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JFK PT109
President John F. Kennedy is shown in a World War II
photograph on the bridge of the PT 109 torpedo boat on
which Kennedy served as commander. (AP photo)

Shipwreck hunter Robert Ballard, discoverer of Titanic,
finds Kennedy's PT boat in Pacific

By Associated Press, 05/29/02

SYDNEY, Australia -- Shipwreck hunter Robert Ballard
said Wednesday he has found the World War II patrol
boat commanded by John F. Kennedy in the Pacific
Ocean off the Solomon Islands.

The remains of the wooden boat, PT 109, were lying on
the seabed in the Blanket Strait near Gizo in the New
Georgia group of islands, Ballard told Solomon Islands
Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Gizo is 235 miles northwest of the capital of the
Solomons, Honiara.

Ballard, who led a team that found the Titanic
shipwreck in 1985, said he located the wreckage of
Kennedy's boat last week after searching for about a
week. He did not provide further details of the discovery,
citing contractual obligations over film and magazine
rights to the search.

The radio report said a National Geographic
documentary will be released in November. Members
of the National Geographic team in the Solomon
Islands did not immediately return calls seeking
comment.

The PT 109 sank in August 1943 after it was hit by a
Japanese warship.

It is unknown how much of the boat remains besides
the engines. Water is expected to have caused
extensive damage to the hull.

Ballard, who found the wreck of the Titanic and other
historic ships, had planned to use remote cameras to
search for the boat.

The late president's brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy,
a Massachusetts Democrat, and daughter, Caroline
Kennedy, agreed to the expedition after being assured
that the site would not be disturbed. Two members of
Kennedy's crew died when the boat was hit.

In a 1999 interview, Ballard said PT 109 is "not lost, just
misplaced." But he added searching for the vessel in
an area full of unexploded ordnance would be "no fun."

Kennedy was commanding a patrol in August 2, 1943,
when the boat was hit and cut in two by a Japanese
destroyer.

Kennedy and 10 other survivors swam 15 hours to
reach a nearby island. He towed one injured survivor,
engineer Patrick Henry McMahon, by swimming with a
strap from McMahon's lifejacket in his teeth.

They later swam to another island where there were
coconuts to eat. Kennedy carved a message into one
coconut and gave it to a native islander to take to
rescuers.

Patrol torpedo boats, such as the PT109, had
mahogany hulls. Plywood was used for the internal
structures, chart houses and gun turrets. They were 80
feet long and powered by 12-cylinder gasoline engines.

The boats were used primarily to attack surface ships,
but they also were used to lay mines and smoke
screens, to rescue downed aviators and to carry out
intelligence operations.


More news

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