"That whereas the battleship sea monster we are imitating has been named the Dreadnought – an archaic name – this man o’war is hereby named the Skeered o’
Nothin’ as an expression of our true American spirit: provided further, that it is hereby made the duty of the first captain who shall command her to challenge in
the nation’s name the so-called Dreadnought to a duel a l’outrance, to take place upon the sea somewhere in sight of Long Island, and upon that occasion of the
combat the President and his Cabinet … shall be entertained on the quarter deck as guests of the ship and the nation.
" Congressional Motion of John S. Williams,
Representative from Mississippi, on the naming of the first all big gun American battleship,
Dreadnought by Richard Hough, Page 37. When the USS Michigan was
laid down Representative Williams and many others deplored this step in the evolution of the battleship. As it was, Congress had a tremendous impact on the
revolutionary design of the ship by mandating that the displacement be no greater than 16,000 tons.

The
Michigan and her sistership, the South Carolina, have the distinction of being the first all big gun battleships to be authorized for construction, as approval came
from Congress early in 1905. After that event however, they were put on hold. The problem was an impassioned division of opinion as to the value of fewer and
larger all big gun battleships versus a greater quantity of mixed gun battleships. This same debate occurred in Great Britain, where Jackie Fisher was First Lord of the
Admiralty. There, Admiral Fisher steam rolled his opposition led by long time opponent Admiral Charles Beresford, who opposed the all big gun
Dreadnought.
Because of the determination of Fisher, the
Dreadnought was built with incredible speed to become the first all big gun battleship in existence and to allow the Royal
Navy to steal a march on the rest of the world.
In the United States the proponent for smaller mixed battery battleships was no less than Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan. Captain Mahan saw the Battle of Tsushima as
validating the "Rain of Fire" of smothering exposed gun crews with large numbers of medium caliber shells. On the other side, expressing the feelings of the radicals,
who saw the all big gun ship as the battleship of the future was Lt. Commander William Sims. However, Sims and the other radicals had the support of the man who
mattered most, President Theodore Roosevelt, who almost always thought bigger was better. Roosevelt appointed Sims to prepare a report on the pros and cons in
the battleship debate. As a result Sims totally demolished Mahan’s arguments in favor of the mixed gun battleship. As Teddy Roosevelt stated, "
But the strength of
the Navy rests primarily upon its battleships, and in building these battleships it is imperatively necessary, from the standpoint alike of efficiency and economy ,
that they should be the very best of their kind
." However, this took time and more than 18 months were to pass from the time Michigan was approved by Congress
to when she was laid down.

The tightly clenched fist of Congress on the Federal money bag led to the most radical element of the design of the
Michigan, the superfiring main gun turrets. For
the last time, Congress put a cap on the final displacement of a battleship by mandating that it was not to exceed 16,000 tons. This was only a slight increase over the
Connecticut Class predreadnoughts and 2,000 tons less than Dreadnought. It was not until 1922 that the cap again appeared on battleship displacement but then it
was because of international treaty. The designers of
Michigan had to incorporate the most offensive punch into a minimum size.
The first designs contemplated fore and aft twin 12-inch turrets and two single 10-inch turrets on each side. Then it was decided to use the same arrangement but
all to be 12-inch guns. However, the weight and hull stress imposed by the wing turret design made it a poor design for the 16,000 ton limit. By combing the four
single 12-inch wing turrets into two twin 12-inch superfiring turrets, the goal was attainable within the Congressional displacement limit. The monitor
Florida was
modified to test the concussion and blast effects of superfiring turrets. As a result of these tests a new turret design emerged that allowed for the lower turrets to
be worked without undue effects from the firing of the upper turrets.

