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About Scott Baron
Scott is a Vietnam-era veteran and Military Policeman who worked in Law Enforcement for 14 years before changing careers to teaching, first at the Police Academy, then teaching US History in a low-income middle school in Salinas, Ca. for 21 years. He has a B.A. in Constitutional Law and an MA in teaching. He is married to the most wonderful woman in the world, has two sons and four grandchildren, all of whom cheerfully put up with him. He is the author of 14 books on military history, and three books on political satire. He lives in Freedom, California (Seriously)
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Initially hampered at the beginning of the war by ineffective torpedoes, limited armament, and their comparatively fragile construction, they performed admirably in the Pacific, Atlantic and the Mediterranean theaters of war and their daring tactics earned a durable place in the public imagination that remains strong into the 21st century. They are the precursor of the Navy’s fast attack craft used today.
PT boats were primarily designed for high-speed torpedo attacks against much larger ships but would also fulfill a variety of vital roles. PT boats were also used to lay mines and smoke screens, search and rescue operations for downed aviators, and carried out intelligence and raider operations.
However, following the Allies gaining air superiority during the daylight hours in various theaters, Japanese supply missions in the Pacific and German and Italian supply missions in the Mediterranean gradually shifted to ones that made use of barges in shallow waters. PT boats were more often deployed against barges rather than warships, which explained why most boats were retrofitted with machine guns and cannons. PT boats were the perfect weapons to counter barge traffic.
PT's were in more frequent contact with the enemy, and at closer range, than any other type of surface craft. PT officers and enlisted men garnered two Medals of Honor, 22 Navy Crosses, 3 Distinguished Service Crosses, a Distinguished Service Medal, and numerous Silver Stars.
On December 7, 1941, there were only 29 PT's in the fleet but by December 7, 1943, there were more than 29 squadrons Forty-three PT squadrons, each with 12 boats were formed during World War II by the U.S. Navy. PT boat duty was extremely dangerous, and the squadrons suffered an extremely high loss rate in the war.
Of the 531 PT Boats in service during the war, a total of 99 were lost, or roughly 18.6%, with 32 lost to accidents or friendly fire, 27 were scuttled to prevent capture, 8 were rammed, 2 were destroyed by Kamikazes, 9 were destroyed by naval mines, 6 were sunk by enemy coastal artillery, 8 were strafed and 7 sunk by enemy naval gunfire.
Since the end of WW II, and even before, PT Boats have become part of the popular culture and national imagination.
In 1945, with the war still going on, John Ford, a captain in the US Naval Reserve, directed the film “They Were Expendable” starring Robert Montgomery, himself a Navy veteran of D-Day, and John Wayne, loosely based on PT-41 and other PT boats in the Philippines following Wake Island.
The 1963 film “PT-109” starred Cliff Robertson as Lt. (jg) John F. Kennedy, a semi-biographical account of the then-president’s war service in the Solomon Islands during WW II. In 1959, when a high school student asked Kennedy how he had become a war hero, he answered “It was easy — they sank my boat.”
As President John F. Kennedy, who as a scrawny 25-year-old lieutenant had commanded the ill-fated PT-109 in the Solomon Islands in 1943 would later state: “PT boats were an embodiment of John Paul Jones’ words: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way” and often expressed the opinion that PT boats were the 20th Century equivalent of the cavalry.
He was also the only Commanding Officer in the history of the US Navy to both put a Navy ship into commission, and take the same ship out of commission, having commanded her twice. Nor was she an ordinary warship. The USS Missouri was a legend.
One of only four Iowa-class battleships, she was born at the start of the Second World War, and although she would get into the fight late, she would still see action as part of the first naval air strike on the Japanese home islands, bombard the shores of Iwo Jima and Okinawa before anchoring in Tokyo Bay to receive the Japanese surrender.
Missouri would see her second war in Korea, fighting first North Koreans and later Chinese Communists off the shores of North Korea. Placed into the reserve fleet following the Korean War, she became a tourist attraction for the next 29 years before being called to serve in the Iraq War, her third conflict. After again being decommissioned, she sailed one last time to Pearl Harbor where she currently resides as a museum ship, within sight of the USS Arizona Memorial, in a sense the Alpha-Omega of America’s War against Japan.
In total, 20 men would command this legendary warship, and their stories are as diverse as the nation they served and stretch from Roosevelt's Great White Fleet to the shores of Iraq and Kuwait. Their story is the story of the USS Missouri. These men, Naval Academy graduates and not, aviators, sub and destroyer commanders and pioneers on the atomic frontier share the rare privilege of commanding America's premier warship, in war and peace. Their story is worth telling.
