- Motor Torpedo Boat PT-59
Motor Torpedo Boat PT-59 was a 77-foot Elco PT boat that served with the US Navy in World War II. She is noted for being the second command of then-Lieutenant, junior grade (LTJG) John F. Kennedy (who later became President of the United States) in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
1942 to 1943
PT-59 had a checkered history, as it had only been involved in a single action when it had accidentally fired a torpedo into a friendly supply ship USS Capella, causing eight injuries, but no deaths on 9 April 1942.
At the end of May 1942, Ensign David M. Levy took over PT-59 and his Squadron was first sent to Panama. They were to guard the canal and the Central and South American coast on anti-submarine duty. In October 1942 PT-59 took off on board USS Roger Williams to the South Pacific. In November 1942 PT-59 got to the Solomons with PT Squadron No. 2, numbering 8 boats. The Squadron was based at Sesapi on Tulagi Island. In March 1943 PT-59 was moved forward to the Russell Islands. In the fall of 1943 David M. Levy returned to the United States to be succeeded by LTJG "Jack" Kennedy as commander of PT-59.
Under Kennedy's command
In October 1943, Kennedy took command of PT-59. Kennedy was given command when he chose to stay and fight in the Pacific Theater (PTO) after his first command, the PT-109 was rammed and sunk by the Amagiri on the night of 2 August 1943.
Before Kennedy received it, PT-59 had her torpedo tubes removed and was converted into a gunboat. It was given two 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, .30 and .50-caliber machine guns behind shields. Kennedy set up some of the shields for live fire tests and it was found they could be breached at short range with .30 and .50-caliber machine guns at a frontal angle.
On November 2, 1943, in an incident which was portrayed as an action by PT-109 in the film PT-109, PT-59 helped evacuate 40 to 50 Marines (including several dozen wounded men) from the 1st Parachute Battalion of the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment who had been trapped during a raid on Choiseul Island. After the rescue, PT-59 ran out of gas on the return trip and had to be towed by PT-236. One badly wounded Marine died in Kennedy's bunk aboard PT-59 that night.
After Kennedy's command
PT-59 stayed out in the Solomons until August 1944, when she and 5 other 77' Elco PT Boats were transported back to the Motor Torpedo Boat Training Base at Melville, Rhode Island. It is safe to assume repairs were performed on the boat by the MTB Base Repair Training Unit. PT-59 was then redesignated as a small craft, and along with Ex-PT-47 used briefly as an Air Sea Rescue boat at NAS Norfolk, then as a test subject for dehydration tests at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She was stricken and sold in 1947. In a cruel twist of fate PT-59 quietly ended her days in the 1970s after having served (possibly since 1947) as a fishing boat in Manhattan.
It had been thought this boat was formerly PT-95, a 78 foot Huckins PT Boat, a very different (training only) design with no significant wartime history, and hence no immediate efforts were made to save the vessel. When the actual identity of this boat was discovered, James "Boat" Newberry, founder of PT Boats Inc., attempted to obtain the boat; however, the boat's ownership was tangled up in NYC probate court. Somehow a fire occurred, and the boat eventually sunk at its mooring, beside the 207th St. bridge over the Harlem River, around 1976. The hull sat there for years and slowly fell apart and rotted away. Thus, an important historical artifact was lost due to a typing error. What was left was eventually removed and she has since been declared destroyed by USCG-NYC.
- ^ "American Warriors: Five Presidents in the Pacific Theater of World War II". http://www.americanwarriorsfivepresidents.com.
- ^ Donovan, Robert J. PT-109: John F. Kennedy in WW II, p 167, p 169, p 173.
- ^ Donovan, Robert J. PT-109: John F. Kennedy in WW II, pp 176-184.
- Rottman, Gordon L. US Patrol Torpedo Boats, New Vanguard 148, Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2008, ISBN 978-1-84603-227-1
- Donovan, Robert J. PT-109: John F. Kennedy in WW II, 40th Anniversary Edition, McGraw Hill (reprint), 2001, ISBN 0-07-137643-7
- Levy, David M. and Meehl, Gerald A. Fast Boats and Fast Times, AuthorHouse, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4389-0017-9
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