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NavSource Online:
Motor Torpedo Boat Photo Archive


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Nan - William - Item - Uncle

70' Higgins "Hellcat" Motor Torpedo Boat (Prototype):

  • Laid down in 1942 by Higgins Industries, New Orleans, LA
  • Completed 30 June 1943
  • Acquired by the Navy 6 August 1943
  • Placed in service 2 September 1943
  • Assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron FOUR (MTBRon 4) 27 November 1944 under the command of Lt. Comdr. Jack E. Gibson
  • MTBRon 4 was the training squadron, based at the MTB Squadrons Training Center, Melville, RI. It was the largest squadron, having a peak of 28 boats in service at one time. When the training center
    was decommissioned early in 1946, Squadron 4 was assigned to the Operational Development Force, and based at Solomons, MD
  • The "Hellcat" was placed out of service 1 February 1946
  • Struck from the Naval Register 25 February 1946
  • Transferred to the War Shipping Administration 2 July 1948 and sold
  • Acquired by the Israeli Navy and reclassified MTB-200
  • Fate unknown.


  • Displacement 40 t.
  • Length 70'
  • Beam 20'
  • Draft 4' 6"
  • Speed 46 kts.
  • Complement 11
  • Armament: Four Mk XIII 21" torpedoes, two twin .50 cal. machine guns and one 20mm mount
  • Propulsion: Three 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 gasoline engines, three shafts.
    Click on thumbnail
    for full size image
    Size Image Description Source
    Higgins "Hellcat"
    PT-564 125k c. June 1943
    Higgins Shipyard, New Orleans, Louisiana
    Library of Congress photos LC-USW3-034453-D, LC-USW3-034485-D and LC-USW3-034488-D
    Mike Green
    PT-564 148k
    PT-564 120k
    PT-564 370k 9 June 1943
    Outboard Profile and Deck Arrangement
    Historic Naval Ships Association website
    PT-564 536k 14 June 1943
    Inboard Profile and Arrangement Plan
    PT-564 299k . Jerry Gilmartin, MMC(SW), USN, Ret.
    PT-564 257k Seen here fitted with two experimental, fixed, remote-control, twin .50s
    Photo courtesy of Admiral Barry K. Atkins, USN, (Ret.) from U.S. Small Combatants: An Illustrated Design History by Norman Freidman
    Robert Hurst
    USS PT-564
    PT-564 122k Underway during 1943-45. She is armed with two twin .50 caliber machineguns, four Mark XIII torpedoes and a single 20mm gun. This boat, the Higgins "Hellcat", was smaller, lighter and faster than regular Higgins and Elco PTs. Though PT-564 ran extensive trials, the design was not selected for production
    National Archives photo 80-G-88183
    Naval History and Heritage Command
    PT-564 110k Underway at high speed in 1943-45. At the time of this photograph, she had been fitted experimentally with a pair of twin .50 caliber machineguns forward, in addition to her normal armament of four Mark XIII torpedoes, two .50 caliber twins in the superstructure and a single 20mm gun aft. This experimental boat ran extensive trials, but the design was not further produced.
    U.S. Navy photo NH 96499

    There is no DANFS history available for PT-564

    Higgins Industries on their own initiative designed and built an entirely new boat, a 70-footer, which they called the Hellcat. Builder's trials, run on Lake Pontchartrain on 30 June 1943, were witnessed by officers of the Miami Shakedown Detail, who turned in an enthusiastic report to the Bureau of Ships. There was no doubt that the boat performed well: it made a top speed of 46 knots, and was able to reverse course in 9 seconds. A similar turn in a Higgins 78-footer (which could turn faster than the Elco 80') took 22 seconds. The boat had low silhouette and left little wake at idling speeds - good features for making a sneak attack. Visibility from the cockpit was superior to that of either of the standard boats.

    On the basis of the report of the builder's trials, the Navy purchased the boat on 6 August 1943 and gave it a number, PT-564. A Board of Inspection and Survey ran trials for 5 days in September, during which the 564 averaged 47.825 knots on a full-throttle mile run, as compared with 40.12 knots averaged by a standard Higgins boat, PT-282. The smaller boat proved itself considerably more maneuverable than the larger one, and was cheaper and easier to build.

    The Board recommended that it should pass rough water trials, the new boat be put into immediate production and that construction of the 78-foot Higgins boat be stopped. The Bureau of Ships made a more cautious approach, stating, "If the operating forces are assured that a smaller, faster boat is required and are satisfied to accept the lesser armament and accommodations which can be built into a smaller boat, the Bureau is assured that Higgins and other PT builders could build such a boat."

    At a Navy Department conference in November it was decided not to put the new model in production. Various considerations favored continued production of the larger types. Most of the PT actions in the Pacific at that time were against barges - the boats were being used primarily as gunboats and had to carry considerable weight in guns and ammunition in addition to their torpedo s. A big boat was required to carry the load. In many forward areas the crews had to live and eat aboard the boats for weeks at a time. The Hellcat had no galley or refrigerator; its living accommodations were inadequate for that type of operation. A new boat would require retooling. And though it had passed its trials with flying colors, there was a possibility that performance in service would disclose defects not apparent in the trials.

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