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 Author  Topic: PT-157: Talks this week with 2 original crew members
TheBridge

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TheBridge  Posted on: Apr 23, 2010 - 3:10pm
Having spent a couple of hours talking this week with Captain William (Bud) Liebenow of the Pt-157 and Welford West (torpedo man on the PT-157 who spent 18-months on-board with Captain Liebenow), I wanted to post some of the comments they made before I forget them myself.

You may recall it was the PT-157 that picked up the survivors of the PT-109. Although that may be their most famous mission, there were far more harrowing and difficult missions in their nearly two years aboard the 157.

These notes may not be all that earth-shattering but do help color in the picture about their experiences. This is just for posterity sake as this belongs to everyone not just me.

+ Bud Liebenow said that early on he did not have an XO (Exec Officer). Boats crew would run a bit thin on headcount and it wasn't until the later that full crews were more common.

+ Each time a torpedo was fired it required that the tube be cleaned back at base. This required a person to crawl through the tube and use a specific cleaning fluid to do so. West recalled once when the fluid wasn't available a crewman used regular gas and the fumes almost killed the crewman.

+ West said the Japanese barges that were used to transport Japanese solders were lined with sandbags, The 50-cal BMG were less effective here so the use Oerlikon 30mm grew (as we see in many of the later photos of PTs, including the PT-157) and with multiple deck guns.

+ The PT-157's starboard 50-cal BMG was replaced by an Oerlikon early in its service. West was not sure why but was glad they did. On a moon-lite night the PT-157 was spotted by a Japanese plane which then came down to make a run on them. Using the smoke generator they generated puffs of smoke and a zig-zag pattern and 'Smitty', the starboard turret gunner with the 30mm, hit the plane which exploded. West said that shooting at a plane at night was against regulations so it has occurred to me (later) that they could really brag much about this kill because of the consequences. If possible I'll ask West about this later

+ The PT-157 crews were always scrounging for food. Usually off the army guys supplies

+ There wasn't really any shortage of materials or supplies, West recalls, for care and maintenance of the PTs themselves.

+ The windscreen (windshield) on the PT-157 was painted glass! I told Captain Liebenow that this surprised me as I thought the PT crews replaced them with any metal they could find. He said that 'the PT-157 did not have armor plating around the bridge that the early PTs, like the109, had.'

+ West was a crewman on the 157 for 18-months. He said you were only suppose to be on a boat for 6-months but the situation being what it was he stayed on board. At the end of 18-months was, however, flat worn out. He thinks the world of Bud Liebenow even now for having been a crafty and skilled Captain that took them into harms way, did their job and brought them back.

+ West was one of the crewman who paddled the dingy (boat in multiple trips to bring the PT-109 survivors on board the 157.

If more conversations come I'll certainly post those notes as well.

Bridge


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Shaneo2

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Shaneo2  Posted on: Apr 23, 2010 - 4:01pm
I would be interested to hear more myself, and thank these gentlemen for their servce.

Any memories of Rendova Harbor I would love to hear more...It seems the more I look into the area the more I find. It seems a PBY squadron was also in the harbor for some time, so some of the moorings I seen in 2009 may not be for PT's (?).

I am curious if they remember: where did the PT's/base get their drinking water ? I have a chart of the harbor done in 1944 that shows a water spot across the harbor (if I recall it is on the 1898 chart also).

Was there a barge moored there, or was the water brought over in barrels etc. Also, were salt water crocodiles a problem in the harbor- they seem to be getting very numerous now...

On Lumbari island there is the remains of a well (there in 1981/2008/2009), I was also shown the remains of two wells on Bau Islands. I would this water would have been "non-potable", but used for other use's. Bau also has the remains of a US rubbish dump- I am guessing it may be in pits the Seabees used to get coral fill to expand the base there on Bau.


So many questions- like where were the KIA buried ? On Rendova, or Bau, or another island before Mundas cemetry was used (?)


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TheBridge

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TheBridge  Posted on: Apr 23, 2010 - 4:42pm
What I found is that both have clear recall on a few items and no recall on others. Capt Liebenow is now 90 and West is 88. That is why there is a bit of randomness above the comments in my posting.

I also think (and will try and confirm) that the RONs were spread out a bit so not sure how aware they may have been regarding some of the points you asked..

I'll see what we can find.


