Tag Archives: military history

Next Project


The 458th Sea Tigers showed up to assess the condition of the PBR. Our detail helped them get some measurements and were fascinated by the stories that these Vietnam veterans told them. The 458th is planning to work with the museum to completely restore the PBR. Contact the museum if you are interested in volunteering to assist on this project or another restoration project at the museum….we have trains, aircraft, trucks and more boats that need work.


Dennis’ Time On Research Vessels

I’ve dabbled in stuff I always thought was interesting, but never thought I’d be swept up in an unusual sea rescue with Ed Link Sr., the famous aviator and designer of the Link Trainer of WWII fame, that taught many an aviator to fly blind at night, and the designer of that sub.

I crewed three (3) Research ships, and the Sub rescue occurred while I was on the R/V A. B. Wood. The other two (2) ships were the R/V G. W. Pierce, and the R/V Daniel Harris III, a former World War II US NavySubchaser.

But after we salvaged the sub and removed the bodies of Ed Link II, and the sub’s pilot, and the other two still-alive researchers, we returned to Fort Lauderdale!

And it was the next day, when the R/V A. B. Wood was tied starboard side to the dock at our base at the Navy Sound Lab, at the mouth of Port Everglades harbor, and I was the only crew member onboard that morning servicing the gyro, when I was surprised by having a visit from Ed Link Sr. and his team to the R/V A. B. Wood, to personally thank the crew for all they did in salvaging the sub and its crew, and to present our crew with his compliments, and several cases of booze. A fine man!

The Navy tried for 36 hours, against a 7-knot current forcing that sub into the antennas of the USS Berry’s hull, lying on her side, to get air into that sub. We, on the other hand, had the means to grapple that sub and rip her from the antennas, and pull her to the surface, (which in the end is what we did), but were refused because of Navy pride. And to this day, I will never forget what the Navy did that Day!!!!

Below are some items that have never been seen, and there is another story about my time serving on the R/V Daniel Harris III, formerly a WW II 173ft US Navy sub chaser, that I was third engineer on out of Port Everglades, working for the Navy Sound Lab testing sonar arrays out in TOTO (tongue of the ocean) in the Bahamas, which was kind of like deepest part of the Bermuda trench. We were towing and testing the Navy sonar array miles behind the R/V Daniel Harris III, so we needed depth and distance.

This sonar array was classified back then, it looked like a 2-1/2″ fire hose. Inside it was filled with a special oil and thousands of hydrophones and other sensors.
Fascinating to watch it in action when it sent back info to the ship/sub, and it could pick up a ship miles away, and give bearing, distance, speed, shaft revolutions, how many blades on the propellers, and the name of the ship or sub! The Navy knows the machinery sound of every ship!
Have you ever seen that Movie “The Hunt for Red October”, where Jonesy the sonar man yells out “Crazy Ivan”, or the “magma displacement” scene? That comes from that array we were testing, which is towed behind the sub!

But I can tell you about rebuilding a Sub engine and replacing a pneumatic clutch in situ, on that boat that really showed a guy what mechanics were about! Only sub guys can appreciate that work!

PBR 721 On Patrol September 14, 2019

The following media content is courtesy of Tom Apple. All Rights Reserved.

The following media content is courtesy of Andy Yowell. All Rights Reserved.

Fitting Out For The Joint Army, Navy Vietnam PBR Veterans Reunion in Hampton, VA

Sunday evening , Sept 20, 2015, at the Pelican Marina, Elizabeth City, North Carolina. PBR’s 721 and 6927 are all set to get underway at 08:00 Monday morning!  Gamewardens, MMCS, Bill Ferguson and his wife Nancye stopped by for some refreshments and to wish us a safe journey!

The following are current pics taken this evening!

(Click any image to view details.)

Fitting out for the joint #USArmy, #USNavy Vietnam PBR veterans reunion in Hampton, Virginia

Fitting out for the joint #USArmy, #USNavy Vietnam PBR veterans reunion in Hampton, Virginia

Fitting out for the joint #USArmy, #USNavy Vietnam PBR veterans reunion in Hampton, Virginia

Fitting out for the joint #USArmy, #USNavy Vietnam PBR veterans reunion in Hampton, Virginia

Dave Pizzoferrato of PBR 6927

Two Boat Patrol

Dave Pizzoferrato of PBR 6927

Today marks a small historical event not seen in some time here on the East Coast,  when there will be two (2) PBR’s on the same river! 🙂  Dave Pizzoferrato  is trailering his PBR 6927 down here from Richmond, Ohio to the Pelican Marina here in Elizabeth City, NC today, to join up with PBR 721 on the Pasquotank River.

Two Boat Patrol: Dave Pizzoferrato’s PBR 6927 leading PBR 721 into the Deep Creek lock at the head of the Dismal Swamp Canal.

Two Boat Patrol, Hampton, VA. PBR 721 and PBR 6927 on the water together, and just before historic joint #USNavy and #USArmy PBR Veterans reunion.

Two Boat Patrol, Hampton, VA. PBR 721 and PBR 6927 on the water together, and just before historic joint #USNavy and #USArmy PBR Veterans reunion.

Monday we will be taking both boats from Elizabeth City, NC. up through the Dismal swamp canal to the Elizabeth river, then past the Portsmouth Naval shipyard and the Norfolk Naval base,  to the Crown Plaza hotel in Hampton, Virginia for our Joint US Army and US Navy, PBR combat crewman reunion!

Dave and I have been working on the event for over a year, not only for the reunion , but to get our two PBR’s in the water on the same river!  I hope we will get some good pictures of the event to pass on to you all, next weekend perhaps!

