Tag Archives: PT-29

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.

The mosquito boats at Midway

While the huge carrier task forces get all the attention at Midway, there was also an unsung fleet of plywood boats who took part in the battle as well.

As part of the local defenses at Midway were 11 early model PT boats (Elco 77′ PT’s 20-31) of the 1st Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron. Dispatched to Midway from Pearl Harbor in May, the nearly 1,400nm trip is often regarded as the longest open-water PT boat sortie of the war (though they did rendezvous with seaplane tenders for gas twice on the trip).

On June 4, as some 60 Japanese Navy planes attacked Sand Island (part of Midway) the PT boats were ready to meet them. MTB RON 1 had already had a bit of experience shooting at Japanese planes– at Pearl Harbor six months prior.

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.

According to PTboats.org:

As the dive bombers pulled out over the lagoon, the PT’s opened with all their guns. PT’s 21 and 22 concentrated their fire on a low-flying Zero, which crashed in the trees on Sand Island. Another Zero came out of a steep dive to strafe PT 25. The 25 took 30 small-caliber hits above the waterline; 1 officer and 2 men were slightly wounded by shrapnel. Several times planes started to dive on other boats, but swerved off as soon as the PT’s opened fire.

After the raid they picked up five USMC Marine pilots and two enlisted who had bailed out and returned them to shore.

They also made the epitaph to the great naval battle out to sea on the 5th .

At 1930 all 11 PT’s got underway to search for damaged Japanese carriers reported 170 miles to the northwest. The weather was squally, with poor visibility. These conditions, excellent for PT attack, also made it difficult to find targets. Unable to find anything by dawn, the PT’s turned back to Midway. On the way, PT’s 20 and 21 sighted a column of smoke 50 miles to the west. They sped toward it at 40 knots, but when they arrived all they could see was a large expanse of fuel oil and floating wreckage, apparently Japanese. Probably no Japanese carriers were left afloat.

On the 6th, they put to sea with flag draped coffins of Marines and Japanese killed in the raid two days prior.

Sinking Sun Painting, Oil on Canvas; by Griffith Baily Coale; 1942; Framed Dimensions 54H X 63W Accession #: 88-188-AB Marine stands at parade rest on the bow of a PT boat as she moves slowly out to sea from Midway to give decent burial to Japanese fliers shot down on the islands during the battle. The red ball of the rising sun is prophetically repeated by the round disc and spreading rays of the sinking sun.