SEARCHING FOR JFK's ... boat
According to Gallup Poll, 81% of Americans believe there was a conspiracy in the assassination of President Kennedy, with only 13% holding out for the lone gunman theory. With that in mind, wouldn't the world be better served by bringing to trial JFK's killers instead of searching for the blown apart boat that sunk from under him in 1943?
At the best of times PT-109 was a piece of floating plywood big enough for only thirteen sailors, six guns and two torpedoes. (For extra fire-power JFK personally added a machine-gun he'd scrounged.) People who believe the boat still exists as a distinquishable wreck probably ALSO believe that Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy with a magic bullet from a piece-of-junk, WWII, Italian, bolt-action Manlicher-Carcanno rifle. National Geographic magazine is hoping to make money on such peoples' gullability, as the following article attests.
All the best,
Jackie Jura, 2002
AFTER THE TITANIC, HE QUESTS FOR CAMELOT
Undersea explorer leads all-out search for sunken gunboat
commanded in 1943 by John F. Kennedy
By Miro Cernetig
SOURCE: U.S. NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
Saturday, May 25, 2002 – www.globeandmail.com
NEW YORK -- Fifty-nine years ago, John F. Kennedy watched his naval gunboat sink into the South Pacific, apparently lost for good after it was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. But PT-109, a key part of the JFK mythology, may soon be found.
Undersea explorer Robert Ballard, the man who found the wreck of the Titanic, is now in the Solomon Islands, running a team of divers and unmanned submersibles that are trying to find the late president's lost patrol-torpedo boat.
Hundreds of professional and amateur divers have searched before, in vain.
But Mr. Ballard, one of National Geographic's "explorers in residence," is mounting one of the most sophisticated expeditions to date around the area known as Iron Bottom Sound, so named because of the approximately 50 warships that sank there during the Second World War.
It's a perilous body of water, with its unknown quantities of old bombs and artillery shells on the sea bottom. So it won't be an easy task, as Mr. Ballard has acknowledged.
When describing a possible hunt for PT-109 in 1999, the explorer said the boat is "not lost, just misplaced. But it's like looking for a coffin from an airplane in a zone where they've dumped a lot of unexploded ordinance. It's no fun."
There's also the complication of civil unrest in the Solomons; a coup two years ago has fostered a state of lawlessness that has included the killing of a New Zealand diplomat and local police officers in recent months.
But the expedition stands to be, at the least, very profitable.
Mr. Ballard, who masterfully marketed his discovery of the Titanic, has already co-authored a book called Collision With History: The Search for John F. Kennedy's PT-109. And even if he doesn't find the relic, there will probably be a two-hour documentary, aired by National Geographic for the 60th anniversary of its sinking.
Given that JFK is still the closest thing to a political saint in the United States, dredging up memories of his last night commanding PT-109 is a guaranteed ratings grabber. That's because then-lieutenant Kennedy, on the morning of Aug. 2, 1943, was truly a hero.
PT-109 was creeping along on one engine, trying to be silent as it hunted for Japanese warships that were part of the so-called Tokyo Express, vessels that made their runs under the cover of night.
Suddenly, the Japanese destroyer Amagari appeared out of the darkness. Mr. Kennedy tried to turn his 24-metre boat around, to fire torpedoes. But the destroyer plowed over it at 40 knots, cutting PT-109 in half and sailing on, apparently oblivious to the collision.
Mr. Kennedy, clinging to the last floating half of his command, realized that members of his crew were injured and in the water. He swam to two crew members and pulled them to the floating hulk. Then he ordered the crew to swim to an island five kilometres away, himself towing one of the injured men with a rope clamped between his teeth throughout the 15-hour swim.
That earned JFK medals, and stood him well in the 1960 presidential election. Two years ago, he was rewarded with a posthumous pop-culture triumph: He was turned into a GI Joe action figure. For a selling price of $35 (U.S.), it came complete with a copy of his PT-109 uniform and the coconut into which Kennedy had carved an SOS asking for a rescue boat.
Mr. Kennedy's only surviving brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, and his daughter, Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg, have endorsed the expedition that will allow Americans to relive that early part of the JFK legend. They did so after assurances from Mr. Ballard that the wreck would not be disturbed.
That may not be easily guaranteed, however. After the explorer discovered the Titanic, others returned to the wreck to try to remove artifacts.
The hunt for PT-109
Robert Ballard, the undersea explorer who found the Titanic, is now searching for John F. Kennedy's torpedo boat, PT-109, which sank in the Solomon Islands after a collision with another vessel.
On August 2, 1943, Mr. Kennedy, 26, and his 12-man crew were out in the Blackett Strait, east of Ghizo when their boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer.
The crew decided to swim to Plum Pudding Island, six kilometres (3.5 miles) away.
Mr. Kennedy was based at Rendova Island.
The PT-109 torpedo boat
The PT-109 was one of hundreds of motor torpedo boats built between 1942 and 1945 for U.S. use during the Second World War. The 24 metre-long wood-hulled boats were powered by three 12-cylinder Packard gasoline engines that generated a total of 4,500 horsepower. Early models had two 20 millimetre guns, four .05 calibre machine guns and two or four 53-centimetre torpedo tubes.
The boats were originally designed as antiship weapons, but during the campaign in the Solomon Islands they were used at night against Japanese barge traffic. They were also used effectively to lay mines, smokescreens and to carry out intelligence operations.
JFK STORY OF PT-109 (as told to NEW YORKER magazine in 1943)
JFK NEPHEW THANKS NATIVES (rescued "Chief of Great Country")
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