Staff Stories

VETERANS

JAMES NERISON
VETERAN OF PT-305, SQUADRON 22

Jim Nerison joined the US Navy on November 2, 1942, at the age of 17. After boot camp in San Diego and additional training in Rhode Island, he arrived in New Orleans to train with Ron 22 on Lake Pontchartrain. Nerison’s detailed written account of his time on PT-305 (in the Museum’s collection), from his beginnings as a Seaman Recruit to his discharge as First Class Torpedoman, Petty Officer, includes descriptions of combat, shore-leave hijinks, and impromptu modifications to the vessel—including the addition of portholes salvaged from damaged yachts in the South of France.

JOSEPH BRANNAN
VETERAN OF PT-305, SQUADRON 22

Joseph Brannan credits a rabbit’s foot for his good luck on PT-305, on which he served in the Mediterranean, under commanding officer Allan Purdy, beginning in December 1944—the time period on which PT-305’s restoration is based. Along with his lucky rabbit’s foot he carried with him a 35mm camera throughout his service, documenting the daily life of PT-305’s crew in the nearly 200 photographs, which he has shared with the Museum to assist in the restoration effort.

JACK MADDEN
VETERAN OF PT-304, SQUADRON 22

Part of the second crew of PT-304, Jack Madden arrived aboard in December of 1944 and finished the war on PT-304. He was on board for four of the boat's six kills. After the war, he went to Siena College on the GI bill to study accounting. He earned his MBA at the same school, going onto work asan accountant for GMAC. His love of learning continued later in life, when he attended St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry for a masters in Theology.

MUSEUM STAFF

TOM CZEKANSKI

Currently the Museum’s senior curator and restorations manager, Tom began working at The National D-Day Museum in October 2000, shortly after it opened. He has held a number ofpositions over the past 15 years, supervising the growth of the collections as the Museum transformed into The National WWII Museum. A US Army veteran, he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a master’s degree from Texas Tech University. Tom started his museum career at the Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio.

JOSH SCHICK

A project historian for the PT-305 restoration, Joshua has been working with the Museum’s Higgins restoration volunteers since 2003, starting with the crew during the restoration of the Museum’s Landing Craft Personnel (Large) boat. While working on the LCP(L) and PT-305, Josh earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in history at the University of New Orleans.

KALI MARTIN

A project historian for the PT-305 restoration, Kali has been a volunteer on the project since January 2011. Kali joined the restoration project while completing a master’s degree in history at the University of New Orleans.

RESTORATION VOLUNTEERS

GEORGE BENNEDETTO

George is PT-305's lead volunteer, and has been involved in the Museum and its Higgins collection since the Museum's LCVP ("Higgins boat" landing craft) was built in 1995. He has a lifelong interest in boats, particularly racing boats.

JERRY STRAHAN

This student of Museum founder Stephen Ambrose is the author of the definitive book on Higgins: Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats that Won World War II. In addition to his work locating plans, salvaging parts, and helping to restore PT-305, he also helped to build the Museum’s replica LCVP in 1995.

MARK MASOR

A full-time naval architect, Mark has used his free time to volunteer on PT-305 ever since he first spotted the project when walking past the Museum on the way to his offices nearby. His knowledge of naval engineering and modern safety standards and his experience working closely with the Coast Guard has proved invaluable in the process of marrying authentic restoration with modern safety standards.