McHale's Navy PT Boat: A History and Guide | LakeWizard

The McHale’s Navy PT boat played a critical role in the McHale’s Navy series. What is the history and guide of McHale’s Navy PT boat? We have the answers.

What is the historical background and guide of the McHale Navy boat? What role or function did the boat play in McHale’s Navy television show? Does the McHale’s PT boat still exist up to date? What type of Navy PT boat was used in McHale’s Navy show?

PT boats were quick, small, and expandable boats used for short-range oceanic scouting. In the McHale series, McHale employed the use of a PT-73 boat to fight the Japanese and other enemies. Additionally, the boat was equipped with the necessary features to help make the series more realistic.

This article will guide you through the historical background of the McHale’s Navy PT boat and its function in the McHale’s Navy series. It will also discuss if the Navy PT boat still exists today and the type of PT boat used in McHale’s Navy show. Therefore, if you are curious about the history of McHale’s Navy PT boat and want to know more about it, this article will guide you.

The objective of the article is to ensure that you receive factual, up-to-date, and well-researched information. Our highly expert team, including authors, researchers, and editors, work to ensure the content is dependable and high-quality. Therefore, if you access any of our information through guides and other projects, the content you get from us is authoritative.

Table of contents



Typically, the main objective of the PT boat was not entirely in acting; it was majorly created for aqua combat. In World War II, the American Navy employed motor torpedo boats known as PT boats. Individuals appreciated it for its flexibility, speed, quick, and cheap manufacturing. However, some of the variations were only able to operate in coastal seas due to weak torpedoes, minimal armament, and very flimsy construction at the start of the war. The first generation of torpedo boats, created in the final years of the 19th century, were substantially different from PT boats.

These early torpedo boats dispersed up to 300 tons of weight and traveled at around 50 km/hr speeds. Later, the first torpedo boat that used gasoline was designed in Italy, the US, and the UK with top speeds of about 75 km/hr. However, these kinds of boats were all swiftly abandoned following the armistice. Therefore, the PT boats from World War II continued to have several lightweight materials and some planning hull design innovations from offshore powerboat racing.

The History of the McHale’s Navy PT Boat

To help in the war effort, the British Vosper boat company arranged for many boatyards in the US  to construct the PT boats under the license of the US. About 146 boats were built for lend-lease and shipped to different allies. The boats were equipped with 18 in (460mm) torpedoes. The Navy employed only 50, and the majority were transferred to other nations. Additionally, a Canadian company based in the US made the five Scott Paine-designed PTs. They were supplied as lend-lease to the UK.

There were around 3 PT-73 boats where one was used for shots at sea, while the remaining two were converted to rescue boats from World War II stationed at the universal studio. The US then designed a motor torpedo (MTB) that served as the platform for photographing the PT-73 in motion. The US rivalry with other countries ended prior to the deployment of the PT-694 to the Soviet Union.

Later, Howard Hughes brought the PT-694 boat to serve as a chase boat during the spruce goose lone fight. Because there weren’t many PT boats, the studio purchased the boat and took liberties to make it resemble other PT boats. The boat has more features than other PT boats, such as machine guns. Universal Studios staged the shots of the PT-73 boat with its crew on a full-scale set, and McHale's Navy series began.

The Origin of the PT Boat

On August 12, 1942, the Higgins company, based in New Orleans, designed and constructed the first PT  73 boat. Its length is 24 meters, weighs around 56 tons, and has a top speed of over 40 knots. The PT boat belonged to the US Navy’s commander James Denny. From March 1943 to May 1944, squadron 13 was moved to the southwest part of the pacific, where it took part in battles at Brunei bay in Borneo and Mindoro in the Philippine islands. It had served in various conflict Navy’s plays before a storm destroyed it.

The Role of McHale’s Navy PT Boat

Typically, PT boats can handle anything, from kayaks to battleships, due to their strength and quick nature. It is commonly known to take out enemy aircraft and other ships in the sea. Therefore a PT will strike whether the enemy is nearby on land, in the air, or the sea. The Universal Studios created a complete outpost of the Pacific Ocean on their stage to begin the McHale show. They used a motor-powered torpedo boat designed in Britain under the US license to take photographs and record the PT-73 in motion. Additionally, when it comes to McHale’s series, one of the significant characters called Binghamton pilots the PT-73 boat into action, where his accomplishment was torpedoing a rival truck on land.

Features that Made PT Boat Suitable for McHale’s Navy series

A PT boat sets itself apart from other man-of-war vessels because of its unique features, characteristics, and construction. The following are the features of a PT boat:

Anchor and Bullnose

The anchors supplied to PT boats are about 50 pounds in weight and are made with a far more vital holding ability than other anchors during that time. Additionally, with the help of the anchor, the PT boat could resist currents and winds that would otherwise try to steer it off course. The anchor ensured that the McHale’s crew would stop at their destination quickly and shoot the series with stability.

