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PT-109
President Kennedy's torpedo boat

Between 1942 and 1945, hundreds of PT-103 class motor torpedo boats were built in Bayonne, NJ by the Elco Naval Division of Electric Boat Company.  These wooden hulled boats, 80 feet long with a 20'8" beam, were the largest of the three classes of PT boats built for the Navy during WWII.  Their three, 12-cylinder Packard engines generated a total of 4,500 HP, giving these boats a design speed of 41 knots.

When moving at very low speed, the mufflers on the transom directed the exhaust under the water to mask its engine noise from the enemy, and to make it easier for the crew to hear and defend against approaching enemy ships and aircrafts. 

PT-109's keel was laid on March 4, 1942 as the 7th Motor Torpedo Boat built by Elco.  At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, she was fitted out for war with four 21" torpedo tubes carrying Mark VIII torpedoes.  Unlike most of her sister boats, PT-109 carried two dept charges, one on each side.   Initially intended for possible use against submarines, these depth charges were later used to deter destroyers in pursuit. 

On April 23, 1943, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was given command of the PT-109.  Patrolling the Solomon Islands was tough.  The warm water caused rapid growth and buildup of marine life on the hull.  This reduced the speed to below 36 knots, less than the top speed of the Japanese cruiser and destroyers that protected Japanese supply barges which were the main target of PT boats. 

Very dangerously, the PT boats had to get within two miles of its targets, and mostly at night.  That was well within the gun range of enemy ships.   On top of that, PT-109 was fueled by aviation gasoline that could very well destroy the whole boat if the engine compartment was hit.  The black powder charge that fired the well-greased  torpedoes could cause the grease to ignite upon firing, giving out a flash and smoke that could easily reveal the boat's position.  Small size, darkness, and maneuverability were their survival tools. 

On August 1st, PT-109 and 14 other boats were sent to sink a group of five enemy destroyers.  The attacking squadron were ready to kill, but some of the 60 torpedoes exploded prematurely and not a single hit was made.  All boats then were ordered back to base except PT-109, PT-162, and PT-169.  They were to patrol the area. 

It was a very dark and quiet night on the 2nd of August.  The PT-109 was going at very low speed with only one engine to minimize the wake which might be detected by Japanese patrol aircrafts.  Suddenly the crew realized they were right in front of an destroyer.  

The destroyer Amagiri bore down on PT-109 at a very high speed.  No time to get her engines up to speed, PT-109 was cut in half and in flames.  

Although well within firing distance, PT-169's torpedoes missed the Amagiri and PT-162's failed.  Seeing the extent of the damage and fireball from PT-109, the other two PT boats returned to base without daring to stay and check for survivors. 

PT-109 was indeed fatally damaged.  Raging flames surrounded the forward hull.  Miraculously, only two crew members were killed, and only two others were badly injured.

Using timber, life jackets and other parts lashed together, the seamen kicked for four hrs thru shark infested waters and reached a tiny island 3.5 miles away.  They then moved to another island and survived on coconuts.  Hiding for six days, and with the help of the local, they were able to send their location information to the nearest base 35 miles away and finally were picked up by PT-157

Though Kennedy emerged as a hero (awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal), a few in the military including general Douglas MacArthur thought he should have faced a court-martial for losing his boat in such circumstance: such a quick and maneuverable craft should have been able to avoid being rammed by a much slower enemy vessel.

In May 2002, a National Geographic expedition found wreckage matching the description and location of Kennedy's vessel in the Solomon Islands. However, under current Navy policy, the wreckage site is a gravesite and may not be disturbed.

   
   
  Here's how we build your PT-109 boats: Numerous wood pieces precisely cut, sanded, and put together.  They are not simple wood blocks like in cheap models made in the South East Asia.  


This PT-109 torpedo model boat features:

- Plank-on-frame, hollow hull construction (very important), weighing less than 5 lbs  (A solid hull of this model would be over 20 lbs which feels like a heavy toy rather than an art piece.)

- Hollow superstructure is comprised of many individual thin pieces of wood glued together, not several solid pieces of wood stacking on top one another.

- Windows are cutouts (not black decals), thanks to the hollow structures.

- >95% of parts are wood and metal
.

- Weathered appearance to portray realism: A tough torpedo boat, not a shiny toy.  


 34" L x 6.5" W x 11" T     $1,500    S & H is $70       
                                                                                                                            

 

 In Feb 2008, our PT-41 was chosen for the Mc. Arthur shrine in Cagayan De 0ro, Philippines.