A Ride Back Into History

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Today there are just two fully restored and operational Patrol Torpedo boats, or PT boats, left in the world, and only one of them saw service in World War II. That boat, PT-305, which performed more than 70 missions during the war, is now owned and operated by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, and is available for rides on Lake Pontchartrain.

PT boats gained fame during World War II for their exploits, sinking enemy ships at close quarters and performing other acts of derring-do. Three companies, Elco of New Jersey, Higgins of Louisiana and Huckins of Florida built 531 PT boats during the war. One of them, PT-109, became famous because its commander, John F. Kennedy, went on to become President of the United States. Kennedy’s boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer, making it one of the 99 boats that were lost during the war.

After the war, most of the remaining PT boats were destroyed by the US Navy because they were too expensive for a peacetime Navy. Each boat had three Packard 3A-2500, V-12 aircraft engines with as much as 1,850 hp each, which consumed vast quantities of high-octane gasoline. Hundreds of the PT boats were stripped of their armament, and their mahogany-planked hulls were burned on site so the Navy wouldn’t have to transport them back to the United States, which is why so few survived the war.

The 90-minute rides on PT-305 cost $350 per person. That may sound steep, but it’s quite a ride, and when you consider that at 45 mph the boat’s engines burn about 60 dollars of gasoline per minute, you can understand why the US Navy was so eager to dispose of them and why the ride isn’t cheap.

If you still haven’t gotten enough of PT-305 and want to know more about her history, you might want to watch this video about a veteran who sailed her during World War II and who after more than 70 years returns for a ride aboard PT-305.