USS Nicholas DD-449: A Fletcher Destroyer by Fine Art Models

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Number two 5-inch mount and the classic Fletcher “round bridge”.

by Patrick Matthews

We amateur model ship builders fumble along at our own speed and occasionally produce some pretty nice work. But at the other end of the spectrum lay the professional builders, those who supply museums, shipyards, and private collectors with works whose values would represent a sizable fraction of the amateur’s annual income. Along with fine manual craftsmanship, these model builders can utilize professional manufacturing tools and processes that are simply out of reach of most amateurs. Here is one such example from Fine Art Models in Birmingham, Michigan.

Fine Art Models is known for modeling transportation subjects to the highest standards. I had the privilege recently of photographing their new 1:48 scale USS Nicholas, a highly decorated WW2 Fletcher-class destroyer.

Nicholas was actually the first of the Fletchers laid down and commissioned, predating Fletcher herself by several months. She also had one of the longest careers, not being stricken until 1970. Awarded sixteen battle stars in WW2, she was honored to be in the vanguard entering Tokyo Bay.

Seen here freshly uncrated, Fine Art Model’s 1:48 USS Nicholas will soon go behind glass.

Seen here freshly uncrated, Fine Art Model’s 1:48 USS Nicholas will soon go behind glass.

Forward twin-Bofors 40mm AA-mount.

Forward twin-Bofors 40mm AA-mount.

Mk. 37 gun director.

Mk. 37 gun director.

Fine Art Models (FAM) worked to original Bath Iron Works drawings and numerous photos, and also received input from many veterans who had reviewed 1:96 scale development models. The research led to the construction of just three 1:48 scale models, although more may follow in limited runs. I was able to photograph the third model just as it was received from the construction team in Latvia. Freshly uncrated, there were still a few details to attend to, but it was wonderful to view the model before it went behind glass.

FAM is a professional model constructor, and of course has access to resources that most home modelers can only dream of. But that can’t detract from the modeling skill displayed here—such models are researched and constructed by craftsmen, and even the best tools are only as good as those who wield them. Owner Gary Kohs illustrated the point when asked if computerized “rapid prototyping” tools were used for making detail parts. Yes, for some; but normal stereo lithography, often used to make mock-up parts in the automotive industry, didn’t have the resolution to recreate the fine detail needed for miniatures. Gary funded the refinement of one such tool so that it could define parts three times smaller than previously possible.

Port-side whale boat.

Forecastle deck and ground tackle.

Each turret houses one of these 5”/38 guns cast in brass.

Each turret houses one of these 5”/38 guns cast in brass.

Stern detail.

Stern detail.

Port-side whale boat.

Port-side whale boat.

The forward torpedo tubes show the detailed crew’s station.

The forward torpedo tubes show the detailed crew’s station.

Aft-stack and AA mounts.

Aft-stack and AA mounts.

Looking at the 1:48 Nicholas, we can see some of FAM’s typical construction techniques. The hull’s detail is actually a skin, over-molded onto a former using an aerospace resin that Gary says will exceed museum standards for longevity. This allows for finer and more stable details in a steel hull than possible with carved wood. The decks and superstructure are all in brass, made with traditional metal working techniques and loaded with hand-applied rivets. Details, including the guns, are all investment-cast in brass—no resin fittings or photoetchings are used. Paints are created from printer’s ink and alcohol in order to avoid masking details.

Given the level of research and fidelity apparent in this model, I think it can serve as a fine 3D reference for us amateurs, along with the several great print references.

To find out more about Fine Art Models, visit their web page at www.fineartmodels.com .

Mast and radars.

Mast and radars.

Waist-mounted 20mm Oerlikons.

Waist-mounted 20mm Oerlikons.

Impressive drive hardware.

Impressive drive hardware.

Aft 40mm Bofors and the Mk. 51 director.

Aft 40mm Bofors and the Mk. 51 director.

Depth charge racks.

Depth charge racks.

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28 responses to “USS Nicholas DD-449: A Fletcher Destroyer by Fine Art Models

  1. Anthony Lettieri

    I served aborad the USS Nicholas DD449 from 1943 to 1946. A great ship!!!!

  2. matthewsmodelmarine

    Honored to have you aboard, Sir!

  3. Derek Mares

    Patrick

    good job on the pics !

    I am building a 1/48 scale Fletcher class DD right now and these pictures are crucial for references .

    Thank you so much for sharing them .

