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Blue Devil

Lindberg 1/125 Blue Devil Destroyer (USS Melvin DD 680) Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review February 2011 Manufacturer Lindberg
Subject Blue Devil Destroyer (USS Melvin DD 680) Scale 1/125
Kit Number 70815 Primary Media 457 parts (412 in grey styrene, 17 black plastic driveline parts, 7 copper coated steel rods, 7 steel screws, 5 brass electrical parts, 4 rubber bands, 2 vinyl couplers, 1 motor, 1 length of copper wire, 1 length of copper chain)
Pros Relatively (!) inexpensive large-scale ship kit suitable for remote control; many working parts and moving parts when the ship is moving; relatively easy model to assemble and rugged enough to run in still water Cons Child of the 1960s and it shows it; many discrepancies with actual Fletcher Class destroyers
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $129.95

First Look

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s the plastic model industry was getting into its prime - the “first golden age of modeling” – and were starting to branch out into larger and larger model kits. Revell launched its line of large ships in 1/96 scale and Monogram turned to 1/8 scale car kits. Lindberg, as something of an “also ran” at the time, tried both lines as well but as all of them wanted a “niche” of their own soon turned to large scale motorized ship kits with working features. The first two were a 1/350 scale Bismarck and a 1/350 scale HMS Hood. Both kits had programmable (via a camming system) movement in the water, moving turrets, and large size – each ship was about 27" long when complete.

The acme of their ship kits were their 1/32 scale PT-109 PT boat kit and the 1/125 scale “Blue Devil” destroyer kit. The latter did everything: it could follow one of four different pre-programmed courses in the water, had its gun turrets move and elevate along with torpedo tubes and gun directors, and was really BIG – 36" (910mm) long. In order to achieve that, Lindberg picked the somewhat odd scale of 1/125 (apparently making it 1/96 would have made it nearly four feet long and exceeded the capability of molds, as well as made it prohibitively expensive.)

The model was supposedly based on the USS MELVIN, a Fletcher Class destroyer built in October 1943, active in the Pacific, reactivated from 1951-1954, and then struck in 1975. There are two photos of the ship on pages 20 and 30 of the Squadron/Signal book “Fletcher DDs in Action” that shows her to be a modified Fletcher in the “Late War” configuration: “square” bridge, five 5/38" mounts, ten torpedo tubes, five twin 40mm mounts, seven twin 20mm mounts, two roller racks and six K gun depth charge launchers.

As time went on, the kit started to look like, well, a Lindberg kit. Too many “working features” to permit scale accuracy, too many compromises, and too many toylike parts soon caused a number of modelers to condemn this kit to the flea markets (unless they enjoyed operating it either with its four fixed patterns or via an R/C setup. A few hardy souls did attempt to accurize the kit and turn it into a scale model, but that took a lot of work and detailing of the parts.

Lindberg went out of business for all practical purposes by the 1980s, but in recent years many of its kits have been re-released under their original manufacturer’s logo. (The people who now own Lindberg (J. Lloyd) also own the old Hawk brand now – less the kits which went to Testors – and are also selling them again as well.) This kit is now one of the re-releases (from number 815M in the 1960s to 70815JL signifying the new ownership.

The kit is 100% of the original kit - no modifications, no drop-outs, no changes or upgrades. That is both good and bad, as many kits from that era have been “corrected” which usually means a kit which no longer has some of the charm of that era nor represents an accurate model. It retains the complete motorization option in which six D cell batteries provide power as well as ballast for the model; unlike most Lindberg kits of the time that used pulleys and rubber bands to drive the propellers in their motorized form, this one has a substantial gearbox and vinyl shaft couplings to drive the two twin-bladed propellers. (Oddly enough the typical Lindberg retouched frontspiece artwork shows three-bladed props; no clue if the first kits had them or it was the test shot mockup which did.)

To their credit Lindberg did concentrate on trying to do a good job (great for the time) of the model and made it as accurate as they could and still permit all of the working features to be serviceable and the six D cell batteries. That meant the seven screws used for fastening the deck in place would be exposed, but with the level of sophistication of the time that was easy to overlook.

