World War II Veteran Weaves PT Boat Tales to Rotary
Hugh Hunter, a member of the Marietta Rotary Club, served on PT 436 through the final two years of World War II.
Stuck on a tiny PT boat anchored at a tiny Pacific Island amid a world war in 1945, many rumors circulated among the crew, most of an unbelievable sort. So when a dispatch arrived saying that the United States had dropped some sort of “superbomb” on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, it was met with a level of incredulity.
As did a second one three days later reported a second such bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
No one on PT 463 believed the news until a Japanese peace envoy arrived in the Philippines, said Hugh Hunter of Marietta and a World War II veteran.
"Then we knew we would be going home shortly," Hunter related on Wednesday to about a 100 fellow members of the Marietta Rotary Club. The Rotary Club was holding its weekly lunch at the Hilton Atlanta/Marietta Conference Center.
Hunter served as guest speaker and he apologized in advance for telling war stories with a paraphrase from one of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands shortly after they married: He knows what he is supposed to do but isn’t sure how to make it interesting.
“So that’s how it is with World War II history,” Hunter said to laughs.
A graduate of Georgia Tech with a degree in aerospace engineering. Hunter spent 18 years in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves followed by 35 years with Lockheed Martin. His naval war experience began at the Panama Canal where he was attached to PT Boat 463, which was part of a squadron of 15 boats. Because the tiny war ships could not traverse the Pacific Ocean, they were all stowed on the enormous cargo shop USS White Plains. Thirteen days later, the ships were deployed at the Solomon Islands.
The mission: Patrol the area and prevent supplies from reaching Japanese infantry in Guadalcanal.
Within days of their arrival, three Marine planes flew in a special formation to welcome the presence of the PT squadron. A stray Marine plane showed up the next day and attempted to perform the same maneuvers, but apparently the pilot had failed to close his hatch and strap himself into the aircraft.
“Gravity being what it is…” Hunter said, laughs engulfing the rest of the story. He did say that the pilot was recovered safely from the sea and was just a bit shaken.
Hunter’s story ranged from the humorous such as the tale of the merchant shipper with the boat packed with Lucky Lager and the intense as when his PT boat stalled just a few miles from a Japanese stronghold at Guadalcanal.
He said the squadron had to leave his ship and crew behind. Amid rolling seas and in sight of the island, the crew had to jump into the waters and move and repair two 300-pound propellers. Hours later, the ship was on its way again to catch up with the rest of the squadron.
“It is remarkable what you can do when you are so encouraged.”