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 Author  Topic: PT-157: The story behind this photo


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TheBridge  Posted on: Apr 28, 2010 - 2:12pm
The story behind a photo ...

Yesterday I asked Captain Bud' Liebenow (PT-157) a question about this photo. I was asking why the torpedo tubes were in the out (firing) position. After all it is daylight, which is not the usual mission time - which was at night - and appears they were just leaving base - as the wake appears that they just left base and still close to shore. I had already asked a PT-157 torpedo man, Welford West, the same question earlier in the day and he didn't recall (you see Welford bare-chested leaning against the base of the antennae mast to Liebenow's left). Well, Capt Liebenow didn't recall why they were 'cranked out' either.

Bud did recall that this photo is taken on a run to go out to check on two PTs that had become grounded the previous night. You see Liebenow standing in white tee shirt with binoculars hanging around his neck and RON 9 commander Robert Kelly, seated, with his hand to his mouth, looking off to his right. On arrival at the location the PTs were grounded hard and as such it was not possible to dislodge them so Kelly retrieved the vital documents from them (logs, maps, etc) and ordered both the PTs to be destroyed in place....which was done.

My quickie research of RON 9 (under Kelly) and under the catagory 'Grounded in enemy waters/Destroyed to prevent capture' indicates this may have been July 4th or 5th 1943 when PTs-153 and 158 (assigned to RON 9) were list as lost for this reason.

Reference materials:
Welford West today confirmed in own comments the recall this was the time of loss of the PT-153 and that as that resulted LT (Jg) S. B. Marshall was being reassigned to the 157's roster.

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Nathaniel Smith


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Nathaniel Smith   Send Email To Nathaniel Smith Posted on: Apr 28, 2010 - 2:49pm
Kelly received a Silver Star for the following:

"The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star to Commander [then Lieutenant Commander] Robert Bolling Kelly (NSN: 0-74949), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action as Commander of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron NINE (MBT-9), operating against enemy Japanese forces during the New Georgia and Bougainville Campaigns, Solomon Islands Area, in 1943. Displaying expert seamanship and superb courage, Commander Kelly personally led groups of his boats into combat against hostile barges, aircraft and shipping. Despite frequent bombing and fierce gunfire from barges and shore batteries, he daringly attacked the enemy, inflicting heavy damage and casualties. During the New Georgia Campaign, when a boat under his command was in danger of capture by the Japanese, he swam out to the threatened ship in daylight to remove confidential matter in order to prevent its falling into enemy hands and, although sighted and fired upon by a hostile shore battery, succeeded in carrying out his perilous mission. Commander Kelly's heroic leadership and indomitable fighting spirit reflect great credit upon himself, his command and the United States Naval Service."

I assume the event described in the last part of the citation was related to the action immediately following the photograph above.

This also appeared in TIME Magazine:

How to Keep a Secret
Monday, Sep. 13, 1943

Through the dark, night-hung waters off Rendova Island in the Solomons crept a sleek Navy PT boat, hoping for a crack at Japanese shipping. Suddenly shore batteries discovered the craft and opened up.

Bracketed, the PT weaved desperately to escape, then came to a grinding halt on the cruel edge of a coral reef which held the thin mahogany plywood hull like a bear trap. Jap fire was creeping closer. The youthful skipper ordered men to destroy secret devices and papers, gave the word to abandon ship. One enlisted man was killed on deck; the others swam through shark-infested waters to safety aboard another U.S. vessel.

Dawn, and a check-up of the rescued, brought bad news. The man killed aboard the PT had been assigned to go below and get one device of great importance; had he been able to dispose of it? It was not a matter for guesswork; capture of the equipment would give the enemy a priceless advantage in Pacific operations.

Stripping off his uniform, a young officer swam to the boat and hauled himself over the gunwale, dropping to cover as Jap shells whistled around him. The dead sailor was stretched out on deck, the secret device still clutched in his hand. The officer pried it loose, swam with it to deep water and let it sink out of sight.

In Washington, officers in PT corner of the Bureau of Ships glowed over this latest exploit of the expendables. They were unable to give the hero's name officially. Unofficially they had reason to believe he was Lieut. Commander Robert Kelly, one of the original members of Lieut. Commander John Duncan Bulkeley's squadron in the Philippines campaign.


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David Buck


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of David Buck   Send Email To David Buck Posted on: Apr 28, 2010 - 4:21pm
Hi to The Bridge, The photo showes PT157 leaving the Rendova Base at high speed on its way to Munda Point the position given for the two grounded Boats?
I was wondering if Captain Liebenow would be able to recall were they were on the Point .
The Ron 9 colour film gives a rough idea as to were it was but he would have about the best knowledge of their location haveing been there.


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Advanced Member

Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Shaneo2  Posted on: Apr 29, 2010 - 9:47am

I reckon about the grounded PT boats- I am fairly certain they are not ....matter of fact for all here, I can reasonably say they are "not", or did not go aground on Munda Pt. itself.

I think for "geographical purpose's" Munda Point is listed as the place of grounding. I wish I had this film clip when I went in 2009, as I probably been able to find the spot- and post results here. Now it will have to await a future trip.

Great photo, on the far right you can see Lumbari Island. The film clip of the grounding is outstanding- I can see and have some degree of certainty of where this took place. I talked to a local man who was alive during this time, he mentioned another area.... between his "recollection" and my guides "thinking he knew where this was", I can see from the film they were both dead wrong.


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