For some inexplicable reason, I find many of the older US Navy WWII warships particularly appealing. Thus it was an easy sale when Wally Bigelow of Wally's World of Hobbies, had me look at a Warship web page containing a completed model of Commander's Omaha class light cruiser: the USS Detroit CA8. The ship has long graceful lines with four prominent smokestacks, lots of rigging and an interesting assortment of guns. The Detroit was launched in 1922 and commissioned in July of 1923. The 10 ships in this class were capable of 35 knots and were originally designed as scouts for the main fleet and for leading squadrons of destroyers. In the years prior to WWII, the Detroit served as the flagship of the light cruiser divisions and spent much of her time on patrol missions. The Detroit was present in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese struck, but she escaped the attack unscathed. By this time she and her sister ships were getting old and thus were assigned to secondary roles throughout much of the war. In spite of this the Detroit received six battle stars for service in WWII and spent much of her time in the campaign to retake the Aleutian Islands but later saw action with 6th fleet carriers in the south Pacific. She was decommissioned in 1946.
The kit, which depicts the Detroit as fitted out in 1945, consists of a one-piece resin full hull, lots of small resin parts, one sheet of photoetched parts, brass rod for constructing the masts and prop shafts, and six pages of instructions. Many of the smaller resin parts had lots of flash that required much time and effort to clean up but once completed I found they contained a wealth of detail. The photoetch set is of excellent quality, but I found myself wishing it contained more items. The first page of the instructions contains a parts list. The remaining pages consist of somewhat crude diagrams that indicate where the parts are to go and details of the aft mast. I had to request a couple of missing parts. I also requested new seaplanes, as the wings of the original one-piece kingfishers supplied with the kit were grossly misaligned when viewed from the top. All missing and replacement parts were shipped promptly with no questions asked. I should also add that the kit came with many spare parts, such as extra copies of the winches, 20 and 40 mm guns.
The hull, which also contains much of the ship's superstructure already in place, was well cast and required very little work to remove minor amounts of flash. The bottom of the hull contained many small pinholes, which I filled with small amounts of super glue and then filed and sanded smooth. Next, I drilled two holes in the bottom of the hull into which metal supports for mounting the model to the base, were glued. I also used a drill to hollow out the 4 smokestacks and all portholes were drilled a little deeper. At this point, the hull and all major resin parts were subjected to thorough washing with a strong detergent to remove any mold release compound that had not been eliminated by sanding. The rudder and four resin prop shaft supports were added next. Be careful here as the latter are delicate and easily broken, but they are not difficult to repair or rebuild. I wished that these parts were supplied as white metal castings. I also recommend that you double check for proper placement of the prop shaft supports by checking to see if the props are an appropriate distance from the hull before proceeding.
The hull was primed with Floquil primer and checked for imperfections. The lower half of the hull was painted Polyscale engine black. A portion of this was subsequently masked with 1/8 inch masking tape to create the bootstrap at the water line. The bottom of the hull was painted oxide red, and the upper portions of the hull painted Ocean Grey (Navy 5 0) and Haze Grey (Navy 5H). All vertical surfaces of the superstructure were painted Haze Grey. The deck was painted weathered deck blue; Polyscale water based paints, which for the most part were applied with an air brush, were used to complete the measure 22 paint scheme. I highly recommend the latter brand of paints as they dry relatively fast and one can do a lot of touch up painting with a brush with little or no evidence of brush marks.
I then followed the instruction sheet as to general order of construction of most of the ship, except that I left installation of the outermost railings along the main deck until near the end of the project. The only construction problem I encountered was that it took a fair amount of filling and sanding to achieve a proper fit of the four side turrets with the overlying superstructure. You will need good reference materials to accurately portray both the fore and aft masts, as the diagrams in the instructions leave much to be desired. Classic Warship's Warship Pictorial #6 of the Omaha Class Cruisers and a set of plans from the Floating Dry Dock were of immense help in constructing this ship. The former contains numerous, excellent, high quality photographs of all 10 Omaha class cruisers including 5 pages of pictures and text regarding the Detroit. Both masts are outfitted with SG type radars, which were easily scratch built from small pieces of brass that make up the edges of photoetch set. Scratch built cranes for handling the paravanes were added to the fore decks just aft of each side turret. The barrels on the 6 inch guns were replaced with syringe needles. A slight amount of taper was added to the barrels by first coating the needles with super glue, chucking them in my Dremel tool, and resurfacing them with a file and sandpaper. I made flagstaffs for both the bow and stern from small diameter brass rod and install them. The whaleboats in my kit lacked rudders and propellers so these were scratch built. The props were made by first gluing 3 short pieces of plastic rod together. I then cut off thin slices and painted them with Testor's brass paint. The rudders were laboriously cut from bits of sheet brass and filed to final shape. I added a small piece of wire to each Kingfisher to simulate the machine gun. An antenna, some additional rigging to the pontoons, and some aftermarket decals complimented the photoetched details supplied with the kit and brought the planes to life. Anchor chains and a practice loading gun, which is located between the catapults, from my spare parts box were also added. Many of the overhanging decks on the actual ship were supported by upright braces, which I simulated with small pieces of brass rod. The 20 mm and 40 mm guns supplied with the kit are quite nice, but I bought 3 inch guns from Classic Warships and replaced their barrels with syringe needles
I used painted invisible thread for all of the rigging. Photographs of this ship indicate that the rigging contained lots of insulators and turnbuckles. These were simulated with drops of white glue. The outermost photoetched railings were finally added to the main deck. Dry transfers were used for the ship's numbers and the completed model was given a coat of Polyscale dull coat.
I'm really glad that Commanders Models made this kit available. I'm delighted with the finished product and look forward to displaying it at model shows this year.