PT Boats: Unqualified success or mediocre at best??

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
steffen19k
Member
Posts: 72
Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:31 pm

PT Boats: Unqualified success or mediocre at best??

Post by steffen19k » Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:07 am

"They Were Expendable" and "PT 109" are some fairly well known movies, and even "McHale's Navy" focused on them.

And then there was this great debate on the fight for Guadalcanal that largely sums it up into "Five Battles"...

I've got a copy of Bern Keating's Mosquito fleet that paints them in as a vessel that was light and fast, heavily armed, and versatile. They were there to put pressure on the Japanese in the Phillipines, New Guinea, and the Solomon's, while the rest of the Pacific Fleet was either rebuilding for focusing on the deathblows. They were in the Mediterranean, and fought German Flak Lighters all the way from North Africa up the coast of Italy.

As Mr. Keating depicts it, they were overglorified by the press, under appreciated by the Navy, and generally unheard of by the rest of the world.

So...were they an unqualified success, or a mediocre design?
Here is everything I know about war: Someone wins, Someone loses, and nothing is ever the same again. Here is everything I know about life: The only certainties are death and taxes.
The enemy of freedom are those who proclaim only they can uphold it.

lynn1212
Member
Posts: 22
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2011 2:41 pm

Re: PT Boats: Unqualified success or mediocre at best??

Post by lynn1212 » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:20 am

i would consider them a success and useful but somewhat over blown. the few big successes they had were over reported and made to seem more common then they were. having said that i would also point out that they more that earned their way in almost uncountable small action, pin pricks if you will. thousands of tons of supplies and large numbers of men were destroyed by their actions. a few barges per night here and there, a successful scouting mission, the odd landing of coast watchers or raiders, plus the rare big score and you get a rather good return on investment. PTs were cheap as ships go, small crews, easy to base and supply, heavily armed for their size, decent range and speed while still able to sneak and peek or surprise a target. not giant killers as a rule but masters of death by a thousand cuts.

Byron Angel
Senior Member
Posts: 1102
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:06 am

Re: PT Boats: Unqualified success or mediocre at best??

Post by Byron Angel » Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:07 pm

lynn1212 wrote:i would consider them a success and useful but somewhat over blown. the few big successes they had were over reported and made to seem more common then they were. having said that i would also point out that they more that earned their way in almost uncountable small action, pin pricks if you will. thousands of tons of supplies and large numbers of men were destroyed by their actions. a few barges per night here and there, a successful scouting mission, the odd landing of coast watchers or raiders, plus the rare big score and you get a rather good return on investment. PTs were cheap as ships go, small crews, easy to base and supply, heavily armed for their size, decent range and speed while still able to sneak and peek or surprise a target. not giant killers as a rule but masters of death by a thousand cuts.

..... A very fair and measured assessment IMHO.

B

Keith Enge
Member
Posts: 138
Joined: Sat Jan 01, 2011 1:36 am

Re: PT Boats: Unqualified success or mediocre at best??

Post by Keith Enge » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:50 pm

PT boats had another role that should be mentioned; they were used to rescue a lot of downed aircrew. Barges were mentioned but should have been emphasized more. Probably their primary use was as barge-busters. After the attrition of the "Toyko Express" became too costly in the Solomons, most Japanese supply traffic was by barge convoys. PT boats devastated these convoys when they encountered them. Barges were also prevalent on the northern coast of New Guinea. These waters were filled with reefs and were treacherous for larger ships even discounting the threat of Allied aircraft. Because barge-busting became their primary role as the war progressed, gun armament was increased often at the expense of torpedoes (despite the "T" in their name). The shallow draft of PT boats was also useful in coastal waters especially if those waters were mined.

All of that said, the PT boats had many deficiencies too. For a ship that had to benefit from stealth, their engines were incredibly noisy. Also, at speed, those engines produced a large "rooster-tail" and wake which was often easily visible at night given the phosphorescent wakes produced in the tropics. The engines used gasoline as fuel and the ships were a gasoline bomb waiting to happen (diesel engines like used in the German S-boats were much less vulnerable). Their plywood hulls couldn't take much damage but at least were easy to repair.

So, overall, they filled useful but not vital roles. Other ships and/or aircraft could and did fill the same roles but PT boats did have a place mainly because they were cheap (both in monetary and crew terms) and so were expendable if absolutely necessary.

yellowtail3
Senior Member
Posts: 408
Joined: Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:50 pm
Location: North Carolina, USA

Re: PT Boats: Unqualified success or mediocre at best??

Post by yellowtail3 » Sat Jan 26, 2013 5:02 pm

lynn1212 wrote:Unqualified success or mediocre at best??
There's a lot of space between those two - either/or?

here's a little reading for you... you'll be glad you did:
http://www.americanheritage.com/content ... st-forward
Shift Colors... underway.

steffen19k
Member
Posts: 72
Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:31 pm

Re: PT Boats: Unqualified success or mediocre at best??

Post by steffen19k » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:58 am

I always enjoy reading that article about PT105.

Reminds me of my time on the tanks, despite the obvious differences...on second thought, I always hate reading about that article on PT105... It reminds me of my time on the tanks, despite the obvious differences.
Here is everything I know about war: Someone wins, Someone loses, and nothing is ever the same again. Here is everything I know about life: The only certainties are death and taxes.
The enemy of freedom are those who proclaim only they can uphold it.

paul.mercer
Senior Member
Posts: 845
Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:25 pm

Re: PT Boats: Unqualified success or mediocre at best??

Post by paul.mercer » Sat Mar 02, 2013 10:10 pm

How did they compare with the German E Boats in terms of speed, armament and general effectivness?

Post Reply