JFK PT-109 GUNNER HARRIS
Nathan Hardy, 29, of Durham, Massachusetts, was on his fourth tour of duty in Iraq
when he was killed on February 4, 2008 during a firefight.
Hardy's maternal grandfather, Charles Bucky Harris, served with John F. Kennedy
on the PT-109 during World War II.
To Orwell Today,
I am a research assistant for an author who is writing a book comprised of condolence letters sent to Jackie Kennedy after JFK was shot. Among the letters found at the Kennedy Library was one from Charles A. Harris, who was a PT 109 Crew member. I am trying to locate him and find a current mailing address so that the author can send him a copy of the letter he wrote, and request permission to include it in his book.
In my search for his contact information I stumbled upon your site which has his name listed (Charles "Bucky" Harris). I was hoping you might be able to help in some way. I don't know if you know how to contact him, or if he is deceased, how to find his nearest relatives, but if you do have any information I would greatly appreciate it if you could either send it to me or pass this message along so that he, or his relatives, could get in touch with me.
Thank you for taking a moment to read this and thank you in advance for any help.
Charles "Bucky" Harris was a gunner's mate on PT-109.
He was part of the original crew when JFK took command of PT-109 at Rendova, Solomon Islands - even before it was seaworthy - and they all worked together getting it to the point of passing inspection. This is well-portrayed in the movie PT-109 (and I learned just recently, from re-reading Paul Fay's book, that Barney Ross - an officer-friend of JFK's who hitched a ride on PT-109 that fateful night - had a role in the movie - not playing himself but playing the character of the Navy chief).
Charles Harris was nicknamed "Bucky" (after a manager of the Red Sox baseball team) and he came from Boston, Massachusetts (same as where JFK came from). Bucky had also been trained at Melville Naval Academy, Rhode Island where JFK had trained and then instructed on PT-101 for awhile before eventually being shipped out to the Pacific (with a little bit of help from his Dad who pulled strings to get him IN instead of like most people who pulled strings to stay OUT of active duty).
On the night that PT-109 was hit, Harris was off-duty and taking a nap on deck, using his lifejacket as a pillow, but woke up just in time to see the bow of the Japanese destroyer heading straight at them.
Harris jumped up and dove off, but the impact sent him flying and he landed far away and floating in the sea of oil which was in flames all around him. Miraculously he was wearing his life jacket which he'd instinctively thrown on before he jumped out of the way. Harris had a bad wound in his left leg, and at first he thought he was the only survivor, but when the fires went out - and it became pitch black - he heard a voice groaning and swam to the source of the sound. It turned out to be Pat McMahon - the engine room mechanic - and he was really badly burned - his face almost unrecognizable. Then they heard JFK calling out and Harris shouted to get his attention, and JFK started swimming their way - calling out intermittantly and Harris answering him back so they could be found.
When JFK reached them, and saw how badly burned McMahon was, he held onto McMahon's lifejacket and started pulling him toward the overturned boat. Meanwhile, Harris was having problems swimming and keeping up his strength and was lagging behind, so JFK had to call out to him many times to catch up. When JFK got McMahon safely on the boat, he headed back toward Harris to hurry him along. Harris was telling him to forget about him, he was too tired to swim and JFK said "For a guy from Boston, you're certainly putting up a great exhibition out here". But the problem was solved when Harris asked JFK to hold him up while he took off his life jacket and the heavy sweater and boots that were dragging him down (he'd put them on to keep warm before he'd gone to sleep). That made it much easier, and after that he was able to swim to the boat.
That, in a nutshell, is how JFK saved Harris's life.
On Plum Pudding Island, while JFK was doing his famous swim with the lantern to Ferguson Passage to try and get the attention of the PT-boats heading back to Rendova, Harris tried to get the pistols they had managed to save dried out and lubricated. He took them apart and attempted to oil them with coconut milk but it turned out to be too grainy to be effective.
