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Motor Torpedo Boat Photo Archive

PT-489



Call sign:
Nan - Easy - Item - Uncle

80' Elco Motor Torpedo Boat:

  • Laid down 5 August 1943 by the Electric Boat Co., Elco Works, Bayonne, NJ
  • Launched 27 October 1943
  • Completed 26 November 1943
  • Placed in service 2 December 1943 and assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THIRTY THREE (PTRon 33) under the command of Lt. A. Murray Preston, USNR
  • PTRon 33, assigned to the Southwest Pacific, had action at Aitape, New Guinea; Morotai in the Halmaheras; and San Pedro Bay and Panay in the Philippines. It also based for a time at Dreger Harbor and Mios Woendi, New
    Guinea, but had no action from these bases
  • The "Eight Ball" was placed out of service 24 October 1945
  • Transferred to the State Department, Foreign Liquidation Commission in May 1946 and sold
  • Currently undergoing restoration.

    Specifications:

  • Displacement 56 t.
  • Length 80'
  • Beam 20' 8"
  • Draft 5'
  • Speed 41 kts.
  • Complement 17
  • Armament: One 40mm mount, four 21" Torpedoes and two twin .50 cal. machine guns
  • Propulsion: Three 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 gasoline engines, three shafts.
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    PT-489 149k LCDR A. Murray Preston, USNR, receives the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman

    Medal of Honor citation reads:
    For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commander, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 33, while effecting the rescue of a Navy pilot shot down in Wasile Bay, Halmahera Island, less than 200 yards from a strongly defended Japanese dock and supply area, September 16, 1944. Volunteering for a perilous mission unsuccessfully attempted by the pilot's squadron mates and a PBY plane, Lt. Comdr. (then Lieutenant) Preston led PT-489 and PT-363 through 60 miles of restricted, heavily mined waters. Twice turned back while running the gauntlet of fire from powerful coastal defense guns guarding the 11-mile strait at the entrance to the bay, he was again turned back by furious fire in the immediate area of the downed airman. Aided by an aircraft smokescreen, he finally succeeded in reaching his objective and, under vicious fire delivered at 150-yard range, took the pilot aboard and cleared the area, sinking a small hostile cargo vessel with 40-mm. fire during retirement. Increasingly vulnerable when covering aircraft were forced to leave because of insufficient fuel, Lt. Comdr. Preston raced PT boats 489 and 363 at high speed for 20 minutes through shell-splashed water and across minefields to safety. Under continuous fire for 2 l/2 hours, Lt. Comdr. Preston successfully achieved a mission considered suicidal in its tremendous hazards, and brought his boats through without personnel casualties and with but superficial damage from shrapnel. His exceptional daring and great personal valor enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
    U.S. Navy photo NR&L (MOD)-32639

    Joe Radigan
    PT-489 61k 15 November 2010
    Undergoing restoration with PT-109 hull number
    Photo by RGSinn
    Robert Hurst

    There is no DANFS history available for PT-489
    RESCUE IN WASILE BAY

    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 minefields 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, MoMMIC, 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 Medal of Honor. Tatro, Boyd, Seaman, and Day were awarded Navy Crosses.


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