Sunday, August 2, 2015



Rendova, Tulagi (JFK+50) Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy and his crew were on patrol on board PT109* in the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific seventy-two years ago, August 2, 1943, when their small boat was rammed and sunk by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri.**

The destroyer literally plowed through the small torpedo-patrol boat at 2:30 a.m. moving at a high rate of speed leaving the 109 split in half and in flames as spilled fuel ignited.

Lt. Kennedy, although injuring his back in the collision, was able to account for eleven of his thirteen man crew and get them safely on the hull of his boat which stayed afloat.  The two missing sailors were Andrew Kirksey and Harold Marney.  In addition to JFK, the surviving crew included...

Leonard J. Thom, Raymond Albert, Charles A. Harris, William Johnston, George Ross, Edgar Mauer, John McGuire, Patrick H. McMahon, Raymond Starkey, and Gerald Zinser.

The most badly injured crewman, Patrick H."Pappy" McMahon, had been at his post below deck in the engine room at the time of the collision.  

By dawn, Lt. Kennedy decided to abandon his sinking hull and  ordered his men to make a swim to nearby Plum Pudding Island.  The sailors placed a lantern and their shoes on top of pieces of timber that had been used to secure a 37mm gun.  

JFK, clenching the strap of a life preserver put around McMahon's waist, towed the badly burned sailor while doing the breast stroke.  At 6:30 p.m., after making it to Plum Pudding, Lt. Kennedy swam back out alone into Ferguson Passage in a vain attempt to flag down a passing friendly ship.


"PT 109: John F. Kennedy in World War II," by Robert J. Donovan, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1961

*PT109 was launched on June 20, 1942.  It was 80 feet long and had 4 torpedo tubes, a 20mm cannon, 4 machine guns and a 37 mm anti-tank gun.
The 109 was made of wood and ran on highly flammable aviation fuel.

**Amagiri was a Fubuki-class destroyer launched in 1930 and built at the Tokyo Ishikawajima Shipyards.  It was a new type of destroyer noted for its large size, powerful engines and high speeds.

JFK at the Helm of  PT109
JFK Library Photo

US Flag Flown on the PT 109
JFK Library Photo