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77' x 19' 11" x 4' 6"
2 x Twin 50 cal MG
4 x 18" Torpedoes
2 x Twin 50 cal MG
5 x 50 cal MG
2 x 40mm
U. S. Army Feb. 11, 1943
USN Aug-Oct 1943
Bill Fedison 1960s
Alan Chu Oct 10, 1970
Justin Taylan 2017
Robert Iannucci 2020
Built by Electric Boat Co. (Elco) in Bayonne, NJ. Laid down July 26, 1941 as Motor Boat Submarine Chaser, PTC-27. Reclassified BPT-11 for Great Britain, but never delivered. Reclassified PT-59 prior to completion. Launched October 8, 1941. Entered service on March 5, 1942. Assigned to Squadron 4 (MTBS 4).
On May 7, 1942 transferred to Squadron 2 (MTBS 2) and assigned to captain Ensign Dave M. "Hogan" Levy.
On August 29, 1942 the first squadron including PT-38, PT-46, PT-48 and PT-60 were loaded two per vessel aboard USS Lackawanna (AO-40) and USS Tappahannock (AO-43) that departed Balboa bound for the South Pacific. On September 19, 1942 The ships arrived in Nouméa Harbor where all four boats were unloaded and towed by USS Bellatrix (AKA-3) and USS Jamestown (PG-55) to Espiritu Santo where they were then transfered to USS Hovey (DD-208) and USS Southard (DD-207) and towed to a point 300 miles off Tulagi where they proceeded under their own power arriving at dawn on October 12, 1942 to Tulagi PT Boat Base (Sesapi).
After October 14, 1942, PT-59 was shared by Lt(jg) John M. "Jack" Searles and his crew from Squadron 3 (MTBS 3), because their assigned vessel PT-60 damaged, forcing them to share PT-59 with each crew out on patrols during alternating nights.
During the night of December 7, 1942–December 8, 1942, eight PT Boats attacked eight Japanese destroyers of the "Tokyo Express" off Kokumbona and Cape Esperance while a four-boat division waited near Savo Island to act as a striking force. After initial contact took place off Cape Esperance, the striking group of four boats closed to make a torpedo attack. In the ensuing running battle, the PT Boats weaved around the destroyers in a confused combat, that compelled the Japanese to withdraw northward without delivering their reinforcements. During the battle, PT-59 was hit by shell fire and sustained minor damage.
During the night of December 9, 1942 under the command of Jack Searles with PT-44 patrolled three miles off Kamimbo Bay on Guadalcanal. Spotting a Japanese barge the pair opened fire. Next, lookouts aboard PT-59 spotted surfaced I-3. At 7:03am, PT-59 launched two torpedoes from 400 yards one of which hits the stern of the submarine. A geyser of water spouts high in the air, followed by a tremendous explosion. The second torpedo passed under PT-44.
During the night of January 2, 1943 commanded by Lt. Jack Searles with PT-46 and PT-36 to patrol the the coast of Guadalcanal between Tassafaronga and Domo (Ndomo).
On February 1, 1943 patrolled "The Slot" commanded by Lt. Jack Searles. Bombed and strafed by Japanese aircraft, but suffered no damage passing between Savo Island and Cape Esperence.
On February 11, 1943 the crew of Squadron 3 (MTBS 3) PT-60 under the command of Lt. Jack Searles transported a U. S. Army intelligence team including U. S. Army Major General Alexander M. Patch to inspect the wreckage of Japanese submarine I-1 sunk in Kamimbo Bay off the north coast of Guadalcanal. During the survey a number of photographs were taken of the wreckage of the submarine protruding 40' to 50' out of the water at an angle of 45 degrees. During the inspection PT-59 ran aground and had to be assisted off a reef.
During August 1943, PT-59 was converted into a gunboat armed with two Bofors 40mm guns plus additional .30 caliber machine guns and .50 caliber machine guns behind shields and the torpedoes removed. Placed under the command of Ensign J. Atkinson.
