Iron Men, Wooden Boats, The Epic Story of American PT Boats in World War II


In the spring of 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when American prestige and morale were at a low ebb, it seemed quite possible that the war in the Pacific was lost. The Japanese were advancing on all fronts. Within six months, having captured Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and having overrun Southeast Asia, they were now heading toward Australia. The Japanese plan was simple: establish bases in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and use them to cut Australia and New Zealand off from the West, leaving Pearl Harbor as the final target. Seeing the threat for what it was, Adm. Ernest King of the U.S. Navy decided that further enemy advances had to be stopped at all costs. But with so few ships surviving the Pearl Harbor attack, and the overwhelming superior power of the Japanese navy, King's task would not be easy. One of his solutions was PT boats; they were small, inexpensive, and expendable. And most importantly, they were armed with torpedoes, a weapon that all ships feared.

Naval combat narrative is the heart of this book: Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Bougainville, the Mediterranean sea, the English Channel, the Philippines - historic operations in which the PT boats would win fame, glory, and a place in history. In this watershed work, ten years in the writing, the author, who served on a PT boat from Rendova in the Solomons to Morotai Island, recreates the story of PT boats, taking the reader on hair-raising operations on ink-black nights, stalking the vaunted "Tokyo Express" off Guadalcanal, making high-speed torpedo attacks on massive ships, or exchanging gunfire with heavily armed Japanese motorized supply barges off the New Guinea coast; all actions that made history.

Drawing on his experience on a PT boat as well as official reports, the massive volumes by Samuel Morison [History of United States Naval Operations in World War II], The Japanese Navy in World War II (essays by Japanese naval officers with their views of the war in the Pacific), along with varied memoirs of individual officers on both sides, the author reveals both sides of the struggle. Iron Men, Wooden Boats also covers the thoughts and emotions of the individuals, soldiers and sailors, the strategies and conflicts of their commanders, and the strengths and weaknesses thereof. It is a landmark accomplishment that will be recognized for what it is: the definitive narrative of those fascinating and famous PT boats, a work that meets the highest standards of history.

Howard F. West 

2005, 5½x8½, cloth, 540 pp.

ISBN: 9780788425370