by: Scott Espin [ ]
Dragon brings their Smart Kit slide mold technology to their 1/700 Modern Sea Power Series and the result is outstanding. This 1 1 kit provides an excellent representation of two important Benson Class Destroyers, the USS Laffey DD-459 and USS Woodworth DD-460.
Benson Class Destroyers
The Benson class destroyers were an improvement of the previous Sims class. The most significant advancement was a change in the layout of the boiler and engine rooms. Instead of having all the boilers clustered together in one part of the ship and the engines together in another, they were alternated in an attempt to give the ships a better chance of surviving a torpedo hit. You can see the external difference by the separation of the two smoke stacks since the two boiler rooms were now separated by an engine room. In the event of a torpedo hit the odds were better that the destroyer would still have some power. In all 30 of these destroyers were built; 6 laid down in 1938 and the remaining 24 during 1941-42 as an interim measure until the newer and bigger destroyers were completed. The Benson Class destroyers made up the backbone of the pre-war Neutrality Patrols in the Atlantic and participated in every major U.S. Navy campaign of World War II.
USS Laffey DD-459 characteristics:
Displacement - 1,620 tons
Displacement full load 2,395 tons
Length 347 10
Beam 36 1
Draft 11 10 (17 6 max)
Top Speed - 37.4 knots
Range 5,790 nautical miles at 15 knots
Crew - 208 men
2 x geared steam turbines
4 x 580psi boilers
2 x shafts/screws
4 x 5/38 main guns in single MK 30 mounts
1 x 1.1 quad AA gun
5 x MK 4 single 20mm AA mounts
5 x 21 torpedoes in one MK 14 torpedo mount
6 x MK 6 depth charge projectors
2 x MK 9 depth charge tracks
1 x MK 37 GFCS/MK37 director
1 x MK 12/22 radar
2 x MK 51 directors
SG surface search radar
SC air search radar
USS Laffey DD-459
The USS Laffey was named after Seaman Bartlett Laffey, who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during the US Civil War repelling a Confederate assault on Union Positions in Yazoo City, Mississippi. The Laffey was laid down by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in San Francisco California January 13, 1941, launched October 30, 1941 and commissioned March 31, 1942.
After her shakedown cruise USS Laffey was dispatched to the South Pacific as a member of DesRon 12 (Destroyer Squadron) to participate in the Guadalcanal campaign. On September 15th 1942 the Laffey along with destroyers Duncan and Lansdowne and cruisers Helena and Salt Lake City rescued 1,946 survivors from the USS Wasp after she was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese submarine I-19.
The Battle of Cape Esperance took place during the night of October 13th,1942. The Laffey along with the rest of her task group of cruisers and destroyers (who no longer had their carrier USS Wasp to protect) intercepted broke up and turned back a Japanese bombardment group which had been sent to pound Henderson Field.
The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal took place the night of November 12-13, 1942. USS Laffey was in the van of a column of 8 destroyers and 5 cruisers under Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan. A Japanese force of 2 Battleships, 1 Light Cruiser and 14 Destroyers under Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe appeared on the horizon, the Laffey dove into the fray with both gunfire and torpedoes. The ships closed on each other rapidly with Laffey just barely avoiding a collision with the Battleship Hiei missing it by only 20 feet. At point blank range the crew of the Laffey raked the bridge of the Hiei wounding Admiral Abe in the process. The Laffey was heavily engaged with a battleship off her stern, another battleship off her port beam and two destroyers off her port bow. Facing far superior firepower, the Laffey was hammered by a 14 shell from the Hiei and then took a torpedo in the fantail which put her out of action. Moments after the order to abandon ship was given the Laffey was ripped apart by a violent explosion. Her aft magazines exploded causing her to sink immediately. The losses were high; 59 officers and men killed, 116 wounded. The USS Laffey was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for her outstanding performance in the engagement having earned 3 Battle Stars before her demise.
USS Woodworth DD-460
The USS Woodworth was named after Commander Selim E. Woodworth who served in the US Navy during the 1800s. She was built in San Francisco alongside the USS Laffey, laid down April 20, 1941, launched November 29 1941 and commissioned April 30, 1942.
USS Woodworth spent most of her career in the Southwest Pacific supporting naval operations throughout the Solomons during 1942 and 1943. She participated in operations around Okinawa, Formosa and the Philippines. Woodworth earned 7 battle stars during her career, all campaigns in the Pacific.
She was de-activated shortly after World War II and handed over to the Italians in 1951. Named the Artigilere D-553, she operated as a command ship for motor torpedo boat flotillas until being scrapped in 1971.
