The U.S. Navy’s Patrol Torpedo (PT) Boats occupy a unique place in American popular view of World War II. From classic films (John Ford’s They Were Expendable, based on Lieutenant John A. “Wild Man” Bulkeley’s role in the evacuation from the Philippines via PT Boat of General Douglas MacArthur and his staff) to TV comedy (McHale’s Navy) to the design of “mosquito boat” insignias for some squadrons by Walt Disney Studios, the PT boat is enshrined in public memory. Above all, the PT boat is remembered for the service of future President John F. Kennedy in the Pacific theater as commander of PT-109 (also the subject of a film). For all of these reasons, these speedy torpedo-bearing gunboats are perhaps the most renowned American naval vessels of the 20th century.In "At Close Quarters: PT Boats in the United States Navy", the U.S. Navy’s 1962 official history of PT boats in World War II, author Robert J. Bulkley Jr., himself a PT boat skipper, provides the definitive account of the reality behind the romantic façade. After a brief Foreword by President Kennedy, the book opens with an account of PT boat activity in Philippine waters and “Wild Man”
Bulkeley’s evacuation of MacArthur, and a brief history of their design and construction. The author then provides a detailed account of PT boat attacks on capital ships and night raids on Japanese-held ports and shipping across the Pacific, including Guadalcanal and the Solomons, New Georgia, Bougainville, the Aleutians, and the return to the Philippines and beyond. Although usually viewed from the perspective of the war in the Pacific, At Close Quarters also provides valuable information about the lesser-known role of PT boats in the Mediterranean theater of operations, where they battled their Italian and German equivalents and pre- and post-D-Day operations against German E-boats. Profusely illustrated and carefully documented, At Close Quarters is a naval history classic that anchors the key role of the “mosquito boat” in the deeper reality behind its popular image.