Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mystery PT Boat

By now most news hounds have heard what has surfaced in the Solomon Islands in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that killed over fifty people in the islands. An honest to goodness World War II PT-boat. The uplift from the earthquake caused the reef to rise ten feet, which brough the submerged boat to the surface. They are thinking of detonating the boat because it may still have explosives. Some village children apparently have been aboard the boat and took stuff.

Since I have never heard of Rannonga Island before, have spent the odd hour trying to locate it so I can identify which boat this is. I tried to find the island on various maps of the Solomon Islands. Google maps was a strike out. National Geographic was also a bust. This is probably the best map. It shows Gizho [ off this island PT-109 was run down], New Georgia [Munda airstrip], Rendova [PT base], and Vella Lavella. Still no Rannonga Island. I find it mentioned in conjunction with Vella Lavella alot so that possibly places this island right around the epicenter of the earthquake.

So taking with a grain of salt, of the four PT boats that went aground in the Western Solomons two are listed as going down off Vella Lavella. You are probably saying, why only grounded PT boats searching through? Lets look at PT-109, it was idling in Blackett Strait when IJN Amagiri ran it down, PT-109 went down in deep water and wrong location. Rendova was taken on June 30th, 1943 [The Mosquito Fleet by Bern Keating pg 71]. PT-168 was sunk by B-25 fire in Ferguson Passage and exploded [ibid, pg 73-74]. PT-117 and PT-164 were sunk by airplane at the Rendova PT base on August 1, 1943. The Munda invasion occurred on August 4, 1943. Vella Lavella would fall to US forces on October 1, 1943. This kind of information narrows down the possible identity of this WWII relic.

There are two possible boats this could have been, if we focus on groundings. PT-172 and PT-118. PT Boats Inc list both losses as groundings in enemy waters and destroyed to prevent capture. This source says both went down off Vella Lavella on September 7, 1943. The two books I have on American PT-boats [The Mosquito Fleet and Devil Boats] shed no light on any operation on September 7, 1943 unless it was to mirror a mission carried out by three PT boatss which landed scouts on Vella Lavella on August 12, 1943. Squadron/Signal's PT Boats in Action has proven equally uninformative. Online has proven equally dry in regards to detailed information or images. There seems to be no pictures of 172 or 118.

Hopefully something can be salvaged from this boat to identify it and brings its story to life again. This is like a time capsule that needs to be opened.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw a picture of this boat on TV, but have been unable to locate one online. Has anybody found one?