Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the German navy was reduced a shell of obsolete or obsolescence warships. It was not just battleships impacted by the harsh, punitive terms, but also
smaller combatants. Germany was only allowed to retain twelve torpedo boats and twelve destroyers and all of these predated 1914. With a country in chaos and on the verge of revolution, little could be
done in the early 1920s to remedy the situation. The first tentative steps were taken in 1925 with a new torpedo boat design. German torpedo boats were more akin to the World War Two destroyer escort,
so any lessons learned in the construction of the new torpedo boat designs could be applied to new destroyer designs. Six units of the
Torpedoboote Type 23 were laid down in 1925, followed in 1927 with
six units of the similar
Torpedoboote Type 24 class. Because of the low permitted displacement allowed under the Treaty, it was in the period of the Weimar Republic that the practice of grossly
understating/lying about the true displacement of every warship type was inaugurated.

It was another nine years before the first post World War One German destroyer design was finalized. It was 1934 and Hitler and the National Socialists (Nazis) had replaced the German Republic. Because
of lack of construction facilities, it was realized that Germany couldn’t compete against France and especially Great Britain in terms of numbers of destroyers. Accordingly, German designers sought to
obtain a qualitative superiority of German destroyers over the French and British destroyers. Although this approach was similar that that taken by the Japanese Navy, the German Designers were less
successful than the Japanese Designers. Ironically, the features incorporated into German destroyer designs, intended to make them superior, proved to be the weaknesses of the design. This centered
around two main warship systems, power plant and armament.
When German destroyers first turned their attention to a new destroyer design, the initial sketch designs were in line with contemporary destroyers in other navies. It would displace 1,500-tons and be armed
with four 5-inch guns and two triple torpedo tubes. The initial design would not offer any significant qualitative advantage over contemporary foreign designs, so Admiral Raeder mandated a new design that
would be larger, have five 5-inch guns and quadruple torpedo tubes instead of triple. Additionally, a new type of power plant would be used using significantly higher pressure than contemporary plant
designs. Contemporary designs had steam pressure around 300 psi but the new plant would use much higher pressures. Theoretically, this would allow significant advantages. A higher power to weight ratio
offered more power, and reduced space requirements and less weight for the plant. The saved space and weight could be used to enhance other ship’s systems, further increasing superiority over foreign
destroyers.

The high pressure design was not entirely untested, as a few German merchant steamers had selected high pressure designs but they had not yet gone into service, so there was no operational history yet
available when the same technology was selected for the first German destroyer design. Contemporary steam plants operated around a boiler pressure of around 300psi, however, the new German high
pressure designs were designed to operate up to 1,600psi. The boilers selected for the new destroyer design were manufactured by Benson and operated at 1,325psi. The high pressure design was not ready
for prime time and its deficiencies far outweighed the theoretical advantages. The high pressure caused frequent failures and breakdowns. The problem was not just confined to the destroyers, The
Scharnhorst class battleships and especially the Admiral Hipper class heavy cruisers were also plagued with power plant breakdowns due to the use of high pressure boilers.
The first four ships (Z1 – Z4), designated Type 34, were completed with a straight stem and trials soon proved that the design of the bow left a lot to be desired, as the forward part of the ship was very
wet. They also had a round front face to the bridge. The bow of the first four was redesigned with an angled cutwater, raised forecastle and bow sheer and a square bridge added to for more space for
bridge personnel. The next twelve were built with these modifications and designated
Type 34A. Two Type 34 were laid down in October 1934 and the second two in January 1935. The twelve Type
34A
ships were laid down between July 1935 to November 1935. The design was larger in size and heavier in displacement and stronger in armament than most contemporary designs, although the
French
Mogodor class was even larger. However, the only real innovation was the use of the high pressure boilers. The destroyers were far ahead of most contemporaries in terms of anti-aircraft
armament. At a time when foreign designs relied on machine guns for AA, the
Type 34 mounted two twin 37mm AA mounts and six 20mm AA guns. The ships were 390-feet 5-inches oa for Z1 through
Z8 and 397-feet oa for Z9 through Z16. Beam was 37-feet. Displacement ranged between 2,171-tons to 2,239-tons standard (3,110-tons to 3,160-tons full load. Total armament was five 5-inch (5x1)
guns, four 37mm AA guns (2X2), six 20mm AA guns (6x1), eight 21.7-inch torpedoes (2x4) and 60 mines. The high pressure steam plant of six Benson boilers drove two shafts and developed 70,000
shp (when not broken) with a maximum speed of 38-knots. Range was 1,900 nm at 18-knots. The
Type 34 and 34A ships were given names. In a harbinger of things to come, the Bruno Heinemann
(
Z8) was completed was completed with four 5.9-inch guns (150mm) instead of the five 5-inch guns. She was a test unit to see if destroyers gun carry a heavier main battery successfully. However, the
actual tests were done at low speeds in good weather and produced grossly over-optimistic reports.

