World War Two brought a plethora of innovations and new ships and craft to the realm of amphibious warfare. One of these was a ship called the landing ship dock or
the dock landing ship and designated LSD. In November 1940 the direct ancestor of the landing ship dock appeared in a vessel called a Tank Landing Craft TLC,
which was redesignated as an Artillery Transport Mechanized APM. Eight were ordered and became APM-1 through APM-8. Before being constructed the type was
again redesignated as a Landing Ship Dock LSD on July 1. 1941.
USS Ashland LSD-1 was the first of the class laid down on June 22, 1942 and launched on
December 21, 1942. They were 457-feet 9-inches in length with a beam of 72-feet with a displacement of 4,052-tons light and 7,930-tons full load. Since they could
carry almost their weight, draft varied dramatically from 8-feet 2.5-inches forward and 10-feet 6-inches aft light to 15-feet 5.5-inches forward 16-feet 2-inches aft
loaded. Top speed was 17-knots. The
Ashland herself started her combat career in the amphibious assault on Tarawa on November 20, 1943 and was not scrapped
until 1970. In addition to the eight
Ashland Class ordered for the USN, seven of the class were ordered for the Royal Navy, which designated them British Mechanized
Artillery Transport BAPM. During construction they too were redesignated LSD. The first four Lend Lease LSDs were commissioned in the Royal Navy (LSD-9
through LSD-12) but the last three were commissioned in the USN as the
Casa Grande Class (LSD-13 through LSD-15), although there specifications were identical
to the
Ashland Class ,except for the propulsion plant. The Ashland Class ships were equiped with Skinner Uniflow reciprocating engines and the Casa Grande Class
had steam turbines. The plants of both classes developed 7,400ihp for a top speed of 15.4-knots for LSD 17-21, 7,000shp 15.4-knots for LSD 25-27 and 9,000shp
15.6-knots for LSD 22-24.
Another twelve Casa Grande Class ships were ordered for the USN (LSD-16 through LSD-27), although one was changed to a cargo ship well after the war
(LSD-23) and one was never completed and the contract cancelled (LSD-24). Starting with the
Ashland Class, the chief characteristic of the Landing Ship Dock
was the presence of a well deck that could be flooded to float smaller craft out of the well through a stern gate for an amphibious assault. Their mission was to
carry loaded landing craft and amphibious vehicles and launch them through the stern gate to assault a hostile shore. For follow-up of the assault their mission was
to serve as off shore repair shops for ships, amphibious craft and vehicles. As designed they could repair Landing Ship Medium (LSM) and Landing Ship Infantry
(LSI) but on one occasion an LSD replaced the bow of a Destroyer Escort (DE). Since the well deck could serve as a dry dock and the LSD was equipped with
shipfitter, machinery and carpentry shops, the LSD could serve an invaluable role in getting these ships repaired at a forward point and greatly sped up repair
operations.        
On January 3, 1945 USS Comstock LSD-19 was laid down at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. She was launched on April 28 and
commissioned on July 2, 1945.
Comstock was too late to see action in World War Two. She sailed from Norfolk on September 6, 1945 and stopped at Pearl Harbor,
before continuing to the east for support activities off of Japan and China. She stayed in the east until 1946 when she steamed to Puget Sound for conversion to a
Boat Pool Ship.
Comstock served along the western coast of the United States and in the western Pacific until the start of the Korean War. On July 7, 1950 she again
sailed for the western Pacific, arriving at Japan on August 12 to support naval operations off the Korean peninsula. It didn’t take long because on September 15
Comstock participated in the amphibious assault at Inchon. She was a repair and salvage vessel at Inchon until October 4. On October 26 she was present at the
invasion of Wonsan. On February 2, 1951 she became flagship for Minesweeping Squadron 3, operating off the east coast of Korea. Her mission was to provide
gunfire and logistic support.
USS Partridge AMS-31 was sunk by a mine and Comstock rescued the survivors on February 2, 1951. On May 20 Comstock
furnished the landing craft for use by the Royal Marines in a raid at Chinnampo. She returned to Long Beach, California on June 15, 1951. She had three more tours
during the war, mostly with Mine Squadron 3.
After cessation of hostilities the Comstock stayed in Japanese waters. In August 1954 she participated in Operation Passage to Freedom, which involved evacuating
civilians from Haiphong French Indo-China, soon to be North Vietnam. The next month she returned to Yokosuka and in November sailed for the US. In May 1955
Comstock provided support for underwater atomic tests. After that, between 1955 and 1960, she alternated between west coast operations supporting the marines
and Asian operations based in Japan. Between 1965 and 1969
Comstock had several tours off of Vietnam. She was decommissioned in the early 1970s and struck
from the Naval Register on June 30, 1976.
