PT boats against the Tokyo Express

Tulagi PT boat base

Tulagi PT boat base

The IJN task force that the Guadalcanal PT boats fought with almost every night for 4 months, the Japanese simply termed the Reinforcement Unit, the “Rat Transportation.”  The bulk was composed of destroyers with a light cruiser as flagship.  The mission itself was simple enough: transport reinforcements and supplies to the Japanese 17th Army and continually bombard the Americans on Guadalcanal.

To the US forces, any Japanese presence in the waters of Ironbottom Sound was considered an “Express” because of the express-train timetable regularity of its nightly operations.  The sailors and Marines had a long list of colorful names for what one PT boat commander called “that nocturnal annoyance.”  The much-harassed Marines branded it the Cactus Express after the code name for  the island’s operations, and Insomnia Express due to the bombings; others were usually obscene.

Motor Torpedo Boat

Motor Torpedo Boat

One PT officer said later, “It was still the same as the Bougainville Express, but the Tokyo Express is what Admiral Halsey called it, and who were we to argue with him?”

The enemy called them the “Devil Boats” or “Green Dragons,” but here you will read the official comments from the “wooden wonders of Tulagi”________

Lt. Westholm

Lt. Westholm

5/6 November 1942
The Otsu Detactment delivered part of the Japanese 228th Infantry Regiment to Cape Esperance, while the KO Detactment landed Gen. ITO, comdr. of the 38th Infantry Group, his HQ and the remainder of the 228th at Tassafaronga. 206 construction workers and 142 solders returned to the destroyers. Lt. Taylor lost track of the ships in the darkness, 40 minutes later – the IJN Murasame dropped 5″ shells beside PT-39 and her gunners put out the destroyer’s searchlights and then escaped behind a smoke screen.

Lt. Nikoloric

Lt. Nikoloric

6/7 November
PT’s 37 and 48 sighted an enemy ship sailing on a westerly heading off Guadalcanal’s Koli Point. Lt. Nikoloric’s PT-37 fired 4 torpedoes, which missed. Lt. Gamble in PT-48 also fired 4, two of which were seen by the crew to explode. A large oil slick was seen in the area the next morning.

Lt. Robinson

Lt. Robinson

8/9 November
The Otsu Detachment was on a resupply and bombardment mission — among those on the receiving end of the shelling was South Pacific Force commander, VAdm. William Halsey, who was visiting Guadalcanal to see the Marines’ plight for himself. At 2144 hours, off Tassafaronga, 3 Japanese destroyers began battling with Lt. Robinson’s PT division. Lt. Robinson in PT-61 couldn’t fire because it was blocked, but PT-37 fired 3 torpedoes. One hit the elderly destroyer IJN Mochizuki, causing minor damage. The destroyers turned on their searchlights and began shelling the PT boats heavily, with one 4.7″ shell striking PT-61, blowing off her bow. The boats all escaped behind a smoke screen.

Lt. Taylor

Lt. Taylor

13/14 November
Adm. Nishimura’s bombardment force fired 989 rounds of 8″ ordnance onto Henderson Field with negligible results. Lt. Taylor’s PT-46 closed to 1,000 yards of a cruiser and fired 3 torpedoes, one he was certain was a hit. Lt. Gamble’s PT-45 with Lt. Searles aboard, fired 2 torpedoes at a destroyer and claimed 2 hits. Nishimura’s ships stopped shelling and retreated. Henderson Field suffered 18 planes destroyed and 32 damaged, but the field was still usable.

Lt. Searles

Lt. Searles

24/26 November
[Yamamoto started using submarines to resupply the men of the Japanese 17th Army]
I-17 and I-19 departed their base at Shortland Island loaded with about 20 tons of supplies each and arrived off Kamimbo Bay on the night of the 24th. I-17 was able to disembark 11 tons of her cargo before the arrival of the regular PT patrol and aircraft interrupted their operation. I-19 was unable to unload any supplies until the 26th.

7/8 December

The PT flotilla was bolstered by the arrival of 2 divisions of 4 boats each.  Two of these were under Lt. Westholm [pictured above], bringing the total number of PT boats to 16.  Lt. Searles in PT-59 closed to 100 yards of Capt. Sato’s flagship IJN Oyashio, strafing her bridge and decks with .50 caliber and 20mm cannon fire.

This information and more can be located at pt-king.gdine.com

#################################################################################

Military Humor – 

oldtowncanoes

And – home on leave…

shot

When they start out…

 

courtesy of Chris at Muscleheaded.

#################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Norman Bernasconi – AUS; RS Army # 146687, WWII, PTO, SSgt., 33/55/1st Army

Edward Case – Caldwell, ID; US Navt (Ret. 22 years)BN91311

Norma Delloyd – Gassville, AR; USO, WWII

Anthony Fria – Littleton, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Chuck Hutton – Lake Worth, FL; US Army, WWII & Korea

Michael Jozwik – Darien, IL; US Army, WWII, PTO

Christopher Kalafut – Oceanside, CA; US Navy, Middle East, Cmdr.