The next design was called
Type 36. It was basically an improvement of the previous Type 34 design with reduced top weight achieved through the reduction in height of the forward funnel and
amidships superstructure. The hull was lengthened and beam slightly increased with better underwater hull lines making the class better sea boats than the
Type 34/34A ships. Six ships were in the class,
all launched with names. The first three,
Z17 through Z19 were completed with a bow design of the Type 34A but for the last three, Z20 through Z22, were given clipper bows, further increasing their
length. Steam pressure was reduced by switching to Wagner high pressure boilers operating at 850psi but even with a drop of more than 500psi, these boilers were still plagued by failure and
breakdowns.
Z17 to Z19 were laid down in September and October 1936 but there was a slight delay in start up for the next three because of the redesign with the clipper bow. Z20 through Z22 were
laid down September 1937 through January 1938. The only change in armament over the
Type 34 ships was the addition of a seventh 20mm gun. Length for Z17 through Z19 was 403-feet 6-inches and
for
Z20 through Z22 410-feet 1-inch because of their clipper bows. Beam for all units was 38-feet 8-inches. Displacement ranges from 2,411-tons to 2,449-tons standard and 3,415-tons to 3,469-tons
full load. The Wagner boilers and turbine plant produced the same power and speed as the Benson boiler plant of the
Type 34 ships. Range was slightly increased to 2,100nm at 18-knots by increased fuel
oil bunkerage.
The German designs staff was working on a destroyer design, designated Type 37, that would be well suited for operations in the Atlantic but it would take more time to finalize. Admiral Raeder did
not want to lose construction time from the completion of the
Type 36 ships waiting for the new design so an interim hybrid design was developed and designated Type 36A. Using a modified Type 36
hull but incorporating five 5.9-inch guns, as a result of the problematic test report from the
Z8 trials. To save weight the destroyer was designed to carry a twin gun mount in a waterproof gun house
forward to replace the two single gun mounts of earlier designs. The eight ship class,
Z23 through Z30, were laid down between November 1938 through April 1940. Production delays for the new
light-weight forward twin gun turret, caused the ships to be fitted with a temporary single gun 5.9-inch open mount with gun shield to be mounted forward in lieu of the turret. When the turrets
became available, they were fitted to the ships and the
Z23 was the last to receive the twin turret in 1942. The twin turret was heavier than anticipated causing the bow to ride deeper and be very wet.
This, coupled with the fact that the gun housing was not water tight, caused electrical shorts and power failures for the twin turret. The length increased to 416-feet 8-inches oa with a beam of
39-feet 4-inches. Displacement ranged from 2,603-tons to 3,079 tons standard, 3,543-tons to 3,605-tons full load. The power plant was unchanged with six Wagner high pressure boilers and because
of heavier weights and decreased bow freeboard, maximum speed varied from 36 to 38.5-knots. Range was again slightly increased to 2,174-2,239 nm at 19-knots. Only five instead of seven 20mm
guns were carried. None of the
Type 36A ships were given names. One the ships, the Z28, was further modified to allow it to be a destroyer leader, with flagship space and capabilities. The Z28 was
laid down November 30, 1939, launched August 20, 1940 and commissioned August 9, 1941 and was the flagship for Commander Destroyers. To accommodate the increased personnel as a type
flagship, superstructure was increased and only four guns carried with two forward and two aft single gun mounts, creating a unique one-off design.

