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.

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 served an invaluable role in getting these ships repaired at a forward point and greatly sped up repair operations.        
The next development of the Landing Ship Dock came with the Thomaston Class. The name ship of the class indirectly honored General Henry Knox, George
Washington’s Chief of Artillery and first Secretary of War, who was born in Thomaston, Maine. After the Korean War in the mid 1950s the
Thomaston Class was
developed as larger and faster ships than the
Ashland and Casa Grande ships of World War Two. Their displacement was 9,042-tons light and 11,989-tons full load.
The were 510-feet (160m) long, with a beam of 84-feet (26m). They were designed to carry the Landing Craft Utility (LCU), or nine Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM-
8), or 16 LCM-6, or fifty LVT-5 amphibians. Propulsion was two turbines fed steam by two boilers. The turbines could produce 24,000 shp for a top speed of 22-
knots. The machinery shops were underneath the dock (well deck) instead of on the sides, creating a larger dock. Additionally the deck above the dock was made of
removable segments, which could support the weight of two medium helicopters. Originally they were armed with four twin mount 3-inch/50 Mk33 guns but tatter two
of the mounts were landed. There were eight ships in the
Thomaston Class (LSD-28 through LSD-35) with USS Thomaston LSD-28 laid down on March 3, 1953,
launched on February 5, 1954 and commissioned September 17, 1954. Most of the ships were placed in reserved in the mid 1980s and later scrapped or sunk but two
were sold to Brazil,
USS Alamo LSD-33 became Rio de Janeiro G31 and USS Hermitage LSD-34 became Ceará G30. The Ceará is still in reserve status in Brazil.
The next jump in Landing Ship Dock design was the Anchorage Class. Only five of this class were built (LSD-36 through LSD-40). The Anchorage Class showed
another leap in design. The length was 553-feet (169m), beam of 85-feet (26m) and draft of 20-feet (6.1m)(mean). The displacement rose to 14,225-tons full load.
Built to cover the retirement of the remaining WW2
Ashland and Casa Grande Class LSDs, USS Anchorage LSD-36 was laid down at the Ingalls Shipyard in
Pascagoula, Mississippi on March 13, 1967. She was launched on May 5, 1968 and commissioned on March 15, 1969. The other four ships in the class were built by
General Dynamics at Quincey, Massachusetts And were laid down between 1967 to 1970. The propulsion plant and maximum speed was the same as the preceding
Thomaston Class. The dock (well deck) was 430-feet (130m) long and 40-feet (12m) wide. The combat load of the Anchorage Class was the same as the
Thomaston Class, except the newer class could accommodate more troops and cargo with 12,000 square feet parking space. As with the previous class, the
Anchorage Class was equipped with a removable flight deck for helicopter operations. The class was initially equipped with eight 3-inch/50 (76mm) guns in twin
mounts, which eventually reduced to two mounts and landed all together and replaced by two 20mm Phalanx CIWS and two 25mm Bushmaster automatic cannons.
USS Fort Fisher LSD-40 was decommissioned in 1998 and in 2000 the USS Pensacola LSD-38 was sold to Taiwan, where she still remains as the Hsu Hai
LSD-193. In 2003 the other members of the class were decommissioned and other than
Hsu Hai, the other four were sunk (3) or scrapped (1).

The next design further increased in size and capabilities. This was the
Whidbey Island Class of eight ships (LSD-41 through LSD-48). There was a large jump in
length over the
Anchorage Class to 609-feet 7-inches (186m)(oa) 580-feet (wl), while the beam actually was 84-feet (26m) one foot less. The draft was slightly less
than the
Anchorage Class at 19.6-feet (5.94m). Displacement is 16,100-tons full load, an almost 2,000-ton increase over the Anchorages. The Whidbey Island
LSD-41 was laid down on August 4, 1981, was launched on June 10, 1983 and entered service on February 9, 1985. LSD-41 through LSD-43 were built at the
Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction in Seattle, Washington, while the final five were built at Avondale Shipyard at Westwego, Louisiana, twenty miles up the
Mississippi from New Orleans. The class is designed to carry four LCAC hovercraft but as in previous classes can carry a mixed load. The permanent flight deck is
designed for helicopters or V-22 Ospreys. A mid-life upgrade will keep the class operational through 2038. Propulsion is provided by four 16-cylinder Colt Industries
diesel engines providing 33,000shp and driving the two shafts for a maximum speed of 20-knots. Armament includes two Mk38 25mm cannons, two Phalanx 20mm
CIWS gatlings, one RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) mount and six M2HB .50 machine guns.
