Revell PT 579/588 kit # 5165

The Elco was the prominent boat used in the Pacific, and it came into its own as a gunboat.  Proving especially effective when employed in the anti-shipping role against Japanese supply barges.  By the end of the war, pound for pound, the late model PT’s were the most heavily armed vessels in the US Navy.

Revell first issued a 72nd scale 80 foot Elco PT Boat, in 1963, to capitalize on the reported exploits of John Kennedy in PT 109.  The overall look of the kit was a pretty good representation, but the glaring eyesore was an overdone wood planked deck.  I lost count how many times I started this kit, always cutting off the cast superstructure, just to get rid of that planking, followed by a relatively quick loss of interest, partly because what I really wanted was a late production boat.  Revell’s latest PT Boat kit is a follow-on to their new tool early PT 109 and represents a late war Elco PT.

A review of the kit can be found here.
Building PT 489
Elco PT Boat 490 of Ron 33
Elco PT Boat 489 PT Squadron 33
MTB Squadron 33 Pt Boats
Elco PT Boat 493 of PT Squadron 33
Elco PT Boat 495
Rescue in Wasile Bay
from "At Close Quarters" by Captain Robert J Bulkley

The landings of the Morotai Task Force were supported not only by land based planes from Cape Sansapor but by Navy planes from six escort carriers. Carrier borne fighters made an early morning sweep over Halmahera on September 16, and one of them was shot down by antiaircraft fire over Wasile Bay, 60 miles south of Morotai.  The pilot, Ens. Harold A. Thompson, USNR, of Fighter Squadron 26 was wounded, but parachuted into the water several hundred yards from the shore.  Soon a Catalina rescue plane arrived on the scene and dropped a rubber raft to Thompson.  Thompson drifted shorewards until his raft fetched up against the side of a small unmanned cargo ship 200 yards from the enemy-occupied beach.  He tied the raft to the ship's anchor chain to keep from drifting ashore.  As long as their fuel held out, his squadron mates circled the area, strafing Japanese gun positions and keeping Thompson in sight.  When the squadron's fuel ran low, planes from other units arrived on the scene to continue harassing the Japanese.  About noon a Navy Catalina tried to land to rescue him, but was driven off by heavy antiaircraft fire.  In the meantime Thompson's plight was reported to Oyster Bay.  Early in the afternoon Lt. A. Murray Preston, USNR, commander of Squadron 33, got underway for Wasile Bay in PT 489 (Lt. Wilfred B. Tatro, USNR) accompanied by PT 363 (Lt. (jg.) Hershel F. Boyd, USNR).  Every officer and man aboard the two PT's had volunteered for the dangerous daylight mission.

Arriving at the 4-mile-wide entrance to the bay ahead of their air cover, the boats started to run in close to the western side to avoid mine fields and shore batteries to the east.  When the PT's were still 4 miles from the narrows, a heavy gun opened fire from the western shore.  Preston turned eastward, leading his boats at high speed across a suspected minefield to try the other side.  Not one, but three heavy guns opened fire from the eastern shore.  The boats were forced to retire.  They had hardly pulled out of range of the guns before fighter planes arrived to cover them.  They turned and started in again.  It took the PT's 20 minutes to pass through the straits and enter Wasile Bay.  The planes strafed both sides of the entrance but the big guns kept blazing away from both sides, dropping their shells much closer to the PT's than they had on the first approach.  Once inside the bay, which is nowhere more than 7 miles across, the boats were brought under heavy fire by many guns from both the northern and southern coasts.  A fighter plane laid smoke along the shore and guided the PT's to Thompson’s raft.  Shore batteries, planes, and PT's were all firing furiously as PT 489 came close aboard the cargo ship.  Lt. Donald F. Seaman, USNR, the Task Group Intelligence Officer, and Charles D. Day, MoMM1c, USNR, dived overboard from the 489, swam to the raft and towed it back to the 489.  During the 5 minutes that the PT's had to lie to while Thompson was being brought aboard, the boats raked the beach with their 40mm. guns, starting  several fires.  As a parting gesture they gunned up the cargo ship and left it ablaze.  Getting out of the bay was worse than getting in.  The fighter planes were running low on fuel and had to streak back to their carriers.  Now the shore batteries were free to fire in full volume.  For 20 minutes the PT's zigzagged at high speed across the minefield, big shells dropping within 10 yards of them.  At last they were out of range.  They had been under almost constant shellfire in broad daylight for 2 hours.

There were no casualties on either PT.  The boat's themselves were unharmed save for superficial damage from shell fragments.  Rear Adm. C.A.F. Sprague, commander of the carrier task force, said in a letter to Commander Bowling, "The consummation of this rescue in the face of the tremendous odds is characteristic of the highest traditions of our Navy.  The PT Squadron may well be proud of this act which is considered one of the most daring and skillfully executed rescues of the war."  For this action, Lieutenant Preston was awarded the "Congressional" Medal of Honor.  Tatro, Boyd, Seaman, and Day were awarded Navy Crosses.

Lt Cmdr Arthur M Preston Medal of Honor Presentation by President Truman
Lt Cmdr Arthur M Preston Medal of Honor Citation
Motor Torpedo Squadron 33
PT Squadron 33 Patch
The Final Disposition of the Wooden Fleet
from "At Close Quarters" by Captain Robert J Bulkley

In mid-August 1945, 30 squadrons of PT’s were in commission.  Nineteen were in the Seventh Fleet, six in the Pacific Fleet, three were being reconditioned in the United States for Pacific duty after combat in the European theater, one was shaking down in Miami, and one was the training squadron at Melville.  By the end of the year all had been decommissioned except Squadron 4, the training squadron, and the brand new Squadron 41.  In addition, there was Squadron 42, which had been fitting out in New York in August, and which was the only PT unit placed in commission after the end of hostilities.

The Navy Department properly got rid of most of the PT’s.  Their job was done, and because of their light wooden construction, they could not be stored away against future need as the steel-hulled ships of the fleet.  Indeed, many of the older boats, which had been kept running because of combat necessity, were no longer worth saving for any purpose.  All the boats in the Western Pacific were carefully surveyed. It was found that 118 hulls were defective because of broken frames, worms and dry rot, broken keels, cracked longitudinals, or battle damage.  These boats were stripped of all salvageable material and the bare hulls were burned on the beach at Samar.

The serviceable boats in the Pacific, after being stripped of armament and other military equipment, were turned over to the Foreign Liquidation Commission, and those in the United States to the War Shipping Administration for disposal.

Squadron 4, 41, and 42 were being saved for training purposes, but early in 1946, the Navy Department decided to retain only a few PT’s for experimental work.  Squadrons 41 and 42 were decommissioned in February and Squadron 4 in April.  Pt’s 613, 616, 619 and 620 , new Elco boats originally in Squadron 42 and later in Squadron 4, were transferred to the Operational Force – the last PT’s remaining in service.