Fast Boats and Fast Times

A PT boat patrolling off New Guinea, 1943

A PT boat patrolling off New Guinea, 1943

In the gruesome battle for Guadalcanal, David Levy was skipper of PT 59, one of several Patrol/Torpedo boats that were among the first U.S. Navy vessels to engage Japanese warships at the beginning of World War II. Dave’s wartime experiences in the South Pacific marked one of the most transformative periods in his life. In the Navy he quickly learned to assume a “deal-maker” persona that helped him get along with fellow PT boat skippers, many of whom, like future president John F. Kennedy, came from privileged East Coast families. He got to be known in the Navy by the nickname “Hogan,” famous as “the guy to go to,” who could get things done, organize parties well-stocked with liquor and women, obtain supplies when none seemed available, and, in those early, desperate days of the battle for Guadalcanal, also perform in the top ranks of competent PT boat skippers. The PT boats were small, maneuverable, and fast, and they were given the seemingly impossible mission of regularly engaging and sinking the much larger and more numerous destroyers, cruisers, and battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Dave’s PT 59 was in the thick of all the action. These brave PT boat skippers, many of whom were graduates of Ivy League colleges or the U.S. Naval Academy, were a hard-partying group, and their “fast times” during World War II epitomized the intensity with which life was lived by those who, like Dave, were fully engaged in the deadly struggles of the Pacific War. Dave’s wartime experiences shaped the rest of his life, a long journey that has included a successful law career, annual ski trips to his vacation home in Aspen since the early 1950s, and fishing all over the world.


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Jeffrey McMeans June 12, 2013 at 7:47 am

Dear Mr. Levy,
Thanks for the freedoms I have enjoyed my whole life because of people like you.
I am a Navy man myself, but 20 years after you. My father was a SeaBee, though,
and was on Guadalcanal, Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa.
Thanks again Skipper!

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