PT boat file photo

PT-class Motor Torpedo Boat

CountryUnited States
BuilderElectric Launch Corporation, Bayonne, New Jersey, United States
Displacement56 tons standard
Length80 feet
Beam21 feet
MachineryThree 12-cylinder liquid-cooled Packard gasoline engines rated at 1,200bhp each
Bunkerage3,000 gal aviation fuel
Speed39 knots
Crew14
Armament1x20mm Oerlikon cannon at stern, 2x12.7mm twin M2 or 2x7.6mm Lewis machine guns on rotating turrets, 2x or 4x21in torpedo tubes, Mark 8 torpedoes
NoteSpecifications reflect dimensions of the most popular model built by Elco, other models of other makes were also available

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

This article refers to the entire PT-class; it is not about an individual vessel.

Patrol torpedo boats, popularly known as "PT boats", were small, light, and fast motor torpedo boats used by the United States Navy. They were first developed in the early 1900s as a way to deliver torpedoes against larger surface vessels without risking losing ships of heavier displacement. The WW2-era torpedo boat design originated in the late 1930s to the early 1940s when the US Navy requested a competitive bid for several different concepts of torpedo boats. Out of the companies that built prototypes for review, the Electric Launch Corporation ("Elco", a division of the Electric Boat Company), Higgins Industries, and Huckins Yacht Company won contracts, with Elco receiving the largest share of the overall contract.

The Elco boats were the largest in size of the three types of PT boats built immediately before and during WW2, totaling 385 boats. Made of two-inch thick planks of mahogany, these boats were 80 feet long, 20 feet 8 inches wide, and displaced 56 tons of water. They were powered by three fuel-guzzling 12-cylinder liquid-cooled gasoline engines built by Packard, rated at 1,200 brake horsepower each. They accommodated 3 officers and 14 sailors, though a typical complement was between 12 and 14. The typical Elco PT boats carried one 20-mm Oerlikon cannon at the stern and two twin M2 12.7-mm or 7.6-mm Lewis machine guns mounted on rotating turrets, but the main armament was two or four 21-inch torpedo tubes launching Mark 8 torpedoes that weighed about 1-ton each. One of the most famous Elco boats was Lieutenant (jg) John F. Kennedy's PT-109, which was of an unique configuration; the PT boat the future President of the United States commanded carried a 37-mm single shot anti-tank gun on the fore deck, making his PT boat more so a gunboat than a torpedo boat. Custom armament configurations, though, was not altogether strange nor unexpected for PT boats of all makes. Some of them carried atypical weapons and equipment such as aircraft automatic cannon, radar, or rocket launchers.

Higgins built 199 PT boats for the US Navy immediately before and during WW2. They were 78 feet long and had entirely different layouts than the Elco boats, including larger forepeak which offered larger storage spaces; their width, displacement, accommodation space, and typical armament were similar to the Elco boats, however. Higgins PT boats were sent to Russia and Britain at the start of WW2 before the United States became directly involved. Huckins was but a small manufacturer, and built only 18 examples for use in rear areas only, such as the Panama Canal Zone.

Before the war, at the Philippine Islands, General Douglas MacArthur was an advocate of PT boats. He said:

A relatively small fleet of such vessels, manned by crews thoroughly familiar with every foot of the coast line and surrounding waters, and carrying, in the torpedo, a definite threat against large ships, will have distinct effect in compelling any hostile force to approach cautiously and by small detachments.

However, his counterparts at Washington, DC, United States did not agree. With no support from Washington, MacArthur attempted to purchase British-built torpedo boats to suit his needs, but the start of the European War made that purchase impossible. Thus, his theory of using PT boats for the defense of the Philippine Islands was never tested. Nevertheless, the first PT boats used in the Pacific War were directly related to MacArthur as they evacuated personnel out of the Philippine Islands, including MacArthur and his family. Elco boat PT-41, commanded by Lieutenant John D. Bulkeley of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three, took them off of the island bastion of Corregidor. The waters were rough that night (a member of the PT-41 crew remembered the night's sail was "a combination of bucking bronco and wallowing tub"), which significantly slowed the boats. Through the Mindoro Strait, with a brief stop at Cuyo Islands west of Panay, and a near run-in with a Japanese cruiser west of Negros, PT-41 and accompanying PT boats delivered MacArthur and his family to Cagayan, Mindanao, Philippine Islands. Upon landfall, MacArthur promised to recommend every man of the Torpedo Squadron Three Silver Star awards; Bulkeley eventually had a greater award, a Medal of Honor, for successfully completing the mission through Japanese waters. After the fall of the Philippine Islands, they continued to play important roles in the Pacific War, and were the centerpieces of a propaganda campaign. They were publicly hailed as the destroyers of several Japanese warships, though the credits were erroneously given.

