by Chuck Bauer
1/350 PT-109 (White Ensign Models)
Several years ago I built this 80-foot Elco boat and 37mm anti-tank gun as a full hull model. However, I never figured out a decent way to display it. I tried various bases, but never liked any of them. A couple of months ago, when I decided to make some seascapes out of inventory kits, I started thinking about converting this resin model to a waterline.
So I decided to re-read my fifty-year-old copy of Richard Tregaskis’ book, John F Kennedy and PT-109. There was enough detail in this book to convince me that it would be possible to build a waterline version—with figures--as if it were 1:55AM on August 2, 1943, in Blackett Strait. At that time and on that date, the 109 was on patrol, idling along on one engine. Minutes later, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri plowed into the 109, cutting the boat in two. Crew members Andrew Jackson Kirksey and Harold William Marney died in the collision. The rest of the crew survived in large part because of the actions of the commander of the boat, Lieutenant (j.g.) John F. Kennedy. The story of the collision and rescue of most of the crew has been recounted numerous times, and I won’t try and re-tell it here.
But with the story in mind I went ahead with the project...
The first step was to sand off the bottom of the hull. You couldn’t really see the tiny props and rudders underneath anyway, so no loss there.
Next up were the figures: I used up some Tamiya inventory in my stash and placed the crew members as follows:
The final step in this project was to make the seascape. I first coated a piece of Italian marble with a layer of acrylic gesso and sculpted the water. Then I painted it with a variety of acrylics and oils, finishing up with a high gloss lacquer.
- Commander, at the helm: Lieutenant (j.g.) John F. Kennedy
- Radioman, next to JFK: John Edward Maguire
- Executive officer, on starboard end of pilot house: Ensign Leonard Jay “Lenny” Thom
- 37mm anti tank gun: Ensign Barney Ross
- Starboard torpedoman: Ray L. Starkey
- Port torpedoman: Andrew Jackson Kirksey
- 20mm Oerlikon: Raymond Albert
- 50 cal machine guns: Charles A. Harris and Edgar E. Mauer
By modifying my original 109 boat, adding some figures and sculpting the water, I ended up with the vignette as you see in the attached photos. Though not an award winner, it does round out my little boat collection, all of which were shelf queens for many years.
As a comparison to two of those previous builds, I have included photos of the 109 in close proximity to my PT 34, a 77-foot Elco, and also next to my 1/350 scale Schnellboot.
Anyway, my fling with seascapes is now at an end. Thanks for looking.