Posted by: SJS | November 4, 2022

JFK’s daring rescue mission on PT 59

On November 1, 1943, under the command of Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, PT 59 (pictured here) staged a daring–almost suicidal–rescue mission of surrounded US Marines on Choiseul Island in the South Pacific. This mission occurred less than three months after the sinking of PT 109 by a Japanese destroyer and Kennedy’s heroic efforts to lead his surviving crewmates to safety.

In the aftermath of the loss of the PT 109, Kennedy was wildly eager to get back into action and was given command of PT 59. As the skipper of the 59, Kennedy made a major contribution to the evolution of the PTs from heavily laden torpedo vessels into heavily armed, lighter gun boats. As you will notice in the photo, the traditional PT torpedo tubes have been removed and the larger deck guns have been installed. In trading torpedoes for deck artillery, Kennedy primed his vessel for hard edged, close-in combat. Trading torpedo firepower for deck weaponry, the PT’s were changing in anticipation of the intense, island-to-island fighting that lay ahead.

And on November 1, 1943, Kennedy led PT 59 right into the shallow waters and pushed the boat’s prow onto the beach so that the Marines could be rescued. The deck guns of PT 59 delivered covering fire and the boat’s crewmen helped the Marines get on the boat. The crew then helped push the 59 back into the water and made a successful escape. On the journey back to the PT base, a badly wounded Marine died on board in the bunk of Skipper Kennedy.

In the summer of 1945, many PT boats were operating in the way that PT 59 operated under the command of Kennedy. As a crewman on PT 373, Red Stahley served on a boat that was no stranger to intense firefights against an entrenched, increasingly desperate enemy.

Until the final days of WWII, the PT crews were fighting fiercely, following the example of John F. Kennedy who did not use his experience on PT 109 as a ticket out of the war but returned to the action as the skipper of PT 59 and fought like hell.


  1. […] JFK’s daring rescue mission on PT 59 […]

  2. I didn’t know that part of his war service in World War II.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: