One of the unique identifiers of a naval vessel is the builder’s plaque, which provides the hull number or name of a vessel, its type, and date of manufacture. These are one-of-a-kind artifacts, made only for the specific ship they are mounted on. After more than 70 years away, the builder’s plaque for PT-305 has been returned and remounted.
The story starts around May 1943, when a worker at Higgins Industries City Park Plant fitted the builder’s plaque on the interior of contract boat #41. From that moment on she was officially known as PT-305. The plaque greeted the first crew as they took the boat through her paces and named her the USS Sudden Jerk; it rode out the trip to Miami for sea trials, and then across the Atlantic. It was there for the heavy action of summer 1944, the invasion of southern France, and the collision with PT-303 (the topic of an upcoming PT-305 post here). The crew moved past the plaque hundreds of times while going about their regular duties. It was well cared for and is still in good condition, aside from small paint smudges.
In November 1945, the plaque was removed from PT-305 by Radioman Second Class George Emory Rowland. George had been part of the PT-305 crew since December 1944. Identified as “The Voice” in crew photos, George was responsible for maintaining and operating the boat’s radio equipment. After the war in Europe ended, PT-305 and her crew returned to the United States for deployment to the Pacific. PT-305 never made it to the Pacific, and when the Japanese surrendered, the men of PT-305’s squadron prepared to decommission their boats. PT-305’s final commanding officer, Lieutenant Junior Grade Richard Hamilton, gave Rowland permission to remove two items from the boat. George chose to take the builder’s plaque and the toaster from the galley.
For decades, Rowland kept the builder’s plaque in his studio. He worked as a set artist, designing, building, and painting sets for commercials, movies, and storefronts. Before he passed in 2002 he told his son Craig that he wanted the builder’s plaque to go to a proper destination. At the time, George could have never known that PT-305 would eventually be restored to operational condition. Just before the boat’s official launch ceremony on March 25, 2017, Craig presented the builder’s plaque to PT-305’s restoration volunteers, a fitting conclusion to a 72-year journey.