Posted by: SJS | February 25, 2022

The Ukranian People will prevail

The Ukranian flag flies proudly

As they suffer under the unjustified and barbaric invasion of their homeland at the hands of the Russians, our hearts and souls are united with the brave, indomitable people of Ukraine. Few nations are more familiar with brutal, murderous oppression than Ukraine and fewer nations still have shown such magnificent and effective resistance to those who would seek to dominate and strip them of their humanity.

Already, we are hearing the stories of stunning courage and fierce resistance to the Russians on the part of ordinary, everyday Ukranian citizens. You can be quite certain that these accounts will multiply exponentially in the days and weeks ahead. Ukranian fighters have always punched above their weight class and the world is about to see that like it has never been seen before.

In World War II, it was ordinary, everyday American citizens who stepped forward to serve their country by enlisting in the armed forces that helped to defeat the Axis Powers and save the world from tyranny. It was ordinary young men and women– people like Red Stahley–who put their lives on the line that made all the difference. Those ordinary citizens came together and became a force that could not be defeated.

All the planes, tanks, and bombs in the Russian arsenal are no match for the will and fortitude of the noble Ukranian people. I almost feel sorry for the Russian soldiers who are going up against fighters who are skilled, fearless, and absolutely clear about what they are fighting for–their freedom, their families, and their beloved country.

The Ukranian people will prevail.

Posted by: SJS | February 18, 2022

PT base in the Philippines

On the base in the South Pacific

From the vast collection of Frank Andruss, a photo taken by EM Chester Szot of a typical PT base in the Philippine Islands in the South Pacific.

During his time with Squadron (Ron) 27 in the Philippines on the island of Samar, Red was assigned to a base that probably looked very much like the one in this photo. It was a thrill to come across this image–it helped me to visualize the setting in which my father found himself in 1945. The radar towers of docked PTs are visible just behind the tents in the center of the photograph.

It was in a setting that closely resembled this one on Samar that Red set up shop in a radio shack and used his amazing communication skills to help his fellow PT sailors make contact with their families back home on the mainland. And, once Red had taken care of his fellow PT crewmen, he allowed the Marines on base to visit the shack and he then did the same for them. According to his fellow PT radioman, Frannie Hart of Massachusetts, Red was very clear that the Marines would have to “wait their turn” until all the PT boys were taken care of.

Visualizing my father laying down the law to the Marines is something that continues to leave me speechless.

My thanks to PT archivist and champion, Frank Andruss for sharing this photo with us. If you haven’t checked out Frank’s remarkable books on the history and legacy of the PTs, I urge you to do so. They are available on Amazon and they have become a major resource for me in my ongoing PT research.

Thanks, Frank! Keep up the great work.

Posted by: SJS | February 9, 2022

The “Twin Fifties”

Ready for action

By the time Red Stahley was assigned to PT Squadron (RON) 27 in the South Pacific, the PTs had evolved into heavily armed gun boats. While the PTs continued to carry torpedoes, the deck weapons reflected a greater offensive capability by 1945. Many of the missions assigned to the boats in RON 27 involved patrols that took them up jungle rivers. The encounters with the enemy were intense and often at very close quarters. Over the final few months of the war, firefights were increasingly common for the PTs,

The “Twin fifties” were high powered machine guns mounted on mobile gun platforms on deck. The gun turrets had the capacity for 360-degree rotation. While Red was trained as a radioman, like every PT sailor he was well practiced and fully prepared to step into the gun turret and take his turn at the twin fifties if the skipper gave the order.

The role of the twin fifties as an anti-aircraft weapon is clearly on display in this photograph of an unidentified PT boat on the open water. The defensive and offensive capabilities of the twin fifties made them an invaluable component of the weaponry carried by every PT boat.

Posted by: SJS | January 27, 2022

Iconic PT photo

Full speed ahead

PT 105 accelerates across the water’s surface in this widely shared black and white photo that captures the sleek elegance of the boats that made up the Navy’s Mosquito Fleet in WWII. While I love the color photos of the PTs, the stark beauty of this iconic photograph brilliantly captures the swiftness and clean lines of the boat as it glides powerfully and nimbly across the water.

With its bow raised above the surface, a gunner poised in the stern with his weapon aimed skyward, and the trailing plume of water generated by the boat’s churning Packard engines, PT 105 is all business and ready for whatever lay ahead.

Photos like this one speak volumes about the legacy of the PTs and I just can’t get enough!

Posted by: SJS | January 18, 2022

The PTs in color

Tethered to a Tender

Another striking photograph from the collection shared by Robert Wayne Camp on a Facebook group devoted to the legacy of the PT boats.

While there were no dates or details shared about this photo, it seems that these PTs are lined up next to a PT tender ship awaiting repairs or service. Perhaps one of my fellow PT splinters out there can provide additional information about the location and squadron (Ron) to which these PTs belong.

The high quality of the color photo brings a note of vividness to the PTs and what they carried on their decks. Every new photo I come across expands the range of my knowledge and deepens my appreciation for the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” and the remarkable crews that manned them.

With thanks again to Robert Wayne Camp who generously shared a wealth of photos with all of us–a true treasure trove of PT history.

Posted by: SJS | January 4, 2022

RON 36 insignia

The fighting mosquito mascot of Squadron (RON) 36 speaks volumes about the attitude and determination of the PT crews that proudly displayed this image as the emblem of their unit.

RON 36 means business!

My thanks to Robert Wayne Camp who shared this photo along with a treasure trove of other PT photos on a facebook group devoted to the legacy of The Navy’s Mosquito Fleet. It will be my privilege to share many of those amazing photos in future posts.