The kit has none of the niceties most modelers today expect, such as fine molded parts or etched brass to replicate screens or mesh (such as radar antenna). For its time, it was kind enough to provide stanchions for the railings rather than a big rim with ridges as did nearly every other kit.

The 5" gun houses come in nine parts (gun, mount, base, traverse pin, four part gun house and rear vent) with an optional flash cover (parts 126) for the gun. The guns do not elevate as they did on the Bismarck or Hood, so anyone wanting a scale effect may wish to install them.

The main gun director also rotates and comes in seven parts, but the screen (part 93) is very thick and only simulates the actual radar screen used.

Each twin 40mm consists of two parts; however the gunners’ sights are crude semicircles so anyone wishing a modicum of accuracy may want to replace them with clear styrene circles or etched brass on general principles. The 20mm mounts have three parts - mount, guns and shields, with the latter also being thick as well.

Torpedo tubes come in sets of five with details for the fore and aft sets included; the latter has the blast shield housing for the crew to protect them from the midships 5" mount.

Probably the least impressive parts by today’s standards are the depth charges and the main mast. The charges are split down the middle and the seam that results is nearly impossible to remove due to the fact they sit on racks, those on the K guns have huge depressions on the ends. The mast is one single piece with only a small radar antenna that is added to it; the main radar antenna is way too thick and only hints at a mesh texture.

The whaleboats consist of four parts each – hull, interior, canvas cover, and rudder assembly. As with other bits, these are a bit thick or smooth, but again recall this was done in the mid 1960s.

One thing not mentioned in the motorization steps is to ensure that the shaftways are heavily coated with Vaseline prior to assembly as a sealant against water leakage. I recall more than once when I missed this step as a kid and watched a ship suddenly heel over and sink to the bottom of my grandmother’s swimming pool. While retrieving it was not a problem, it wasn’t anything I had expected!

There are numerous other shortcuts taken – for example, the stacks come in only two parts and have no protective grid over the top of the cap. Anyone who wants to turn this model into a showpiece has his work cut out for him.

Finishing is another missed opportunity. After highlighting the ship’s history in the directions, the directions indicate it should be painted in a splinter pattern (Measure 32) scheme. But according to the Squadron/Signal book and the two photos the actual vessel was painted in Measure 21 which is how it got the nickname “Blue Devil”. This scheme is listed as: Vertical Surfaces - Navy Blue 5-N (all vertical surfaces without exception); Horizontal Surfaces - Deck Blue, 20-B; Wood Decks - except on submarines and carriers shall be darkened to the color Deck Blue, Deck Blue paint shall be used in lieu of stain for this purpose; Canvas Covers - visible from the outside vessel are to be dyed a color corresponding to Deck Blue.

Decals consist of only the bow numbers, two “Blue Devil” insignia which apparently go on the after stack, a scoreboard for the side of the bridge, and one other small decal. Photos show it should also have smaller numbers at the stern behind the propeller guards and a low relief name welded on the stern.

Overall, this is something that can be described more as a fun project than a serious model. I intend to put this one together, paint it up, and use it to excite my grandchildren. And it’s a perfect father/son project as well!

Sprue Layout

  • 1 Electric motor (9 V)
  • 1 Length of black-coated copper wire
  • 1 Deck
  • 1 One-piece lower hull
  • 3 Stand
  • 3 Copper-plated steel rods (long)
  • 4 Copper-plated steel rods (short)
  • 1 Length of copper chain
  • 2 Brass grommets
  • 3 Brass battery clips
  • 4 Rubber bands
  • 2 Vinyl couplers
  • 7 Steel screws
  • 7 Gearing and propellers (black)
  • 10 Gearing and thrust washers (black)
  • 112 Deckhouse sides, stanchions, bitts, battery box case
  • 39 Stacks, twin 20mm guns, platforms, connector rods for moving action
  • 84 Deckhouse sides, cam pins, gun flash covers, depth charge racks, keepers
  • 56 Stand bases, whaleboats, rudders, rafts, deckhouse parts
  • 34 Deckhouse deck, long control rods, 20mm gun mounts, K guns
  • 23 Bridge, twin 40mm guns, 5" turret sides
  • 37 Bridge components, torpedo tube sets, davits, control shafts, 40mm gun mounts
  • 27 5" gun houses, 52 mount deck, mast with radar