Let's Launch PT-305!

The world’s only fully operational and fully restored combat-veteran PT boat is nearly set for launch!

WWII patrol-torpedo (PT) 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 and operational. 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.

To return PT-305 to her home waters of Lake Pontchartrain, the Museum needs to raise $500,000, which will cover the cost of removing the boat from our restoration pavilion, transferring her to the water, testing for passenger use, and finally moving her to her permanent boathouse. There, for the first time ever, civilians will have the chance to take a ride on a fully restored combat-veteran PT boat—the fastest US naval ship in World War II.

Our “Launch PT-305” campaign is helping raise the funds to make this a reality—and thanks to our successful Kickstarter campaign, our annual Drafts for Crafts fundraiser, and gifts from Pritzker Military Museum & Library in association with the Tawani Foundation and from Gary Sinise, we’re off to a great start reaching that total goal.

 

History

Built in New Orleans by Higgins Industries, the patrol-torpedo (PT) boat PT-305 was a critical asset for the US Navy during World War II, serving in European waters from 1944 to the end of the war. Heavily armed, equipped with advanced technology, uniquely maneuverable, often ingeniously modified, and reliant on cooperation and teamwork, PT boats were a perfect naval expression of the American Spirit at war. With small crews within collaborative 12-ship squadrons, they were also the home to a colorful collection of Navy sailors and a dramatic backdrop for moving personal stories of war, including the trials of cramped quarters, the terrifying thrill of combat, and humorous tales of shore-leave escapades.

Following her wartime service, PT-305 served as a New York tour boat, a fishing charter, and an oyster boat, undergoing modifications along the way: new, less-costly engines; several new paint jobs; and a dramatic reduction in length. When she was acquired by The National WWII Museum, PT-305 was in dry dock in Galveston, Texas, and in serious disrepair. In April 2007, accompanied by Museum curators, PT-305 found her way back to New Orleans, where The National WWII Museum became her home on land until she could be restored to her former glory.

View slideshow of historic photos of PT-305. Start Slideshow
 

Restoration

PT-305, in bad repair and far from seaworthy, resided at Back Bay Boat Yard in Galveston, Texas, when she was acquired by The National WWII Museum. Tom Czekanski, the Museum's senior curator and restoration manager, led the trip to Galveston Island to retrieve her in April 2007. But despite PT boats' wartime reputation for being swift and agile, her trip home to New Orleans was anything but: The entourage was not considered safe on the interstate; instead, it followed a circuitous route along small state highways. Czekanski accompanied the boat every mile, in the driver's seat of the rear "wide load" truck—a vantage point from which, during the first 100 miles of the trip, he watched with trepidation as every bump shook loose parts of PT-305's ramshackle deck.

The decade that followed brought hundreds of volunteers, millions of dollars in monetary and in-kind donations, and dramatic changes to PT-305: the addition of hull length that had been lost during PT-305's postwar years (13+ feet), engine and electrical work (12,000+ feet of cabling and wiring), caulking (3 miles worth), woodwork (13,000+ board foot), painting (300 gallons), and over 105,000 volunteer hours from restoration volunteers, including WWII veterans, father-and-son teams, naval engineers, electrical engineers, retired Coast Guard captains, motor machinists, parts scroungers, historians, students, servicemembers, and many others. Today, these workers are in the final stages of the restoration, choosing paint colors for the hull (from a selection of hues used during her service years) and looking forward to PT-305's next chapter.

View slideshow of the restoration of PT-305 at The National WWII Museum. Start Slideshow
 

Future

PT-305’s next exciting chapter will return her to her home waters of Lake Pontchartrain, where she was originally tested for combat readiness by Higgins Industries more than 70 years ago. From her restoration home at The National WWII Museum, she’ll travel over land to the Mississippi River, then by barge downriver to the Industrial Canal. After Coast Guard testing for passenger use, PT-305 will return to service for a whole new kind of mission.

Housed in a new, custom-built boathouse, PT-305 will be available for new generations of visitors, who will be able to walk onto her decks and actually ride along as she tears across the waves where Higgins first put her through her paces. The only restored and operational combat-veteran PT boat in existence is ready to take to the water once more.

Custom boathouse on Lake Pontchartrain: The future home of PT-305.
 

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 on to work as an 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 of positions 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.

Bruce Harris

A master carpenter and boat builder, Bruce is the current project manager of the PT-305 restoration project. He has been involved in Museum restoration effort since the LCVP was built in 1995.

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.

Jimmy Dubuisson

WWII veteran Jimmy Dubuisson started his own boat-building company, Halter Marine, after the war, and came to the project with invaluable technical knowledge—as well as fascinating first-person experience: Jimmy recalls that during his childhood, while Higgins was testing PT boats on Lake Pontchartrain, he would go out on the lake in a small pirogue given to him by his father to watch.

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.

Robert “Bob” Stengl

Bob joined the PT-305 restoration team in 2009 and has been a key member of the volunteer crew over the years. Aside from general help, Bob documented all donations and supplies delivered for the boat, taking pictures of everything from refrigerators to fuel tanks.

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.

Destrehan High School & North Park High School Students

Students studying engineering at Destrehan High School drew up plans for the lifeline stanchions to be installed on PT-305. Students from technology-focused North Park High School in Maryland manufactured the stanchions.


Do you have a PT-305 Story?

We are always looking for more stories from those who were there. Anyone interested should fill out this form and our historians will contact you.

 

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