Comstock was placed in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, where she remained until 1984. On October 17, 1984 USS
Comstock
was sold for scrap and towed to Taiwan. However, Comstock escaped this fate for the time being. Nationalist China need a replacement for their Ashland
Class
ex-USS White Marsh LSD-8 and since the Comstock was still in good shape, Comstock was commissioned into the Chinese Navy as Donghai, the same name
and number as carried by the
White Marsh. Later the name was changed to Chung Cheng LSD-191 to honor the formal name of Chiang Kai-shek. On June 30, 2015
Chung Cheng, ex USS Comstock, was sunk as an artificial reef off of southwestern Taiwan, after 70 years of service.
Blue Ridge Models 1:700 Scale USS Comstock – If you don’t know it, Blue Ridge Models is a father and son concern with Russ Lowe and son, Brandon
Lowe
. Brandon specifically chose the Comstock as the subject of a Blue Ridge Models subject because there is a family connection with that ship. Denton Parker
served on the
USS Comstock during the Korean War and told Brandon stories of his service. Brandon is the grandson of Denton Parker and Russ is his son in law.
Brandon decided to go all out for his granddad’s ship. B
en Druel of Black Cat Models did the CAD work and Mike Cibovic of Corsair Armada was the Master of
the Molds. With such a pedigree, how could you lose? The
Blue Ridge Comstock, after a suitable period of gestation, has made its appearance as a striking
multimedia kit with resin hull and parts; full brass photo-etch fret; turned brass gun barrel, masts and yards; full decal sheet; and expansive full color instructions.
Blue Ridge protects the excellent resin parts with a box that is fully lined with foam protection to prevent shipping damage. No producer provides better protection
for their models.
The waterline hull is cast with an open well deck. There will need to be minor clean-up/sanding along some portions of the waterline. Detail is superb in fineness. Side
detail is dominated by the prominent knuckle forward with an undercut at the stern. Other detail on the hull sides include two rows of portholes forward, booms fore
and aft, anchor hawse fittings and drainage scuttles in the side bulkheads. The short forecastle is loaded with detail. These include hour-glass windlasses, deck hawses,
chain plates, lockers, very fine bollards, closed chocks, chain locker entrance housings, thin ventilator fittings and two deck access structures. I found these two
structures very interesting because they have hollow entrance openings, leading to the deck hatch. About halfway down the hull two narrow decks flank the well deck,
which separates them. The whole length of each deck is also covered with fine detail. There are a number of ventilators of different sizes, cable reels, lockers, chocks,
bollards, crane base fittings, base pillars for the 20mm Oerlikon and 40mm Bofor guns, stern windlasses and small deckhouses. These deck houses are arranged
asymmetrically with three on the starboard side and two on the port side. All of them have open entrance doors. The largest deck detail by far is the well deck. This
runs almost the complete length of the ship. The detail appears to be wooden planking with butt ends. There are a number of circular scuttles and also rectangular
plates on the deck. There are also vertical ladders cast integral to the well deck bulkheads. Cargo and equipment for the well deck is not included but Blue Ridge has
equipment accessories available separately.
Other resin parts are found on seven resin runners and one resin wafer. The two largest of these parts share a runner and are the upper and lower pieces of the structure
deck, found right behind the forecastle and covering the forward portion of the well deck. The upper portion starts with a very thin bulkhead protecting the 5-inch/38
gun forward. This shielding has three small lockers on the port side and a single mid-size locker on the starboard side. Open chocks and smaller closed chocks are
found at deck edge. There are also deck access hatches and other fittings on this part. The part ends with three platforms overhanging the well deck. The other part on
the runner fits flush with the bottom of the top deck. It is dominated by support beams but also has the forward bulkhead. A second runner has three more of the larger
parts. These include the bridge deck, bridge and optional mezzanine deck. The bridge deck has four Oerlikon tubs and two Bofors tubs. There is a navigation wing right
behind the Bofor tub on each side. Other deck detail includes lockers and ventilators. Side bulkhead detail on the bridge deck is very good with doors, ventilators and
lockers. The bridge part carries on with the excellence of the castings. It has very thin bulkheads on top with a tub on each side for AA directors. There are three
bulkheads for the front face with nicely incised square windows. The side and aft faces also have nice detail with pipes, open doors and other fittings. As mentioned, the
mezzanine deck is optional. If you don’t use it, you’ll have a long open well deck but if it is used, a good portion of the well deck will be covered. The mezzanine deck
has a flat surface and support beams underneath.
