By Christopher Miskimon

“Devil Boat” was a nickname given by the Japanese to American Patrol Torpedo (PT) boats during World War II. They saw service in a variety of roles including interdicting enemy shipping, raids, reconnaissance, inserting commandos behind enemy lines and air-sea rescue. PT boats and their crews proved versatile and daring, often improvising to carry out missions for which they had never been trained. In the southwest Pacific, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 25 carried out all these duties and more. Its PT boats generally operated at night and in pairs. When a mission involved a fight, the boats’ cannon and machine guns were the primary weapons; the torpedoes were rarely used in the actions these sailors fought. Help was usually far away, so the crews were on their own. 

The author uses the experiences of Squadron 25 to represent the hundreds of PT boat crews who served in the Pacific during the war. The book is well-researched and thoroughly detailed. The text provides an in-depth look at the operations of PT boat units and their wide-ranging effects on the war, minor events when taken individually but in sum disproportionate to the boats’ size and small crews, mainly reservists and draftees on their first overseas deployments.

The Devil Boats: A U.S. Navy PT Squadron in Action in World War II (C.J. Skamarakas, Stackpole Books, Lanham, MD, 2023, 264 pp., maps, photographs, appendices, notes, bibliography, $32.95, hardcover)