April 23, 2013
JFK TOOK COMMAND OF PT109 IN SOUTH PACIFIC 70 YEARS AGO
Tulagi, Solomon Islands (JFK+50) 70 years ago today, April 23, 1943, Lt. jg John F. Kennedy took command of PT109* here in the Solomon Islands.
Lt. John F. Kennedy
PT 109 Skipper (1943)
JFK Library Photo
*PT109 was a patrol-torpedo boat 80 feet long and 40 tons in weight. It was delivered by ELCO on July 10, 1942. Her strong, wooden hull was made of mahogany and her 3, 12 cylinder 1500 hp gas engines could deliver a maximum speed of 41 knots.
The 109, which could accommodate up to 3 officers and 14 crew, had 4 21 inch torpedo tubes, a depth charge, one 20 mm anti aircraft gun and 2 rotating turrets with 50 cal. anti-aircraft guns.
PT boats used highly flammable aviation fuel which made them extremely vulnerable to fire.
Robert J. Donovan, in his book PT109: John F. Kennedy in WWII, writes...
"When (JFK) was informed that he was to become the captain of PT109, he promptly looked up her skipper, Lt. Larson, (who)...took (him) down to the boat."
Lt. Kennedy, who would inherit only 1 man from Larson's crew, then had to organize his own crew and "rehabilitate" the 109 itself.
The crew of JFK's PT 109 included:
1. Lenny Thom, Sandusky, Ohio
2. "Bucky" Harris, Watertown, Mass
3. Leon Drawdy, Chicago, Illinois
4. Ed Drewitch, Pittsburgh, Pa
5. Maurice Kowal, Uxbridge, Mass
6. Andy Kirksey, Reynolds, Ga
7. John Maguire, Dobbs Ferry, NY
8. Edgar Mauer, St. Louis, Mo
9. Gerard Zinser, Belleville, Illinois
10. Bill Johnston, Dorchester, Mass
11. "Pappy" McMahon, Wyanet, Illinois
12. "Barney" Ross, High Park, Illinois
13. Raymond Albert, Akron, Ohio
National Archives and
Naval Historical Center (1943)
Lt. Kennedy made his 1st entry in the ship's log on April 26, 1943...
0800 moored in usual berth
John F. Kennedy, Lt. (jg) USNR
The crew had some work to do. Only 1 of the 3 engines on their craft would even start up and the boat was filled with rats and cockroaches.
After just a few days, however, "109 was back in good enough shape...to begin taking her turn on night patrols."
"PT 109: John F. Kennedy in WWII," by Robert J. Donovan, McGraw-Hill Publishers, New York, 1961.
PT 109 Movie Trailer (1963)
You Tube Video