The Epic Story of PT 109 and its Crew in World War II

A PT boat manufacturing line in New Orleans, building Higgins type hulls. Wikimedia

2. PT 109 was built in New Jersey in 1942

Electric Launch Company (Elco) built PT 109 in its Bayonne, New Jersey yard in the spring, 1942. The boat was fitted out at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and delivered to the Navy in Norfolk. From there it was carried by a Liberty ship to the Pacific, arriving at New Caledonia in late summer. PT 109 was assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 2, which operated out of Tulagi. At the time the naval operations supporting the American invasion of Guadalcanal were at their height. Japanese attempts to reinforce their troops on the island led to heavy action in the waters surrounding the Solomon Islands. PT 109 began its combat career in December, 1942.

On February 23, 1943, Lt jg John F. Kennedy was assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 2 as a replacement officer. Kennedy completed his training in PT boats in Rhode Island, with his performance so commendable he was asked to remain at the school as an instructor. The young officer wanted to go to the Pacific, and he contacted Massachusetts Senator David Walsh, who was then chairman of the Naval Affairs committee in the Senate. The Senator pulled the appropriate strings and Kennedy received his orders to the Solomon Islands. He arrived in April, after a voyage in which the ship he was on was attacked by Japanese aircraft, killing its captain, and giving Kennedy his baptism of fire.