Posted by: SJS | January 11, 2019

Knights of the Sea

One of the more romantic portrayals of the PT boats was imagining them as “Knights of the Sea.”   As represented in this drawing, a PT moves full speed ahead like a medieval knight entering into a jousting competition except that–unlike a knight of the middle ages–the PTs were generally going up against much larger, better-armed opponents.  And instead of a lance, the PT weapon of choice was a deadly torpedo sent in the direction of an adversary.

While I have never–or rarely–thought of my father as a romantic figure, the deeper my research has gone, the more I have come to the realization that there was a genuinely romantic, highly idealistic, side to his personality.  Volunteering to serve in the special forces of his era on small, vulnerable boats that were at a pronounced disadvantage against enemy ships of larger size and more powerful weaponry were certainly not the characteristics of a person who clings to safety or flees from challenges.

I always knew that Red Stahley was not one who would back down from a fight–that was clear to me from my earliest days.  What I’ve learned, however, through my research is that his choice of service in the US Navy of WWII, had much more to do with high ideals and raw courage than anything else.  He was not a good swimmer (he was just happy he could float).  His fair skin made sunburns a health hazard (yet he logged countless hours exposed to the brutal sun of the South Pacific).  And his high school academic accomplishments were modest (yet he managed to master Morse Code and become an accomplished radioman–cool and composed under enemy attack).  There were tons of safer options for a young enlisted sailor in 1943.  PT and submarine service were only for those who opted, and were found capable, to enter those units.

Red Stahley chose the risky, dangerous path as the best way to serve in country in the perilous days of WWII.

As much as the PT sailors were part of the Navy’s Mosquito Fleet, they were, indeed, also the Knights of the Sea.  If I’ve learned anything about those intrepid sailors, it’s that they were every bit as brave as any knight in the Middle Ages who mounted his war steed and entered the lists of the jousting arena.



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