The Whidbey Island Class maximized assault capability but the Navy wished to have a Landing Ship Dock with greater cargo capability. The Whidbey Island design
was modified and used for a ship whose primary mission was still assault but had a greater cargo  capability. It was realized that considerable time and money could
be saved by modification of the
Whidbey Island Class design. To do this the well deck was decreased, allowing only two LCACs instead of the four carried by the
Whidbey Island Class. However, this allowed a much greater deck space for vehicles and cargo. The design was called the LDS-41 Cargo Variant (LSD-41 CV). The
two classes have the same lines and propulsion plants. The easiest way to tell the two classes apart is their weapons placement. With
Whidbey Island the RAM missile
system is forward and the Phalanx CIWS is on top of the bridge and with
Harpers Ferry the Phalanx is forward and the RAM is on top of the bridge.  Twelve of the
class were ordered (LSD-49 through LSD-60) but the last eight were cancelled. All of the ships were ordered from the Avondale Shipyard.
USS Harpers Ferry
LSD-49 was ordered June 17, 1988 and laid down April 15, 1991. She was launched on January 16, 1993 and commissioned on January 7. 1995. The other three
ships in the class are
USS Carter Hall LSD-50, USS Oak Hill LSD-50 and USS Pearl Harbor LSD-51. Dimensions are the same as in the Whidbey Island.
Displacement is 11,547-tons light and 16,400-tons full load. The well deck can accommodate two Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), or one Landing Craft Utility
(LCU), or four Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM-8), or nine LCM-6, or fifteen Armored Assault Vehicles (AAV). Armament is the same as in
Whidbey Island. The
class also carries six Mk 36 Super Blooming Outboard Chaff (SRBOC) mounts.
Harpers Ferry and Pearl Harbor are based in San Diego, California, while the other two are based at Little Creek, Virginia. On September 1, 2002 the Harpers Ferry
replaced
USS Germantown LSD-42 as the forward deployed ship in Sasebo, Japan, where she remained until 2011, when the two ships rotated ports again. While
stationed in Japan,
Harpers Ferry participated in a number of typhoon relief expeditions, including Operation Caring Response for Burma in 2008, to the Philippines in
2009, recovery of the ROKS  Cheonan (sunk by a North Korean submarine) in April 2010 and relief for a level 9.0 earthquake and tsunami at Tohoku, Japan on March
11, 2011.

Orange Hobby 1:350 Scale Harpers Ferry - The Orange Hobby 1:350 scale USS Harpers Ferry is a huge model. Truly a multimedia kit, Orange Hobby has
packed the large box with every conceivable part to build this ship. It is a full hull kit but can easily be built in waterline format, as there are separate upper and lower
hulls divided at the waterline. Whichever format you build, there is some cleanup of the hull pieces necessary. Both halves of the hull have resin pour slabs at some
locations along their hull edges. The upper hull has two of these slabs of moderate size at the bow. The lower hull has twenty smaller pour slabs, except for a slab at
the transom stern, which is the largest of all the pour slabs. The well deck has eleven pour slabs. None of these slabs are too thick, so you can use a Dremel to cut
them off and then sand smooth without much effort. Of course, you can delete the well deck if you have the stern ramp in a raised position.
The upper hull casting is loaded with detail on the sides and the decks. Although a generally inconspicuous item, the waste water scuttles along the lower hull are
marvelously detailed, as they are recessed and have discharge valves in side each recess. I have never seen this detail in any kit before. At the bow there are slightly oval
prominent anchor hawse fittings. Then there is a twin knuckle separating the hull from the forward superstructure. Along the knuckle there are some fittings and three
porthole fittings on the port side and more fittings and only one porthole on the starboard side. The lower hull, below the knuckle, appears pretty much the same on
both sides, except for the galleries at the stern. There are scattered porthole fittings, smaller fittings that resemble circular plates used in WW2 to cover portholes, oval
fittings, square rectangular horizontal doors, vertical pipes at the stern and six large ventilation ovals at the stern on each side. The port galleries at the stern have details
that are different in arrangement on each side. They consist of numerous doors, ventilation louvers, junction boxes, vertical ladder, piping and J-shaped ventilators. The
forward superstructure has different arrangements on the port side from the starboard side. Detail includes porthole fittings, the circular plates ventilator openings,
access doors, piping on the starboard side and a large protruding box on the port side. There are asymmetrical structures in front of and behind the major upper
superstructure that are inboard of the major portion of upper superstructure. Detail on these structures varies from port and starboard. However, no matter what side
you examine, the bulkheads are packed with detail. The bridge has a wrap around square window fitting and the open bulkhead above that has support gussets on each
side.
