The PT Boat Forum

Forum Category: PT Boats of WWII

Forum Name: PT Boats - General

Topic: Depth charge repair on PT-109

I have a question I'd mostly like to direct to veterans. PT-109 had an accident where the forward port torpedo tube launched accidentaly in high seas, driving the port depth charge through the deck. Is it likely that the port depth charge would have been replaced? Or would they have simply patched over the hole and left the depth charge off. I'm sure the rack must have been destroyed in the accident. I have also been curious about the port torpedo tube. It appears (and I know photos are deceiving) that it is a different color than the rest of the boat. I've often wondered if this is a replacement tube, a photo taken while the boat was being repainted, or just a photo issue. I'd appreciate any thoughts.


David Waples

Posted By: David Waples | Posted on: May 18, 2007 - 9:31pm
Total Posts: 1615 | Joined: Jan 2, 2007 - 9:55pm

Just my two cents, Dave, but I think both the 109's port depth charge cradle and the depth charge would probably have been repaired/replaced after the incident.

Donovan writes in "PT 109" that the 109 "had to be laid up again briefly for repair of the damage from the fallen depth charge." I don't think there's any reason the cradle and charge wouldn't have been repaired and replaced when the below-decks and fore deck damage was repaired, unless the 109 remained in the Russell Islands without returning to Tulagi for repairs AND/OR the base repair facilities in the Russells were substantially lacking in spare parts and ordnance.

The forward port torpedo-depth charge incident reportedly occurred on June 30, 1943. The 109 received orders to move up to Rendova from the Russells roughly two weeks later, in mid-July, and arrived at Rendova the third week of July, according to Donovan -- plenty of time to fix or replace whatever was wrong with the cradle and depth charge, unless they were unable because of the reasons above. I don't know how they handled such things, but if the depth charge itself wasn't declared unsafe after incident, it might not have had to have been replaced at all - ?

As to the port forward torpedo tube being a different color than the rest of the boat based on that poor-quality "JFK and crew on the fore deck" photo, I personally doubt it (why would it have been different?). I HAVE wondered for years if the "109" on the chart house was added by a retouch artist, but what we DO know from that photo is that at least the windshield had been replaced, probably by light armor (also seen in the three known "JFK-in-the-cockpit" photos), and the .50's have the old-style tubular flash suppressors on their muzzles. I'd add that the windshield in that photo has the same slight bend or dent in it, in the exact same place, as the unknown 80' ELCO Les Gamble is seen at the wheel of in a photo on Gene Kirkland's PT Boat website, but that, like all of the above, is just my opinion.

Worth, as I mentioned, about two cents.

Posted By: Drew Cook | Posted on: May 19, 2007 - 5:41pm
Total Posts: 1262 | Joined: Oct 19, 2006 - 10:44am

It is possible that while the boat was layed up for repairs that she underwent other changes during that time. It might explain why Maurice Kowal ( see my other post ) did not remember the depth charges being there, then remembered they might have been up front by the Torpedoes. Maybe during that time, Kennedy had them removed altogether. Just a thought.

Posted By: Frank J Andruss Sr | Posted on: May 20, 2007 - 4:34am
Total Posts: 3179 | Joined: Oct 9, 2006 - 6:09am

I'd say it was replaced. Al Ross even drew it on his set of plans that had the 37mm - which was put on the day of her loss.


You've got a question, I've got an answer.

Posted By: TGarth Connelly | Posted on: May 21, 2007 - 5:53am
Total Posts: | Joined: Unregistered

Thanks for the input guys. I went through the Donovan book again and read through this section. We know the boat was in the Russels and we know a torpedo accidentally launched causing the depth charge to burst through the deck into the lower cabins. All this happened while Kennedy was trying to fetch a bilge pump from a destroyer to help out another stranded PT.

The book doesn't say if it was repaired or not But they had two week before they were off to Rendova and during this time had a chance to fix up the boat and re-install a replacement depth charge rack. Or maybe they just had them removed. From what I've come to learn about Kennedy he didn't give up much and was quite the scrounge. So I think it's entirely possible that the rack was replaced. But, it's just a guess.

I'd like this model to tell a story. I've already removed some of the toe railing to simulate where the damage occurred. I'll have to think about the depth charge rack a little more. I'll probably install it though.

Thanks again for the input.

PS. I promise to get some photos up soon.

David Waples

Posted By: David Waples | Posted on: May 21, 2007 - 7:37pm
Total Posts: 1615 | Joined: Jan 2, 2007 - 9:55pm

I had the chance to speak with Mr. Maurice Kowal, who as you all know was a Gunners Mate on PT 109 before the fatal crash. I again asked him about the foreward Depth charges being on the Bow. Mr. Kowal related to me that the Depth Charges were if fact there when he first went on the boat. He had no knowledge of them being removed but claimed that Kennedy might have had them taken off during the repair of the boat as they really served no funtion on the boat at that time. Kennedy was always looking for more fire-power and prefered the heavier caliber guns in attacking Barges. Kowal said that SKIPPER had a sence of needing heavier guns to Combat the Barges and was very happy with the added fire-power of PT 59. Although this conversation I had wth Mr. Kowal is the second time he changed his mind on the depth Charges, he really seemed certain this time around that the Depth charges were in fact on the forward Bow. Who knows? Maybe I caught him on a day when his memory came back a bit. He did suffer a stroke last year and at that age ( 85 ) remembering things from 60 plus years ago would be tough for anyone. You will be happy to know that his wife informed me that Kowal is now taking a walk everyday and regaining much of his lost strenth.

Posted By: Frank J Andruss Sr | Posted on: May 26, 2007 - 6:22am
Total Posts: 3179 | Joined: Oct 9, 2006 - 6:09am

Thanks, Frank, for your post on Mr. Kowal.

Please relate to him my (our) best wishes for him and his family, and for his continued recovery and good health.

Posted By: Drew Cook | Posted on: May 26, 2007 - 10:09am
Total Posts: 1262 | Joined: Oct 19, 2006 - 10:44am

The crazy thing is that none of the photos of the other boats in Kennedy's squadron had depth charges on them. I always assumed that they were there when Kennedy took over 109.

The side shot of the 109 clearly shows a depth charge on the starboard side of the boat. The angle prevents us from seeing the other side but I assume it's there.

Thanks for the update on Mr. Kowal. I hope continues to do well.


David Waples

Posted By: David Waples | Posted on: May 27, 2007 - 8:34pm
Total Posts: 1615 | Joined: Jan 2, 2007 - 9:55pm