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First Look Review
John F. Kennedy's PT-109, Motorized Version
  • 70813-PT109-8x5

by: Mark R. Smith [ GUNNY ]

Originally published on:
Model Shipwrights

This "first-look review" is of Lindberg Models re-issue of John F.Kennedy's PT-109, 1/32 scale motorized version, plastic injection mold.

The Story...

Seeking combat duty, Kennedy transferred on 23 February as a replacement officer to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron TWO, which was based at Tulagi Island in the Solomons. Traveling to the Pacific on USS Rochambeau, Kennedy arrived at Tulagi on 14 April and took command of PT 109 on 23 April 1943. On 30 May, several PT boats, including PT 109 were ordered to the Russell Islands, in preparation for the invasion of New Georgia. After the invasion of Rendova, PT 109 moved to Lumbari. From that base PT boats conducted nightly operations to interdict the heavy Japanese barge traffic resupplying the Japanese garrisons in New Georgia and to patrol the Ferguson and Blackett Straits near the islands of Kolumbangara, Gizo, and Vella-Lavella in order to sight and to give warning when the Japanese Tokyo Express warships came into the straits to assault U.S. forces in the New Georgia-Rendova area.

PT 109 commanded by Kennedy with executive officer, Ensign Leonard Jay Thom, and ten enlisted men was one of the fifteen boats sent out on patrol on the night of 1-2 August 1943 to intercept Japanese warships in the straits. A friend of Kennedy, Ensign George H. R. Ross, whose ship was damaged, joined Kennedy's crew that night. The PT boat was creeping along to keep the wake and noise to a minimum in order to avoid detection. Around 0200 with Kennedy at the helm, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri traveling at 40 knots cut PT 109 in two in ten seconds. Although the Japanese destroyer had not realized that their ship had struck an enemy vessel, the damage to PT 109 was severe. At the impact, Kennedy was thrown into the cockpit where he landed on his bad back. As Amagiri steamed away, its wake doused the flames on the floating section of PT 109 to which five Americans clung: Kennedy, Thom, and three enlisted men, S1/c Raymond Albert, RM2/c John E. Maguire and QM3/c Edman Edgar Mauer. Kennedy yelled out for others in the water and heard the replies of Ross and five members of the crew, two of which were injured. GM3/c Charles A. Harris had a hurt leg and MoMM1/c Patrick Henry McMahon, the engineer was badly burned. Kennedy swam to these men as Ross and Thom helped the others, MoMM2/c William Johnston, TM2/c Ray L. Starkey, and MoMM1/c Gerald E. Zinser to the remnant of PT 109. Although they were only one hundred yards from the floating piece, in the dark it took Kennedy three hours to tow McMahon and help Harris back to the PT hulk. Unfortunately, TM2/c Andrew Jackson Kirksey and MoMM2/c Harold W. Marney were killed in the collision with Amagiri.

Because the remnant was listing badly and starting to swamp, Kennedy decided to swim for a small island barely visible (actually three miles) to the southeast. Five hours later, all eleven survivors had made it to the island after having spent a total of fifteen hours in the water. Kennedy had given McMahon a life-jacket and had towed him all three miles with the strap of the device in his teeth. After finding no food or water on the island, Kennedy concluded that he should swim the route the PT boats took through Ferguson Passage in hopes of sighting another ship. After Kennedy had no luck, Ross also made an attempt, but saw no one and returned to the island. Ross and Kennedy had spotted another slightly larger island with coconuts to eat and all the men swam there with Kennedy again towing McMahon. Now at their fourth day, Kennedy and Ross made it to Nauru Island and found several natives. Kennedy cut a message on a coconut that read "11 alive native knows posit & reef Nauru Island Kennedy." He purportedly handed the coconut to one of the natives and said, "Rendova, Rendova!," indicating that the coconut should be taken to the PT base on Rendova.

Kennedy and Ross again attempted to look for boats that night with no luck. The next morning the natives returned with food and supplies, as well as a letter from the coastwatcher commander of the New Zealand camp, Lieutenant Arthur Reginald Evans. The message indicated that the natives should return with the American commander, and Kennedy complied immediately. He was greeted warmly and then taken to meet PT 157 which returned to the island and finally rescued the survivors on 8 August.

Kennedy was later awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroics in the rescue of the crew of PT 109, as well as the Purple Heart Medal for injuries sustained in the accident on the night of 1 August 1943. An official account of the entire incident was written by intelligence officers in August 1943 and subsequently declassified in 1959. As President, Kennedy met once again with his rescuers and was toasted by members of the Japanese destroyer crew.

In September, Kennedy went to Tulagi and accepted the command of PT 59 which was scheduled to be converted to a gunboat. In October 1943, Kennedy was promoted to Lieutenant and continued to command the motor torpedo boat when the squadron moved to Vella Lavella until a doctor directed him to leave PT 59 on 18 November. Kennedy left the Solomons on 21 December and returned to the U.S. in early January 1944.

The Model....

Lindberg Models....ahh, yes, the memories of my (and many other modelers!) childhood, just the mention of the name sparks plenty...one of the early pioneers of the injection mold model kit manufacturers, Lindberg has stood the test of time. I'm one of the fortunate ones to have grown up building these kits as they were released, and now, the company itself is under new ownership (after floundering for many years) and not only is Lindberg re-issuing their old kits, there are many NEW kits on the horizon as well.

