Patrol-torpedo boats designed by Higgins Industries were not equipped with portholes. They also did not have air conditioning, meaning summer nights in the crew’s quarters were hot and stuffy. In September 1944, PT-305 briefly operated out of Saint-Tropez, France, but that short time was long enough for the crew to transform the boat. Torpedoman’s Mate Jim Nerison wrote about the change he made to PT-305:
“Squadron 22 was moved to Saint-Tropez in southern France. We took over an upscale marina and hotel on the French Rivera. Close to the marina was an abandoned boatyard containing quite a few damaged yachts. A buddy and I were nosing around the yard and noticed some brightly polished bronze portholes on one of the vessels. We went back to our boat, got some tools, returned, and removed two of the ports.
“On the condition that the ports would be sealed during night operations, I got permission from the skipper to install them on each side of the hull of our boat. To obtain better ventilation, I mounted one next to my bunk in the crew’s quarters and one on the opposite side of the boat.
“Almost 60 years later, in the ‘All Hands’ section of a publication distributed by PT Boats Inc., I came across a picture of a boat claiming to be PT-305. The boat was being used as an oyster scow in the Chesapeake Bay. It had very little resemblance to the boat that I remembered, except the general hull design and the configuration of the wood planking on its sides. Then I noticed the porthole on the starboard side up near the bow. Yes indeed, that was PT-305! She didn’t look like the fast, powerful and daring vessel originally commissioned in New Orleans, but then, neither do the two surviving members of her original crew.”
Portholes were also installed in the officer’s quarters of PT-305, and several other PT boats in Squadron 22 installed portholes as well. All of the original portholes were still installed in PT-305 when The National WWII Museum acquired the boat in 2007. In 2015, they were restored and returned to their wartime locations on the hull.
Read more about PT-305 here. Read more about PT-305’s nickname U.S.S. Sudden Jerkhere.
PT-305: A service-era photo showing one of the custom portholes.
Patrol-torpedo boats were only given a numerical hull designation, unlike their larger counterparts. Crews were allowed to give their boats a nickname, and often got creative. Nicknames for some of PT-305’s squadron mates were USS Cherry (PT-304), La-Dee-Da (PT-308), Oh Frankie (PT-309), and Sea-wolf (PT-313). PT-305 was given two confirmed nicknames during the war, the first coming from a crew mishap, as told by Baker First Class Benedict Bronder, from Minnesota. Bronder came aboard PT-305 with the first crew in 1943.
“The one we had was Sudden Jerk,” he said. “And the way they got that (was) they were backing in to park it and they sped up a little bit too much and when it come back, it hit where it was tied up. And they said ‘That was a sudden jerk!’ and then they said, ‘That’s a good name!’ It didn’t ruin anything on the boat, but that’s where it got the name Sudden Jerk.” She carried that name throughout 1944 and into 1945, when a new crew renamed her. Stay tuned for the story of the Half Hitch!
Service-era photo: Lieutenant William Borsdorff, from New York, served as the first commanding officer aboard PT-305 from November 1943 until June 1944. He then took a squadron command position and directed patrols. He is shown here in late 1944, aboard the USS Sudden Jerk in Leghorn, Italy. Photo gift of Mitch Cirlot 2014.445.086.
A huge thanks to the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in association with the Tawani Foundation, who yesterday made a $100,000 commitment to the PT-305 project—including a $10,000 direct pledge to our “Launch PT-305” Kickstarter campaign! This gets us closer to our $100,000 Kickstarter goal and marks a significant step toward our overall fundraising goal.
As of this morning, we have surpassed $50,000 in pledges to launch PT-305! Thank you for your phenomenal support—but the campaign is far from over. We still need your help to share this project! If you haven’t already please share with friends and family via email, social media, and word of mouth.
Yesterday we also completely maxed out at the “CDR” $2,500 level so we’ve now upped the limit to 20 as a way of thanking our supporters and inspiring more high-level pledges.
PT-305 is also making quite the buzz around town and across the country. Check out a few of the news hits below:
We need your help to get the world’s only restored and operational combat-veteran PT boat back in the water!
Over the next 30 days, we’re crowdfunding a goal of $100,000 on Kickstarter to return our restored patrol-torpedo (PT) boat PT-305 to her home waters of Lake Pontchartrain, where she was originally tested by Higgins Industries more than 70 years ago.
WWII patrol-torpedo boats were a perfect naval expression of the American Spirit at war. Today, just four of these combat-veteran PT boats still exist in the United States. PT-305 is the only one that is fully restored.
Now, after a $3.3 million restoration effort and more than 100,000 hours of work by a dedicated corps of over 200 volunteers, PT-305 is ready to hit the water.
BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP TO FINISH THE JOB!