A third runner has three exhaust funnels with excellent cap detail, four AA director tubs, well deck bulkhead side plates, four circular Oerlikon positions, four horseshoe
Oerlikon platforms, a searchlight deckhouse that is the base for a searchlight tower, and one of the crane houses. The forth runner has the crane turntables with a huge
amount of cable reel and locker detail crammed on these small parts. The stern ramp for the well deck is also on this runner. Even smaller parts include a lifebuoy
fitting, ventilators, anchor, searchlight, searchlight platform, foremast top, and other parts. The last long resin runner has two more crane houses. A total of three crane
houses are included but one is a spare, as there are only two cranes carried. Smaller parts on this runner include more cable reels, another forward anchor, smaller stern
anchor, another lifebuoy fitting, more ventilators, and crane reels. Two smaller runners have four Oerlikon tubes on one and two Bofor tubs on the other. A resin sheet
has a multitude of parts. Twelve one-piece Oerlikons are included. These are really amazing little guns with pedestal, gun, barrel, shield and shoulder rests all integral to
each gun and all incredibly fine. Four Bofor platforms are on the sheet with two quadruple and two twin Bofor platforms. Each platform has the same fine detail as
found on the Oerlikons, with base mount, ejection chutes, and fittings.  However, in the case of the Bofors themselves, they are cast separately in two gun blocks with
barrels that include flared muzzles. Thirty-four detailed carley floats are attached to the sheet. Lastly, a third crane platform is included.
A moderate sized brass photo-etched fret is included in the kit. There is some relief-etching, such as the cable reel end caps, creases on the Bofor shields, and creasing
on other parts. The two largest items are the two cranes. Which are parts that have relief-etching on their folding creases. There are a number of small and large
platforms and many carley racks. There are 24 door frames with possible doors. Six of the parts are for the optional mezzanine deck in the form of support beams and
frames. Fine brass lattice frames for the searchlight tower, crane rest towers, director tub towers and carley rack frames. Another interesting specific part is an aft
superstructure walkway with folding safety rail. The inclined ladders have safety rails and trainable treads. Other brass parts include the Bofor shields, Bofor platform
safety railing, Bofor sites, cable reel frames, equipment hand wheels, accommodation ladders, boat frames, boat chocks & frames, vertical ladders, and different
patterns of railing. Each railing is designed for specific areas in assembly. Turned brass 5-inch barrel, mast, yards and antenna are included. Also included is a decal
sheet. This sheet has four white numbers with black shadow of the numbers 1 through 27. This allows the modeler to build a replica of any ship in the
Ashland and
Casa Grande Classes LSD-1 through LSD-27.

Instructions come in the form of a multi-color thick glossy 20 page instruction book. The part number squares are color coded. Pages 1 and 2 are a parts laydown and
color code chart. Pages 4 and 5 have the assembly steps for the forecastle, forward Oerlikon platforms, cable reel assembly, carley rack assembly and well deck
railings. Pages 6 and 7 have steps for midship assembly, crane assembly, a different carly frame assembly and boat rack assembly. Pages 8 and 9 have the steps for
stern assembly, Bofor twin assembly, 5-inch/38 assembly and structure deck assembly. Pages 10 and 11 cover bridge deck, bridge structure, quadruple Bofor and
searchlight position assemblies. Pages 12 and 13 have the final assembly modules for structure deck, bridge deck, a third carley rack and raft location assemblies. Pages
14 and 15 have the final bridge structure and searchlight assemblies and the optional mezzanine deck assembly. Pages 16 and 17 have rigging locations and pages 18 and
19 have color plans and profiles in early and late color schemes. The last page has the story of
Denton Parker's most memorable experience while serving on USS
Comstock
. This was off the harbor of Wansan, North Korea in 1953 when the ship was under fire by a railroad gun.  The 5-incher on Comstock was useless against the
gun so a bigger brother was called in the form of
USS Iowa. “She pulled in aft of us and turned broadside to the mountain and started firing her 16 inch guns right
over our head. The salvos sounded like freight trains going over us as she took off the top of the mountain.

If you have an interest in amphibious operations, the Blue Ridge Models USS Comstock LSD-19 in 1:700 scale is an outstanding kit with resin, brass photo-etch,
turned brass and decal sheet for a true multimedia presentation. With the kit the modeler cane build any of the ships of the
Ashland and Casa Grande Classes, the first
two classes of the Landing Ship Dock for the United States Navy.
Steve Backer
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