Posted by: SJS | April 11, 2012

Ron 27 commissioned and a loss on PT 359

As noted in a previous post, PT boats were commissioned in squadrons and not as single ships, which was the case for other vessels in the US Navy.  In this impressive photo, the spanking new PTs of Squadron (Ron) 27 are commissioned.  Standing on the decks are the officers and the enlisted men all dressed in white.  These boats would soon find themselves in heavy action in the South Pacific.

Ron 27 commissioned

Ron 27 commissioned

Pictured on the right is PT 359, the boat on which Tom Saffles of Tennessee would later serve as radioman.  During a patrol on this boat, after Tom had just changed deck gun positions with a crewmate, Tom would see that crewmate fall to the deck after being hit with a sniper’s bullet.  By the time PT 359 returned to base, that crewmate had died.     The memory of that day and all its tragic details remain with Tom to this day.  In recounting the story to my sister Maryellen and me at his home in Alabama, Tom emphasized how important it was for him to make contact with his best buddy Red Stahley on that terrible day.

Red’s boat, PT 373 was also on patrol when the 359 came under attack.  With Red’s help, Tom began to process the terrible shock, grief, and overwhelming sadness of the events that overtook PT 359 and its brave crew.  Adding to the pain was the fact that the fallen sailor on PT 359 was the only married member of the crew.  The loss on Tom’s boat that day cast a heavy shadow over the entire squadron.

The proximity and immediacy of death on those river patrols in Borneo in 1945 was an inescapable part of every sailor’s daily reality.  Those events seemed to be a long way from the stateside commissioning ceremony for Ron 27 on that day when every boat was new and every uniform was neatly pressed and clean as a whistle.

 

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Responses

  1. Steve – this is another powerful story and fantastic photograph.

    • Dudley,

      Thanks very much. The photos are so rich in detail that they almost tell the stories themselves.

      Steve

  2. I was QM3/c, on the boat when a crewman was shot. He was from NJ but the Legion had no record of his death. I do not remember his name, I kept no record of crew names. harry fenson –

    • Harry,

      Thanks so much for checking in! Do you remember Tom Saffles? He has been a great source of info about the 359.

      Steve

    • Harry,
      I was wrong on the date. It was May 12, 1945. Do you remember the names of the relief crew?

      I’m having breakfast with Dad tomorrow. I’ll mention you to him.

      Dick Listro

      • Dick,

        Thanks for the valuable input; much appreciated.

        Steve

  3. My father, Sebastian “Don” Listro was the QMC, of the PT359 from the shakedown until he was releived in April 1945. He and the original crew took it from Brooklyn NY to the South Pacific, most of the time it was on a transport. He is in the commssioning photo, He is 91 and healthy and sharp. He does not have much knowledge of the replacement crew or what happened to the 359 after April 1945.

  4. Hello Mr. Listro,

    I found this page while researching my grandfather, and when I read your comment above, I realized that your father served on the same PT boat as my late grandfather, Joseph Kollar. He was a Motor Machinist, 2nd class and served in the Pacific during World War II. My father and I remember him telling us some stories, including some about being in Subic Bay, Corregador, and an attack in Manila Bay. I wonder if he and your father were aboard at the same time. They would have been the same age. I would love to be able to learn more about his story while in the service.

    • Karen,

      Here’s hoping you can get some info on your dad.

      Steve

      • If you are interested and know some of the crew of 359, I can send you a photograph of some of the men. I’m not sure when or where it was taken, but my grandfather is in the photo with seven other men. Perhaps one of them is someone you know. Please let me know if you’d like me to send it to you.

      • Dad is still with us and is healthy and “aware”. He remembers Joe and when I mentioned his name he asked if he was still alive. I told him that he had passed. Any photos would be approciated.

        Dick Listro

      • Thanks for this connection.

      • Glad that you’re making some good connections here.

      • Thank you for the opportunity! Your website is a lovely tribute to your dad. Thank you for sharing his story. I was wondering if you have an e-mailable larger version of the photo on this page — the one of when Ron 27 commissioned, with PT 359 on the right.

      • I will look for that photo of the commissioning of Ron 27. It may have come from one of the great calendars that are sent out by PT Boats, Inc. I’ve scanned several of the photographs from the calendar to use on the blog. The best source for PT photos & information about PT photos is from PT Boats, Inc. Joining up with PT Boats, Inc. and getting to know Alyce Guthrie was one of the very best things that has happened since I began doing the research on my father a few years ago. I can’t say enough about the generosity, kindness, and support that I’ve received from Alyce.

      • Gina,

        Is that your request for the picture?

      • Yes, it is.

      • Thank you for your suggestion and the name of a good connection at PT Boats, Inc. I’ve only just heard of them recently, but I look forward to seeing what I can discover. Thank you for your help!

