Offshore Patrol: Forgotten PT Boats

By Gibson, Charles Dana | Sea Classics, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Offshore Patrol: Forgotten PT Boats


Gibson, Charles Dana, Sea Classics


Just prior to World War Two, the Philippine Army launched an ambitious, but ill-fated, program to bolster its coastal defense with squadrons of fast British-designed PT boats

Just prior to World War Two, the Philippine Army launched an ambitious, but ill-fated, program to bolster its coastal defense with squadrons of fast British-designed PT boats

Lieutenant General Douglas MacArthur, the architect of the Philippine Commonwealth Army, had developed the idea that in lieu of a battle fleet for the Philippines, a naval defense of the islands would be best served by "flotillas of fast torpedo boats supported by an air force." Although evidence is scanty on the early developments for this torpedo boat fleet, it appears to have had its beginnings with Sidney L. Huff, a retired American naval officer. Huff, who had joined MacArthur's staff in 1936 as his civilian naval advisor, had never seen a torpedo boat; but in order to rectify that inadequacy, he instituted an investigation into developments made in their design since the end of World War One. The conclusion he reached was that the type being used by the British was the most suitable for the Philippines. The original planning called for construction of a fleet of 55 torpedo boats which were to be designated as Q boats in honor of Manuel L. Quezon, the commonwealth's first president. Five million dollars was budgeted; however, at that juncture, there was no definite schedule for implementation.

During 1935, the Philippine Commonwealth government enacted Act No. 1, the Philippine National Defense Act, and on 11 January 1936, the Philippine Commonwealth Army was organized under Executive Order 11. Article 26 of that Executive Order created the Offshore Patrol (OSP) integrated as part of the Philippine Regular Army. The purpose of the OSP was to act as the maritime arm for the defense of the Philippines under the following guidelines:

The Offshore Patrol shall comprise all marine equipment and personnel acquired by the Philippine Government and assigned either in peace or war to the control of the Chief of Staff (Philippine Commonwealth Army). It shall have such duties and powers as may be described by the Chief of Staff.

On 15 April 1938, the OSP was activated with Philippine Commonwealth Army Major Rafael Ramos named as its chief. A followup directive instructed that all US Naval Academy graduates then within the officer corps of the Philippine Commonwealth Army were to be assigned to the patrol. Ramos was also handed a list of graduates of the Philippine Nautical School (the Commonwealth's Merchant Marine Officers Academy) who were presently officers of the Army either in an active or a reserve status. From such personnel selections were to be made to fill out the OSP's commissioned ranks. The uniforms for OSP commissioned officers were to be identical to those of other officers of the Philippine Commonwealth Army, except for an anchor insignia which was to be worn on the lapels of blouses (or shirt collars) designating branch.

Shortly after being given the command of OSP, Ramos received orders to attend a Quartermaster training course in the United States. In his absence, Lt. Jose V. Andrada (US Naval Academy, Class of 1930) was designated acting OSP chief. One of Andrada's first moves was to increase the OSP officer allotment by accepting civilians as officer candidates - requirements being that the candidate was either a graduate of the Philippine Nautical School or holder of a Philippine Merchant Marine license (provided the licensee was a high school graduate). Andrada established a year-long school for officer candidate training. Nine officer candidates were graduated and commissioned the first year.

In December 1939, the officer candidate program was enlarged to accommodate undergraduates of the Philippine Military Academy who were given a three-month course in maritime subjects. If completed successfully, the graduates qualified as Commonwealth Army third lieutenants assigned to the OSP Reserve. …

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