USS Indianapolis

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Company: Academy Models - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: MRC - Website: Visit Site
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Once again, sincere to thanks Akiko at MRC for providing IPMS USA and this fortunate reviewer the opportunity to build and comment on a new kit… This was “a most excellent effort” and we appreciate it. (And thanks to Steve and Dick for sending the kit my way…hope I did it justice)

This was a kit that I did not expect to do a review on; I was going to spend the cash and just chill on the build until I could collect all the requisite PE sets and all that nonsense, and then have an AMS fit for about a month. “We can’t have no’ut that!” cried the elves…and when I threw my hat in the ring to review the kit, I was surprised. My criteria: if nobody else volunteered to do it, I would. Now, I know ships take a lot more time than a snap kit. But the USS Indy? Whoa! A famous cruiser worthy of the effort.

If you are not aware of the story of the USS Indianapolis, avail yourself of information via the internet and learn of its sad demise and the fate of the crew. Extremely political in the end. There is a lot written on it out there; here’s the Wikipedia version:

“USS Indianapolis (CA-35) was a “Portland” class cruiser of the United States Navy. She served as flagship for Admiral Raymond Spruance while he commanded the Fifth Fleet in their battles across the Central Pacific. She holds a place in history due to the circumstances of her sinking, which led to the greatest single loss of life at sea in the history of the U.S. Navy. On 30 July 1945, shortly after delivering critical part of the first atomic bomb to be used in combat to the United States air base at Tinian; the ship was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58, sinking in 12 minutes. Of 1,196 crewmen aboard, approximately 300 went down with the ship.

"The remaining 900 men faced exposure, dehydration, and shark attacks as they waited for assistance while floating with few lifeboats and almost no food or water. The Navy learned of the sinking when survivors were spotted four days later by the crew of a PV-1 Ventura on routine patrol. Only 316 sailors survived. Indianapolis was the last major U.S. Navy ship sunk by enemy action in World War II.” (end Wikipedia reference)

I received the box, and set immediately to work. The kit is encased in a box with a painting of the ship traversing dramatic seas; sales effect is in order. The side panels have a basic kit assembly in dark gray without any plan details. Inside are the parts – several hundred of them (puzzle counters, to the front of the class). A paint diagram is included with a proper late-war measure color scheme in black and white. Appropriate color references are included on the instruction sheet.

I had cleared the bench, so to speak, when I learned of its impending arrival. I had also contacted the mail-order guys in Kansas City who tend to get my money (they are great!) to acquire some railing, ladders, etc. in the PE department, because I knew up front this would be a basic plastic kit, and that is not quite good enough for me in the ship department. There’s more on deck than just guns and planks!

C-day (construction day) had truly arrived, and I had both PE and a new USS Indianapolis kit in hand. There is a lot of information on the ship out there on the net, and I availed myself of that free data. (Good pix available at

The kit is molded in gray and black (for the deck weapons, running gear, props, and radar antennas), with a multi-part display stand with nameplate also included. I opted not to use the stand, as I’ll be doing an Indy underway in water when I get the chance. Details abound; the “eyebrows” over the portholes are molded in place, and all portholes are deep enough that no requirement exists to do a wash if you don’t feel up to it. Likewise, all watertight doors have external hinges and bracing, so there is no requirement to replace them with PE items (unless you want them open).

Construction pluses: the upper and lower hulls are separated at the anti-fouling line for those who like basic waterline ships. The torpedo armor belt requires a bit of care to fill/sand around if you assemble the hull sections, but it’s well within the capability of most modelers. There are stanchions in the center of the model’s hull which key to the deck; this prevents the deck from sagging as you assemble the kit. Although not as sturdy as actual bulkheads, this works well. Additionally, the deck fits very tightly to the hull sides; no alignment issues or discouraging gaps were noted. All parts fit with precision, with one or two minor instances noted previously.