      • G,

        Hope you can make a good connection with PT Boats. It’s worth a trip to Memphis just to check it out and meet Alyce and her daughter, Alyson, who make the whole operation go.

        Steve

      • Glad. To hear. About. My squadron

      • Harry,

        Great to have you on board.

        Steve

  5. This is so exciting! How do I send you the photograph? I would love to know if your father recognizes anyone in it or remembers any stories about my grandfather.

    • This is a great connection; it’s terrific to see the network so alive and vibrant.

      • Just send me an email that has a .jpg attachment to twofords@comcast.net. That would work fine.

  6. I’m researching some of my father’s Navy history. I have a photo of him aboard PT 359. My father was Gib Howard, and he was a radioman. Several years before his passing, me mentioned the radioman after him who had been killed. I’m presuming he’s mistaking the radioman for another crew member killed as mentioned above. Does anyone have any photos and perhaps a crew list of PT 359?

    Regards,
    Maj William J. Howard, USAF

    • Major Howard,

      Great to hear from you! Thanks for checking out the blog.

      Your best resource for obtaining information about PT 359 is through PT Boats, Inc. of Germantown, TN (a suburb of Memphis). You may already be aware of this outstanding organization, but if not, I strongly recommend that you go to their website and make contact with Executive Director, Alyce Guthrie who is one of the most helpful and gracious people I’ve ever met. One of my sisters and I made a trip to PT Boats a few years ago and had a wonderful experience looking through files & the wealth of other information they have there. When I began my serious research on my father’s PT career in 2010, it was Alyce who furnished some valuable contacts and I was fortunate enough to locate a few remaining PT vets who remembered my father and shared some stories about him that were stunning. Those vets have all since passed away. I was so lucky to have located them–and it was PT Boats, Inc. that made it possible.

      The story I related in the blog post you cite came directly from Tom Saffles, my father’s best friend in the Navy. They went through training together and ended up serving together in Squadron 27. Tom shared the story with me, my sister, Mary Ellen, and his wife Irene. It was in early 2011 when we went down to meet him in Springville, Alabama. He had never shared the story with anyone and he was overwhelmed with emotion as he related the details of that fateful day. PT 359 and PT 373 were the two boats on patrol that day, Tom and my father were the two radiomen on the respective boats. Tom was still racked with survivor’s guilt from that day in 1945. The only person he had fully shared his grief with was my father on that tragic day. My sister, Irene, and I were overwhelmed ourselves to hear the story. Tom had kept it inside for all those years since 1945.

      Chances are that both my father (RIP 1999) and Tom Saffles (RIP 2014) both knew your father as fellow sailors in Squadron 27. As my research continues, I’ll keep an eye out for any photos or references of your father.

      Good luck with your research. Thanks again for checking out the blog.

      Steve Stahley

      • Major Howard,
        I asked Dad if he knew Gib Howard. His eyes opened as if he seen a ghost. “Of course, he was our radioman” he said. He has some stories concerning your Dad. I have lots of PT359 pictures. I’m sure your father is in them. Contact me at twofords1950@yahoo.com. Or you can go my facebook page, Richard Listro, and I will friend you and send you pictures that way.

        Dick Listro

      • Dick,

        Thanks so much for making this connection! When I began this blog in 2011, one of my major goals was that it would be a vehicle for helping the children and grandchildren of the Mosquito Fleet to locate precious information about their fathers and grandfathers. I was thrilled to learn that you can help Major Howard discover more about his dad’s WWII experience. Thanks again.

        Steve

    • Major Howard,

      This might be your lucky day. My father was the Quartermaster on PT359. He served under Ray Shafer. Dad was an original crew member, trained in Melville, was at the commissioning, made the trip down the coast, through the Panama Canal and on to the South Pacific. He was rotated back to the States in April of 1945. I have lots of crew pictures and a crew roster but don’t remember a Gib Howard. Might he have been a relief crew? I suggest you also look at Fold3.com as they have the Squadron records including most of the muster rolls for Ron 27. Now the good news. I’ll ask my father. He’s 93 and still pretty sharp (some of the time). He lives at the VA home in Rocky Hill CT. We have breakfast every Sunday.

      Dick Listro

  7. My grandmother was married to George D. Emmons, Jr. (New Jersey) who was killed in action on July 10th, 1945. I believe he was on PT-359. If anyone has any information on George, I would be forever grateful. I’ve spent my whole life cherishing the sacrifice he made for our country and know that my grandmother carried her love for him until the day she died. I have a few things that my grandmother kept from her time with George but not much. Her name was Marie Emmons (Mayor) also from New Jersey.