We need to raise $100,000 by April 8, 2016, to get PT-305 back to her home waters of Lake Pontchartrain. To raise the money, we need all hands on deck to make this a reality.
Join us on Friday, March 11, at our third annual Drafts for Crafts event for an evening of delicious food, open bar, live music, and a bit of history raising funds for PT-305 at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE
Learn more about PT-305’s history and restoration at www.pt305.org.
PT-305’s original flags. In the frame, the battle flag is pictured above while the commissioning flag lies below it.
The Museum’s PT-305 restoration project recently received a valuable piece of the boat’s history this past September when the boat’s original flags were returned to the vessel. The flags were donated by Mitch Cirlot, the son of one of the original crew members on PT-305, Joseph Cirlot.
Mitch’s dad, Joseph, was the longest serving sailor on PT-305. According to Mitch, how his father ended up with the flags is because he was the last one to rotate off the boat. Joseph’s skipper asked him to take the battle flag and the commissioning flag home with him. He was also given the captured Nazi flag containing the signatures of the PT boat squadron sailors.
With the donation of these flags, Mitch also gave a photograph of his father’s wife Marion Cirlot that was affixed to Joseph’s bunk within PT-305 during the war. Our restoration crew will be placing this photograph back in Joseph’s bunk just as it was nearly 70 years ago during World War II.
We would like to reach out to the families of PT-305 and obtain photos of the crew’s sweethearts, wives, and family that would have likely attached to the bunk. If you have anything to share with our restoration crew about PT-305, please contact us here.
Our dedicated crew of PT-305 volunteers have been hard at work on this major restoration process this summer. Here are a few updates from them on their progress.
July 18, 2012
Doc is sanding a splice on one of the 80 foot deck pieces.
The last few weeks of hard work paid off with laughter this Saturday as 10 volunteers wrangled one 80 foot board onto the deck of PT-305 to make sure it was long enough. Laughing the whole time, the crew bent the board around the back of the boat, into the wood shop and curved up onto the deck. The original top layer of deck consisted of two inch wide mahogany planks in the longest lengths available at the time. This resulted in butt joints, where the flat ends of the boards are pushed together in the same manner as a wood floor in a home. The last eight weeks have seen the completion of fore peak structure from the chine up and the final installation of all remaining deck and side hull ribs.
Frank’s crew, after finishing the work on the stem, have been working hard to finish fitting the remaining side hull ribs. These ribs need to be fitted into the side of the boat before the covering board is installed. The reason this task has taken weeks to complete is due to the lack of good blueprints for the foreword section of PT-305. The volunteer marine engineers have been working on developing the curvature of the foreword ribs by following the survey of the original hull curvature. Because of this complication, Frank has had to fit each rib blank to the boat as its built. This means installing and removing the same pieces multiple times to make slight adjustments until they are properly fit. Now that these ribs are installed the covering board can be installed on the deck. (more…)
The major goals for the PT-305 restoration crew over the last few weeks have been the fitting and installation of the stem, building the ammunition locker, and the replacement of hull and deck ribs. With the “Wood Butchers” hard at work towards these goals the front section of PT-305, she is on the verge of having all of her hull structure back into place.
The stem is the upward curving extension of the keel at the bow, which forms the very front of the 305. This installation brings the keel, sheers and chines all together, which makes it an important structural element in the hull. With the sheers complete, the last few weeks have been spent building and installing the chines.
This photo shows the chines and sheers in place. Permanently attached further back, they were only clamped to the stem, until it was permanently put into place. After the stem attachment, the crew permanently attached the chine and sheers to the stem with large bolts.
The chine of a boat is the meeting of the side and lower hull. In the case of PT-305 it is a hard chine, meaning there is a sharp angle that defines this intersection. The chine runs the length of PT-305 on the port and starboard sides. Due to the deterioration of the existing chine it was decided replace the foreword 20 feet of the port and starboard chines, splicing it into the original chine.
After a few lessons learned in gluing up the sheer, which included splitting apart a 20 foot glued section as the crew tried to attach it to the boat, the process was streamlined, and project coordinator Bruce Harris and volunteer Frank came up with the plan of attack. Three boards would be glued together on the boat to get the curve, then they would be removed, shaped and reinstalled as finished pieces. This process took three weeks to complete. After two weekends of glue-ups the chine was removed in order for Bob and Frank to use electric planers to shape it. Once both port and starboard chines were shaped they were installed, clearing the way for the installation of the stem.
Weekday volunteer Louis works on clamping a freshly glued piece in place on the starboard chine.
