In 1905, the first torpedo boat was made in England. It was 15 feet long and was powered by a single Italian Napier Engine. The making of the first torpedo boat was an event that started a chain of events that would eventually lead to the development of PT Boats. The most important contributions to the development didn't come from the Navy or any official organization but from rumrunners, a group of smugglers bringing liquor in to the shores of the US during the blackness of night. Prohibition made people want more and more liquor. The boats that were used had to be faster then the Coast Guard boats while carrying a heavy load on very rough seas. The Navy put many lessons learned by the rumrunners to good use later on.

In 1939, the Navy announced a contest to see who could design small, high-speed crafts, with a $15,000 prize for the winner in each class. Twenty-four designs were entered and two were chosen out of those twenty-four for further consideration. The delays in the development of these boats might have gone on for years if not for a citizen named Henry Sutphen. He was the head of the Electric Boat Company (Elco), which had built many boats for the Navy. He went to England and bought one of their versions of the PT Boat, the Vosper, and brought it back to the US as deck cargo on the SS Franklin Roosevelt. He arrived in New York on September 5, 1939. The first PT Boat ever completed was delivered on June 17, 1940 and was called PT 9. The Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons Training Center was created in Melville, RI with the purpose of training the crew and officers that would man the boats. The center was created after construction was under way on many PT Boats. The sailors that were trained at the training center were trained in the fields of boat handling, gunnery, seamanship, engineering, communications, maintenance, and how to survive extended duty in adverse conditions from subzero arctic air to storms that would toss a boat hard enough to make anyone throw up. The PT Boats had humble beginnings but the missions it carried out were no match for the missions its predecessors had done.