By your command...


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Revell 1/72 PT-109 Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review October 2010 Manufacturer Revell
Subject PT-109 Scale 1/72
Kit Number H-310 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice kit of the PT-109 Cons No clear parts. Chunks of parts have part numbers molded into sinks on tabs by parts. Extra effort to identify parts needed. Some details are soft
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $17.95

First Look


John F. Kennedy, Lt. (jg) USNR signed the first entry in the log of PT-109 on April 26th, 1943, at 0800 hours. At that time, the boat was moored at Sesape, a Chinese trading village on the island of Tulagi in the Solomons. She looked aged, warred, and battle-seasoned after seven months in combat.

PT-109 was just over 80 feet in length, nearly 20 feet through the beam and displaced thirty-three tons. She was powered by three twelve-cylinder Packard engines, and was equipped with four torpedo tubes, machine guns and an anti-aircraft gun. Built by Elso Naval Division of the Electric Boat Company in Bayonne, New Jersey, she was lowered into Newark Bay in July, 1942, without ceremony or christening, and two months later her baptism under fire took place in the Guadalcanal war area.

After Lt. Kennedy assumed command of PT-109, routine on board ship remained un-eventful for two more months. Then early in July, the boat was ordered to Rendova Harbor, another operating base in the Solomon Islands, where a heated battle was in progress. Soon after her arrival, reports were received that four Japanese destroyers were headed for Vila on the nearby island of Kolombangara with soldiers and supplies to reinforce the enemy occupying the Munda airstrip on New Georgia. All the PT's were alerted for action when this move became known, and on the first of August, late in the afternoon, all of the forest-green camouflaged boats moved out of the harbor. The cruised for hours, neither able to see nor detect anything with certainty. Radar was then in it's infancy, and the few boats equipped with it were not much better off than those without it.

The first Japanese boat sighted was attacked by PT-159, which had the misfortune to have a torpedo tube fail and catch fire. The blaze attracted the Japanese and sent the 159 scurrying to cover, unharmed. Attacks by other PT boats failed and the Japanese arrived at their destination without further incident. The deposited their cargo and began the return trip less than an hour later.

The PT boats, the 162, 169 and 109, were quietly idling in the darkness, listening and waiting. Suddenly, virtually without warning, the bow of a speeding ship bore down upon PT-109 slicing into her hull and cutting her in half, as though with a mammoth knife. There was not time to alter course. Except for two of her crew asleep below deck who were probably killed instantly, all were thrown into the flaming gasoline-covered water. Fortunately, the bow remained afloat and the men were able to return to it. Only one among them was injured, and he was badly burned.

With daybreak came the hope of recovery and the fear of discovery; recovery by friends or discovery by the enemy. As the hours passed, a pressing need to seek cover prompted Lt. Kennedy to propose a plan for abandoning the nose of the ship to reach nearby "Plum Pudding" or Kasolo Island. "Plum Pudding" so-called because of it's shape, was decided on because it was small and appeared less likely to have a Japanese outpost on it.

Kennedy organized the crewmen for their swim to shore, and placed one man in charge. This freed him to give all his attention to the injured man. All others swam while holding onto a plank removed from the wreckage which prevented their separation. Lt. Kennedy lowered the injured crewman into the water, gripped his teeth to a strap on the man's life-jacket, and swam three and a half miles from the wreck to the island. Despite his added burden, he arrived before the others. It required four hours to cover the distance, and all were relieved to find the island unoccupied.

Following a period of anxious waiting, the men were discovered by friendly natives who communicated their whereabouts to Rendova, the home base. Rescue came, and eleven men were saved, one to become President of the United States. He was the 35 president, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.

Revell is a prolific model company that makes all manner of subjects of model kits. Revell is now the brand name of two manufacturers of scale plastic models. The original US company merged with another model company, Monogram, but trades under the Revell name. The German subsidiary Revell Germany separated from the US Company in 2006.

This kit comes in a long and narrow tray and lid box. The box measures 20” x 5” x 2”. It is a good 6 ¾” too long for the parts that are packaged inside. I think this was a ploy by Revell to make the purchaser think he was getting something a lot larger inside?

The box art shows PT-109 and PT-117 making a torpedo run under fire with a Japanese destroyer bearing down on them in the background. This box art is free of any text over it and can easily be cut out and framed for the hobby room wall if wanted. Years ago, a lot of box arts were that way. Sadly, today they are covered with text and that pretty much deletes some neat box arts from possible framing. Sad.

The box art also sports a black and white photo in a circle of Lt. (jg) J.F. Kennedy as he looked back in WWII. It also says that the kit makes up into a boat that is 13 5/16” long. One side panel has the history of the boat, next to a map of it’s area of operation, features of the kit and 4 color photos of sections of the model made up. The features are listed as: 4 torpedo tubes, 2 twin 50 caliber machine guns, a 20 mm cannon and a life raft.

