Andy's PT Boat Page
Did you ever hear of boats called the Mosquito Fleet? Americans called them PT (patrol torpedo) boats. Their real name is MTB (motor torpedo boat). Japanese called them "cat-eyed devils". They played a small but important part in World War II.
PT boats were around 77 feet long, and weighed from 33 to 55 tons. The destroyers the PTs sometimes sank were 55 times heavier. Their three 1500 hp engines pushed them along at top speeds of 40 knots (46 mph). They could accelerate from 8 to 40 knots in about 11 seconds. They carried 3000 gallons of gasoline. They were so small and so fast that shooting at them was like shooting a mosquito with an elephant gun.
Even being so small, PTs had galleys and sleeping quarters where the crew ate and slept. Crews had superstitions about the number13 so they would try to have a crew of 12 or 14. Everyone had to know everyone else's jobs. Some of the jobs they had to learn included skipper (captain), gunner, torpedoman, radioman, quartermaster, cook, signalman, executive officer, and motor machinist. About 16,000 men trained for PT boats at Melville, Rhode Island.
PT boats were made of plywood, 320 by Electric Boat Co. in New Jersey and 205 by Higgins Industry in New Orleans, Louisiana. They were tested in Rhode Island, driven to Norfolk, Virginia, shipped to Panama, loaded on a Victory Ship, shipped to the South Pacific and finally towed into Tulagi Harbor in the Solomons by destroyers. At Marveles Bay in the Philippines, there was a floating dry dock for repairs. In the afternoon the Navy would sink the dock so that the Japanese could not blow it up.
PT boats carried weapons like a 40 mm Bofors cannon aft, twin 50 caliber machine guns port and starboard, 20 mm Oerlikon forward, 37 mm automatic forward, 4 Mark IV torpedoes, depth charges, mortar, rockets, smoke generators, small arms, and hand grenades.
40 mm Bofors cannon
Twin 50 caliber machine guns and radar`
20 mm Oerlikon
37 mm automatic
PT boats were used for a lot of things. General Douglas MacArthur was the American Commander and when the Japanese took over the Philippines on March 11, 1942, PT boats 41, 35, and 34 got him out of there because they could go fast and hide.
Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands was the first major allied offensive. The struggle lasted from August,1942, to February,1943. In December of 1942 the Japanese were trying to get troops to Guadalcanal. PT boats were making it difficult. On December 9th PT-59 sank a 2000-ton blockade running submarine. Then on December 12th three PT boats sank a new destroyer called Teruzuki.
In the Solomon Islands near New Guinea, Japanese were using barges to move troops and supplies after they lost control of Guadalcanal. PT boat crews often had to kill the Japanese survivors rather then taking them prisoner. That was because Japanese were trained to resist capture or to seek revenge on their saviors.
The Japanese wanted to sink PT boats. At the start of the war when there was an air raid siren, the PTs would zip out into the harbor and run around dodging each other until the raid or alarm was over. Booms of logs and wire were put out on the water by Japanese.
During the Philippine campaign only one PT boat was lost due to enemy action. Others were lost because US soldiers sometimes fired on PT boats because they looked like Japanese barges. PTs, on the other hand, didn't know that the Henderson Air Field had any planes left. When one of the last P-40s flew out the PTs put a lot of holes in it!
John F. Kennedy and his crew were on PT-109. They, along with 14 other boats, were trying to block enemy ships. They fired lots of torpedos but didn't hit anything. The PT boats were on their way back to Tulagi when the Japanese destroyer, the Amagiri , sliced PT-109 in half! After five hours of swimming the survivors came to an island. They tended their wounds and then swam to a second island where they were more likely to be seen. When nobody saw them there, Kennedy and one other sailor swam to a third island. There they met two natives who carried a message that Kennedy carved on a coconut to an Austalian coast watcher named Evans. Seven days after the accident they were rescued by another PT boat. Kennedy went on to be the President of America. Now there is a movie and book called PT Ð 109 .
On April 25, 1996, I got to go to a museum in Fall River, Massachusetts to see the only two PT boats displayed in the world. It was neat to see all the guns. The boats were smaller than I thought they would be. If you want to really see PT boats and learn lots about them, go to Battleship Cove in Fall River.
The USS Massachusetts at Battleship Cove, Fall River, Massachusetts
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