They would be the junior officers in the First World War and the senior commanders in WW II. They would fight in the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Aleutians. They would command subs, battleships, cruisers, transports and PT boats. They would fly airplanes off carriers at sea and in lighter-than-air airships. They would serve as attaches, aides to the President, staff officers and would teach at Annapolis, the Postgraduate School, and the Naval War College.
34 members of the Class of 1914 would be promoted to admirals, and one would be awarded the Medal of Honor. Several would serve in Mexico during the Occupation of Veracruz. Several would serve as military aides in the White House and one would be present at Herbert Hoovers funeral.
One would become nationally known for raising a sunken submarine, and another would supervise the salvage operations at Pearl Harbor following the attack. One would fly as a naval observer aboard the German Graf Spree across the Atlantic. One served as the Judge Advocate in the McVay Court Martial and one would travel with MacArthur in his escape from the Philippines. Several were present during the attack on Pearl Harbor and several others were aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor to witness the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945.
The year 1914 was the beginning on an era that would bring great change to the world, most notably with the outbreak of war in Europe in August, and President Woodrow Wilson’s pledge that the United States would remain neutral in the conflict that would later be named World War I. The war would unquestionably alter the power structure and geography of the world.
The world was changing and the graduates of 1914, and subsequent classes faced the challenges of a changing social and political landscape and learning to adapt to new technologies which would need to be mastered.
Wilson himself would remark on June 5, 1914 at the commencement ceremony: “In facing you I am facing men who are trained for a special thing. You know what you are going to do, and you are under the eye of the whole Nation in doing it. For you, gentlemen, are to be part of the power of the Government of the United States. There is a very deep and solemn significance in that fact, and I am sure that every one of you feels it. The moral is perfectly obvious. Be ready and fit for anything that you have to do. And keep ready and fit. Do not grow slack. Do not suppose that your education is over because you have received your diplomas from the academy. Your education has just begun.”
And the truth of those words would resonate through the work of the graduates as they advanced through their individual careers. Less than a month after they graduated, on July 28, 1914, the world, or at least Europe in the beginning, would be at war. And less than three years later, so would the United States and they would gain their first, but for most not their last, education in the “art” of war.
They sailed with the Great White Fleet, saw action in Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, China, and fought two World Wars.
They commanded fleets, served on staffs and as diplomats, designed the next generation of warships, salvaged the fleet after Pearl Harbor, designed the Presidential Seal, and one of their number rose to the 5-star rank of Fleet Admiral. They flew with Orville Wright, served as the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, and taught gunnery to the Brazilian Navy. One member is known as "The Father of Naval Radio"
These are their stories, some known some unknown, and they all deserve to be remembered as lessons from the past, and a map for the future.
The largely overlooked men and women in this volume did incredible things in dire circumstances. Although in some cases decorations were awarded--including several Medals of Honor--their stories remain unknown.
Bancroft shared with Commodore Matthew Perry a considerable interest in naval education and advocated creating an apprentice system to train new seamen and helped to establish the curriculum for the new United States Naval Academy. He was also a vocal proponent of modernization of the navy.
The year 1906 was extraordinary by any metric. The Class of 1906 would graduate 23 admirals including another six admirals early in September from the Class of 1907, as well as numerous captains and commanders whose baptism under fire in the First World War would season them to lead in WW II and included naval legends like John S. McCain Sr., Isaac C. Kidd and Raymond Spruance. Five members would be awarded the Medal of Honor and numerous Navy Crosses. Individually, they would captain the battleships, carriers and provide the leadership in command positions. Collectively, they would significantly contribute to America’s victory in the Second World War.
Originally a course of study for five years was prescribed. Only the first and last were spent at the school with the other three being passed at sea. The decision to establish an academy on land may have been in part a result of the Somers Affair, an alleged mutiny aboard the brig USS Somers involving the son of Secretary of War John C. Spencer, Midshipman Philip Spencer, that resulted in his execution at sea. It was the only U.S. Navy ship to undergo a mutiny which led to executions.
This work focuses primarily on the careers of the twenty-nine individuals who achieved flag rank but also includes others who made important contributions in a variety of endeavors or who through a confluence of circumstances found themselves in unusual or unique situations which made the Class of 1906 the Year of the Stars.