I10097 -John F. Kennedy, in the cockpit of PT109
“We crashed right into it. I saw the enemy ship break in two with a tremendous roar. White gasoline flames shot out. The torpedo boat disappeared in the dark. I knew that at least one half and probably both halves sank.” Lt. Commander Kohei Hanami, Amagiri
On August 2, 1943, at 2:27 a. m., in the Blackett Strait of the Solomon Islands, the Japanese Navy destroyer Amagiri rammed into PT 109, commanded by Lt. John F. Kennedy.
Both vessels were surprised to discover the other appearing out of the haze in the dark, moonless night. Hanami quickly ordered, “… full speed ahead! Ram into them!”
“Sound general quarters!”, ordered Kennedy. Unable to avoid the collusion, the Americans froze in shock as the approaching destroyer smashed into their torpedo boat tearing it apart.
“I can best compare it to the onrushing trains in the old-time movies. They seemed to come right over you. Well, the feeling was the same, only the destroyer didn’t come over us, it went right through us,” Kennedy recollected.
Gallons of spilled fuel burst into flames “in a terrific roar”, creating a torch that could be seen for miles.
Within 15 minutes the inferno died down. Only patches of flames lit the black night as Kennedy swam around the debris field gathering his scattered crew. Two of the thirteen sailors were never found.
As the hours passed, the men realized no one was coming to rescue them. Making the situation worse, “There was no well-rehearsed or standard plan for rescue operations at sea, there was no special training in event we were stuck at sea or fell overboard, and no special training in case we were stuck in the ocean.”
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class, Edward Maguire, had told a friend after meeting his new commanding officer, “Geez, I don’t know if I want to go out with this guy. He looks fifteen.”
Now, the entire surviving crew looked to their 25-year-old commander to keep them alive, in enemy territory. The rescue of the crew of PT109, turned Kennedy into a hero and launched his journey to the White House.
In this image, we see Kennedy in the cockpit of PT 109.
Source: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library