Posted by: SJS | June 15, 2011

Big fish, small boats

The original purpose of the PT boats was to attack enemy ships with the torpedoes that they (the PTs) carried on their decks.  The torpedoes were nicknamed “fish” by the PT sailors.  As reflected in this light-hearted photograph, the torpedoes were large and heavy. 

Sailor riding torpedo '45

Ride 'em, sailor! Melville, RI 1945

By the time WWII ended in 1945, the PTs had achieved the reputation as fast gunboats that specialized in a wide range of naval tasks including reconnaissance, escorting landing craft on invasion missions,  and transporting VIPs like General MacArthur.  Of course,  the primary PT mission was always to engage enemy ships and shore installations. 

Naval historians seem to agree that the fit between the small PT boats and the big torpedoes they carried was never a good one.  Despite the best efforts of the PT crews, the torpedoes would often veer off course and miss their targets.  Long range torpedo firing failed to produce impressive results over the course of the war.    

While the PTs did rack up some impressive kills with their lethal fish, sinking enemy ships with their torpedoes became one among many options available to the PTs for accomplishing their mission.  With ingenuity, energy, and an innate talent for mischief, the PT sailors found ways to make life extremely unpleasant for their enemy.

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