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 Author  Topic: End Of The 62
Jeff D


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Jeff D   Send Email To Jeff D Posted on: Jun 6, 2009 - 9:25pm
Master Chief Jack Duncan, retired, sent me a story today about what he was doing on D-Day in the Pacific:


It was the summer of 1944. The seventy-seven foot Elco motor torpedo boat, hull number 62, had been built in Bayonne, New Jersey, in 1941. She had seen hard service Stateside, around the Panama Canal and in the Solomon Islands. Originally assigned to the training squadron, MTB Ron 4, she had been reassigned as a replacement boat for Ron 5 along with her sisters, the PT-63, PT-64, PT-65, plus the much-newer eighty-foot Elcos, PT 318 and 319. Ron 5 was originally commissioned with twelve of the brand-new PT-103 Class of boats . . . the PT-103 through PT-114.

Ransom Widener and I put in a joint request slip to Squadron Executive Officer LT Samuel A. Pond to swap boats; a transfer from the 103 to the 62 for me would be for both esthetic and personal reasons. Rans would take my place on the 103. The PT-62 was said to be the fastest boat in the South Pacific Theater of Operations at forty-eight knots over a measured mile with a full war load off Stirling Island, according to her proud motor macs or engineers. Although I thought all Elcos to be beautiful, I considered the classic 77-footers to be the prettiest of them all. While the twin turrets were not conducive to the best fighting configuration, they did present a sleek, streamlined picture. And, then, too, the new skipper of the Three Boat seemed to me to want to avoid going into harms way. In my opinion, he was never one to go out of his way to pick a fight with the Japs.

As I recall it was June 7, that would be D-Day in the European Theater, because we were on the other side of the International Dateline. We were slowly chasing a Jap barge (which I never did spot) from eastward of Stephan Strait, separating New Ireland from the smaller New Hanover near the big Jap base of Kavieng. Stephan Strait was named for Doctor Emil Stephan, the German administrator from pre-World War I days when the area was under German colonial rule.

The PT-319 was leading us as a two-boat section when we got to be too tempting a target for the six-inch shore battery guarding the harbor at Kavieng. We had "hitchhikers" along with us, two of Joe Foss Marine airmen from Emirau who wanted to experience a PT Boat patrol. They werent feeling too well due to the twenty-foot seas we were tobogganing in. Huddled aft, just forward of our stern 40mm Bofors gun, they were wet, cold, and their faces an interesting shade of green.

It had been a long, rough and negative patrol out of Emirau and it would soon be time to head for home. PT boats did not want to be caught out in daylight with their 3/4-inch "plywood armor." With the seas being so rough, the Japs were evidently hunkered down, so when the barge was reported, it would give us a positive contact if we could sink it after a long night of futility.

However, it was too near dawn! As throughout the Tropics, "dawn comes up like thunder," even if China was not across the bay, to be slightly Kipling-esque. We were just within range of that damned six-incher that was beginning to let us know we were not welcome. No sweat! Well just turn tail and run.

Roger Nelson, the skipper, and Vince Marin, the X.O., were in the cockpit and firewalled the three big Packard V-12 engines. The motor mac in the engine room, Blickle, later said we were doing an estimated forty-five knots in those twenty-foot swells. Riding atop the starboard engine where the engineer stood watch, it must have felt to him like riding a wild, bucking bronco.

The PT-319 radioed us that we were coming clear out of the water. Somewhat slower and without our flat bottom and hard chine, the 319's V-hull was slicing the waves nicely. I vividly recall standing on the port side of the cockpit, hanging on to a handrail with my knees bent to absorb the shock. After taking a terrific pounding for several minutes, we slowed some, but the engine room did not reply to the cockpits signals.

Roger Nelson told me, "Go back and check on Blickle. Hes not responding to my signals."

Holding on to the superstructure handrails, I worked my way aft to the engine room hatch. I stuck my head down into that infernal bedlam of "white noise," Blickle looked up and pointed to the water up over the floorboards. We could use only hand signals with the roar of those three big 1,350 horsepower unmuffled engines filling the space.