During the Solomon Islands Campaign, "Green Dragons" and "Devil Boats", as nicknamed by the Japanese, were deployed against larger warships, but performance was not impressive largely due to faulty American torpedoes and modern destroyers' capability to fight small incoming craft. The Japanese were initially cautious when operating in waters with known PT boat presence, which disrupted Japanese supply runs to key contested battlefields such as Guadalcanal, but as soon as they realized that American torpedoes were often defective, PT boats lost their effectiveness as a weapon, but they acted as effective deterrents nevertheless.

In Bulkeley's words, the PT boats were made "to roar in, let fly a Sunday punch, and then get the hell out, zigging to dodge the shells." This description was much in line with the typical image of the PT boat in combat, but it was largely over romanticized. The popular belief was that a small number of boats would blaze in with high speed, launch their torpedoes to destroy enemy capital ship with all guns pumping, and make their escape against the backdrop of the enemy cruiser in an fiery inferno. In reality that type of attacks might had been deployed, but those types of attacks would be rare as high speed attacks would attract too much attention, and even a single near-miss from a destroyer shell would often seriously threaten the integrity of hulls. Direct hit would often disintegrate entire boats. Instead, these unarmored boats typically approached enemy ships in relative quietness to conceal their approaches, launch torpedoes while hoping the torpedo wakes would not be detected, and escape in high speed only if the targets were hit and the resulting flames illuminated their position. If the first round of torpedoes missed and the boat was not detected, the commanding officer of the boat might order his crew to maneuver stealthily and make a second attempt.

With that said, however, PT boats in WW2 were more often deployed against barges rather than warships, which explained why most boats were retrofitted with machine guns and cannons. With the Allies gaining air superiority during the daylight hours in various theaters, Japanese supply missions in the Pacific and German and Italian supply missions in the Mediterranean gradually shifted to ones that made use of barges in shallow waters. PT boats were the perfect weapons to act in the role of barge busters. One captured Japanese soldier's diary described their fear of PT boats by describing them as "the monster that roars, flaps it wings, and shoots torpedoes in all directions".

PT boat crews were significantly different than crews of steel warships of the US Navy. Their officers and men mixing more frequently than those of the "steel navy", and they were known as excellent scavengers and thieves who were capable of taking whatever they could find to bolster their supplies and armament. PT boats crews were also known to be rather informal or even at times "undisciplined", but their ferocity in the face of danger was much respected despite their frequent lack of seriousness.

Though PT boats' primary missions continued to be seen as to attack surface vessels, they were also used to lay mines and smoke screens, to rescue downed aviators, and to carry out intelligence or raider operations.

At the end of WW2, of the 531 patrol torpedo boats built, only 69 were lost, including losses to enemy fire, storms, accidents, friendly fire, or simply being worn out. Percentage-wise, this made a high loss ratio, but with the US Navy's attitude that PT boats were expendable, the loss ratio could said to be low. After the war, most of them were decommissioned and destroyed. Much of this destruction took place at PT Base 17 at Samar, Philippine Islands, near Bobon Point. Only nine PT boat hulls survive today, some on display in museums such as the PT Boat Museum at Battle Cove, Fall River, Massachusetts, United States.

Sources: American Caesar, United States Navy Naval Historical Center, US Patrol Torpedo Boats, Wikipedia.

PT-class Motor Torpedo Boat Interactive Map

Photographs

A US Navy PT Boat underway immediately off Midway Atoll, circa 1942PT boats conducting training operations in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, United States, circa 1941-1945Hornet at Pearl Harbor, escorted by PT-28 and PT-29, 30 Apr 1942PT-105 and two other torpedo boats of US Navy Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Five running at high speed during exercises off the US east coast, 12 Jul 1942
See all 12 photographs of PT-class Motor Torpedo Boat



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. i love wheat thins says:
    8 Apr 2009 10:20:45 AM

    pt boats are sweeeeeeeet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. Martin Cohen, RM1c says:
    14 Jun 2009 09:45:36 PM

    Attempting to find any of my shipmatesfrom PT Ron 3 (replacement) out of Tulagi base.
  3. Anonymous says:
    15 Nov 2009 10:19:15 AM

    Hey Martin.............My brother Andy was there with the Ron3(2). He was a CM11,2,and 3
  4. Tom says:
    3 Jan 2010 10:21:27 PM

    Looking to find out a little about my Dad's time spent in the Green Islands around July-August 1944 till the end of the war. I think he could have been at Base 7. Please contact me if you can help.

