The English Channel -- D-Day and After
The English Channel
1. D-DAY AND THE MASON LINE
THE ENGLISH Channel was the British Coastal Forces' own backyard. From the summer of 1940, when the German blitzkrieg flashed across the Low Countries and northern France, until the end of the war in Europe, the MTB's, MGB's, and ML's fought 464 actions in British home waters, claiming 269 enemy vessels sunk or probably sunk, as against the loss of 76 Coastal Force craft.24 With the British boats carrying out the double mission of preying on enemy coastal convoys and protecting Allied shipping from E-boat attack, there was no need for American PT's in the Channel until the spring of 1944, when the invasion of Normandy was imminent.
An urgent request by the Office of Strategic Services for PT's to land and pick up agents on the French coast resulted in the hasty commissioning of a new Squadron 2 (the original squadron had been decommissioned in the Solomons in November 1943) on March 23, 1944, at Fyfe's Shipyard, Glenwood Landing, Long Island. The squadron, commanded by Lt. Comdr. John D. Bulkeley, was made up of three early Higgins boats, PT's 71, 72, and 199, which had had almost 2 years of service as training boats in Squadron 4 at Melville. After a rapid overhaul at Fyfe's Shipyard, the boats were shipped to England, arriving at Dartmouth on April 24. There they were fitted with special navigational equipment to give them pinpoint accuracy in locating their objectives on the French coast. Officers and men practiced launching, rowing, loading, and unloading four-oared pulling boats, constructed with padded sides and muffled oarlocks, until they could land men and equipment on a beach swiftly and silently on the darkest night.
PT 71 made the first trip across the Channel on the night of May 19/20, carrying agents and several hundreds of pounds of equipment. The 71 crossed German convoy lanes and minefields, anchored within 500 yards of a beach commanded by German shore guns and a radar station, landed the men and their gear under the noses of German sentries, and returned to Dartmouth without discovery. That was typical of the 19 missions Squadron 2 performed for the Office of Strategic Services between May and November. Sometimes they put men ashore, sometimes they took them out of France. The boat officers and men never knew the identity of their passengers or the exact nature of their missions. The job of the boats was to land their passengers or to pick them up at precisely the right position on the coast, and to do it without being detected. The squadron completed its 19 missions without once making contact with the enemy, which is entirely as it should have been.
Three more squadrons of PT's were sent to the Channel to join the screening forces in the invasion of Normandy, though only one of them, Squadron 34, 12 Elco boats, commanded by Lt. Allen H. Harris, USNR, was in time to take part in the operations on D-day, June 6, 1944. Squadron 34 arrived in England in May; Squadron 35, 12 Elco boats, under Lt. Comdr. Richard Davis, Jr., on June 4; and Squadron 30, 6 Higgins boats, under Lt. Robert L. Searles, USNR, on June 7. Also in June, Lieutenant Commander Bulkeley was designated a task group commander in charge of all PT operations during the invasion of Normandy.
Invasion plans called for landings by five great task forces in the Baie de la Seine, which was divided into the British assault area on the east and the American assault area on the west. Admiral Sir Philip Vian, RN, Commander Eastern Task Force, was in command of the three task forces in the British area; Rear Adm. Alan G. Kirk, in command of the two task forces in the American area. Admiral Kirk's forces were Task Force U, commanded by Rear Adm. Don P. Moon, to land troops at UTAH Beach, westernmost of the invasion beaches, and Task Force O, under Rear Adm. John L. Hall, Jr., to effect landings at OMAHA Beach, between UTAH Beach and the British area.
The PT's of Squadron 34, in divisions of three, were to escort four groups of minesweepers in advance of the invasion fleet to clear a broad sealane to the beaches and the fire support areas offshore. The first group, PT's 500, 498, and 509, under Lt. Herbert J. Sherertz, USNR, nearly invaded France a day too soon. D-day had been scheduled for June 5, so early on the morning
PT's cross English Channel on D-day as Army bombers pass overhead.
of the 4th the boats rendezvoused with their minesweepers and set out from the Isle of Wight for the Baie de la Seine. Later in the morning the PT base at Portland received belated notice that D-day had been postponed until June 6. Fortunately a patrolling destroyer was able to intercept the boats, already halfway to France, and send them back to Portland.
