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NavSource Online:
Motor Torpedo Boat Photo Archive

Courtesy of Tommy Trampp


Call sign:
Nan - William - Able - Peter

Sunk 9 August 1944

80' Elco Motor Torpedo Boat:

  • Laid down 6 October 1943 by the Electric Boat Co., Elco Works, Bayonne, NJ
  • Launched 29 December 1943
  • Completed 25 January 1944, placed in service under the command of LT Harry M. Crist, USNR and assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THIRTY FOUR (MTBRon 34) under the command of LT
    Allen H. Harris, USNR
  • MTBRon 34 had action in the English Channel area from June 1944 to October 1944
  • The "Sassy Sue" was sunk 9 August 1944 by gunfire and ramming from a German minesweeper in the English Channel off the Isle of Jersey at position 49º11'N., 02º15'W.


  • Displacement 56 t.
  • Length 80'
  • Beam 20' 8"
  • Draft 5'
  • Speed 41 kts.
  • Complement 17
  • Armament: One 40mm, 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-509 35k 7 June 1944
    Cropped from below photo
    Tommy Trampp
    Photo added 18 December 2021
    PT-509 144k Tide (AM 125) sinking off "Utah" Beach after striking a mine during the Normandy invasion, 7 June 1944. PT-509 and Pheasant (AM 61) are standing by. Photographed from Threat (AM-124)
    National Archives photo 80-G-651677
    Naval History and Heritage Command
    PT-509 119k August 1944
    Drawing showing PT-509s position
    Photo from PT Boats in World War II..., The Mosquito Fleet by Bern Keating (See The Channel Islands below)
    Tommy Trampp
    PT-509 80k 20 August 1944
    Wreckage of PT-509

    Boat Captains
    01LT Harry M. Crist, USNRJune 1944
    Courtesy Joe Radigan

    There is no DANFS history available for PT-509

    At the beginning of August the PT's were withdrawn from the Normandy invasion area. Nine were transferred to Portsmouth, England, to work with British MTB's and' MGB's patrolling off LeHavre, and 18 were assigned to Cherbourg, to replace British Coastal Forces in disrupting enemy shipping between the Channel Islands -- Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney -- and between the islands and the German hold-out garrisons at St. Malo [France] and the Île de Cezembre [France].

    At both of these bases, the PT's learned a patrolling technique new to them, which had been developed by the British Coastal Forces: the use of a destroyer or frigate to control the PT attack. A destroyer or frigate patrolled a line several miles long, with a division of PT's stationed at each end of the line. The destroyer, with radar superior to that of the PT's, spotted enemy targets and vectored the PT's in to the attack, passing ranges and bearings to them by radio. At Cherbourg, Lieutenant Sherertz rode the destroyer during these operations as officer in tactical command of the PT's, with Lt. Comdr. Peter Scott, RNVR, a veteran Coastal Forces officer, loaned to the task group as vector controller.

    On the night of August 8/9, destroyer Maloy [DE 791] patrolled a north-south line 6 miles long, west of the Island of Jersey. PT's 503 (Lt. James A. Doherty, USNR), 500 (Lt. Douglas S. Kennedy, USNR), and 507 (Ens. Buell T. Heminway, USNR) were stationed at the north end of the line, and PT's 509 (Lt. Harry M. Crist, USNR) and 508 (Lt. (jg.) Calvin R. Whorton, USNR) at the south. At 0530 the Maloy vectored the northern group to attack a group of six minesweepers moving south toward La Corbiere, the southwestern point of Jersey. The boats, running through a pea-soup fog, were unable to see the enemy and fired their torpedoes by radar, with no apparent results. Half an hour later Maloy vectored the southern pair of boats in to attack.

