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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Kennedy and the PT-109

Because you asked for it.....

JFK was a war hero in WWII simply because he risked his life for his country. He also performed heroically, gallantly, after his PT boat was rammed in a night operation in helping all but two of his crew members swim approximately three miles to shore. All true. Here is the standard Kennedy account:

"During the war, Kennedy commanded a PT boat in the South Pacific. While on patrol one night, the small boat was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer traveling at high speed. Two of the crewmen were killed. Kennedy demonstrated leadership, courage, and stamina in helping to save the eleven survivors. A strong swimmer, he towed a badly burned crew-man several miles to a tiny island. Two days later he towed him again to a larger island. The group was finally rescued when they found a pair of natives who took a message to an Australian coast-watcher. The rescue attracted newspaper attention not only for its own sake but because of the identity of the skipper. John Hersey, a journalist, wrote the first long account in the New Yorker, which was followed by an abridged version in Reader's Digest and eventually by other books and a movie. Kennedy's wartime heroism became a basis and then a staple of his political career. One of Kennedy's charms was that though he never prevented his political supporters from exploiting his heroism, he never personally aggrandized his role either. In a characteristic remark, he explained, "It was involuntary. They sank my boat."

After his rescue, Kennedy commanded another boat and saw some additional action, but his war career was soon cut short by illness and his bad back. After the war, he became a celebrity correspondent for Hearst newspapers at the United Nations charter conference and during the British elections of 1945. He also observed the Potsdam summit conference. But he decided he would rather shape history than report it. His brother Joe, whose political ambitions had been more certain, had died a hero's death in the war. His father later claimed to have been happily surprised by his second son's interest in running for office, and he used his money and contacts to help him get started."


By the way, I have said before I admired Kennedy and consider him a terrific and visionary leader. I believe this country would have been much, much better off if he had not been assasinated.

But about the PT boat incident? Did you ever wonder why JFK's PT boat was the only PT boat rammed during the entire course of the war? Here is an excerpt from the History News Network:

" In 1960 Kennedy and Humphry were battling in the West Virginia primary for the Democratic nomination. JFK won in the end, perhaps, because he had had the wisdom to bring in Franklin Roosevelt, Jr. to reassure Protestant voters that Catholic Kennedy could be trusted with power. One of FDR Jr.'s most effective attacks was to smear Humphry as a draft dodger. "There's another candidate in your primary," said Roosevelt, "but I don't know where he was in World War II." Bobby Kennedy apparently orchestrated the attacks. Asked to denounce them, Kennedy refused. (Humphry in fact had tried to get into the service, but failed because he could not pass the physical).

In the general election Kennedy ran as a war hero. This was ironic. Though he deserved praise for his courage in the aftermath of the attack on PT 109, it had apparently sunk because he had been inattentive as a commander, as Garry Wills long ago pointed out. JFK himself worried that the events could justify either a medal or a court martial. In the end he got the medal--after his father used his influence."


Here is from the Boston Globe:

"Producers Robert Greenwald and Elizabeth Lang have optioned three chapters on JFK's South Pacific exploits from Edward Renehan Jr.'s excellent 2002 book "The Kennedys at War." They have a script and a preliminary commitment for television production from USA Network. The PT-109 project and others -- e.g. a TV miniseries based on "Black Mass," by former Globe staffers Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill -- are on hold as USA gets absorbed into NBC Entertainment as part of the NBC-Vivendi Universal merger.

"We're not making a carbon copy of the Warner Brothers movie," Lang says. "We've tried to bring out that the sinking of PT-109 was a scandal at the time. Nobody had ever lost a PT boat in quite that manner." (Skipper Kennedy's PT-109 was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer on a coal-black night in the South Pacific in the summer of 1943. "The details of what happened . . . remain vague," Renehan writes in his book. He notes that the official Navy inquiry into the incident, which cost two seamen their lives, was coauthored by JFK's friend Byron "Whizzer" White, who would later be appointed to the Supreme Court by Kennedy.)

There is, of course, more to the PT-109 story. Kennedy's courage and physical endurance -- he swam for miles among the atolls and coral reefs, hoping to be spotted by American rescuers -- were largely responsible for saving the lives of his shipwrecked crew. "It is a coming-of-age story," says Lang. "At the moment when he had screwed up irreparably, he managed to comport himself with courage and selflessness. The way he risked his life made up for anything he might have done wrong."


