Daily Event for March 17, 2014

On the night of March 17, 1944 two destroyers and two PT boats were assigned a mission to destroy enemy positions at the mouth of the Jaba River on Bougainville Island. As was expected several gun positions and barges were found. The two PT boats, USS PT-283 and USS PT-284 moved close and fired on the barges. Midnight was approaching and darkness prevailed so illumination shells were fired by one of the destroyers and others were dropped from a PBY. The men in the PT's could see their target and took the barge under fire. It was seen to be hit and was beached by her crew.

A second barge was then sighted and the PT's moved against it immediately. This barge was also damaged and beached, not far from another barge which had been taken out the night before. USS Guest DD-472 was "invited" to shell the hulk and the two PT's moved off, PT-284 to the northwest and PT-283 to the south of the second barge.

Under the command of Lt. Commander (later Rear Admiral) Earle K. McLaren, USN, USS Guest moved to close on the barge. McLaren opened fire on the barge at 2343 hours with her 5"/38 guns, after several salvos PT-283 moved to within 200-300 yards to observe the fall of shot. At 2345 PT-283 requested a cease fire and McLaren obliged and shifted to the second target. A PBY dropped another flare and McLaren opened fire on the second target. A direct hit was observed and the target burst into flames. For the unfortunate men in PT-283 they had been misidentified as the second target.

Fire was immediately stopped and PT-284 under Ens. L. R. Haspel, USNR moved fast to search for survivors. Fifteen men, several wounded and one body were recovered. The wounded, including the commanding officer Ens. William D. Schaffner, USNR and the Section Leader Lt. Commander Ronald K. Irving, USN, were taken to USS Guest for medical treatment, the rest were returned to base on PT-284. Three men were never found and one died of wounds later. The tragic incident cost the lives of five men and the loss of the boat, it also cost McLaren his command a few days later. He was replaced as commanding officer by Commander Marvin G. Kennedy, USN on Mar. 24.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in
USS PT-283
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Brun, Roland J.
Torpedoman's Mate 3rd Class (USNR)
Cooper, Marcus W.
Motor Machinist's Mate 1st Class (USNR)
Gleason, Lawrence M.
Motor Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (USNR)
Kent, William H.
Ensign (USNR)
Mysliwiec, John L.
Gunner's Mate 2nd Class (USNR)
Died of wounds Apr. 3.

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