Models in Bottles

Building ships in bottles from scratch

February 8, 2016

Researching Historic Ships for a Build

The next ship I build is going to be the USS Lyman K Swenson which was my grandfather's ship during WWII. This ship saw action in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Naturally I want my build to reflect the early years while he was sailing.

USS Lyman K Swenson DD-279
USS Lyman K Swenson

Pictures of anyone particular ship from this era are pretty rare. I mean googling "Lyman K Swenson" is going to give you a dozen blurry pictures at best, so I had to get creative with my research. This is the line of thinking that got me a lot of great pictures and dimensions to work off of:

What class are you trying to build?
Lyman K Swenson is a Sumner class destroyer. That knowledge alone increases your googability 58 fold (since there were 58 of those ships built). I can settle for any good photos of Sumner class destroyers and just know I need to paint 729 on it.

Is it related to any other classes?
It just so happens that in WWII the US only used three destroyer classes: Fletcher, Sumner, Gearing (and some weird minelayer offshoots). I was able to find out the Sumner class has a different gun layout than the Fletcher and the Gearing is a little longer than the Sumner. Otherwise, they're basically (totally?) identical.

What changes did that class go through?
The Sumner class, and I assume other classes, went through a huge facelift for the Vietnam War called FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization). If I want to build her like she looked in WWII, I just need to find photos prior to FRAM. Now we're getting somewhere.

So what's the bottom line?
I went from being able to use a dozen or so grainy pictures to literally any picture of a WWII destroyer, so long as I know what needs to change. If the picture has a Fletcher hull number, I can't use it to model the guns, but I can use it for any other part of the ship. If the picture has a Gearing hull number, I can use it for anything except scaling dimensions of the hull.

I'm not sure when I'll get started on this build, but hopefully it will be in the next few days to a week. I have the bottle, but I just need to find the time to plan and sand out the hull. I have no idea what I'm going to build the superstructure out of. Oh well, that's a problem for another day.

Finally, thanks for your service, Pop. I love you and miss you.

Pop in the US Army in Korea

Gram and Pop being awesome