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NavSource Online:
Motor Torpedo Boat Photo Archive


Call sign:
Nan - Baker - Able - William


77' Elco Motor Torpedo Boat:

  • Planned as Motor Boat Submarine Chaser, PTC-27
  • Reclassified PT-59 in June 1941
  • Laid down 26 July 1941 by the Electric Boat Co., Elco Works, Bayonne, NJ
  • Reclassified BPT-11 but never transferred to Great Britain
  • Reclassified back to PT-59
  • Launched 8 October 1941
  • Completed 5 March 1942, placed in service and assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron FOUR (MTBRon 4) under the command of Lt. Comdr. Alan R. Montgomery, USN
  • MTBRon 4 was the training squadron, based at the MTB Squadrons Training Center, Melville, R.I. It was the largest squadron, having a peak of 28 boats in service at one time
  • Transferred 7 May 1942 to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron TWO (MTBRon 2) under the command of Lt. Comdr. Earl S. Caldwell, USN
  • MTBRon 2 tested the first 70' Elco boats in Florida and Caribbean waters in the winter of 1940/41. In December 1941, with 11 new 77' Elco boats, the squadron was assigned to the Panama Sea Frontier.
    Then late in 1942, with six 77' Elco boats and six 80' Elco boats, it was shipped to the South Pacific, where it was active in the Solomons campaign, engaging in many strenuous night actions with the Tokyo Express in the defense of Guadalcanal
  • On 9 December 1942, three miles NE of Kamimbo Bay, Guadalcanal the Japanese supply submarine IJN I-3 surfaced to launch her Daihatsu barge, preparing to deliver her cargo. Lookouts on PT-59,
    under the command of LTJG John M. Searles, USNR, patrolling the area with the PT-44 discover the barge and submarine. PT-59 launched two torpedoes from 400 yards distance, one of which hits the stern of I-3. A geyser of water spouts high in the air, followed by a tremendous explosion. The second torpedo passes under the PT-44. LTJG Searles was awarded the Navy Cross for this action
  • Transferred 11 November 1943 to MTBRon 3(2) under the command of Lt. Richard E. Johnson, USN
  • MTBRon 3(2) was the first squadron to arrive in the Solomons, and fought many strenuous engagements with the Tokyo Express at Guadalcanal
  • Converted to a PT Gunboat
  • Transferred 7 August 1944 back to MTBRon 4, for training repair personnel
  • Reclassified as a Small Boat, C102584, 14 October 1944
  • Transferred 15 December 1944 to Naval Station Philadelphia, PA for use in dehydration and preservation tests
  • Surveyed 21 March 1947, sold to Captain Gus Marinak of Bronx, NY and named Sun Tan
  • Sold to Captain Donald Schmahl of New York and renamed Sea Queen V
  • An electrical short circuit caused her to catch fire and she burned at the pier adjacent to the 207th Street railroad bridge in Harlem, NY.


  • Displacement 40 t.
  • Length 77'
  • Beam 19' 11"
  • Draft 4' 6"
  • Speed 41 kts.
  • Complement 15
  • Armament: Two twin .50 cal. Browning M2 machine guns in Dewandre turrets and four 21" torpedoes (Gunboat conversion stripped all armament except the two twin .50 cal. machine guns, then adding
    two 40mm mounts and five .50 cal. machine guns)
  • Propulsion: Three 1,500shp Packard V12 M2500 gasoline engines, three shafts.
    Click on thumbnail
    for full size image
    Size Image Description Source
    PT-59 136k c. 1941
    Bayonne, NJ
    Under construction. PT-59 in the foreground, along with PT-58, center and PT-57, in the background
    PT Boats Public Group
    PT-59 133k 11 February 1943
    "A small boat party sent out by the Army Intelligence looks over a sunken Japanese submarine off the west end of Guadalcanal Island. The submarine was sunk during naval operations off the island and was one of largest type to be build by the Japanese."
    Crew of the PT boat PT-59 inspects the wreckage of the Japanese cruiser submarine IJNS I-1 at Kamimbo on Guadalcanal, February, 1943. I-1 had been sunk during January 1943 by the minesweeper HMNZS Kiwi (T 102) and HMNZS Moa (T 233)
    U.S. Army photo from "Guadalcanal, the Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle" by Richard B. Frank
    U.S. Army Signal Corps photo 111-SC-243966 from the National Archives
    Robert Hurst
    PT-59 120k In September 1943, Lt. (j.g.) John F. Kennedy went to Tulagi and accepted the command of PT 59 which was scheduled to be converted to a gunboat. In October 1943, Kennedy was promoted to Lieutenant and continued to command the motor torpedo boat when the squadron moved to Vella Lavella until a doctor directed him to leave PT 59 on 18 November. Kennedy left the Solomons on 21 December and returned to the U.S. in early January 1944
    Photo courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum
    PT-59 198k c. October 1943
    Deck plan and side profile of PT-59 from "Allied Coastal Forces of World War II: Volume II" by John Lambert and Al Ross
    PT-59 48k After conversion to a "Gunboat"
    Illustration by Joseph Hinds
    Joseph Hinds
    PT-59 105k c. August/November 1943
    Original photo: Jerry Gilmartin, MMC, USN, Ret.
    Replacement photo: PT Boats Public Group
    PT-59 80k 10 March 1945
    Naval Shipyard Philadelphia, PA
    Arriving on board YC-256
    PT Boats Public Group
    PT-59 83k
    PT-59 241k 11 March 1945
    Naval Shipyard Philadelphia, PA
    PT-59 127k 21 May 1945
    Naval Shipyard Philadelphia, PA
    Engineroom looking forward
    PT-59 87k 21 May 1945
    Naval Shipyard Philadelphia, PA
    Tank compartment looking forward
    PT-59 72k 21 May 1945
    Naval Shipyard Philadelphia, PA
    Officer Quarters, Starboard side looking forward
    PT-59 78k 21 May 1945
    Naval Shipyard Philadelphia, PA
    Crew's Quarters, starboard side looking forward
    PT-59 88k 21 May 1945
    Naval Shipyard Philadelphia, PA
    Tank compartment looking forward
    Sea Queen V
    PT-59 133k Captain Donald Schmahl's Sea Queen V underway out of Manhattan, NY, 1970
    Photo courtesy of Bill Fedison from Mel's Place
    Robert Hurst
    PT-59 80k c. 1974
    Harlem River, NY
    PT Boats Public Group

