USS Pennsylvania BB-38
by Paul Helfrich

1/700 USS Pennsylvania BB-38 (Mini-Hobby Models kitbash)

This model of the USS Pennsylvania in her 1944 configuration was inspired by Mike Ashey's excellent two-part series on a similar project, working from the Trumpeter 1/350 Arizona, in the October and November issues of Fine Scale Modeler.

Now, make no mistake: anyone who saw the articles knows that Mr. Ashey, as a recognized expert in the field, achieved a museum-quality level of results far beyond what I've done here. My project was far more modest in scope. I used no plans or diagrams - I worked strictly from the Fine Scale Modeler articles and from my US battleship references, using the time-honored "looks about right" method. I used 5" 38 double turrets and 40 mm quads from the Skywave US Navy weapons set. I've used all the 20 mm Oerlikons from those sets on other projects, so I did those (crudely) with stretched sprue. I didn't have quite enough of the 40 mm quads - some of them are actually 3" double mounts (they look similar from a distance).

I painted her (like the Ashey project) in the Measure 21 overall Navy blue scheme she wore in 1944.

Overall what this project did was give me a bad case of "conversion fever." I now have, working from the same inexpensive 1/700 Arizona kit, conversion projects underway including the Idaho, New York, and Maryland, with a 1944 Nevada likely to follow.

The USS Pennsylvania entered service during WWI. Along with her sister, the Arizona, she was the first US battleship to mount 12 14" guns. She was modernized in the late 20s and gained the distinctive tripod masts she had till the start of WWII.

The Pennsylvania was in dry dock at Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. Protected from torpedoes by the dry dock, she suffered relatively minor damage and was back in service by March 1942. In October of the that year, she want to Mare Island for a major refit. At that point, she lost her tripod mainmast and gained 8 5" 38 double turrets, as well as her quad 40 mms and other greatly expanded AA armament.

Her first action after the refit was the 1943 Aleutians campaign. She also provided support to landings in the Gilberts, Marshalls, and Palaus. During the Phillipines campaign she took part in the famous Battle of Surigao Strait, the last battleship-against-battleship action in history (although, masked by the other ships in the battleline, she did not herself fire a shot). In the final days of the war, she took a torpedo hit that caused major damage.

Like most of the other old battleships, there was no place for this old warrior in the post-war Navy and she was used as part of the target fleet for the Bikini Atoll A-bomb tests. These blasts did not sink her, though, and she was afloat (no doubt seriously radioactive) till sunk as a practice target in early 1948.

Pennsylvania is my home state, so this ship has always been one of my favorites. Now that I've built her with tripod masts and in this late war version, I might just have to build her someday with her cage masts as she appeared when new. Always another project!

Paul Helfrich