Battle of Mindoro
Wachapreague and Willoughby sailed from Leyte Gulf for Mios Woendi on
November 13, returning two weeks later with Pontus; Squadrons 13, 16,
and 28; six boats of Squadron 36 and PTs 227 and 230 of Squadron 17.
The PTs of Squadrons 13, 16, and 36 had had some action in the New
Guinea campaign; Squadron 28 was newly arrived from the Solomons, and
PTs 227 and 230 were the first boats to be transferred to the Southwest
Pacific from the Hawaiian Sea Frontier. Squadron 17 had been based at
Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands from February to April 1944, and since
then had been at Pearl Harbor, but had not yet been in action.
Squadrons 13 and 16, with PTs 227 and 230, under operational command
of Lieutenant Commander N. Burt Davis, Jr., got underway from Leyte Gulf
on the afternoon of December 12 in the convoy carrying the Eighth Army’s
Western Visayan Task Force to the invasion of Mindoro, 300 miles to the
northwest. Because of the likelihood of heavy enemy air attacks, the PTs
had no tender; instead, an advance base unit was loaded in LST 605 with
the PT Detachment of the 113th Naval Construction Battalion.
The invasion convoy had a portent of enemy intentions on the afternoon of
the 13th, when a suicide plane crashed into the flagship, Nashville, before
it could be taken under fire. Later in the afternoon, a flight of 12 enemy
planes was driven off by the convoy’s air cover, assisted by antiaircraft fire
of escort vessels and the PTs. Three of the enemy were shot down.
Troops began to pour ashore on the southwest corner of Mindoro at 0700,
December 15, meeting little opposition at the beach head. Half an hour
later Lieutenant Commander Davis went ahead with five PTs,
accompanying several of the escort vessels into Mangarin Bay, the
prospective site of the PT base, while the other 18 PTs remained with a
group of LSTs approaching Mangarin Bay. Eleven Japanese planes came
over, four attacking ships in the bay and the other seven concentrating on
the LSTs outside.
Three of the planes over the bay tried to dive on a destroyer, and were
shot down by combined fire of all ships. The fourth swooped in over the
stern of Ens. J. P. Rafferty’s PT 221. The 221 shot it down in flames.
Outside the bay, Lieutenant Commander Alvin W. Fargo, Jr., USNR,
commander of Squadron 13, ordered the PTs to speed up to get between
the LSTs and the approaching planes. The seven planes peeled off and
strafed the PTs ineffectively. The PTs shot down three of them. Of the four
that got through, two were brought down by combined fire of the PTs and
LST 605, crashing in the water close aboard the LST. The other two dived
into LSTs 472 and 738, ahead and astern of LST 605, setting them ablaze
and sinking them.
The next morning all of the PTs were in Mangarin Bay and LST 605 was
unloading base equipment on the beach. PTs 230 and 300 had just
entered the bay, returning from patrol, when a single plane strafed the 230
without causing any damage, made a complete circle and started to dive
on LST 605. The LST and all of the PTs opened fire, shooting off part of
the plane’s tail. It crashed on the beach 50 yards from the LST, killing five
men and wounding 11.
Half an hour later eight planes attacked the PTs. Lt. (jg.) Byron F. Kent,
USNR, boat captain of PT 230, reported: “Three of the planes chose PT
230 as their target. All fire was concentrated on the first as it dove for the
boat in a gradual sweep increasing to an angle of about 70 degrees. The
boat was maneuvered at high speed to present a starboard broadside to
the oncoming plane. When it became apparent that the plane would not
pull out of the dive, the boat feinted in several directions and then turned
hard right rudder under the plane. The boat’s speed carried it partly around
the plane as it struck the water 30 feet off the starboard bow.
“About one minute later the second plane began its dive following
somewhat the same tactics as the first. When the pilot finally committed
himself as to his final direction, the boat was swung to the opposite
direction of the plane’s slight bank. The plane struck 50 feet off the port
“The third plane came in 30 seconds later at a 70 degree angle. After
zigzagging rapidly as the plane came down, the boat swung suddenly at
right angles to the plane, which by then had finally committed itself. The
plane landed in the water just off the boat’s stern, raising the stern out of
the water and showering the 40 mm crew with flame, smoke, debris and
water. All personnel on the boat were slightly dazed, but there were no
injuries, and the boat was undamaged.”
Lt. (jg.) Frank A. Tredinnick, USNR, whose PT 77 was under attack by a
single plane, waited until the last second and pulled down his throttles,
causing the plane to crash in the water 10 yards ahead of the boat. Lt.
(jg.) Harry E. Griffin, Jr., USNR, with two planes heading for his PT 298,
maneuvered at top speed to avoid them. “The gunners fired a steady
stream of shells into one plane,’ he reported, “as it came down in a steep
dive and crashed 15 feet off the port bow. Just then the second plane
circled once and dived down on our stern, strafing as he dove. The
gunners fired on him until he crashed about three feet off the starboard
bow, spraying the deck with debris and water. One man was blown over
the side by the concussion but was rescued uninjured.”
The eighth plane was shot down by the combined fire of several PTs.
That afternoon, as PTs 224 and 297 were departing for the night’s patrol,
two planes dropped three bombs near them. The two PTs, assisted by
other PTs in the bay, shot down one plane in the water, which narrowly
missed the 224, and saw the other glide over the treetops on Mindoro, on
fire and losing altitude.
On the afternoon of December 17, three planes attacked the boats in
Mangarin Bay. The boats shot one down and the other two crashed in the
water trying to dive on PTs 75 and 84. One man on PT 224 was wounded
by strafing, and four men on PT 75 suffered minor wounds from flying
On December 18 three planes came over. Only one went into a suicide
dive. Lieutenant Commander Almer P. Colvin, commander of Squadron 16
gave PT 300 a last-second swing to the right. The plane apparently had
anticipated the maneuver. It swung right with the PT and crashed into the
engine room, splitting the boat in half. The stern sank immediately; the
bow burned for 8 hours. Colvin was seriously wounded, four men were
killed, four men were missing, and two officers and four men were
wounded. Only one man of the crew of PT 300 escaped without injury.
That night planes dropped bombs on Mangarin Bay, wounding three men.
The PTs withheld their fire to avoid revealing their positions. The Mindoro
airstrip began operations on December 20, but even the presence of
locally based fighters could not immediately stop the enemy attacks.
Between the 19th and 26th of December, the PTs shot down five more
planes at no cost to themselves.