Only JFK himself knows how the PT boat, a small, quick vessel designed to patrol island areas and shoot torpedoes towards far-off targets, managed to get so close to the destroyer and also managed not to evade it. People unfamiliar with ships may think that at night a destroyer could simply sneak up on you and run you over. A Japanese destroyer was noisy with engine sounds and the actual sound of a large piece of metal moving quickly through water. If the PT boat crew was paying attention they would have heard it approaching and moved away. They were supposed to be lobbing torpedoes from a distance into a Japanese ship group and that mission was a complete failure. No, the PT-109 was the only PT boat ever rammed and it never should have happened.

JFK's commanders realized that he had screwed up. It is likely that they saw his heroism in the aftermath and his eagerness to engage the enemy beforehand as more than enough to make up for the mistake. They gave him another PT boat, the PT-59, and he fought on without any unusual incidents after that until his physical problems curtailed his military career.

I suspect that Kennedy was literally or figuratively "asleep at the wheel" on that coal-dark night. Perhaps the crew was napping, speculation can only take you so far. But certainly an awake and alert captain and crew would no more likely get run over by a destroyer than you would get run over by a freight train. You would hear the train and get off the tracks, unless you were asleep on the tracks...

The great thing about Kennedy is that despite his mistake he did everything in his power to save his crew and performed absolutely heroically in doing so. That one incident may have awakened greatness in a young man. I do not applaud him for getting his boat sunk. I applaud him for saving the remaining crew. I applaud him for getting back into the fight and later deciding that he would take on even bigger fights. All of this is exemplary behavior.

~~~~~~~

One of my commenters was livid that I would say anything negative about JFK and the PT-109 and asked me "how do I sleep at night?" Very well, thank you! I believe I know the reasonable truth about the incident and I suppose that is better than blithely believing in a myth.

30 comments:

creeper said...

To cut a long story short: you're fully on board with the standard Kennedy account.

Thank you for clearing that up.


"One of my commenters was livid that I would say anything negative about JFK and the PT-109 and asked me "how do I sleep at night?""

It's pretty clear from the context that it was your liberties with the truth and your double standards that he was referring to.

radar said...

"To cut a long story short: you're fully on board with the standard Kennedy account.

Thank you for clearing that up.One of my commenters was livid that I would say anything negative about JFK and the PT-109 and asked me "how do I sleep at night?""

It's pretty clear from the context that it was your liberties with the truth and your double standards that he was referring to."


The entire comment above is complete BS. My post indicates that I do NOT believe the standard account and I make that quite clear. It is the standard account that takes liberties with the truth. Identify where I take liberties with the truth, go ahead!

Nevertheless, I believe the incident was crucial in shaping the character of JFK, propelling him towards greatness. So, what double standards are you referring to? That I am capable of praising a Democrat? You want me to be a cardboard cutout that praises all Republicans and downs all Democrats? Not gonna happen!

Creeper, whatever you are smoking must be real good. It appears that every single statement in your post is completely wrong. Wow!

Anonymous said...

So to sum up, you question the story because :
1. You have no idea how sound works.
2. You suspect he was sleeping.

For what it's worth, the only reason you hear trains is that they blow their horns all the time, and the horns are much louder than the engines. People are hit by trains all the time because they don't hear them. I'd go into the science behind why that happens, but it doesn't seem that you put much weight in science anyway.

By your logic, all those warning gates around railroad tracks are just useless ornaments.

Secondly, the destroyer was 378 feet long, with the bow far ahead of the engines (which weren't internal combustion engines) and weren't as loud. Again, freight trains aren't the most effective or useful comparison.

Third, your whole argument rests on your supposition that he was sleeping. What facts do you have to back that up? Why do you denigrate his service in this manner when, as you put it,

"Only JFK himself knows how the PT boat, a small, quick vessel designed to patrol island areas and shoot torpedoes towards far-off targets, managed to get so close to the destroyer and also managed not to evade it."

Why on earth would a PT boat want to get close to a destroyer, when "designed to patrol island areas and shoot torpedoes towards far-off targets"? Perhaps because the torpedoes they carried were defective.
Another plausible take on the story would be that JFK wanted a kill to boost his stature, and in giving chase to the destroyer sank his boat. However, that relies on just as much speculation as your statements, and I refuse to do that.

Finally, you misattribute my anger. It was not that you said something disparaging about JFK, but, as Creeper put it, your liberties with the truth and double standards.