Yelling at the Marine hitchhikers to secure their kapok life jackets, that we were sinking, I pulled myself hand-over-hand back to the cockpit along the safety handrail and made my report. The entire crew was jubilant when the word was passed that as survivors we would be sent home to await the building of a brand-new boat. I dont remember who started that rumor. The poor miserable, wet Marines were not amused that we sailors were celebrating a sinking . . . our own! Their faces took on an even more interesting shade of green.

We did manage to limp back into Homestead Lagoon at Emirau, but we had only about six-inches of freeboard aft with the mufflers under water. The engines died as the twin-ignition systems were submerged. A utility boat towed us on into the harbor and up to a drydock. Alas, the water was too shallow for the drydock to sink low enough for us to get on the chocks and it had to be repositioned. Finally, drydocked, the water drained from the chine between the frames - the bottom along the chine had been loosened in the old girl due to the weight of the engines pounding against it.

Seabees came down to try patching her with white lead, canvas and mahogany planking, but her original frame wood was too rotten for new screws to hold and she was finished as a fighting man-of-war. It was sad to see such a beautiful machine die, but she had made her last patrol. There was no time to mourn and I did get a new boat; but it was another Ron 5 boat.

Vince Marin took over as skipper of the PT-318 and I went along as his torpedoman for the rest of my time as a crewman in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of Operations. The 318 was dubbed the "Showboat." The interior was gloss white with crimson red "woodwork" or trim, all the enlisted mens bunks sported officers blue and white striped bedspreads, the aluminum deck plates were kept steel-wooled and the whole crew took pride in keeping things shipshape and shiny.

In late November or perhaps it was early December, Ron 5 departed Emirau along with Ron 11 bound for Mios Woendi in the Schouten Islands in the Dutch East Indies via Manus. At Manus in the Admiralties, we picked up the USS Cyrene, a PT boat tender, acting as her escort across the open seas to Hollandia in what is now Papua New Guinea. A squadron and a half of PTs spread out surrounding the big ship presented a beautiful sight, the white water of their wakes painted against the deep blue of the South Pacific Seas.

Our Ron 5 was decommissioned on February 15, 1945 after the PT-108 ran up on a reef entering Mios Woendi during a training exercise for her new crew. We could see that the 8-boats screws were up in her lazarette after she was in drydock. It was time to decommission the squadron and scatter her boats among other squadrons which had lost PTs.

So, beached after training a new crew on the 318, I awaited orders home. I waited while others who had come to the area after I did were long-gone. And I waited, kept busy by those in charge, I was assigned to filling 55-gallon drums with sand to build a sea wall, and I waited. I shoveled sand against the tide and waited. My orders home were finally discovered awaiting me up at Morotai, where I was never sent.

I finally returned Stateside to become a Navy frogman, but what an ignominious ending to my first warfighting deployment; shoveling sand against the tide.

What an ignominious end to the PT-62, beaten to death by the sea she had so valiantly and faithfully challenged far, far from the land of her birth.

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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: Jun 7, 2009 - 3:51am

Stories like this are proof that these men must write down their experiences. In the near future, I will be heading over my dear friends home, tape-recorder in hand to get his story with Ron 27, PT 374. It is vital for future generations to learn first hand what these wonderful and brave men did on these wooden wonders of the Sea......... As always Jeff, thank you for sharing these stories with us.

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Jeff D


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Jeff D   Send Email To Jeff D Posted on: Jun 7, 2009 - 7:22am
You're welcome Frank. I'm glad Jack decided to contact me and allow me to publish the stories that he originally wrote so his grandkids would have a sense of who their grandfather is and was. Not only are they interesting to read, they are also of historical value as are all the stories from the veterans that post here. The times were truly different and it is hard to get a sense of how things were without them. They give me a deeper appreciation of our history and what it takes to continue making it.

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