    Thank you,
    Loren Weeks

    • Loren,

      Thanks for sharing this very moving story about your grandmother and the account of the noble service of George D. Emmons, Jr. My best advice for you is to make contact with PT Boats, Inc. in Germantown, TN, and see if they can assist you in getting more information about the boat assignment of PT sailor Emmons.

      I learned about the loss on PT 359 from my father’s best buddy, Tom Saffles, when my sister and I went to Springville, Alabama to visit him and his wife in February, 2011. A brief description of that visit is contained in the blog post you responded to (“Ron 27 commissioned and a loss on PT 359”). While I don’t recall Tom sharing the name of his fellow sailor who was killed that fateful day, I know that Tom stated that the sailor was the only married man on the crew. Tom and that sailor had just changed positions, with Tom leaving the gun to go to the radio room on board PT 359. Within moments, the other sailor–who was now manning the deck gun — was killed by the sniper’s bullet. Since that fateful day, Tom struggled with survivor’s guilt which spilled out during our visit as Tom wept uncontrollably. He kept repeating that the other sailor “was the only married man among us…I felt so bad, I just felt so bad.” The bond between Tom and my father deepened that day as Tom frantically struggled to make radio contact with Red who was the radioman on PT 373.

      Until that day in February of 2011, the only person on earth that Tom had shared his grief with was my father, Red Stahley. All those years later, in the presence of his wife, Irene, and my sister and I, Tom was finally able to unburden himself and find some measure of relief about the loss of his fellow sailor on board PT 359 in the summer of 1945. It was almost as though Tom felt he needed forgiveness for surviving the attack and the presence of his best buddy’s children gave him that opportunity. It was one of the most cathartic experiences I’ve ever witnessed. Of course, Tom did not need to be forgiven for anything but the relief he seemed to feel after our discussion was beyond description. Mary Ellen and I were so grateful to meet Tom and Irene and hear the stories about our father. We’re so glad we made the trip.

      I really hope that you will check out the website for PT Boats, Inc. and I recommend that you make contact with Alyce Guthrie, the Executive Director, who will be your best source for locating information about the sailor your grandmother married. It was the assistance of Alyce that really helped me as I dug into my father’s PT service.

      Good luck in your search. And please keep in touch. I’m deeply grateful that you shared your story with us on the blog.

      Steve

      • Fold3.Com, a military subscription history service listsearch a George D. EMMONS as being in squadron 9 and later squadron 4. Might not be the same one. KNIGHTS OF THE sea does list a George D. EMMONS as KIA. My father was an original member of 359. He will be 94 in June. Dad was rotated back in April 1945. In his rime from commissioning to rotation George D. EMMONS was not a crew member. However, he might have been a new crew member after April 1945.

        DICK Listro

      • Dick,

        Thanks for your input and helping Loren in the search for more information about George D. Emmons. Here’s hoping that PT Boats, Inc., will have some clues. From doing the research on my father, one of the things that has struck me was that the makeup of the PT crews could be very fluid at times. Your father’s tenure on PT 359 was certainly an exception to that rule. His knowledge of the 359 from commissioning to the Spring of 1945 made him as essential to the boat’s operation as those formidable engines! In the later Spring and Summer of 1945, my impression is that Ron 27 had become more fluid than usual in the makeup of the PT crews. Thanks again for your continued input–I’ve learned a great deal from you and appreciate it greatly.

        Steve

      • Steve,

        Thank you so much for the quick response to my post and sharing the story you originally posted. It may be safe to assume that George D. Emmons, Jr. was the one referenced in Tom Saffles’ story since the timeframe matches up, he was the only married sailor on the boat, and I believe New Jersey was also referenced.

        More to my story if you’re interested in more reading: The fact that my grandmother was married to George D. Emmons, Jr. before his death in July 1945 was a known but unspoken fact in my family. Out of respect for my grandmother and grandfather, I never asked her about George. My grandmother passed away shortly before I was married. While I was on my “honeymoon” in Maui, we decided to make the trip over to Pearl Harbor for a day. After our visit at Pearl Harbor, we had a few hours of extra time before our flight back. Sitting in the rental car, my wife and I decided to simply pick something random on the navigation’s suggested places to visit. We happened to pick the Punch Bowl Crater. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I did not know at the time where we were going – it sounded like a cool place to visit.) After a long drive up some hills, we arrived at the Punch Bowl Crater, and it was pretty obvious that we were visiting a cemetery. I had a slight moment of disappointment as we pulled up to the gates, as I didn’t want to disappoint my wife on our honeymoon. The disappointment was short lived when I realized exactly where we were visiting. The Punch Bowl Crater certainly isn’t any cemetery- the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

        The thought immediately passed through my mind that my grandmother was married to a sailor, who was killed during the war, so I decided to call my parents, as I did not know George’s name or any specifics. They gave me his name, and I typed into the registry. The result came back, with “no results found”, so we left.

