by Chuck Bauer
1/350 PT-34 (White Ensign Models)
U.S. Navy Motor Torpedo Boat PT-34 served with distinction in the Philippine Islands in the months following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Most notably, she was one of the three PT boats that transported General Douglas MacArthur and key staff members hundreds of miles to safety, through enemy controlled waters, prior to the islands being sealed off and forced to surrender. In addition, she rescued survivors from a mined passenger ship and sunk several Japanese troop barges.
The climax to PT 34’s career came in night action on April 8/9, 1942. In concert with PT 41, she launched a daring torpedo attack against a Japanese light cruiser, was illuminated by searchlights and came under heavy fire. USN Action Reports indicate that she inflicted significant damage on the cruiser, escaping a similar demise with a series of high speed evasive turns.
Wounded in the gunfire exchange, PT-34 attempted to return to a friendly port for repairs and rearmament, but was intercepted the next morning by four Japanese “Pete” floatplanes. These floatplanes strafed and bombed PT-34 without impedance, until all of her guns were knocked out of action, most of her crew was wounded, and two were killed in action. During this running gun battle, one of the floatplanes was downed by Quartermaster Albert P. Ross, manning a Lewis gun on the starboard bow.
However, the relentless unimpaired attacks of the Japanese planes ultimately prevailed. With three feet of water in her hull, Lt. Kelly beached the defenseless PT-34 on Kauit Island. The wounded were taken to Southern Island Hospital in nearby Cebu City, where ironically, they became prisoners of war when Cebu was invaded and captured a few days later.
This is my rendition of PT-34 on the morning of April 9, 1942. Quartermaster 1/c Albert P. Ross is manning the Lewis gun on the starboard bow. Lieutenant Robert B. Kelly is at the helm. PT-34 is attempting to evade enemy seaplanes near Mactan Island. However, she is in a confined area and not able to operate at top speed.
To build the boat, I started with 10 resin pieces and 14 photo etched metal parts from the kit. Then, using my references, I added 71 additional PE and scratch built parts. This allowed me to include a bow fairlead, several bollards, a clear anchor light, a clear bow light, ladders, dead lights, a searchlight, fuel inlet valves, navigation lights, a wood grating for the bridge floor and “pan” magazines for the Lewis guns. A flag was not included in the kit so I supplied one from my stash. The Tamiya figures are plastic injection molded and they also came from my inventory.
The base is a piece of Italian marble cannibalized from one of my wife’s youth baton twirling trophies (with her permission, of course!) I sculpted the water with acrylic gesso, painted it with a variety of enamels and then finished it with a high gloss lacquer.
My primary references for this project included:
- Members of The PT Boat Forum, including Al Ross II
- Early Elco PT Boats by Bob Ferrell and Al Ross II (unsolicited copy supplied by Robert N. Steinbrunn)
- American PT Boats in World War II by Victor Chun
- PT Boats in Action by David Doyle
In total, I spent 68 hours building this vignette, plus research time. The research was totally enjoyable, particularly the insights I gained from my contact with the PT Boat Forum members. Quite a bargain overall, considering the miniscule investment.