They made a fresh start on the morning of June 5, and stayed with their minesweepers through the night of the 5th and morning of the 6th, at times approaching within half a mile of the French coast, protected from shore batteries by a tremendous naval and aerial bombardment. The only casualty was the minesweeper Osprey, which struck a mine and sank just as she took station on the evening of the 5th. PT's 505 and 508 picked up six of her survivors.
The boats of Squadron 2 crossed the Channel on the night of June 5/6 with flagships to which they had been assigned as dispatch boats. PT 71 accompanied the USS Augusta, Admiral Kirk's flagship; PT 72, the USS Ancon, Admiral Hall's flagship; and PT 199, the USS Bayfield, flagship
of Admiral Moon. After taking an Army officer from the Bayfield to UTAH Beach on the morning of June 6, PT 199 rescued 61 survivors of the destroyer Corry, which had been mined.
Except for these rescue operations, D-day turned out to be a routine affair for the PT's. "We might have had trouble with mines, with shore batteries or with E-boats," Bulkeley said. "As it was, we didn't have any trouble at all."
At 1600 on D-day the PT's of Squadron 34 joined the Western Task Force Area screen, which included destroyers, destroyer escorts, PC's, and British steam gunboats. The PT's were stationed on the "Mason Line," extending 6½ miles to seaward from the beach near St. Marcouf, as an inner defense against infiltration by E-boats into the convoy unloading area. They were joined on June 7 and 8 by boats of Squadron 35, and on the 10th by those of Squadron 30. Until the end of the month, an average of 29 PT's remained on the line at all times. Boats rotated between the Mason Line and the Portland Base, usually patrolling for a week at a time, although some boats stayed on the line for as long as 3 weeks without relief. E-boats made so few attempts to penetrate the screen that PT's had no contact with enemy surface craft. In the midst of the greatest invasion in history, however, their duty was seldom dull.
On the evening of June 7, Lt. William C. Godfrey's PT 505 gave chase to what appeared to be a submarine periscope cutting through the water near St. Marcouf Island. The periscope disappeared when the 505 came within 75 yards, and Godfrey was about to give the order to release depth charges when the 505 ran over a mine. A violent explosion lifted the stern of the PT out of the water, injured two men, tore loose one depth charge, snapped the warheads off the torpedoes, threw the engine beds awry, and caused some damage to practically every part of the boat. The PT went down quickly by the stern until the base of the 40mm. gun was awash. Godfrey jettisoned his torpedoes and his other depth charge, and transferred his forward guns, radar, and radio equipment to PT 507, which towed the 505 to anchorage in the lee of St. Marcouf Island. Although there was some danger that the boat would sink, Godfrey, two other officers, and one enlisted man remained aboard that night. The next morning two LCM's towed the 505 onto the invasion beach at high tide. Low tide left the boat high and dry for 6 hours, time enough for the crew to put emergency patches on the hull and to paint the side with the legend, "PORTLAND OR BUST!" PT 500 towed the
PT 505, damaged by a mine off Normandy, is towed to the beach by two LCM's, her stern awash.
505 back to Portland on June 11, in a crossing made miserable by four partings of the towline in heavy seas.
Mines were perhaps the greatest single menace in the Baie de la Seine. During the month of June, PT's rescued 203 survivors of mined ships. On the morning of June 8, the destroyer Glennon hit a mine and began to settle by the stern. The destroyer escort Rich, preceded by two minesweepers, approached Glennon and was passing a towline to the destroyer when a mine exploded 50 yards to starboard. Rich was shaken, but not damaged. PT 504 (Lt. (jg.) Harold B. Sherwood, Jr., USNR) at this time was drawing near to Rich to offer assistance. Two minutes later another mine blew the stern off Rich. PT 504 circled Rich, and within 3 minutes still another mine caught Rich amidships. PT 504, joined by PT 502 (Lt. Charles E. Twadell, Jr., USNR) and PT 506 (Lt. Jaquelin J. Daniel, USNR), made fast to the sinking ship and sent rescue parties aboard. The boats took off 69 wounded men, casting off their lines only when the decks of the Rich were awash. R. W. Gretter, QM2c, of the 504, and Paul E. Cayer, Sic, of the 506, did not hear the order to abandon the Rich, and were still aboard when the ship sank. They were picked up by a Coast Guard vessel. Cayer was cited for removing "nine crew members who would have died without his aid." PT 508 (Lt.
