Posted by: SJS | September 26, 2021

Torpedoes away

Torpedoes launched from the deck of a PT boat

What a thrill it was to come across this photo of a PT boat on a training run in American waters firing off two torpedoes from its deck as the boat moves ahead at full throttle. My thanks to Al Cuneo for posting this remarkable photo on a PT Facebook group to which we both belong.

While many of the sources I have consulted over the years have detailed the problems confronted by the PT crews when the torpedoes veered off course or failed to launch as intended, enough of the “fish,” as the torpedoes were called, found their targets and inflicted great harm on enemy vessels, especially barges that were heavy laden with supplies.

By the time Red Stahley was assigned to regular PT boat patrols in the South Pacific aboard the 373, the crews were relying more heavily on their deck guns than torpedoes for missions that took them up jungle rivers and into close proximity with enemy positions that were heavily fortified on land.

Posted by: SJS | September 5, 2021

The Dam Busters

Max Hastings’ latest book

In May of 1943, Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) 617 Squadron carried out a daring raid on dams in Germany that supplied hydroelectric power for the Nazi war machine. Almost half of the 130 airmen who flew in the crews of the British Lancaster Bombers as part of the mission codenamed “Operation Chastise” were lost over the course of the raid. The mission was carried out at night with the bombers flying at extremely low altitude to avoid detection by German radar. Everything about the mission required pinpoint precision, tight coordination, and a level of daring that is hard to imagine.

The RAF mission to destroy the dams was led by Guy Gibson, the twenty-four-year-old wing commander who was already a seasoned veteran of aerial combat when he was selected to lead Operation Chastise in 1943. His leadership skills had been honed in some of the most harrowing missions undertaken by the RAF up to that point. The success of the dam busting operation resulted largely from the discipline, intensity, and rigorous preparation supplied by Gibson.

Every story like this one gives me a deeper understanding of the enormity of courage and sacrifice that was required by the Allied forces to defeat the determined efforts of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to remake the world in their evil image. To better understand the conflict in which my father so bravely served, I love learning about the contributions of America’s allies–especially the English and Canadian and French forces that stood shoulder to shoulder with the Americans.

Over the past few years, I’ve become a real fan of the British historian, Max Hastings. His book, Inferno, has become one of the classic texts on WWII. I am looking forward to reading his book, Vietnam. Hastings is a master storyteller who writes with clarity, insight, and vivid descriptions. I can’t recommend his work highly enough.

Crew leaders of RAF Squadron 617 pose in front of a Lancaster Bomber

Posted by: SJS | August 26, 2021

Heavy camo on PT 328

Heading out on patrol

Bristling with deck weaponry and with crew at the ready, PT 328 moves out on patrol. My thanks to Pip Geesaman who shared this stunning photo on a Facebook group devoted to preserving the legacy of the PT Boats.

When I think of my father’s time in Squadron (RON) 27, serving as a crewmember on the legendary PT 373 in the South Pacific in 1945, I picture him on a boat that looks very much like this one. As the PTs were increasingly used for river patrols–as was his boat–the emphasis shifted from finding torpedo targets to preparing for close-in encounters with entrenched Japanese forces that required deck guns for heavy firefights.

Coming across photos like this one is always a thrilling experience and I am grateful for the generous sharing of the members of the extended PT family across the country and around the globe. The more I learn, the more I want to learn about the legacy of the Navy’s PT boats of WWII.

Posted by: SJS | August 10, 2021

Early August 1945

Nagasaki bomb aftermath, August 1945

When the calendar flipped from July to August in 1945, the Navy’s PT squadrons in the South Pacific were squarely facing the grim prospect of preparing for the invasion of mainland Japan.

The sailors in PT Squadron 27, my father’s unit, had received a strong taste of fierce fighting on remote jungle rivers thousands of miles away from the Japanese mainland. The PT crews knew they were up against an adversary that preferred death to surrender. They also knew about the brutal, bloody battles that the Marines were fighting on their island hopping campaign as they moved ever closer to Japan.

For all the Allied Forces at the tip of the spear in the South Pacific, the earliest days of August 1945 came with a deep sense of resignation, a resignation bordering on fatalism. The prospect of engaging entrenched Japanese forces over the remainder of 1945 made many American soldiers and sailors believe that it would be their final year on earth.

And yet there was never any doubt that those soldiers and sailors would do their duty–whatever the cost.

As we know, everything changed in the wake of the Atomic bombs that were dropped by the Americans on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and August 9th in that fateful year of 1945. Imperial Japan would soon sue for peace and World War II would swiftly draw to a close in the Pacific.

