National WW2 Museum's PT Boat Almost Ready For Water Tests

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A patrol torpedo boat that sank three enemy boats and participated in two invasions is taking a barge trip so the crew that lovingly restored the USS Sudden Jerk can learn its ways and get it tested for tour boat duty.

         The National World War II Museum says the 78-foot-long PT-305 is the only combat veteran PT boat that's restored and in working order.

         The museum plans to use the boat for tours on Lake Pontchartrain, the huge tidal basin along New Orleans' northern city line. Its boathouse will include displays about its history.

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         On Thursday, the glass front wall was removed from the building where the boat was restored and repainted. The boat, now in the blues of the camouflage pattern it bore during Mediterranean duty in 1944 and 1945, was moved outside Friday and put on a remote-controlled, tracked vehicle called a crawler.

         The boat was to be loaded onto a barge on Saturday for a 250-mile, 45-hour trip to a marina on the Intracoastal Waterway, where project manager Bruce Harris said about two weeks' work is planned.

         "Boats of this nature are never done. They just never are. So we'll go to water, then we'll start sea trials and learn how to operate this vessel," he said.

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         The boat was built in New Orleans and participated in both Operation Brassard, the invasion of Elba in June 1944, and Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of France two months later, said Josh Schick, one of two project historians. It also sank two armored German supply boats and an Italian torpedo boat during the war.

         The Sudden Jerk held many roles over the nearly two weeks it was deployed for Operation Dragoon.

         "She was initially part of the screening force that protected the initial assault," said Schick. "Over the course of two weeks, she does courier duty, she does escort, she does nighttime patrols, she brings people around. She's just constantly working. A PT's very versatile — kind of a jack of all trades."

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         He said the torpedoman on the boat's first crew, now in his 90s, explained the boat's name.

         "We always thought the crew had named it because a torpedo hits your ship, and there's a sudden jerk and you go down," Schick said. However, James Nerison of Oceanside, California, told him that, shortly after taking the boat, the crew was doing a docking maneuver and either the boat hit the dock or the engines suddenly surged, and crewmen fell over.

         "Someone said, 'Well, that was a sudden jerk,' and the name stuck," Schick said.

         He said the only other known surviving crewman, gunner's mate Joseph Brannan, of Aurora, Colorado, confirmed that in 1945 the second crew renamed PT-305 the Half-Hitch, their commanding officer's nickname. Schick said he is also trying to track down whether it was ever dubbed "Bar Fly," since a small photograph shows a New Orleans-built PT boat with that name.

         A Galveston museum donated the boat to the World War II museum in 2007, spokeswoman Michelle Moore said. Before that, it had been cut down to 60 feet so it wouldn't need a licensed captain on board and used as a Chesapeake Bay oyster boat and, in the 1980s, as a tour boat.

         Harris said about 30 of the 65 men and women who restored the boat took a week-long certification class to serve as its crew.

         There's no problem finding experienced licensed captains to supervise them. Three have signed on to run the boat during tests, and more have applied, he said.

         "We're besieged by captains all across the Gulf that would like to get their hands on this boat and drive it around," he said.

         – by AP Reporter Janet McConnaughey


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