The destroyer Glennon (right) has just struck a mine and is down by the stern.
Destroyer escort Rich, a British ML, and PT's are going to her assistance.
Rich soon hit a mine, which blew off her stern.
Minutes later, Rich hit another mine, shown here exploding amidships.
(jg.) Calvin R. Whorton, USNR) rescued the last two survivors aboard the detached stern section of the ship.
On the night of June 14/15, German planes tried something new in the way of illumination for night bombing attacks on shipping, dropping brilliant and long-burning float flares in two rows in the assault area. Capt. Harry Sanders, commander of the Western Task Force Area Screen, ordered PT's to sink the flares if the enemy should attempt a repeat performance. The next night the Germans again dropped two long rows of flares on the water and the PT's went alongside them and sank them with submachine-guns before the bombers came over. On the night of June 16/17, PT's again extinguished flares, with the result that the German planes dropped their bombs in empty water well clear of shipping. "Thereafter," Captain Sanders reported, "the Germans dropped no more floating flares. I believe that the frustration of bombing attacks by extinguishing marker flares is a new achievement for PT boats."
PT 504 and British ML 116 pick up survivors of the Rich.
PT 199 carries Adm. Harold R. Stark to Allied invasion beachhead, June 14, 1944.
Boats of Squadron 34 relieved PT's 71, 72, and 199 of their routine but exacting duties as dispatch boats on June 17, and the Squadron 2 boats returned to Portland for repairs and resumption of their special work for the Office of Strategic Services. Lt. William M. Snelling, USNR, boat captain of PT 71, claimed the all-time PT record for carrying gold braid. On June 12, he had as passengers for an inspection tour of the invasion beaches, Admirals King, Stark, Kirk, Moon, and Wilkes, and Generals Marshall, Eisenhower, Arnold, Bradley, and Hodges.
The boats on the Mason Line took a beating from June 19 to 22, during what Prime Minister Churchill described as the "worst Channel storm in 40 years." Many boats suffered hull damage from gale-lashed debris and narrowly missed being crushed by drifting ships and barges, but 11 boats of Squadron 34, eight of Squadron 35, and two of Squadron 30 rode out the 4-day storm maintaining their positions on the line.
In addition to the Mason Line assignment, PT's patrolled in divisions of two or three to the northwest during most of June. Toward the end of the month they began to cover the approaches to Cherbourg in the hope of catching Germans attempting to evacuate by sea, but none of these patrols
was productive. On June 25 a force of American battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, bombarded Cherbourg for more than 3 hours, knocking out most of the big coastal guns. By nightfall American troops had entered the city and were fighting in the streets. That night PT's patrolling with destroyers drew fire from shore batteries on Cap de la Hague, to the west of Cherbourg, and on the evening of the 27th went right up to the Cherbourg breakwater to learn whether any enemy guns were still active.
While four other PT's patrolled offshore with the destroyer Shubrick, Lieutenant Commander Bulkeley, in PT 510 (Lt. (jg.) Elliott B. MacSwan, USNR), with PT 521 (Lt. (jg.) Peter S. Zaley, USNR), maneuvered for 25 minutes within a quarter mile of the breakwater, at times approaching within 150 yards. Then a large-caliber battery in the harbor fort opened on the boats, dropping one explosive shell 30 feet ahead and another 20 feet behind the 521, which was following 200 yards behind the 510. The explosions stopped all three of the 521's engines, bent the throttle rods, loosened the deck planking, and jarred the port torpedo halfway out of its rack. PT 510 laid a smokescreen around the 521, whose engineers got her underway again in 5 minutes. Bulkeley ordered the 521 to launch her dangling port torpedo toward the breakwater and the boats retired, zigzagging away behind
A PT maneuvers off the German fort at Cherbourg to see if its guns are still active. They were.
smoke. Because of the smoke and noise it was impossible to observe the effect of the torpedo on the breakwater.
"We decided then and there that that fort had not fallen," Bulkeley said, "and waited until the next day to pay our next call. This time we saw a white flag in the fort so we went right into the harbor."
