The extraordinary World War II story of shipwreck and survival that paved John F. Kennedy's path to power – hailed as a “breathtaking account” by James Patterson, “masterfully written” by historian Douglas Brinkley, and “the finest book” ever written on the subject by Lt. Commander William Liebenow, the man who rescued JFK and the PT 109 crew in August 1943.
In the early morning darkness of August 2, 1943, during a chaotic nighttime skirmish amid the Solomon Islands, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri barreled through thick fog and struck the U.S. Navy's motor torpedo boat PT 109, splitting the craft nearly in half and killing two American sailors instantly. The sea erupted in flames as the 109's skipper, John F. Kennedy, and the ten surviving crewmen under his command desperately clung to the sinking wreckage; 1,200 feet of ink-black, shark-infested water loomed beneath. "All hands lost," came the reports back to the Americans' base: no rescue was coming for the men of PT 109. Their desperate ordeal was just beginning—so too was one of the most remarkable tales of World War II, one whose astonishing afterlife would culminate two decades later in the White House.
Drawing on original interviews with the last living links to the events, previously untapped Japanese wartime archives, and a wealth of archival documents from the Kennedy Library, including a lost first-hand account by JFK himself, bestselling author William Doyle has crafted a thrilling and definitive account of the sinking of PT 109 and its shipwrecked crew's heroics. Equally fascinating is the story's second act, in which Doyle explores in new detail how this extraordinary episode shaped Kennedy's character and fate, proving instrumental to achieving his presidential ambitions: "Without PT 109, there never would have been a President John F. Kennedy," declared JFK aide David Powers.
Featuring castaways on a deserted island, a spy network of Solomon Island natives, an Australian coast watcher hidden on the side of a volcano, an S.O.S. note carved into a coconut, and a daring rescue attempt led by Kennedy's fellow American PT boats, PT 109 is an unforgettable American epic of war and destiny.
Doyle (American Gun, with Chris Kyle) uses archival research and access to J.F.K.'s own unpublished account of the 1943 sinking of the naval vessel he commanded in the South Pacific to offer new details about the story that made Kennedy a wartime hero. The facts are dramatic. In the dark of night, a Japanese destroyer split the patrol torpedo boat in half. Of the 13 men aboard, two were killed and their bodies were never recovered. The survivors, led by the 25-year-old J.F.K., endured a harrowing week. Crewmember Patrick McMahon was badly burned, and Kennedy swam for four hours, dragging McMahon by his life jacket. The first island they reached was devoid of drinking water or food, and Kennedy swam out to a nearby passage to try to flag down a passing American boat. Eventually, with the aid of some Solomon Islanders, all 11 were rescued. While there are those who believe the disaster could have been averted in the first place, Kennedy's heroic efforts afterwards are not in dispute. Doyle, who admits to being a Kennedy partisan, nonetheless offers a balanced account, and explains how this incident paid a major role in propelling J.F.K. into the White House.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Fascinating story, well written, fast paced, could not put it down. Wether it was JFK fault or not that PT 109 sank because of him is debatable. What he did afterwards to keep the crew alive was incredible. Very interesting to see how Joe Kennedy took advantage of the situation. Well worth the time, great book