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  PT-59 (C102583, BPT-11, PTC-27, Sea Queen V)
USN
77' Elco

40 Tons
77' x 19' 11" x 4' 6"
As Built
2 x Twin 50 cal MG
4 x 18" Torpedoes

Gunboat Conversion 1943
2 x Twin 50 cal MG
5 x 50 cal MG
2 x 40mm

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U. S. Army Feb. 11, 1943

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USN Aug-Oct 1943

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Bill Fedison 1960s

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Alan Chu Oct 10, 1970

Ship History
Built by Electric Boat Co. (Elco) in Bayonne, NJ. Laid down July 26, 1941 as Motor Boat Submarine Chaser, PTC-27. Reclassified BPT-11 for Great Britain, but never delivered. Reclassified PT-59 prior to completion. Launched October 8, 1941. Entered service on March 5, 1942. Assigned to Squadron 4 (MTBS 4).

Wartime History
On May 7, 1942 transferred to Squadron 2 (MTBS 2) and assigned to captain Ensign Dave Levy.

On August 29, 1942 the first squadron including PT-38, PT-46, PT-48 and PT-60 were loaded two per vessel aboard USS Lackawanna (AO-40) and USS Tappahannock (AO-43) that departed Balboa bound for the South Pacific. On September 19, 1942 The ships arrived in Nouméa Harbor where all four boats were unloaded and towed by USS Bellatrix (AKA-3) and USS Jamestown (PG-55) to Espiritu Santo where they were then transfered to USS Hovey (DD-208) and USS Southard (DD-207) and towed to a point 300 miles off Tulagi where they proceeded under their own power arriving at dawn on October 12, 1942 to Tulagi PT Boat Base (Sesapi).

After October 14, 1942, PT-59 was shared by Lt(jg) John M. "Jack" Searles and his crew from Squadron 3 (MTBS 3), because their assigned vessel PT-60 damaged, forcing them to share PT-59 with each crew out on patrols during alternating nights.

During the night of December 7-8, 1942, eight PT Boats attacked eight Japanese destroyers of the "Tokyo Express" off Kokumbona and Cape Esperance while a four-boat division waited near Savo Island to act as a striking force. After initial contact took place off Cape Esperance, the striking group of four boats closed to make a torpedo attack. In the ensuing running battle, the PTs weaved around the destroyers in a confused combat, that compelled the Japanese to withdraw northward without delivering their reinforcements. During the battle, PT-59 was hit by shell fire and suffered minor damage.

During the night of December 9, 1942 under the command of Jack Searles with PT-44 patrolled three miles off Kamimbo Bay on Guadalcanal. Spotting a Japanese barge the pair opened fire. Next, lookouts aboard PT-59 spotted surfaced I-3. At 7:03am, PT-59 launched two torpedoes from 400 yards one of which hits the stern of the submarine. A geyser of water spouts high in the air, followed by a tremendous explosion. The second torpedo passed under PT-44.

During the night of January 2, 1943 commanded by Lt. Jack Searles with PT-46 and PT-36 to patrol the the coast of Guadalcanal between Tassafaronga and Domo (Ndomo).

On February 1, 1943 patrolled "The Slot" commanded by Lt. Jack Searles. Bombed and strafed by Japanese aircraft, but suffered no damage passing between Savo Island and Cape Esperence.

On February 11, 1943 the crew of Squadron 3 (MTBS 3) PT-60 under the command of Lt. Jack Searles transported a U. S. Army intelligence team including U. S. Army Major General Alexander M. Patch to inspect the wreckage of Japanese submarine I-1 sunk in Kamimbo Bay off the north coast of Guadalcanal. During the survey a number of photographs were taken of the wreckage of the submarine protruding 40' to 50' out of the water at an angle of 45 degrees. During the inspection PT-59 ran aground and had to be assisted off a reef.

During August 1943, PT-59 was converted into a gunboat armed with two 40mm anti-aircraft guns plus additional .30 and .50-caliber machine guns behind shields and the torpedoes removed. Placed under the command of Ensign J. Atkinson.

During September 1943, Lt(jg) John F. Kennedy took command of PT-59, after PT-109 was sunk. During October 1943 operated from the PT Boat Base at Liapari Island (Vella Lavella).

On November 2, 1943, PT-59 commanded by Lt John Fitzgerald Kennedy evacuate forty plus US Marines (including several dozen wounded men) from "Bigger's Force" from the 2nd Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment (Paramarines). Rescued near Warrior River on Choiseul plus the crew of a foundering LCVP that were under fire from the beach. After the rescue, on the return trip PT-59 ran out of gas and was towed back to base by PT-236. That night, one wounded Marine died in Kennedy's bunk aboard PT-59.

On November 11, 1943, transferred Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3(2) MTBS 3(2) under the command of Lt. Richard E. Johnson and moved northward to operate from Empress Augusta Bay off Bougainville.

