Posted by: SJS | May 19, 2018

Lookout on the bow

In this undated photo from the vast archives of PT Boats, Inc., an unidentified crewman sits on the bow of a fast moving PT checking out the way forward and giving guidance to his skipper at the wheel.  Few images better capture the intrepid spirit of the Mosquito Fleet than this one.  The plain fact of PT service was that everybody on board did whatever needed to be done–meeting the immediate need at hand.  Moments before this photo was snapped, this sailor could have been manning the deck gun, working the boat’s radio,  preparing a meal, or tending to the Packard engines that powered the boat.

Because the PTs operated so frequently in shallow waters, it is not surprising that lookouts were occasionally needed to keep a close eye on the treacherous path ahead.  Those waters could be bristling with mines, rocks, or sand bars lurking just under the surface.  In the last months of the war in the Pacific during the spring and summer of 1945 the PTs were operating more frequently as heavily armed gunboats than as torpedo-laden ship hunters.

Red Stahley’s final months in the war were by far the most harrowing and dangerous of his service in the USN.  Being sent on patrols up jungle rivers and fighting the ever more desperate forces of the Imperial Japanese Army, the PT sailors relied ever more heavily on the attributes that had always served them so well–speed, stealth, and teamwork.  As the war drew to a close in the Pacific, they knew that the dangers they faced would never end until Imperial Japan finally surrendered.

Seeing photos like this one, it is so easy to picture my father sitting astride the bow and pointing the way forward.  Like all the other PT sailors, Red was always ready to do whatever needed to be done–all in a day’s work for the sailors of the Navy’s legendary Mosquito Fleet.




  1. Incredible photo – this was the PT equivalent of flying by the seat of your pants.

    • Dudley, I appreciate your take on this photo as a fellow photographer. Thanks much! Steve

  2. Looks dangerous enough without the combat.

    • Lloyd, I agree! It would not take much of a bump to send this lookout right into the water. Thanks for your support. Steve

      • No worries mate, thank you for your support.

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