Posted:  Aug. 21, 2014

Into the Dark Water: The Story of Three Officers and PT-109Main Selection of the Military Book Club Made famous by her final commanding officer, John F. Kennedy, PT-109 is one of the most celebrated warships in American history. However, a full chronicle of PT-109 s wartime story has heretofore been lacking. Behind the familiar account of the future president and the boat s violent demise is the little-known record under two previous officers during the swirling battles around Guadalcanal.In these mainly nocturnal fights, when the Japanese navy was at its apex, America s small, fast-boat flotillas would sally out to probe enemy strength, vying with enemy destroyers, who were similarly roaming the waters and able to blast a PT-boat out of the water if main armament could be brought to bear. It was constant hit-and-run and dodging between searchlights across Iron Bottom Sound, as the PT-boats darted in among the enemy fleet, like a barroom brawl with the lights turned out. Bryant Larson and Rollin Westholm preceded Kennedy as commanders of PT-109, and their fights with the brave ship and its crew hold second to none in the chronicles of US Navy daring. As the battles moved on across the Pacific the PT-boat flotillas gained confidence, even as the Japanese, too, learned lessons in how to destroy them.Under its third and final commander, Kennedy, PT-109 came a cropper as a Japanese destroyer suddenly emerged from a dark mist and rammed it in half. Two crewmen were killed immediately but Kennedy, formerly on the swim team at Harvard, was able to shepherd his wounded and others to refuge. His unsurpassed gallantry can not resist retelling, yet the courage of the book s previous commanders have not till now seen the light of day.This book provides the complete record of PT-109 in the Pacific, as well as a valuable glimpse of how the American Navy s daring and initiative found its full playing field in World War II. REVIEWS Domagalski performs a highly proficient job as he brings these skippers, their crews, and their boat to life, in the process emphasizing that while PT-109 remains most closely connected to Kennedy, the little warship had plenty of other adventures before the future president arrived in the South PacificStone and Stone "I thoroughly enjoyed the book, inasmuch as I learned things that I never knew. . . . I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in PT boats and their history. T. Garth Connelly, in PT Boat World"

This book is more than just about PT-109 and the skippers or captains. Of course PT-109 is famous for the torpedo boat the JFK. Was captain of and the famous wreck and then keeping the crew together for a hopeful rescue? I don’t know how many young people even know about that part or about PT boats in general. The beginning of the book talks about a John Bulkeley, who was PT boats commander in the Philippines, he took Gen MacArthur and his family from the Philippines 600 nautical miles in open sea which I thought was amazing, to safety. He was then brought to the U.S. for recruitment and overseeing the building of new PT boats. He would also go on to lead PT boats on the D-day invasion when was picking up men out of the water and protecting ships from Germans U-boats. It then goes into the story of not PT-109 but the PT boats in general and the havocked they caused in the Salomon Islands during the long struggle of the battle of Guadalcanal. They thought they sank some ships but according to records after the war it was not reported of any losses by the Japanese, they did stop many night time shipments of food, ammo, clothing and troops. So really that was a win. Larson was the first captain of 109 in 42 and he stayed that way until later of that same year Westholm, made 109 his flag ship of the PT boats. Larson became his exo. They continued to the nightly runs at the larger Japanese ships, firing torpedoes, and then using their speed and smoke to get away. Did not always worked, but they were at day and night. I think the main problem came when some of the senior staff routed home and they brought in a new commander who had never been on a PT boat, he never went out even to see what they were like. When he came in and by then Kennedy was there and had just barley been given 109 as his boat the new and the old were trying to work together but there commander sent them out one night and told them he wanted radio silence. This for the PT boats was new for their radios only picked up short spots and worked well with each other that was how they communicated, besides it was hard for them to hear once they were in battle and they had all three 1200 horse power engines racing at full speed. For Kennedy they were called to action quickly that afternoon, early evening, all PT boats were going out the their assigned arears and wait for the larger Japanese to come down the slot. It was quiet for a long time then out of the blue someone yelled ship, and they tried to turn away but the ship broke them in half and killed two men instantly. Once all men in were in the water they had a few moments to gather themselves and asses their injuries. They then decided to swim for an island they saw but it was maybe a mile, Kennedy pulled a man along the entire way. He had also saved two men who could not swim and another sailor saved another crew member. These stories I don’t not remember from the movie or book but it has been a long time since I have looked at the story. From there the next he goes off and swims to another island which is another like 2 miles with the current. He has another crew member go when he gets back but still no luck in seeing anything. They decide to make a swim for a different island and of course that is farther away they make but barley. They find some food and some local natives on the island. The natives let island watcher know and in a couple of days they are rescued. Some are sent home because of injuries Kennedy actually stays and it is a little longer before he is sent home after a reporter stumbles upon the story and the U.S. papers picks it up. But the book also goes into how the PT boats help right after Pearl Harbor, they were able to do some damage and at least help while the Navy was rebuilding. They were also used in the Atlantic a little mostly the Mediterranean. Then they would become swift boats during Vietnam and still today we have swift boats nothing like the PT boats but the same principle, fast, armed, and dangerous. A good book about one part of WWII and a story that is not told any more. I got this book from net galley.

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