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NavSource Online:
Motor Torpedo Boat Photo Archive


Call sign:
Nan - Yoke - Baker - Charlie

80' Elco Motor Torpedo Boat:

  • Laid down 24 June 1942 by the Electric Boat Co., Elco Works, Bayonne, NJ
  • Launched 10 September 1942
  • Completed 25 September 1942 and placed in service
  • Assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron SEVEN (MTBRon 7) under the command of LT Rollin E. Westholm, USN
  • MTBRon 7 was assigned to the Southwest Pacific, had action in New Guinea waters at Tufi, Morobe, Kiriwina, Dreger Harbor, and Aitape, and in Philippine waters at San Pedro Bay and at Ormoc. The
    squadron based for a time at Kana Kopa, New Guinea; Thursday Island, Australia; Ferusson Island, d'Entrecasteaux Group; and Mios Woendi, Dutch New Guinea, but had no action at these bases
  • Transferred 15 February 1945 to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THIRTY THREE (MTBRon 33) under the command of LT A. Murray Preston, USNR
  • MTBRon 33 was 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 Duchess", ex-"Arbie Barbie", ex-"Snafu" was placed out of service, stripped and destroyed by U.S. Forces 24 October 1945 at Samar, Philippines.


  • Displacement 56 t.
  • Length 80'
  • Beam 20' 8"
  • Draft 5'
  • Speed 41 kts.
  • Complement 17
  • Armament: Armament: One 40mm mount, one 37mm mount, two 20mm mounts, four 21" Torpedoes and two twin .50 cal. machine guns
  • Propulsion: Three 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 gasoline engines, three shafts.
    Click on thumbnail
    for full size image
    Size Image Description Source
    PT-137 316k c. July/August 1943
    Refueling at Morobe, New Guinea
    National Archives photo 80-G-53839
    Tracy White
    PT-137 288k c. 1944
    Jason Moran
    Photos added 2 November 2021
    PT-137 221k
    PT-137 145k c. October 1944
    Drawing showing position of PT-137
    Photo from PT Boats in World War II..., The Mosquito Fleet by Bern Keating (See BATTLE OF SURIGAO STRAIT below)
    Tommy Trampp

    Boat Captains
    01LTJG Isadore M. Kovar, USNR - Awarded the Navy Cross (1944)October 1944
    Courtesy Joe Radigan

    There is no DANFS history available for PT-137

    The Battle of Surigao Strait took place on the night of October 24/25, 1944. The battle was succinctly outlined by Fleet Adm. Ernest J. King in a report to the Secretary of the Navy: "The enemy was first met by our PT boats, then in succession by three coordinated destroyer torpedo attacks, and finally by devastating gunfire from our cruisers and battleships which had been disposed across the northern end of the strait by the officer in tactical command, Rear Adm. (now Vice Admiral) J. B. Oldendorf. The enemy was utterly defeated. This action is an exemplification of the classical naval tactics of 'crossing the T.' Rear Admiral Oldendorf had deployed his light forces on each flank of the approaching column and had sealed off the enemy's advance through the strait with his cruisers and battleships. By means of this deployment he was able to concentrate his fire, both guns and torpedoes, on the enemy units before they were able to extricate themselves from the trap. The Japanese lost two battleships and three destroyers almost before they could open fire. The heavy cruiser and one destroyer escaped, but the cruiser was sunk on the 26th by our planes."

    The destroyer Shigure was the only ship of Admiral Nishimura's force that survived the battle.

    Admiral Shima's force never really got into action. It was thrown off balance during its approach when a PT torpedo ripped into Abukuma, slowing the cruiser down so that it had to drop out of formation. Admiral Shima did reach the head of the strait, but no sooner had his cruisers launched a single ineffectual salvo of torpedoes than his flagship, Nachi, collided with the burning Mogami, of Admiral Nishimura's force. With his flagship damaged and slowed to 18 knots, and surmising the destruction of Nishimura's fleet, Shima fled, saving all of his ships except for Abukuma and destroyer Shiranuhi, which were sunk by planes during their retreat.

    So much for the broad picture; many details of the individual PT actions, however, were obscure. For instance, it was known beyond a doubt that it was a PT torpedo that hit the Abukuma. First, we had no craft except PT's within range of the Abukuma at the time she was hit. Second, Comdr. Kokichi Mori, Admiral Shima's staff torpedo officer, said he saw the PT's attack, and gave this account of the damage: "The wireless room which was under the bridge structure was hit and water came in and the crew in this room were all killed, and those above that room were suffocated by gas. She was down at the bow, reduced to about 10 knots, about 30 were killed . . . The remainder of the fleet went on leaving Abukuma with no escort. On a course of 010 after the attack, we increased speed to 26 knots and very frequently received torpedo attacks from the vicinity of Panaon Island, but no damage was done."

    The southern entrance to Surigao Strait was guarded on the west by Lt. Comdr. Robert Leeson's section: Lt. (jg.) Edmund F. Wakelin's PT 134, Ens. Paul H. Jones's PT 132, and Lt. (jg.) Isadore M. Kovar's PT 137. Leeson saw the gun flashes of the Japanese ships firing on Owen's boats, and reported this by radio. Thereafter both the 134 and 132 were able to report promptly all of their sightings. The 137's auxiliary generator had failed, leaving it without radio transmitter or radar.

    Half an hour after seeing the flashes, Leeson picked up radar targets 10 miles away. While tracking the targets the three PT's became separated, and thereafter operated independently. Leeson, in PT 134, had approached within 3,000 yards of what he believed to be two battleships and three destroyers, when the PT was caught in a searchlight beam. Shells fell all about the boat, bursting in the water on both sides and in the air overhead. The 134, firing its 40mm., 37mm., and 20mm., bored in for another 500 yards and launched three torpedoes. Between 3 and 4 minutes later the 134 was jolted by three underwater explosions. No explosion was visible, however, and the enemy ships appeared to continue on course. The 134 shook off the enemy fire and lay to close to the coast of Panaon Island. Soon four destroyers filed past, 1,000 yards away. Leeson launched his last remaining torpedo at the lead destroyer and watched it miss astern. During the next hour the men on the 134 saw other large ships, possibly Admiral Shima's force, pass through the strait, but they had no more torpedoes and could not attack.

    PT 132 found a destroyer lying to a mile off the southern tip of Panaon Island and closed to 1,200 yards. As Ensign Jones maneuvered his boat into firing position, the destroyer turned toward him, but did not open fire. Jones launched four torpedoes. One was erratic and the other three narrowly missed. He withdrew, then circled to return for a rocket attack, but could not find the destroyer again.

    Two destroyers almost slipped past the radarless 137 before Lieutenant Kovar spotted them. As it was, he was able to get away only one overtaking shot which missed astern. Two hours and 20 minutes later, at 0335, he saw an enemy destroyer coming back down the strait. He closed within 900 yards and fired one torpedo which, he said, "was observed to pass under the beam of the destroyer." A heavy underwater concussion jarred the PT, but there was no visible explosion. The destroyer illuminated the PT with starshell and fired several salvos at it before entering a cloud of heavy smoke which hung over the strait. Mike Kovar's torpedo, while missing the destroyer, was no dud. It plowed on through the sea and ripped into light cruiser Abukuma. The explosion killed about 30 men and slowed the cruiser to 10 knots. Abukuma fell out of formation and put into port. She was sunk off Mindanao on October 26 by Air Force bombers.

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