From Dane Hoyle SMC USN Ret. – 12 Aug 2010

Letters and Memories From The Chief

From: Dane Hoyle
To: Dennis Ambruso

I was one of the Boat Captains of the first “Cadillac” PBR: 721 “back in the day.” At least it was back in the day for me. I had worked my way up from crewman. She was a hardtop back then and the first of that configuration and the first PBR built in 1972. The Unit had two hardtops: 31RP721 & 31RP722. Both were later converted to rag-tops.

721 and I had a connection from the start. I learned every nut and bolt, wire, fitting, this, that, and the other thing. I went to sin city, West Sac, and bought an injector timing gauge and injector wrenches. I bought injector jumpers and exhaust valve bridges for “just in case” and various other items as I saw the need. Of course I bought a deep socket for the bowl bearing with a one inch drive because when the lipseal on the sandcap fails or the setscrew decides to go on holiday it’ll get it “righty loosey mosty skoshi.”

I fawned over 721 and she returned the affection. She was fast. She was quiet. She was dependable. She never let me down. She never broke down. She never caught fire.

We communicated… not just by sound and feel but by something else… and it was the same with the crew. All I had to do was look at a crewman. He, also, had already heard it or sensed it and understood the look to mean “go check out the port tiller arm; it’s working its way loose” or “stick the starboard tank” or whatever as the case may have been.

She never left me high and dry or stuck in the mud. Often we were accused of having tank tracks on the bottom of the hull. There is even photographic evidence of 721’s trail in the mud snaking its way around one and then another PBR aground in the mud of Cutoff as viewed from Suisun Slough.

On one occasion we were assigned to insert an Army squad at an asininely inaccessible location. There was no water and the Army guys sunk to their armpits in the mud when they attempted to traverse unloaded the two hundred or so yards to shore. We were up on the mud healed over to port with muddy shivering Army pukes and their huge ungodly heavy rucks on the bow. I figured, this time for sure, we were parked for the night and waiting for high tide… but what the hell? We checked the simplex strainers. They were good. I paralleled and hit starboard; paralleled and hit port; slammed the Morse controls forward and quickly helmed over starboard, back to port, back to starboard, back to port. She rocked. She shimmied. She shook. She ground her fantail down like she was giving a lap dance and enjoying the hell out of it. Then she spun to port and wiggled her way to deep water like a gator with its tail on fire. We were nose down and flying — seemingly skittering across the water like a crazed out-of-control skipping-stone. This was the first time that evening we were at full-tilt-boogie in thin water. It felt wonderful. I eye-balled the temp gauges… in shallow water, they can peg in a heartbeat. She was running cool and stretching her legs. She was loving it!

The Army guys were saucer-eyed and pressed up against the deckhouse hanging on for dear life. A few looked back at me accusingly — sure that at any moment the bow would dig-in, be buried in the mud, and we would nose-over and go end-over-end to our deaths. For them it must have been like going over the top on a rollercoaster, the wind tearing at them, stinging them; the mud and an ever increasing load of super-hydrated bugs weighing them down. An impending muddy doom in the blackness of a moonless night would surely be their hapless fate. They didn’t understand the dynamics of the boat. It sort of defies a lubber’s reason and logic. If the bow had dug-in, only the aft gunner was endanger of conducting impromptu flight-ops and he was safely wedged between the midship splinter-shields. Army was in the safest place on the boat.

When our wake finally creeped aft of the beam and we had escaped to a couple of feet of water, I idled her down; checked my posit; extinguished my hair; wiped the bug crunchies off my teeth; the snot off my face; and unstuck my eyelids. I shutdown port, had the strainer cleaned, relit; shutdown starboard, had the strainer cleaned, relit; and checked overboard. Then I had the crew go forward to get the Army guys pealed off the deckhouse, reassured, and treated for shock and hypothermia with a thermos of Joe.

From the coxswain flat, I instructed our guests that we would make for their alternate and they should stay absolutely quiet, as low as possible, hang on, and most especially do not to move as we would be navigating as much by mystic forces as by dead reckoning. That’s judging the depth of the water and the difference in the depth to port and starboard by sound and where on the hull the wake would break while we were “on step” (traveling at full speed and planing). It feels like ice skating but it is, in reality, more like riding a bike. Remember when you were a kid and immortal… coasting down hill and going so fast the playing cards in your spokes sounded like menacingly angry radio static… riding the curb between soggy wet grass and parked cars? We had to make best speed to hit the insert window. That meant running the shallows way outside the channel. We would be trying to keep about eight to eighteen inches of water under our keel and would be going hell bent for leather. We had to “judge” the charts, read the water, and most of all feel the boat. Only she could tell how deep the water was, the composition of the bottom, the undulations and depressions in the bottom, where the thin water was, where the seagulls were walking, all sorts of dangers, and communicate that information to us. We were connected to her… and, she was connected and communicating with us.

She did her job – no sweat GI. We safely made the transit and the secondary insert without further incident. Then she brought us home as she always did.

721 was a nimble, responsive, elegant, magnificent dance partner with great legs and a sassy little vixen when surfing. I miss the metallic varnish smell of her paint… her perfume of diesel and burnt gunpowder. I miss sleeping on her and more often than not staying awake the whole night through to appreciate the beauty of another sunrise in her embrace… just so long as the birds and bugs were noisy as hell. But then, WTF, a little rock & roll and smoking LSA in the morning is as good as pears & pound cake and a pack of ‘bros to set you right: kick-start your brain-pan big-time.

Dane Hoyle SMC USN Ret.