Scratchbuilding the USS John McCain DDG-36 circa June 1976 by Phil Toy

USS McCain (DD927/DL3/DDG36) is the second of 4 Mitscher destroyers, the first post WWII USN destroyer class. Designed to screen fast carrier task forces and maintain high speed in a seaway, they were 100 ft longer than the largest WWII USN destroyer with a higher freeboard. No expense was spared to fulfill the USNís vision of the ultimate task force destroyer. To power the ship the wartime 600 lb. boiler/60,000 shp steam plant was replaced by 1200 lb. boiler/80,000 shp machinery. A height finding radar and TACAN was installed to give them radar picket/fighter direction capability. The newest fire control equipment and weapons replaced the wartime equivalents (Mk67 GFCS vs. Mk37 GFCS, fast shooting Mk42 5inch/54 cal. automatic loading guns vs. 5inch/38 cal. manually loaded guns, twin Mk33 3inch/50 cal. AA gun mounts vs wartime 40mm AA mounts, and Weapon Able/Alfa ASW Launchers vs. Hedgehogs. Twin fixed 21inch tubes for ASW torpedoes replaced swiveling tubes for anti-ship torpedoes). Many of these proved so mechanically unreliable that years were required to correct or be abandoned as unfixable or tactically obsolete. Both Mitscher and McCain needed to be reboilered. After criticism for their size and cost, the following Forrest Sherman Class reverted to a more modest size with more austere sensor and weapons outfit.

McCain was ordered as DD927 and reclassified as DL3 before launch at Bath Iron Works (laid down 10/24/49, launched 7/12/52, commissioned 10/12/53). After a prolonged trials and a shakedown period, she operated from the East Coast testing the new equipment and developing tactics until she transferred to the Pacific in November 1956. In multiple deployments from 1957 to 1966, she patrolled the Indian Ocean, the Formosa Straits in the Far East, Southeast Asia, and Japanese waters often in an ASW hunter Killer Group. She spent 6 months in the mid-Pacific supporting a nuclear weapon test. In a 1957/58 overhaul the aft Weapon Alfa was offloaded when the heavier faster shooting Mk37 3inch/70 cal. guns replaced the Mk33 mounts. Later she swapped her aft 3inch mount for a DASH hanger and flight deck. In June 1966 she returned to the East Coast to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and was decommissioned for conversion to a DDG. She recommissioned In September 1969 and returned to the Pacific emerging with essentially a DDG2 CF Adams class weapons and sensor outfit except that she retained her original Mk67 GFCS, substituted the heavier but more capable SPS48 3D Radar for the SPS52, and added a full sized ASROC magazine with power reloading. She also retained the facilities/accommodations for a Desron/Flotilla commander and staff. She deployed extensively on the gunline off Vietnam and with ASW HUK task groups. She began to experience engineering problems in the mid/late 1970s and was decommissioned on 4/29/78 and sold for scrap 12/13/79.

The scratch-built model was built using BuShip Booklet of Plans for DDG36, last updated by the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 8/31/70, purchased from the Floating Dry Dock. Photos from the Navy History and Heritage Command, Navsource, online 1971 and 1972 cruise books and other internet sources were used. EverGreen styrene rods, tubes, strips, and sheet plastic of various thickness were used in the construction. Stretched sprue was used extensively for antennae, radars, railings, lifelines, vertical ladders, and other details. Except for the Mk42 gun mounts modified from the Atlantis Forrest Sherman Kit, all structures were hand built from scratch. Pilot house and signalman shelter windows were cut out from 10 thousandths clear styrene sheet. Portholes, signal lamp lenses, and motorboat windshields were filled with Microscale Micro Kristal Klear. Stretched clear sprue was used for various light fixtures. Testors Model Master Enamel Paints were used to complete the model. The campaign ribbons and Desron 21 insignia were resized and printed on an inkjet printer from internet pictures and glued to the model. The portside Desron badge was mirror imaged because the reference photos showed the Rampant Lion always facing forward. National ensign was a decal from the scrap folder applied to a piece of foil. Construction took over 2 years. Weathering was applied sparingly with artist pastels per reference photos.

Construction Pictures

Profile drawing was measured, rescaled, and drawn on a thick sheet of styrene used as a vertical centerline keel. Transverse bulkheads were scaled, drawn, cut and glued to this keel. Then several decks were attached to the centerline keel and bulkheads to construct a rigid skeleton. After sanding the hull profile smooth, a sheet main deck and bottom plate was added, and this skeleton was skinned with some 20 thousandths sheet styrene. The outline of the superstructure was drawn on the main deck. The 01 deck was measured and cut out with an outline of the next level of superstructure drawn on top. Gun mount positions were marked out on the main deck and for the ASROC launcher on the 01 deck.


nternal bulkheads were added to ensure that the superstructure is attached perpendicular to the main deck. Portholes and watertight doors detailed with dogs and hinges were added before attaching the superstructure to the deck.


ASROC magazine was constructed before adding the forward superstructure. The rounded forward superstructure is reminiscent of classes from the pre-WWII Sims through early Fletchers with shape and size derived from the BuShip Blueprint.


The 02 weather deck forward of the funnel, interiors of the pilot house and signalmanís shelter were painted while they were still accessible.


The amidship deckhouse, aft funnel and aft superstructure were added.


Lower foremast and mainmast were added. Aft funnel, interior of masts, sections of the amidship structure and undersides of the mast platforms are painted while easily accessible.

Aft edge of the mainmast SPS48 platform deck should be rounded not square and was corrected later.
The BuShip Plans to not include any mast platform layouts and shapes must be deduced from the photographs.
Tarter launcher magazine, foundations for gun mounts and ASROC launcher were added. Started to add details at this point. PICT09

Added mid-level of masts, more superstructure details, and deck fittings. Vertrep markings were drawn on fantail and helicopter deck markings on the 02 deck aft.



Added topmasts and more details, boat davits, life raft baskets, etc. Under the model is a sheet of the BuShip Blueprints used as reference.


Modified Mk42 mounts and scratch-built Mk13 Tarter launcher, ASROC launcher, and Mk 32 torpedo tubes.


Scratch-built motor whaleboat, personnel boats used as captainís gig and commodoreís barge, reels, and AN/SRR-1 Satcom antennae.


Scratch-built Mk67 GFCS director (found only on command cruiser USS Northampton and the 4 Mitscher destroyers, as it was superseded by the Mk68 GFCS in subsequent new construction), target data transmitters, SPS29 radar, SPS10 radar (with filled mesh face per reference photo), SPS48 radar, and SPG51 radars.


Finished but Unmounted Pictures



Finished and Mounted on Seascape



More of Phil Toy's work.
Updated 8/29/2021