While the 510 and 521 were drawing fire from the fort, Shubrick and the other four PT's continued westward toward Cap de la Hague. When they were 2½ miles off the cape, a heavy shore battery opened fire, dropping shells within 30 yards of Lt. (jg.) Stewart J. Moulin's PT 459 and 300 yards from Shubrick. The group took evasive action, with the Shubrick retiring behind a smokescreen. A few minutes later PT 457 (Lt. (jg.) Waldemar A. Tomski, USNR) observed the position of the shore guns and reported it to Shubrick. The destroyer came about through the smoke, fired a salvo, and then was forced to retire by renewed fire from shore.
Patrolling on the Mason Line continued through July without incident. Bulkeley, promoted to commander, was detached in the middle of July to take command of the destroyer Endicott. He was succeeded as overall commander of PT's in the Channel by Lt. Allen H. Harris, USNR. He previously had been relieved as commander of Squadron 2 by Lt. Robert R. Read, USNR. Lt. Herbert J. Sherertz, USNR, relieved Harris as commander of Squadron 34. Squadron 35 had had a change of command on June 11, when Lt. Arthur N. Barnes, USNR, relieved Lieutenant Commander Davis as squadron commander and Davis assumed command of the PT base at Portland. Lt. Ralph S. Duley, USNR, succeeded Davis as base commander in mid-July.
Admiral Kirk, his duties as Commander Western Task Force completed, wrote on July 5:
As you know, I have turned over command off the beaches and at Cherbourg to Admiral Wilkes, and have withdrawn from the assault area. I cannot leave without congratulating you, and, through you, all your men, on the very fine job done by PT boats during the first month of the campaign. Your boys have fully justified our very high expectations, and if they have not had as much direct action as we had all hoped, that in itself is a tribute to the high respect the German has for them.
Whether in the Area Screen or on Advanced Patrol, or in the dull but demanding business of ferrying old men around the bay, your boys have done themselves proud. I wish you and them all the luck in the world.
Sincerely, ALAN KIRK
2. THE CHANNEL ISLANDS
At the beginning of August the PT's were withdrawn from the Normandy invasion area. Nine were transferred to Portsmouth, England, to work with British MTB's and' MGB's patrolling off LeHavre, and 18 were assigned to Cherbourg, to replace British Coastal Forces in disrupting enemy shipping between the Channel Islands -- Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney -- and between the islands and the German hold-out garrisons at St. Malo and the Île de Cezembre.
At both of these bases, the PT's learned a patrolling technique new to them, which had been developed by the British Coastal Forces: the use of a destroyer or frigate to control the PT attack. A destroyer or frigate patrolled a line several miles long, with a division of PT's stationed at each end of the line. The destroyer, with radar superior to that of the PT's, spotted enemy targets and vectored the PT's in to the attack, passing ranges and bearings to them by radio. At Cherbourg, Lieutenant Sherertz rode the destroyer during these operations as officer in tactical command of the PT's, with Lt. Comdr. Peter Scott, RNVR, a veteran Coastal Forces officer, loaned to the task group as vector controller.
On the night of August 8/9, destroyer Maloy patrolled a north-south line 6 miles long, west of the Island of Jersey. PT's 503 (Lt. James A. Doherty, USNR), 500 (Lt. Douglas S. Kennedy, USNR), and 507 (Ens. Buell T. Heminway, USNR) were stationed at the north end of the line, and PT's 509 (Lt. Harry M. Crist, USNR) and 508 (Lt. (jg.) Calvin R. Whorton, USNR) at the south. At 0530 the Maloy vectored the northern group to attack a group of six minesweepers moving south toward La Corbiere, the southwestern point of Jersey. The boats, running through a pea-soup fog, were unable to see the enemy and fired their torpedoes by radar, with no apparent results. Half an hour later Maloy vectored the southern pair of boats in to attack.
Lieutenant Crist led them in through fog that limited visibility to 150 yards. PT 509 released one torpedo one-quarter mile off the enemy's port bow. PT 508's radar was not working and the minesweepers were not visible in the fog, so the 508 fired no torpedoes. The boats circled and went in for another attack. PT 508 still did not sight the enemy, but launched one torpedo on radio orders from Lieutenant Crist, who said the enemy ships were dead ahead. As the 508 turned away there was heavy firing between the 509 and a minesweeper on her port bow. The 508 could not engage the enemy
immediately, since the 509 was directly in her line of fire. PT 508 heard the 509 report by radio, "I am directly in the middle," but when she had circled to port, could find no trace of the 509. The 508 rejoined Maloy at 0710.
