As the proud son of a WWII Navy veteran who served this country with courage and integrity,  I cannot abide the reprehensible attacks on the memory of Navy Veteran John McCain by the craven, shameless imbecile who currently resides in the White House. There can be no denying the honorable and selfless service of McCain as a Navy pilot during the war in Vietnam.  In the same way, there can be no denying the pervasive character flaws of the man who is attacking his life of service.

Whether or not you agreed with the political choices of Senator McCain–and I heartily disagreed with many of them–the man’s dedication to public service is, and will remain, beyond question.  McCain’s endurance of years in brutal captivity and his refusal to accept an early release based on privilege have earned him the highest respect and esteem of his fellow Americans.

Red Stahley was a stalwart fan of John McCain and was deeply proud of his bond with McCain as a fellow Navy vet.  As a PT crewman who saw action in the island jungles of the South Pacific, Red knew better than most what it meant to put one’s life on the line in service to the country.  The forces of Imperial Japan were a formidable adversary and the sailors of the PT squadrons knew well what they were up against.  Like the Marines, the PT sailors were in combat with a fierce and unyielding enemy.  This was courage of the highest order.

To hurl vile and very public attacks against a distinguished American statesman and veteran seven months after his death is inexcusable and hateful enough but to prompt other deranged sociopaths to hurl anonymous attacks at John McCain’s widow and his family (two of whom are active military) is a disgrace unworthy of anyone who claims to love this nation.  What we are witnessing is behavior that is unworthy of any decent, self-respecting human being.

It is no accident that murderous white supremacists in this country and around the world (like New Zealand) make reference by name to the person resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.  Make no mistake about it–this crime boss has blood on his hands.

And we as American citizens are tolerating behavior like this from the person who purports to lead our country?  I’m afraid that the continuation of this abominable situation says more about us as Americans than it does about the hateful miscreant who daily heaps greater shame and disgrace upon our nation.

God help us.

In the above photo, John McCain visits his former cell in the infamous North Vietnamese prison, the infamous Hanoi Hilton.

 

 

 

Posted by: SJS | March 14, 2019

50 Tons of Fighting Fury

Among the many treasures I came across through my connection to PT Boats, Inc. of Germantown, TN was an impressive brochure called: 50 Tons of Fighting Fury.  If the image of PTs as the “Knights of the Sea” was the romantic side of the Mosquito Fleet, this brochure–with its gorgeous color photography– serves as an introduction to the PTs that is decidedly unromantic.  It is brimming with dynamic photographs and hard-hitting information about the PTs and their crews.  On this page, the photograph looking off the stern of a PT is accompanied by a brief description of the mission of the PTs.  The three verbs that highlight this section of the brochure go right to the heart of the matter:  Ambush, Hunt, and Maraud.  How perfectly those three key words capture the role of the Mosquito Fleet.  This section of the brochure also includes a black and white photo of a PT Tender–an indispensable component of the PT family.

As with so many of the photos I’ve come across in my research, it is so easy for me to picture my father sitting at the rear of his boat as it bounces over the water, watching the wake, and keeping an eye peeled for danger–in the air, on the water’s surface, or from shore batteries drawing a bead on the boat.

I am always happy to pay tribute to PT Boats, Inc. in Germantown, Tennessee and the superb work the organization does to honor the legacy of the PT Boats, Bases and Tenders.  Keep up the great work, Alyce & Allison!  Thanks for all you do and do so well.

Posted by: SJS | March 4, 2019

Willoughby gunners in the thick of the action

In the battle of Leyte Gulf in October of 1944, the PT Tender AGP 9, aka The USS Willoughby, found herself in the middle of the largest naval battle of WWII, with over 200,000 naval personnel involved.  The Willoughby was untouched during the battle and she played a vital lifesaving role by taking on board many survivors from other US ships that had been hit during the fighting.

This photograph from the vast archives of PT Boats, Inc. was taken on the Willoughby and shows another ship burning from a direct hit by a Japanese kamikaze aircraft.  The crew of the tender was busy fending off enemy attacks and hauling fellow sailors out of the water–another important day in the story of the Mosquito Fleet and its courageous sailors in the South Pacific.

Posted by: SJS | February 28, 2019

The fighting PT Tender – USS Willoughby

On May 11, 1943, the Willoughby was reclassified as a motor torpedo boat tender (AGP 9) and was launched August 21, 1943.  The ship was commissioned June 18, 1944.  The Willoughby’s commanding officer was Lt. Cmdr. A.J. Church.

While the primary role of the tenders was the care and maintenance and support of PT boats, the Willoughby found herself in the middle of heavy action in the South Pacific and the Philippines.  This tender was the target of air attacks  during her service in the Battle of Surigao Straight.  Gunners on board the Willoughby were credited with two downed Japanese planes proving that her crew could give as well as they got in heavy combat.  For her service in WWII,  the Willoughby earned three battle stars.

I am always glad to highlight the distinguished service and enormous courage of the PT sailors who served so valiantly on the tenders.  My father was always very generous in his praise of the tenders and their crews for the work they did to keep the PTs in top fighting form.  “Those guys on the tenders were the best backup team any sailor could have,” said Red about the role played by the tenders.

The expertise of the tender sailors extended far beyond their abilities with wrenches, wiring, and carpentry.  When it became necessary to man the deck guns, the PT men aboard the Willoughby demonstrated the bravery and poise equal to their fellow sailors on the PT boats and bases.  As with all their comrades in the Mosquito Fleet, the PT men aboard the tenders were well trained, highly flexible, and ready for whatever might be coming at them.

More on the Willoughby in the next post.

