"Wind her up", Kennedy ordered.


Zinser, who had the watch below, started the engines.
Then, after ordering "Cast off", Kennedy shoved his three throttles forward.
"Ahead" registered on the annunciators in the engine room,
and Zinser, grasping the large gears, engaged the three engines one by one.
Kennedy pulled away from the buoy at idling speed.

To Orwell Today,

I have been looking for pictures of the PT-109 crew and have found many but none with Gerard Zinser in them. Wondered if you could assist me. My wife, Maggie, is the youngest daughter of Mr. Zinser and we have been searching for years to find one picture of Gerard with his commander.

I would appreciate any help you can give me.

-James Bush

Greetings James,

There are many articles about JFK and PT-109 on the website. Among those articles there are two photos of Gerard Zinser -- one during and one after the war. I haven't seen any photos of your father-in-law with JFK but that's because Zinser didn't join JFK's crew until two days before PT 109 set out on its last and fatal mission.

PT 109 Crew 1  PT 109 Crew 2  PT 109 Crew 3  PT 109 Crew 4


I scanned the photos from the book, PT 109 JOHN F KENNEDY IN WORLD WAR 11 by Robert Donovan. It was published in 1961 and was the basis of the movie PT 109 that came out in 1963.

PT109bookCover PT109bookCoverBack

Pg247Index Pg109ZinserCareer

Your wife's father is mentioned several times in the book as you can see in the index scanned above. Here is a passage describing Zinser's family and career prior to the War:

...Motor Machinist's Mate 1/C Gerard E Zinser took over Drawdy's post in the engine room. At twenty-five, he was 109's only career Navy man. He had grown up in Belleville, Illinois, and, like Starkey's, his family had suffered from the depression. After a couple of years in high school he worked in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in northern Illionois. He joined the Navy in 1937 and took some pride in a bit of naval tradition in his family: his uncle had sailed in the U.S.S. Monterey in the Great White Fleet. During the late thirties, Zinser saw the world in the cruisers Cincinnati and Trenton. In 1941 he was assigned to PT boats, sent to the Packard plant in Detroit to familiarize himself with the engines and then transferred to a PT squadron at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn. On the afternoon of Sunday, December 7, while his wife, who was expecting the first of eight children, was preparing dinner, Zinser was in the living room of their apartment. He was listening to a professional football game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, when the broadcast was interrupted by a news flash. After he had heard it Zinser walked into the kitchen: "Well, that's it," he said. "Game over?" his wife inquired. "The Japs have attacked Pearl Harbor," he replied. "Will you have to go? How long will it last?" Mrs Zinser asked, and then reasoned that both questions were foolish...

It would be wonderful for you to watch -- or rewatch -- the PT 109 movie. That way your wife could see her father (by someone resembling him closely) in action with the crew and JFK.

All the best,
Jackie Jura, October 2017

Gerard Zinser, Last Surviving PT 109 Crewman, Dies at 82, NYT, Aug 29, 2001
Gerard Zinser died on August 21 at a hospital in Orange Park, Florida. Mr Zinser, who lived in Orange Park, had Alzheimer's disease, The Associated Press reported. In the predawn hours of August 2, 1943, Lieutenant Kennedy's 80-foot Navy patrol torpedo boat was in Blackett Strait in the Solomon Islands, about 800 miles north of Australia. The 26-year-old skipper and the 12 crewmen were hoping to sink a Japanese warship to support the invasion of New Georgia Island. Mr Zinser, a machinist's mate first class and the only career Navy man in the crew, was standing on the starboard side of the deck, near the engine-room hatch, when the patrol boat was sliced in two. "I was right around midships", he remembered in an interview long afterward, "and I heard shouting going on. 'Ship at 2 o'clock!'". It was the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. "Our watches couldn't see the ship until it was right on top of us, hitting us starboard-side amidships", Mr Zinser recalled. "I was hurled into the air. I was unconscious 10 to 15 minutes. When I came to, I was in the water. There were small fires. The front part of the boat stayed afloat. The stern, where the engine room was, sank immediately". Two crewmen were killed in the ramming, Kennedy suffered an injury to an already weakened back, Mr Zinser was burned on the arm and chest, and an engine-room crewman, Machinist's Mate Patrick McMahon, suffered severely burned hands... Mr Zinser, a native of Belleville, Illinois, who had joined the Navy in 1937, retired 20 years later as a chief petty officer, then became a mailman in Florida. On January 20, 1961, Mr Zinser and seven fellow crewmen rode in the Kennedy inaugural parade on a float replicating PT 109. When Mr. Zinser learned that Kennedy would appear at a fund-raiser for Senator George Smathers of Florida at a Miami hotel the next year, he and his wife bought tickets. As his son, Mark, told it: "My dad was worried, because they weren't young sailors anymore, and he said to my mom, 'He won't even recognize me'. So my mom told him how to introduce himself. He grabbed the president's hand and said, 'Zinser, Gerard E, motor machinist's mate first class, reporting for duty. PT 109' -- just the way he had first introduced himself when he came aboard". Mark Zinser said Kennedy embraced his father and they started to talk, but aides soon hustled the president away to meet other well-wishers. Mr Zinser was an extra in the movie "PT 109", which opened in June 1963. He attended Kennedy's funeral five months later. In addition to his son, Mr Zinser is survived by seven daughters, Jerilyn Dill, Carolyn Pickard, Patricia Vriesenga, Rosemary Shiflet, Pamela McLin, Marcia Cristell and Margaret Zinser, 24 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. In 1994, when he appeared at the opening of an exhibition observing the 50th anniversary of D-Day at the Kennedy library, Mr Zinser remembered how his former skipper rallied the crewmen and towed the badly burned sailor to shore. "I served 20 years in the Navy", he said then, "and I never had an officer that would ever come close to what I saw Kennedy do".

JFK PT-109 MOVIE STAR MAGUIRE (...On the hulk Maguire and Mauer received the first inkling that others were alive when they heard Zinser's voice in the darkness calling, "Mr Thom is drowning. Bring the boat!" Dreading to swim back into the fumes, Maguire nevertheless got a line from the rope locker on the bow. He tied one end to a broken torpedo tube and the other end around his waist. With a prayer he stepped into the water and swam toward the sound of Zinser's voice...)

JFK SOLOMON SWIMS SAVED SURVIVORS (...When the sun came up that morning -- Monday, August 2nd -- eleven survivors were stretched out on the bow of PT 109 -- the stern having sunk taking two men -- Kirksey and Marney -- down with it. The names of the eleven survivors were: Albert, Harris, Johnston, Kennedy, Maguire, Mauer, McMahon, Ross, Starkey, Thom and Zinser...)

WONDERING WAS BROTHER ON PT109 (...For most of my life, I've heard that my brother, Carroll L Melson, was stationed aboard PT109, but was not aboard the night she sank. It seems that I remember hearing that he was in sick bay. I do know that on leave once he came home and had a friend with him named Zinser... Your brother's friend Zinser was one of the replacements (along with Albert, Marney, and Starkey) who came on board PT-109 on July 30th -- just a couple days before it sank on August 2nd. Zinser was a motor mechanic and worked in the engine room.


watch PT 109 1963 Movie Trailer, YouTube

watch/listen PT 109 SONG, by Jimmy Dean 1962, YouTube

PT109Movie JFK PT 109 MOVIE

IslandsChainMap NativesEvansCanoe
MaquireSignaturePhoto HitPT109comic PT Crew Names
(radioman next to skipper when PT-109 hit)
(Zinser, on watch below, started the engines)
Emails, Oct 20, 2017
watch PT 109 MOVIE & PT 109 SONG



Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com