|Heading for the water in New Orleans|
Senior Captain George Benedetto pushes the throttle forward, and PT-305 – the only combat-hardened World War II boat of its kind to be sailing today – rumbles even faster through the waters of Louisiana’s Lake Ponchartrain, bobbing up and down as wind hits the captain’s helm with an intensity enough to make one’s eyes squint.
“We’re setting a speed record for this millennium!” gushes Mark Masor, a naval architect, holding up a phone app indicating that the 73-year-old boat is pushing 30 knots (around 34 mph), the fastest it has gone since the completion of its restoration.
|Finished and ready to go|
The exhilarating moment onboard the Higgins Industries Patrol-Torpedo boat was just one of many as Fox News got an early ride on the finished product of a multi-year project at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
“It’s going to be a fabulous ambassador for the museum. It’s going to give kids and people a chance to actually feel and be on a World War II vessel and feel in a sense what the servicemen felt at that time riding on the same type of boat,” Jerry Strahan, a volunteer and author, told Fox News. “Seldom do you get a chance to really ride or take a vessel like this.”
The boat operated in the Mediterranean along the coasts of southern France and Northern Italy during World War II, conducting more than 77 offensive patrols and operations. PT-305 fought in 11 separate actions and sank three German ships during its 14-month deployment.
After WWII, PT-305 acted as a civilian tour boat in New York Harbor and a fishing charter, while falling into disrepair. The New Orleans museum purchased the boat in 2007 and since then, a volunteer team of 202 people worked 105,000 hours at its restoration pavilion to get PT-305 back up and running.
“I’m real anxious to get aboard and hear those engines start up and feel the vibrations under my feet again,” James Nerison, a U.S. Navy Torpedoman 1st Class on PT-305, told Fox News.
Nerison, now 92, said he plans to travel from his home in California to New Orleans at the end of March to take a ride on the boat with his son.
“I’m tickled pink. I’ve been following the progress of the restoration since it started,” he said. “It’s been quite a long time.”
|Sadly, none of the guns are functional|
Using 300 gallons of paint, volunteers back then coated the boat with its “Measure 32 modified” camouflage, which gave it a tactical advantage when making torpedo attacks in the cover of darkness, according to the museum.
A “Thayer blue” layer was applied to the front of the boat, which made it difficult to see at night from a distance when it was approaching an enemy ship head-on. In the back, PT-305 was painted with a “deck blue” color that reduces shadows from light sources and made it harder for ships to spot as it retreated from an attack, according to the museum.
The deck of the boat also has red and yellow colorations in the bow and stern, along with a large red and yellow star intended to make it identifiable to Allied aircraft. Researchers combed over photographs and written reports from the ship’s original crew to get the markings right, said Tom Czekanski, a senior museum curator and restoration manager.
If you get a chance, head down to New Orleans and take the tour and the ride. Should be a real thrill! Those looking to get a 90-minute ride on the boat will be able to do so starting April 1. Tickets already being sold on the museum’s website cost $350, with a $45 discount for members, seniors, children or veterans.
Deck tours that last 45 minutes also are available for $12 to $15.
Until next time,