-scohen

epilogue: You're no doubt going to counter with "Those defective torpedoes were on submarines, not PT boats". Well, both PT boats and submarines shared the same torpedoes

If you want to experiment with the trains, go find a freight train track far from a city (no horns), sit on with your back to the train and blindfold yourself. See if you can jump off the track when you hear it.

I don't actually expect you to complete the above experiment --no sane person would. Now imagine doing the same with a slow-to-change-course boat.

loboinok said...

"For what it's worth, the only reason you hear trains is that they blow their horns all the time, and the horns are much louder than the engines."

I suspect the time you have spent around trains are very little to none.

"People are hit by trains all the time because they don't hear them."

People are hit by trains because they spend little to no time around them and seriously misjudge their speed and power.

Most of the accidents are due to inattentiveness, distraction, misjudgment and in some cases, stupidity.

"I'd go into the science behind why that happens, but it doesn't seem that you put much weight in science anyway."

I don't put much weight in science even though it does fascinate me. I would be VERY interested in hearing your scientific explanation for why people are struck by trains.

1. "You have no idea how sound works."

I would also like to hear your scientific explanation for how sound works... especially on and in water.

radar said...

scohen, you have not spent much time at sea. Whereas a sailboat is quiet, a destroyer would be heard easily if one were alert.

You have also not spent much time in the backwoods around a train track. You both feel and hear them before they arrive, without need of a horn, and you would have plenty of time to get off of the track.

I cited sources that indicated that the military investigated the PT-109 incident and the results were rather muddy. I didn't make anything up. It is you who do not wish to accept facts.

By the way, your comment was a masterpiece of condescension and pomposity bereft of any factual content other than your fascination with the subject of torpedoes.

Face it, I didn't say that they were sleeping, it was mere speculation that was suggested long before I ever put word to blog. I don't know how Kennedy's boat was rammed and neither do you. I admit that the circumstances were pretty shaky but you wish to avoid any thought that a Kennedy may have made a mistake!

Finally, you entirely miss the point that the incident seemed to help shape JFK's character, and in a good way. Go ahead and enjoy your Camelot fantasy, but please refrain from saying that I am the one taking liberties with the truth. Hold that thought until you are standing in front of a mirror.

Anonymous said...

"I would also like to hear your scientific explanation for how sound works... especially on and in water."

It works exactly the same around and in water as it does everywhere else. In water, it travels faster than it does through air, but the mecahanism is the same. The surface of the water reflects sound differently, making locating the source of the sound difficult. Quick, a destroyer is bearing down on us at 38kts! Which way do we turn? Ooops wrong choice. *split*

"Finally, you entirely miss the point that the incident seemed to help shape JFK's character, and in a good way"

I do not, what he did after the incident was truly heroic, he saved several of his men's lives, and IIRC dragged one of them along on the three mile swim to shore.

"Whereas a sailboat is quiet, a destroyer would be heard easily if one were alert"

So your assertion is that no man on his boat was alert? You can't think of another scenario that would have the same outcome? I can think of several that don't involve accusing him of dereliction of duty.

"By the way, your comment was a masterpiece of condescension and pomposity bereft of any factual content other than your fascination with the subject of torpedoes"

High praise inded from someone who has an entire blog that fits that description, save the fascination with torpedoes.

The point I was trying to make is that Kennedy might have been trying to make himself into a hero by sinking a destroyer, and knowing tha his torpedoes were defective, positioned himself so it would hit at less than a 90 degree angle, increasing his chances of detonation. Which in turn put his ship directly in the path of the destroyer, which cut it in half. All of this is funny when you think about it, because it was the aftermath of the incident that made him a hero.

But I have no idea, and neither do you, and it's not fair to question anything about what happened unless you do.

-scohen

--and torpedoes are REALLY interesting. I had no idea.

creeper said...

radar,


Read the standard Kennedy account you posted, then point out which part of it you disagree with. None of what you posted below it contradicts it in any way whatsoever.


The liberties with the truth that scohen clearly identified were your claims that JFK's boat was off its mission (a claim from which you've apparently backed off) and that PT boats don't attack destroyers.

The double standard that scohen also clearly identified was this one: "So is it support the troops unless they disagree with you politically, then question their service?"