Fifteen minutes later Lieutenant Sherertz got underway in PT 503, with PT 507, to search the southern coast of Jersey for the missing boat. At 0800 the boats picked up a radar target in St. Helier roadstead. Just as they closed to 200 yards, the thick fog bank ledged off and an enemy minesweeper appeared dead ahead and bow on. The 503 fired one torpedo. Both boats opened fire with all guns, scoring many hits on the minesweeper's bridge structure, and retired under heavy return fire. Both PT's were hit. Two men were killed and four were wounded on the 503, and one was wounded on the 507.
On August 10 a searchplane found the body of one of the men of the 509, and on the 20th a bullet-riddled portion of the hull of the 509 was found floating in the Channel.
The full story of the 509 will never be known, but part of it was learned after V-E Day, when prisoners of war on the Island of Jersey were liberated, among them John L. Page, RdM2c, USNR, the sole survivor of PT 509.
After firing one torpedo by radar, Page said, the 509 circled and came in for a gunnery run. Page was in the charthouse, manning the radar; Lt. (jg.) John K. Pavlis, USNR, was at the wheel. Page remembered that the PT was moving along at a good clip and that it got up pretty close to the enemy and opened fire before there was any return fire from the minesweeper. But when the return fire came it was heavy and it was accurate. One shell exploded in the charthouse, knocking Page out. When he came to he was trying to beat out flames with his hands. He was wounded and the boat was on fire, but he still remembered to pull the detonator switch to destroy his radar set before he tried to crawl out on deck.
When he reached the deck he found that the bow of the boat was hung up on the side of a 180-foot minesweeper. Everything aft of the cockpit was in flames. From the deck of the minesweeper, Germans were blazing away with small arms and tossing hand grenades down on the PT. Page chose the lesser hell and struggled painfully forward through the rain of bullets and exploding grenades. When he reached the bow -- he has no idea whether it took him 15 seconds or 15 minutes -- the Germans tossed him a line. He still had strength to take it, and they hauled him aboard the minesweeper. By the time they stretched him out on the deck his right arm and leg were
broken and he had been wounded in 37 places. One heavy slug had ripped a hole through his back and lodged in his right lung.
German sailors were working frantically with crowbars to free the flaming PT from the side. Eventually they worked it loose and almost immediately it exploded with a mighty roar. "I couldn't see it," Page said, "but I felt the heat of the blast."
Page was taken to the crew's quarters, along with the German wounded and dead. "I managed to count the dead," he said. "There were 15 of them, and a good number of wounded -- it's difficult to estimate how many, because they kept milling around. I guess I conked out for a while. The first thing I remember is the first-aid man putting a pack on my back and arm. Then I could hear the noise of the ship docking. After they removed their dead and wounded, they took me ashore at St. Helier.
"They laid me out on the dock for quite a while and a couple of civilians -- I found out later that they were Gestapo agents -- tried to question me, but they saw I was badly shot up, so they didn't try to question me any further."
Page was taken to the former English hospital at St. Helier, where a skillful German surgeon performed many operations on him, removing dozens of bullets and fragments from every part of his body. He did not have his final operation until December 27, and though he was released to prison camp on January 2, he had to report back to the hospital for dressings every other day until the middle of March. While he was in the hospital the bodies of three of his shipmates washed ashore on Jersey. The British Red Cross took charge and saw that they were buried with full military honors.
Page was annoyed from time to time by the Gestapo agents, but, he said, "I found that being very correct and stressing the fact that my Government didn't permit me to answer questions was very effective. They tried a few times and finally left me alone."
He was liberated from prison camp upon the surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945.
During the week that followed the destruction of the 509, PT's from Cherbourg had two more actions with minesweepers. On the night of August 11/12, PT 500 (Lt. Douglas S. Kennedy, USNR) and PT 502 (Lt. Charles E. Twadell, Jr., USNR) were vectored by the destroyer escort Borum to attack two vessels off La Corbiere. Each boat fired two torpedoes, scoring no damage, and retired under fire which wounded three men on PT 502 and one on PT 500. Two nights later, Lt. William C. Godfrey's PT 505,
which had had its mine damage repaired at the British Power Boat Co. at Poole, England, patrolling with PT 498 (Lt. (jg.) William S. Squire, USNR), was vectored by the Borum to attack five ships off the Jersey coast. The enemy illuminated the boats with starshell when they were 21/2 miles away, but the PT's continued in to three-quarters of a mile and fired a spread of four torpedoes without results. The boats retired unscathed as the enemy fired furiously into puffs of smoke laid by the 505.
