Higgins 78, in Detail

Here we see a great series of shots of the PT-71-class (first generation production) 78-foot motor torpedo boat USS PT-200, while her builders– at Higgins Industries, New Orleans, Louisiana– taken January 26, 1942. All are “Official Bureau of Ships Photographs” via the National Archives.

With a displacement of 56-tons and a draft of just over five feet, the all-wood craft could make 41 knots when all three of her 1,500shp Packard W-14 were running perfectly on high-octane gas and her hull was clean. If you note, she has a single 20mm Oerlikon over the stern, two twin .50 cal M2s in tubs oriented around the pilothouse, and four fixed 21-inch torpedo tubes. Unlike those used on Elco-made boats, the tubes on Higgins craft used compressed air to launch their MK8 torpedos rather than the tactically inconvenient black-powder charge which made a flash at night.

Laid down 29 June 1942, PT-200 was completed 23 January 1943, and placed in service and assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron FOUR (MTB4) under the command of LCDR William C. Specht. At the time, MTB4 was the training squadron at Melville, and, in reflection of this, PT-200 never made it overseas to fight the Axis, ending her career after 13 months, sinking 22 February 1944 in a collision off Newport, Rhode Island.

In all, Higgins produced no less than 199 78-footers of the PT-71/PT-235, PT-265, and PT-625 classes.

evolution of the 78′ Higgins PT boats

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