Help the National World War II Museum Indentify PT Boat Generators

Reader Contribution by Farm Collector
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The National World War II Museum is restoring a PT boat and needs help finding two generators.

The National World War II Museum’s mission is telling the story of the American Experience in that war. The museum is restoring a historic PT boat built by Higgins Industries in New Orleans, identified as hull number PT-305. The 305 served in the European Theater of Operations with distinction, where it sunk two German vessels.

The PT-305 restoration team, made up of citizen volunteers, has been working on this project for 18 months. These museum volunteers have a record of accomplishment: They built a Higgins LCVP and rebuilt the LCPL using the original specifications from Higgins Industries. Both Higgins boats are on display in the National World War II Museum.

The museum is painstakingly reconstructing PT-305 to its appearance in the Mediterranean in 1944 and 1945. Furthermore, the museum is striving to launch the PT-305 in Lake Pontchartrain (in New Orleans) for demonstration prior to its placement on permanent exhibit. To accomplish this, a great many vintage items are needed to complete the project.

PT boats had two gasoline-powered water-cooled auxiliary generator units installed, which supplied 28.5 volts DC power to re-charge galley equipment batteries for chow or coffee. The generator units also drove bilge pumps at the same time.

The 305 had two generator units that were non-identical. One was a Capital Engine Company 5.5 kilowatt unit capable of 200 amp service. The engine is a common (during the ’40s) 4-cylinder Waukesha ICK engine. These were produced in large numbers and, interestingly, only installed in PT boats. This Capital Engine model was very common, so it could be found since they were sold as surplus after the war and used commonly as welders or to power hunting/fishing camps.

The second engine is a U.S. Motors Corp. BXB 2.5 kilowatt unit with a 2-cylinder water-cooled engine. It had a short manufacturing run and was replaced with a 5.5 kilowatt in later class PT boats and is therefore a scarce item. Technical data is non-existent as it was a government-furnished unit, so identifying a similar item is impossible. The 2.5 kilowatts are rumored to have an engine block made by Universal Manufacturing Co. with Briggs & Stratton internals. The captains of the war-time Wisconsin engine industry may have collaborated in producing these for U.S. Motors.

Finding the 2.5 kilowatt unit is a daunting task, and the museum personnel are conducting research but need help in identifying or locating one.

Anyone with information about these engines is appreciated by the museum.

Please contact the PT-305 restoration project by contacting Robert Stengl at (504) 528-1944 or

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