St. Malo fell on August 18, and by the end of the month traffic between the Channel Islands virtually dried up. PT patrols with destroyers and destroyer escorts were discontinued. Thereafter, Lieutenant Harris reported, the boats "were used for convoys going north and for a defense line against the escape of army personnel from ėle de Cezembre, farther south. No further actions ensued except for dodging shore batteries which were frequently pretty accurate."
THE EASTERN FLANK
While the PT's on the Mason Line waited for the E-boats that did not attack, British boats were having a hot time on the eastern flank of the invasion. A tight blockade of LeHavre was being maintained. Night after night, during all of June and July, they engaged the enemy off LeHavre and along the coast to the northeast, principally between Cap d'Antifer and Fécamp, fighting pitched battles with E-boats, R-boats, trawlers, minelayers, explosive boats, and occasional destroyers. It was to assist the British boats in operations off LeHavre that most of the Squadron 35 boats were moved to Portsmouth on August 4. Later, boats from Squadron 30 also were thrown into the battle.
At 1700 of the day of their arrival, the PT officers assembled with Coastal Forces officers in the briefing room of HMS Dolphin, the Coastal Forces base at Portsmouth, to receive orders for their first mission. An hour and 20 minutes later, four PT's stood out for LeHavre with a division of MTB's and HMS Stayner, their vectoring frigate. The PT's were not to see LeHavre that night, however. Enroute, Stayner made sound contact with a submarine and, with HMS Wensley Dale, repeatedly attacked it for nearly 5 hours, dropping 140 explosive charges. The PT's and MTB's, lying to 3 miles away, were severely shaken, though not damaged, by the explosions. The
attack resulted in the positive sinking of the German submarine U-671, from which Stayner captured four survivors.
The PT's had their first action 2 nights later when HMS Thornborough, Vectored PT's 510, 512, and 514, led by Lt. James C. Mountcastle, USNR, to attack three E-boats coming out of LeHavre. The PT's made two runs on the E-boats, apparently scoring several 40mm. hits. The E-boats retired into the harbor.
On the night of August 8/9, Lt. Sidney I. Saltsman, USNR, led PT's 520, 521, and 511 to attack a convoy of one auxiliary vessel and five R-boats off Cap d'Antifer. The boats were illuminated and taken under fire by shore guns when they were more than a mile from the targets. Saltsman decided that he had lost his chance for a successful torpedo attack and led the boats in two gunnery runs on the targets. During the second run, Saltsman's PT 520 and Lt. (jg.) Peter S. Zaley's PT 521 were hit. One man was wounded on the 521 and two engines stopped. The boats retired slowly behind a smokescreen laid by Lt. (jg.) Robert S. Taft's PT 511.
On the night of August 10/11, Lieutenant Jones led PT's 515, 513, and 518 in a torpedo and gunnery attack on an armed trawler, four R-boats, and one E-boat, with no damage although the convoy was apparently forced into LeHavre. PT's 515 and 513 were hit by enemy fire and three men were wounded.
The PT's had no more action until the last week in August, when the Germans attempted first to reinforce, then to evacuate, LeHavre. From August 23 to September 1, Coastal Forces, together with British destroyers and frigates and one French destroyer, La Combattante, claimed to have sunk 4 coasters, 9 tank landing craft, 2 trawlers, 2 R-boats, and an E-boat, and to have driven aground a coaster, a tank landing craft, and an R-boat.25 While the major share of the victory unquestionably belongs to the MTB's and destroyers, the PT's were in action for 4 nights running and contributed to the successful bottling up of the Germans in LeHavre.
On the night of August 24/25 Lieutenant Sidney I. Saltsman, USNR, in PT 520, led PT 511 (Lieutenant (jg.) Robert S. Taft, USNR) and PT 514 (Lieutenant (jg.) George E. Fowler, USNR) in three separate gunnery attacks on a group of four E-boats. One of the enemy boats, S-91, was so seriously damaged that it was abandoned and blown up by her crew. The PT's were forced to break off each attack by heavy fire from shore. PT 520
took one direct hit, which tore a large hole in her starboard side, without injury to any of her crew. The next night Lieutenant William J. Ryan, Jr., USNR, in PT 519, led PT's 513 and 516 in an unsuccessful torpedo attack on two R-boats and two E-boats, and followed it up with a gunnery run, during which several hits were made on an R-boat. The 513 had a large hole shot in its hull and the 516 had two men wounded by shrapnel.