The other side panel has a repeat of the photo of Kennedy in a circle, mention of him as the commander of PT-109, more features of the kit listed, 4 more color photos of areas of the model made up, that the kit is for modelers ages 9 and up, that colors flat light gray, flat medium blue and flat olive drab are needed to finish the model, that paint and cement are not included, a copyright date of 1987 and Revell’s address in Des Plaines, Illinois USA. Revell’s address in Germany is included. Additional features mentioned are: 4 crew figures, 3 rudders, propellers and shafts, port and starboard exhaust mufflers, authentic U.S. Navy decal markings and a display stand.

Inside the box are what looks to be 4 sections of parts that have obviously been hacked apart from a larger sprue, a full hull part and a full deck part. These are all molded in a very dark gray. The decal sheet, instructions and 2 order blanks to order Revell’s catalog for 3 bucks. None of these parts is in a cello bag and some parts are floating around loose, knocked of the trees by friction against the other trees.

The instructions consist of a single large sheet in 17” x 11” format, folded several times to fit the box. On one half the length of one side of this sheet there is a black and white illustration of PT-109 under attack by Japanese planes, courtesy of McGraw Hill Company publisher of “PT-109” by Robert Conovan. Paper-back edition published by Crest. This is followed by the history of PT-109, general instructions, Revell’s guarantee, their address and a 1-800 phone number to use to contact them about any problems with the kit. There is also a black and white illustration of a PT squadron’s logo. It is a circle with a mosquito, wearing a sailor’s hat, riding a torpedo that is just entering a wave.

On the other side of the sheet are the first 3 assembly step illustrations. Each step has a list of names for what the parts are, written instructions and interesting facts. The facts next to step one say “The American PT boats of WWII were built mostly of plywood. The hulls of these boats were light and fragile, but this type of construction was necessary to allow the boats to attain their great speed. The power was supplied by 3 Packard V-12 supercharged engines with a total horsepower of 4,050”.

The interesting facts next to step two say “Cabins and superstructures on the PT boats were basically plywood construction. However, some steel armor plate did exist around the bridge and gun turrets. The engine room hatch cover was removable for exchanging engines or performing major engine repaire.”

The interesting facts next to step three say “The PT boat’s worst enemy was the airplane. Defense against planes was available from two sets of twin 50-caliber machine guns, . the rapid firing 20 mm Orlikon cannon on the stern, and the extreme maneuverability of the boat. The torpedoes were used against surface ships. They were aimed by pointing the boat in the direction the torpedo was to be fired. Many PT boats also carried depth charges for anti-submarine warfare.”

On the other side of the sheet again, on the half of the sheet above the history is printed the fourth and last assembly step. The interesting facts next to it say: “Because of extremely cramped quarters and tight clearances about the boat, PT crews were generally agile and athletic men. These men possessed great skill and courage as the fragile boat was in grave danger if her target was not immediately destroyed. A smoke screen generator on the stern offered some protection, allowing the boats to maneuver without becoming targets.”

Colors are called out in each step for parts used.

Inside the box are a single hull part and a single deck part.

One large chunk of parts holds: the raft, propellers, steering wheel, the Orlikon gun’s hand wheel and guard rails, port and starboard mufflers, machine gun turret rings, the mast, torpedo tube halves, the mast brace, forward jackstaff, aft ensign staff and the searchlight on a pole (25 parts).

The second large chunk of parts holds: the 4 crew figures, (one is just a torso and has separate arms. The others are full figures), the cabin roof, railings, propeller shafts, ventilators, bridge armor shields, rudders, machine guns, Orlikon cannon etc. (43 parts).

This chunk of parts had one arm of it folded over the rest to fit the box. 2 of the figures and one railing had broken off this chunk and were floating around loose in the box.

The third small chunk of parts holds: the port and starboard bridge armor shields and the support stand legs (4 parts)

The fourth small chunk of parts holds: the support stand side rails, engine roof hatch cover and the propeller shaft struts (one of which had broken off and floats around loose) (5 parts)

These chunks of parts are not really formal sprues that are alphabetized like in most kits today. They do have the part numbers next to the parts on tabs. However, these tabs have sink marks on them that the numbers are sinking down into. At times, close scrutiny under a magnifying glass is needed to make out what the part numbers are due to their sinkage. Extra time is needed to identify find these parts on the chunks to match what’s shown in the assembly drawings.

The decal sheet has two sizes of white PT-109 letters that have black shading, plus a 48 starred U.S. flag.

The 2 order blanks for ordering Revell’s catalog complete the kit’s contents.

I bought my kit in the early 90’s at my local shop. Accuracy? I leave that to the ship experts amongst us. My bag mostly is armor. The kit will make up nicely with some loving care. The detail is a little soft. But hey, this kit is state of the art for over 30 years ago!