The final result was a very unusual design for the time. The
Michigan was the first battleship to have superfiring main guns as well as the cage mast, which came
to characterize American battleships for the next 30 years. The cage mast was designed to provide a light weight structure that would insulate range finders from
vibration and yet would be strong enough to survive major caliber shell strikes. Tests of a cage mast on the
San Marcos, ex-Texas, seemed to validate the design
theory.  It was not until January 1918 that one weakness in this design was discovered. In that month the forward cage mast of
Michigan collapsed in a storm. As
laid down
Michigan was to receive two offset military masts, placed diagonally amidships, which would double as boat cranes. When the design was given
cagemasts on the centerline, these military masts were cut down to become kingposts for the boat cranes.   
Coupled with these advanced features, were some regressive features, required compromises as a result of the displacement limit. At 452 feet in length, Michigan was
only 12 feet longer than then
Connecticut Class predreadnought. The maximum speed of the predreadnoughts was 18 knots, so that was the designed speed for the
Michigans that were constructed with Vertical Triple Expansion steam engines instead of the turbines, which gave the Dreadnought a speed of 21 knots. The
displacement limit also gave the amidships superstructure of the
Michigan a piled-up look very similar to the USN predreadnoughts. "The two ships when completed
will, in appearance, be distinctly different from any of our other battleships. The most noticeable feature, of course, will be the four 12-in. turrets and their guns,
mounted in pairs on the axial line of the ship, two forward and two aft of the superstructure. The doubling up in the number of 12-in. turrets, and the placing of
them one ahead of the other, has necessarily shortened the length of the superstructure, and crowded the masts, smokestacks, etc., into a shorter space amidships,
a fact which is readily noticeable on looking at the engraving of the new ships. In order to save weight the freeboard of the ship has been reduced by the depth of
one deck, or about 8 ft., from aft of the superstructure to the stern.
" The Scientific American, reprinted in the Naval Annual 1907 at page 32.

The
Scientific American had criticized the superfiring design earlier because of anticipated serious effects of blast of the upper pair but by 1907 had changed its tune.
"
We are informed, however, that particular attention has been given by the Navy Department to this difficulty, and that by virtue of the improved sighting ports
and the closely-fitting port shields employed, and other arrangements, it will be possible, in an emergency, to fire any of these 12-in. guns in any position of
training without serious interference with the work of the other gun crews. If this should prove to be the case, our Navy Department will be the subject for
congratulation on having produced, in proportion to their displacement, by far the most powerful fighting ships built or building in the world today; for it must
be remembered that these vessels are of but 16,000 tons displacement, while the latest battleship designs of other Governments are of from 18,000 to 19,000 tons
displacement.
" The Naval Annual 1907 at pages 33 and 34.
USS Michigan BB-27 was laid down December 17, 1906 by the New York Ship Building Company of Camden, New Jersey. She was launched on May 26, 1908. In
spite of the delay for resolution of the naval infighting, when the
Michigan completed in August 1909, she was the first non-British dreadnought to enter service on
January 4, 1910. Captain Nathaniel Usher was the first commander of
Michigan, which was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. She operated primarily off of the coast of
New England and in the Chesapeake Bay area.        

The
Michigan had a length of 452-feet 9-inches (oa)(138m) and 450-feet (137.2m) at the waterline. The beam was 80-feet 5-inches (24.5m) with a draught of 24-feet
7-inches (7.5m). Her displacement met the Congressional restrictions of 16,000-tons normal, 17,617-tons full load. In addition to the eight 12-inch/45 (305mm) main
guns in the four turrets, secondary armament was twenty-two 3-inch/50 (76mm) and two 21-inch (533mm) submerged torpedo tubes with one on each beam. The
main armor belt ranged from 1- to 8-inches (254mm-203mm) with armor over magazines 12 to 10-inches (305mm-254mm). Machinery protection was 11 to 9-inches
(279mm-229mm). Casemate protection for the secondary guns was 10 to 8-inches (254mm-203mm). Turrets had 12-inches (305mm) of armor on their faces while
barbette armor was 10 to 8-inches (254mm-203mm). The conning tower has 12-inches (305mm) of armor and the armored decks were 2.5-inches (63mm) and 2 to
1.5-inches (51mm-38mm). Vertical Triple Expansion engines powered by twelve Babcock and Wilcox boilers turned the two shafts for a maximum speed of
18.5-knots. The
Michigan had a range of 5,000nm at 10-knots.
With the entrance of the United States into World War One, the constraints imposed on the design because of the mandated maximum displacement came home to
haunt the class. Designed for a maximum speed of 18 knots,
Michigan and South Carolina were too slow to operate with the newer faster battleships of the USN. The
21 knot ships became the 5th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet, while
Michigan and South Carolina stayed with the predreadnoughts in home waters. Michigan
received a refit in the Navy Yard in Philadelphia starting July 14, 1917 at then trained recruits in the Chesapeake Bay. From September 1917 to August 1918
Michigan
operated out of Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York. She underwent another refit in Philadelphia in September 1918. In February 1919 she was tasked to steam to
Brest, France to transport US Army soldiers back home. This task lasted until her final voyage on April 26.

