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 Author  Topic: Preparations & Readiness of PT's
Randy Finfrock

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Randy Finfrock   Send Email To Randy Finfrock Posted on: Feb 13, 2009 - 9:47pm
I'm have some questions, not regarding PT's underway on missions this time, but instead, I am interested in knowing some of the 'behind the scenes preparations', that must have been ongoing 24/7.

After missions, was there a certain timetable for getting PT's ready to go out again? I know in the early days at Tulagi there was a lack of parts and of course that would be a big challenge.

Were there specific responsibilities for the crew to take care of before they were free to leave their boats? Was there a procedure followed each time? For instance, what had to be secured - and what had to leave the boat?

Did base personnel do most of this work, or did the crewmen also take part? (cleaning bilges, scraping, painting, other duties when in drydock, etc)?

When were torpedoes taken on and 20mm & 50mm guns loaded?

When was the PT filled with the 100 octane gas? How did they do it? I heard that it had to be strained in some way due to potential for contamination.

How early did the crew have to go over the charts to get as familiar as they could with where their mission would take them? Were the charts reliable? I always wonder, because many of the PT's especially early in Tulagi ran aground on reefs (possibly uncharted)?

Did any of you spend the nights on your boat? Could you pick up 'clear channel radio' stations at night on the PT's TCS radio?

I think that is enough for now. Looking forward to hearing your replies.
If anything else comes to mind, feel free to let us all know.

By the way, CJ - I heard that you live in Stillwater, OK - that is where my youngest son attends school at OSU.

Randy Finfrock

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Frank J Andruss Sr


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Frank J Andruss Sr   Send Email To Frank J Andruss Sr Posted on: Feb 14, 2009 - 4:51am

I spoke with GM/1c Wallace McNesih who served on PT 374. He said "After a typical patrol, we would head in and tie up the boat. Normally, this would be just as daylight was approaching. The Skipper would secure the boat and both he and the XO would head over to the CO's Office to report any actions we may have encountered". Typically, the gunners mates would begin stripping the guns, taking them apart to fix any problems, greese all mechanisim's and replace any ammo that had gotten exposed to the salt water. The Motor Macs on the boat would work non stop to see to it that all thre engines were in perfect working order, although he was not sure what services they performed.

As far as he can remember, the Quartermaster simply shut down equipment in the charthouse and went to sleep, same for the Torpedomen, unless of course we fired any fish. If we did, we would head over to the Tender or Torpedo Dump and the boys would send over whatever we needed. Sometimes we would work almost all day getting the guns ready for the next patrol. Afer that, I tried to grab some shuteye, setting up a small stretcher on the dayroom cabin. If it started to rain, the water would go under me. If it got too bad, I would slip below in my bunk.

I can remember on some days, it was so hot, we set up a tarp over the bow to work on the guns. Nothing is worse then trying to work on metal that has been heated up by the blazing sun. I kept a small barell on the stern, next to my toolbox that everyone thought were rags, but it was fresh water that I and my best friend on the boat Pete would use to wash up. That salt water used to rinse yourself off after washing up was aweful on your skin, so the fresh water was a big help.

The Skipper, Mr. Boyd and our XO would head to the operations shack in the late afternoon for briefing on the nights mission. They would head back to the boat, where they simply gave us a quick rundown on what to expect. One night we were almost ambushed by the Japanese, who had set up a trap for other boats. I remember one boat was hit and on fire, with some guys on fire and jumping into the water. I will never forget that. It was a mission that should have never ben tried.

Before shoving off in the late afternoon, around 5:30-6:00 pm, we would double check everything, ammo, guns, with the Skipper firing up the engines to make sure they were well warmed and ready to go. I liked to carry extra ammo wherever I could stow it. The Skipper used to say we had the heaviest boat in the PT Navy, but I would say "Ya Skip, but we will never run out of ammo in a fight". That semed to make him happy. We always called him Mr. Boyd or Skipper, and he was a good boat handler too. He never took crazy chances with the boat, but never backed away from a fight.

