When day broke, the men on the remains of the 109 stirred and looked around.
To the northeast, three miles off, they saw the monumental cone of Kolombangara;
there, the men knew, ten thousand Japanese swarmed.
To the west, five miles away, they saw Vella Lavella; more Japs.
To the south, only a mile or so away, they actually could see
a Japanese camp on Gizo.
PT 109 HIT BY TSUNAMI
A magnitude 8.1 tsunami crashed ashore on the western Solomon Islands
in a remote, poverty-stricken region.
There are reports of extensive damage to Gizo
a relatively small volcanic island
barely above sea level.
Yesterday - April 1, 2007 - a massive tsunami wave (caused by an earthquake under the ocean) hit the Solomon Islands:
Gizo at center of tsunami fears (see view from Gizo). BBC, Apr 1, 2007
The most seriously affected island - Gizo - was the one closest to where JFK's PT 109 was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer 64 years ago on August 2nd, 1943.
For readers not familiar with the details, here follows an overview from the "Orwell Today" article JFK PT 109 STORY. In appropriate places I've included never-before-posted photos and maps to provide greater understanding. ~ Jackie Jura
excerpt from article "Survival",
by John Hersey, New Yorker Magazine, 1944
photos from book "PT 109" by Robert Donovan, 1961
It seems that Kennedy's PT, the 109, was out one night with a squadron patrolling Blackett Strait, in mid-Solomons. Blackett Strait is a patch of water bounded on the northeast by the volcano called Kolombangara, on the west by the island of Vella Lavella, on the south by the island of Gizo and a string of coral-fringed islets, and on the east by the bulk of New Georgia.
The boats were working about forty miles away from their base on the island of Rendova, on the south side of New Georgia. They had entered Blackett Strait, as was their habit, through Ferguson Passage, between the coral islets and New Georgia.
The night was a starless black and Japanese destroyers were around. It was about 2:30 a.m. The 109, with three officers and ten enlisted men aboard, was leading three boats on a sweep for a target. An officer named George Ross was up on the bow, magnifying the void with binoculars. Kennedy was at the wheel, and he saw Ross turn and point into the darkness. The man in the forward machine-gun turret shouted, "Ship at two o'clock!" Kennedy saw a shape and spun the wheel to turn for an attack, but the 109 answered sluggishly.... Then the Japanese crashed into the 109 and cut her right in two....
When day broke, the men on the remains of the 109 stirred and looked around. To the northeast, three miles off, they saw the monumental cone of Kolombangara; there, the men knew, ten thousand Japanese swarmed. To the west, five miles away, they saw Vella Lavella; more Japs. To the south, only a mile or so away, they actually could see a Japanese camp on Gizo...
All morning they clung to the hulk and talked about how incredible it was that no one had come to rescue them. All morning they watched for the plane which they thought would be looking for them....
When the sun had passed the meridian, Kennedy said, "We will swim to that small island," pointing to one of a group three miles to the southeast. "We have less chance of making it than some of these other islands here, but there'll be less chance of Japs too."
Those who could not swim well grouped themselves around a long two-by-six timber with which carpenters had braced the 37-millimetre cannon on deck and which had been knocked overboard by the force of the collision. They tied several pairs of shoes to the timber, as well as the ship's lantern wrapped in a life jacket to keep it afloat. Thom took charge of this unwieldy group.
Kennedy took McMahon in tow again. He cut loose one end of a long strap on McMahon's Mae West and took the end in his teeth. He swam breaststroke, pulling the helpless McMahon along on his back. It took over five hours to reach the island. Water lapped into Kennedy's mouth through his clenched teeth, and he swallowed a lot. The salt water cut into McMahon's awful burns, but he did not complain. Every few minutes, when Kennedy stopped to rest, taking the strap out of his mouth and holding it in his hand, McMahon would simply say, "How far do we have to go?". Kennedy would reply, "We're going good." Then he would ask, "How do you feel, Mac?" McMahon always answered, "I'm O.K., Mr Kennedy. How about you?"
In spite of his burden, Kennedy beat the other men to the reef that surrounded the island. He left McMahon on the reef and told him to keep low, so as not to be spotted by Japs. Kennedy went ahead and explored the island. It was only a hundred yards in diameter; coconuts on the trees but none on the ground; no visible Japs. Just as the others reached the island, one of them spotted a Japanese barge chugging along close to shore. They all lay low. The barge went on. Johnston, who was very pale and weak and who was still coughing a lot, said, "They wouldn't come here. What'd they be walking around here for? It's too small." Kennedy lay in some bushes, exhausted by his effort, his stomach heavy with the water he had swallowed. He had been in the sea, except for short intervals on the hulk, for fifteen and a half hours.