In September 1943, Lt(jg) John F. Kennedy took command of PT-59 at Rendova PT Boat Base (Lumbaria) as a replacement boat after the loss of PT-109 on August 2, 1943.
During October 1943 operated from the PT Boat Base at Liapari Island (Vella Lavella).
On November 2, 1943, PT-59 under the command of Lt John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) evacuate forty plus U. S. Marines from the 2nd Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment (Paramarines) from "Bigger's Force" (including several dozen who were wounded) plus the crew of a foundering LCVP that was under fire from the beach. All were rescued near the Warrior River on Choiseul Island. During the night, one wounded U. S. Marine died in Kennedy's bunk aboard PT-59. On the return trip PT-59 ran out of gas and was towed back to base by PT-236.
On November 11, 1943, transferred Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3(2) MTBS 3(2) under the command of Lt. Richard E. Johnson and moved northward to operate from Empress Augusta Bay off Bougainville.
During the night of January 10, 1944 departed Torokina PT Boat Base under the command of Ens. J. Atkinson on a reconnaissance in strength against Green Island Atoll to inspect the channels and evaluate enemy strength on a mission led by PT-176 with PT-184, PT-61 and PT-59. During the open sea crossing and bad weather, PT-61 sustained damage including the smoke generator breaking loose and falling overboard with the the exhaust stack and fouled the gears of the 40mm Bofors. Heavier, older and slower, PT-61 and PT-59 could not keep up with the other two boats which proceeded without them to complete the mission. On January 11, 1944 both PT-61 and PT-59 returned to Torokina PT Boat Base.
Sometime during 1944, PT-59 was transported back to the United States for use as a training vessel. On August 7, 1944 assigned to MTB Training Center at Melville, RI. On October 14, 1944 reclassified as a small boat C102583. On December 15, 1944 transfered to the Philadelphia Naval Station. At the end of World War II, surveyed as war surplus for disposal to the public.
On March 21, 1947 sold to Mr. Gus Marinak of Bronx, NY and renamed "Sun Tan". Later, sold to Mr. Donald Schmahl of New York, NY who renamed the vessel "Sea Queen V" and operated it as a pleasure boat until the late 1960s. The vessel had a 30' x 12' two story cabin added to the center of the vessel and was painted white.
At some point, likely during the late 1960s an electrical short circuit causing a fire in the engine room.
After the fire, towed to the shipyard near the Throgs Neck Bridge were the superstructure was lifted off and place on shore and both engines were removed. Afterwards, acquired by Mr. Jimmy Yurwitz of City Island, NY as an empty hull and towed to City Island, NY.
In March 1969, sold to Mr. Redmond Burke who purchased the vessel from Mr. Yurwitz for $1,000.00. Using a friend's motorized 30' life boat, the vessel was towed by a group of including his brother John Burke and friends Vincent Campbell, Simon Campbell and Michael Bessley. The hull was towed overnight from City Island to the Harlem River then moored to the old ferry dock north of the 207th Street Bridge (University Heights Bridge) at the edge of the subway repair depot.
During the summer of 1969, Burke worked to replace the burned beams and center decking damaged by the fire.
While moored, Burke lived aboard the vessel while teaching at Bronx Community College. During free time and weekends, he worked on repairing the ship.
Although generally known to have been a U. S. Navy (USN) PT Boat the hull number was not known and most of the paint was missing or removed. Carved into the widest beam was "274398". Burke researched the number with the U. S. Coast Guard (USCG) n New York and confirmed the vessel to be PT-59.
Hoping to sell the boat, he contacted potential buyers including the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (JFK Library and Museum), Kennedy College and Battleship Cove. None had any interest in buying the boat.
Aubrey Mayhew of Nashville, TN offered to buy the vessel for $5,000.00, but only made a partial payment of $1,000. His second check for the remaining ammount of $4,000.00 bounced and he never paid the remainder owed or took possession of the vessel.