    Thanks
  5. BR says:
    24 Feb 2010 06:34:22 PM

    My Dad, now 83, served on PT 344, Ron 25 Squadron, during all of WWII. Any info regarding the PT 344? or any of his shipmates? Appreciate any info. Thanks.
  6. Mrs. BR says:
    25 Feb 2010 01:04:50 PM

    Who do I contact to find out where I can locate a war correspondent who interviewed my Dad while he was in the South Pacific during WWII? The interview was done with my Dad because a Navy medical team had discovered that my Dad had 1,400 missions (which set a record he held until the early 1950's). The interview was recorded on a vinyl long playing record (LP) and his interview was also published in the USA which included a photo of him taken while he was sitting on the PT 344 using his helmet as a wash basin. I can clearly remember seeing the newspaper photo and the article when I was a child, however, I was too young at the time to realize its importance. My Dad and his mother had the LP and article w/photo, but they were lost over the years. I have tried for many years to locate the newspaper article, but with no success. Do you have any suggestions? I wish I had been more aware of my Dad's Naval accomplishments when I was younger and could have researched it sooner. He is still very sharp mentally and none of his war stories have ever changed over his lifetime. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much....Mrs. BR
  7. john r. soos says:
    25 Jun 2010 04:19:45 AM

    my dad was on p.t344.would like to find others that were on his ship.thanks.
  8. Judy Shafer says:
    21 Sep 2010 03:20:32 PM

    Even after ordering my Dad's military records from the Department of the Navy, I still can't determine which PT Boat he served on. Is says he was with MTB Squadron 24 at Brunei Bay, Borneo. Does any one have any ideas on how I can learn which boat he served on. My Mother thinks it was 107, but that boat sunk before he went to Borneo in 10/1945. I have the list for Squadron 24, but that doesn't narrow is down very much.
  9. Anonymous says:
    9 Oct 2010 03:38:54 AM

    I have collected what is apparently a PT boat fuel tank & what might be a PT steering wheel from Western Province in Solomon Islands - is anybody interested to see photos & possibly identify the markings on the fuel tank. Regards, Jim
  10. Mark says:
    23 Oct 2010 03:27:11 PM

    JIM,
    Please send me photos of the wheel and tank and information on where you found them. kellymark@fuse.net. Also, anyone interesed in Rons 1,2 or 3 please email me with your questions.
  11. Anonymous says:
    24 Oct 2010 02:21:22 PM

    Jusy found a clear pic of P-675 PT Boat crew. anyone have info?
  12. john dwyer says:
    10 Jan 2011 04:22:25 PM

    My father served on PT 464 Squadron 31 WW 11 in the Pacific 1943-1945. Interested in any and all information anyone may have and status of the Boat if avaible. Thanks John
  13. Janet Charles says:
    21 Jan 2011 12:04:07 PM

    My dad served in PT Ron 15. His name was Robert Milasky? Anyone know what boat he was on #201-218?
  14. tim Anderson says:
    14 Mar 2011 08:50:58 AM

    Dad was in Ron 25, Roy Anderson, 1944 till end of war. Any info or names of anyone in Ron 25 would be appreciated fdny442@yahoo.com
  15. DAVE BUROCK says:
    23 Mar 2011 11:41:11 AM

    My dad , Andy was a GM. Boat 303, called Hogans Goat. I believe it was Ron 20 Any information on this , Thank You. Dave Burock

    Pennsylvania 570-379-2570
  16. Peter Stevens says:
    14 May 2011 04:12:05 PM

    My grandfather was Fredrick A. Stevens USNR. He was the decommisioning CO of RON 25. I am looking for anyone who may have been attached to or relatives of the 25. I have hundreds of pics from the war also alot of pics of RON 21. i am willing to share anything that I have. I can be contacted at the email adress above
  17. Peter Stevens says:
    14 May 2011 04:16:30 PM

    My grandfather was LT. Fredrick A. Stevens USNR C.O. of RON25 Decommisioning Officer. I am just looking to see if anyone may have new him. I have pictures hat may have your relative in. I am willing to share.
  18. Bob Winn says:
    28 May 2011 06:36:25 AM

    I'd like to contact Peter Stevens, who has some photos of RON 21.

    Thanks. Please email to bobwinn@iname.com
  19. Anonymous says:
    2 Jun 2011 09:32:41 AM

    Looking for info PT196, RON 12. My father was on this boat.
  20. Anonymous says:
    5 Jun 2011 01:22:21 PM

    my dad was in ron 23. Jack Castleberry.torpedoman 2nd class.don,t know boat no. Would like to find out.
  21. Curt Bagby says:
    5 Jun 2011 04:58:30 PM

    My uncle, quartermaster Lee A. Bagby, served with PT boats during the Guadalcanal campaign and was awarded the Silver Star and a battlefield commission during this fight. I would like to know what boat he was on and what happened during the battle.
  22. Anonymous says:
    27 Oct 2011 04:06:20 AM