        My wife and I then went to have dinner. I called my parents back home to convey the news. Quickly during the phone conversation with my father, he asked me “well son, how did you spell his last name?”. I made dinner get over pretty quick after that question, as I realized I spelled his last name wrong. Short on time, we drove back to the Punch Bowl, as there was no way I could pass up the opportunity of finding out if my grandmother’s first husband was laid to rest there. After typing his name into the registry, his grave location was found. In one of the most touching moments of my life, I found myself crying over his grave. There’s no question in my mind that a Higher Power helped me select the Punch Bowl Crater from the GPS that day and led me to George’s grave.

        My aunt recently passed away, so I helped my mother go through her things. Buried underneath some common items in storage container, I found George’s American flag, Purple Heart, and a few other items, which had been stored and hidden away for over 70 years… Last evening, my mom brought me a couple of other things.

        I was always very close to my grandmother and could sense that she respectfully held back from ever discussing George, but I knew deep down that he was still with her. That fateful day on July 10, 1945, when George was most likely hit by the sniper referenced in your story, changed the path of so many lives. My family and I would not even be here without his sacrifice.

        I will take you up on your suggestion to reach out to PT Boats Inc. and do all that I can to honor George D. Emmons, Jr.

        Thank you again,
        Loren Weeks

      • Loren,

        That is an amazing story about your trip to the Punch Bowl Crater and what you were able to discover. I so appreciate your sharing it with us on the blog. The exchange of stories like yours is exactly what I was hoping (and praying) for when I was getting the blog off the ground in 2011. How I wish Tom Saffles had mentioned the name of the sailor who was killed that day but what did come through in his remembrance was that the sailor was married and that magnified the tragedy for Tom and all the other members of the crew on the 359 that day. The anguish and pain of the memory weighed heavily on him in all the intervening years since 1945.

        It is remarkable to reflect on the impact of George Emmons’ life on the history of your family. I was deeply moved in reading of your deep gratitude and the tremendous respect and reverence you held for your grandmother over the years.

        Good luck in your research. Dick Listro, whose father served for several years on PT 359, has shared a comment on what he’s been able to find out about George D. Emmons. I hope that, through PT Boats, Inc. and through this blog, we can help you get all possible information about George Emmons and his PT service.

        Steve

  8. I can confirm that the sailer killed on July 10th, 1945 in the story above was my grandmother’s husband, George D. Emmons, Jr. I was recently passed down several items, one of which was a letter from the war department stating the date referenced above and PT-359. Also included in what I received was a letter sent to my grandmother from a shipmate on PT-359 and RON 27. I’m still hoping to find out more information but am certain that George is the one mentioned in this touching story.

    • Loren,

      Thank you so much for sharing this important discovery with us. I have been deeply moved by what you shared about your grandmother’s enduring love for George. Your diligent research is a beautiful tribute to both your grandmother and to George.
      I will never forget the experience of hearing Tom Saffles open up about that fateful day in July of 1945 and how deeply he felt about the loss of his crewmate on that harrowing river patrol. Mary Ellen and I were visiting Tom and his wife Irene in February of 2011 and the loss of George–over 65 years before–was still raw and painful to him. It was clear to us that George was deeply respected and admired by his fellow PT sailors on the 359.
      Given the impact that the loss had on Tom, I’m sure that my father also was deeply grieved by the loss of a fellow sailor in Ron 27. Within a few weeks from George’s death, the war in the Pacific would end–but of course, none of them knew that at the time.
      In July of 1945, many of the American servicemen in the Pacific were starting to worry about the possible invasion of Japan and the intensity of the fighting that lay ahead. That tragic day when George was killed probably generated new levels of dread among all the PT sailors.
      Thank you again for sharing your story with us. If there are further details about George you can make available that would be deeply appreciated.
      God bless you and all your family.

      Steve

  9. I found this story about my grandmother that I thought you may find interesting. It discusses the death of her first husband, George D. Emmons Jr. on July 10th, 1945, even though is name is referred to wrong in the story. It is an attempt to recount my grandmother’s words, so how much of it is factual is tough to determine. I’m still on my quest to find out more information. Check out the link below. Thanks.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=sjVEorjCZ14C&lpg=PA359&ots=HOeTi9JFD-&dq=marie%20mckinney%20windfall%20IN&pg=PA80#v=onepage&q=marie%20mckinney%20windfall%20IN&f=false

    • Loren,

      Thanks for sharing this information. I will check it out and invite other readers of the blog to do the same. Stay on your quest to discover more about your grandmother’s first husband. Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season to you and your family.

      Steve


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