Now he started thinking. Every night for several nights the PT's had cut through Ferguson Passage on their way to action. Ferguson Passage was just beyond the next little island. Maybe...
He stood up. He took one of the pairs of shoes. He put one of the rubber life belts around his waist. He hung the .38 around his neck on a lanyard. He took his pants off. He picked up the ship's lantern, a heavy battery affair, ten inches by ten inches, still wrapped in the kapok jacket. He said, "If I find a boat, I'll flash the lantern twice. The password will be 'Roger,' the answer will be "Willco." He walked toward the water. After fifteen paces he was dizzy, but in the water he felt all right.
It was early evening. It took half an hour to swim to the reef around the next island. Just as he planted his feet on the reef, which lay about four feet under the surface, he saw the shape of a very big fish in the clear water. He flashed the light at it and splashed hard. The fish went away. Kennedy remembered what one of his men had said a few days before, "These barracuda will come up under a swimming man and eat his testicles." He had many occasions to think of that remark in the next few hours.
Now it was dark. Kennedy blundered along the uneven reef in water up to his waist. Sometimes he would reach forward with his leg and cut one of his shins or ankles on sharp coral. Other times he would step forward onto emptiness. He made his way like a slow-motion drunk, hugging the lantern. At about nine o'clock he came to the end of the reef, alongside Ferguson Passage. He took his shoes off and tied them to the life jacket, then struck out into open water. He swam about an hour, until he felt he was far enough out to intercept the PT's. Treading water, he listened for the muffled roar of motors, getting chilled, waiting, holding the lamp. Once he looked west and saw far beyond the little islands, even beyond Gizo, ten miles away. Kennedy realized that the PT boats had chosen, for the first night in many, to go around Gizo instead of through Ferguson Passage. There was no hope. He started back. He made the same painfull promenade of the reef and struck out for the tiny island where his friends were. But this swim was different. He was very tired, and now the current was running fast, carrying him to the right. He saw that he could not make the island, so he flashed the light once and shouted "Roger! Roger!" to identify himself.
On the beach, the men were hopefully vigilant. They saw the light and heard the shouts. They were very happy, because they thought that Kennedy had found a PT. They walked out onto the reef, sometimes up to their waists in water, and waited. It was very painfull for those who had no shoes. The men shouted, but not much, because they were afraid of the Japanese. One said, "There's another flash." A few minutes later a second said, "There's a light over there." A third said, "We're seeing things in this dark." They waited a long time, but they saw nothing except phosphorescence and heard nothing but the sound of waves. They went back, very discouraged. One said despairingly, "We're going to die." Johnston said, "Aw, shut up. You can't die. Only the good die young."
Kennedy had drifted right by the little island. He thought he had never known such deep trouble, but something he did shows that unconsciously he nad not given up hope. He droppped his shoes, but he held onto the heavy lantern, his symbol of contact with his fellows. He stopped trying to swim. He seemed to stop caring. His body drifted through the wet hours, and he was very cold. His mind was a jumble. A few hours before, he had wanted desperately to get to the base at Rendova. Now he only wanted to get back to the little island he had left that night, but he didn't try to get there; he just wanted to. His mind seemed to float away from his body. Darkness and time took the place of a mind in his skull. For a long time he slept, or was crazy, or floated in a chill trance.
The currents of the Solomon Islands are queer. The tide shoves and sucks through the islands and makes the current curl in odd patterns. It was a fateful pattern into which Jack Kennedy drifted. He drifted in it all night. His mind was blank, but his fist was tightly clenched on the kapok around the lantern. The current moved in a huge circle -- west past Gizo, then north and east past Kolombangara, then south into Ferguson Passage.
Early in the morning, the sky turned from black to gray, and so did Kennedy's mind. Light came to both at about six. Kennedy looked around and saw that he was exactly where he had been the night before when he saw the flares beyond Gizo.
For a second time, he started home. He thought for a while that he had lost his mind and that he only imagined that he was repeating his attempt to reach the island. But the chill of the water was real enough, the lantern was real, his progress was measurable. He made the reef, crossed the lagoon and got to the first island. He lay on the beach awhile. He found that his lantern did not work anymore, so he left it and started back to the next island, where his men were. This time the trip along the reef was awful. He had discarded his shoes, and every step on the coral was painful. This time the swim across the gap where the current had caught him the night before seemed endless. But the current had changed; he made the island. He crawled up on the beach. He was vomiting when his men came up to him. He said, "Ross, you try it tonight." Then he passed out...
JFK PT 109 STORY and JFK PT 109 CREW and JFK'S LETTER TO SOLOMONS and JFK PT 109 MOVIE and JFK'S NEPHEW THANKS NATIVES and SEARCHING FOR JFK'S....BOAT
14.Scientific Experimentation and WEATHER CONTROL
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~