The mythical Atlantic
Type 37 never did materialize but with the start of the war, new destroyers were need. The next ten ships, designated Type 36A (MoB) were ordered on September 19, 1939 and
were virtual repeats of the earlier
Type 36A with minor detail changes. Z31 to Z34 and Z37 to Z39 were laid down between September 1940 to January 1941 but the last thee, Z40 to Z42, were never
laid down and eventually cancelled as the fleet received lower priority for surface ship, not submarine, construction. They were built slowly because of the changed priorities and entered service
between April 1942 to August 21, 1943, when the
Z39 was commissioned. The ships completed in 1942 carried a quadruple 20mm AA mount aft but by 1943 newly commissioned ships carried two
of these mounts, one forward and one aft. Other armament was the same as the
Type 36A ships. The last destroyer design, designated Type 36B (MoB) was another derivative of the Type 36A but
reverted back to 5-inch guns, as the failure of the 5.9-inch gun as destroyer armament had become abundantly clear in wartime operations. Five were ordered,
Z35. Z36, Z43 to Z45, were ordered
and laid down between June 1941 to September 1943 but only the first three were commissioned between September 1943 and March 1944. The last two were launched but never completed.
As mentioned, Z39 was the last of the Type 36A (Mob) Class to be laid down and commissioned. As such, she was the last destroyer to be commissioned carrying the 5.9-inch main gun. She was
built at the Germania Werks in Kiel was laid down August 15, 1940, was launched December 2, 1941 and commissioned August 21, 1943.After commissioning the
Z39 operated in Danish waters in
the Skagerrak but in early 1944 was sent to the eastern Baltic as part of Flotilla 6. As part of the naval effort vainly trying to stem the Red Juggernaut grinding westward,
Z39 briefly worked at the
entrance to the Gulf of Finland, which culminated at Leningrad. On June 23, 1944
Z39 was at anchor at Reval when Russian bombers damaged her. She was sent back to Kiel for repairs at
Deutschewerk and was further damaged in an RAF air attack. Repairs were completed on July 24, 1944. There were still problems so in August
Z39 was towed to Swinemunde in the Baltic for
further repairs and a refit.
Z39 was the only German destroyer to receive the full “Barbara” refit, which hugely upgraded the AA capabilities of the ships. Antiaircraft armament zoomed to fourteen
37mm guns (6x2, 2x1); ten 20mm guns (1x2, 2x4). This was completed on February 16, 1945. She saw very little action for the rest of the war and was allocated to the United States after the war
as
DD-939. In 1947 she was transferred to France and renamed Leopard, later Q128, where she was cannibalized for spare parts for other ex-German destroyers serving in the reborn French Navy.
The remaining hulk was scrapped in 1958.
After multiple lovely 1:350 scale USN destroyers, Dragon finally released a model of a destroyer from another navy. The first Dragon 1:350 Scale German Destroyer just happens to be Z39, the last
German destroyer to be built mounting 5.9-inch (150mm) guns, and in her final fit with the full “
Barbara” AA suite. This particular model shows her appearance from February 16, 1945 through her
service in the USN as
DD-939. It certainly is a one-off subject, as only Z39 was the only German destroyer to receive the full Barbara refit. As always, the Dragon 1:350 scale Z39 is an impressive,
beautiful kit. It can be built full hull or in water line format as the hull is in two parts with a separate lower hull for those who prefer full hull models in this larger scale. Including figures and stand
there are at least 15 sprues of plastic parts included with the kit. Detail is outstanding. The box states that the kit has 650 parts and I believe it. If all that plastic was not enough,
Dragon provides three
frets of relief-etched brass. This is not a battleship kit. This is not a carrier or cruiser kit. This is a destroyer kit with three brass detail frets! Not that the presentation ends there.
Dragon throws in
two sheets of Cartograf decals.
The upper hull is clean with an interesting flared stern. The hull port holes have eyebrows (rigoles). In common with other larger German warship designs, the narrow bow lacked hull mounted
anchor hawse and instead had chutes slanting from the forecastle to the upper hull. The upper hull also features horizontal strengthening strakes added to further strengthen and add rigidity to the
narrow bow. The lower hull has the usual bilge keels but also has underwater bilge pump exits  and interesting aft lines, due to the unusual stern design. Sprue C concentrates on the
superstructure, superstructure decks and the funnels. Just look at the detail of those parts in the photographs, Square windows, bulkhead mounted life buoys, circuit wiring,  circuit boxes and
molded on bulkhead doors with dog detail. However, some doors are open allowing the modeler to use the photo-etch doors to be positioned open or closed. The funnels also exhibit elaborate detail
with rivets, steam lines, strengthening bands, foot/hand rungs and separate caps with open grates. One of the decks has an open grate deck pattern. Sprue D is a small one but it does show how
fine
Dragon can mold the parts. It concentrates on mast detail but has other very thin small details like davits, jack staff and ensign staff.

