MidShip Models 1/700 USS Portland CA-33

Reviewed by Timothy Dike
The USS Portland was the lead ship of a new class of cruisers improving on the Northampton class. Armed with nine 8" guns these were typical of US Navy cruisers designed during the prewar years. Only one sistership, the Indianapolis was built as Washington instead concentrated on building the New Orleans class.  As war loomed on the horizon, Portland received additional anti-aircraft guns and splinter shield protection for her 5" guns. Fortunately for her, Portland was out with the carriers and was spared the devastation that took place in Pearl Harbor. 

The Portland or Sweet Pea as she was nicknamed, was a busy ship. She fought all over the Pacific. First with carrier Lexington at the battle of the Coral Sea. When the carrier was sunk Portland took on 722 survivors. Portland was part of Task Force 17  at Midway and after that battle sailed for the Solomon Isles to stop there Japanese from building an air base on Guadalcanal. She participated in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons August 23-25, and the Battle of Santa Cruz October 2627. Portland was detached from her carrier and formed up with the other available ships as Task Group 67.4 and sailed into Iron Bottom Sound to stop the latest Japanese bombardment of the Marines defending Henderson field. 

The battle that ensued is often referred to as a "bar room brawl after the lights have been shot out". Soon after contact with the enemy fleet was made the two opposing forces sailed right into each other and tangled point blank. Portland engaged ships all around and took some 14" shell fire. Fortunately the Japanese had not expected them and had high explosive rounds loaded instead of armor piercing rounds. While she escaped major damage due to shell fire Portland took a torpedo to the stern that put her out of action. Thanks to the determined damage control the ship was kept afloat. Her stern was practically blown off and she could do no more than steam in circles. A couple of Higgens boats and the YC-239 tried to help her but it finally took an assist from the ATF Bobolink to get her to the relative safety of Tulagi harbor. Even then a torpedo attack by two PT boats was launched on her. Fortunately they overestimated the 2-3 knot speed and fire way in front of her before proper identification was made. Sweet Pea tied up alongside the shore and the crew set about camouflaging her with foliage from the jungle. Temporary repairs were made and Sweet Pea sailed for Sydney, Australia where she was dry-docked and more permanent repairs were made. The damage however was extensive and Sweet Pea was sent home for repairs and  a massive refit and upgrade that dramatically upgraded her anti aircraft fit. To compensate for this extra weight, she had her superstructure and bridge area remodeled. She emerged with a sleek new look similar to her sistership Indianapolis in her final configuration. 

Portland rejoined the fight in the Pacific and made her way from the Aleutians to the Gilberts and again found herself screening carriers. She occasionally was detached to bombard enemy forces on the remaining Japanese held islands. When Americans returned to the Philippines, Sweet Pea was there to soften up the beach heads at Leyte Gulf.. Later on the night of October 24th 1944 she would again engage enemy ships. This time the odds were clearly stacked in her favor as she and numerous other US warships crossed the enemies T at the entrance of Surigao Strait. Two enemy battleships and three destroyers were sunk that night with no losses on the US side. She remained in the area until the the islands were securely back in US hands and then headed north to Okinawa where she was when the war ended. 

Portland helped return US troops home before reporting to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for inactivation. She was assigned to the Reserve Fleet. She decommissioned at Philadelphia July 12, 1946 and lingered in reserve status until finally being scrapped in 1959. 

Portland received sixteen battle stars for World War II service.

This new kit from Midship is actually the old Classic Warships kit. I am pretty sure I have the last kit that Steve Wiper cast from the old molds. When I saw them during my tour of his casting facility they were in really bad shape. But since this is the only kit that represents the Portland in her 1942 configuration I begged him to try to cast me one more. I had toyed with the idea of putting my kit on E-bay. But when Chris Decker of Midship purchased Classic Warships, he ruined my plan. Now this kit is plentiful again with some upgrades.

The hull is cast in the waterline style with much of the lower superstructure cast in place.  The hull included nice armor plating detail and a degaussing cable wrapped around the ship. The deck is has nice deck planking and casting is pretty good with the minimal cleanup needed. There are plenty of portholes around the ship but not much else on the superstructure walls. Detail nuts might want to get a set of photo etch doors to add some extra detail. 
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The superstructure parts include some redone superstructure parts. Some of the originals were in bad shape and Chris Decker has evidently rebuilt these. Most of these are all cast wafer style and will have to flat sanded to remove the overpour that is typical of resin cast parts. The shapes look pretty good but these parts too lack surface detailing. 
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The funnels will need a little work as the Sweet Pea has a fore funnel extension that is not present on the included parts. 
The triple gun turrets are pretty well done with separate gun barrels. Note this ship had all it's guns fixed so they elevated as a set. So leave them attached to each other. Detail nuts will want to replace the gun barrels with brass ones. The turrets themselves look accurate in shape. 
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The 5" 25 cal guns look like they were modified from Skywave 5" 38 ones. They are not bad as far as casting goes, but they really don't have the proper shape. Corsair Armada makes some nice 5" 25 guns for those who desire a better looking gun mount.
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A couple of the larger whale boats are provided cast in resin. Detail is pretty good and these will just need the casting gate removed from the stern.
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This kit features seven of the MidShip standard weapons sprues to supply the small weapons and fittings. The rafts are molded in two styles and are both nicely done.   This will supply the small weapons as well as give you a bunch of extra spare parts you can use for other projects.
There are a number of parts that are supplied cast in white metal. These include the cranes, funnel piping, and secondary gun directors. There are also a number of life rafts and two SOC float planes. Some of these parts a bit flashy and will need some clean up. I would suggest modifying the cranes with the photo etched parts included below. 
A photo etch fret is supplied to add the fine details to this kit. These include nice aircraft catapults, the girder portion of the crane assembly, 20 mm guns, yardarms, and lots of railings. This fret also has some extra parts as it is common to several Midship kits. So save the extras for other projects. 
The decal sheet is a real treat and includes flags and pennants as well as both prewar and early and late war hull numbers. These are printed by Microscale and are typical of the high quality decals they usually produce. They are nicely registered and sharp.
The instructions are five pages with a bill of materials, subassembly views and exploded views. 

This kit is the only kit available to build the Portland in 1942. It was a really nice kit 10 years ago when first released. It is somewhat dated by today's standards, but with the addition of some new parts and a really nice photo etch sets it can be the basis for a really Sweet Pea in her 42 Guadalcanal fit. I am glad that Midship continues to upgrade these old Classic Warships kits. This one has a list price is $75 US. These kits are available now at Pacific Front and Freetime Hobbies

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