It's pretty clear from the context that scohen was referring to these when he asked how you sleep at night, not some kind of rage at JFK being insulted.


Nope, not one bit of my comment was BS. Every word of it was true.

radar said...

"radar,


Read the standard Kennedy account you posted, then point out which part of it you disagree with. None of what you posted below it contradicts it in any way whatsoever.


The liberties with the truth that scohen clearly identified were your claims that JFK's boat was off its mission (a claim from which you've apparently backed off) and that PT boats don't attack destroyers.


Creeper, I wrote my post and my responses in English so why can't you understand? The standard Kennedy account is not quite correct on the facts and I did post excerpts that disagree with it and go into more detail.

The mission was to attack a convoy from a distance. They were off mission.

The PT boats were not to directly engage destroyers. They were run over by one.

The incident required an inquiry board and Kennedy was concerned about the results. Remember this? -

"Though he deserved praise for his courage in the aftermath of the attack on PT 109, it had apparently sunk because he had been inattentive as a commander, as Garry Wills long ago pointed out. JFK himself worried that the events could justify either a medal or a court martial. In the end he got the medal--after his father used his influence."

Byron "Whizzer" White, later appointed to the Supreme Court by Kennedy, was one of the co-authors of the board of inquiry report which cleared Kennedy. It certainly didn't hurt to have a friend be part of the process!


The double standard that scohen also clearly identified was this one: "So is it support the troops unless they disagree with you politically, then question their service?"

It's pretty clear from the context that scohen was referring to these when he asked how you sleep at night, not some kind of rage at JFK being insulted.


Nope, not one bit of my comment was BS. Every word of it was true."


You are terribly confused at best. I do not disagree with Kennedy politically, so the scohen statement doesn't make sense from that angle either. Second, JFK is long dead and buried so he doesn't qualify as one of the "troops" anymore, anyway, no more than George Washington or Robert E Lee.

Is it possible that you can now understand? Can I spell it out any clearer?

1) The PT-109 incident was a screwup and Kennedy, as commander, was responsible.

2) In the aftermath of the incident, Kennedy performed remarkable heroics in saving several members of his crew and getting the survivors rescued at great personal risk.

3) The inquiry board included a personal friend, fortunately for both Kennedy and the country.

4) I am glad Kennedy came out of this both unscathed and with a positive war story. It helped him get elected to the Presidency and I consider him one of the best of the 20th century.

(Additional speculation) It also likely helped shape his character in a good way. Surviving the wreck and rescuing the crewmen may have shown JFK strengths within himself he did not know. It may have caused him to feel as if he was getting a second chance and he didn't want to be any less than the best he could be with that chance.

Unless you have been in an absolute emergency situation you really don't know how you will react. Some rise to the occasion and some run from it. Kennedy proved to be one who would rise.

Anonymous said...

Radar,
I absolutely agree with the last four or so paragraphs of your latest comment. The man clearly proved himself under pressure, and 'rose to the occasion'. You do learn a great deal about yourself in those types of situations, and it's clear you have respect for the man.

It's funny, a couple of years ago, I'd probably give him a B- as a president mostly due to the Vietnam involvement, but after seeing Fog of War, he might be solid A- territory. Good documentary, BTW.

-scohen

radar said...

scohen - Now you understand what I was saying, as you graciously put it. In fact, I am not unhappy we went into the PT Boat thing. What probably actually happened is more interesting and, if you will, more Shakespearean than the vanilla "Camelot" version most people have heard and accepted.

Sly said...

I admire Kennedy too. He was more that the 35th president of US. He was a charismatic and popular president. Unfortunately, he was the youngest president elected and the youngest president assassinated.

Anonymous said...

The Japanese destroyer was making a noise off in the distance. The PT-Boat engine(s), even at idle, low rpm, are very loud, and they were stationed right on top of them.

It was a starless night - poor visibility, overcast. Crewmen of the destroyer claim to have spotted the PT-Boat formation at 1000 yards, dead ahead. One of the PT-Boats in the formation spotted the destroyer at 700 yards and noted it was a on a collision course with the 109. They steered to a firing position. They did not fire. They witnessed the collision.

Ross, on the bow of the 109 and looking through binoculars, says he saw the destroyer and turned and waved at Kennedy, who was wide awake at the wheel. At about that time, a machine gunner yelled that a ship was approaching. The crew reports thinking initially that it was another PT-Boat. Kennedy turned to look, and began to steer his boat to a firing position. The destroyer hit the 109.

