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USS San Francisco

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"MSW crew-mate David J. Salvin (djandj) shares a fine gallery of images along with his build story of the heavy cruiser, USS San Francisco, in this MSW Feature!"

The History
On November 13, 1942, a Japanese naval force was discovered Rear Admiral Callaghan's task group maneuvered to intercept in what became the first engagement in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal what has become known as the battle of Savo Island. At 0148, in almost pitch darkness, San Francisco opened fire on an enemy cruiser 3,700 yd (3,400 m) off her starboard beam. At 0151, she trained her guns on a small cruiser or large destroyer 3,300 yd (3,000 m) off her starboard bow. Then in an attempt to locate other targets, San Francisco accidentally targeted Atlanta. San Francisco's gunfire caused extensive damage to Atlanta, killing Admiral Scott and most of Atlanta's bridge crew. Belatedly, San Francisco realized she was firing on a "friendly" ship and ceased fire. The green dye that San Francisco used to distinguish her shells from those of other ships, was later found stained on Atlanta's superstructure before she sank. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese battleship Hiei was sighted and taken under fire, at an initial range of only 2,200 yd (2,000 m).

At about 0200, San Francisco trained her guns on Kirishima. At the same time, she became the target of Nagara off her starboard bow and of a destroyer which had crossed her bow and was passing down her port side. The enemy battleship joined the cruiser and the destroyer in firing on San Francisco whose port 5 in (130 mm) battery engaged the destroyer but was put out of action except for one mount. The battleship put the starboard 5 in (130 mm) battery out of commission. San Francisco swung left while her main battery continued to fire on the battleships which, with the cruiser and the destroyer, continued to pound San Francisco. A direct hit on the navigation bridge killed or badly wounded all officers, except for the communications officer, Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless. Command fell to the damage control officer, Lieutenant Commander Herbert E. Schonland, but he thought his own efforts were needed to keep the ship "afloat and right-side up", so he ordered McCandless to stay at the conn. Steering and engine control were lost and shifted to Battle Two. Battle Two was out of commission by a direct hit from the port side. Control was again lost.

Control was reestablished in the conning tower, which soon received a hit from the starboard side. Steering and engine control were temporarily lost, then regained. All communications were now dead.

Soon thereafter, the enemy ceased firing. San Francisco followed suit and withdrew eastward along the north coast of Guadalcanal.

77 sailors, including Rear Admiral Callaghan and Captain Cassin Young, had been killed. 105 had been wounded. Of seven missing, three were subsequently rescued. The ship had taken 45 hits. Structural damage was extensive, but not fatal. No hits had been received below the waterline. Twenty-two fires had been started and extinguished.

For her participation in the action of the morning of the 13th, and for that of the night of 11Ė12 October, the San Francisco received the Presidential Unit Citation. Shipyard.

The Build...

This 1/700 scale kit is a resin kit from Nikko and is basically straight out of the box except that I added Admiralty Modelworks turned brass barrels. The only regret that I have is that I used the railings from the kit as they are a bit too thick and thus out of scale.

The ship is displayed in MS 21 which SF wore during the Savo Island battle. It is essentially navy blue for vertical surfaces and a darker deck blue for the horizontal surfaces like the deck, and any and all canvas like the blast bags on the turrets and hoses and the like.

Big thanks to the guys over on the "Calling all Ships" New Orleans cruiser group at Modelwarships.com for the help on the SOC float planesí coloration, and great pics. Perhaps my best detail source was the post battle damage report conducted on the SF after she arrived back in the US for final repairs. This had great detail pics which allowed me to get the rigging more accurate.

The Ocean:

The ocean is my first attempt at Jim Baumanís watercolor paper rolling ocean effect. I started with 300lb watercolor paper, and glued and double sided taped it down to the oak plank I made for a base to receive the plexiglass case.

I used small wood sticks and toothpicks to get the gentle roles and used Liquitex gel of various thicknesses over the top of the paper to get larger sea swells. I even tried the torn tissue paper trick Jim talked about in his tutorial. (I think it turned out as well as can be expected for my first time).

After getting the ocean the way I wanted it, I brushed it with three coats of Pledge with Future floor wax for extra shine.


Short vertical runs were done with stretched sprue. The 8 long horizontal runs between the masts was done with 20 denier caenis fly tying monofilament which I airbrushed a light grey to match the stretched sprue. (The MS 21 guidelines indicated that rigging DID NOT need to be painted so I figured it would remain a light (faded) grey)

Another interesting construction tip. After running the caenis from mast to mast, I realized that the masts were being affected by the caenis and that it had sagged a bit. Remembering the old heat tightening trick we normally use for sprue, I tried it with the monofilament. After extensive testing, I determined that it can work, but didnít want to use a candle or other overly hot heat source for fear the very delicate caenis would melt (which it did in testing). I ended up running the ship under my 150 watt halogen desk lamp. That provided even heating at just the right temp. to tighten up the rigging without melting it. A handy thing to keep in mind for the future.

Overall, Nikko makes a very finely detailed and produced resin kit. Well worth the time and effort to find one if you want to do the SF.

As always, please feel free to contact me if you have specific questions.
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About the Author

About David J. Salvin (djandj)

I began building models at the age of 8. Stopped for college and law school and came back to the hobby after an 18 year intermission. Having built most everything from space ships to full-rigged sailing ships, I have returned to my first love - 1/700 military shipping. Modeling is just one of m...


Very nice build David. Every time I see a feature like this I try to guess what scale it is before reading it. Based on the detail on this one I would have guessed 1/350, not 1/700. I see you're from California. If you're ever in the Bay area you should check out the USS San Francisco memorial that includes pieces of the ship's bridge.
MAR 25, 2010 - 03:22 AM
Beautiful work David.
MAR 25, 2010 - 04:18 AM
I had a way huge gap between being 12 years old, and picking up this hobby now at ------- well the heavy curiser was one of my first builds, 1944 camo, I've always wanted to rebuild, or simply buy and build from fresh, and when I see such a great job as this, is there any wonder why myself, or anyone else for matter wouldn't want to build this great looking ship.
MAR 25, 2010 - 05:24 AM
Nice job! I have the Niko kit, also, but haven't gotten to it yet.
MAR 25, 2010 - 10:18 AM
Hi David! Congratulations on a great display! Very good overall and considering it's your first time with Jim's Water Technique, I consider it a excellent result! Keep up the good work! Cheers, Rui
MAR 29, 2010 - 07:36 AM
very well done, noth the kit and the water effects. thanks for sharing, cheers
APR 01, 2010 - 12:03 AM