The USS Washington – BB-56
Guadalcanal is usually associated with Marines and bonzai charges, but it was the Navy that bore the brunt of the casualties in the waters off the island. And it didn’t go especially well. Thanks to Marine control of Henderson Field, and the heroic efforts of the Cactus Air Force, the U.S. controlled the seas around Guadalcanal during the day. But at night, with the skies clear, the Japanese fleet sped through “The Slot” in a desperate effort to reinforce their forces on the island. By mid-November, both sides were quite exhausted. The U.S. Navy had lost destroyers, cruisers, aircraft carriers, and seen even more of its main strength limp northeast for Pearl Harbor.
On the evening of November 14th, 1942, though, the Navy had to do something. The Japanese battleship Kirishima was steaming through The Slot, intent on shelling Henderson Field with its massive guns. If it were to succeed, the Navy could lose its daylight advantage, and probably the island itself.
Assembling what force he could from the ships that remained, Admiral Willis Lee steamed for Savo Island. In a savage night battle, his destroyers were hammered. The older battleship South Dakota took several devastating hits. But the new, fast USS Washington managed to remain concealed until the right moment, then used its surface radar to train its guns on the Kirishima. While the Japanese were experts at night gunnery, human expertise has nothing on a gun director slaved to effective surface radar. The Washington landed several hits, and earned the distinction of being the only U.S. battleship to sink an enemy battleship in a surface engagement during World War II.
The Washington’s gunnery and the sinking of the Kirishima more or less sealed the Japanese fate on Guadalcanal.
The Trumpeter Kit
The Trumpeter kit actually represents a later-war version of the Washington’s sister ship, the North Carolina, but the differences aren’t crazy, and both look very much like one another. What I end up with may not please rivet counters, but I’m planning to do the best early-war Washington I can pull together.
Overall the kit looks manageable, if dense. I really like that they offer a waterline build in addition to the full hull, since I’m still intending to place this one in the water.
At the moment, I’m waiting on a photo-etch set and replacement turrets (the kit’s lack the boot covers), but they should arrive within the week. And they’re a bit daunting. Well…the photo etch is, at any rate!
Stay tuned! This one will be a rather different build from my usual, and will probably take its sweet time. As long as I’m done by September, I’m happy.