Once out in the open water, Cookie would break out the sandwhiches and coffee for the boys, and we would begin our patrol. I remember how dark it was on the water one night, just off the coast. Pete Scavino, who was on the 40MM, said he thought he saw something in the water. Darn if he was not right. It was a rubber raft, with two Japanese trying to sneak away from Corrigidor. We had almost bumped right into them. Several of the boys had grabbed rifles and Tommy Guns. When the two Japs stood up, we noticed one tried to smack a grenade against his leg. I later found out that this was how their grenades became armed and then they would throw them. All guns opened up on these two killing them instanly. We went thru the raft and found they had American Ciggaretts and matches'. One of the Japs could not have been more then 18. I kept his wallet for many many years after. He had pictures of his family in it. I had always wanted to return it, but never did, finally throwing it out in 1999.

I guess thats about all I can tell you Frank for now. If you need more, just give me a call. Iam sure this old brain can try and dig some other memories out for you.

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Feb 14, 2009 - 7:38am
The GM must have been on the wrong boat. I had little QM duties to perform while at our base. I quickly learned to clean and assemble the twin 50's and a twin 30. With the GM's assistance it took only about one time through the procedure to learn. After several times the GM trusted me to adjust the head space. When the twin 30 was installed we had a problem with one gun which would not fire properly. I was able to find the problem and with the GM's advice I fixed the problem. Our radioman also cleaned some of the guns. He was assigned to a deck mounted twin 50.

Regarding my activity while underway, after a couple of instances when I was needed topside, I never slept while we were underway. I was responsible for navigation and visual recognition signals. When the radar was in use I relieved the radioman at times. Otherwise I tried to be around the cockpit and never sleep. I did this without any direction from the skipper.

Another member of the crew who needed help, especially while in base was the cook. We ate all meals on the boat for about the first seven months I was onboard. I am sure that I helped in the galley along with others, but I do not remember much about it.

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of earl  Posted on: Feb 14, 2009 - 9:01am
as cook on the 108 here is some of what i can remember.when we broke off our patrol station,about 6 am,i was still usually still standing watch.there was not much use in trying to clean the galley while underway back to base.if the seas were calm i attempted to try to get everything together in the galley.when we got back to base/buoy.i started cleaning up the galley from the night before.the i started breakfast chow.cleaned up agaibn, after that.sometimes the guys would go to the base galley to eat as the food was fixed differently there.they has more of a variety of food there qnd more quantity.after cleaning up again after breakfast i would start preperations for the afternoon and the next patrol.we went out almost every might.i wa would ckeck with the skipper./and/or ex offficer as to who might be going out with us on the next patro.i had to know if we were having passengers and how many.i would then start making up my food list so i couldd go to base supply and get it and bring it back tio the menu was made up with this list for the evening chow and the sandwiches i made for later in the night.just before going out on patrols we were musterred tiopside,told where we were going and what,maybe,to mexpect.this was about 4 pm,.i would then go below,to the galley, and start preparing dinner meal.when it was ready i would let the paassengers know and they would come down and eat along with the first part of the crew that was offf watch.we started eating when just getting underway for the patrol.the rest of the crew was fed and then i cleaned up the galley bast as i could.i had to make sure all cooking equipment was stowed properly so that it was secured.i made up night sandwiches and put on coffee.the men wwere able to open the topside hatch to come down into the galley at night as there was a small red light at top of the laddder just under the hatch that was on at night.this light wwas used at night as it was not vissibly sseen from shore.while on station no one came down into the galley.after i secured the galley from night chow i was then required to stand watch in either the forward or aft rwin fifty turret. on battle station my first assignment,if i was not on watch,was loaded on the stern 20mm.if i was on watch in a 50 cal turret i was required to stay there and use it,which i did one time./if i was not on watch while returning to base i would try and get some rest atop the dayroom sometimes we would take our carbines or 30 cal rifles and try to shoot at flying fish for practice.a c ook was not just for cooking.he had other duties also which required a lot of effort and mind boggling decisions.i also had to clean the galley,do my own painting,repairing and clean the galley other words the cook had a lot more to do than cook.i and my cook buddy on another boat were always looking for tryingg to get a little something extra for the crew and officers.once he and i borrowed some crates from a barge that was loaded from a ship m in the was guarrded by two marines buit we got around that by getting them interested in using a home made fishuing line and catching some fish wwhile my buddey loaded the small crates uinto the dinghy we uised.when we got baack to tthe boat we opened the cratesa and found chocolate malted/ chocolatescookies .we splot iot up betweenm us and gave it to the crew.another time we were nearong an austrailian korvette. i asked the skipper if we could approach it and try and get some food from it.he agreed and for all the cigarettes we had aboard we got frozen chicken/ lamb and liver.we started cookingg as soon as we got back to our buoy the crew turns and what a meal we had.all the crew pitched in and helped clean up everything afterwards.they did most of the cooking and i got a break.

