By early 1943 the Battle of Guadacanal had been won and the US Navy was starting to mount operations up the long chain of the Solomon Islands. The Imperial Japanese Navy was going to put up a contest every step of the way. During the fight for Guadacanal the IJN had moved troops to that island mainly aboard transports or on destroyers of the Tokyo Express. In the continued fighting up the chain, another type of troop delivery means became prominent and that was the armored motor barge. These small barges provided very tough nuts to crack. Sure a five-inch shell could do a job on one but the favored barge buster on USN destroyers was not the 5-inch but the 40mm Bofors. The 40mm was in short supply and not all destroyers had received their fit. There certainly were not enough of the Bofors available for any to go to fit out PT Boats, although later they were a common feature at the stern of USN PT Boats (click to see review of WEM 40mm Bofors single mount used in USN PT Boats.)
The military always seems to operate under a different set of rules in a combat area than in a more staid communication zone. Red tape and waiting doesn't sit well for soldiers and sailors that need equipment to increase their combat effectiveness and consequently their chance at survival. That was certainly true in the Solomons in 1943. Crews would scrounge up needed parts and the true owner be damned. No muss, no fuss, no red tape or forms in triplicate with pin heads in the rear with the gear. Just a quick 0200 visit to your favorite shopping emporium, a quick five finger discount, and voila, you have the part you need.
For LTJG John F. Kennedy and the crew of PT-109, the needed part was some bigger punch than a .50 machine gun. Many boats would go for installation of a 37mm gun on the bow. These could come from a variety of sources. One popular source was the P-39 fighter. This Bell design had the engine mounted behind the pilot with the drive shaft running between the pilots legs to the propeller. This was done to allow the installation of a 37mm gun in the fighter's nose. These guns were also popular with PT crews if they could get one salvaged from one of the fighters. For PT-109 the source was different for their acquisition. One piece of artillery deployed world wide was the towed 37mm Anti-Tank-Gun (ATG). This ordnance was employed in the Solomons but Japanese armor was rarely encountered and armored Japanese barges were frequently encountered. The crew of PT-109 acquired this ordnance, removed the wheels and mounted it, trail and al, to the bow of their boat.
This piece of ordnance is not part of the long popular 1:72 scale kit of the PT-109 or the others boats that were selected for re-issues of the model. Now through the good graces of White Ensign Models, any aspiring barge buster can pump up his boats firepower with WEM PE #7216, US Army 37mm Anti-tank gun in 1:72 scale. This new ordnance in the WEM line up provides the gun as mounted on PT-109. The white metal and brass parts depict the gun with trails spread and with wheels removed.
There are three white metal parts, the gun mount, the gun and the splinter shield. The parts are nicely cast but do require some very minor clean up with a hobby knife. Any modeler should be very happy with the detail found on the WEM white metal pieces, especially the barrel part with the breech block and barrel detail. However, in true WEM fashion, it is in Mad Pete's brass photo-etch fret that comes with the kit, where the modeler puts the pedal to the metal in detail. This small fret has the goods to make your barge busting 37 pop in detail. There are only nine items on the fret: towing eye, two shield mounting supports, gun breech plate, shield top brace, elevation wheel, breech handle and two gun handles. That's right, individual handles for the hands of your 1:72 scale crewmen. Only Mad Pete would come up with that miniature madness. Of course there is relief etched detail, this time with the gun shield mounts.
For all scroungers out there looking for punch for your PTs, White Ensign Models offers another solution with their WEM PE #7216 US Army 37mm Antitank Gun. The detail of this bit of ordnance will certainly do your boat proud in her nocturnal hunts for IPMS gee-gaws. However, the steely-eyed squids at WEM take a dim view of five finger discounts. This should be no probable even for the most hardened scrounger, as the gun can be easily acquired for a very modest fee with no red tape or other hassle from any rear rank Rudy. Of course, with the legendary speed of WEM delivery, you don't have to wait for forms in triplicate to wend their way through the S-4 bureaucracy. It will probably be at the door before your next mission.