The original “Mosquito” Mascot was generated at the request of the US Navy by the cartoon genius of Walt Disney Studios. That portrayal of a mosquito riding a torpedo struck a responsive chord in the scrappy, aggressive, brash young men who volunteered to serve on the PT boats and fully embrace all the risks, danger, and excitement that came with the job.

As much as any other PT sailor, Red Stahley was deeply proud of every part of the PT legacy–especially that funny, belligerent mosquito who loved nothing more than riding a speeding torpedo to its unfortunate target. All those young crewmen saw a part of themselves in that determined, fearless insect who welcome every challenge that came their way.

Posted by: SJS | December 19, 2021

Red Stahley at 97

Mary Young Stahley with son, George, in early 1925

George J. Stahley was born on December 20, 1924 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up as an only child and came of age as the United States entered WWII. His experience in the US Navy as a sailor on the Navy’s PT Boats (“The Mosquito Fleet”) in North Africa/Southern Europe in 1944 and the South Pacific in 1945 became the defining experiences of his life.

As I have come to learn about his Navy career, my understanding of my father has deepened in ways I could never have anticipated as I began my serious research into his military service beginning in 2011. With the assistance of the outstanding PT veterans’ organization, PT Boats, Inc., his military records obtained from the US Military Archives, and the contacts I have made through this blog, I have learned an enormous amount–further than my imagination could ever have stretched. My father’s Navy friendships, his courage, his mischievous sense of humor, his trauma, his technical communication skills, and his coolness under fire, were all revelations that found their way to me long after his death in 1999, a few weeks short of his seventy-fifth birthday.

There were so many questions I never had the opportunity to ask him before his death in November of 1999. In one of our final, brief conversations before he passed away, I promised my father that I would write about his PT service. At that point, I was not even sure if he understood what I was saying, but it didn’t matter. It was a sacred promise and it has been a promise that I’ve kept. And in the process, I learned that there was so much more to his PT days than the stories he had shared with me when I was a very young boy.

The vast privilege of learning about him and writing about his Navy days have been deeply rewarding, immensely gratifying, and a true voyage of discovery about him, and myself as well.

Happy birthday, Red. Thanks for everything.

Posted by: SJS | December 7, 2021

Pearl Harbor Day

David Russell, Pearl Harbor survivor, 101 years old

On December 7, 1941, David Russell was a young sailor assigned to the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. As the surprise attack overwhelmed the American ships, young Russell made a split second decision not to go below deck on his ship. Trained as an ammunition loader for anti-aircraft guns, the Seaman First Class opted to stay on deck and find a gunner to assist. His decision to stay on deck that morning is probably the reason Russell survived.

As the USS Oklahoma was hit by multiple torpedo bombs dropped by the planes of Imperial Japan, the battleship would eventually capsize. Over 400 sailors and Marines below deck were killed. Seaman Russell knew he had to get off the Oklahoma. He could see the oily water burning all around his battleship which was being repeatedly hit. Jumping into the flaming water was not an option. Seeing a hanging rope on the neighboring battleship, the USS Maryland, the young sailor jumped and caught hold of the rope and swung onto the deck of the Maryland. Once he was safely on deck there, Russell continued to look for antiaircraft gunners to help with ammunition loading.

David Russell, now 101 years old, will be in Pearl Harbor for this year’s anniversary celebration. His courage, ingenuity, and determination were the qualities that would become emblematic of the sailors who would serve in the US Navy and play a major role in the victory of the Allied Forces in WWII.

Posted by: SJS | November 22, 2021

58 years post November 22, 1963

JFK in the Oval Office with a model of PT 109

On that fateful day in Dallas 58 years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as his motorcade passed through the city. The shock of that day’s events have never quite worn off for me and for many others of my generation. The history of JFK’s service on the Navy’s PT boats made his murder feel intense and personal because of my father’s Navy career on the PTs in the South Pacific.

When I woke up on November 22, 1963, I was a twelve year-old seventh grader in a parochial school in Philadelphia. When I went to bed that night, I felt very, very old and found it impossible to fall asleep. The world suddenly felt like a dangerous place, full of random violence and haunted by grief. The phrase “normal life” lost its meaning on that day and, for me, that meaning never returned.

The inescapable irony of human life overwhelmed my awareness on that fateful day fifty-eight years ago. The bitter side of irony, something the Irish know only too well, made itself known to me on that terrible Friday. John F. Kennedy survived serious health problems as a child and a young man. He survived his WWII experience in the South Pacific when his boat was sliced in two by a Japanese destroyer. He lost his life in public setting on a Dallas street in broad daylight after being shot by an unseen gunman.

Tragedy, irony, and randomness are part and parcel of human life. There is no escaping their presence in the human experience. That lesson began to take hold on November 22, 1963. It was a lot to absorb at age twelve. Fifty-eight years later, I find that I am still on a steep learning curve about those realities.

It is a mercy that our great national holiday of Thanksgiving always arrives so quickly after we are reminded of the loss of President Kennedy so many years ago. Despite tragedies, random violence, and the cruel ironies that visit us from time to time, we have much for which to be thankful. May we never lose sight of our blessings or take them for granted.

Best wishes to you and yours for a joyful and tranquil Thanksgiving.

Posted by: SJS | November 17, 2021

PT 234

A stunning painting of PT 234

My thanks to Phil Johnson who shared this powerfully beautiful painting of PT 234 heading out to sea. We are both members of a Facebook group dedicated to the legacy of the PT boats. At first glance, I thought I was looking at a colorized photograph, the rendering is so precise and detailed.

I am most fortunate to belong to several PT groups that are generous in sharing photos, memories, artifacts, and paintings of the Navy’s Mosquito Fleet. When I began this blog in 2011, I could never have imagined how much it would expand my understanding of PT history and the amazing men who wrote a new chapter in the impressive history of the US Navy.

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