The stem consists of three main components, the forefoot, the backing block and the stem. The forefoot is attached to the keel and curves upward, the stem is attached to the forefoot and continues the curve up to the deck, and the backing block secures the forefoot and stem together. When removed from PT-305, all of these structures were too compromised to put back into place, each one would need to be rebuilt. The forefoot and backing block were built by laminating wood from other parts of PT-305. When a part cannot be used in its original location we recycle it by using it to make different piece for the boat. .
The crew created the components which make up the stem by gluing multiple layers together to from blocks of wood . These blocks were then shaped into the forefoot and the backing block. The final piece, the stem, was rescued from PT-659 when she was scrapped. The forefoot and backing block were the first pieces permanently installed. The stem installation could not be done until the chines and sheers were completed.
This photo shows the restoration work that can be done by the crew. This is the stem of PT-659, a Higgins WWII original, that has been restored by removing soft, rotten spots of the wood and replacing them with strong, new mahogany pieces.
Although backing block and forefoot had been installed permanently for several weeks, the stem had been held in place only temporarily. In late March, the crew gathered at the bow of the 305 as Frank’s crew completed the process of permanently attaching the final stem piece. With a few words from Bruce, and wisecracks and laughter from the crew, the large stem was lifted into place. Surfaces were coated in a special flexible epoxy, and as several of the crew strained to get the large piece in place, bolt it to the backing block, and attach the chines and sheers properly, the whole crew looked on, took photos and made even more jokes at the expense of those actually doing the work.
Volunteers wrestle the heavy stem into place. The piece had to be perfectly aligned so that it joined with six other pieces of the boat.
Inside PT-305, Ed’s crew has begun building the ammunition locker. This is where the 20mm and .50 caliber machine gun ammunition is stored. The locker is directly below the chart house and sits in the middle of the officers’ quarters. From the deck it looks like a plywood elevator shaft, and without any shelves installed it is a void from the deck to the keel. The sides of the box are joined by corner pieces with rabbets cut into them to receive the plywood. (A rabbet is a ledge cut into the edge of a piece of wood.) One side of the box is installed already, it’s an original bulkhead that is in place, and the other three sides have been rebuilt, having been removed by PT-305’s previous owners. These sides are 10 feet tall and take some muscle to wrestle into place. After a series of awkward lifts, the three sides have been clamped into place and are awaiting final fastening.
Ed and crew are on the deck while working on the ammunition locker. The plywood and handrails on the deck are only temporary, so that volunteers have a surface to walk on while working. When completed, the deck will be double layered, with a water tight layer in between the layers of wood. The handrails are for the safety of the volunteers. PT boats were not equipped with railings to prevent men from going overboard.
Though the ammunition locker has not been completed, Norman and Jimmy can begin working on the foreword half of the steering system. The steering system runs from the wheelhouse to the lazarette, the last compartment in PT-305. When the wheel which is above deck, is turned, it moves a chain, which turns a pipe. . This pipe runs roughly 60 feet from below the wheel to the steering gear box, just above the rudders. This simple connection of a chain and a pipe to the ship’s wheel turns the two rudders of the 305, thus moving the boat as it maneuvers through the water. At this stage Norman is measuring and plotting the route through the various compartments and bulkheads while Jimmy works on securing and restoring the hardware that supports the system.
The engine room crew has been hard at work, installing all of the aluminum brackets and gussets which strengthen the engine room on the 305. This helps prevent wear and tear on the wooden frame from the boat’s three 3500-pound, 1500 horsepower engines.
Anyone who has ever visited the Museum has probably marveled over the beautifully restored LCP(L) on display in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion as well as the fully-functional replica of a LCVP (both boats manufactured by Higgins Industries of New Orleans during WWII). Visitors have also toured the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion (or perhaps just pressed their faces up against the exterior glass!) to see ongoing work to restore a Higgins-built PT boat, PT-305. But what visitors may not realize is the long-standing relationship between the Museum and the dedicated group of volunteers who made these projects a reality. This special group of volunteers has been giving their time to the Museum back before the original National D-Day Museum even opened. Stay tuned for more volunteer updates on the Museum Blog.
Saturdays are big days at the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion, the constant sound of tools and laughter fill every space within the building. There are about 30 volunteers climbing all over PT-305, working hard and enjoying every minute of it. Part of the fun on February 11, 2012, was using a tool in a manner it was not commonly used for.
A wood planer is a tool that finishes and smooths the surface of wood, it is faster and more uniform than sanding a large piece by hand. Usually a flat board is fed into the planer create a smooth surface or cut the board down to the desired thickness. That Saturday, Frank and his crew were feeding a board through that looks like an elongated corkscrew. The scene was quite impressive, five men holding onto a board that was hopelessly crooked. Conrad even had to stand on a ladder because the board bends so sharply it’s the only way he could hold the end up.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.