The Washington Treaty of 1922 imposed new displacement restrictions on the USN, on the force as a whole as well as the new displacement maximum of 35,000 tons
per ship. To comply with the total allowable tonnage for battleships,
Michigan and South Carolina were selected to be scrapped. It is somewhat ironic that the last
USN battleships to be built under a legal restriction on maximum tonnage for the ships, should be scrapped under a Treaty that was the next time there was a legal
restriction imposed upon the displacement of the navy’s capital ships.
Michigan was stricken from the Navy list on August 24, 1923 and sold for scrap on January 23,
1924. (History from
Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906-1921; Dreadnought by Richard Hough;The Naval Annual 1907 edited by T.A. Brassey;
United States Battleships by Alan F. Pater)
The Samek USS Michigan kit is a truly multimedia kit as it has the tradition resin parts, stainless steel photo-etch fret and decal sheet, it also includes a plaster sea
base. The resin hull has most of the superstructure cast integral to the hull. Because the ship design was restricted by the 16,000-ton limitation on displacement
imposed by Congress, the ship had features that resembled predreadnought battleships. USN predreadoughts had sparse superstructure and the same was true with
the
Michigan. The forecastle deck ran from the bow to X barbette where there was a deck break to the lower quarterdeck. The Samek hull casting has the first
two levels of the superstructure as part of the hull casting, as well as the barbettes. There is a nice amount of side detail. The cutwater is clean and there are three
hull anchor hawse, two to port and one to starboard. Two of these are the standard type with anchors winched to the hawse on the side. However, the rear anchor
on the port is a throwback to earlier predreadnought designs. The hull hawse opening is higher than the hawse in front of it and the anchor was clearly catted on a
washboard, which is found only for this one anchor. A steel bulkhead ran from the cutwater a short way on either side of the bow.
Samek includes two drainage
scuttles on each side of this bulkhead. The hull has two rows of portholes with the lower row ending at the armored belt. The distinctive armored belt is a trifle
oversize, which is common with most 1:700 scale resin hulls. If it were in scale, at most it would be just a line. I personally prefer the
Samek approach. Each level
of superstructure has its own row of portholes, as well as door detail. The secondary gun casemates are crisp with locator holes for the gun barrels. The lower row
of hull portholes continues at the stern, aft of the arrmor belt.
                                                     
