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Area model builders selected for Navy exhibit

February 14, 2000

Midway modelsBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photos: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




BEAVER CREEK - It's wartime in David Monet's Beaver Creek basement, and the artist is armed with his arsenal of airbrushes, adhesives and dental instruments.

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Monet and four other members of the Tri-State Scale Modelers (TSSM) met in his basement workshop last week to continue preparing for the club's most exciting project since the group formed in 1991.

The U.S. Navy asked the local model builders to craft ships, airplanes and dioramas - miniature scenes - associated with the World War II Battle of Midway for public display this summer in a 58th anniversary celebration of the tide-turning Pacific clash between U.S. and Japanese forces.

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"The Battle of Midway was the first true example of our strategy in modern warfare," said Chief Petty Officer Thomas W. Roskelly Jr., who is organizing the celebration from U.S. Naval Security Group headquarters at Fort Meade, Md.

The June 1942 battle, which thwarted the Japanese offensive, is one of the most important events in U.S. Naval history and will be commemorated starting this June in annual celebrations, Roskelly said.

Three-dimensional models will give visitors to exhibits at several military sites a better sense of the battle, he said.

That's why Roskelly enlisted the efforts of TSSM and two other nearby modeling groups, each of which is working for free.

"It's strictly a recognition thing. It's mostly an honor to be asked," said Monet, 35, president of Tri-State Scale Modelers, which is a chapter of the International Plastic Modeler's Society.

The nonprofit group of plastic model builders meets monthly to exchange information, improve skills, encourage interest in model building, and establish and maintain a liaison with manufacturers and other modeling clubs, according to the group's newsletter.

Since being approached by Roskelly in late December, the club's members have been working to complete the project, Monet said.

Tri-State Scale ModelersTSSM sent its first batch of four model airplanes to Roskelly this month, and the modelers are scrambling to meet their final deadline in mid-March, he said.

Monet, club Vice President Steve Jones, and members Cameron MacKenzie, Jan Hiett and Joy Edmands worked diligently around a table Wednesday evening topped with the tools of their hobby: Reference books, magnifiers, tiny plastic parts, decals, paints, brushes, etching tools and other mainstream instruments modified for model building.

U.S. and Japanese fighter planes, destroyers, submarines and the Catalina plane that first spotted the Japanese fleet gradually took shape from among the piles of tiny, disconnected parts.

Despite the deadline pressure, spirits soared.

"I thought it sounded like a great opportunity," said U.S. Navy veteran MacKenzie as he manipulated the tiny plastic parts of a submarine.

"Airplanes are in the blood," said Jones, a Vietnam War veteran whose father was a pilot in World War II.

It appeared it would take much of Jones' aircraft expertise and a few gobs of automotive putty to fix the gaps that plagued a Devastator plane available only in a 1974 model kit.

"The only way to get some of these kits together is Super Glue," laughed Monet, who was also working on a detailed portrait of a World War II Navy pilot.

Though the models originate in boxed kits, the elaborate finished products stem from upgrading the basic plastic models with more detailed "after-market" parts, historically accurate markings and precise paint jobs, Monet said.

"We end up sculpting and scribing and molding," he said. "It's basically and art form when it's all done."

Roskelly said he was impressed with TSSM's first batch of models, which have already been photographed for an article about the Midway anniversary in Fine Scale Modeler magazine and will be displayed at Naval Security Group headquarters, the National Security Agency, and possibly the Pentagon, Capitol Rotunda, and Maryland State House.

"They're great," he said.

The sense of satisfaction from completing such models is only part of the enjoyment the modelers derive from club membership, they said.

MacKenzie said TSSM members learn new skills from each other and thrive on a shared love of history.

And they share the joy of participating in what can be a "very solitary hobby," Hiett added.

"These are my best friends. We're family," Monet said. "I want this club to be a little more recognized in this community. There's a lot of closet model builders out there, and people who think that model building is just for kids."

The Tri-State Scale Modelers welcome new members of all ages. The group meets at 7:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the American Legion Home on Northern Avenue in Hagerstown.

Call Monet at 301-790-3368 or Jones at 717-264-8363 for more information.

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