The company has been purchased by Mr. Ernie Petit (former Testors CEO for fourty years) and a friend of his, and together, they plan on bringing prestige back to the Lindberg name, and having a heap of fun doing so! I've had the pleasure of speaking with Ernie about his new endeavor, and not only is he a great guy, after fouty years of heading one of the other biggies, he does know the business. In the coming months, we hope to bring you many more of these gems from our past, as well as adding some newbies along the way.

The popularity of the story of John F. Kennedy's PT-109 made it a very popular subject for ship model companies in the 1960s, and it is still popular even as newly manufactured kits in the 2000s.

This kit was first introduced by Lindberg in the sixties, and was a premier kit at the time, not only because of it's size, but because it was a motorized kit as well...which meant that not only could you build the hot kit of the day, you could take it out and actually watch it tear across the pond! And as time went on, the kit grew in popularity with RC modelers, as the physical interior size made it an ideal (and still is!) candidate for a two channel RC conversion, quite inexpensively, at that. So with this said, let's look at this re-issue of the popular kit of the past!

The kit, 2007...

The kit comes to the modeler in a HUGE (32-1/2"x20"x6") heavy duty, top-lidded style cardboard box, which is decorated with the colorful box-art scene shown at the header of this writing. opening the box, I found a one-piece molded boat hull, a one piece upper deck section, six seperate sealed plastic bags of kit parts, (various sizes), one electric motor, connection wires, brass propeller shafts, and a twenty three page instruction manual.

Kit features are as follows:

1.) Motorized and operates in water

2.) Suitable for radio control with modifications made by builder

3.) All operating gear included:
Full gear train with universal twin props and rudders
Metal prop shafts and wiring included
Electric motor
Battery box with contacts
Requires 6 size D batteries (not included)

4.) Eight crew figures included

5.) Movable gun mounts

6.) Length: 29.5 inches

7.) Beam: 8 inches

8.) Height: 9 inches

All plastic parts are molded in 100% virgin styrene (no re-grinds) for quality, opaque white in color. Although no new tooling has been done to this kit, the original molds have been cleaned up for clearer molded details, which is apparent. The parts seperated easily from their sprues, although at this time of writing, I have not tried any assembly...but there seems to be no signs of warping of the larger parts, as the lower hull, and upper deck parts dry fit perfectly. Molded details are good and clear,although the crew figures molding is dated and a bit soft...minimal flash is apparent in a few locations, but nothing major...There are no visible signs of warping on the larger pieces, and the upper deck and lower hull dry fit perfectly.

All together there are twelve seperate sprues of parts, (with one clear sprue of window parts) with details such as life raft, torpedo tubes, and moveable gun mounts. Keep in mind that this kit was introduced in the sixties, when molding technology was no-where near where we are today, so minute super-details are not apparent, but with a boat this size, scratchbuilding, or a/m accessories will help to add the touch that you are looking for.

Also included is one simple yet effective decal/marking sheet, and a decent looking flag sheet with old glory, and five different signal flags. The parts included for motorization is a battery powered electric motor with all connection hardware, interruptor switch, battery box (batteries not included), wires, and twin gear driven propeller shafts.

The enclosed instruction manual is very well written, in four languages, with detailed instruction drawings throughout. The text is well thought out, and the step assembly follows well. Paint schedule listed with both FS numbers and Testors paint name/numbers.

There is also a chapter for converting your model into a two channel RC boat, with all additional RC parts listed, along with diagrams, and templates for motor, servo, and receiver mounts. for a clearer picture of one modelers RC experiences with this kit, click HERE!

Highs: Large scale, big model, loads of possibilities, either in super-detailing, or RC use, great instruction manual.
Lows: Molds are original (cleaned up though), and a bit out-dated
Verdict: Overall, this kit looks to be a lot of fun to build, although not as a show-stopper OOB, but easily could be, with some added a/m work. A great RC starter kit, can't wait to build her!
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:32
  Mfg. ID: 70813
  Suggested Retail: $90.00 USD MSR
  Related Link: Official Company Website
  PUBLISHED: Nov 24, 2007
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Lindberg!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Mark R. Smith (Gunny)

I have been building models of all sorts all of my life, concentrating mainly on the coolest one's when I was younger, but now I focus directly on all military subjects, from armor to warships. After years of counting rivets, I put away the calipers, dial indicators, and micrometers and now just ha...

Copyright 2020 text by Mark R. Smith [ GUNNY ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


I think you went a little too easy on this kit. If you want a pool toy, or want to spend an exorbitant amount of effort to get a passable representation of a PT boat, than this the kit for you. However, if you want a more accurate model, then I would recommend that you seek elsewhere.
JAN 21, 2008 - 09:21 AM
hi Ive just started with my 109 kit however the kit is missing the instruction sheets, it only has the motorizing sheets, the kits number is 2660 can you help it would make the build quicker and easier.
SEP 03, 2010 - 01:54 PM
Gunny, thanks for a "blast from the past" review! First kit I started when I returned to the hobby was the Revell PT 109. I think we ALL build a PT 109 at some point! Glad to see Lindberg re-issuing some classics (like Revell has been doing). yes, not very accurate and very 'toy-like" but I think these releases are aimed at "us" to be built out of fond memories and a fun build.
SEP 05, 2010 - 01:26 AM
Hi BJ, If you PM me your e-mail address, I will scan the instruction sheet and send it off to you as a .pdf file, mate... Cheers, ~Gunny
SEP 05, 2010 - 02:03 AM

What's Your Opinion?

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