Old battlewagon is modeler's pride

February 25, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

by Kevin G. Gilbert / staff photographer

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Model builderOld battlewagon is modeler's pride

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Dan Deatrich has messed around with model boats since he was a kid growing up in Waynesboro.

In later years, even as he honed his craft and his models became bigger, more sophisticated and harder to put together, he stuck with ships.

"I never could make model airplanes fly well," he said.

In his room at the home he shares with his mother on Fairview Avenue are samples of Deatrich's craftsmanship - a Medieval galleon, a Mississippi River paddle wheeler, a fishing trawler and a freighter.


In a garage workshop behind the house are models of the Titanic, a 43-inch long replica of HMS Victory, Adm. Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar, a PT boat and a World War II liberty ship. Most are radio-controlled and sail under their own power.

On a table near the door sits the capstone of Deatrich's model-making career - a 74-inch model of the battleship USS Pennsylvania. He's been building it "from scratch" for nine years from plans he got from the National Archives.

When it's finished, sometime later this year, it will move in the water and its guns will rotate and shoot, with "probably just some talcum powder for effect," Deatrich said. He plans to sail it in the lake at Red Run Park.

He'll display the big model in his laundry room, "because it's got a wall big enough," he said.

Deatrich has invested more than 1,000 hours in the model so far. He finds time to work on it between his other interests, which are mostly musical.

Deatrich directs the adult choir and two hand bell choirs in his church, sings in the Mercersburg Community Chorus and plays baritone in the Wayne Community Band.

He has an associate's degree in music and works at Waynesboro Building Supply.

Deatrich said his decision to build a model of the USS Pennsylvania was logical.

"I'm a Pennsylvanian," he said.

The real battleship was christened in 1916 and went through a major modernization around 1930. It was hit twice at Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7 1941, when the Japanese attacked the base. Fifteen crew members died in the attack.

The USS Pennsylvania's sister ship was the USS Arizona.

The ship was repaired and modernized and spent the rest of the war in the Pacific, taking part in campaigns in the Aleutians, the Marshall Islands, the Marianas, Leyte Gulf and Okinawa, among others. It steamed more than 146,000 miles during the war and fired nearly 6,000 tons of shells.

On Aug. 12, 1945, three days after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, the ship was damaged by a torpedo from a Japanese plane off Okinawa.

The USS Pennsylvania was used in two atomic bomb tests off Bikini Island in July 1946. A month later it was towed to the Marshall islands and decommissioned. In February 1948, still too radioactive from the A-bomb tests to board, the ship was taken out to the deep waters off Kwajalein and scuttled.

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