Talk of the Town - June 2019
A restored PT boat made by Higgins Industries in New Orleans will give history buffs a rare chance to go aboard one of the craft credited with winning World War II.
- Story by Lisa Monti
PT-305, the National World War II Museum’s fully restored Higgins patrol-torpedo boat, will be open for tours June 22-23 in the Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor. This will be a rare chance to step aboard a piece of World War II history on the Bay waterfront.
Among those who will be on hand will be Bay St. Louis resident Skip Higgins, grandson of Andrew Higgins, the larger-than-life boatbuilder whose New Orleans shipyard produced thousands of PT boats and landing craft. The boats were deployed all over the globe during the war, and most notably for the Normandy invasion on D-Day.
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Skip Higgins notes that when President Eisenhower met his biographer, the late historian Stephen Ambrose, his grandfather’s name came up. “Eisenhower told Ambrose, ‘I see you’re from New Orleans. Did you know Andrew Higgins? He’s the man who won the war for us.”
Ambrose, who lived in Bay St. Louis for several years, later co-founded the sprawling World War II Museum in New Orleans, which recently opened a permanent exhibit called “Bayou to Battlefield: Higgins Industries during World War II” that highlights the company’s history and accomplishments. It includes videos, artifacts, text panels and oral histories featuring former Higgins Industries employees.
Skip’s father, Roland, was one of four Higgins sons who worked in Higgins Industries under his grandfather’s leadership. Skip was just nine when Andrew Higgins died but he has a slight memory of his worldly grandparents entertaining guests from all over the world. Their friends included Argentina’s president Juan Peron and his wife Eva.
Andrew Higgins was one of the first equal opportunity employers in the South, according to his grandson. “If someone could do the job well, it didn’t matter if that person was a woman or a person of color or disabled,” said Skip. “They were hired and paid the same as every other worker.”
The shipyard also offered a nursery and a school for those who needed child care, along with maternity leave, unheard of at the time. At the peak of Higgins Industry’s production, nearly 30,000 people were employed, “around the clock.”
Skip said the PT boat coming to Bay St. Louis, USS Sudden Jerk, saw combat and was fully restored by hundreds of volunteers who devoted thousands of hours working on it at the World War II Museum. They searched worldwide to find original parts for the restored craft.
World War II PT Boat Tour
Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor
June 22 and June 23
Tickets available on site.
Admission: $12 Adults ($10 for military and kids age 8 to 17)
Must be 8 years of age
Not ADA accessible
Phone: 504-528-1944 Ext. 402 or email