In much the same way that many people joined together to work for victory in World War II, the restoration of PT-305 was a team effort built on contributions by many of physical labor, project management, or the gift of funds. Restoring a WWII combat-veteran PT boat to fully operational trim required all of these efforts plus the sourcing of thousands of components.
The 39,000 copper rivets used in the hull were comparatively easy to acquire because the company that produced them for Higgins Industries in 1943 is still making them today. Other items—like replacement hull ribs and deck planks—were crafted locally from new lumber by the restoration crew’s skilled boatbuilders. And the Internet helped connect the Museum with people around the world who possessed long-obsolete parts. For example, the boat’s radar assembly was found in Australia.
The popular online auction site eBay proved useful in acquiring a rare piece to help complete PT-305’s restoration, a Mark 31 Torpedo Director. The sight and moveable scales of this deceptively simple device were used to aim torpedoes—actually to aim the PT boats themselves, as torpedoes fired only straight forward—by mechanically computing factors such as the angle of the target on the bow, the speed of the target, and the speed of the torpedo.
Made of precisely machined cast brass, the Mark 31 was built by Bristol and Martin Inc. of New York City, prewar a manufacturer of vending machines and fruit juicers. PT-305’s restoration crew had been on the lookout for this piece since its work began, but had no luck finding one for sale, in the collections of other museums, or aboard another PT boat.
With such a prize on the electronic auction block, bidding was fierce. Fortunately, the Museum emerged as top bidder. The purchase was money well spent. In addition to helping complete PT-305's array of authentic artifacts, the director also can serve as a model for a Museum-machined copy—a great tool for teaching history-rich, hands-on STEM lessons.
This article by Tom Czekanski, the Museum’s Senior Curator and Restoration Manager, originally appeared in V-Mail, the Museum's quarterly newsletter for Members. Learn more about the benefits of Membership here.