Posted by: SJS | January 31, 2023

Smoke canister on a PT boat

Among the defensive weapons carried by the PT boats were the smoke canisters that were positioned in the stern–the rear part of the boat. Deploying these canisters provided the PTs with an immediate, and very thick, smoke screen to help the boat make its escape from pursuing enemy craft. The photo above, taken from the vast archives of LIFE Magazine, shows two PT crewmen on an unidentified boat off Guadalcanal in early 1943. The sailor on the right is seated on the boat’s smoke canister.

In close encounters with larger, better armed adversaries, the PTs counted on speed, surprise, maneuverability, and deception. For close-in fighting, every second–and every fraction of a second–counted. The PT crews were well positioned to make the best use possible of every tool and strategy at their disposal. Laying down a massive smoke screen was a weapon that they learned to use to great effect.

My thanks to fellow PT Splinter, Jeff Duncan, who posted this excellent photo on a Facebook page devoted to the children and other relatives of the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet.” Much appreciated, Jeff!!

Posted by: SJS | January 15, 2023

“Little Poison” in Squadron (RON) 15

My thanks to fellow PT Splinter, William Bothe, for sharing this photo of PT 210, nicknamed “Little Poison” with a Facebook PT group to which we both belong. His father served aboard this boat which was in Squadron (RON) 15, the first unit that my father was assigned to in the Mediterranean in 1944.

Based on my research, I believe that Red Stahley was assigned to the base radio station when he was part of RON 15. I continue to scour the records and manifest lists for the boats in that squadron but I have yet to find his name attached to any specific boat during his time in the Mediterranean.

I love the name given to the 210 by her crew–“Little Poison.” How perfect for a PT boat!

Posted by: SJS | January 6, 2023

Patriotism close to home

On the second anniversary of the insurrectionist riot at the United States Capitol, we remember the brave police officers who held the line against the bloodthirsty, murderous, depraved followers of the disgraced, twice-impeached former president who ignited the malevolent mob and sent it on the demented mission to overthrow the peaceful transition of power on January 6, 2021.

Thanks to officers like Brian Sicknick, pictured above, the mob failed. Officer Sicknick paid with his life as did several of his fellow officers who took their own lives due to the trauma suffered on this day two years ago. In a spirit of solemn remembrance and gratitude, we remember all the officers of the Capitol Police and the DC Metropolitan Police who answered the call of duty and stood firm in the face of homicidal violence, vile racism, and the wave of chaos that engulfed the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021.

What many of us witnessed on live television that day seared its way into the core of our souls. Like the events of September 11, 2001 and November 22, 1963, the memories of January 6th will haunt me for the remainder of my life. What redeemed those memories of the insurrection was the heroism and front line patriotism of law enforcement personnel like Officer Sicknick.

As the justice system of our nation moves to hold the insurrectionists and their treasonous leaders to account, we pray that a full reckoning will come for all those who sought to tear our country apart and deepen the divisions that we are working so hard to overcome. May the insurrectionist thugs and their criminal leaders get everything that is coming to them.

As the proud son of a distinguished Navy veteran who saw action in the South Pacific in 1945, I offer my profound respect and deep gratitude to the brave women and men who on January 6, 2021, stood bravely in defense of the same values that my father and his fellow PT sailors fought to preserve in the darkest days of WWII against fascists, Nazis and White Supremacists–the same crowd that stormed the US Capitol two years ago today.

Posted by: SJS | December 31, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers dancing in the New Year

If Ukrainian fighters on the front lines can take a few a few moments away from the constant stress of war to do some dancing then we can surely follow their example of bold joy as we head into the new year of 2023. With their spirits unbroken and their focus set firmly on defending their country, the Ukrainians are showing the world what it means to go all out for freedom, democracy, and taking care of their families and fellow citizens.

Check out the flood of exuberant, exhilarating videos on YouTube or elsewhere on the Internet of Ukrainian men and women dancing their hearts out–even as artillery battles rage in the background. For an extra dose of optimism and encouragement as we cross into a new year, there’s nothing better than a Ukrainian happy dance in the face of brutal terror and Russian savagery.

Best wishes for a happy, health 2023 to everyone.

Glory to Ukraine!

Posted by: SJS | December 24, 2022

Two historic speeches–two towering wartime leaders

On December 26, 1941, my father–George “Red” Stahley–had just turned 17 years old when he listened on the radio to the speech delivered by British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, to a joint session of the United States Congress. Red was a sophomore in high school and, like all young men his age, he knew that America’s entrance into World War II would change the course of his life. The inspiring words of Churchill helped to galvanize the spirit of the American people for the wartime challenges that lay ahead. Although I am uncertain when my father made the decision to enlist in the US Navy, I know it was well before he graduated from high school in 1943. My strong suspicion is that the profound words of Winston Churchill struck a chord deep within his soul on that memorable day in December of 1941.

On December 21, 2022, the day after what would have been my father’s 98th birthday, I had the opportunity to watch on television the address of Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to a joint session of the US Congress about the status of his nation’s continuing war against the Russians and to express the deep gratitude of the Ukrainian people for the support received from the United States. Like Prime Minister Churchill, President Zelenskyy made the brave, dangerous trip far from his homeland to bring a powerful message at a pivotal moment not just for Ukraine but for all people of the world who care about democracy, freedom, and human rights.

Watching Ukraine’s leader present a battle flag sent by Ukrainian fighters on the front lines to House Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Harris moved me deeply. Seeing that battle flag juxtaposed with the tricornered flag box holding the American flag–like the one presented by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) at my father’s funeral in 1999–made a strong, indelible impression on me and reminded me of Red Stahley’s enormous courage, bold patriotism, and spirit of sacrifice as a very young man.