The elapsed time was reported to be 10 seconds to 60 seconds.

For the above to be untrue, crews of a Japanese destroyer and three PT-Boats would have to be liars.

As the son of a Solomons veteran, I find that it impossible to believe that the crews of three PT-Boats would lie initially, and maintain the lie through the death-bed confession stage. To get to the Solomons, you were either regular Navy or a highly motivated and patriotic volunteer. My father enlisted on the morning after Pearl Harbor. His unit flew missions in support of the PT-Boats out of Tulagi.

Is this article insulting? Damn straight.

Rocketman said...

The new and improved Google search engine has pretty much buried anything re: the facts of JFK's blunder. It took a while to find what I was looking for again - the facts - in writing - from someone who knows whereof he speaks, and speculates to be sure. But, I wouldn't get all too worked up over Jack's "heroics". Better men than he were Court Martialed and / or ignored for commendation(s).

It helps to have an obscenely wealthy and powerful daddy.

Thanks for the post, radar.

~(Ä)~

radar said...

This post is so old...but it is timely today. We now know that JFK had issued an Executive Order that would withdraw US forces from Vietnam. That LBJ simply ignored that order issued by his former boss shows you how little an Executive Order can actually accomplish.

JFK was apparently one of the last of the Constitutional Democrats. He was certainly anti-socialism and would be appalled at the philosophy of the current administration. How is it that the least qualified and least responsible brother lived on far beyond the others? One brother swam for hours in the ocean to save his men, another may have been gunned down for his opposition to organized labor and crime and another left a woman to drown while fleeing the scene to save his own hide. Ironic.

E. Stanley Murphy said...

"People unfamiliar with ships may think that at night a destroyer could simply sneak up on you and run you over. A Japanese destroyer was noisy with engine sounds and the actual sound of a large piece of metal moving quickly through water. If the PT boat crew was paying attention they would have heard it approaching and moved away."

I am no Kennedy apologist and I am not offering a judgment about whether JFK did anything wrong that night, but this statment is simply incorrect. I have spent more than five decades in small boats in and around busy harbor approaches in New York and Norfolk, often at night. Sound travels on the water in unpredictable ways, particularly in bad weather. Kennedy was ahead of the destroyer which is the hardest point at which to hear an approaching ship. Even in ideal conditions the boat crew--remember that Kennedy was not the only one who failed to hear the ship-- would only have had a very short time to hear, identify and react to the approaching ship. The sound likely would have been only from the bow wash, a sound easily confused with breaking waves. Also, at the time of this incident, the PT boat was idling and not able to move instantaneously as you suggest.

I have frequently watched large ships approach my position in clear daylight for as long as thirty minutes, moved out of their way and then watched them pass close aboard never hearing them until they were past my position.

At night it is the exception rather than the rule if you hear an approaching ship until the instant she is on top of you. Add to this problem the absence of a moon, darkened and silenced wartime steaming conditions and a PT boat idling in the water and not able to move instantly.As one "familiar with ships" (to borrow your term), I have no trouble whatsoever understanding PT 109's difficulty.

The lead boat in Kennedy's group that night was the only one equipped with radar. I have never been clear on why her skipper could not have warned Kennedy's boat of the approaching hazard/combat opportunity.

You are right about one thing. All of those men were heros for putting themselves on the line for this nation. We were not there and we all should be careful about careless conclusions.

radar said...

ESM,

I appreciate your comment and respect your experience. It does seem, though, that being out in the Solomons with very little ambient noise is quite different from the areas of Norfolk and New York. Therefore it would seem that the sounds of a Japanese Destroyer would be far more noticeable than the far quieter big ships of today and that the background noise level would be far less in Kennedy's situation.

In fact we cannot go back there and experience it ourselves. Primarily (and it seems you agree) I wanted to point out that the standard PT-109 JFK hero story is unlikely and that the standard JFK phony story is also unlikely. Taking his own words into account, I believe he realized he had much to blame himself for as far as the accident itself but also that he discovered greatness within himself when he heroically rescued men in peril.

Is it possible that the flawed hero is the best story of all? That a scion of wealthy Kennedy clan who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth could perform under the greatest stress with the zeal and grit of a man who pulled himself up from poverty and deprivation? I think so...I mourn the deaths of John and Robert and I believe the Democratic party took a sharp left turn when they were eliminated. Sad for everyone.

E. Stanley Murphy said...