With the arrival of the month of August every year, I always reflect on what it must have been like for my father and all his PT crewmates at this time in 1945. What they were facing is something I can scarcely imagine. The courage required to face each new day, perform their assigned duties, and put aside their worries and fears was patriotism–real patriotism of the highest order.

My gratitude, respect, and awe for what they accomplished knows no bounds.

PT 221 executes a fast turn to starboard.

Posted by: SJS | July 22, 2021

PT boat tie clasp

As a boy, my “official” PT boat tie clasp was among my most prized possessions. As a student at Cardinal Dougherty High School (CDHS) in Philadelphia, the dress code mandated a white shirt, sports jacket and–of course–a tie. While I wasn’t enthusiastic about the dress code, it gave me the opportunity to show off my unique tie clasp. It was a gift to me from my father, along with a sailor’s cap and a few other small items from his days in the service.

Since the vast majority of students at CDHS had fathers or uncles who served in the the American military during WWII, my tie clasp sparked many conversations over my four years at the school. The give-and-take was a powerful source of shared stories about what our fathers and other family members had experienced during the war. I made friends with fellow students whose fathers were part of the D-Day invasion, were POWs, and fighter pilots in the South Pacific. There was a lot of good-natured bragging and arguments about which branch of the service was the best.

Somewhere along the line, I lost track of my precious tie clasp but I think it may show up one of these days in some dusty box in the attic or elsewhere in the family. Whether or not I am able to locate that precious piece of silver, the stories and friendships it forged from my high school years were gifts that I will carry with me through the rest of my days.

Posted by: SJS | July 15, 2021

Refueling at Sea/1944

The USS Wachapreague fuels PT 194

In a dramatic photo from 1944, the PT Tender, USS Wachapreague provides fuel to one of the PT boats enroute to Leyte Gulf to take part in the unfolding battle in the South Pacific. The vital role played by the PT Tenders comes to life in this picture showing the sailors on both boats getting the job done.

My thanks to Mark Kreig who shared this photo on a Facebook PT Boat group.

Posted by: SJS | July 4, 2021

Happy JULY 4th

Navy honor guard stands at attention/USS Roosevelt 2006

Sending best wishes to everyone for a safe and enjoyable July 4th.

As we celebrate the birthday of our nation, we are mindful of all who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces and served our country with honor, dignity, and courage.

In the photo, an honor guard on board the USS Roosevelt–a Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier–stand at attention as part of a burial at sea. Their posture and facial expressions convey the solemnity and seriousness of the moment as they salute the life and service of a fellow sailor who had served with them.

Photos like this one–in which I can easily envision my father in the same uniform–always call to mind his daring service on the PT boats in the Mediterranean and the South Pacific.

Posted by: SJS | June 16, 2021

D-Day plus 44

In 1988, 44 years after D-Day, these three Canadian soldiers who were part of the Allied invasion force returned to France. Their names are Bernard, John and Roy. They posed next to a sign marking the town of Caen–a place that saw heavy fighting as the Allied forces moved inland.

Photos like this one always deepen my gratitude for the soldiers and sailors who put everything on the line during some of the most intense fighting that occurred during WWII. These three Canadians survived the war, returned home, and got on with the business of life.

Seeing this photo reminded me that it was only in 1994–a full fifty years after D-Day–that my father began to find his voice and open up about his experiences in WWII. So many members of the Greatest Generation passed away without talking about what they had been through in the war and they took their stories with them to the grave.

Inspection of PT sailors at Melville, Rhode Island

Posted by: SJS | June 6, 2021

D-Day remembered

On June 6th we remember the Allied invasion of Normandy and the incredible heroism of the American, British, and Canadian troops who stormed the beaches of France. Under the leadership of US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, the coordinated assault gave the Allies a foothold in Europe. The rollback of the Nazi war machine on the Western Front was launched and within one year, the Germans had surrendered.

As we do on Memorial Day, we pause on June 6th to honor all the Allied soldiers and sailors who took part in this momentous day, especially those who made the supreme sacrifice and gave their life on D-Day in defense of all we hold dear.

In this archival photo, American troops brace themselves for the arrival of their landing craft on Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944.

Posted by: SJS | May 26, 2021

Memorial Day 2021

A navy honor guard fires a salute

Memorial Day is a powerful reminder of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in serving our nation. May we always be grateful for what they have given to preserve our country. The solemn celebrations that will take place across the United States are important ways of ensuring that those who have died on behalf of us all will not be forgotten.

A navy honor guard folds the flag at a burial

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