Posted by: SJS | March 25, 2011

Belton Copp PT Hero

When the Commanding Officer (CO) of PT 373 volunteered to do reconnaissance in Manila Bay in early February, 1945, he was not unaware of the dangers.  The waters of the bay were heavily mined.  There were suicide boats to evade.  The Japanese would be on high alert.  Nonetheless, Lt. Belton A. Copp led his boat and another PT into those treacherous waters.

On that night patrol, the PTs intercepted a small convoy of Japanese ships and attacked it.  The enemy returned fire.  The night was lit up with the exchange of gunfire.  The PTs narrowly escaped, making it back to base with one sailor killed and several wounded.  Lt. Copp lost his left arm in the firefight.  PT 373 absorbed an enormous number of bullet holes but those only added to its prestige.

The first person account of Lt. Copp’s service is recounted in “Knights of the Sea” published by PT Boats, Inc. in 1982.  In his own words, he talks about his service in PT Squadrons (Rons) 6, 12, 25, and 27.  He also served as a training instructor at the PT school in Melville, Rhode Island.  In the South Pacific, Lt. Copp crossed paths with John F. Kennedy and compared notes with him.

berthed PT

Berthed PT boat

Red Stahley kept some impressive company during his days with Ron 27.  Lt. Copp remembered Red clearly after the passage of more than 50 years.  With the other remarkable crew members of PT 373, they exemplified the boldness and courage of the US Navy’s Mosquito Fleet.  

 When the legendary general, Douglas MacArthur, made his promised return to the Philippine Islands in 1945 there can be little doubt why he chose PT 373 as one of the boats that carried him on his triumphant journey.


  1. my father, Belton Copp, gave a lengthy statement at the pt boat museum in rhode island, during a visit with myself and my two sons. i would very much like to hear the tape of his story that he related that day in a special kiosk . he was mentally transported to the terrifying day he lost his arm. he vividly relived the long suppressed memory of being abandoned by the sister boat on his mission into manilla.

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