Thanks. I don't mean to be argumentative, but most of my experience on this point has been in the ocean and large estuaries such as the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, all of which have the same sort of ambient noise that would have been present in Blackett Straight that night.

Contrary to the assumption in your comment, the ocean can be quite noisy especially with wind blowing or a sea running. These conditions and the weather affect how mariners perceive sound on the water. For example, it is easier to hear downwind than upwind. Noise refracts in dense air and can become non-directional. Bow wash from a ship sounds very similar to breaking sea waves.

You also assume that ambient noise in a harbor makes it more difficult to hear than in the ocean. This is also not correct. In fact, most of the time it is actually easier to hear inshore than in a seaway.

I don't agree then that the background noise would be less in Kennedy's situation than in the areas where I have observed and listened to approaching ships.

You also commented on what you assume to be the sound levels created by a WWII Japanese destroyer. I am not sure what the basis is for this assumption but we need to remember that the Amagiri was steaming under wartime conditions and would have quieted ship. As a destroyer, one of her primary missions would have been anti-submarine warfare so if we are making assumptions, we need to first assume that her crew knew something about keeping quiet.

From a practical standpoint though, nothing is noisier than an ocean going commercial fishing vessel, particularly with gear rigged and overboard. And factory ships are even worse. I can tell you from many sleepless nights in the Atlantic Ocean that usually you do not hear any of that ruckus until those vessels are quite close.

Again, I do not mean to argue but I think that anyone who has logged very many ocean miles will confirm what I am saying. It is pretty standard stuff that I have heard taught at a USNA Safety at Sea seminar.

Insofar as to whether a flawed hero makes the better story, that has nothing to do with what actually happened. That's the problem with any Kennedy debate. They will always be suffused with what we want to believe or how we want the story to end. Unfortunately, the truth is usually obscured by the Joe Kennedy public relations machine and a half century of revisionist historians. That is not the same as saying though that the truth is always nefarious. We just have become so skeptical about making any Kennedy judgments because so many people have manipulated so many facts for so long that it is hard to know what to believe.

There was not much romance in motor patrol boats. Kennedy and the rest of them had a pretty s----y deal bouncing around in plywood boxes that never ran as well or as fast as advertised.

I am not going to speculate about what might have happened. All I can tell you is that a large ship can sneak up on a small boat at night with little or no warning and that it is impossible to get out of the way at the last minute.

Please don't think that I am trying to get the last word. I just feel strongly about this because I have experienced it.

You have a nice blog. Thanks for entertaining comments.

radar said...

I have spent time onboard ships but not a lot. ESM has much more experience in this regard. I do appreciate his input. Also it has been my experience that modern ships are rather surprisingly quiet so perhaps the Japanese could have surprised the PT boat with far more ease than we imagined.

In short, while I do think this experience was a huge factor in molding the character of JFK I am more than willing to concede to ESM on basis of his testimony that his view of the situation could be the most accurate. I do hope you will do us the honor of commenting on other posts from time to time. Thanks for your comments!

Anonymous said...

I've taken a great interst in the PT boat squadrons of WW II mainly because I had an uncle who served on them in the Southwest Pacific. What I have never understood about the accepted account of the PT-109 affair is why they were sitting with their engines turned off in the first place. From what I've learned from my uncle and through my own research into PT boat tactics this was not in compliance with standard procedures. PT boats were equipped with surface radar so turning off the boat's engines to "listen" for approaching ships was not necessary and quite risky. Also, the Packard engines that powered PT boats were equipped with baffles so they were relatively quiet, especially in idle. While Kennedy did perform heroically in the aftermath of the collision, it is my opinion the collision itself which cost the lives of two of Kennedy's crewmen could have indeed been avoided. This is an opinion that was shared by U.S. Navy investigators and Kennedy's peers within the PT boat community at the time.

Branes said...

Anonymous said "This is an opinion that was shared by U.S. Navy investigators and Kennedy's peers within the PT boat community at the time."

I'm sorry, but you are DEAD wrong! If the U.S. Navy investigators had any question at all about Kennedy's competence in the incident, they never would have given him another command. He would been given his medals and sent back stateside. The fact that he was given the 59 boat immediately after getting out of the hospital proves that they exonerated him from all question of competency.
