The End of MTB Ron 15

After the invasion operations and related missions in the waters off Southern France, the Allies' sphere of control grew.  The squadron moved in the St. Tropez Gulf and set up operations at the harbor at St. Maxime.  As August turned into September though, Ron 15 boats started to find less and less challengers.  The majority of the MTB Ron 15 War Diary entries mention Ron 15 patrols that turn up no enemy contacts.

It was during this down time that a lot of the photos on this site were taken, including this one.  Based on the photographic timeline, it looks like PT 209 picked up a mascot during their R&R in the Ischia/Capri/Naples area after their July patrols.  Umbriaggo, a small puppy, was found by some of the sailors and was instantly made a member of the crew.  Torpedoman Henry Beazley's biggest memory of Umbriaggo is the dozens of ticks that dotted the puppy's face and belly.  He said it took several hours and cigarettes before the crew were able to burn the ticks off the dog's skin.  My big question was what happened to him?  Beazley doesn't remember how long they had the dog or what happened to him after their Liberty.  There are pictures of the pup through early October of 1944, up until most of Ron 15 received orders home.

The fighting wasn't over yet though; there were still naval threats in the Mediterranean; including some that PT's were encountering for the first time.  Jim mentioned the threat of Italian midget submarines but nothing specific as far as engagements (this photo is from later in the Mediterranean.)  According to Lt. Commander Frederick Rosen, a Ron 15 officer who wrote a narrative of the squadron's history for the Peter Tare website, four submarines and 12 "explosive boats" were sunk in September of 1944.  The majority of the remaining combat was being fought by the boats of MTB Rons 22 and 29 in their patrol areas.

Things really slowed down through September. German shipping had been given a solid thrashing by naval and air forces and there were almost no targets left in Ron 15's area.  On October second sailors were told that their squadron's days were numbered; Ron 15 was no longer needed. Pop actually received notice on October 7th that he was being transferred back to the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center (MTBSTC).  He boarded the troop transport USS General M.C. Meigs (AP-116) on October 11th and crossed the Atlantic home.

Russ Hamachek, Ron 39 sailor and author, wrote the book Hot, Straight and True; An Anecdotal View of PT Boats in WWII.  The book is a compilation of first-person stories from PT operations around the word.  Jim contributed a story to the 1995 book about an incident he remembered happening while waiting for the troop ship home:

"We were lined up along the dock, dressed in out best bib and tucker, gear lashed seagoing style, awaiting transportation out to the USS General Meigs for the trip home.  LCVP's and LCM's were shuttling back and forth, but since there were hundreds of us, the line moved at a snail's pace.

"We tried to maintain some semblance of decorum, but, under the circumstances, there was a lot of good-natured banter and discreet horseplay going on.  A couple of the steward's mates were included in the jostling.  Williams and Witherspoon were inseparable buddies and notable, in part, because on was unusually tall, skinny and sedate, the other just the opposite - short, fat and genial.  As some was put it, 'on the average, they're average.'

"With all the crowding and edging along that dock, Witherspoon, the tall guy, was a bit over-jostled, lost his balance and took the deep six - sailor, seabag, hammock, ditty bag, flat hat and all.  It was one helluva splash and pandemonium broke out.  Everyone in the area seemed to be shouting, pointing down at the poor guy, throwing life rings and running in circles.  Well, almost everyone.  There was a lull in the uproar and his pal, Williams, his short, chubby buddy - glared over the side, hands on knees and calmly addressed the struggling sailor in a loud, resonant voice, strident, yet rich in timbre.

"'Witherspoon!  What the hell is the matter with you?  What are you doin' down there man?  You know you can't swim!'

"The tall, panic-stricken sailor paid no heed.  Seizing a life ring in a death grip, he began to smile as willing hands hauled him safely back up to the dock.  But his friend wasn't to be denied.

"'Witherspoon!  You're ignoring me!  Look at you, man -  you're all wet.  All wet and the Mediterranean rollin' down you cheeks!'

"Witherspoon threw a wet arm around his rotund friend...choked emotionally; then shook his head and completed the wet smile.  'You got it all wrong, man.  I ain't mad at nobody and I ain't ignoring you.  And that ain't the Mediterranean rollin' down my cheeks.  Them's tears, man - happy tears.  We're alive, little buddy...alive and headin' home!'"

While Jim was sailing through the Mediterranean one last time, the remaining sailors and boats of Ron 15 were sent to Malta and the squadron was decommissioned on October 17th (see photo).  The PT's were to be turned over to the British under the lend-lease agreement; the USS PT 209 became the HMS MGB 185 that day.  From Edwin Pink's journal, dated October 17th:

"Gave our boats away today!  Held our ceremony at 1130-1145.  Both crews lined up on the decks and some of our men, British men and Yugoslavians marched on the beach.  At the sound of attention I struck our colors and our pennant and the others followed in order.  The British raised theirs and then, on the eight boat struck theirs and then the Yugoslavians raised theirs.  It was quite impressive!"
It's my understanding that several of the boats were controlled by the British for the purpose of training the new Yugoslavian Navy.  Some of PT 209's crew took part in the hand-over operation including the skipper James MacArthur as well as Ray Conageski and Loren Brokaw.
In August of 1945 the MGB's were officially transferred to the Yugo's; PT 209/MGB 185 was recommissioned as MT 5 according to Janes Fighting Ships.  The now-ex 209 and others (PT 201/MT 1, PT 204/MT 2, PT 207/MT 3, PT 208/MT 4, PT 211/MT 6 and PT 211/MT 7) served Marshal Tito's navy into the Cold War.  They were scrapped in 1966.
Other Photographs

Base buildings, including galley at the MTB base at Isola La Maddalena, Sardinia, 1944.

Jim standing in front of Squadron 15's headquarters at what I think is Base 12, Bizerte, Tunisia.  Pop had it labeled as the advanced base in Maddalena, Sardinia.  The sign over the doorway bears the squadron motto: "The Difficult We Will Do Immediately...The Impossible Will Take a Little Longer."
Henry Beazley (left) and "Chick" Duerden (right) checking out the local transportation on Ischia during R&R, July 1944.
Duerden and Beazley again, this time checking out their part of PT 209 - the torpedo racks.  Both men were torpedomen on the boat. 
(Left to right) Dick Kiley, Chick Duerden, Herb Holter and Hen Beazley, on the deck of the 209, 1944. (Henry Beazley photo)
The crew of the 209 is shown here heading out in October of 1944.  According to Henry Beazley, the crew went out from Maddalena for the last time together to fire off all their ammunition.  After this "joyride" they brought the boat back so it could be prepared for the turn over to the Royal Navy. (Henry Beazley photo)
PT 206 - the "Lonely Hearts" - getting another coat of paint from Quartermaster Ed Pink (right) and Boatswain's Mate Ingram (left).
(Photo courtesy William Pink)

© 2000 - 2012 powered by
Doteasy Web Hosting