JFK PT-109 HARRIS LETTER TO JACKIE
This is follow-up to our previous discussion about the condolence letter your great-uncle Bucky Harris -- a gunner on JFK's PT-109 -- sent to Jackie after the assassination.
As mentioned at the time, I ordered the book LETTERS TO JACKE on-line and have been waiting for it to arrive so I could see if Bucky's letter was included and if so, would scan it to share with you and other ORWELL TODAY readers.
That was about three weeks ago so I was anxiously expecting it any day when, the other night -- as I was channel-surfing for something to watch on TV -- up popped the movie PT-109 on Turner Classics. It was another one of those amazing coincidences -- or "godcidents" -- that the movie be playing now, especially when I'd been thinking so much about JFK and Bucky Harris. As I watched PT-109 this time I focused on scenes with your great-uncle and was suprised at how big a role he played -- he was everywhere in the movie. It shows him being introduced to JFK for the first time as "Charles Harris from Boston" -- and JFK says to him "do they ever call you Bucky?" in reference to a famous baseball player for the Boston Red Sox named "Bucky" Harris. So from then on, JFK called him "Bucky". And there was also the scene where JFK was swimming back and forth to the wreck of PT-109 rescuing survivors and Bucky was complaining about how he couldn't swim any farther and JFK said "For a guy from Boston, you're certainly putting up a great exhibition out here, Harris". After that, Bucky didn't complain anymore and struggled onward to the boat.
The book arrived the next day, as I suspected it would, my having received those powerful vibes from JFK. I immediately flipped to the index at the back to see if the letter from Harris, Charles A, was there and, sure enough, it was.
At the top of the page I've scanned the cover of the book and the pages with Bucky's letter and a photo of him with JFK the day JFK announced his candidacy for the Presidency in January 1960. In the chapter entitled GRIEF & LOSS "THE BURDEN OF HIS DEATH", your great-uncle's letter can be found on page 224 and the photo on 225. I've transcribed it below exactly as it appears:
NOV. 27, 1963
My Dear Mrs. Kennedy,
I know you do not know me personally but I am one of the crew
members of your Husbands P.T. 109
I wanted to send a telegram with my condolences but it seemed to
cold & short.
Your husband was one of the greatest men I will ever have the honor
to meet. I am only sorry I never had the honor to meet you, his wonder-
I know the way he went was horrible but the Good Lord has mysteri-
ous ways of calling us to him.
You and your children are lovely & the whole world's heart went out
to You & them in the greatest trial I hope ever shadow's your door.
I hope my feelings are legible in the above lines, but it has always
been hard for me to put my feelings in writing & right now my heart is a
In my mind & heart you were married to one of the greatest men in
our time & time to come. I do not think he would have hurt a soul inten-
tionally he was that much of a Christian & if the rest of the world could
have been the same there would be no more tragedy's.
I want to wish You and your children all the happiness in the world,
and thank you for taking the time to read my humble message.
& Love to the Children
Charles A. Harris
The author of the book, Ellen Fitzpatrick, must have connected with a cousin of yours because on page 308 she references, "Charles Harris's daughter recalls that 'it always remained a true honor for my dad to have served with John F. Kennedy during WWII on PT 109. He felt Kennedy had saved all their lives and was an American hero'".
It was a beautiful letter your great-uncle wrote and no doubt you are extremely proud of him. Bucky, like many of the old PT-109 crew members, kept up life-long friendships with JFK and it would have been fascinating listening to their stories about him. It's easy to imagine how devastating his death on November 22nd, 1963 would have been for Bucky, considering how heart-breaking it was for we the people who knew JFK only from afar -- but still loved him with a love that endures forever.
Since watching PT-109 the other night I googled looking for clips showing Bucky and while doing so came across another movie version of PT-109 that I'd never seen before. Then, googling some more, I came across a story about PT-109 crew member Harold Marney who, along with Andrew Kirksey, did not survive the crash and was lost at sea. JFK wrote a condolence letter to Marney's mother and that letter -- along with other letters JFK wrote to her over the years, were recently sold at auction. I've posted links to those and other YouTubes below.
Although it must be great for you to read and see Bucky's letter as it's transcribed in the book, it will be even better when you see it in the original -- handwritten -- when you go to the JFK Library and Museum in Boston.
All the best,
watch STUMP THE STARS, May 20, 1963, YouTube (Cast members from PT 109, Robert Culp, Grant Williams, James Gregory and Ty Hardin compete against series regulars)
watch NAVY LOG TV SHOW JFK PT-109 Periscope Film, 1957 (Navy Log was a dramatized anthology of naval experiences in World War II, representing stories from the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. This seldom-seen episode from 1957 titled PT 109 tells the story of the PT-109 Patrol Torpedo boat last commanded by junior Lieutenant John F Kennedy in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Kennedy's actions to save his surviving crew after the sinking of PT-109 made him a war hero, which proved helpful in his political career.)
watch JFK letters to mother of sailor killed on PT-109 discovered, Fox Business, Mar 18, 2015 (The young Lieutenant Jack Kennedy writes a series of letters to the mother of a sailor killed on his navy vessel, PT-109. Her heirs learn they contain never-revealed details of PT-109's deadly encounter with a Japanese destroyer.)
watch JFK letters sold at auction, Part 1 and Part 2, Remarkable Rarity Event, Feb 24, 2015 (A collection of letters from John F Kennedy to the family of lost PT-109 crewmate sold for $200,000, including buyer's premium, according to Boston, MA-based auction house.)
To Orwell Today,
I'm very grateful that I reached out to you. A whole new light has been brought upon my family tree ever since reaching out for information from you. Charles was truly a great man and I'm very thankful to be related to him. I will definitely be checking out some of your sources you mentioned on your website.
JFK PT-109 HARRIS LETTER TO JACKIE
(your husband one of greatest men in our time)
Email, Nov 5, 2016
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