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PT 103 Class
Elco 80'

56 Tons
80' x 20' 8" x 3' 6"
37mm cannon (added)
20mm cannon (aft)
2 x Twin .50 cal MG
4 x 21" Torpedoes

Click For Enlargement
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USN 1943
Captain  Lt(jg) John F. Kennedy (survived) Brookline, MA
Crew  Ensign Leonard Thom (survived) Sandusky, OH
Crew  Seaman 2nd Class Raymond Albert (survived) Akron, OH
Radio  John McGuire (survived)
Gunner  Raymond Starkey (survived) CA
Gunner  MOMM2c Harold W. Marney, 2127352 (MIA / KIA) Chiopee, MA
Crew  TM2C Andrew John Kirksey, 6366765 (MIA / KIA) GA
Crew  Gerald Zinser (survived)
Crew  William Johnson (survived)
Crew  Charles Harris (survived)
Crew  Patrick "Pappy" McMahon (WIA, survived)
37mm Gunner  Ensign George Ross (survived)
Sunk  August 2, 1943 at 1:30am

Ship History
Built by Elco at Bayonne, New Jersey as the seventh PT boat built built by Elco in Bayonne, NJ. Laid down March 4, 1942 as PT 103 Class Elco 80' Motor Torpedo Boat. Launched June 20, 1942 as PT-109. On July 10, 1942 delivered to the U.S. Navy (USN) as PT-109. Completed July 19, 1942.

During late August 1942 at Norfolk Navy Yard loaded aboard SS Joseph Stanton with PT-107 and PT-108 as deck cargo and transported southward to the Panama Canal Zone (CZ). On September 22, 1942 assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Five (MTBRon 5) under the command of Lt. George A. Brackett. Until early 1943, operated in the Panama Canal Zone (CZ).

Assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Two (MTBRon 2) and loaded as deck cargo aboard SS Joseph Stanton and transported across the Pacific Ocean to Nouméa then towed to Guadalcanal. During April 1943 placed under the command of Lt(jg) John F. Kennedy and operated from Tulagi PT Boat Base.

On June 29, 1943 at 12:53pm moored alongside USS Zane (DMS-14) in Pepesala Bay off Pavuvu Island in the Russell Islands while the high-speed minesweeper embarked U.S. Army soldiers and cargo then PT-109 got underway at 1:14pm.

In early July 1943 moved to Rendova PT Boat Base and began patrolling the central Solomon Islands during the New Georgia campaign.

On August 1, 1943 at 4:00pm departs Rendova PT Boat Base under the command of Lt(jg) John F. Kennedy as one of fifteen PT-Boats on an overnight patrol of the Blackett Strait off Kolombangara. Division B included PT-109, PT-157, PT-159 and PT-162. This was PT-109's 31st patrol. Meanwhile, Japanese destroyers including Amagiri were on an overnight "Tokyo Express" run to Vila on Kolombangara to deliver personnel and supplies. After completing their mission, the destroyers departed for Rabaul.

Sinking History
On August 2, 1943 at 1:30am while motoring in Blacket Strait, rammed by Japanese destroyer Amagiri at Lat 8°03'S, Long 156°58'E. The collision split PT-109 into two pieces that sank Aboard, Marney and Kirksey were never seen again and went Missing In Action (MIA). McMahon was wounded and Kennedy injured his back.

Fates of the Crew
The crew of PT-109 clung to the wreckage of the bow. Around 2:00pm, the survivors swam 3.5 miles southwest to Plum Pudding Island. During the difficult swim, Kennedy towed wounded McMahon, holding his life vest strap in his teeth despite back injuries. After dark, Kennedy swam two miles into Ferguson Passage in an attempt to hail any passing PT Boat without success then swam back to the island. Ashore, the survivors had no food or water.

On August 3, 1942 at night Kennedy again swam out to find a friendly vessel and with Ensign George Ross swam to Naru Island (Nauro) to search for food or water and found a damaged canoe. On August 4, 1943 the survivors swam against a strong current southward to Olasana Island with Kennedy again towing McMahon. Ashore, the found coconuts but no fresh water. On August 5, 1943 Kennedy and Ross swam to Naru to the southwest were they found a canoe, packages of crackers and candy and a 50 gallon drum of water abandoned by the Japanese. Using the canoe, they paddled back to Olasana Island with the supplies.

Meanwhile, the sinking of PT-109 was observed by Allied Coastwatcher Lt. Reginald "Reg" Evans, who sent two of his Solomon Island scouts Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana to search for survivors. On Olasana Island they found the survivors. Kennedy scratched a message in a coconut shell in capital letters that read: "NAURO ISL… COMMANDER… NATIVE KNOWS POS’IT… HE CAN PILOT… 11 ALIVE… NEED SMALL BOAT… KENNEDY" and gave it to the scouts who departed to deliver the message to the coastwatcher. After delivering the message, August 7, 1943 in the morning Lt. Evans radioed Rendova and a rescue mission was organized. On August 8, 1943 the survivors were rescued by PT-157 and transported to Rendova PT Boat Base.

Marney was officially declared dead on August 2, 1943. Kirksey was officially declared dead on August 3, 1944. Both are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. Both also have memorial markers at Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery Kirksey at section M1, row C, site 58. Marney at section M1, row C, site 54.

Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States (POTUS) January 20, 1961–November 22, 1963 when assassinated in Dallas, TX at age 46, Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 45 grave S-45.

During May 2002, Robert Ballard with Odyssey Enterprises for National Geographic searched for this shipwreck in the Blacket Straight. At 1,200' (360m) a piece of wreckage was identified as a torpedo tube from a PT-Boat, and claimed to be from PT-109. Later, their findings were confirmed as "most likely" PT-109 by the USN.

Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - PT-109
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - PT-109, 1942-43 (photos)
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - Report on Loss of PT-109
Navy Source - PT-109
NARA USS Zan War Diary June 1943 page 30 (June 29, 1943)
(Page 30) " 1253 PT109 moored alongside to starboard. 1314 PT 109 left from alongside."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harold W. Marney
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Andrew J. Kirksey
FIndAGrave - Harold William Marney (photos, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Harold William Marney (photo, memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Andrew Jackson Kirksey (photos, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Andrew Jackson Kirksey (memorial marker photo)
Arlington National Cemetery ANC Explorer - John F. Kennedy (grave photo)
At Close Quarters PT Boats in the United States Navy (1962) pages 57, 95, 101, 103, 120, 123-125, 452, 456, 486, 488, 561 (index)
National Museum of the U.S. Navy USS PT-109
National Geographic "The Search For Kennedy's PT 109 (video)
Collision With History: The Search for John F. Kennedy's PT 109
National Geographic "JFK's PT-109 Found, U.S. Navy Confirms" July 11, 2002
National Geographic PT Boat torpedo tube (photo)
YouTube "The Search For Kennedy's PT 109 National Geographic (2003)

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Last Updated
August 3, 2022


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