This Smart Kit from Dragon comes packaged in a sturdy cardboard box measuring 11.5 x 7.5 x 1.8. This kit belongs to their 1:700 Scale Modern Sea Power Series and is labeled as U.S.S Laffey DD-459 1942. It is a 1 1 kit meaning there are enough parts to make two Benson class destroyers, one full hull, the other waterline. The markings are for USS Laffey DD-459 and USS Woodworth DD-460 as they appeared in 1942. The box top has a nice painting of the Laffey and Woodworth in their Measure 21 scheme cruising side by side. The bottom features a series of computer composed images of various design features and details of the kit.
The instructions are printed in black, white and blue on a single long sheet folded so as to make 8 pages. There is a schematic of the parts sprues and photo etch fret showing the parts that are not used marked in blue. At first glance the instructions seem a bit busy due to the numerous small and highly detailed parts which make up the sub assemblies, however they are well laid out, easy to understand and clearly show where each part is to be attached. If you carefully study each step and sub-assembly you will have no trouble. There is a two page painting and marking guide of the Laffey and Woodworth in their Measure 21 camouflage paint schemes circa 1942. Measure 21 called for all vertical surfaces to be painted 5-N Navy Blue and the decks 20-B Deck Blue, not a very interesting scheme but certainly effective against aircraft observation.
Kit Parts, etc.
Assembly begins with the Bridge, Mark 37 Gun Director and the FD Radar antenna mounted on top. The details on the gun director look good and closely resemble the real thing. All the hatches and port flaps on the front face of the gun director are molded in the closed position.
The plastic kit part for the FD Radar antenna is molded in roughly the same sideways W shape as the real thing but appears chunky since it is molded as a solid piece. The real FD Radar antenna was made out of thin metal and had hundreds of holes in a sort of waffle pattern with some other details mounted on the front. I took a look at the surface of the plastic kit antenna with a 2.5x Optivisor and was pleasantly surprised to see a very fine waffle pattern molded in the surface. Careful dry brushing might bring out the relief of the antenna surface; although a photo etch replacement would look more realistic.
The two different turret designs of the Mk 30 single mounts are well represented with all the main details crisply molded, including doors, hatches and the louvered features on the first and last turrets. The 5/38 main guns are molded separately and get clamped in between the turret and the turret base. The quad 1.1 inch AA gun looks fantastic with the smallest sized plastic barrel details Ive seen. The mount is very detailed consisting of 3 separate parts. The MK 4 single 20mm AA mounts are delicately molded and feature amongst the thinnest barrels Ive seen in plastic.
The advantage of Dragons slide molding technology really shines with the excellent detail on the tiny 1/700 scale parts. Portholes, doors, hatches, even much of the delicate piping are represented. The searchlights are very small in this scale, yet still have the requisite details. The Mk 14 torpedo mount with 5 21 torpedo tubes is finely molded and well detailed. The smoke stacks are augmented with photo etch ladders and you have the option of using the plastic or optional photo etch grills for the tops of the stacks. The loaded Mk 9 depth charge racks are molded as one single piece with individual depth charge detail in the racks. The tiny Mk 6 K Gun depth charge projectors and depth charges have excellent detail. You will need magnification of some type when working on these tiny, delicate parts. Even the tiny anchors, whale boats and davits have exquisite detail.
The PE fret includes several ladders, two sets of stairs with rails, lifeboat racks, smoke stack grills and dock bumpers. Dragon has included jigs for shaping the complex shape of the bumpers and for bending the life boat racks with the correct curved angle. If Dragon had included photo etch railings and radars this would be as close to a perfect kit as you can get.
The decals are intriguing. The boat numbers 459 and 460 are printed crisply in white. The American flag has sharp detail however the blue is just slightly out of register with the red on my sheet. These destroyers had rubber matting all around the main walkways of the ship. They are represented by many linear and curved decals to represent the matting, a nice addition however I would imagine they may be hard to see against the 20-B Deck Blue paint of the deck surfaces.
I have to admit this is one of the most impressively molded styrene plastic 1/700 kits Ive seen. Like all of Dragons Smart Kits, all the necessary detail is right here molded into the parts. The slide mold technology, while impressive on 1/35 scale armor is simply stunning in 1/700. There really isnt much more that you can do to spruce up the kit any more than it already is with the exception of railings and a photo etch FD radar for the gun director. This is a must have kit for fans of U.S. WWII era destroyers, not only because of the valiant ships represented but because of the amazing detail in this kit.
Osprey New Vanguard #162
US Destroyers 1934-45
By Dave McComb
Illustrated by Paul Wright