                         
If anything, the detail on the decks of the upper hull casting is even finer than that found on the sides. Although there is a short forecastle, it is loaded with fine detail. It
starts with a scuttle fitting at the top of the cut water. There are ten double bollard fitting, four large and six medium, all of which have outward flared tops. The anchor
gear is especially fine with windlass bases, horseshoe hawse, anchor chain locker fittings and anchor chain running from the windlass bases to the anchor hawse.
Oddly there is no anchor chain running for the short runs from the windlass bases to the chain locker entrance fittings. The smaller superstructure in front of the bridge
has the Phalanx base and fittings associated with this weapons system. There are also lockers and circular plates on the outboard edges. On the top deck are mounts for
the machine guns, chaff launchers and other fittings, along with deck hatches and plenty of locater holes for other fittings. On the bridge deck are observation platforms
and outlines for two separate deck houses. Amidship detail includes boat chocks, crane base, tie-down points, an opening to the well deck, a couple of lockers and a
ramp leading up to the flight deck. The large flight deck occupies the aft 40% of deck space and is covered with tie-down points with fittings and fitting bases along
both sides.
For the lower hull there is a cutout for a separate forefoot and along the same lines there are recesses for separate bilge keels. At the stern are locater holes for shaft exit
points, locater holes for shaft support struts and rudder bases. My only complaint on the lower hull is the number of resin pour stubs that have to be removed.  
Orange
Hobby
provides a well deck that fits inside the two halves of the hull and runs almost the length of the ship.  The well deck has significant detail even though most of it
will be concealed y the upper hull. The forward cargo area has hundreds of cargo tie-down points, while the aft well has a rectangular deck pattern with more tie down
points. A detailed ramp leads from the cargo area to the lower well deck. Another, smaller ramp is at the bow.

For the smaller resin pieces there are four one-piece castings for the larger pieces and 27 resin runners of parts. The four larger resin pieces are a long ramp leading
from the upper deck to the cargo area through the rectangular opening in the deck;  the exhaust stack with plenty of detail such as exhaust louver locations, vertical
ladder, acetylene bottles, door openings and ledges; two story deck house located between the forward superstructure and the opening and ramp to the cargo deck with
detail for door openings, J-shape ventilators, piping, acetylene bottles and ledges; and a LCAC body with detail for vehicle guides, side bulkheads with support gussets,
twin bollards, fore and aft guards and inflatable lower hull ridges.
Each resin runner is identified by a letter and each part by a number on the runner, which matches the instructions. The underwater gear is handled on a number of
resin runners. One has the bulbous forefoot with the five-bladed propellers and rudders. One has the two propeller shafts. Two identical runners each have a bilge
keel.  The shaft support struts share a runner with front radome, RAM base house with detailed ring mount, and deck house supporting the RHIB position with support
pillars and deck skids. Some of the larger parts are found on the J runner, such as the starboard forward exhaust stack with vertical ladder, piping and cooling louver
location detail. This runner also has the rear face for the larger port stack, which has the flight deck control station with outward slanting windows, control lights,
bulkhead instrumentation, door opening and piping. Another part is the upper beam for the RHIB launch assembly.  This  runner also has the detailed crane tower,
RHIB, lower platform for the mast and 48 lift canisters. The H runner also has some of the larger parts with: bridge wings with internal and external gusset supports
and observation platforms; one of the anchors; one of the Phalanx mounts, Phalanx deck house with mount ring base detail (2 parts), Phalanx barrels, small bridge
deck house, and three other smaller parts. Oddly enough there is a second separate H runner with Chaff launchers; the other Phalanx mount and barrels, windlasses,
jack base, ga with dos bottles, and five other smaller parts. The E runner has the smaller parts for the crane. These parts are the boom and crane top, which has
excellent detail. Other parts on this runner are a derailed cap for the forward stack, deck winch, side racks for the aft stack, aft stack platform, and a lower platform
on the mast. Runner F has a large and a small radome, communication domes, The missile box, and equipment fittings.