Small details – excellent hose reels, deck aircraft hangars that can be posed open, antenna, excellent deck detail, and anchor chains that, when painted, look very convincing. I didn‘t have jewelery chain of that size, so it worked out well. The small defensive cannon appear to be .50 cal in size; the kit has single-mount 20mm cannon and shields, so I don’t know if I should remove the .50 dual mounts or not. I’ll research later…

Both island structures went together effortlessly. Design of the lower walls on the superstructure was such that the sprue gates were on mating structures. This required additional effort to clean up, but resulted in fewer blemishes on external details. The fighting top areas were very convincing; the only areas I had problems with were the gun director turrets, where the sides and back were less than positive in alignment until I had slid them into place…not a fault of the kit, for it was my hands holding the parts. Forward antenna mounts and radar dishes finished them off nicely.

The forward tripod was a positive assembly; the only fragile parts here are the thin upper antenna arrays. As you can see in the pictures, the actual radar antenna is nicely molded in black, and only needed drybrushing with Dark Gunship Gray to portray a convincing upper antenna. I shall be replacing this with a set from White Ensign when it arrives. For now, the plastic works.

Whalers are detailed with floor planks, side seating, and engine housings. Once again, PE will be a good thing to step up detail on these items. Stowed floater nets and standard life rafts cover various parts of the ship and turrets; there is sufficient detail on them to allow a dark wash to serve as a final finish.

Main gun turrets and breech covers are a positive fit; brass barrels are not needed in this case. Same for the open-mount 5” guns; slide molding has been utilized to prevent a requirement to drill out the muzzles. There are six 40mm twin Bofors cannon mounts for a total of 24 cannon; the kit cannon are nicely done, but the muzzles are very fragile, Of the 24 guns, I broke off the flash hiders on most of them trying to remove them from the runner. This resulted in my backup plan to have aftermarket items installed; I used the cannons from one set of Alliance Modelworks’ open turret 40mm double cannon sets on the kit mounts. I intend to use the PE from this set later, trying as much as possible to retain the out-of-box review for now.

I painted the ship with Lifecolor and Model Master acrylics; they work well and are fairly durable. Plus, they brush on great; I know of few who can airbrush a ship of this scale and get away with it! ‘Tis not me, however…

Again, the armament has a lot of detail; separate splinter shields, etc…much better than kits only 10 years older.

This brings up another point – why I incorporated Alliance Modelwork ladders and railing on the ship. The kit gangways and ladders are solid, and I found the PE items more closely resemble the actual items. This little detail adds a lot to the final appearance. To install them properly, I had to use them early in the build, as accessibility is an issue otherwise.

Also, the basic ship railing is also not included in this release; I know there are people out there who don’t care for such details, but I find them worth the additional aggravation in this scale. Plus, a ship without railing just doesn’t quite look finished. I can live without all the antenna lines, but not the railing!

This is also evident in the shipboard crane; although the item provided in the kit is very well done, it still doesn’t have the open look of a PE item. I used the kit crane, as there is no available aftermarket crane of this type available yet; paint it black and drybrush the structure. It’s ok. The shipboard observation aircraft catapult, however, is one item that actually looks decent straight out of the box. I added some railing to this as well, as it is a very visible focus on the model.

Last item added was the SC-2 Seahawk observation plane; I painted it with 1944 tri-color (white underside, with medium sea blue flanks and dark sea blue upper surfaces, based on detailed pictures of the actual aircraft in the Indy’s hangar. These pix were taken right before it sailed on its final voyage, so the accuracy is not questionable. Decals for the aircraft went on very well; a little Solvaset and done!

In the pictures, you will notice the SC-2 by itself with a float off… yep, ham hands during photo session strike again. 2 minutes with CA and accelerator, and we’re back in business.

Once again Academy has provided us with an excellent representation of a famous ship in a scale most of us can work in. We are truly blessed in this age to have such great models…what more can we ask? 10 of 10 to the untrained sailor’s eye.


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