Q-Boats: Heroes of the Off-Shore Patrol

By Alcaraz, Ramon | Sea Classics, July 2003 | Go to article overview

Q-Boats: Heroes of the Off-Shore Patrol


Alcaraz, Ramon, Sea Classics


THE UNTOLD SAGA OF PHILIPPINE ARMY'S PT BOATS

In 1934, the United States Congress passed a law granting Philippine Independence in 1946 following a ten-year Commonwealth period begining in 1936, our newly-elected President Manuel L. Quezon hired newly-retired US Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur to be the architect of the newly passed National Defense Act by the Commonwealth Legislature. MacArthur brought along with him two bright Army Majors - Dwight Eisenhower and James Ord - as well as Lt. Sidney L. Huff, USNR to assist him.

The Philippine Army with the Constabulary as a nucleus was formed, with different branches of services like infantry, artillery, etc., of the US Army, a sea-going branch called Off-Shore Patrol (OSP) and an Air Corps as branches of service. The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) was patterned after West Point and replaced the Philippine Constabulary Academy (PCA) and opened in 1936. I became a member of the pioneer class of PMA that graduated in 1940 when I joined the OSP. Basically, our National Defense was patterned after the Swiss Citizen Army conscript idea. By 1946, it was envisioned that we would have 400,000 citizen army led by graduates of PMA - along with 250 planes and a 50 Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla.

In 1937, Gen. MacArthur asked the USN if they could provide the needed Torpedo Boats, and since we had none. MacArthur's naval advisor, Lt. Sidney L. Huff, suggested Thornycroft Inc., England, since they were making Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) after World War One. With a 10-million pesos budget, negotiations for two MTBs started with Thornycroft Inc.

The OSP was a part of National Defense Act approved on 21 December 1935 and, on 11 January 1936, the guidelines were denned by Executive Order No. 11 as follows:

"The Off-Shore 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 (PA). It shall have such duties and powers as may be described by the Chief of Staff, PA."

On 15 April 1938, when construction of two MTBs for the OSP was started by Thornycroft, Maj. Rafael Ramos, a Philippine Nautical School (PNS) graduate known to Quezon, was appointed as first OSP Chief to start recruiting OSP personnel. Brigadier General Vicente Lim, G-1, HPA furnished him a list of Annapolis and PNS PA officers to select from but he was unable to do anything because Rep. Manuel Roxas recommended to Pres. Quezon that his province mate, Capt. Jose V. Andrada, USNA 1930, was better qualified. And so Capt. Andrada relieved Maj. Ramos as OSP Chief who was sent to the US QM School to study.

Captain Andrada announced his volunteer recruiting program and began interviewing interested individuals personally. By the end of 1938, Lt. Alfredo Peckson, USNA 1933, Lt. Marcelo Castillo, USNA 1938, PCA graduates Lieutenants Nestor Reinoso 1934, Alberto Navarette 1935, Simeon Castro 1935, Juan Maglayan 1937, Alfonso Palencia 1938, Santiago Nuval 1938, Emilio Liwanag 1938 and nine officers and 25 enlisted men had joined the OSP. Training on seamanship, navigation and gunnery were conducted with the USNA graduates as instructors at OSP Hq., Muelle del Codo, Port Area, Manila. The first class graduated on 9 February 1939, and Capt. Andrada marked it as the birthday of the OSP and since then, as far as I know, our anniversary is celebrated every 9 February, until somebody during the Martial Law years of Marcos tampered with the event.

The following month, March 1939, the first British-made MTB arrived and became known as a Q-Boat. Nobody knows its origin but I believe it was an idea of Gen. MacArthur to name it as such to honor his compadre Pres. Quezon - Q for Quezon, the godfather of MacArthur's only son born in Manila.

The first MTB became Q-112 Abra and it was my privilege to command the vessel during WWII, beginning September 1941. Abra is the name of a province on the island of Luzon. …

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