80 Years Ago Today: Hornet and Mosquitos

The floating “Shangri-La,” the Yorktown-class carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) arrives at Pearl Harbor directly after the Doolittle Raid on Japan, 30 April 1942. Her harbor escorts, a pair of early 77-foot Elcos of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron One (MTBRON 1), PT-28 and PT-29, are speeding by in the foreground.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), # 80-G-16865.

MTBRON 1 had been commissioned 24 July 1940, with 58-foot Fisher boats which were later transferred to the Royal Navy under lend-lease. The unit also tested out prototype 81-foot Sparkman/Higgins, 81-foot PNSY, and 70-foot Scott-Paine boats before finally fielding the Elco 77s, which had originally been trialed with MTBRon 2 in the Caribbean in the winter of 1940-41.

Sent to the Philipines prior to the outbreak of the war, MTBRON 1 had only made it as far as Pearl Harbor before the beginning of hostilities.

As noted by the National PT Boat Memorial and Museum:

During the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, PT-28 and PT-29 were already loaded on the replenishment oiler USS Ramapo (AO-12) for MTBRon 1’s assignment to the Philippines and as they could not get her motors started, the hydraulics on their gun turrets were not operative.

Crew members cut the hydraulic lines and operated the turrets manually. All 12 boats of the squadron fired on the attacking Japanese aircraft with one, PT-23, credited with shooting down two Nakajima B5N “Kate” torpedo bombers.

Shortly after the above images were taken, the Elcos moved out for Midway via French Frigate Shoals, where they clocked in as both AAA platforms and lifeguards for aircrews during that battle.

PT Boats and Zeros Painting, Oil on Canvas; by Griffith Baily Coale; 1942; Unframed Dimensions 10H X 20W
Accession #: 88-188-AF “On the brightly colored waters of the lagoon, the PT’s are skimming about, darting here dodging there, maneuvering between the rows of machine gun splashes, incessantly firing their twin pairs 50 caliber guns.”

Afterward, they continued the war in the Aleutians.

For the record, PT-28 was wrecked in a storm on 12 January 1943 at Dora Harbor, Unimak. Sistership, PT-29 completed the war and was struck from the Navy list 22 December 1944 while in Alaska waters as obsolete and unneeded.

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