The enemy's last attempt to reinforce LeHavre was made on the night of August 26/27, when a group of tank landing craft escorted by R-boats were attacked first by 2 MTB's, then by the destroyer HMS Middleton, and finally by 2 more MTB's. The upshot of this complicated action, according to German records, was the loss of two tank landing craft, AF-98 and AF-108. Lieutenant Saltsman led the PT attack in Lieutenant (jg.) Fowler's PT 514, with Lieutenant (jg.) Taft's PT 511 and Lt. (jg.) William F. Ryder's PT 520. Vectored onto their targets by the Retalick, the PT's fired six torpedoes and started their retirement without discovery. "PT's were rewarded with a tremendous explosion in target area," Saltsman reported, "followed by sparks and debris; a second explosion was observed soon after, not as large as the first. PT's by this time had turned stern to target and were idling away. After the explosion occurred, the enemy convoy opened up with gunfire attack on PT's, distance 2,500 yards. PT's continued to idle away, not returning fire because of inaccuracy of enemy gunfire. PT's were then illuminated and began retirement at 43 knots. PT's were subjected to intense, accurate and heavy-caliber gunfire until range became 4 miles. Several shells fell within 20 yards of PT 514. No damage was sustained."
The following night PT's 519 and 512 fired torpedoes at a group of R-boats off Fécamp -- without hits. They were the last torpedoes fired by PT's in the Channel. The Canadian First Army sealed off the Germans in LeHavre with the capture of Dieppe on September 1, and carried LeHavre itself by assault a week later.
END OF THE CAMPAIGN
Squadron 2 remained at Dartmouth, continuing its missions for the Office of Strategic Services until so much of the French coast was in our hands that there was no more work for the boats to do. The squadron eventually
was shipped back to New York, where it was decommissioned in September 1945. Its most spectacular projected mission, which might have come off except for an engine casualty, was that of running the German North Sea blockade with arms and ammunition for the resistance movement in Denmark. It was expected that even if the PT succeeded in running the gauntlet of German ships, planes, mines, and shore batteries, the crew would be interned in Sweden for the duration, since the boat could not possibly carry enough fuel for a round trip. Nevertheless, there was no difficulty in assembling a volunteer crew under Lt. William M. Snelling, USNR; Lt. Joseph R. Ellicott, USNR; and Lt. (jg.) Redmond J. Reilly, USNR. PT 72 was fitted out with extra gasoline tanks and was actually loaded with her cargo of arms and ammunition. On her final check run, however, she had a serious engine casualty. Before it could be repaired the Office of Strategic Services canceled the mission.
In November 1944, Squadrons 34 and 35, less PT 505, sailed for Roseneath, Scotland, where, after many delays, the boats were transferred under lendlease to the Russian Government. PT 505's bottom had opened up again during patrols in heavy weather during August and September, and she was not considered in good enough condition for transfer. She was shipped back to the United States where she was repaired and turned over to Squadron 4 at Melville.
Squadron 30 remained at Cherbourg during the winter and spring of 1945, patrolling for the protection of shipping in and out of Cherbourg, LeHavre, and Granville. Several times during the winter, Squadron 30 boats went to the aid of torpedoed ships, rescuing many survivors. Their only actions with the enemy resulted from patrols to prevent possible enemy landings on the Cotentin Peninsula by small craft from the Channel Islands. On the night of February 27/28, 1945, PT's 457 and 459, under Lt. (jg.) J. M. Boone, USNR, attacked and claimed to have sunk two small landing craft off Cap de la Hague, and on the night of April 10/11, Lt. (jg.) Sydney E. Garner's PT 458 exchanged fire with a 100-foot trawler northeast of the Island of Sark.
On May 12, after the German surrender, the PT's had the pleasant duty of escorting the first Allied ships into St. Peter Port on the Island of Guernsey, and into St. Helier on the Island of Jersey. In June the boats were shipped back to the United States to be overhauled for assignment to the Pacific. The war ended while they were still in New York, and Squadron 30 was decommissioned there on November 15, 1945.
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