Saturday, January 30, 2010

AT CLOSE QUARTERS PT Boats in the United States Navy

AT CLOSE QUARTERS PT Boats in the United States Navy

By Robert J. Bulkley

9781591140955 US Naval Institute Press Annapolis MD


Number of Pages: 604 Number of Photos: 109 Number of Line Art: 7 Total Illustrations: 116

Small though they were, PT boats played a key role in World War II, carrying out an astonishing variety of missions where fast, versatile, and strongly armed vessels were needed. Called "weapons of opportunity," they met the enemy at closer quarters and with greater frequency than any other type of surface craft. Among the most famous PT commanders was John F. Kennedy, whose courageous actions in the Pacific are now well known to the American public. The author of the book, another distinguished PT boat commander in the Pacific, compiled this history of PT-boat operations in World War II for the U.S. Navy shortly after V-J Day, when memories were fresh and records easily assessable. The book was first made available to the public in 1962 after Kennedy's inauguration as president of the United States interest in PTs was at a peak.

Bulkley provides a wealth of facts about these motor torpedo boats, whose vast range of operation covered two oceans as well as the Mediterranean and the English Channel. Although their primary mission was to attack surface ships and craft close to shore, they were also used effectively to lay mines and smoke screens, to rescue downed aviators, and to carry out intelligence and raider operations. The author gives special attention to the crews, paying well-deserved tribute to their heroism, skill, and sacrifice that helped to win the war.

Robert J. Bulkley, a retired USNR captain now deceased, commanded PT boats in the southwest Pacific, mostly in New Guinea and the Philippines, from June 1942 to war's end. This truly is reflected in the command of the subject he displayed.

The text flows well and being someone who thought he had a fairly good grasp on Second World War naval operations, was amazed at how much I learned. One example – a curious case of naval protocol, the individual boats were not commissioned ships but squadron units as in aircraft squadrons – but still flew the naval jack when moored.

This book represents the US Naval Institute Press at its best. This is why many long for a return to the days of the publisher being synonymous with high quality naval history instead of the various tangents that have been explored in the past several years.

The illustrations were truly impressive with one small error noted – a photo of a Royal Navy MTB was misidentified as a PT.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

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