Posted by: SJS | November 29, 2015

JFK’s second command – PT 59

JFK &  officers

Following the rescue of the surviving members of PT 109 in early August, 1943, the war could have been over for Lt. John Kennedy.   Although I knew that Kennedy had served on another PT boat,  I was very vague on the details.  Thanks to the superb new book by William Doyle, “PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy”  (which I just finished a few hours ago), I am no longer in the dark about the details.

Let me share some of Doyle’s excellent prose to describe what came next for the young PT skipper,

“John Kennedy’s war could have ended here. By losing his boat and enduring his agonizing ordeal of survival, he had earned himself a one-way ticket home to the safety of shore duty, to a long rest and recuperation in the United States, and back to the sybaritic, globe-trotting life of a super-rich bachelor with a golden future.

But John F. Kennedy made a surprising decision.

He chose to stay in the Solomon Islands, keep himself in the line of fire–and fight.” (page 178).

Doyle then goes on to tell the riveting story of Kennedy’s experiences as the commanding officer of PT 59 which saw plenty of action, including 13 patrols, being bombed by Japanese floatplanes, and attacking Japanese barges.  During the month that Kennedy commanded PT 59 of Squadron (Ron) 10, between mid-October and mid-November 1943, he was also involved in a daring rescue mission to the island of Choiseul where 87 exhausted Marines were pinned down by superior Japanese forces.  With immense boldness and uncanny skill, Kennedy maneuvered PT 59 close to the shore and evacuated 10 of the stranded Marines.

I’m quite sure I will be reading Doyle’s excellent book again (and again).  For everyone out there who might be looking for just the right Christmas gift for a friend or relative interested in the history of the Mosquito Fleet, you can’t go wrong by getting them this terrific book.

The photo with this post shows PT Boat Officers (L-R) James “Jim” Reed, John F. Kennedy, George “Barney” Ross, and Paul “Red” Fay.   It was taken in Tulagi, Solomon Islands sometime in 1943.  The photo is from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

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