Lieutenant Junior Grade John F. Kennedy at the Helm of USS PT-109

Lieutenant Junior Grade John F. Kennedy at the helm of USS PT-109. The PT-109 belonged to the 80-foot Elco type motor torpedo boat, PT 103 class, of which hundreds were completed between 1942 and 1945 by the Elco Naval Division of Electric Boat Company at Bayonne, New Jersey. USS PT-109 was placed in service July 10, 1942 as a unit of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Five. She was shipped to the Pacific shortly thereafter and on October 26, 1942 was transferred to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Two for service in the Solomon Islands during the ongoing Guadalcanal Campaign. During the last months of 1942 and the first part of 1943, PT-109 was employed on patrols in the waters adjacent to Guadalcanal, as part of an effort to prevent the Japanese from reinforcing their troops on the island. After the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal in February 1943, PT-109 remained in the Solomons. Kennedy took command on April 24, 1943. Following the seizure of Rendova Island, near New Georgia, she was based there with other PT boats, charged with interdicting enemy shipping during the fight to capture New Georgia. While patrolling in Blackett Strait, on the southern side of Kolombangara Island, during the early hours of August 2, 1943, PT-109 was rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri, cutting away the PT boat's starboard side and leaving her completely disabled. As she gradually sank during the day her eleven survivors abandoned ship to swim to Plum Pudding Island some miles away. These men, led by commanding officer Kennedy, tended to wounds and hid from Japanese during the next week. With the aid of Coastwatcher Sub Lieutenant Arthur Reginald Evans and Solomons residents Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana in a dugout canoe, PT-109's men were finally returned to the Rendova PT base on August 8.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
John F. Kennedy Museum
Date Photographed: 
Saturday, May 1, 1943