Friday, September 13, 2013

Scratch-built USS Higbee (DD-806)

Anchors Aweigh!

In 1973-74 I was a  young radioman aboard the Destroyer USS Higbee; previously I had served aboard another destroyer the USS Dehaven (DD-727).  I'm a destroyerman.

Me, clowning around in the pilot house with shipmate Mike Sieve.  This was in the "facial hair optional" days of our Navy

I had the idea of one day building models of both my ships, unfortunately I never got around to doing the Dehaven (my first, and my favorite, of my two ships), the Higbee however,  I did get around to.

The ship was made from scratch, that is to say not from a kit but virtually all of the parts
 were made by hand.

 In October of 1995 I got the project started.  As we learned from watching the A-team
it all starts with a plan.

In addition to scale drawings, I also brought home from my days aboard the 806 a blueprint plan-view of the Higbee in its WWII configuration as a radar picket destroyer.  I knew those prints would come in handy some day.

In addition to the larger plans I also had to come up with micro plans - in this instance 
for the 40mm guns.

There is a wealth of good reference material filled with scale drawings and hundreds 
of detail photographs.

In addition to plans I also had to make patterns, these are mostly for the five-inch gun houses.

It was impossible to keep track of the time I was putting in as it was done in fits and starts, but I did keep a running tally of the parts I had made and installed (did I mention that everything was made from scratch - by me) In total the project was comprised of 5,785 total pieces.

Made mostly from sheet styrene plastic and wire,
 the project filled many a winter (and summer) evening.

The model was constructed in sub-assemblies to keep it from being too daunting a task, in this instance all of the 40mm guns were made as almost a separate project, taking about three weeks to complete.

The five-inch guns were done in a similar fashion but took less time as there were 
far fewer pieces involved.  In only a few instances did I use prefab parts, here the 5" gun barrels and shrouds are from the old Lindburg "Blue Devil" destroyer kit.

The stacks were also from that kit, but as you can see in this view of my workbench, every thing else came out of my own hands.

A variety of sources of plastic went into the project,  here...

a section of Tamiya 1/35 bricks provided the stock from which to carve the anchors.  From right to left, the raw material, an anchor in the process of being carved, the finished and painted anchor ready to be glued into the hawsepipe.

I sculpted a papier mache ocean for the Leapin' Leena to cut through; here raw...

and here, painted...

and here, the finished product:

The model was finished in its late-war measure 22 camouflage scheme and weathered with rust, grime, mismatched paint, primer, and salt spray.

There's that anchor deployed.

I also used the old Microsoft "paint" program to make little two-dimensional crewmen with which to populate the ship.  There are 85 of them going about their business.

Just as a real destroyer would, this version of the Higbee has many areas of red-lead primer in evidence.

These three jolly jokers goofing off at the rail are totally unaware that..,

their division chief has other plans for them.

The bridge is a hubbub of activity as it would be in an underway situation.

The pilot house was given interior detail as it is visible through the doors and portholes (hatches go from level to level, doors go from space to space).

There's an ammunition handling party moving 5" projectiles to a magazine - oh how my aching back remembers passing those 55 pound pieces of misery.

Here's one of those 40mm guns installed and weathered. The gunsights were store-bought.

The motor whaleboat.

The depthcharge k-guns.

The depthcharge roller racks on the fantail.

Two swabjockeys plying their trade. (yeah, looks wet doesn't it?)

A radioman goes aloft to work on an antenna...

of which there is an abundance on a radar picket destroyer.

Salt spray covers the foc'sle

The signalmen are at their "flag bags".

Amidships is the large searchlight as well as the practice 5" loading machine.  In the foreground are the floater nets which provide men something to grasp onto if the ship goes down.

The amidships anti-aircraft suite with 20mm guns as well as 40mm guns.  The gun directors are in the small elevated "tubs".

"NHLL" was the callsign of the good ol' Higbee.

Mount 52 and...

mount 51- here getting some touch-up paint.

As is this patch of primer.

Here's a 60mm shore patrolman to give an idea of scale he's,  not quite three inches tall.  The model is nearly three feet long.

The project took from October 1995 to May of 2000.  The finished model, not counting the base, weighed in at a mere 13 ounces - the miracle of sheet styrene plastic.  In the end the only pieces not made by me were the funnels and the five-inch gun barrels, now that I have a woodlathe I'm sure I could have done both.

Welcome aboard.

Soldier (or sailor) on!



Al said...

Very cool

Scott B. Lesch said...

Mannie, Beautiful work.

Slightly off topic, when my wife was in the NPS, she was stationed for a time on the USS Cassin Young in Boston. Your photos look like when my brother was in the USNR during Admiral Zumwalt's term.

Brianne, You may call me Mistressyness said...

that's a wonderful model. Love the sailors "swabbing" the deck!

Col said...

Well Done Mannie. You have done a marvelous job on your tin can. I spent a bit of time on Destroyers (River class - Stuart, Derwent)when I was in the Navy, had a great time.

Hugh Walter said...

Wonderful story, lovely model...and learn something every day! Thanks,


Archduke Piccolo said...

Very, very impressive. I like the little vignettes of ship-board life, too. One question: what does 'NHLL' mean? I am referring, of course, to the signal flags...

Mannie Gentile said...

Thanks archduke.
NHLL was the Higbees callsign. Every ship in the fleet is assigned a permanent 4 letter callsign to use in radio and signal communications.

INT QSL my last

Translates to " USS Higbee this is USS Dehaven, Please acknowledge my most recent transmission to you.


and there you have it. (I was a radioman)

Anonymous said...

That is a great model. I always think ship models, no matter how well made, look a bit dull and lifeless because there are no people aboard them. Your figures make it!