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 Author  Topic: Al Cluster quote on PT 109 torpedo/depth charge incident
  Drew Cook

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Drew Cook  Posted on: Nov 27, 2012 - 10:22am
According to Richard Tregaskis' book "John F. Kennedy: War Hero" (also published in an abridged edition titled "John F. Kennedy and PT-109") it was PT 48, with Ron 2 CO Lt. Al Cluster at the wheel, that had a patch knocked off her hull in heavy seas, and for which PT 109 obtained a bilge pump from a destroyer during the 109's much-discussed torpedo/depth charge incident.

This wasn't related in Robert J. Donovan's "PT 109 - John F. Kennedy in World War II."

Cluster had transferred over onto the 109, Tregaskis wrote, and "riding in the cockpit with Kennedy, was full of questions about the 80-footers. His own boat, and all the previous boats he had commanded, had been the older, 77-foot type, and he was very curious. He finally asked Kennedy if he could try the wheel. Being essentially a sea-going cavalryman like most good PT men, Cluster couldn't resist the temption to try out the manuverability and speed of the 80-footer. He swung into several turns, and then, as he later related the incident..."

The following is a direct quote from Cluster:

"I got to going quite fast to try and stay on top of the waves, but I miscalculated and finally plowed into one at high speed. The port forward torpedo came charging out of its tube (not all the way) with its turbine going full blast and building up pressure in the tube.

"Lenny Thom, Jack's exec, took toilet paper and stuffed it in the impeller mechanism of the warhead so that the torpedo would not arm itself if it went into the water... About this time, the pressures of the exhaust in the tube built up and launched the torpedo straight into the forward depth charge (fortunately unarmed), driving it right through the plywood deck, where it fell through the crew's living quarters and went through two empty bunks."

Tregaskis goes on to write "One of the bunks crushed by the heavy 'ashcan ' was the lower in which Drewitch had until recently been lying, nursing his injured kneecap and nose. The launched, but not armed, torpedo then slithered off the deck and into the water, churning away at full speed."

Nothing about any repairs to the deck, foot rail and depth charge cradle, or replacement of the port depth charge in Tregaskis' writings, though...although repairs were certainly made, and I personally believe the depth charge was re-seated/replaced.


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TED WALTHER

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of TED WALTHER   Send Email To TED WALTHER Posted on: Nov 27, 2012 - 4:04pm
Drew;
Yes, this is what I have found, and something not mentioned in this book was, that John Iles was the Skipper of PT48 that night, Being lead boat he had Al Cluster onboard as OTC.
Take care,
TED


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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: Nov 27, 2012 - 4:39pm
That's quite a different story. At least it mentions which torpedo let loose.

I take it that the turbine automatically kicks in when the torpedo exits the tube a certain distance?

Tregaskis's story sounds like one in which certain details would have been left out in official reports.

Here's the Donovan excerpt David posted earlier:

"As the two drew together the destroyer would rise high above PT 109. Then the destroyer would slide down a trough and 109 would soar above it. The two skippers had to maneuver with care to keep the vessels from slamming together lest the destroyer's steel hull crush the plywood shell of 109. Precariously the heave one cylinder pump was pass as if between two men on a teeter-totter.

Kennedy edged away from the destroyer and was circling back to the damaged boat when the top of a wave smote his port hull with such force that it jolted one of the torpedoes out of its tube. The torpedo banged into a heavy depth charge, a collision that brought together enough explosives to have blown Kennedy and his crew to bits, had not the two weapons been set to fire under different conditions. However, the depth charge toppled off its perch, crashed through the deck into the crew's quarters and landed on the bunk above where Drewitch was trying to sleep."

He goes on to write...

"Kennedy got the pump to the other boat without further accident and stood by until a tender came to the rescue."

He then writes....

"PT 109 had to be laid up again briefly for repair of the damage from the fallen depth charge. Shortly after the work was completed Kennedy received orders in mid-July to proceed to the forward operating base for motor torpedo boats at Rendova, one of the large islands in the Solomons, in the middle of the main battle then being fought in the Pacific. On your way, small fry," a destroyer blinked as 109 churned away from the Russels."



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David Waples

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of David Waples  Posted on: Nov 27, 2012 - 8:32pm
Similar but different account of the same event. This one coming from somebody who was there. So the torpedo did fire and ultimately found its way to the water. It seems we've discovered a new use for toilet paper as well.
Thanks for sharing Drew.
Dave

David Waples

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David Waples

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of David Waples  Posted on: Nov 27, 2012 - 9:00pm
I hadn't seen that book before. I just ordered a copy from Amazon for $1.00 plus shipping.
Thanks Drew
Dave

PS. Dick, I'll be sure to send it to you after I finish reading it. :-)

David Waples

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