Posted by: SJS | July 15, 2011

Know Your PT Boat

My research journey on the history and legacy of the USN PT Boats and their exemplary service during WWII has taken me down some fascinating paths.  Through the good offices of PT Boats, Inc., I found my way to a compelling document that was published as an instruction booklet by the Navy in 1945  entitled “Know Your PT Boat.” 

Know Your PT Boat

PT handbook 1945

By its cover illustration one can clearly see that it is a product of its times. Ironically, the booklet was issued near the end of the war and had a very limited tenure as an actual field guide for new PT sailors who would be entering the fray. 

What I found most telling about the booklet was how accurately it drew on the experiences of PT officers like John F. Kennedy and Belton Copp as well as enlisted me like Red Stahley, Tom Saffles, and Franny Hart in conveying to new PT crew members how quickly and dramatically their lives would change.  In the world of PT service, the transition from “rookie” to “veteran” was not a long, drawn-out process.  In many cases, a PT sailor’s first day on base in the Mediterranean, the English Channel, the Aleutian Islands, or the South Pacific was also a day that included strafing from an enemy fighter plane or  intense preparation for a nighttime patrol.   Regular engagement with enemy ships and aircraft were simply givens in the life of the PT crews.

There are many sections from “Know Your PT Boat” which provide profound and humorous insights into the work of the crews.  I’m sure sailors like Red and Tom would have benefitted from the content of this little booklet; instead, their lives became its subject matter.   From time to time, I’ll be sharing sections of this wildly interesting (and highly entertaining) little document.   The words and illustrations provide a wealth of knowledge about the experiences and hard lessons learned by the PT sailors during their years on the front lines of WWII.

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