    Lieutenant Crist led them in through fog that limited visibility to 150 yards. PT 509 released one torpedo one-quarter mile off the enemy's port bow. PT 508's radar was not working and the minesweepers were not visible in the fog, so the 508 fired no torpedoes. The boats circled and went in for another attack. PT 508 still did not sight the enemy, but launched one torpedo on radio orders from Lieutenant Crist, who said the enemy ships were dead ahead. As the 508 turned away there was heavy firing between the 509 and a minesweeper on her port bow. The 508 could not engage the enemy immediately, since the 509 was directly in her line of fire. PT 508 heard the 509 report by radio, "I am directly in the middle," but when she had circled to port, could find no trace of the 509. The 508 rejoined Maloy at 0710.

    Fifteen minutes later Lieutenant Sherertz got underway in PT 503, with PT 507, to search the southern coast of Jersey for the missing boat. At 0800 the boats picked up a radar target in St. Helier roadstead. Just as they closed to 200 yards, the thick fog bank ledged off and an enemy minesweeper appeared dead ahead and bow on. The 503 fired one torpedo. Both boats opened fire with all guns, scoring many hits on the minesweeper's bridge structure, and retired under heavy return fire. Both PT's were hit. Two men were killed and four were wounded on the 503, and one was wounded on the 507.

    On August 10 a search plane found the body of one of the men of the 509, and on the 20th a bullet-riddled portion of the hull of the 509 was found floating in the Channel.

    The full story of the 509 will never be known, but part of it was learned after V-E Day, when prisoners of war on the Island of Jersey were liberated, among them John L. Page, RdM2c, USNR, the sole survivor of PT 509.

    After firing one torpedo by radar, Page said, the 509 circled and came in for a gunnery run. Page was in the charthouse, manning the radar; Lt. (jg.) John K. Pavlis, USNR, was at the wheel. Page remembered that the PT was moving along at a good clip and that it got up pretty close to the enemy and opened fire before there was any return fire from the minesweeper. But when the return fire came it was heavy and it was accurate. One shell exploded in the charthouse, knocking Page out. When he came to he was trying to beat out flames with his hands. He was wounded and the boat was on fire, but he still remembered to pull the detonator switch to destroy his radar set before he tried to crawl out on deck.

    When he reached the deck he found that the bow of the boat was hung up on the side of a 180-foot minesweeper. Everything aft of the cockpit was in flames. From the deck of the minesweeper, Germans were blazing away with small arms and tossing hand grenades down on the PT. Page chose the lesser hell and struggled painfully forward through the rain of bullets and exploding grenades. When he reached the bow -- he has no idea whether it took him 15 seconds or 15 minutes -- the Germans tossed him a line. He still had strength to take it, and they hauled him aboard the minesweeper. By the time they stretched him out on the deck his right arm and leg were broken and he had been wounded in 37 places. One heavy slug had ripped a hole through his back and lodged in his right lung.

    German sailors were working frantically with crowbars to free the flaming PT from the side. Eventually they worked it loose and almost immediately it exploded with a mighty roar. "I couldn't see it," Page said, "but I felt the heat of the blast."

    Page was taken to the crew's quarters, along with the German wounded and dead. "I managed to count the dead," he said. "There were 15 of them, and a good number of wounded -- it's difficult to estimate how many, because they kept milling around. I guess I conked out for a while. The first thing I remember is the first-aid man putting a pack on my back and arm. Then I could hear the noise of the ship docking. After they removed their dead and wounded, they took me ashore at St. Helier, [Jersey].

    "They laid me out on the dock for quite a while and a couple of civilians -- I found out later that they were Gestapo agents -- tried to question me, but they saw I was badly shot up, so they didn't try to question me any further."

    Page was taken to the former English hospital at St. Helier, where a skillful German surgeon performed many operations on him, removing dozens of bullets and fragments from every part of his body. He did not have his final operation until December 27, and though he was released to prison camp on January 2, he had to report back to the hospital for dressings every other day until the middle of March. While he was in the hospital the bodies of three of his shipmates washed ashore on Jersey. The British Red Cross took charge and saw that they were buried with full military honors.

    Page was annoyed from time to time by the Gestapo agents, but, he said, "I found that being very correct and stressing the fact that my Government didn't permit me to answer questions was very effective. They tried a few times and finally left me alone."

    He was liberated from prison camp upon the surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945.

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