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  PT-109
USN
PT 103 Class
Elco 80'

56 Tons
80' x 20' 8" x 3' 6"
4 x torpedos
20mm (aft)
4 x 50 cal MG
37mm field gun (added)

Click For Enlargement
1943

Captain  Lt(jg) John Fitzgerald Kennedy (rescued)
Crew  Ensign Leonard Thom (rescued) Sandusky, OH
Crew  Seaman 2nd Class Raymond Albert (rescued) Akron, OH
Radio  John McGuire (rescued)
Gunner  Raymand Starkey (rescued) CA
Gunner  MOMM2c Harold W Marney, 2127352 (MIA / KIA) Chiopee, MA
Crew  TM2C Andrew John Kirksey, 6366765 (MIA / KIA) GA
Crew  Gerald Zinser (rescued)
Crew  William Johnson (rescued)
Crew  Charles Harris (rescued)
Crew  Patrick "Pappy" McMahon (rescued)
37mm  Ensign George Ross (rescued)
Sunk  August 2, 1943 at 1:30am

Ship History
Built July 1942 at Bayonne, New Jersey. Laid down on March 4, 1942, the seventh PT boat built at the facility. Delivered to the US Navy on July 10, 1942 and outfitted at the New York Naval Shipyard at Brooklyn.

First assigned to PT Boat training center at Melville, Rhode Island. Ferried across the Pacific by transport ship to Noumea, then towed to Guadalcanal. John F. Kennedy assumed command of her during April 1943.

Sinking History
On August 1, 1943 at 4:00pm departed Rendova as one of fifteen PT-Boats on an overnight patrol in the Kolombangara area. PT-109 patrolled with PT-157, PT-159 and PT-162 forming Division B.

Meanwhile, the "Tokyo Express" of Japanese destroyers including Amagiri made an overnight run to Vila delivering soliders and supplies. After completing their mission, the destroyers departed for Rabaul. On August 2, 1943 at 1:30am while motoring in the Blacket Strait, P-109 was rammed by Japanese destroyer Amagiri. The collision sank the PT-Boat and two of the crew died in the collision.

Survival And Rescue
The crew of PT-109 clung to the wreckage of the bow. Two were killed in the collision. At dawn the remaining crew swam to Plum Pudding Island while Kennedy towed McMahon who wa wounded by his life vest strap in his teeth. Several days passed and the men moved south to Nauro Island. Meanwhile, the sinking had been observed by coastwatcher 'Reg' Evans, who sent his scouts: Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana to seach for any survivors. Kennedy trusted them with a message, scratched into a coconut shell, that was delivered to Evans. The surviving crew were rescued by PT-157 that transported them to Rendova.

Memorials
Marney was officially declared dead on August 2, 1943. Kirksey was officially declared dead on August 3, 1944. Both are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Wreckage
During May 2002, Robert Ballard with Odyssey Enterprises for National Geographic searched for this shipwreck in the Blacket Straight. At 1,200' (360m) a piece of wreckage was identified as a torpedo tube from a PT-Boat, and claimed to be from PT-109. Later, their findings were confirmed as "most likely" PT-109 by the USN.

References
At Close Quarters PT Boats in the United States Navy pages 57, 95, 101, 103, 120, 123-125, 452, 456, 486, 488
National Geographic "The Search For Kennedy's PT 109 (video)
Collision With History: The Search for John F. Kennedy's PT 109
National Geographic "JFK's PT-109 Found, U.S. Navy Confirms" July 11, 2002
National Geographic PT Boat torpedo tube (photo)
Navy Source - PT-109

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Last Updated
March 5, 2013

 

 

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