    DEREK

  4. J. D. Holliday

    I knew little of the Nicholas’ distinguished history when I reported aboard in late March of 1969. She showed the obvious signs of age but still possessed an unmistakable air of dignity. I served as a radarman on her final WestPac cruise to Viet Nam in 1969 and was transferred just prior to her decommissioning in 1970. I feel fortunate to have gained my sea legs aboard her.

    • E.L. Nelson

      Hey J.D.,

      I was a third class bosun mate, second in charge behind 1st Class Bert. Are you in contact with anyone from the ship?

      E.L. Nelson

      • Bruce Smith

        I was on the Nick from 66 to 69. I live close to Bert..see him every now
        and again. I loved the Nick..proud to say I served on her.
        B. Smith rm3

      • John Bailey

        Are you guys aware of the Nicholas Yahoo group? Tony Lettieri’s a member as are many other shipmates serving from commissioning (1942) to decommissioning (1970). I served aboard 1967-69 as DASH and Gunnery Officer. We have a reunion to which all are welcome, upcoming in Portland, OR next spring. Bring a full-scale model and I’ll buy you a drink. (O.K., a half-scale model will get you a drink, but not a double.)

  5. J. D. Holliday

    I knew little of the Nicholas’ distinguished history when I reported aboard in late March of 1969. She showed the obvious signs of age but still possessed an unmistakable air of dignity. I served as a radarman on her final WestPac cruise to Viet Nam in 1969 and was transferred just prior to her decommissioning in 1970. I feel fortunate to have gained my sea legs aboard her. Great model.

  6. J. Huntley

    Looks Great !! I have the bath shipyard microfilm reels and am trying to do this ship full scale in CG and also do a 1/48th scale model. I am to the part now where I need to figure out the main deck superstructure layout and roll along

    Next I want to do the Missouri to go along with it just for the history
    Joe

    • Jeremiah boring

      I have been looking for the drafting room copies for this ship for some time. My grandfather was a DC rating aboard the “Nick” during WWII, Nicholas Boring. His combat post was a 40mm mount between the stacks. If you could help me get copies of that information, I would greatly like to have them.

  7. Howard Freeman MM1

    I served on the “Nick” 68-70 MM1 Aft Eng Room. A History that Leads the class.

  8. Craig Miller

    My uncle served on the Nicholas from ’42 to ’45. He was a “plank ” member. He was the “pointer” on 5″ mount number 2. My uncle’s name is Eugen “Bud” Beeler. We lost him in 2012. Great uncle, with many great stories. Night battles where terrifying. The Nicholas and Desron 21 stopped the Japanese in the Solomon’s. all great destroyers in that squadron. I am currently building 1/144 Nicholas model. I love the Fletcher’s and the new Arliegh Burkes.

  9. James Richard Sober Jr.

    My dad, James Richard Sober and his brother Robert Oliver Sober climbed aboard the Nicholas at sunrise one July morning in 1943. Their ship the USS Helena CL-50 had been sunk several hours earlier in the Battle of Kula Gulf. The survivors were ordered below to lower the center of gravity of the ship. Dad was in the engine room and the deck was hot on his bare feet. The Captain ordered “one more notch” to speed to Tulagi. The response was, “I’ve already given it the last notch”.

    • Jeremiah boring

      My Grandfather told me stories when I was young about fishing those sailors out of the water after Helena got gutted by torpedoes.

    • Thanks for the history–your story gave me cold chills!

      • James R. Sober Jr.

        In August of 1989 I was with my dad in Helena, Montana for the 50th Anniversary of the commissioning of the Helena. At a banquet it was asked who was picked up by the Nicholas and who was picked up by the Radford. I saw gray haired men around the room raise their hands. The same hands that reached out of the water to grab a line or a helping hand from a sailor on one of the destroyers. That gave me cold chills.

      • Yes, I can imagine so… What an honor to have met them.

  10. I do believe I have one of the books that the crew put together, it has all the pictures, names, and letters with signatures, very interesting. I have found names from the postings above, to have a piece of this history is remarkable.

    • It is a great piece of history! I wonder if it was put together just after the war, or during one of the reunions? If you go through it anytime soon, could you please see if Fred Pritchett signed it? If so, I would be grateful to see a copy of the page.

  11. His name Pritchett F.T. listed in the book under enlisted personal of the U.S.S. Nicholas. The pictures and letters followed by signatures are commanding officer, D.C. Lyndon also Executive officer, LT. Comdr.R. Townshend, Jr. also a Presidential Unit Citation that the President presented the citation, secretary of the navy signed it.

    • Thank you so much for that look-up! You have a great piece of history. The ceremony for the presentation of the Presidential Unit Citation must have been something ~ Dad always remembered to mention that the ship was awarded that important citation.

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