earl richmond

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CJ Willis


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of CJ Willis  Posted on: Feb 14, 2009 - 9:27am
Randy: Our routine was to always have the boat ready for action as soon as possible after we got in from patrol. Ready to go back out again if need be. We would usually get back to base about 9:00am after leaving patrol station at daybreak. We would drop the Skipper off at the dock for the intelligence meeting. The Exec would then take the boat to the fuel dock to be refueled. Our squadron commander required all boats to full of gas when at the base. While waiting at the fuel dock, we gunners would clean our guns and ammunition belts and refill the ammunition cans if we had used any ammunition. We kept the guns loaded and ready for action at all times. However we kept covers on them after cleaning while at the base. After refueling we would return to our bouy and tie up - get the tarps put up on the bow and the midsection. We usually ate at the base chow hall so we would catch the chow boat for lunch - come back and hit the sack and get some sleep because you never knew when you had to go out two nights in a row which was really tough. The days we did not have to go on patrol the Exec had us cleaning the deck, crews quarters, bilges etc. We did most of the painting when we went into dry dock which wasn't very often. When in dry dock we scraped, sanded and repainted the bottom. Repainted the deck. We only repainted the sides one time. The base force only did repair work on the boat. They did none of the cleaning. The base torpedoman did help with the weekly and monthly maintenance of the fish. Our crew lived on the boat. The 13 months I was aboard I never slept anywhere but on the boat. Of course our routine varied at different bases but we were at Green Island longer than any other base.

Yes, Randy I live in Stillwater which is home of Oklahoma State University however I am a Jayhawk myself graduating in 1950.

C. J. Willis

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CJ Willis


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of CJ Willis  Posted on: Feb 14, 2009 - 10:17am
Randy : You ask about re fueling with 100 octane. At Vella La Vella we refueled from 55 gallon steel drums which were pumped with a small gasoline engine pump. At Treasury we refueled from a YOG barge and Green Island from a fuel dock located at the end of the runway at the air base. The fuel hoses were run into a large funnel placed in the tank entrance on the boat. Inside the funnell there was a chamois skin strainer which would trap all the sediment and any water from entering the boat tanks. However there were still some water and crap got into the boat tanks and ever so often we would go out to sea a pump them out to get rid of it.

