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profiles in ineptitude?...pt109

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by majorwoody10, Sep 10, 2006.

  1. majorwoody10

    majorwoody10 New Member

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    pt 109 was caught napping at night by a warship ten times her size...the jap skipper spotted 109 and ran her over with his bow...how did this make jfk a war hero ...if the skippers name wasent kenedy would he have faced a courts marshall for derreliction of duty?
     
  2. Hoosier phpbb3

    Hoosier phpbb3 New Member

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    Woody:
    Over-generalizing a bit aren't we?
    You imply the Japanese Captain spotted the '109 boat and ran it down with his destroyer. Nothing I've read says anything but that each was oblivious to the other. "It was a dark and stormy night... or some-such."
    Heck, the story doesn't get interesting til they are in the water. I think that was what garnered the good-press, Jack Kennedy and his crew surviving on an island in enemy-controlled territory til rescue... after the intervention of "friendly-islanders."
    No, it didn't hurt that he was a "Kennedy."
    Are you asserting he should have been court-martialed for losing his boat, or for dereliction of duty? Not every Captain goes down with his ship...

    Tim
     
  3. TISO

    TISO New Member

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    Dereliction of duty. His observers should be observing not sleeping
     
  4. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    There are two separate issues. Did JFK mess up? Was he guilty of dereliction of duty? I don't believe anyone has ever claimed the latter. "Dereliction" is a strong term. Commanders err on a regular basis, but that does not equal dereliction.
    Given the visibility of that night, it is thought that the Americans had 10-15 seconds of reaction time. Things happened so quickly that the crewman at the 37mm gun didn't have time to get a round into the chamber.
    It's possible that JFK made the mistake of ordering the throttles opened up while he still had his engines muffled; this would stall the engines. Such an act would represent a momentous brain freeze, but that's not dereliction of duty. And the brain freeze would not have been Kennedy's, but the motor machinist mate's. Ultimately a skipper holds responsibility for the actions of his crew, and I'm sure we can come up with numerous examples of crew bloopers that failed to get their skippers indicted.
    Other possibilities exist for the cause of the boat's loss, the most obvious being that a boat going 6 knots could not escape a ship going 24 knots. Stuff happens.
     
  5. JCalhoun

    JCalhoun New Member

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    What I don't understand is why the Jap ship rammed the PT-109 if they had spotted it before hand. If the Jap ship had been paying attention, they would have shot it. Something doesn't make sense.

    If I'm not mistaken, PT duty was voluntary (for officers anyway). JFK could have taken a safer assignment if he had wanted to.
     
  6. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    Contact was at very close range. Why not ram? Once the bow was aimed at the boat, I doubt the forward guns would bear on the target.
    JFK's older brother volunteered for, and died in, Operation Hermaphrodite, the secret guided bomb project.
     
  7. corpcasselbury

    corpcasselbury New Member

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    There was a documentary on the loss of PT 109 on the History Channel. It stated that two of the crew were asleep and two others were lying down on the deck, all this while on a combat mission. IMHO, this does add up to dereliction of duty on Kennedy's part. Also, they could not fire the 37mm cannon because it was lashed to the deck rather than being bolted down; the recoil would have sent it plowing right into the gunner. And once the survivors reached the island (and yes, Kennedy did tow a wounded man there), he kept trying to go swimming off to try and find help, when his duty was to stay with the crew and sending his XO out to seek assistance; it was, in fact, that officer who located the friendly natives and alerted the Navy as to where the crew was. There was talk of a court martial, but JFK's father pulled strings for his son and the matter was dropped. The elder Kennedy pulled even more strings to get his son decorated, which he did; the USN gave JFK the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. It should be noted, however, that Kennedy's father wanted them to give his son the Navy Cross, but the Navy flatly refused. Most of the "legend" of PT 109 and the "heroism" of her skipper was concocted by Kennedy's election staff when he ran for President in 1960.

    On a final note, Kennedy was sent out to the South Pacific because he was intimately involved with a woman whom authorities suspected (evidently with good cause) of being an Axis agent. He was posted to Charleston, SC in order to get him away from her, but she went there as well, so they sent himto the Pacific.
     
  8. majorwoody10

    majorwoody10 New Member

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    the account i recall has the jap skipper or lookouts spotting the sleeping duck 109 ,,,it makes perfect sense for a destroyer to ram a plywood elco...esecially at nite when u may not get to see him again after makeing a turn...i would suggest that a lesser connected naval officer may well have been disgraced for sleeping in the combat patrol zone...getting decorated for snoozing on duty is a travesty...
     