The Navy doesn't give commands to men whose abilities are in question, especially in wartime. I know, my father was a full Captain when he retired and had 5 commands including a guided missile cruiser.
The problem with questioning the "official" story is that it flies in the face of testimony by not only the other PT boat commanders, who decribed the conditions in Blackett Strait that night, and the crew of the 109, but also the captain and crew of the Amagiri, the ship that rammed the 109. Robert J. Donovan interviewed all of them and all agreed that neither ship saw each other in time to avoid the collision. Although the Navy did not have the testimony of the Japanese, it did have it from the other commanders and the crew of the 109. Some of those men had been pretty badly injured. And they were close to mutiny when they were rescued. It's pretty logical to assume that if Kennedy had screwed up, they would have said something. At least a few of them were with him again on the 59. Would you request duty on a boat with a commander that you knew screwed up and cost the lives of 2 men?

Btw,the 109 did NOT have radar. She was an older boat and not radar equipped. So she couldn't have seen the Amagiri on radar.
Your facts are all wrong.

Granted, JFK was known to be a "hot dog" at times. So were a lot of PT boat commanders. But I don't believe for a moment that he was "asleep at the wheel." He was too experienced a boat captain to not take his responsibility serious in a combat situation.

Branes said...

This is an opinion that was shared by U.S. Navy investigators and Kennedy's peers within the PT boat community at the time.

I'm sorry, but you are DEAD wrong! If the U.S. Navy investigators had any question at all about Kennedy's competence in the incident, they never would have given him another command. He would been given his medals and sent back stateside. The fact that he was given the 59 boat immediately after getting out of the hospital proves that they exonerated him from all question of competency.
The Navy doesn't give commands to men whose abilities are in question, especially in wartime. I know, my father was a full Captain when he retired and had 5 commands including a guided missile cruiser.
The problem with questioning the "official" story is that it flies in the face of testimony by not only the other PT boat commanders and the crew of the 109, but also the captain and crew of the Amagiri, the ship that rammed the 109. Robert J. Donovan interviews all of them and all agree that neither saw each other in time to avoid the collision. Although the Navy did not have the testimony of the Japanese, it did have it from the other commanders and the crew of the 109. Some of those men had been pretty badly injured. And they were close to mutiny when they were rescued. It's pretty logical to assume that if Kennedy had screwed up, they would have said something. At least a few of them were with him again on the 59. Would you request duty on a boat with a commander that you knew screwed up and cost the lives of 2 men?

Regarding the incident, PT 109 was one of the older model boats and wasn't equipped with radar. Only the newer boats in a squadron had it. You can see that by looking at the official pictures taken on the boat. There is no radar receiver visible. Usually, they would relay important information about ship presence to the other boats. The fact that the 109 wasn't warned about it indicates nobody had seen it on radar.

Granted, JFK was known to be a "hot dog" at times. So were a lot of PT boat commanders. But I don't believe for a moment that he was "asleep at the wheel." He was too experienced a boat captain to not take his responsibility serious in a combat situation.

Rader spewed "In the end he got the medal--after his father used his influence."

That's a pretty libelous accusation without evidence. Byron White was only ONE of the people writing the intelligence report on the PT 109 incident. He didn't write it alone. You are insinuating that an intelligence officer in the Pacific in World War II falsified an official Navy intelligence report to get an acquaintance off the hook? And was able to convince the other author to go along with it. Or are you saying that Joe Kennedy paid them both to cover it up? Did he also pay all the crew members and the other PT boat captains?
What the hell are you smoking? They weren't close friends, they were acquaintances. Second, that would have been a treasonous offense in a warzone. He would have been court-martialed at best, or possibly executed for treason.

If you want to impune JFK you can talk about Marilyn Monroe, Judy Campbell and who knows how many other women he fooled around with, nobody will bother you.

But to question the PT 109 story with nothing but innuendo and baseless accusations of political corruption is not worthy of honor.

Branes said...

This is an opinion that was shared by U.S. Navy investigators and Kennedy's peers within the PT boat community at the time.

I'm sorry, but you are DEAD wrong! If the U.S. Navy investigators had any question at all about Kennedy's competence in the incident, they never would have given him another command. He would been given his medals and sent back stateside. The fact that he was given the 59 boat immediately after getting out of the hospital proves that they exonerated him from all question of competency.