When it comes to the bullnose, it maintains the boat's bow facing the wind while at anchor and prevents the lines from rubbing against the vessel's side at any moment. Additionally, the bullnose also lessened the dynamic impacts of the boat's pitch motion. Even though the setting of the Pacific Ocean, into which the PT boat was supposed to sail, is not natural, these features would still be helpful in the universal studios setting.

The hull

The planing hull used in the recreational boat a long time ago and today was similar to the hull form of a PT boat; a sharp v bow easing to a flat bottom towards the stern of the boat. The founder built the PT boat to level at higher speeds than recreational boats. The hull consisted of a double layer of mahogany planking to make the hull lightweight, along with a layer of cloth soaked with glue between the inner and the outer boards. The result was an incredibly light and sturdy hull and easily repairable on the front lines of the battle.


The boat contained three 12-cylinder gasoline engines that made it powerful to move over high tides in the seas. Additionally, since the original owner made the engine for marine use, it was efficient to be used in McHale’s series because they wanted a boat with all the aqua combat qualities. The boat inherited several aircraft engine characteristics, including superchargers, intercoolers, multiple magnetos, 2 spark plugs for each cylinder, and other features.

The PT boat could carry around 3000 gallons of fuel; typically, the boat could use at least 12 hours before the fuel could be fully used. The founder of the PT boat had to make sure that every PT boat passed the Navy acceptance trial to prove that it could reach its design speed of at least 41 knots while consuming less fuel. In episode 18 of McHale’s show, one can see the significance of an engine in the boat when the PTs engine boat is stolen. Binghamton, one of the main characters, decides to send his 73 crew to a new location to devise a plan to acquire other engines.


The PT boat employed 2 to 4 mark 8 torpedoes, weighing around 1,179 kg and equipped with a 466 pound TNT payload that served as the principal anti-ship weaponry. In the McHale series, they wanted to use a realistic vessel in the show with all the weapons needed to combat their rivals and thus is why they chose a PT boat. The 20mm cannon was another automatic armament frequently placed on the PT boat.

This cannon was positioned on the stern of early PT boat models but later mounted to the front deck in more significant numbers. The PT boat on McHale’s scene had additional two machine guns mounted on each side of the PT boat; therefore, the PT boat was found suitable for the series. Additionally, the PT boat occasionally deployed the use of depth charges as a last-ditch decoy to frighten away pursuing destroyers. By placing the depth charge to burst at 100 Feet away, they could ensure that the approaching destroyer would be directly over the blast.

Radar System

In the US Navy, only a few vessels initially had essential radar equipment. As more PTs were equipped with reliable radar later in the conflict, they improved their night fighting strategies and implemented them to find and take out numerous enemy targets. For instance, during the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal operations, the PT boats of squadrons 2, 3, and 5 would position themselves to attack the target from the torpedo range by using radar signals. Similarly, since McHale’s is a combat and comedy series, they wanted to use technology to be creative and appealing to the viewers.

The acting commander and crews of the PT boat

In the McHale’s Navy series, the commander of the PT boat was Quinton McHale, along with other crew members. The struggle between McHale, a rule-breaking con artist, and Captain Wallace Binghamton, who oversaw PT boat 16 with the assistance of a lieutenant, was the focal point of McHale’s series. Binghamton, who was in charge of the boat club on Long Island before the war, was a New York native and determined to imprison McHale and his troops to prevent them from committing other crimes.

The Navy tolerated McHale because, in the South Pacific, where PT-73 was initially stationed at Taratupa Island, he knew the region's secrets like the back of his hand. Binghamton, however, detested him for his pride and arrogance. Binghamton and the 73 crew were assigned to the newly liberated theater in the final season. This assignment change was so uncommon during World War II that many military historians argue whether or not such reassignments ever occurred. This is because many high-ranking officers from the 8th and 9th air forces were deployed to the pacific to form the 20th air force once the war in Europe ended.

Does McHale’s PT Boat Still Exist Up to date?

After the McHales recorded their last episode, the PT boat was purchased by the Mayor of Hawthorne in California and transformed into a sport fishing vessel. It was completely wrecked when it floated adrift from its mooring in the vicinity of Santa Barbara and hit the sand during a storm. Similarly, the rivals destroyed most of the PT boats during the US Navy war.

The enemies purposefully emptied most PT boats of any usable gear before being pulled onto the sand and set ablaze. As wooden boats required extensive ongoing care and were not seen to be worth the effort, the Navy did this to reduce the maintenance the US Navy would need on the vessels. Currently, around 11 PT boats are left in the United States, along with two PT boat hulls used for experiment purposes. Examples of the remaining PT boats include PT- 48, PT- 305, PT-486, and PT 389 among others. PT- 305, which was destroyed, has been reconstructed and has now become fully operational.

Wrapping it Up

The PT-73 boat plays a crucial role in the US Navy and McHale’s series as a combat vessel. The boat was equipped with the necessary features such as weapons, a powerful engine, a lightweight hull, and a radar stereo system to make it effective in performing military moves on enemies. McHale’s PT-73 boat does not exist because it was destroyed in the storm after the universal studio decided to sell it to California’s mayor.