Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.
– Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, March 27
Here we see a one of the very last of hundreds of PT boats built during WWII for the Allied Navies. She is PT-658 and she is wearing her correct 1945-style Measure 31-20L Camouflage. Built in just five months in 1945, she was completed 30 July 1945 by Higgins Industries, New Orleans, LA. During WWII there were the Elco boats, Huckings, Vosper and the Higgins boats, all similar designs. Some 620~ of all types were ordered and 199 of these were the 78-foot Higgins boats. While not all were finished, 99 of the 531 PT boats that served during World War II, were lost to various causes.
Higgins Boat under construction in New Orleans while a Coasty looks on to keep everyone honest
Comparison between the Elco and Higgins boats
Finished too late for the war she was to be assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron FORTY FIVE (PTRon 45), but this group was never stood up. If she had been, odds are she would have shipped out to the Pacific and would never have been seen again. You see after WWII the Navy sank, burned, gave away, or just left these boats to rot over there. The lifespan of a plywood boat rushed to completion wasn’t thought to be very long so the Navy wasn’t thrilled about wasting more money on these disposable craft.
The fate of most of the PT boats in WWII. More than 100 were burned in the Philippines alone
She was reclassified as “Small Boat, C105343″, 27 August 1946 and then as “Floating Equipment 3” two years later and kept around as a work boat on the West Coast. For a decade she helped support the DEW station on Santa Rosa Island and chased stray boats out of the Point Mugu missile test range. She was finally sold in 1958 by the Navy to a private owner who used her as the yacht Porpoise. In 1993 a group of PT-boat vets and interested parties found her on the West Coast and tried to save her.
PT-658 was stripped down and then built back up over the course of the past twenty years
This group called SAVE THE PT BOAT INC “was formed by a group of gray-haired ex-PT boaters to take custody of a historic relic, PT 658, a World-War II motor torpedo boat, and restore it to original operating condition, with full armament and three 1,850 horsepower Packard V-12 engines.” and it seems as if they are well within reach of that goal.
PT-658 is one of just 11 WWII-era PT boats left, and is one of the very few of these boats that are still any type of operational condition. In fact, she is the only 100% authentically restored U.S. Navy PT boat actually operational today. You can check her out in Portland, Oregon at the Swan Island Navy Operational Support Center Pier.
Displacement 56 t.
Beam 20′ 8″
Draft 5′ 3″
Speed 41 kts.
Armament: As a late war Higgins (PT625 class) the PT658 was, for her size, one of the most heavily armed vessels in the US Navy
She carried :
- one 40mm Bofors M3 cannon aft,
- one 37mm Oldsmobile M9 autocannon offset to port forward,
- 2 twin 0.50 cal Browning M2 Machine Guns amidships:
- 2 M4 20mm Oerlikon cannons;
- 4 Mk13 Aircraft Torpedoes: (600# warhead) 22.5 inch diameter, 13’ 6″ long, 33.5 knot speed, weight 2216#, range 6300yds (~3.5 miles) filled with 2800 psi air, grain alcohol and water to run a steam turbine turning gear operated counter rotating propellers.
- 2 M6 300# TNT depth charges: Manual depth setting and manual release
- plus smallarms and a smoke generator.
Radar : US Navy “SO” Type Radar : This radar was fitted on PT Boats beginning in 1943 and was later replaced towards the end of the war with SJ. Both were 3000 MHz with 50kw pulse, surface search radars made by Raytheon. Approximate range was 25 Nautical Miles.
Propulsion: Three 4,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 gasoline engines, three shafts.
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