Runner C has the RHIB cradle parts, second anchor, radar base, mast fittings, superstructure ventilator, and two hull side platforms.  Runner G has 30 closed chocks,
superstructure platform, mast platforms,  mast platform fittings, life cannister platform, Runner B has a very detailed stern ramp, aft stack cap, top mast, top mast
platform, RHIB with details such as the instrument panel, and two RHIB launch booms. There are actually three A runners. The largest of which has small structures
for the forecastle, superstructure and amidships. Another A runner has parts for two RAM mounts, while the short third A runner has two 25mm gun mounts with
brass barrels already in place. The second runner D has bottle racks, superstructure deck fittings, stack fittings, stern ramp support and stern ramp booms. Runner J
has the superstructure deck houses for the LCAC, which are extremely detailed with doors, vertical ladder ventilation louvers and exhausts among other detail. The
propulsion cowlings are also on this runner. Since
Orange Hobby provides a LCAC, they decided to provide a deck load for it. This comes in the form of a second J
runner. This has a five part A1 Abrams main battle tank. The tank parts are extraordinarily well detailed with top deck, sides/running gear, rear ventilation face and
turret with the brass gun barrel already in place.
If you like brass, Orange Hobby with overwhelm you it. How about seven relief-etched brass frets, plus four turned brass pieces? Fret A has doors with open
frames, well deck railing, gun shields, RAM openings, bridge walk, chain locker caps, canister frame railing, deck house railing, RHIB frame detail, cable reel frames
and end caps. Fret B has bridge face fittings, forecastle railings, small life cannister racks, railing platforms, deck house frame, hull side frames, gallery supports and
railing, platform supports, cargo boom and pulleys. Fret C has deck armor for the MG positions, jack plates, forecastle fittings, large life cannister racks,
superstructure deck fittings, inclined ladders, whip antennas, deck house bracing, and mast braces. Fret D has superstructure railings, platform railing, mast railing,
stack railings, and flight deck safety netting. Fret E has deck hawse guards, inclined ladders, 25mm base frames and plates, bottle frames, equipment platform railing,
RAM platform inclined ladder, vertical ladder, CIWS platform inclined ladder, superstructure inclined ladders, radars, top yard, mast side yards, mast platform railing,
stack ventilation louvers, deck house ventilation louvers, RHIB platform railing, hull side ladders, crane tower details, and ramp railing. The LCAC has its own brass
fret with railing, propellers, platforms, support frames, and plates. Likewise, the M1 Abrams has a fret with side skirts, barrel lock, machine guns, .50 MG strut, main
hatch, turret side cargo frames, and rear bustle cargo frame. The turned brass parts are the jack and flag staffs and a couple of the large antennas.
Three decal sheets are provided. The largest is an appliqué for the entire flight deck. This features two landing circles inside large white boxes and diagonal cross lines
in white with a red and white warning line separating them. The other ship’s markings are on a second sheet with red weapons warning circles and curved lines, bow
and stern numbers, name plates, efficiency markings, UNREP  point markings, ship’s crests, draft markings, crossed anchors deck marking and flags in four sizes.
The LCAC has a separate decal sheet with red lines, LCAC and numbers, and UN Navy markings.
Orange Hobby provides a multi-part wooden base to use for a full
hull build.

Instructions come on 13 pages, I recommend to follow each step in sequence because this kit is complex with a huge number of parts. Each resin part is identified by
the runner letter and part’s number with a gray box indicating RE. Each brass part is identified by the fret letter and part’s number with a black box with PE inside the
box. Page one has photo-etch assembly of the well deck. Page two concentrates of fittings and equipment for the forecastle. Page three goes to the superstructure
fittings and equipment, which carries over to page four, which also has the mast assembly. Page five has the aft superstructure assembly, forward stack assembly,  
RHIB position, and amidship fittings assembly. Page six is gallery fittings and rear stack assembly. Page seven finishes gallery assembly and also has the crane
assembly. Page eight is flight deck fittings assembly. Page nine is amidship ramp, lower hull and stand assembly. Page ten concludes the ship assembly with the stern
ramp, followed by the M1 Abrams assembly. Page eleven has the LCAC assembly and bridge deck equipment fittings. Page twelve is the decal placement. Page
thirteen is a resin parts laydown in which each part is identified by the number on the runner.
You don’t have to be a graduate of the University of Florida to be a Gators fan. Every modeler who craves the warships of the amphibious navy will love this kit, if
you are up to it. This is a complex kit with hundreds of parts. It is not for the beginner but
Orange Hobby has produced a superb product.
Steve Backer
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