"Crew-mate Jay Massey gives us a closer look at one of PitRoad/Skywave kits, John C. Butler Class DE, in this MSW "inbox" review."
The Destroyer Escort class of ships was a requirement of the Royal Navy after experiencing the losses of the latter half of 1939 (400,000 tons) to 1940 and 1941 (more than 2 million tons each) issued to help guide and escort convoys in the Atlantic. The design firm of Gibbs and Cox followed the Admiralty’s’ specifications of stowage for 112 Depth Charges, state of the art, forward firing Hedgehog Rocket Launcher System, a main armament capable of being used against surface and aerial targets as well as being able to be manufactured cheaply and quickly. While speed was not such a great requirement as keeping with the slow moving convoys was to be their chief duty, being maneuverable was.
With this specification laid down the Admiralty contracted with the US Navy shipyards at Mare Island using Lend Lease funding for the Royal Navy. The first four ships went to them while the fifth was built at the Boston Navy Yard and commissioned into the US Navy as the USS Evarts DE 5. In Royal Navy service they were commissioned as the Captain Class of Destroyer Escort. These five ships were to be the first of 97 that were built with a third of them serving in the Royal Navy.
They were designed with an overall length of 289 feet, 5 inches and a beam of 35 feet with a displacement of 1,360 tons fully loaded. Carrying a main armament of three 3”/50 caliber dual purpose guns, a single quad 1.1 inch mount and nine 20MM Oerlikon Single mounts. For their anti submarine duties they carried two aft mounted roll off racks for depth charges, eight K Gun depth charge throwers located amidships on either side of the ship and a Hedgehog Rocket Launcher mounted between Number One and Number Two forward 3 “/50 mounts.
For propulsion they were equipped with four General Electric diesel electric generators powering separate motors turning twin screws. This system was designed due to the dearth of reduction gears being produced far outstripping their use in Subs, Landing Craft and other larger ships. The system became known as the GMT or General Motors Tandem drive and made the little ships capable of 20 knots with their hull design. This system became a mainstay in this class and was found to be easily maintained and teaching its’ specifics was not that hard for folks used to working on things mechanical in that day and age.
With improvements and expanding manufacturing capabilities as well as advances in technology the Evarts Class was followed by the Buckley Class DE’s. These were 306 feet in length and included a three tube 21 inch torpedo launcher mounted amidships. The Buckley’s were also steam driven using Foster-Wheeler boilers and General Electric Geared Turbo Generators with 12,000 shaft horsepower. This power plant gave the Buckley’s a speed of 23 knots even with a greater displacement of 1,720 tons fully loaded. This installation was an attempt to further come up with different propulsion systems to further relieve the current shortage of systems that had become even shorter in supply due to the requirements of trying to manufacture a two ocean Navy. This system was to become known as the TE propulsion system. There were a total of 102 of them produced during the war.
The next class of Destroyer Escorts was the Cannon Class. These ships retained the 306 foot length established by the Buckley’s though the shipyard capabilities and engine supplies required the use of the older GMT system for them. They were also somewhat lighter at 1,520 Tons with the same armament. With a refined hull design over the older Evarts Class these ships managed 21 knots with their power plants. There was 86 of the Cannon Class manufactured.
Following the Cannon Class was the Edsall Class, mostly all of the specifications were the same as the Buckley’s with the exception of the power plants, and they used the Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines of the same type that powered the electric generators on many US Navy Fleet Submarines. These diesel engines were coupled directly to the twin screws of the ship and gave her the same 21 knot capability. They did improve their weapons load with the addition of a pair of 40MM Bofors cannons. There were some 85 of the Edsall Class manufactured.
The next class that came out were the Rudderow Class DE’s, These carried the same TE power plant layout as the original Buckley Class with a displacement of 1,811 Tons fully loaded. They added a “V” to the end of the power plant designation to indicate the longer hull design. Also in place of the D boilers they used the CE boilers. These ships combined the low enclosed bridge of the John C Butler class as well as the improved armament of a pair of 5”/38 main guns. Looking at a Butler Class and a Rudderow Class side by side would be hard to tell which was which, other than the improved Westinghouse geared steam turbine power plant that became known as the WGT system used in the Butlers , they were pretty much identical. There were only 22 of the Rudderow Class completed before they were superseded by the John C. Butler Class.
