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 Author  Topic: PT-157: Much caution was used in picking up the 109 crew
TheBridge

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TheBridge  Posted on: May 21, 2010 - 12:27pm
I recently watched the 'PT-109' movie and then yesterday, after I began to listen to Frank J Andruss' interview from 1993 with the Skipper of the PT-157 - Bud Liebenow, I was struck by one point that Bud Liebenow told me last week week. (remember it was the 157 that picked up the 109 survivors). In both instances of the movie and the interview we hear of the coast watcher (Evans) radio in that he was in contact with the 109 survivors (which would be Kennedy specifically). What was not evident, until my talk with Bud, was that Evans' radio message was sent to his own command in Australia and that the PT commanders were not aware of Evans' message until sometime after the 109 crew was picked up and returned to base.

In the 1993 interview with Frank, Liebenow did mention the thought at that time that maybe the coconut message was a Japanese trap and now one can understand why. Without knowing that Evans had himself confirmed it was indeed Kennedy & the 109 crew, which would have given the PT commanders as different view on things, the mission was run on the assumption that it was a Japanese trap. The natives, as Liebenow pointed out, although mostly friendly to the US they were not always on our side so their bringing the coconut did not eliminate the possible trap scenario. All PT Captains, senior commanders and Senior Commander Warfield were called together to make a plan. This rescue mission was not considered a straight forward just-go-and-pick-them-up mission and had plenty of edginess.

For additional security against it being a trap other PTs (and at least one with radar) accompanied the 157 in to pickup Kennedy. Once Kennedy gets on board the events seen the movie (of the crew pickup anyway) are pretty accurate when compared against Liebenow's recounting of the events. Liebenow did get the 157 very close to shore (with Welford West on the foredeck taking depth measurements with a lead-line calling out the depths) allowing the able bodied 109 crew to walk from the shore then waded the last yards right to the boat. The two badly burned crewman were, however, loaded into the 157's dingy (brought specifically on this mission) and had to be hoisted aboard due to the burns.

Bridge


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Nathaniel Smith

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Nathaniel Smith   Send Email To Nathaniel Smith Posted on: May 21, 2010 - 3:30pm
This is a shot of Bud's log for August 8, 1943. It implies that all survivor's came aboard via the small boat. Isn't historical research fun ... we always find conflicting information.


natsmith

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TheBridge

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TheBridge  Posted on: May 21, 2010 - 3:44pm
Nathaniel,

Great to see the log page for the day! is it possible that the reference island (Banini) was the only named island to use as reference and the survivors were on a 'no-name island? Liebenow is quite adamant that the able bodied guys got to the boat directly while they did shuttle to two wounded in the dingy. Meanwhile I'll put a call into Welford West (the guy taking the depth soundings that got them in so close to shore) and see what his recall is.

Do you know how I might find the log pages for July 3 & 4 -1943 for the 157. I'm researching another event that also has some conflicting info?

Bridge


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Nathaniel Smith

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Nathaniel Smith   Send Email To Nathaniel Smith Posted on: May 21, 2010 - 6:04pm
Bridge

I can't find Banini Island ... can you? This is the best map I have found of the immediate area.


You are in luck ... look what I have


Nat

natsmith

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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: May 21, 2010 - 6:54pm
I sure don't recall hearing or coming acoss a "Banini Island" in the shipwreck and castaway area, or seeing it on the maps and charts, during all the reading on the 109 incident I've done over the years, but..?


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David Buck

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of David Buck   Send Email To David Buck Posted on: May 22, 2010 - 1:38am
To the Bridge,
Robert J Donovans book PT 109 puts the crewmen on Olasana Isl. at the time of pickup and that they were picked up using the dingy (this would make sense as the PT 157 required around 6ft. of water to float it would make it very difficult to walk out to )

D.buck

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TheBridge

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TheBridge  Posted on: May 22, 2010 - 11:10am
I spoke to Bud Liebenow last night and again he was insistent that the 157 got very close to shore. I read the first sentence from the log page Nathan posted and I said that the way it is written it could make one thing that he was 0.4 mile off shore when they picked up the survivors. Again he was VERY insistent...to the point that I could not pursue this point any further. He was upset about how over the years different writers wrote things that were not correct and yet he was the skipper of the 157 and not used as a source in most instances. He noted that some years ago a writer took down all the information from him and he (the writer) went to the location and confirmed that you could indeed get that close to shore. This is a pretty accurate summary of our conversation last night.