During the night of January 10-11, 1944 departed Torokina PT Boat Base under the command of Ens. J. Atkinson on a reconnaissance in strength against Green Island Atoll to inspect the channels and evaluate enemy strength on a mission led by PT-176 plus PT-184 and PT-59. During the open sea crossing and bad weather, PT-61 sustained damage including the smoke generator breaking loose and falling overboard with the the exhaust stack and fouled the gears of the 40mm Bofors. Heavier, older and slower, PT-61 and PT-59 could not keep up with the other two boats which proceeded without them to complete the mission.

Sometime during 1944, transfered back to the United States as a training vessel.

On August 7, 1944 assigned to MTB Training Center at Melville, RI. On October 14, 1944 reclassified as a small boat C102583. On December 15, 1944 transfered to the Philadelphia Naval Station. Surveyed for disposal as war surplus to the public.

Postwar
On March 21, 1947 sold to Mr. Gus Marinak of Bronx, NY and renamed "Sun Tan". Later, sold to Mr. Donald Schmahl of New York, NY who renamed the vessel "Sea Queen V" and operated it as a pleasure boat until the late 1960s. The vessel had a 30' x 12' two story cabin added to the center of the vessel and was painted white.

At some point, likely during the late 1960s an electrical short circuit causing a fire in the engine room.

After the fire, towed to the shipyard near the Throgs Neck Bridge were the superstructure was lifted off and place on shore and both engines were removed. Afterwards, acquired by Mr. Jimmy Yurwitz of City Island, NY as an empty hull and towed to City Island, NY.

In March 1969, sold to Mr. Redmond Burke who purchased the vessel from Mr. Yurwitz for $1,000.00. Using a friend's motorized 30' life boat, the vessel was towed by a group of including his brother John Burke and friends Vincent Campbell, Simon Campbell and Michael Bessley. The hull was towed overnight from City Island to the Harlem River then moored to the old ferry dock north of the 207th Street Bridge bordering the subway repair depot.

During the summer of 1969, Burke worked to replace the burned beams and center decking damaged by the fire.

While moored, Burke lived aboard the vessel while teaching at Bronx Community College. During free time and weekends, he worked on repairing the ship.

Although generally known to have been a U. S. Navy PT Boat, the hull number was not known and most of the paint was missing or removed. Carved into the widest beam was "274398". Burke researched the number with the U. S. Coast Guard (USCG) n New York and confirmed the vessel to be PT-59.

Hoping to sell the boat, he contacted potential buyers including the Kennedy Library, Kennedy College and Battleship Cove. None had any interest in buying the boat.

Aubrey Mayhew of Nashville, TN offered to buy the vessel for $5,000.00, but only made a partial payment of $1,000. His second check for $4,000.00 bounced and he never paid the remainder owed or took possession of the vessel.

Redmond Burke adds:
"There is much misinformation, of a minor nature, attached to history of PT 59.  I bought the hull in the early seventies. It was docked T a pier in City Island.  It was just a hull, no superstructure, no engines.  A fire had gutted it. I believe it had two Detroit 671's in its fishing boat life.  I bought it from one Jimmy Yurwitz of City Island.  I had it towed to a pier on the Harlem River and I lived on board for most of a year.  I was a part time lecturer at Bronx Community College at the time and a student showed interest in the project.  He began reading John F. Kennedy and PT-109 and it was he who found reference to PT-59 in the last chapter. I contacted some people who might be interested, Ted Kennedy, and many other possible places that might want the boat. Battleship Cove would take it but would not pay a dime.  I was not looking for a fortune.  But I was part time teacher, part time student.  At least give me what I paid for it, $1,000. But the Boston Brahmins with whom I was dealing would not budge. Finally I heard form a man  named Aubrey Mayhew, he had recently bought the Dallas Book Depository, which he intended to make into a Kennedy Museum. The story goes on in interesting complication and detail. I would just like to correct a tiny bit of history where I can."

Sinking History
During 1976, frustrated by the lack of payment and the fact that Mayhew never collected the vessel, Burke let the vessel settle into the mud while docked to the pier adjacent to the 207th street railroad bridge a half block north near the old pier and subway repair depot in an inlet.

References
At Close Quarters PT Boats in the United States Navy pages 59, 82, 95-96, 100-101, 103-104, 147, 163, 452, 454, 485, 494, 497, 561
Navy Source PT-59
Epic Voyage: The Greatest PT Boat Story Never Told: PT 59 and her two Skippers by Michael Engelmann
PT-109 (1963) the scene portraying November 2, 1943 is incorrectly portrayed as happening aboard PT-109
Bronx Community College The Communicator "Burke Builds Houseboat Of Dreams In The Very Real Harlem River" Vol XXIII, No. 3 October 16, 1970 page 2 [PDF]
A PT Skipper in the South Pacific by Kenneth W. Prescott
New York Post "JFK's WWII boat may be at the bottom of the Harlem River" by Michael Kaplan May 27, 2017

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Last Updated
January 10, 2018

 

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