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 Author  Topic: The official end of PT 659...

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Jun 12, 2008 - 4:23am
I hadn't heard about this...sorry if it was posted earlier (it didn't pop up on a search)

Dreams of restoring WWII PT boat end

By Stephanie Rice - The Columbian via AP
Posted : Thursday May 15, 2008 6:07:08 EDT

VANCOUVER, Wash. Over the past dozen years, a group of Vancouver enthusiasts had voiced high hopes for PT Boat 659.

A glorious restoration. A waterfront display. A captivating lesson for those young uns who dont appreciate the role the fast, powerful patrol torpedo boats played in World War II.

On Monday, those dreams were drowned out by the growl of a reciprocating saw.

Among those watching the demolition near Pearson Field were Jerry Pierce, a retired carpenter and history buff, and Tom Czekanski, director of Collections & Exhibitions for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Pierce, who brought along a 4-foot-long model he built of the boat, said it was too bad the ambitious restoration plans were never realized. Hed read about PT Boat 659 several years ago and was drawn to the vessel.

The fact that the poor thing was sitting here, waiting for people to save it, Pierce said.

Not all of the boat was destined for the scrap heap, however, Czekanski said.

Parts are being salvaged enough to fill three 18-wheeler trucks and will be used in the $5 million restoration of PT Boat 305, Czekanski said.

Its always a shame to see one of these go, he said, over the noise of the saw. But if it wasnt going to be restored, its better to salvage.

Czekanski received the go-ahead from the Navy, which owns the boat, to take 659 apart.

PT Boat 659 arrived in Vancouver in 1996, months after a committee began working to secure the donation and transport of the boat from Camp Withycombe in Clackamas County, Ore., where it had been stored for years.

Sam Jones, who led the efforts, said Monday he hadnt known the boat was being taken apart. He stepped down as president of the PT Boat Council several years ago because of health problems. Judith Davis, who took his place, could not be reached Monday for comment.

In 2004, Davis acknowledged the groups inability to raise enough money to restore the boat and announced plans to send 659 to the New Orleans museum.

I had mixed emotions at first, she said in 2004. We finally all agreed this was the best solution.

But 659s trip to New Orleans never happened, Czekanski said, because moving costs were prohibitive: an estimated $350,000.

Even if they had splurged, hes not sure how 659 would have handled the trip. It has been sitting so long in the rain and it hadnt held up well, he said. Load up the 50-ton vessel and send it on a long road trip, and youd just be shaking parts off.

Instead, the museum went after PT Boat 305 which, unlike 659, saw action during the war and sank two German ships while deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. Also, 305 didnt have to be moved across the Rocky Mountains: It was in Galveston, Texas, a few hundred miles from New Orleans.

The draw of PT boats is their place in American culture. John F. Kennedy commanded PT 109 in the Pacific theater during the war. The boats later received more attention through McHales Navy, a television show that aired for four seasons in the 1960s, and John Wayne and Robert Montgomery starred in They Were Expendable, a movie about PT boats.

Czekanski credited the appeal to their underdog status.

At the start of the war, the Navy was outmatched by Japans larger fleet, he said. But the fast PT boats were heavily armed and highly maneuverable vessels that could harass larger enemy ships while avoiding detection.

This was the war where PT boats really made a difference, he said.

Grandson of James J Stanton
RON 15 PT 209 and RON 23 PT 243
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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 12, 2008 - 5:59am
Such a sad end to a wonderful boat. It is times like this that I would really ask God to bless me with millions so that I could send money for Cancer to St. Jude, give some to the Church, take care of my Family, and restore a PT Boat like this one. Since that will never happen, I can only hope the items from salvage will help to make a beautiful boat when completed............