The Navy doesn't give commands to men whose abilities are in question, especially in wartime. I know, my father was a full Captain when he retired and had 5 commands including a guided missile cruiser.
The problem with questioning the "official" story is that it flies in the face of testimony by not only the other PT boat commanders and the crew of the 109, but also the captain and crew of the Amagiri, the ship that rammed the 109. Robert J. Donovan interviews all of them and all agree that neither saw each other in time to avoid the collision. Although the Navy did not have the testimony of the Japanese, it did have it from the other commanders and the crew of the 109. Some of those men had been pretty badly injured. And they were close to mutiny when they were rescued. It's pretty logical to assume that if Kennedy had screwed up, they would have said something. At least a few of them were with him again on the 59. Would you request duty on a boat with a commander that you knew screwed up and cost the lives of 2 men?

Btw,the 109 did NOT have radar. She was an older boat and not radar equipped. So she couldn't have seen the Amagiri on radar.
Your facts are all wrong.

Granted, JFK was known to be a "hot dog" at times. So were a lot of PT boat commanders. But I don't believe for a moment that he was "asleep at the wheel." He was too experienced a boat captain to not take his responsibility serious in a combat situation.

Branes said...

Sorry about the multiple posts. It happened while going back and adding to the original post.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that people are still argueing over what happened on that boat. Some how they were run over by another ship. I don't care how or what lead up to that event. All I know is that JFK helped save my uncle (Charles "Bucky" Harris)and some of the others. To me he is a hero for that and I am always thankful to him. All of the men that were on that pt boat are dead now so we should just remember them for the people that they were. Great men that fought for our country.

AmericanVet said...

My Father-in-law was shot down over an area under German control in WW2 and he saved the life of a fellow mate by dragging him from his gunner's perch and tossing him out the hatch before himself. I suspect heroism in WWII was found in many ways and forms.

Thank God for your uncle, that is a valuable addition to the story. In the end JFK was heroic, saving lives while risking his own. That is my conclusion and I thank you for your addition to the post!

Nmurane said...

Forget the sound issue. How did the crew of the destroyer (by eye witness account)see the PT boat flotilla at 1000 yards and steer towards it, but the PT 109 crew couldn't see the destroyer until it was right on top of them? By all accounts it was a dark moonless night. The PT crew should have seen the destroyer in time if the reverse were also true.

Also, a destroyer travelling at max speed, (say 30 knts) would take approximately 80 seconds to travel the 700 yards, (by eye witness accounts) from when the first PT boat apparently spotted the destroyer. The accounts said that it took from 10 to 60 seconds for this all to unfold. Seems like there is a time issue as well as a visibility issue.

Anonymous said...

From John Kornegay;

According to the History Channels' biography on JFK they state that Admiral Halsey had issued an order that PT Boats on a mission were to discontinue the method of idling the boat with the propellers disengaged. The reason being that in case of emergency it would take too long get under way because the Skipper would have to:
1. Issue the order to the engine man below decks to re-engage the props.
2. Wait for the props to get re-engaged.
3. Wait for the report that the the action was complete.
The biography also states that, guess what, Kennedy was idling with the props disengaged when they gat rammed!
If this is true then Kennedy deserved the court martial no matter what he did after the fact and especially since two lives were lost because it.
The fact of why they didn't see the destroyer before it was too late is not relavant but that it should not have been too late if the boat was in gear.

Anonymous said...

Radar- everything else in the JFK myth has been proven to be just that- myth and lies upon more myth and lies. "Greatness"? In what way? In Adultry and abuse of power?
If Kennedy had not been assasinated, multiple groups were poised to expose prostitutes and ties to organized crime. He may have even lost the nomination if the truth had come out. Greatness? Hardly. America dodged a bullet.

Unknown said...

Kennedy did not have the PT-109 "in gear" at the time of the ramming, contrary to orders, that is why there were talks of courts marshall.
The transmission on that type of boat was a vacuum engaged "straight cut" i.e. non-synchro type gear box and if the gears did not mesh at first, the throttles were "blipped" then another attempt was made. After a few failed attempts, there was not enough vacuum to try again, until the vacuum tank was refilled.

Anonymous said...

It is currently reported only two open sea collisions by ships of hostile powers took place during the entirety of World War II. One was in the Baltic Sea in the Dead of Winter. The other was supposedly PT 109. I think it much more likely and in the character of tradition of the Kennedy clan, the young Kennedy and his crew were out drinking on the water and set their own boat on fire. Afterwards they concocted a story about a "ramming".