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TED WALTHER

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TED WALTHER   Send Email To TED WALTHER Posted on: Apr 23, 2010 - 5:28pm
Bridge;
While I understand what you are saying, I would think that Bud would have recollections of Tulagi, Russells, and Lever Harbor, as RON 9 moved pretty fast. They were only at Lumbari, Rendova for a month. Then they moved to Lever, to perform operations against Choiseul Island and North to Bougainville. Bob Kelley was always wanting to head into the action( the John Wayne character is not that far off the mark in the movie "They Were Expendable", Kelley never wanted a staff job, he wanted to lead PT BOATS.) After RON 9 he went on as Commanding Officer of USS Irwin DD 794 from Jun 1945 - May 31 1946. In addition to his Navy Cross and other awards with Ron 3, he was awarded the Bronze Star for actions off Okinawa in 1945.
Take care,
TED



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Drew Cook

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Drew Cook  Posted on: Apr 23, 2010 - 5:42pm
Bridge,

You are coming up with some absolutely fascinating stuff, for being so new to the Message Board -- good job, particularly with the phone interviews with Liebenow and West -- keep it up!

Not to be a know-it-all, but the Oerlikons were 20mm (not 30), and its Tulagi (not "Talagi").


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TheBridge

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TheBridge  Posted on: Apr 23, 2010 - 7:07pm
Thanks all for the reply posts (so far)

Having spent 5 years building a PT model, later deciding on the PT-157, I have only recently (at Dick Washichek's recommendation) got engaged in this message board.

Time is running out to talk with vets. Amazing people like Bud Liebenow and Weldford West are still with us however and I wanted to ask a few specifics about the 157's configuration and found them so congenial and helpful. I hope to possibly talk to more however that will be up to them.

BTW, I sent a softcopy of the book 'PT-157: A Scale Model Builder's Notebook' to Capt Liebenow and he liked it writing it was the best he's seen. That's gratifying certainly and lets them know that the history of their efforts are still. A copy is going to Welford West tomorrow after his son arrives at his house and helps to get it downloaded to Welford's PC.

(www.PT-157.com)

Bridge




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Nathaniel Smith

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Nathaniel Smith   Send Email To Nathaniel Smith Posted on: Apr 24, 2010 - 5:44am
This is a page from Bud Liebwnow's Deck Log showing his crew. There was a short period where he had no executive officer. J.W. Ruff probably reported when Ron 9 was in Toboga, Panama.


natsmith

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Frank J Andruss Sr

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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: Apr 24, 2010 - 6:27am
As I had mentioned in an ealier post, I had become friends with Mr. Liebenow back in 1993. I have found the two tape set he sent to me of an interview he had done. I do not have a tape deck to play the darn thing, so if any of you have one, maybe I can send them to you. It would be better if someone could play the interviews and transfer them to a CD. As I recall it was a wonderful interview chock full of information. Bud talks about the PT-109 incident, and Normandy invasion as well as other items while on PT-157. I really do not want to invest in buying a cassett player but if no one can help, I may have to............


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BobPic

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Apr 24, 2010 - 6:31am
I was very interested in this account of the 157, thanks for sharing this insight. I have no arguments on what these veterans had to say, but since I am never at a loss for words, I felt compelled to answer.
Many boats operated without an XO (exec). It was common for aggressive crewmembers to volunteer or were asked, to go on patrols with other boats. I was a popular "invitee" because somehow I had the reputation of being a good navigator. We were fortunate to have our torpedo tubes replaced with roll-off racks just after I got there. We picked up 4 knots maximum speed and the torpedomen were delighted. We did encounter a couple Jap barges that were lined with sandbags but it was rare. The barges were needed to transport sorely needed suppliesand not to move heavy sand. We suspected sand was used only to protect munitions. After all, the barge guns were wounted above the gunwales and gunners, crew and helmsman were all necessarily exposed. Our 50cal were the best guns for disabling barges altho the 20mm, 37mm and the 40mm were used to destroy the disabled or abandoned vessel. We were attacked at night by enemy planes and I am sure we did not know or disregarded any order prohibiting shooting at planes at night.
We were always scrounging for food. We had a cook, but he was 3rd class and never cooked anything in his career, including on our boat. The cook's job was to find us a place to eat or to brig "eats" on patrols.


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BobPic

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Apr 24, 2010 - 6:40am
Drinking water on PTs. We had (as I recall) a 75 gallon drinking water tank. That's not mush for a crew of 15 or so, on a 20-30 hour patrol. We were always begging for water from other ships and bases. PT tenders were supposed to provide water but were never around.
Yes, there was a PBY squadron at Rendova. We liked to patrol with these "Black Cats" In fact, our PT167 was the only PT to rescue a downed Catalina by towing it from within Jap territory to safety. (Imagine towing a big sailboat with no centerboard or rudders and under full sail (the airfoil structure of a big plane).


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