The PT Boat was introduced during World War II
in the Pacific Theater. The PT (patrol torpedo
) Boat made up what is known as the Brown Water Navy
. It was used in the shallow coastal waters of the island chains and atolls
because of it's shallow draft
. The PT Boat was 80 feet long, with a 55 ton displacement. The boats were made out of plywood; they could deliver a hell of a punch but could not take very much. In short, they were expendable.
The boat was powered by three Packard Marine engines that developed close to 1,500 horsepower each. The boats carried 3,000 gallons of 100 octane aviation fuel for power. They could accelerate from 8 to 40 knots in about eleven seconds, with a top speed of about 48 knots. As far as armament goes, you couldn't come near one without having something lethal pointed in your direction. The PT Boat carried more firepower per pound than any other craft in the Navy. The typical boat carried most of the following:
40 mm Bofors cannon, aft
Twin 50 cal. machine guns port and starboard
20 mm Oerlikon forward
37 mm Automatic forward
4 MK VIII torpedoes in tubes,
later boats had 4 MK XIII torpedoes on racks
The crew consisted of about 14 men, 1 or 2 of them officers. What made the all-volunteer crew different was the breadth of their training. While the crew members on a typical ship were trained in a specialty, and there were several crew members trained in the same job. The crew of a PT was trained to do every job on the boat, with one or two being their specialty. They didn't have the luxury of replacements, so everyone had to know everyone else’s job.
Trivia: What US President was the skipper of a PT Boat in World War II?
John F. Kennedy skippered PT 109, which was rammed by a Japanese Destroyer and sunk out from under him. It took days for JFK and what was left of his crew to make it back to their unit, dodging Japanese patrols all the while.
There are very few PT Boats left, most were stripped for parts or burned. There are now clubs on both coats dedicated to the preservation of these noble craft.
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