By Andy Pouncey
April 27, 2006
Germantown is home to P.T. Boats, Inc., a 501(c)(3) historical nonprofit organization established by veterans of WWII P.T. service to preserve the history of Patrol Torpedo Boats, their shore bases and tenders ships, and the men who manned them.
The organization was founded by Jimmy “Boats” Newberry, a prominent Memphis businessman and former WWII – PT boat veteran. Prior to incorporation in 1967, the organization started out in 1946 as a passion and a way that Mr. Newberry could keep in touch with former squadron (RON 9) members.
He started a mimeographed Christmas letter to keep his fellow friends abreast of matters of interest about other squadron members. To his surprise, other PT veterans heard about this and wanted to be included. Before long this Christmas letter became a 60-page broadsheet “PT Boats All Hands Newsletter” with a mailing list of thousands.
Prior to formally incorporating, Mr. Newberry found that official naval sources, including the Naval Museum, had retained very little pertaining to PT boats. He started a drive through his newsletter to commemorate the boats and their crews, and the response was so great that P.T. Boats, Inc. was formed.
Today, an active group maintains the corporate office and aides members and others with requests. They keep alive the history of Patrol Torpedo Boat Service through their collections of artifacts, books, documents, blueprints, manuals, film, and between 8,000 and 10,000 photographs. They produce the biannual newspaper “All Hands” for over 5,000 living PT boat veterans and other members.
Their website www.ptboats.org provides all the pertinent organization information, as well as a section detailing the aspects of PT boats and the PT Boat Service during World War II. They even arrange, coordinate, and manage a yearly reunion of PT boaters from around the world.
P.T. Boats, Inc. also maintains the P.T. Boat Museum and Library at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts, representing the world’s largest collection of PT artifacts and memorabilia. Over 4,000 square feet is devoted to 43 commissioned squadrons (Rons), some 130 bases, and 19 tender ships, including the only pair of completely restored PT boats. Both PT boats are National Historic Landmarks.
Of the three manufacturers (Higgins, Elco, and Vosper) of these versatile crafts, Elco produced the largest number for the U.S. Navy. PT boats operated during World War II in the English Channel, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Aleutians, off the Eastern Seaboard, and throughout the Pacific. They saw action in the Normandy invasion, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and the Philippines.
PTs performed a multitude of duties including carrying mail, rescuing downed pilots, dropping and picking up spies, terrorizing Japanese supply lines, and harassing German E-boats. Between 60,000 and 64,000 men served in all aspects of PT service. Of the 531 PTs placed in US Navy Service, roughly 18 US PTs have been located to date.
Three of the better-known PT boaters were the late Lt. Henry Loeb (Ron 29 PT 553), former Mayor of Memphis, Ens. Howard Baker (Ron 44), former Tennessee Senator and Ambassador to Japan, and the late Lt. JG John F. Kennedy (Rons 2, 4; PTs 59, 109, 10), 35th President of the United States.
P.T. Boats, Inc. is located on Cordova Cove, southwest of Wolf River Boulevard and Germantown Road. Alyce Guthrie, daughter of Jimmy “Boats” and Alyce Newberry, succeeded her mother as the Executive Vice-President.
PT boaters continue to be located, and if you are a PT Veteran or one who knows one, please ask them to contact P.T. Boats, Inc. at 755-8440 in Germantown. This is an educational resource for generations to come, and an excellent way to recognize our country’s veterans who manned the Patrol Torpedo Boats in service to our country.