  9. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    Yes, two of Kennedy's men were asleep. So what? Is there any indication this did not conform to standard practice? Sleeping while on patrol, while expecting enemy contact, was a routine event. The PT crewmen alternated two hours on watch, two hours off. We need a credible authority--not History Channel fluff-mongers--to provide perspective.
    The 37mm gun could certainly have been fired. Whether or not the lashing would have successfully countered the recoil of the rather small piece, that's another matter. Whether or not a one-and-a-half-pound shell with no burster would have done diddly against a 2000-ton destroyer, that's another matter.
    Can you cite any navy regulation saying it was not Kennedy's duty to seek rescue?
    Kennedy was not shuffled off to the Pacific after his transfer to South Carolina. After Charleston, he transferred to Chicago for reserve officer training, which he needed since his ensign commission came from string-pulling. After Chicago, he went to Rhode Island for MTB training. After finishing that, he was sent to an active squadron in Panama. Boring. More string-pulling finally got him to Tulagi. The business with Inga Arvad ended after he went to Charleston. Not as interesting as the History Channel, but that's reality for ya.
    One genuine fable that arose from this episode is the claim that Kennedy suffered his back injury during the collision. In fact, he had a pre-existing health condition--one of the hurdles the string-pullers had to get him over to win his commission in the first place--and the collision at worst aggravated it.
    For those interested in scourging Kennedy, I'd suggest you stick with the stalled engine story. He never admitted it officially but did hint at it in personal conversation. Covering it up would spare his machinist mate and him some unpleasantness, perhaps even a court martial.
    If you really want someone who deserves a cat-o-nine-tails, you might want to consider LtCmdr Thomas Warfield, the Rendova PT commander. I haven't looked into it, so I can't say--but he was not highly regarded, and his commands did seem odd.
     
  10. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    If they were on watch, it is a problem. If they were not on watch, it is not. That is the question.

    100% agreement there.
     
  11. lynn1212

    lynn1212 New Member

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    knew a guy

    i worked for a guy that was a medic in the same squadren as kennedy. he claimed that it was only the old man's pull that got JFK decorated instead of court marshalled. carl also claimed that it was just a mid ocean collision which would be upheld by the fact that the DD never even slowed down after the hit. JFK did do a good job of gettimg his crew out and that may have saved his ass. the 37mm was a anti tank gun that was still on its carriage so it was just lashed instead of bolted. if anyone is interested i have more stories from carl
     
  12. Blaster

    Blaster New Member

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    What's a PT 109? I've only heard of Bf 109-which is an aircraft.
     
  13. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    PT = Patrol Torpedo, the American designation for motor torpedo boats. The MTB was invented by the Italians in 1912 to provide a potent threat in local waters. It was powered by an internal-combustion engine rather than a steam power plant. The Italians were able to sink two Austrian battleships, one of them a large dreadnought, during World War I, and the British also had success in the War of Intervention (the intervention of foreign powers in Russia's civil war, right at the tail-end of WWI).
    In World War II, the major navies again built large numbers of MTBs. The Germans built the famous S-boats, which were diesel-powered, very large, and definitely the best MTBs of the war. American PTs and British MTBs and MGBs were similar to one another, and about half the size of the German boats. The Italians and Russians used boats that were not much larger than the ones used in the previous war, though the Italians later switched to some fairly large designs. Japanese MTBs were Italian-sized but generally very poor; the navy couldn't find adequate engines to power them.
     
  14. Ossian phpbb3

    Ossian phpbb3 New Member

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    PT-109 was a particular torpedo boat commanded by one John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Although he was definitely before your time, you may have heard of him. If not, go to Google and put in "Kennedy" and "Dallas".

    The point is that there has been a lot of discussion about his actions at and after the time of the sinking. His father (who IIRC owned a number of newspapers) made him out to be a great hero, a bestselling book was written, and all the publicity did wonders for JFKs political career. As more information became available it appears that his heroism may have been greatly overhyped and some of his actions not in the best traditions of a naval officer.
     
  15. Blaster

    Blaster New Member

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    I have so heard of John F. Kennedy! He was the youngest president ever to be assassinated. Can't believe some crazy, drunk, mad, insane nutjob managed to fire bullets straight into a moving vehicle to kill someone from one of the upper floors of a building! Unless he had a sniper rifle or something....
     
  16. Ossian phpbb3

    Ossian phpbb3 New Member

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    And a bullet capable of making at least two right-angle turns...

    But thats for another thread. Perhaps Tony will be able to shed some light on the ballistics involved.
     
  17. majorwoody10

    majorwoody10 New Member

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    blaster ...google up airial dogfighting....guys often shot ppl in airplanes going much faster than 30 mph ....even tho they were in airplanes that were also moveing...ships also fire at moveing ships, at great distance,from moveing ships no less...belive it ,or not...
     
  18. Blaster

    Blaster New Member

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    Ues, in WW1 they fired pistols from biplanes, and you'd need good aim, and battleships probably did fire while moving.
     
  19. majorwoody10

    majorwoody10 New Member

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    yes blaster ...lanoe hawker shot down several germans with a single shot rolling block (ie movie gun from zulu is rolling block)....this deer rifle was bolted to fire straight ahead from his dh2....a lewis gun was a big improvment of course...hawker was later killed by richtoven flying an early albatros iirc...
     

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