Daily Event for February 1, 2014

On February 1, 1945 two PT boats of MTB RON-13 were attempting to make contact with Rear Admiral William M. Fechteler, Commander of TG-78.2 off Luzon, Philippines. The rendezvous was meant to establish the parameters of future PT boat operations. This was important so that when a target was located, but could not be clearly identified, it would be assumed that it was an enemy vessel since no friendly forces should be in that area without orders. At the time the Task Group was covering the landings at Nasugbu Bay and were searching for Japanese suicide boats which were quite active in the area. Two ships of TG-78.2 were patrolling between Fortune Island and Talin Point, but were apparently not informed that the two PT boats were approaching the area.

At 1630 USS PT-77 and USS PT-79 departed their base and headed toward the area where the Task Group was located. The PT boats had orders not to go north of Talin Point unless ordered by CTG-78.2 to do so in order to keep them from running afoul of friendly forces, orders which they obeyed. They failed to make contact with CTG-78.2 and after reaching Talin Point they turned east toward the beach. When three or four miles out they turned south and continued at idle speed attempting to make contact.

Between 2200 and 2300 (times vary from different reports) the PT boats were picked up on the radar of USS Conyngham DD-371 (Cdr. Brown Taylor, USN) about 10,000 yards off. The contact was reported to CTG 78.2 and they were ordered to investigate the contact (one report states that CTG-78.2 ordered them to take the boats under fire). In company with USS Lough DE-586 (Lt. Cdr. Blaney C. Turner, USNR) the two destroyers closed the contact.

According to the PT survivors they were, at the time of the action, three miles south of Talin Point and therefore in a "safe" zone. But in a war there is no safe zone and the PT's were shortly receiving fire from the destroyers. The men on the PT's knew the destroyers shooting at them were their own, but the destroyers were under the mistaken opinion that these were Japanese suicide boats. The task group had been attacked the night before by an estimated 30 suicide boats and the men in the destroyers were on edge to say the least. However it is unclear to me why the destroyer commanders were not told that two U.S. PT boats were expected to be in the area or why they could not make contact with them before the attack. The destroyers claimed not to have seen any signals from the PT's either by radio or signal lamp. The survivors from the PT's claimed that they had sent both radio and light signals.

Attempting to outrun the destroyers the PT's took off south at full speed, but PT-77 ran onto a reef 12 miles south of Talin Point and was shortly thereafter hit by a shell and set afire. PT-79 slowed to avoid the reef and turned north. At that time she was hit on the port side by a 5" shell. The survivors abandoned her and she exploded and sank.

The thirty men in the water swam to shore and were helped by some Philippinos to safety. Four men from the PT's were killed, including the commanding officer of PT-79 and Lt. Stillman, the commanding officer of MTB RON-16 who was in overall command of the mission.

At least two attempts were made to located the survivors, one by USS PT-222 and USS PT-223 on Feb. 2 and the second by USS PT-227 and USS PT-230 of MTB RON-17 on Feb. 3. The latter boats located the survivors two miles north of Santiago Point and picked them up. The two boats which had been completed within days of each other at Higgins Industries in New Orleans became the last two PT boats lost in action during World War II.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in
USS PT-77 and USS PT-79
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Berra, Vincent A.
Quartermaster 3rd Class (USNR)
Haughian, Michael A.
Lieutenant (j.g.) (USNR)
Commanding Officer
Klesh, Joseph E.
Motor Machinist's Mate 1st Class (USNR)
Stillman, John H.
Lieutenant (USNR)

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Dec. 13, 2014

My name is Charles E Looney Jr. I am the son of MoMM 1st Class Charles E. Looney Sr. who was on the 79 boat that night. My dad passed away four years ago, but I remember him telling me some of the events of that night and how he had just traded places with Joe Klesh in the engine room shortly before they were hit by the 5" shell.

After dad and Joe had changed shifts in the engine room my dad was on the aft deck of the 79 and was told to report anything he saw behind them. I remember him saying that he reported to someone he could see the outline of mountains in the aft horizon. Shortly after that they came under fire. Don't recall him mentioning about the communication problems they were having between the PT's and our warships, but I do remember him saying they took evasive action and about the 77 boat going aground on the reef.

He said he had his helmet and kapoc life jacket on as required in those conditions when the 5" shell hit the 79 boat and instantly blew him off the boat into the water. He said when he hit the water it felt like his helmet about jerked his head off as he had the chin strap in place. I know he always felt bad about not being able to help his buddy Joe in the engine room, but said he must have been killed instantly. He told me after the survivors all met up in the water, he said the guy in charge (can't remember who he said it was) said I'm not sure which way land is (as it was dark) but according to the last direction the boat was heading, I think land is this way.

Dad said they swam all the rest of that night and most of the next day before reaching land. Dad said when they got on shore his arms just wanted to automatically keep moving in a breaststroke motion by themselves. Dad thought the natives must have seen them out in the water at some point as they met up with the survivors of the 79 boat shortly after reaching shore. Dad said the natives hid them from the Japanese forces that were not too far away from them.

Dad said the day the two other PT boats came to rescue them, as they were running out of the woods or jungle he stepped on a piece of bamboo or something running it up through the bottom of his foot and out the side of his ankle. He said he kept on running though towards the water and the PT boats. He said when he hit the salt water that's when he really felt the results of his injury and said his buddies helped him the rest of the way to the waiting PT's.

At some time, I don't know if it was while he was in the hospital after they were rescued or where I remember he said he had talked to a couple of the guys from one of the ships that hit them, but he asked them how they hit them with that 5" shell while they were weaving back and fourth during their evasive action and the guy told dad that they just lobbed them in there!

Somewhere I still have the telegram that was sent to my Grandparents from the Navy telling them that their son was missing in action.

If you have or know any more info or pictures of the 79 boat or Ron 13 I sure would like to look them up.

I enjoyed his recollections and his stories he had about the War and the 79 boat which he would say "I rode it in the Allieutians then to Puget Sound, South Pacific till she went down off the Philippines" He had a Machine gun he had taken off a downed Japanese plane he cleaned up and had mounted on the wall of the engine room when it went down.

To me, as all of them a True Hero!

Thanks again,
Chuck Looney
Bremerton, Washington

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