Wareham man's model hobby honors sacrifice this Memorial Day

By Matthew Bernat | May 26, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Captain John Charlebois holds up a model he built of the USS Lexington in the Wareham Free Library. That ship and others are currently on display.

Inside the Wareham Free Library, Captain John Charlebois opened two glass cases holding several, exquisitely detailed models he built of ships that fought in World War II.

Soon after, a young girl walked over and leaned down for a look, clearly fascinated.

It was the type of reaction Charlebois likes to see and one of the reasons he builds the ships. His hope is to spark an interest in the war’s history, leading kids to learn more.

“I wanted to display them because I think World War II should never be forgotten,” said Charlebois, a tugboat captain. “A lot of men lost their lives on these ships and they should be remembered.”

The ships are models of American and Japanese aircraft carriers and destroyers that fought in the Pacific Theater at the Battle of Midway and the Battle of the Coral Sea. Currently, they are on display at the Wareham Free Library.

A history buff, Charlebois said he takes great interest in learning more about the ships and the roles they played in some of the war’s battles.

His favorite model is one of the USS Lexington, which took him three months to build.

Nicknamed “Lady Lex,” the ship launched in 1925 and had an illustrious career before it was intentionally sunk after being badly damaged during the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942.

Charlebois started building models at 17 (“I got better and better at it,” he says) and now has hundreds on display in his East Wareham home.

Charlebois said each piece of the ship is done with precision. Pieces are hand-painted and glued onto the ship. He even had to melt the rigging over a flame, pulling the plastic apart as it melted, then cut and measured each line. To build the ships, he orders blueprints and also hunts for photographs to ensure the details are correct.

While Charlebois is not a veteran, his father did serve in World War II as a military police officer stationed in Casablanca.

For the past few years, Charlebois has displayed some of the ships in the library near Memorial Day. Doing so, he says, is his way of paying tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in service of their country.

The Wareham Free Library is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Captain John Charlebois shows off a model of the USS Lexington, which is one of his favorites. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
All of these ships are models of ones that saw combat in the Pacific Theater during World War II. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
Charlebois builds each piece of the models by hand. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
A look at the flight deck of one of the aircraft carriers. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
In addition to the ships, Charlebois builds all of the details, including planes, by hand. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
(Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
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