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  PT-191 "Bambi"
80' Elco

20' 8" x 5'
56 Tons
1 x 40mm gun
2 x 21" torpedoes
2 x 2 .50 cal MG
1 x 37mm gun
1 x 20mm cannon
USN c1943
Wartime History
Built by Electric Boat Co., Elco Works, Bayonne, NJ. Laid down November 25, 1942. Launched February 5, 1943. Completed February 24, 1943. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as PT-191.

Wartime History
On February 24, 1943 assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Twelve (MTBRon 12) under the command of Lt. Comdr. John Harllee and transported to the South-West Pacific Area (SWPA). Nicknamed "Bambi" after the Walt Disney animated film Bambi (1942).

In New Guinea, PT-190 operated from Kopa PT Boat Base (Milne Bay) but saw no combat action. Then operated from Morobe PT Boat Base and Dreger Harbor PT Boat Base.

During the night of September 21-22, 1943 PT-191 under the command Lt. Comdr. John Harllee was one of six PT-Boats that screened the Vitiaz Strait ahead of the 7th Amphibious Force making an amphibious landing at Finschhafen. While patrolling, PT-191 and PT-133 spotted a 120' cargo ship ten miles off Vincke Point and closed at high speed then made three firing passes on the vessel that caught fire and attempted to drop depth charges nearby. The damaged ship was observed burning and low in the water and was credited as sunk.

Next, operated from Dreger Harbor PT Boat Base (Dreger Haffen Harbor) near Finschhafen on the north coast of New Guinea.

On December 24, 1943 PT-191 under the command of Ensign Rumsey Ewing with PT-152 departed Dreger Harbor PT Boat Base on a patrol mission. After daybreak, they spotted what appeared to be a barge off Gneisenau Point to the east of Nambariwa and Sio. Closing, they saw another object that looked like a large barge and the first "barge" proved to be a submarine roughly 100' in length. On the beach, a picket boat was seen with a pile of stores on the beach in sacks. Both PT boats opened fire on the "submarine" and noted a loud hissing noise of compressed air escaping and sank by the bow with the stern facing the beach, sinking into 4' of water. Afterwards, the gunners targeted the barge and picket boat and were claimed as unserviceable. Later, the "submarine" was examined and determined to be a 104' long, likely a Unkato (cargo transporting tube).

On December 27, 1943 PT-191 under the command of Ensign Rumsey Ewing with PT-190 "Jack O'Diamonds" departed Dreger Harbor PT Boat Base on a daylight reconnaissance of the coast of West New Britain. Returning from the patrol, 25 miles northwest of Arawe, the pair was attacked by a formation of 15 D3A2 Val dive bombers (6 x 552 Kōkūtai with 9 x 582 Kōkūtai) escorted by 38 A6M Zeros on a mission against Cape Gloucester but due to bad weather diverted to Arawe. Spotting the pair of PT Boats, the Japanese aircraft attacked. Immediately, the PT Boats called for fighter cover, but had difficulty transmitting the message. To evade the attacks, the pair split up and began evasive zig-zagging and attempted to reach cloud cover 12 miles away.

During the engagement which lasted 45 minutes, PT-191 sustained damage to all three of the engines but managed to return to base. Aboard, four of the crew were wounded including Captain Ewing in his lung early in the action and was relieved by second officer Ens. Fred Calhoun who took command and was also hit in his thigh by a bullet but remained at the helm. As the dive bombers attempted to bomb his boat, he would steer in the opposite direction but bomb fragments hit the ship including the 20mm cannon's magazine, disabling the gun and wounded the gunner CMoMM Thomas H. Dean and loader MoMM2c August Sciutto.

A near miss bomb blew an 18" hole in the port and hit the entire boat with shrapnel. During the third and fourth attacks, the port and starboard water jackets were hit as was the starboard intake manifold causing hot water and gas fumes to enter the engine room. MoMM1c Victor A. Bloom immediately taped all the leaks to keep the engines running and closed off the fuel tank compartment to prevent a possible explosion and released the CO2 extinguisher then performed first aid on the wounded crew members.

During the attacks, the PT Boat's gunners returned fire and claimed four planes shot down that crashed into the sea nearby.

Around 9:00am, a flight of sixteen P-47 Thunderbolts from the 341st Fighter Squadron arrived and intercepted the Japanese aircraft but lost two shot down: P-47D 42-22702 pilot 1st Lt. James E. Lynch, Jr. ditched and was rescued by PT-190. Also, P-47D 42-8099 pilot 1st Lt Wilburn S. Henderson bailed out but Missing In Action (MIA).

Although damaged during the combat, PT-191 was able to return to Dreger Harbor PT Boat Base under her own power. PT-190 survived undamaged.

PT-191 was the most successful PT-Boat in the South Pacific and South-West Pacific Area (SWPA) area and was credited with destroying a total of 18 barges. For actions during September-December 1943, crew member MM1c Victor A. Bloom earned the Navy Cross. PT-190 earned the Presidential Unit Citation for action in the New Guinea area during October 1943 to March 1944.

Next, operated from Hollandia and Mois Woendi PT Boat Base (Camp Taylor). On June 12, 1944 while moored at Mois Woendi PT Boat Bae (Camp Taylor), USS Kalk (DD-611) was bombed by Japanese aircraft that scored a direct hit causing heavy damage with many casualties aboard. Every PT boat including PT-191 rendered aid to the destroyer.

Next, operated from the Philippines operating from San Pedro Bay PT Boat Base and Ormoc Bay PT Boat Base.

On October 26, 1945 placed out of service. On December 19, 1945 officially stricken from the register. During May 1946, transferred to the State Department, Foreign Liquidation Commission and sold. Ultimate fate unknown likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.

At Close Quarters PT Boats in the United States Navy
pages 198, 202, 216 (December 24, 1943) 218-219 (December 27, 1943), 258, 398, 462, 493 (Bloom Navy Cross citation), 498, 562 (index)
(Page 493) MM1c Victor A. Bloom, USNR Navy Cross citation (September-December 1943):
"For extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty in action against the enemy. From September through December 1943, he was senior engineer of PT 191, during which time he participated actively in more than 30 combat patrols against Japanese barge traffic along the north coast of New Guinea and the west coast of New Britain. On these patrols his boat sank or destroyed ten barges loaded with troops and supplies, two ketches, one lugger, one picket boat and two enemy aircraft, frequently in the face of bitter resistance from the enemy craft and larger calibre shore guns. On three of these occasions his boat was hit by enemy fire.
On the morning of December 27, 1943, while effecting a daylight reconnaissance of the coast of New Britain northwest of Arawe, his boat and PT 190 were attacked by 30 to 40 Japanese dive bombers and fighter planes. During the engagement, which lasted 45 minutes, all three of the engines on his boat were hit and damaged. Displaying exemplary coolness and gallantry and in disregard of personal safety he remained at his post although the engine room was filled with fumes from leaking gas and sprayed with hot water from damaged water jackets. With extraordinary skill and presence of mind he maintained all engines in an operative condition through the entire action. Perceiving that the gas tanks were hit and leaking he took immediate and successful action to prevent potential fire by shutting off the tank compartment and blanketing it with carbon dioxide. In the course of the action and in addition to his duties as engineer he administered first aid to two injured members of the crew. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Navy of the United States."
NavSource PT-191

Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis

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Last Updated
October 23, 2020


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