The final class of Destroyer Escort produced during the war was the John C. Butler Class. With a WGT propulsion system and at 1,350 tons empty and 1,750 tons fully loaded they were capable of speeds up to 24 knots. With the improved capabilities of the 5”/38 main armaments, 2 twin 40MM Bofors mounts and 10 20MM Oerlikon as well as a triple 21’ torpedo mount, they were very well armed for such a small ship. John C. Butler was a young Naval Aviator with Bombing Squadron 3 aboard the Yorktown at the Battle of Midway. While they did sink three IJN fleet carriers at the battle, many of them did not return. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his efforts posthumously. There were 83 of the John C. Butler Class completed with a few of them cancelled at war’s end still incomplete in the shipyards.
All the classes of DE were originally intended to carry advanced electronics such as Sonar to help in their role as antisubmarine patrol, some even included HFDF or huff duff radio direction finding equipment that could home in on radio signals of the U Boats. Some 16 shipyards eventually produced the various classes of Destroyer Escort during the war and by 1944 they were in such quantity that they formed the backbone of antisubmarine defense in the Atlantic. Not only did they perform escort duty to the convoys but they also were teamed with escort carriers as highly effective hunter killer groups that sought out the U Boats before they would have an opportunity to carry out their deadly missions. In US Navy service the Destroyer Escorts were all named for Navy heroes, one of the reasons that many pages that you will find on the individual ships, you will also find a brief biography of the ships namesake, quite a few of them were from the early days of the war sailors lost in battles at sea and Naval Aviators.
The battle histories of these mighty little ships are as colorful as it can get. Many of them were responsible for sinking several submarines in theatres as well as escorting the convoys and acting as Fast Attack Transports after conversion. Out of all of them produced, there were not that many of them sunk, and there were some that while heavily damaged still managed to stay afloat.
The USS Pillsbury DE 133, an Edsall class serving with the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal CVE 60, depth charged U 515 to the surface and then in a running gun battle with her sister ship the USS Flaherty DE 135 assisting, destroyed the sub. Two months later she forced U 505 to the surface with the same tactics and then boarded and captured the sub. The ship was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for that effort. Then later in April 1945 in the North Atlantic she Depth Charged and sank U 546.
In the Pacific theatre the USS England DE 635, a Buckley Class DE in just 12 days in May of 1944 hunted down and sank no less than 5 IJN submarines and assisted in a 6th kill. She also received the Presidential Unit Citation for her actions. Her exploits came to an end in May of 1945 when a Kamikaze off Okinawa slammed into her port side killing 37 of her crew and sending her back stateside for repairs.
Off Samar in October 1945 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf four DE’s along with three fleet Destroyers acting as a covering force for a group of escort carriers protecting transports and freighters involved in the landings there went up against Admiral Takeo Kurita’s combined fleet of 19 cruisers, four battleships and a number of destroyers. The four DE’s in question, the John C Butler DE 339, the Raymond DE 341, the Dennis DE 405 and the Samuel B. Roberts DE 413 went on the offensive charging the enemy fleet firing their torpedoes along with the three destroyers of Taffy 3 then went in for the kill with their 5’/38’s if you can feature that one. The Samuel B. Roberts managed to score with her torpedoes and 5’ battery on the Cruiser Chokai and a short time later was targeted and sunk with hits from 8” and 14” shells from the larger ship losing over 100 of her crew. While costing two destroyers, one escort carrier and the Roberts, Admiral Kurita withdrew thinking that he must be up against a vastly superior fleet if these small ships were willing to attack with such ferocity.
Despite the accurate and able use of Taffy 3’s 21” torpedoes, it was decided that what the little ships really needed was superior Antiaircraft protection from the Kamikazes and increased German air activity in both theatres. This led to stopgap measures of the loss of their torpedo mounts to be replaced in some cases with single mount “Army” type 40MM Bofors mounts. These were even further supplemented later in the Pacific theatre with twins and even quad mounts.
Beginning in 1944 95 of the DE’s of the Buckley and Rudderow classes were converted to the Fast Attack Transport (APD) role losing the torpedo tubes and aft guns that were replaced with davits and cranes to handle four LCVP landing craft as well as stowage space for some 50 troops and their gear. The Buckley’s lost their 3’/50 caliber mounts and gained a single forward 5”/38 and an additional 40MM Bofors mount as well as keeping all their depth charge racks. These little ships were to put ashore a Battalion sized force in shallow water in quick time where ever they were sent.
Once the war was over, they did not all sit idle. Several were used for training purposes for the Naval Reserve. In the 1950s some 36 of them were recommissioned and outfitted with up to date radar systems and other minor conversions and set out for fleet use and as part of the cold war DEW line. More of the little ships were sent out to foreign Navies and soldiered on into the 1990’s.
