VANCOUVER, Wash. – Over the past dozen years, a group of Vancouver enthusiasts had voiced high hopes for motor torpedo boat 659.
A glorious restoration. A waterfront display. A captivating lesson for those young ‘uns who don’t appreciate the role the fast, powerful “patrol torpedo” boats played in World War II.
On Monday, those dreams were drowned out by the growl of a reciprocating saw.
Among those watching the demolition near Pearson Field were Jerry Pierce, a retired carpenter and history buff, and Tom Czekanski, director of Collections & Exhibitions for the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
Pierce, who brought along a 4-foot-long model he built of the boat, said it was too bad the ambitious restoration plans were never realized. He’d read about PT 659 several years ago and was drawn to the vessel.
“The fact that the poor thing was sitting here, waiting for people to save it,” Pierce said.
Not all of the boat was destined for the scrap heap, however, Czekanski said.
Parts are being salvaged – enough to fill three 18-wheeler trucks – and will be used in the $5 million restoration of PT 305, Czekanski said.
“It’s always a shame to see one of these go,” he said, over the noise of the saw. “But if it wasn’t going to be restored, it’s better to salvage.”
Czekanski received the go-ahead from the U.S. Navy, which owns the boat, to take 659 apart.
PT 659 arrived in Vancouver in 1996, months after a committee began working to secure the donation and transport of the boat from Camp Withycombe in Clackamas County, Ore., where it had been stored for years.
Sam Jones, who led the efforts, said Monday he hadn’t known the boat was being taken apart. He stepped down as president of the PT Boat Council several years ago because of health problems. Judith Davis, who took his place, could not be reached Monday for comment.
In 2004, Davis acknowledged the group’s inability to raise enough money to restore the boat and announced plans to send 659 to the New Orleans museum.
“I had mixed emotions at first,” she said in 2004. “We finally all agreed this was the best solution.”
But PT 659’s trip to New Orleans never happened, Czekanski said, because moving costs were prohibitive: an estimated $350,000.
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