USS Washington BB-56
by Ed McDonald

1/350 USS Washington BB-56 (Trumpeter Kitbash)

This is USS Washington BB-56 as she appeared on the night of November 14-15, 1942 at the 3rd Battle of Savo Island (Night Battle of Guadalcanal) where she sank Japanese Battleship Kirishima and effectively ended Japan's ability to re-supply and reinforce Guadalcanal. Considering the pivotal nature of the Guadalcanal campaign and Washington's huge contribution, it has always puzzled me as to why greater credit (and more model kits) is not given to this ship. In addition Washington received 13 battle stars in WW2. For battleships that was equaled only by South Dakota.

This model is a fairly significant modification of Trumpeter's 1/350 North Carolina plastic kit. The requirements of that conversion are outlined below. Anyone desiring additional information is welcomed to contact me.

Conversion of 1944 North Carolina (Trumpeter) to late 1942 Washington

Note that many changes are basic differences between North Carolina and Washington that existed throughout the lifetimes of the ships. Other changes reflect the differences between a 1944 and 1942 outfitting that both ships may have experienced.

The following general enhancement products were also used:

A discussion of armament in November 1942

There is no need to comment on the 16 and 5 inch guns; which remained constant throughout the ships life.

40mm Bofors vs. 1.1 inch guns

Washington experienced a refit in August of 1942. Her next refit was in April of 1943. Thus, her November 1942 appearance was based on the August refit. Several photos of her after and during that refit exist at They conclusively establish that after the refit she carried four 1.1" guns on her superstructure (2 far forward and 2 far aft). During that refit two 40mm gun tubs were added on her fantail. But, due to a shortage of 40mm guns, 1.1" guns were installed instead. Therefore, in November she carried six 1.1" guns and no 40mm guns.

50 cal Brownings

She probably carried 50 cal Brownings prior to her August 1942 refit. But there is not the slightest evidence to indicate that she carried any after that refit.

20mm Oerlikons – how many and where?

This subject has been confusing for Washington and for many other ships. But, I believe the proof is in several photos, included on the website mentioned above, which show the changes made during that refit. One must first understand how guns on a ship are numbered. The forward-most gun on the starboard side in gun #1. The forward-most on the port side is gun #2. The next one aft and starboard is #3. The next one aft on port is #4. And so on… A photo taken of her in August '42 after that refit clearly shows 2 guns (#1 & #2) on the bow inside unique tubs. That photo is inconclusive regarding bow guns aft of those. But a photo taken during the 3rd Battle of Savo clearly shows 3 unmanned Oerlikons starboard and aft of those two forward guns. Extrapolating from that and assuming that models shown on the USS Washington website are correct, that accounts for guns #3 through #8. Their placement is based on later photos of the bow. The photo taken after the '42 refit clearly shows triple gun emplacements on the main deck just aft of turret 2 and also on the 01 level just aft of the conning tower. Those would be guns #9 through #20. Another photo taken in August '42 during her refit (on the website mentioned above) shows and describes guns #23 and #24 just added to the aft 03 level. That information is further supported by another photo that describes the addition of guns #31 and #32 to the new quadruple gun emplacements (upgraded from triple) alongside the aft superstructure. Those, as noted on the photograph, are guns #25 through #32. That leaves only guns #21 and #22 missing. The photo taken after the refit clearly shows a 20mm gun mounted starboard amidships on the 01 level. That accounts for guns #21 and #22 and leaves none unaccounted for. It also means that no 20mm guns were mounted on the midships platform, as has been done in several other models, where 40mm guns were later mounted. Photos show something there but it is impossible to determine what. Consistent with early outfits of North Carolina, I have added searchlights in that location. Photos also clearly show 3 guns mounted on top of the #3 16 inch turret. Some modelers have chosen to add two 20mm guns on the main deck aft of the #3 turret. In fact, I did the same. The photo of Washington after the August refit does show something that could be a 20mm gun, at that location. But there is another photo of the stern taken from a point forward of the #3 turret, after the refit, that shows nothing in the way of aft 20mm guns. I had initially added those 2 guns aft. After I realized that at the very least their ammo boxes would have been very clearly visible in that photo, I removed them. My conclusion is that after her August '42 refit Washington carried 35 20mm guns, as described above and as modeled.

That is just my conclusion. I would be most interested in hearing from anyone who has an argument to the contrary.

Other details

The paints are Tamiya. Yes, believe me, I know they scratch easily. But the clean-up advantages of acrylics are huge and I find that when airbrushed and lightly buffed with cotton, they can look quite good. And, if scratched, a Q-tip with some water or a little alcohol can almost always smooth it out. The rigging is mostly my own hair – spray painted when required. It's thhe only thing I've found that is the right size. And, (I don't know if it's just me) but it takes glue really well and sticks like a rock on the first try. A coat of liquid Teflon (a fairly new and very effective downhill ski wax) adds durability.


Somebody should make a good 1/350 kit of Washington in 1942! Meanwhile, the conversion described is fun, challenging at times and produces an excellent result. IMHO.

Ed McDonald