The only still existing ship of the 563 DE’s produced during the war, the USS Slater DE 766, a Cannon Class DE is sitting out on the Hudson River in Albany, New York as a floating museum restored to her former glory by professionals and volunteers. She has been restored with her compete armament set up of 3”/50’s, 40MM Bofors twins, 20MM Oerlikon and 21” torpedo mount as well as all the gear that she would have carried in her heyday.
All information in this portion of the review can be found at the Wikipedia site, NavSource online, DestroyersOnline and the Destroyer History.Org as well as articles from WWII History and Sea Tales magazines in various issues.
Actually I should point out that they are two models in one box in the case of this Sky Wave offering. As with most Sky Wave productions the box art is rather impressive showing an embattled USS John C. Butler crossing the bow of one of the Escort Carriers in her group Taffy 3, going on the attack.
The rear of the carton also contains the painting guide showing your choices of three different ships, DE 339 the John C. Butler shown in Measure 32/22d camo, DE 340, the USS O’Flaherty shown in 32/22d, and DE 353, the USS Doyle C Barnes in her measure 12 pattern. The colors are all listed as either Gunze Sanyo Mr. Color or PC Pit Road with their numbers picked out as well as the names of each in Japanese and English. Conversion to Model Master, Testors, Tamiya or any other of your favorite brand should not be too difficult.
The instruction sheet is a single A4 sized sheet printed on both sides in Japanese and English giving a brief history of the class and the usual symbols used in construction. The instructions are in pictograph style with some named parts depending on what parts you are working on. They also include a complete class list on the reverse side which is a nice touch.
The decal sheet is where this little kit really shines. Not only do you get the ship numbers in black or white, but they come in multiples of 6 with the exception of the zero, you only get four of them for some reason. They also give you the flags of some 16 different Allied Navies should you chose to show a lend lease ship or one of them after the war when they were sold or given away to various Navies.
Like most Sky Wave kits they use an upper hull section with a bottom plate for a waterline type of display. All the parts for one ship are included on one of the two frets. The two frets come wrapped in a plastic bag to keep any errant parts from getting lost in shipment. There is no flash to be bothered with and hardly any parting line problems at all.
The molding is of good quality with the only sinkholes that I could see being on the bottom of the Hedgehog launcher and the bottom of the small ships’ boat that is not bad for a kit of this age. Due to the number of tiny parts involved your parts removal tool will get a workout whether it be a nail clipper or one of the purpose built tools for the job. There are a few extra parts included such as a quad mount 40MM Bofors and open mount 3 inch guns so your stash will get that benefit.
Construction is pretty straightforward with subassemblies built up first, mostly the ships weapons then the main deckhouse and engineering section. The sidewalls of these structures have lots of detail molded in to make for a rather busy look to the assembled parts. The air intake vents at the rear of the pilot house structure are nicely done and with careful trimming of the sprue attachment points and careful painting and washing should look quite good compared to some other more expensive kits that I have seen.
The splash shields on either side of the engineering section have the proper shaped bottom edge that allows for water runoff ports rather than a solid bottom when glued in place, another detail that is sometimes lacking in other small ship kits of this type.
If you would like to improve the kit with some PE parts, Toms’ Model Works Destroyer set #701 for US Destroyers works well for this one and even includes a few figures. There are also a few cable reels that could be placed as well as doors and hatches, but even without these little extras, the kit itself has the sidewalls of the bulkheads filled with detail so that some careful painting and a little wash work and dry brushing will make it all pop right out. It is relatively inexpensive and a good way to get started in working in the divine scale of 1/700 especially considering that you are getting two ship models out of one box. I scored my kit from Pacific Front Hobbies for $25 which breaks down to $12.50 a ship. They also make a Cannon Class, a Rudderow Class, and a Buckley Class ship kit if you would like to model the other designs as well and they too shares the same price and two ship kit style.
These are models of an important class of ship that was used in both theatres of naval warfare and can be used to make up at sea dioramas with merchantmen, destroyers, and escort carriers and on their own. Their history in antisubmarine warfare is second to none and some of the little ships were even in use up until the late 1990’s with foreign navies. The class name of Destroyer Escort has been changed to Frigate in the modern day lexicon of naval terminology, but their use is still present even today. Not too bad for a Royal Navy Design brought to fruition in a US Navy Ship Yard as a stopgap measure.
Highs: Good quality molding, straight forward construction, lots of build optionsLows: None!Verdict: Great kit, great value!
About Jay Massey (treadhead1952) FROM: NEVADA, UNITED STATES
I have been modeling since I was 10 years old, starting with the old Aurora, Monogram and Revell kits. I never really did stop, there was always something on the bench. Even when funds were low or a hobby shop was inaccessable, I would make do with what ever was on hand to cobble up something to p...