And let's be cautious that '.04 lay to' off Banini could be just his positioning notes to himself as he waits for the all clear from the other PT scanning the area. Remember this was, in their minds, a possible trap. It would appear that Banini itself played no part in the events as neither Kennedy, the crew or Evans mentioned it have been on such an island. Banini must have been know known to the PT captains due to its location or shape that made it noteworthy. So that would say it was just that; a positioning note. Obviously a PT skipper wasn't making up stuff and putting it into a log on that night in 1943.

Ok, I just spoke to Welford West this morning (torpedo man-157). Welford has not recall on Banini Island reference in the log. Given that the explanation above seems to be the only possible value of Banini.

It was Welford who took lead-line depth readings the night of the 109 mission and called depth readings back to Liebenow at the helm when they were threading their way to the island to pick up the rest of the crew after picking up Kennedy. Welford said one of the other PTs, which had radar, guided them initially using radar to pickup on any above water shoals. Carefully and slowly the 157 came to within about 100 FEET of the beach and the boat was sitting in about 10' of water. At that point the able bodied did walk off shore, then swim a bit. Welford, now in the 157's dingy, was rowing to shore and they climbed into the dingy and Welford rowed them back to the 157 (maybe two trips according to Welford). He said a couple may have swim to the 157 on their own. Then he rowed all the way to shore, got the wounded who could not swim and rowed them back to the 157.

Both of these discussions (above) are as told to me last night and today. They both are more steamed about inaccuracies of some accounts (especially the one about being so far off shore). Neither appear to have anything in mind but to keep the record straight and take great pride in their ability to thread their way thru the shallows to the island. Even if I account for ability to recall certain details some 67 years after the event (Liebenow-90, West-89) on this point they are clear; they were that close to shore.

Bridge




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TheBridge

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TheBridge  Posted on: May 22, 2010 - 11:14am
Nathaniel - I sent an email to you last night but it was rejected. I was requesting, off-line, if you have the 157's log pages for July 5-12 . I am working on another chronology and it would be helpful. If you do have them could you please sent to me at bridge@pt-157.com so we don't clog up the message board.

Thanks,

Bridge



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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: May 22, 2010 - 11:31am
In my many conversations over the years with PT-109 Crewmember, Gerard Zinser, he insisted that some of the men swam out to meet PT-157. He had spoke to me by phone and in person in 1998, that PT-157 was no more then 150 yards off shore. He remembered two men sent over in a Dingy to pick up Pappy McMahon, and another Crewmember to help them to the boat.

Many of the men had cuts on the bottom of the feet when wading out to the boat from the Coral. I never asked how many swam to the boat or how many actually jumped into the dingy. He did mention that most of them were sleeping when the boat and Kennedy had arrived. One of the stories that was told was that Kennedy had yelled out to the men. Zinser told me this was true, Kennedy was yelling and some of the men were upset that this might cause the Japs to come calling. It is a very interesting time when you can interview these men from such a historic time in History, but becuase many of them had granted so many interviews over the years, the stroies sometimes were streched, or changed a bit. Mr. Leibenow was very certain about his facts when I spoke with him several times in 1993, and asked me point blank, not to change anything he was passing on to me...........


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TheBridge

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TheBridge  Posted on: May 22, 2010 - 1:11pm
Frank - Thanks!

So per Capt Liebenow, West and Zinser....

Worse case the 157 was 150 yards, best case 100 feet of shore (which is Welford's guess today as he looked at his window and estimated the distance).

The 109ers did walk then swim. some to the boat, some to the dingy (then climbed in and were rowed to the 157).

The two most wounded were rowed from shore to boat.

Regarding how close the 157 was to shore?...History speaks, very close!. Case closed.

And all this done is the shadow of islands with large amounts of Jap troops. If a Jap destroyer appeared it would caught the 157 in a difficult situation as it obviously would not have been able to move quickly in trying to retrace their steps back to deep water.

A mission to remember and excellent team execution by all involved!

Map of Olasana Island.
http://www.geody.com/geospot.php?world=terra&map=col&ufi=-1550207&alc=lsn


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