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 Author  Topic: Higgins Hellcat
Frank J Andruss Sr


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The Beautiful HIGGINS HELLCAT PT-564.
Higgins Industries on their own initiative designed and built an entirely new boat, a 70-footer, which they called the Hellcat. Builder's trials, run on Lake Pontchartrain on 30 June 1943, were witnessed by officers of the Miami Shakedown Detail, who turned in an enthusiastic report to the Bureau of Ships. There was no doubt that the boat performed well: it made a top speed of 46 knots, and was able to reverse course in 9 seconds. A similar turn in a Higgins 78-footer (which could turn faster than the Elco 80') took 22 seconds. The boat had low silhouette and left little wake at idling speeds - good features for making a sneak attack. Visibility from the cockpit was superior to that of either of the standard boats.
On the basis of the report of the builder's trials, the Navy purchased the boat on 6 August 1943 and gave it a number, PT-564. A Board of Inspection and Survey ran trials for 5 days in September, during which the 564 averaged 47.825 knots on a full-throttle mile run, as compared with 40.12 knots averaged by a standard Higgins boat, PT-282. The smaller boat proved itself considerably more maneuverable than the larger one, and was cheaper and easier
to build.
The Board recommended that it should pass rough water trials, the new boat be put into immediate production and that construction of the 78-foot Higgins boat be stopped. The Bureau of Ships made a more cautious approach, stating, "If the operating forces are assured that a smaller, faster boat is required and are satisfied to accept the lesser armament and accommodations which can be built into a smaller boat, the Bureau is assured that Higgins and other PT builders could build such a boat."
At a Navy Department conference in November it was decided not to put the new model in production. Various considerations favored continued production of the larger types. Most of the PT actions in the Pacific at that time were against barges - the boats were being used primarily as gunboats and had to carry considerable weight in guns and ammunition in addition to their torpedo s. A big boat was required to carry the load. In many forward areas the crews had to live and eat aboard the boats for weeks at a time. The Hellcat had no galley or refrigerator; its living accommodations were inadequate for that type of operation. A new boat would require retooling. And though it had passed its trials with flying colors, there was a possibility that performance in service would disclose defects not apparent in the trials.


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