110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Keith Allen
posted Nov 7, 2013 - 10:43:38am
Editor's note: Read more stories about veterans and Veterans Day and see more photos in the Nov. 6-12 Extra! edition, which features "A Proud Salute to our Veterans." Veterans Day will be celebrated on Monday, Nov. 11. Get all the information you need about events and activities that salute veterans in the Extra! and in the Nov. 7-10 Weekend Edition of The Beacon.
Here, read John Wade's story of service in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during World War II. Wade, a former Beacon delivery driver, recently celebrated his 90th birthday:
PT boats (patrol torpedo boats) provided a significant role in the U.S. effort in World War II, and were used in all theaters of combat, but were especially famed for their use in the Pacific Theater.
John Wade, who manned at 40 mm cannon on a PT boat, was born Jan. 5, 1923, in Hayward, Wis., and grew up there in northern Wisconsin.
Wade joined the U.S. Navy in spring 1943, and volunteered to work on PT boats (patrol torpedo boats), which were small, fast attack vessels used by the Navy. Wade was sent to the Pacific Theater of operations, where he served as a gunner’s mate on PT 340, sailing around Luzon, Philippines; New Guinea; and many other Pacific islands. Wade operated the 40 mm cannon, which was a powerful weapon.
The Japanese forces feared the PTs, which they called “devil boats.” PT boats could travel at 40-50 knots, but the barges moved at only 12-15 knots, and the PTs could often catch the Japanese by surprise.
Wade wasn't terrified of facing warfare. "We were young, and nothing bothered us in them days," Wade said. "We were invincible, we thought."
On the night of April 4, 1944, PT 340 and another PT boat, PT 334, were cruising near New Guinea, when they spotted three Japanese 110-foot troop barges. The PTs attacked the barges, and sank two of them, even though the barges directed heavy fire at the American vessels, and Japanese shore batteries on the coast of New Guinea were also firing fiercely on the PTs.
The 334 was hit, starting a fire in its crew quarters. Therefore, the 334 and 340 ended their attack, and did not pursue the third Japanese barge. The PT boats stopped their patrol and headed back to their base. The Americans knew they’d have another opportunity to catch the Japanese barge that had gotten away.
In late 1944, many PT boats, including Wade’s PT 340, along with U.S. battleships, took part in the Battle of Surigao Strait off Leyte, Philippines. Wade said the U.S. battleships “beat hell” out of the Japanese forces.
In 1945, Wade was transferred to the Alaska Naval Station, where he served for a year, and he was discharged from the Navy in 1946.
After the war, Wade returned to Wisconsin, living in Milwaukee. He married and had eight children, and he was widowed in 1999. He married his wife, Judy, in 2002. Daughters Laurie and Kathy live in DeBary, and the other children live in Wisconsin and Georgia.
Beginning in the late 1940s, Wade drove a Greyhound bus for four-and-a-half years, and then switched to driving semi-trailers, which he did for 33-and-a-half years, until his retirement. Later, he worked as a delivery driver for The West Volusia Beacon.
Wade now lives in Orange City with his wife, Judy.
— Some information for this story was taken from a history of PT boat crew members whose author is unknown.
The comments posted below are posted by readers, not by The Beacon staff. These comments express the views and opinions of the authors, and not the administrators, moderators or webmaster. The comments forum is governed by these rules. Please use the report abuse link if you find offensive comments.
Did you find this story interesting or informative? Subscribe to The West Volusia Beacon to read more stories by Keith Allen, along with others from our award-winning writers. Subscribe now!