I

In an intense training session, two enlisted men get schooled on all the things than can go wrong in the Packard engines that powered the PT boats.  Like all the sailors going through the rigorous classes at Melville, Rhode Island (aka The Annapolis of the PT Boats)  Red Stahley spent time in courses like the one captured in this photo.  Familiarity with every aspect of the inner workings of a PT boat was what made these sailors so versatile and so well equipped for the challenges they awaited them whether in the frigid waters of the Aleutian Islands or the steaming jungles of the South Pacific.

This picture from the vast archives of PT Boats, Inc. is attributed to a photographer named Featherling.

Posted by: SJS | January 21, 2019

MLK – A hero of Red Stahley’s

In the early months of 1968 I remember my father making several references to the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., in our conversations about national politics.  It turned out that Red had been playing close attention to the words and actions of the civil rights leader and found himself in broad agreement with King’s work for justice and racial equality.  I was surprised to learn just how carefully my father had been absorbing the points expressed by Dr. King and the depth of his agreement with the positions taken by the man who had become the face and voice of the Civil Rights Movement.

As we celebrate the memory of Dr. King on this holiday, I remember with gratitude the profound effect that he had on my father and other members of that generation of Americans who sacrificed so much in WWII.  Like many of his fellow WWII veterans, Red Stahley came to see that the movement led by Dr. King was calling America to fully embrace the principles on which the nation was founded–liberty and justice for all.  It was these very principles that my father had fought to protect during his Navy service on the PT boats in the Med and the South Pacific.  Once that connection became clear to Red, he was all in with the noble work of Dr. King and the other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

In the photo, Dr. King meets with president (and PT Veteran) John F. Kennedy in 1962.

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.

 

 

Posted by: SJS | December 20, 2018

Researcher at work – Thomas on WW II PT boat history

History PT Term Paper FINAL

Our son, Thomas George Stahley, is pictured deeply immersed in his research as he finishes up work on his history term paper on the Navy’s use of PT boats during World War II.  Tom earned an A for the paper as well as the course.  The link to the paper is included.  His fine research has been a real help to my ongoing work on PT boat history that is documented in the blog

Today marks the 94th anniversary of my father’s birth in 1924.  On November 13th of this year, we commemorated the 19th anniversary of his death.  The impact of life and Navy service of George Joseph (Red) Stahley continue to reverberate through the life of our family.

Posted by: SJS | December 7, 2018

PT action on December 7, 1941

The first encounter between the PT boats of the US Navy and the forces of Imperial Japan occurred on December 7, 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  On that fateful Sunday morning, PT crews of Squadron (Ron) 1 were just finishing breakfast when the Duty Officer, Ensign N.E. Ball, spotted the insignia of the Rising Sun on the the low flying planes and immediately gave the order to “man the guns!”  The crews quickly returned to their boats and the Machinist Mates dashed into the engine room to start the air compressor which provided air for the two twin .50 caliber machine gun turrets.  As some PT sailors manned the guns, other crewmen started breaking out and belting ammunition.  They worked as highly efficient teams as they jumped into action.

They soon opened fire on the Japanese torpedo plans as they flew over the PT boats on their flying patterns to bomb the American battleships berthed in the harbor.  As the planes were flying away from the PTs, gunners on PT 23 were able to draw a bead on them and then maintain a steady stream of tracers onto the underside of the planes,  One plane burst into flames and crashed near Kuahua Island.  The tracer streams from other PT boat guns found a second torpedo plane, which was seen to fall to the sea in flames in the vicinity of Halawa.

It was later confirmed that the PT boats were the first vessels that opened fire on the enemy and the first to knock Japanese planes out of the sky.  December 7th, 1941 was the first day that the PTs would tangle with the forces of Imperial Japan.  Their success against those enemy planes that day was a portent of greater things to come.

My thanks to my son, Thomas, who turned up this remarkable piece of PT history as part of a research paper he recently completed for an American history course he is currently taking in college.  He discovered the Pearl Harbor information in: American PT Boats in World War II by Victor Chun–a superb volume loaded with valuable PT history and photos. Thomas turned up many other valuable pieces of PT history through his careful investigation.

The photos from the vast archives of PT Boats, Inc. show the legendary “Twin 50s” machine guns.  The Twin 50s were the standard armament on all PTs in WWII.  They were a  potent weapon that every PT officer and enlisted sailor could use at a moment’s notice–especially against enemy aircraft.

Posted by: SJS | December 2, 2018

George H.W. Bush – RIP

We honor the memory of President George Herbert Walker Bush who passed away on November 30th.  He was the last president who served in World War II.  He was also the last president who saw combat.  President Bush had a distinguished military career, flying 58 missions as the pilot of a torpedo bomber that flew from aircraft carriers in the Pacific theater of the war, getting shot down twice in the process.  His rescue by a USN submarine in September of 1944 after being hit by Japanese gunners is the stuff of legend.

Like Red Stahley, George H.W. Bush entered the service as a very young man and grew into adulthood facing the horrors and dangers of war.  The fierce experience of combat shaped their view of the world and gave them a perspective that influenced the rest of their lives.  While their paths never crossed in life, I’m sure that President Bush and my father would have enjoyed comparing notes about their experiences as part of the US Navy during those momentous years.

With gratitude and respect, we honor a man who served his nation with courage, daring, and grace.  As both a military man and an elected official, he gave his best and set an example of dedication and decency.  Among his many qualities, President Bush was known for his kindness and his sense of humor.

To all the Bush family, we offer our prayers, our condolences, and our gratitude.  May God bless President Bush with rest and peace.  He will be missed.

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