The bridge parts are found on Sprue E and the bridge face is a real standout. The interior bulkhead for the bridge has frame detail. There are two F sprues, which have an assortment of parts from
the quadruple torpedo tubes with superb detail, cable reel frames, life rafts, deck windless, binnacles, and search light. Two small G sprues concentrate on ship’s boats with the powered launch
featuring wood planked decks. The two H sprues are crammed with very finely detailed AA guns. It doesn’t matter if it is the 37mm gun or the 20mm gun, the guns are finely molded with flared
flash suppressors and exquisite detail. J sprue contains only the forward twin 5-inch gin mount with very nice front face detail. Two K sprues have the aft single gun 5-inch gun turrets. What is
striking about these is their rivet construction and numerous openings. The standard
Dragon standing and pedestals is included if the full hull version is built. As with other kits Dragon adds two
bonus sprues of three figures on each. In summation, the plastic parts are top notch!
The first of the brass frets is the largest. It has the funnel handrails, anchor chain, life buoy racks, ventilation louvers, search light cage, vertical ladders,, radar array and some smaller
doors. The next fret has absolutely gorgeous gun shields for the 37mm and 20mm mounts, gunners seats, hand wheels, and elevation mechanisms. The last fret just contains various
pattern doors with dog detail, port holes and rivet detail. One sheet of the decals has six flags, one straight and one furled German flag, one straight and one furled US ensign for
DD-939,
and one straight and one furled USN jack. The blue on the US flags and jack are too light. Also, you’ll have to piece together the swastikas for the German ensigns. (
Incidentally, the
Nationalist Socialist flag used as a backdrop in the photographs of the Z39 model was acquired by my father, who was a bazooka-man in the 104th Timberwolves Infantry Division, in
the ETO, and had some interesting up close and personal encounters with StuG IIIs and fortunately for him and for me only a close brush with Tigers. If you look closely, you’ll see
signatures from his section buddies from the Bronx, Washington, California, well … all over
.) The second decal sheet has hull numbers, crest and more swastikas that need to be pieced
together.

Instructions are in the standard competent
Dragon format. A single back printed sheet is fan folded to create ten pages of instructions. Each page is as follows: (1) parts laydown; (2)
paint guide and 37mm gun assembly; (3) 5-inch gun turrets, 20mm mounts, masts, searchlight position and cable reel assembly; (4) masts, radar, superstructure assembly; (5) bridge and
funnels assembly; (6) superstructure decks; (7) hull and main deck assembly; (8) final assembly for entire model as well as lower hull assembly; (9) plan & profile and color guide for
Z39 1945; and (10) plan & profile and color guide for USS DD-939 1945.
The Dragon 1:350 scale model of the Z39 Type 36A (MoB) destroyer is an absolutely gorgeous kit, crammed with detail. This is the 1945 “Barbara” fit that maximized antiaircraft gunpower
and of all of the then surviving German destroyers, only
Z39 received the full Monty for a truly one-off appearance.












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