    I am looking for any information about my grandfather Joseph Hall , nicknamed Bud or Buddy. He was a pt boat crewman navy amphibious section. He had a towel with the islands he was on and listed him as serving with boat pool 15 ,Amphibious Forces 7th Fleet. Islands listed were Green Ise., Russell ise., Emirau , Noumea, Admiralty Ise. , Munda , Espiritu Santo, Guadalcanal , Tulagi, And Treasury Ise. I have pictures of him with several crewmates , will share and trade.
  23. Lori Hall says:
    27 Oct 2011 04:27:40 AM

    Looking for information about Boat pool 15 amphibious forces, 7th fleet.
  24. Robert H Cochran says:
    25 Oct 2012 05:53:29 AM

    My father CWO3 Robert Leslie Cochran was based at Samar, P.I. from sometime in 44 throught the end of hostilities. He was engineering officer for the squadron. If anyone has info on either the base or the boats stationed at Samar . or memories of my Dad please contact me. Dad served 38 years total USN.
  25. Anonymous says:
    19 Nov 2012 12:01:29 AM

    Yes Jim, please send me photos of the ships wheel.Regards,
  26. Jim Spoerere says:
    16 Dec 2012 09:29:02 PM

    My father Cmdr Charles G. Spoerer JR.USN Ret. was a young officer of the PT Boats in and out of the Solomon Islands. If anyone remembers him please write
  27. Craig Hughes says:
    20 Dec 2012 09:05:36 AM

    My Father, Amos H. Hughes was a crewmanon PT 122. He was stationed in the Philppines. I came across a handful of pictures while going through his Navy stuff. If anyone is interested in seeing them let me know. My Dad also has quite a few pictures of what looks like buddies he went through boot camp with. My Dad was from Shadyside Ohio.
  28. KS says:
    7 Feb 2013 04:28:13 PM

    In response to BR, john r. soos and Tim Anderson

    Raymond J Shoop Lieutenant (jg) commanded PT-344, I have pictures of the crewmen, numerous photos and trinkets collected from the South Pacific. We also have a water-color painting made by one of the crewmen of PT-344 tied side-to a supply boat with three PT-38's flying by. We believe that this painting is an image of modern day Vanuatu or New Hebrides as it was known by then, on it's way to action in New Guinea and Philippine.

    Raymond J. Shoop was awarded the Bronze Star on 4 June 1946 "For distinguishing himself by heroic and meritorious service as Patrol Torpedo officer in the New Guinea and Philippine areas from June, 1944, to May, 1945. Lieutenant Shoop was attached to the Commander Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 25, Seventh Fleet and made thirty-eight combat patrols under enemy air attack many times. He also participated in the destruction of a small freighter, a one hundred twenty foot schooner, six barge and two luggers".

    Signed by Admiral Kinkaid

    I would expect your fathers were a large and great part of this action and I hope your father (BR) is still alive and well.

    Raymond Shoop held at least one "Mosquito Reunion" in Canon City, CO and I know that he visited a crew-member in Richardson, TX area in the 1960's. He passed away in 1983 after many years as a business man in the Canon City, CO area.
  29. David Kilgore says:
    26 Feb 2013 02:14:18 PM

    My father, David Kilgore, was in Ron 33 and I have been trying to find out which boat he served on. My mother says it was 496 but I'm not sure. I have one of the flags from his boat which he brought home after the war and I would like to be able to accurately tie it to his boat.
  30. Joseph Granquist says:
    26 Feb 2013 04:44:33 PM

    Am looking for info on my uncle, a radioman and cpo on pt boats,same name joe,granquist.
  31. Lisa Schneider says:
    28 Jul 2013 11:37:45 AM

    My father in law was on PT Ron 8 and then Ron 40 when 8 sunk. He was a machinist. We do not have the actual boat number he served on. His name is Norbert (Norm) Schneider. Ohio. Any info would be greatly appreciated.
  32. Donn Everhard says:
    19 Aug 2013 04:41:49 PM

    Ms. Schneider: Re your query, what theatre of the war was your father in law attached to Ron 8? do you know what campaigns Ron 8 may have taken part in? The E-books At Close Quarters and Hell on Keels have a ton of PT info. I am trying to find out if Ron 8 was involved in the European theatre of the war.
  33. William Sheets says:
    27 Sep 2013 08:18:48 AM

    Would like to know the pt boat number of my Dads boat he was in Ron 17 and in the battle of leyte in the Phillipenes his name is Nathan Paul Sheets was over there in Oct of 1944
  34. Dan Hanley says:
    3 May 2014 07:22:23 AM

    My father was in MTB RON 8. I do believe that RON 8 was in the South West Pacific Theater, only. He was Electricians Mate and was on many different PT boats performing electrical maintenance. RON 8 saw action in New Guinea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

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Event(s) Participated:
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» American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964
» US Patrol Torpedo Boats


PT-class Motor Torpedo Boat Photo Gallery
A US Navy PT Boat underway immediately off Midway Atoll, circa 1942
See all 12 photographs of PT-class Motor Torpedo Boat



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