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Boat Classification



Never named, the Navy only gave PT's numbers.  But most Motor Torpedo Boats were given fanciful unofficial nicknames that were painted on by artistic crew members.  Elco, Higgins, and Huckins manufactured about 533 boats for the US Navy in 77', 78', and 80' lengths and weights of 50-55 tons.  More were built for Lend Lease.  The average boat had a 21 foot beam, a 4 1/2 foot draft, and its laminated mahogany hull was held together with glue and 400,000 screws.  Fast, highly maneuverable, elusive,  they were powered by three Packard marine engines of 1,250 or more horsepower each accelerating from eight to 40 knots in about 11 seconds.  Carrying 3,000 gallons, they consumed 185 gallons of octane aviation gas per engine per hour at flank speed.  Fully warloaded, PT's  could exceed 45 knots or sneak in unobserved at two or three knots.


Most boats carried a 40mm Bofor cannon aft, twin .50 caliber machine guns in the port and starboard gun turrets, a 20 mm Oerikon and one 37 mm automatic forward, depth charges, four torpedoes, smoke screen generator flask, small arms and hand grenades.  Mortars and rockets were added later.  Communications were VHF, radio, semaphore and blinker.  Radar could be found on later models.


Nineteen mother ships called tenders and approximately 180 shore bases serviced the boats with engine overhaul, hull repairs, torpedoes and ammunition.  A crew usually consisted of  two officers and twelve enlisted men.  Later as more and heavier armament was added, the crew increased to as many as eighteen.  The average squadron was twelve boats; 43 squadrons were commissioned operating in all theaters: South Pacific, Aleutian Islands, Philippine Islands, Panama and the Caribbean, English Chanel, the Mediterranean, and the Hawaiian Islands.


Known as the Mosquito Fleet, assignments included escort duty.  They landed spies, ferried commands, led beach head invasions, and laid smoke screens.  In the South Pacific they earned the tag "Barge Busters."  The movie. "They Were Expendable," immortalized General MacArthur's rescue from Corregidor when the Philippines fell to Japan.  According to naval history, PT boats were in more frequent contact with the enemy, at a closer range than any other surface craft in all of World War II. Their fame spread from the Tokyo Express to the Normandy Invasion to the German E-boat threat in the Mediterranean.

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