For anyone who has read the stories or seen the movies about the exploits of John F. Kennedy when he skippered the PT 109, the Patrol Torpedo boat has to have earned a special place in their memory. The
PT, made famous by their daring exploits in WWII has its origins similar boats being developed prior to the war. In the late 1930s, the Navy was working on three designs which were promising but lacked the performance the Navy was looking for. Then a representative from ELCO (The Electric Boat Company) obtained a high-speed boat from the British Power Boat Company. The boat was based on a Hubert Scott-Paigne designed 70-foot advanced speed boat. ELCO used this basic design and submitted an experimental 40-ton armed version designated as the PT-19. The PT-19 was not quite what the Navy wanted. It did not fare well in open seas. Back to the drawing boards with the PT-20, which was 77 feet long. This led to the Navy submitting designs to ELCO, Huckins and Higgins. A competitive trial was conducted offshore of New London during July of 1941. New boat designs were tested from Elco, Huckins and Higgins began developing their own designs in what became known as the “Plywood Derby”. Ironically the boats were not made of plywood. It was decided that all three designs were worthy of further development but, the Elco design was the winner. The ELCO was deemed to be the best in rough seas and had superior speed and handling capabilities. That led to ELCO becoming the largest producer of PT boats all during WWII.