C. J. Willis

Total Posts: 464 | Joined: Nov 5, 2006 - 5:02pm | IP Logged


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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Feb 14, 2009 - 10:47am
I was one man, on one boat, in one squadron. You should get varied replies to your questions, I suspect. Concerning the timetable to get the boat ready: Our policy was to have our boat ready to go as soon as possible. Our first duties after returning from a mission was to refuel, rearm, file reports etc. If we knew that we had a few days off, things were not so urgent but our skipper was proud of getting our boat listed as "ready". Our crew did all the work, painting, engine 100hour checks, gun repair, hull work and most everything else except major maintenance requiring hull repair. We had to schedule base help and it was next to impossible to get on the list. Replacing torpedoes took time but was an urgent task. Base crew helped here. Routine maintenance such as checking alcohol fuel and routine checks of running mechanics, painting, etc was done by our torpedoemen. We rearmed as quickly as possible. Even in port it was essential that the guns were working.50cal ammo was reloaded into ammo cans (we often had to make our own belts). 20mm ammo cannisters were reloaded but nor wound up. 40mm ammo clips were replaced. Refueling had to get in line. We were supposed to always carry a full 3000 gal and top off before we went on patrol. However we knew that 12 tons of fuel slowed the boat drastically and so we fueled with enough gas to be sure we wouldn't run out. As a QM, charts were my business. They were very poor, incomplete and innaccurate. Coral heads and sandbars plagued us, especially on those missions that required close to shore action. I ran our boat aground twice and I was considered a good navigator. All our crew slept aboard, we had no other way. Because it was so hot, everybody slept on deck except me, I slept on the chart table. Since our bout with Jap torpedoe bombers, we had no deck cabin or Day-room. We could often, but not always, get a radio station. We listened to Tokio Rose, she had good music and her analisis of the previous night's fights were amusing.

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Feb 15, 2009 - 9:03am
My earlier reply here was mostly to question a comment that on one boat the QM never helped with cleaning the guns. I am interested in hearing if anyone else helped the GM. I realize that we now have a very small number of of men to respond.

I will continue with more complete description of a QM's activities when getting underway. When the skipper came aboard he gave me the patrol zone, flashing light recognition signals, and signal pistol recognition colors--three colors. I posted the recognition signals on a blackboard on the starboard side of the cockpit. The blackboard was covered with a canvas for protection from water. I loaded the cartridge and while underway I changed the cartridge to new colors which if my memory is correct was every four hours. I removed the needed chart from storage and plotted the course for the first leg or two. After the engines were started I turned on the IFF and the fluxgate compass. Later when the gyro was up to speed I uncaged it. When arriving back at base, I turned the IFF off and caged and turned off the fluxgate compass.

On a subject which was not one of my duties, upon arrival back at our base, our guns were unloaded. After the guns were cleaned we may have placed the amo. belts under the cover plates ready to load on the twin 50s and twin 30 with no round in the chamber. An unfortunate event occurred at Dreger that would not have happened if a gun had been unloaded. A 50 cal. round in the gun was discharged. It penetrated the hull of a tender, Portunis or LST 201, and killed one of the crew on the tender.

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Feb 15, 2009 - 9:25am
QM, in answer to your question of whether any other QM helped clean guns, I can verify that I helped regularly. Our skipper wanted to make sure all hands could function at any station regardless of rating. Even in action we rotated with other crew. We had a first GQ assignment and another assignment for backup. We went to backup organization several times for practice and twice due to necessity. The Skipper and exec rotated with us so no one complained. I doubt that the squadron commander knew of this or would have approved. I wrote in the rough log once that we had gone to backup and the Skipper asked me to remove the sentence.

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Russell Pullano

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Russell Pullano   Send Email To Russell Pullano Posted on: Feb 15, 2009 - 10:50am
I agree mostly with QM. I too was a quartermaster and I didn't go to sleep when we returned from patrol. As QM said, I dissembled my twin 50's and cleaned them. Those guns were my battle station and I was responsible for their maintanance.

When the skipper went to report any activity from the patrol we used to hurry to fuel up, jockeying into position to beat the other boats. If needed, we took on water. We also had a 55 gallon drum on the deck for bathing. We were allowed one bucket for bathing (that was our own rules). We put a little water in the steel liner of our helmets, enough to soap up a washcloth. With this we washed. Then with the rest of the water we would rinse. The saltwater soap and washing with salt water was, to me, like getting dirtier and clammy..
After that we tidyed up the boat and tried to get to sleep. We patrolled two nights and had one night off. We didn't have much time for leaving the boat.

As far as cleaning the bilges, we did that, and even our officers would clean the bilges under their statesroom. As far as scraping the barnacles off the boat when in drydock, the crew did that and painted the boat. To answer the question about help from the base force, we had none. We took care of our own boat. I guess the base force had enough problems of their own/ That's what I remember from a long long time ago.

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