John C. Martin – Timaru, NZ; RAF, WWII, ETO, 485th & 222nd Squadrons, Flt.Cmdr.

Harold Panish – CT, US Army, WWII

Douglas Rowe – Rangiora, NZ; RNZ Army # 238303, WWII, Sgt., 23 Battalion

#################################################################################

 

Advertisements

About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 9, 2015, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. Enjoyed these accounts, as the daughter of PT-161 skipper and a PT squadron Captain in the Solomon Islands. I had never heard that the Japanese were also using submarines for resupplying their forces. Am currently finalizing my father’s own notes and war experience for a new post. First-hand accounts certainly give you a true perspective that you could only imagine otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am always looking for first-hand views, they add so much character. The military reports don’t express the personal side to all that transpired and by hearing those stories is the only way to know what truly happened. Thank you for continuing to read, Karen, I’m looking forward to seeing your father’s post!!

      Like

    • I thank you very much for helping to honor these troops, Penney. I sincerely hope your readers approve of it and add to this article; first-hand stories are so important. Although, I am unable to locate it on your sites.

      Like

  2. excellent and detailed text as always, thank you!

    Like

  3. Great reading gp, appreciate your efforts in supplying pics of those involved in the story.
    Unbelievable when reading these accounts, and hard to imagine the amount of different scenarios being played out, all at the same time at Guadalcanal.

    Like

  4. Terrific post. I have always admired the courage of the crews of the PT boats that made such a significant contribution to the war effort, so much so, I was inspired to build one a while ago: http://modelingmadness.com/review/misc/ships/us/reypt.htm
    Great post and a great site. Thank you for sharing again.

    Like

    • You did an outstanding job on that boat, Rich, you should be very proud of displaying both the model and that post!! And I agree, those men did a danagerous job and carried it off bravely!

      Like

  5. Reminds me of the Wooden Wonder..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Mosquito
    Just a bit of plywood..

    Like

  6. Reading this I felt as if I were watching the action on the Big Screen. Kudos, as always! Enjoyed the commentary from Mustang, too.

    Like

  7. The small boats did such a good job in so many theatres of the war. They were used widely by the British navy too, and to good effect by the Germans, who named them e-boats. They were responsible for one of the big disasters off the shores of the UK during WW2.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exercise_Tiger
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Like

    • I can see why they wanted to keep the result of this disastrous exercise operation quiet. I faintly remember hearing something about this catastrophe, but never knew the name to look up. You, Pierre, Steven, John and a few others are certainly giving me lessons on the ETO, thank you.

      Like

  8. GP

    This is not on the same subject as this post, but I found this link and I wanted you to read the speech written there…I think you will like it.

    http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1984/60684a.htm

    Like

    • A powerful and heartfelt speech by Pres. Reagan that almost makes you feel you were there watching the Ranger climb those cliffs. Thank you for contributing this link, Steven.

      Like

  9. Interesting article and like the fact that the little boats could work so well, Everett!

    Like

  10. Indeed, these pesky offensive boats were made famous by PT-109. To keep shipyards tending to full-time capital ship building, these vessels were made up with mahogany planks and plywood. They were initially a stop-gap measure in the war on Japan. They were intended to “fill in the gap” while true capital ships could be built.

    The first PT boats were ill-equipped with WWI era torpedo tubes and the notorious Mark VIII torpedoes. I understand that after the first few skirmishes, the at-station crews made numerous modifications themselves, like increasing fire power (even including installing mortars) and leaving some of their Mark 8s behind. The PT boats were not officially updated with the new racks and the better performing Mark 13s until from what I recall to be after the battle you write about.

    These courageous crews who received little training specific to PT boats lived on these boats and learned their trade in combat. While designed for hit and run attacks under the cover of darkness, these brave crews were forced into action at Guadalcanal as tiny destroyers, resulting in casualties and poor results. From what I recall, their crews (only one in four boats had radar) would normally attack at night but when they were picked up by the Japanese searchlights or flares, they became easy targets. While on the attack, it came down to essentially this: aim at the searchlights with their guns and torpedoes and hope for the best.

    While not able to sink many capital ships, they succeeded in irritating attacks on barge convoys, reporting on positions and enemy ship movements and importantly, search and rescue.

    It is interesting you brought up the I-19. She was the one sub responsible in Japan’s most deadly sub attack. In her one salvo of 6 torpedoes while under the command of her skipper Kinishi, the I-19 sunk the USS Wasp, the destroyer O’Brien and damaged the battleship USS North Carolina. And as you point out, these immense subs with the then best torpedo were doomed to become nothing but undersea barges.

    Like

    • Right on all counts, Koji. [as usual]. I omitted the many missed torpedoes by the boats due to the repetition, but you knew about their misses anyway. The upgrades the men did themselves were the result of ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ type ingenuity. Those Japanese submarines though we hear popping just about everywhere. One minute they’re here – then they’re over there, pretty ingenious themselves!

      Like

  11. There is something special about those tiny little boats punching uop against big ships. Wonderful!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: