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Motor Torpedo Boat Photo Archive


Call sign:
Nan - Charlie - Sugar - Zebra

78' Higgins Motor Torpedo Boat:

  • Laid down 24 October 1942 by Higgins Industries, New Orleans, LA
  • Launched 4 March 1943
  • Completed 13 March 1943
  • Placed in service 19 March 1943 and assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron SIXTEEN (MTBRon 16) under the command of Lt. Comdr. Russell H. Smith, USN
  • MTBRon 16 participated in the Aleutian campaign from August 1943 to May 1944. Transferred to the Southwest Pacific, the squadron had action at Mios Woendi, Dutch New Guinea; Mindoro, P.I.; and
    Brunei Bay, Borneo. It also based for a time at Dreger Harbor, New Guinea, and San Pedro Bay, P.I., but had no action from these bases. As part of Task Unit 70.1.4, MTBRon 16 was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for action at Mindoro from December 15 to 19, 1944
  • The "Ball Buster" was placed out of service, stripped and destroyed by U.S. Forces 26 November 1945 at Samar, Philippines.


  • Displacement 56 t.
  • Length 78'
  • Beam 20' 8"
  • Draft 5' 3"
  • Speed 41 kts.
  • Complement 17
  • Armament: As built - Four 21" torpedoes, two depth charge racks aft, one 20mm mount and two twin .50 cal. machine guns
    1944 - Removed two aft torpedo racks and added a 40mm mount aft, one 20mm mount forward (later replaced by a 40mm mount)
  • 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 145k c. October 1944
    Drawing showing position of PT-223
    Photo from PT Boats in World War II..., The Mosquito Fleet by Bern Keating (See A JAPANESE TASK FORCE below)
    Tommy Trampp
    Photo added 18 January 2020
    PT-223 217k c. 1945 Wayne Traxel

    Boat Captains
    01LTJG Harry E. Griffin, Jr., USNR - Awarded two Bronze StarsDecember 1944
    Courtesy Joe Radigan

    There is no DANFS history available for PT-223

    Late in the afternoon of December 26, [1944] an Army pilot returning from a reconnaissance flight reported that an enemy task force of one battleship, one cruiser, and six destroyers was only 80 miles to the northwest of Mindoro, bearing down at a speed of 20 knots. It was the second enemy force sighted that day in Philippine waters. The other, a group of cargo ships and transports off Subic Bay, Luzon, already was under air attack by Mindoro-based planes. It seemed likely that the enemy planned an amphibious landing to regain control of Mindoro.

    All available planes were sent out to bomb and strafe the task force. When planes returned from Subic Bay, they were refueled, reloaded, and sent out to join the attack. Through most of the night the planes shuttled between the Japanese ships and the Mindoro strip, dropping their bombs and returning for more.

    While the Army ground forces deployed to meet the landing ashore, the PT's, the only Allied naval forces present, prepared to disrupt any invasion forces before they hit the beach. Lieutenant Commander Davis sent Lieutenant Commander Fargo with four PT's (80, 77, 84 and 192) to patrol to the north, and Lt. John H. Stillman, USNR, who succeeded Lieutenant Commander Colvin as commander of Squadron 16, with PT's 78, 76 and 81 to patrol near Ilin Island, off the entrance to Mangarin Bay. PT's 230 and 227 were stationed in outer Mangarin Bay, ready to support either Fargo or Stillman. Eleven other boats, all in poor condition because of hull or engine casualties suffered during the past 12 days' operations, were dispersed about the inner bay to protect the inner anchorage and to counter any landings on the southwestern coast of Mindoro below the main Allied defense perimeter. The two remaining boats of the task unit, PT's 223 and 221, already had departed from the base to carry an Army radar team and several guerrillas to Abra de Ilog, on northern Mindoro, and could not be reached immediately by radio when word of the approaching enemy was received.

    Davis reasoned correctly that if a landing were attempted, the PT's would be of greatest value when the transports closed the beach to put troops ashore. Then the PT's could attack the transports with torpedoes and use their machine-guns and depth charges against any ships' boats or landing barges that the transports might put in the water. For this reason and because the battleship, cruiser, and destroyer force already was under air attack, he instructed Fargo and Stillman to scout and report on this force, but not to attack until the enemy should approach the beach in the probable landing area.

    At 2030 Fargo's boats saw antiaircraft fire on the horizon, 40 miles to the northwest of Mangarin Bay. The firing continued intermittently for an hour, as the enemy fought off repeated air attacks. At 2115 there was a large flash followed by a steady glow in the sky, indicating that one of the ships had been hit and was burning. Then Fargo's boats picked up the enemy ships on their radars, and at 2150 clearly saw six ships 4 miles away. Five minutes later the enemy took Fargo's boats under intense and accurate fire, straddling the PT's on the first salvo. The boats were under fire for 80 minutes as they zigzagged to the south, and for nearly an hour they were under bombing attack by aircraft as well. Fearing that the aircraft might be our own, the PT's did not fire on them. While the shellfire was close, the only casualties were caused by aerial bombs. One exploded just off the stern of PT 77, damaging the boat and wounding the boat captain and 11 men. Another dropped close aboard PT 84, blowing a man overboard. Lieutenant Commander Davis, advised of the casualties by radio, instructed PT 84 to escort PT 77 back to the base. Fargo requested permission to attack, but was ordered to proceed with PT's 80 and 82 southward through the strait between Ilin Island and Mindoro in case the enemy should attempt an assault on the southern beaches. On their passage through the strait the boats were bombed by an enemy floatplane. They zigzagged at high speed and escaped damage. Stillman's boats, north of Ilin Island, observed the approach of the enemy and were taken under sporadic shellfire. None of the shells came closer than 100 yards. During the 2 hours that Stillman had the enemy in sight, the enemy ships were under almost constant air attack, a circumstance which undoubtedly affected the accuracy of shellfire. Stillman requested permission to attack. Davis, preferring to hold his boats in reserve for a last-ditch stand, ordered Stillman not to attack as long as our planes were still in action. Soon after midnight the enemy succumbed to the air attack and fled northward at high speed, shelling the beach on the way. The Army requested Stillman to search the southwest coast of Mindoro for evidences of a landing. He found nothing.

    The boats that had set out for Abra de Ilog with the Army radar team, Lt. (jg.) Harry E. Griffin, Jr.'s PT 223 and Lt. (jg.) E. H. Lockwood's PT 221, with Lt. Philip A. Swart, USNR, as section leader, had reached the northwestern tip of Mindoro before they received orders by radio to return to the base. They met the enemy task force as it steamed northward. Since the force was retiring, Davis gave permission to attack. As the PT's closed, the 221 was taken under heavy shellfire and retired, laying smoke. The 223, apparently unobserved, got two torpedoes away. There was a bright orangered flash on the third ship in line, followed by the sound of a heavy explosion.

    PT's searched the scene of action on the 27th. They picked up the man who had been blown over the side of PT 84. He was slightly waterlogged, but uninjured. They also picked up five Japanese sailors, survivors of the 2,100-ton destroyer Kiyoshimo, one of the newest and most powerful in the Japanese Navy. It had been damaged during the air attack and sank after being hit by one of PT 223's torpedoes.

    After the action, it was apparent that no invasion had been contemplated, and that the sole intention of the enemy had been to shell the airstrip. The enemy ships were so occupied with fighting off air attacks, however, that their bombardment was ineffective.

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