PT 137

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Lyrics

My grandfather fought in the second world war
He served on a boat made of wood with no name
Those PT Boats were considered expendable
Mahogany planks on mahogany frame

They gave the boats numbers and put them in squadrons
He served aboard PT 137
In RON 33, dark Pacific deep waters
Saving the free world from one of oppression

Chorus
They’d go in full throttle
In spite of the gunfire
And launch their torpedoes away
They’d set up a smokescreen
And pull a 180
And open the engines and pray
They’d make it out OK

One time his boat was attacked by a zero
He manned the 50 with hands soaked in sweat
He got creased by shrapnel but fought like a hero
He got bad memories he could not forget

The sea took its toll on the sailors who braved it
The war finally ended the greed and transgression
Some came home with medals, some came home in boxes
The heroes who saved the whole world from oppression

Background

My grandfather Harry A MacLemale served in Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 33 on PT 137 and fought in the Battle of Surigao during the Battle of LeyTe. During the battle, under heavy fire, PT 137 released a torpedo to attack a Japanese ship.  The torpedo went under the targeted ship and hit a Japanese destroyer (the Abukuma) on the other side. The boat captain then ordered the release of a smoke screen, and they turned the boat around, opened the throttles, and escaped. Two days later, during an air raid, he was hit by shrapnel while firing a 50 caliber machine gun at a Japanese zero.  He was injured and his boat was damaged, but they survived.

He completed 55 combat patrols and 14 months in the southwest pacific. He was a gunner’s mate second class.  He was honorably discharged, and was awarded the Purple Heart.

PT boats were not named in same way that bigger ships like destroyers were – They were numbered instead.  Boat crews did name their boats, but the point of my lyric was that officially, the navy didn’t bother with names because PT boats were (comparatively) inexpensive and more expendable.  PT boats launched torpedoes at ships, but were also armed with two large caliber machine guns to fight planes and other boats.  Because they were small and fast, they could get close enough to large enemy ships to launch torpedoes.  The use of a smokescreen to cover a withdrawal was commonplace.  Still, I can’t image the courage it took for a small boat to charge a big destroyer under heavy fire, launch their weapons, put up a smoke screen, and escape.

When people talk about Word War 2 they almost always think of Germany as the big enemy, but it was Japan that first attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor.  My lyrics pay respect specifically to the brave PT boat sailors, but it took the combined forces of all of the Allies to end the war and put a stop to what could have been a very dark future for mankind.

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