Deck wood panel lines are very fine but there is no butt end detail. There is a long quarterdeck running the first third of the ship. Of course the forecastle deck is
dominated by anchor gear and fittings. Raised anchor chain plates lead from the windlass positions to curving deck hawse. The plate that leads to the aft anchor on
the port lacks the curving hawse, as it goes straight out the side to rest on a washboard. Other anchor gear are the fittings covering the entrances to the chain
locker. Quite a number of deck access coamings with closed hatches cover the forecastle. There are seven sets of twin bollard fittings. Three are on deck edge on
each side and one on centerline at the bow. Lastly, there is a unique fitting on the forecastle between the A and B barbettes, also found between X and Y barbettes
on the quarterdeck. It looks like a turnable rod set in brackets. I am unsure of its purpose but given the positioning seems to have some purpose for the main gun
turrets. The 01 deck has three coamigs per side as its only detail. On the aft deck, forward of the deck break has dour more coamings and two twin bollard fittings.
For the quarterdeck there is the same rod in brackets found on the forecastle between the turrets. Seven coamings, two of which are asymmetrical and another four
twin bollard fittings are sufficient to create enough interest at the stern.
Even though the superstructure is basically integral to the hull casting, there are still plenty of smaller resin parts. The thinner parts are cast on a sheet. The largest of
these parts is the amidship deck that rests atop the 02 level. It has J-shaped cowling ventilators integral to this deck. Also as part of this casting is the bridge, conning
tower, boat chocks, skylights, an aft deckhouse and deck coamings. At the fore and aft ends of this deck are what appears to be splinter shielding. In reality this is
canvas dodgers covering railing. It is OK to leave them there or you may wish to cut those off and use bare railing or rail covered with tissue to represent the canvas.
Four crescent platforms are on this sheet to build the
South Carolina. These are searchlight platforms found on the mainmast with one above another on each side.
The
Michigan has its own resin platform with all four searchlights at the same level at the corners of the platform with one for both masts. For Michigan only there is
another searchlight platform that sits on photo-etch frames. There are two types of flanged control tops, a circular one for the foremast and a rectangular one for the
mainmasts. Two other parts on the sheet are for the overheads of the control tops. Five other parts are found on this sheet, half-moon shaped navigation platform,
which fits around the foremast, platforms that sit atop the kingposts and two square platforms that look like control tops but apparently are not used, as they are not
numbered in the instruction’s parts laydown and are not found in the assembly instructions. The armament comes on one resin sheet and two runners. The four
turrets are on a casting sheet. In an era before plunging fire was a concern, the turrets had two large ventilation hatches on the turret crowns, a feature found on some
USN predreadnoughrs. On the front edge of the curving sides there are short ears for gun sighting. The main guns occupy one of the runners, The muzzles are not
hollow, instead they have to be cleaned because resin vents designed to prevent bubbles forming in the barrels extend from the muzzles. The second runner has the
secondary gun barrels for the casemate guns and six open mount guns that are on superstructure decks. These guns have nice detail. The cased funnels are nice with
prominent aprons 2/3 up the funnel and steam pipes. The funnels have clinker screen cast at the top. I personally prefer the clinker screens to be photo-etch and a
hollow opening at the top of the funnel. The boat storage kingposts are also cast separately. Most noticeable are the large platforms with winch gear on these
kingposts. Both the funnels and the kingposts have large casting blocks that will need to be removed. Cast on sheets are three mast platforms found only on
Michigan.
Two are searchlight platforms with four positions per platform and the other is a navigation/observation platform on the fore mast. Eight runners have the twelve ships
boats of various sizes and patterns. Oddly there are no steam launches. Lastly there is a runner with the searchlights with front frame detail.

The stainless steel photo-etch fret has some relief-etching. The most noticeable is the nameplate that can be used on a display base but some platforms have relief-
etching. There is also a small relief-etched nameplate that curves around the stern of the hull. There are no nameplates for
South Carolina. The two lattice masts
dominate the fret.
Samek provides a resin dowel, which is used to give the lattice masts the proper shape by wrapping the lattice part around the dowel. Other mast
detail are triangular frames that extend from the masts below the tops. Photo-etch for the bow includes a number of equipment for the anchor system. The three
anchors are in two patterns. The two that hang from the hull anchor hawse have a very short stock as most of the stock would be concealed within the hull. The third
has a long stock as this one rests on the washboard. Each anchor has two parts, the anchor and the fluke. Another part with relief-etching is the small crane mounted
on the forecastle that was used to cat home the washboard anchor. Three runs of anchor chain are included to round out the anchor gear. Four cross-beam frames
support a searchlight platform amidship. Each of the boat cranes has four parts and will present an intricate appearance attached to the kingposts. The four inclined
ladders have nice platforms but lack railing. Other metal parts include davits, top masts, railing and vertical ladder. A small paper sheet has two national flags. A very
nice touch is the inclusion of a plaster sea base. This certainly will be a very good assist for displaying the finished model.  The instructions are only so-so. They
consist of two back-printed sheets. Sheet one has the
Michigan’s history in English, which is completed on the back of the sheet. The back of the sheet concludes
with the ship’s specifications. The second sheet has the assembly presented in modules of photographs of the assembled model. Resin part numbers are in squares and
metal part numbers in circles. On the first page are photos of a parts laydown and
South Carolina differences. The back page has the Michigan and in common
assembly, however, some differences with
South Carolina assembly are also noted. Be careful in assembly and double check placement, especially with the alternative
positioning between the sisterships.
Samek provides a very nice multimedia model that can be built as the USS Michigan or the USS South Carolina. With a piled superstructure, the first all big gun
battleships to be designed, before
HMS Dreadnought, the ships have a strong family resemblance with the previous USN predreadnought designs.
Steve Backer
_______________________________________________