Eighty feet long, built of layered mahogany and powered by three monstrous 1500-horsepower V-12 engines, the US Navy’s Patrol Torpedo (PT) boats screamed across the water at over forty knots. They were not only fast, but also armed to the teeth, bristling with a deadly array of machine guns, automatic cannons, torpedoes, and depth charges. Duty aboard the boats was often reserved for the spirited, the aggressive, and the very young, the average age of a PT sailor being twenty-four years of age. The “mosquito boats” carried out a variety of missions during the war, including scouting and reconnaissance, attacking enemy shipping, search and rescue, interdiction of supply routes, strafing of enemy shore installations, supporting coast watchers and special operations forces, and even putting armed crew members ashore to perform commando-style raids on far-flung enemy outposts.
The boats were used in every theater of the Second World War, but they are most famous for their daring exploits in the South Pacific, where they were the US Navy’s first line of defense against the “Tokyo Express,” the nightly attacks of Japanese destroyers against American forces on Guadalcanal. Dark Nights, Deadly Waters tells the story of the first PT boats deployed to the fetid and malarial island of Tulagi, in the desperate early days of America’s “island hopping” campaign across the Pacific. Using a gritty and evocative narrative style—citing first-hand accounts, after-action reports, and official navy documents—author Keith Warren Lloyd describes in vivid detail the austere conditions under which the sailors lived and worked, and the highly dangerous nocturnal missions they performed.
Keith Warren Lloyd is an author and historian, a U.S. Navy veteran, and a professional firefighter. Lloyd graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Liberal Studies with an emphasis on history and political science. He is also the author of The Great Desert Escape: How the Flight of 25 German Prisoners of War Sparked One of the Largest Manhunts in American History and Avenging Pearl Harbor: The Saga of America's Battleships in the Pacific War. He lives in Arizona.