I am a fortunate son, indeed.

Best wishes to all for a happy Christmas and a pleasant holiday season. Thank you for your continued support of my blog.

Posted by: SJS | December 20, 2022

Red Stahley born 98 years ago.

My father, George “Red” Stahley was born on December 20, 1924. Today marks the anniversary of his birth. He died on November 13th, 1999, a few weeks shy of his 75th birthday. It seems impossible that he’s been gone for over 22 years. In the photo, he is pictured with his granddaughter, Sarah, in 1997.

As I continue to research my father’s WWII service on the PT boats of the US Navy and learn more and more about the fighting spirit of the sailors who chose to be on the front lines in those small, fragile boats, my admiration and respect for the Ukrainian people grows deeper by the day. In their noble fight against a larger, better armed enemy, the men and women of the Ukrainian armed forces continue to hold their own against the Russian invaders who are intent on wiping their nation off the face of the earth.

In the war against Russia, the stakes could not be higher for Ukraine. And the spirit of defiance, bold courage, and undiminished determination demonstrated by the Ukrainian fighters have taught me–in real time–what it must have been like for the PT crews in WWII as they went up against the armed might of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

As I remember my father’s service with reverent gratitude on the anniversary of his birth, I give thanks also to the people of Ukraine who are fighting so bravely for the same things he fought for as a young man in WWII–freedom, democracy, and the precious right to vote in free and fair elections.

Posted by: SJS | December 6, 2022

PT 23 saw action on December 7, 1941

As the armed forces of Imperial Japan launched their surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the PT crews of PT Squadron (RON) 1 were among the first to swing into action. It was the intrepid gunners aboard PT 23 that were credited with the first kill on that unforgettable day in American history. In the face of overwhelming devastation, chaos, and confusion it was the Navy’s PT boats that moved with speed and determination to fight back and draw blood.

As the horrific news about the attack on Pearl Harbor spread across the nation, and across the world, the story of the PT boats was a bright note on a very, very dark day. The legendary story of the Navy’s Mosquito Fleet in WWII began on December 7, 1941. It was a story that would grow dramatically over the remainder of the war.

Posted by: SJS | November 22, 2022

November 22, 1963

It was Friday afternoon. School had just let out and I was waiting to board the school bus for the ride home. I was a seventh grader at St. Ceclia’s parochial school in Philadelphia. November 22, 1963 feels like yesterday and it feels like a hundred years ago–at the same time. Getting the news about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas earlier that day turned my world upside down. History pushed its way into my life and reminded me that it was not something confined to text books and classes–but a place I would be living in for the rest of my life.

Posted by: SJS | November 11, 2022

Veterans Day 2022

Today we honor all those men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces and served our nation by defending all that we hold dear. Our family has been blessed by two members who served with distinction–my father, George “Red” Stahley, a WW II Navy veteran and my sister, Maryellen Stahley Brown, who served as an officer and a nurse in the US Army. We are so proud and grateful for their service to our country.

To all our Veterans we offer our heartfelt gratitude, our deep respect, and our continued admiration.

And on this Veterans Day in America, I want to highlight the enormous courage and determined spirit of the armed forces of Ukraine. These women and men are demonstrating to all the world what it means to stand strong for freedom and the preservation of democracy. The fighting now going on in Ukraine parallels the fierce fighting that occurred in Europe during the most intense days of WWII. We salute the intrepid spirit of the Ukrainian fighters who remind of daily what it was like for our parents and grandparents during the darkest days of WWII.

May God’s rich blessings be upon all Veterans, living and deceased, who represent the very best of us all.

Ukrainian troops transfer their wounded comrades from the front lines

Posted by: SJS | November 4, 2022

JFK’s daring rescue mission on PT 59

On November 1, 1943, under the command of Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, PT 59 (pictured here) staged a daring–almost suicidal–rescue mission of surrounded US Marines on Choiseul Island in the South Pacific. This mission occurred less than three months after the sinking of PT 109 by a Japanese destroyer and Kennedy’s heroic efforts to lead his surviving crewmates to safety.

In the aftermath of the loss of the PT 109, Kennedy was wildly eager to get back into action and was given command of PT 59. As the skipper of the 59, Kennedy made a major contribution to the evolution of the PTs from heavily laden torpedo vessels into heavily armed, lighter gun boats. As you will notice in the photo, the traditional PT torpedo tubes have been removed and the larger deck guns have been installed. In trading torpedoes for deck artillery, Kennedy primed his vessel for hard edged, close-in combat. Trading torpedo firepower for deck weaponry, the PT’s were changing in anticipation of the intense, island-to-island fighting that lay ahead.

And on November 1, 1943, Kennedy led PT 59 right into the shallow waters and pushed the boat’s prow onto the beach so that the Marines could be rescued. The deck guns of PT 59 delivered covering fire and the boat’s crewmen helped the Marines get on the boat. The crew then helped push the 59 back into the water and made a successful escape. On the journey back to the PT base, a badly wounded Marine died on board in the bunk of Skipper Kennedy.

In the summer of 1945, many PT boats were operating in the way that PT 59 operated under the command of Kennedy. As a crewman on PT 373, Red Stahley served on a boat that was no stranger to intense firefights against an entrenched, increasingly desperate enemy.

Until the final days of WWII, the PT crews were fighting fiercely, following the example of John F. Kennedy who did not use his experience on PT 109 as a ticket out of the war but returned to the action as the skipper of PT 59 and fought like hell.

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