Redmond Burke adds:
"There is much misinformation, of a minor nature, attached to history of PT-59. I bought the hull in the early seventies. It was docked to a pier in City Island. It was just a hull, no superstructure, no engines. A fire had gutted it. I believe it had two Detroit 671's in its fishing boat life. I bought it from one Jimmy Yurwitz of City Island. I had it towed to a pier on the Harlem River and I lived on board for most of a year. I was a part time lecturer at Bronx Community College at the time and a student showed interest in the project. He began reading John F. Kennedy and PT-109 and it was he who found reference to PT-59 in the last chapter. I contacted some people who might be interested, Ted Kennedy, and many other possible places that might want the boat. Battleship Cove would take it but would not pay a dime. I was not looking for a fortune. But I was part time teacher, part time student. At least give me what I paid for it, $1,000. But the Boston Brahmins with whom I was dealing would not budge. Finally I heard form a man named Aubrey Mayhew, he had recently bought the Dallas Book Depository, which he intended to make into a Kennedy Museum. The story goes on in interesting complication and detail. I would just like to correct a tiny bit of history where I can."
During 1976, frustrated by the lack of payment and the fact that Mayhew never collected the vessel, Burke let the vessel settle into the mud at Inwood North Cove, an inlet of the Harlem River bordering Manhattan while docked to the old ferry dock a half block north of the 207th Street Bridge (University Heights Bridge) at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) 207th Street Train Yard in an inlet of the Harlem River bordering Manhattan.
During March 2017 and April 2017 William Doyle, author of PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy (2016) rented a motor boat and at low tide and went to the site and observed wood above the surface and cut off a wood sample that was later tested to be spruce.
In early June 2020, SCUBA divers were clearing the area for a sea wall along the edge of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to prevent flooding of the 207th Street Train Yard. While diving, they discovered wreckage that is believed to be this vessel. Afterwards, a crane was used to recover hardwood planks including an oblong piece of wreckage. The salvage was observed by former owner Redmond Burke. The recovered wood pieces are now held by the MTA and their future is undecided but might be donated to a museum.
At Close Quarters PT Boats in the United States Navy pages 59, 82, 95-96, 100-101, 103-104, 147, 163, 452, 454, 485, 494, 497, 561
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) H-024-1: Operation Cherryblossom—The Invasion of Bougainville and Victory in the Solomon Islands
"After rescue, he [John F. Kennedy] was given command of PT-59, which was converted to a gunboat by removing her torpedo tubes and depth charges during a forward-area refit that Kennedy supervised to his design. At the end, PT-59 was equipped with two 40-mm guns (one forward and one aft), six shielded .50-caliber machine-gun mounts, two twin .50-caliber and two .30-caliber machine guns, a better radar on a taller mast, with the intent of making her more capable of sinking Japanese troop barges, which were too small and maneuverable for torpedoes (and were heavily armed, including Japanese troops not acting as passive passengers, but actively shooting back). By November, PT-59 and some other PT boats had moved up the Solomon Islands from Rendova to Vella LaVella, with the new forward base commanded by Lieutenant Arthur H. Berndtson."
Navy Source PT-59 (photos)
Epic Voyage: The Greatest PT Boat Story Never Told: PT 59 and her two Skippers by Michael Engelmann
PT-109 (1963) the scene portraying November 2, 1943 is incorrectly portrayed as happening aboard PT-109
Bronx Community College The Communicator "Burke Builds Houseboat Of Dreams In The Very Real Harlem River" Vol XXIII, No. 3 October 16, 1970 page 2 [PDF]
U.S. Patrol Torpedo Boats in World War II, 1939-1945 (2010) page 74
Fast Boasts and Fast Times (2008) by David M. Levy and Gerald A. Meehl
A PT Skipper in the South Pacific (2011) by Kenneth W. Prescott
New York Post "JFK's WWII boat may be at the bottom of the Harlem River" by Michael Kaplan May 27, 2017
New York Times "Solving the Mystery of What Became of J.F.K.’s Other Patrol Boat" by Corey Kilgannon June 9, 2020
ABC7NY Eyewitness News "MTA Crews Raised an Old Navy Boat" June 16, 2020
Thanks to Redmond Burke and William Doyle for additional information
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