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 Author  Topic: Loss of the 109
QM

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Mar 7, 2010 - 6:47pm
This posting is a follow up on something that Russell said in his recent post regarding the 162 boat before he joined the crew. I believe that it may be best handled under a new topic.

"Don't understand why he [the skipper] didn't go back to see if there were any survivors".

I had this same thought from the first time that I read an account of the loss. Several years ago I asked one of our officers for his opinion. His reply was that the boats in the Solomon islands were controlled from their base and that the skipper may have been ordered to leave the scene. That was not our policy in New Guinea. I do not know of any time that we contacted the base while on patrol. I believe that my skippers would have been curious and proceeded to investigate. If not , and I was in my frequent position on the starboard side of the cockpit, I would probably said something like "lets see what is going on". In our PT navy we could make suggestions like that. We had some of the best officers in the Navy.

Russell also said that the skipper was replaced shortly after the incident. Any connection?

There probably in no one around today to clarify the action that night.

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John Sullivan

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of John Sullivan   Send Email To John Sullivan Posted on: Mar 7, 2010 - 7:34pm
This is an answer to QM about the sinking of the 109 boat on August early morning hours on the first of the month.With 2700 gallons of gas exploding and no survivors were expected. the 107 boat that I was on had fired our torpedoes and headed back to the base.jw sullivan 3rd class gunners mate.I am still around.


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Jeff D

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Jeff D   Send Email To Jeff D Posted on: Mar 8, 2010 - 4:06am
Would either of you gentlemen happen to remember how dark it was that night? I ask because a report mentions that the 162 saw the destroyer and I wonder why the 109 didn't. Or do you think the 109 just didn't have time to react? Here's a section from the report:

DIVISION B. As hereinbefore set out, PTs 162 and 109 of Division B with PT 169 of Division A were in Blackett Strait off Vanga Vanga, as was PT 157, which however, was not in contact with them. Around 0215 the three were due East of Gizo Island headed South, in right echelon formation with PT 109 leading, PT 162 second and PT 169 last. PT 162 saw on a collision course, a warship headed Northward about 700 yards away. The PT 162 turned to fire its torpedoes, but they did not fire. The PT 162 finally turned to the Southwest upon getting within 100 yards of the warship, to avoid collision. Personnel aboard the PT 162 saw 2 raked stacks, and at least 2 turrets aft, and possibly a third turret. At the time of turning, PT 109 was seen to collide with the warship, followed by an explosion and a large flame which died down a little, but continued to burn for 10 or 15 minutes. The warship when it was about 3000 yards away headed toward them at high speed. The PT 169 stopped just before the warship hit PT 109, turned toward it and fired two torpedoes when abeam at 150 yards range. The destroyer straddled the PT 169 with shell fire, just after it a collision with PT 109, and then circled left toward Gizo Island at increased speed and disappeared.

Here's a link to the report I'm referring to:
http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq60-11.htm

It sounds like your 107 scored a torpedo hit John:

Inside of Ferguson Passage the PT 107 fired a spread of 4 torpedoes by radar. Shortly thereafter a dull red flash was seen in the direction of the target.

It also sounds like it was a heck of a confusing night.



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Frank J Andruss Sr

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Frank J Andruss Sr   Send Email To Frank J Andruss Sr Posted on: Mar 8, 2010 - 4:44am
I have a ten page Letter hand writen by the late Larry Olgivie GM, who was on the 162 the night the 109 was lost. I will have to get it out of storage, but as I recall, Larry said the 109 was out in front of them and the only way to see the boat was by the wake. Larry claims it was so dark you had trouble seeing your hand out in front of your face, which was later claimed by my good friend, Gerard Zinser, who was on the 109 when she was struck.

Larry said they never saw the 109 getting struck, until the gasoline tanks had exploded. They were so surprised that the 162 never fired a shot at the passing Destroyer. Larry was in the forward .50 caliber gun turret when this happened. All on board thought for sure the boat was destroyed, but the Skipper, Lt. Lowery (could be the wrong spelling) turned hard over, went to Flank speed and left the scene. Larry, and other crew members had begged the Skipper to return to check for survivors, but he never did. The letter does not state if Lowery recieved orders to return to Base or not. This bothered Larry for many years after, who did have a chance to meet with Kennedy during his Political career. Kennedy simply stated to Larry, "Where the Hell did you guys go".


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Jeff D

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Jeff D   Send Email To Jeff D Posted on: Mar 8, 2010 - 4:52am
Thank you Frank, I'd love to see it. The facts of the ramming of the 109 is very interesting to me.



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Drew Cook

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Drew Cook  Posted on: Mar 8, 2010 - 4:57pm
According to John Hersey's original New Yorker magazine article "Survival" in 1944 (the first telling of the PT 109 saga), one of the (unidentified) skippers near the 109 when it was struck "...put his hands over his face and sobbed, 'My God! My God!'"

In 1961, Robert J. Donovan, author of "PT 109 - John F. Kennedy in World War II" wrote "...PT 162, whose skipper, Lt. Lowrey, is dead, and PT 169, whose skipper, Lt. Potter, says he has no recollection of making any such outcry."

Make what you will of those two quotes...


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QM

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: Mar 8, 2010 - 6:39pm
"some crew members begged the skipper to check for survivors". It is sure satisfying to read that message. PT boaters usually tried to help those in distress.

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