. Ropes criss-cross life rafts with precision. Look carefully in the open windows of the bridge and you can see the slits of the armored citadel within. All around the bridge are various lines--antenna wires, ropes for hauling signal flags into position and the railing wires. Each of the 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft gun positions is exquisite and if you want to see detailing at its best, study the catapults and crane near the two dark blue Curtiss 97B SC-1 Seahawks poised for launch at the stern. Down below are the ship's four propellers and, although I can't be sure, all appear to be solid brass.

After inspecting the stern area, check out the large antenna dish atop the main superstructure where the wire support structure and the mesh screen detail is amazing. About the only thing I thought looked odd were the shiny blast bags where the big guns meet the turrets--they look like hard plastic more than canvas (which is what I think the blast bags were made of).

Don't ask me why but I'm guessing that model was made sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I think a sign near the bow said the model was made at the U.S. Navy Shipyards. Some of the plastic atop one of the forward gun turrets is slightly crazed and one antenna line coming forward from the rear mast is down but otherwise, the model looks good.

If you're in Des Moines, stop in for a look at this magnificent model. Visitor parking is on the east side of the capitol although the visitor entrance is on the west side (go figure). The capitol is open, free of charge, 8-4:30 Monday - Friday and 9-4 on Saturday.

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