light

U.S. Navy PT Boats of World War II







I'm occasionally asked how I got interested in PT boats--my short answer is usually 'a model kit, a book, and a movie'--in that order.

My fascination with these craft began in high school; in 1979 I saw an article about the newly-released kit of PT 109 from Lindberg Models, and got one later on in the year. In 1/32nd scale, the hull measures out to about 30 inches long, and could easily be converted to radio-control. Unfortunately for those kitbuilders stricken with AMS (Advanced Modeler's Syndrome), the model itself is a bust--for it only superficially resembles the Electric Boat Company's 80-foot motor torpedo boat. But, with some imagination and determination one can get a fairly decent looking (if not 100% accurate) example of the Elco 80-footer. Since then, the Italian model-kit firm Italeri has released a number of fast attack craft in 1/35 scale, including two splendid kits of this classic American torpedo boat; 2006 saw the appearance of the late-war PT 596, while Italeri's version of PT 109 made its way onto hobby store shelves in late 2012.

Around the same time I discovered the impending release of the Lindberg PT 109, I found in the school library (quite by accident) a book titled 'The Mosquito Fleet'. Published both by G.P. Putnam and Scholastic Book Services in 1963, Bern Keating's account about the officers and bluejackets of the motor torpedo boat service was written in a punchy, rock'em-sock'em style calculated to arrest the attention of the book's target audience of adolescents and young adults. It certainly fueled my curiosity about these boats and their role in World War II, and became the start of what would become over time a lengthy book collection.

Finally, it was the MGM film 'They Were Expendable' (based on the PT boat campaign in the Phillipines in the early stages of World War II) that got me hooked. Released in 1945, directed by John Ford, and starring Robert Montgomery and John Wayne (photo above) the picture has been described by motion picture critic Leonard Maltin as 'one of the finest (and most underrated) of all World War II films'. After seeing actual PT boats--not mock-ups or replicas--in action, I was permanently bitten by the mosquito boat bug. I have since been collecting PT boat memorabilia, mostly books and photographs, and have done some of my own on-again, off-again research into the boats when vacation time and wallet are in sync. The results from this research will be presented on this site, but since I also work for a living...the page will be updated on a very irregular basis as new information comes my way.







Copyright © 2002-2013 by Gene Kirkland