    Boat Captains
    01LT Charles A. Mills, Jr., USNRApril 1942
    02LTJG John M. Searles, USNR - Awarded the Navy Cross (1942)December 1942
    03LT David M. Levy, USNRMay 1942 - September 1943
    04LTJG John F. Kennedy, USNR - Awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal (1943)
    Elected the 35th President of the United States
    September 1943
    05ENS J. Atkinson, USNRJanuary 1944
    Courtesy Joe Radigan and Joel Wiltgen

    There is no DANFS history available for PT-59
    PT-59s First Victory:

    At about 5:30 on April 9, 1942, PT-59, Lt. Charles A. Mills, Jr., USNR, in command, departed Melville, Rhode Island, for a cruise around Narragansett Bay. The boat skirted Dyer Island, and them changed course southward for some practice torpedo runs. This entailed setting the keys into the firing switches and cranking the launchers so that they pointed a few degrees outboard. All seemed in order, and Mills ducked below for a few minutes to check his charts, to be sure he headed for the proper practice area in Rhode Island Sound, beyond the submarine nets that prevented Hitler’s U-boats from entering Narragansett Bay. He was below for hardly a minute or two when he heard a loud noise, felt the boat shudder, and through a porthole espied a trail of smoke and a spinning propeller vanishing over the rail. An officer-in-training on the bridge had turned the firing key for one of the torpedoes the full 90° necessary to fire a torpedo!

    Mills ran the few steps up to the bridge, quickly determined the track of the torpedo, and gave chase. Although concerned, neither Mills nor any of his crew were overly worried. The torpedo was a 21-inch Mark 8. Although the World War I vintage 21-foot long Mark 8 carried 320 pounds of high explosives at 35 knots for as much as ten miles, it had a reputation for unreliability. At least half the time, the torpedo rolled erratically, nose dived, went off course, or even began turning in circles.

    Alas, PT-59’s Mark 8 fired did none of these things. In fact, it ran proverbially "hot, straight, and true." Tension began to rise. One sailor called out, "Come on, screw up. Every other one does!" But the torpedo was a good one.

    Mills followed the torpedo at some distance, fearful of getting too close, lest it explode prematurely. He also radioed the Harbor Defense Command, to warn them of the danger. Not surprisingly, personnel at that headquarters thought he was making a very bad joke, and it took several tries before Mills convinced them of the danger. Meanwhile the torpedo headed straight for the anchorage off Jamestown, across the bay from Newport Harbor.

    With considerable good luck, the torpedo passed off the southeastern end of Prudence Island, just missing a pier loaded with depth charges. Three miles into its run the torpedo struck the USS Capella
    , a 4,000-ton Navy supply ship that had just anchored off Jamestown on Conanicut Island. The resulting blast sent a column of water into the sky, as cargo and a floatplane were blown into the water. The stricken ship began listing to starboard and settling by the stern.

    Reacting quickly, Mills brought his boat up alongside Capella’s port side, while his crew passed a 6-inch line over to the stricken vessel. Working together, the two crews fashioned a spring line. Once the two vessels were tied together, Mills revved his engines to 1,400 rpms. By maneuvering the spring lines, PT-59 managed to shift Capella to shoals, where she grounded.

    PT-59 had scored her first “victory.”

    Footnote: Afterward

    Capella. Although there was considerable damage to the ship’s cargo, only eight men were injured, mostly by sprains and fractures. The ship was refloated a few days later, towed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and repaired by mid-May. She continued in service, carrying supplies to installations up and down the East Coast, until the end of the war.

    PT-59. Although Lt. Mills’s career did not prosper in the aftermath of the incident, PT-59 went on to render excellent service in the South Pacific. In mid-1943 she was converted into a motor gunboat. In that guise, on October 28, 1943, she helped evacuated wounded men from the Marine 1st Parachute Battalion, then engaged in a raid on Choiseul Island. Her commander at the time was LT John F. Kennedy.

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    This page created by Joseph M. Radigan and maintained by Tom Bateman
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