Posted by: SJS | May 26, 2011

Fragile boats and savvy sailors

The popular images of naval warfare in WWII call to mind large, heavy warships plowing the waves and firing their huge guns.  Aircraft carriers, battleships, and destroyers were the surface craft that played major roles in the defining naval battles of the war such as Midway in the Pacific.

Full speed ahead

Full speed ahead

In contrast to those ships,  the US Navy’s PT boats were as different as night and day.  In his superb book, Hunters in the Shallows, Curtis L. Nelson provides this stunning description of the PT boat’s construction, “One naval writer affectionately described the PT as a “barnacle-encrusted plywood motor boat hardly bigger than a stockbroker’s cabin cruiser.”   They were unarmored and defensively equipped with little more than light infantry weapons.  Even a single rifle bullet, if luckily placed, could shut down a PT’s formidable engine array, rendering the normally fast, highly maneuverable craft all but defenseless.”

In telling me the stories of his days on the PTs, my father would always emphasize that they were built from plywood and traveled light in the water.  He loved talking about the fast acceleration and speed of those boats.  “When we hit full throttle,” he often said, “we could go like a bat out of hell.”


  1. My name is Karen Kotowski. My father’s name was Walter J. Kotowski and was on a PT boat in the 1940’s. Femu Base 21 if that helps. Can you please contact me via email if you knew my dad! Thank you, Karen Kotowski.

    • Hi Karen,

      Thanks for connecting with the blog. I sent a detailed response to your question via e-mail. I’m not familiar with your father’s name but I’ll keep looking through the material I have. Do know what Squadron (or “Ron”) he was in or what the number of his PT boat was? This information could be greatly helpful.

      Good luck. Hope you keep checking in at the blog.

      Steve Stahley

  2. Hi Steve! Thank you so much for your help it is greatly appreciated! I believe my Father’s Lt. was John F. Kennedy. Hope that helps!

    Thanks again,

    Karen Kotowski

    • Karen,

      I’m sure that Alyce Guthrie at PT Boats, Inc. will give you all the help she can. Good luck!


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