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  Jerry Gilmartin


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Jerry Gilmartin   Send Email To Jerry Gilmartin Posted on: Jun 13, 2008 - 12:29am
Hello message board members. I have a little knowledge about this boat and its history. We have been trying to get the people over in Vancouver Washington (located about 10 miles from PT658) to come out and do something for this boat the PT659 for at least 10 years now. As far as I know, this Mr Pierce never made any appearances when we were working on the boat. I think it is kind of ironic that when some people see finally something happening to the boat all of these supposed volunteers magically appear out of the woodwork but where were they when we needed them to help work on the boat? Did you notice in that photo he is holding a model of an 80 foot Elco and not a 78 foot Higgins? I had to laugh! The Save the PT Boat Inc group at one time had possession of the PT659, but when we obtained her sister boat, the PT658, we decided to keep the boat in the best shape, for eventual complete restoration. In fact, the engines and screws from the PT659 are now installed and working inside the PT658. In order to do this, we had to donate the PT658 back to the Navy to co-mingle the parts from the two boats. We were also actively working with Jerry Strahan and Tom Czekanksi in New Orleans, for the original plans for them to move the complete 659 boat to N.O. and restore the boat. But then they located the PT305 and did not want the 659 any more. I met Tom and he is a fantastic individual who will be very successful in restoring the PT305 and using some of the parts from the 659 boat. We assisted Tom as much as he needed us, and he spent a whole week here cutting it up and loading the parts into the 18 wheelers.
While I admit it is a sad demise for the old PT659, at least she will not have been wasted in vain, since a lot of her parts, including the entire transom and last 20 feet of the stern will be grafted on to the 305 to make her 78 feet long once again. The 305 was cut down to 58 feet long earlier in the 1950's for use as an oyster seed boat up on the Chesapeake Bay I was told. Perhaps she should be renumbered as the PT964 (305+659) in order to represent both boats! I feel both sad yet relieved that the 659 has been reclaimed. It was a very sad sight to see how much the group over in Vancouver had let the boat deteriorate. The city commission wanted it to be gone, and if they had their way it would have been burned. Nobody appreciates these old boats anymore, so I am glad that Tom got it for use in New Orleans at the WW2 Museum, Jerry

Jerry Gilmartin

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Jun 13, 2008 - 3:45am
I noticed the Elco Jerry...I pulled the punch though! I admit chuckling to myself...

Honestly, after reading about PT 305's plans and seeing the work you folks have done (I bought at watched "Devil Boat") I don't have a problem with the fate of 659. On the surface you would hope that every hull would be restored but when you actually get down to the nitty-gritty it can't always happen. To take three hulls (or hulks!) and work them into two restored, accurate and working PT's is a fair deal.

If anything, its great to see the 659 used to the last part - it would have been sad to see her burned or hauled to a landfill.

Grandson of James J Stanton
RON 15 PT 209 and RON 23 PT 243
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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: Jun 13, 2008 - 9:03am
James, Jerry, and Frank;
I don't have a problem with it either, it is called "robbing Peter to pay Paul", it is the same they did at Tulagi, the same B-17's did, the same the Black Sheep did, canabilize the junker to get another one running. They even did this to PT 308 "LA DEE DA" in Dagsboro, Del., her original damaged cabin and other parts were stripped and taken to Texas to complete PT 309 " OH FRANKIE!". They used them as templates, to build the new ones. I just hop this does not happen again.
take care,

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  Wayne Traxel


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Wayne Traxel   Send Email To Wayne Traxel Posted on: Jun 13, 2008 - 1:07pm
These photos of PT-659 enclosed were taken in the early 90's by the late Duane Fose and avid modeler and my RC boat Buddy, who was a colonel in the Army Reserves. I've been surprised to learn over the years of many Army types interested in PT's and Duane loved the Higgins.

During one of his two weeks of military duty in Portland Oregon in 1990 or 91. The boat had been shipped from California to Portland and was going to be restored back then on either a National Guard Armory or Army Reserve base when these pictures were taken.

Have noticed that the Bull nose and towing ring is still on the stripped down 659 is still in place. The modeler in me says they forgot some very rare items.

Wayne Traxel

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Jun 13, 2008 - 2:08pm
Ya know guys?

Even though this news is sad, I am not totally surprised by it. I mean you've got to admit - the 659 was in bad shape and no one was doing anything to take care of it, it was just falling apart anyway, and I am sure - due to its condition - it would NEVER see water again.


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David Waples


Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of David Waples  Posted on: Jun 13, 2008 - 7:52pm
I would have loved to had some of those planks to make model bases. What a great way to display a model of one of these proud boats.

David Waples

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Jun 16, 2008 - 2:22pm
Indeed David. Indeed.

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Nov 25, 2009 - 8:09am

I have some of the discarded materials from the restoration of the 305. The person in charge of the project for the D-Day Museum (NoLa) has given me permission to use the materials as I see fit.

I would hate to see any part of this legacy be thrown into a landfill. The pieces I have are in very bad shape but I wanted to see if any modelers on here could use them. A couple of people posted that they may be able to. I am not looking to sell them I did want to discuss the possibility of having a Higgins replica for myself. If anyone is interested respond here or email me. I have more of the same pictured. There are a lot of brass screws and bolts, some metal. The only markings are 59 which I am told is related to the frame number and not the boat number. The pieces are from the 659.

(disregard the date on the pics. The pictures were taken today)

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