Now, in answer to your question about Harris's family, I've discovered the whereabouts of his grandson, but sadly it's because of an announcement of his death:
Bush words honour Navy SEAL, Union Leader, May 27, 2008
Durham, Massachusetts - Nathan Hardy, the Navy SEAL who died while trying to shut down an al-Qaida suicide bomber cell in Iraq, was remembered by President George Bush in his Memorial Day address to the nation yesterday. "I am humbled by those who have made the ultimate sacrifice that allow a free civilization to endure and flourish," Bush said at Arlington National Cemetery. "It only remains for us, the heirs of their legacy, to have the courage and the character to follow their lead and to preserve America as the greatest nation on Earth and the last, best hope for mankind." Bush eulogized all U.S. troops who died serving their country, but particularly those who lost their lives this past year.
Hardy, 29, of Durham, was on his fourth tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed on Feb. 4 during a firefight. He left behind a wife, Mindi; a son, Parker, who will turn 2 next month; his parents, Stephen, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, and Donna, an administrative assistant in UNH's psychology department; and a brother, Benjamin, 30. Hardy's oldest brother, Josh, died of brain cancer in 1993. Hardy was killed while trying to drag his friend and fellow SEAL, Chief Petty Officer Mike Koch of State College, Pa., to safety. Both men died. Bush mentioned the two soldiers often headed into battle wearing American flags on their chests under their uniforms. Stephen Hardy, Nathan's father, said his son and Koch had been part of the same unit for about a year. "The President captured the relationship between Mike and Nate," Stephen Hardy said. "They were just two similar guys and they loved each other; they worked out together and trained together." The two are buried side by side at Arlington National Cemetery. Nathan Hardy's father said his son wanted to be a Navy SEAL since he was in sixth grade and his determination never flagged. He enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school in 1997. He previously served in the Persian Gulf and Kosovo. "There are lucky people who find their calling early in life," Stephen Hardy said. "My son was looking forward to as long a career in the Navy SEALs as he could have."
Hardy's maternal grandfather, Charles Bucky Harris, served with John F. Kennedy on the PT-109 during World War II. Kennedy saved Harris' life and that of numerous other men when a Japanese destroyer sank their boat in August 1943. Hardy's paternal grandfather served in the U.S. Marines and fought at the battle of Iwo Jima. Hardy said Mindi was recently asked if the President could mention Nathan in a speech, and she gave permission, although she was told the President had several other options. Yesterday morning, Mindi received another phone call, this one urging her to watch the President's televised speech. "We certainly are proud of Nate," Stephen Hardy said. "We're proud of all the men and women of all ages who serve their country, particularly those who have lost their lives."
From the above information you will be able to locate members of Harris's family. No doubt they'll be happy to hear from you and see the letter that Harris sent to Jackie after JFK's death. It had been just three years earlier that Harris - and the other surviving PT-109 crew members - had celebrated the happy event of JFK's Inauguration - parading past him in the life-size float, in front of which they're standing in the photo below:
You'll also be able to learn more about "Bucky" Harris and perhaps, in turn, pass the news along to share with "Orwell Today" readers.
All the best,
PS - My information about Charles Harris came mainly from reading the 1961 book PT 109 by Robert Donovan:
PATRIOT SWINDAL JFK AF-1 PILOT
JFK PT-59 FRIEND FACTO
JFK FRIEND FAY FONDLY REMEMBERS
JFK PT-109 SONG
JFK PLUM PUDDING SWIM
JFK PT-109 WHO'S WHO
JFK TO NAVAL CADETS
JFK SAVED THE MARINES
JFK'S PT-59 CREW
JFK'S PT 109 CREW
JFK'S BOAT & COCONUT
JFK SWAM TO NARU NOT NAURU
JFK'S BROTHER FLEW DRONE
JFK'S LETTER TO SOLOMONS
JFK PT-109 MOVIE
THE STORY OF PT-109
JFK NEPHEW THANKS NATIVES
SEARCHING FOR JFK'S...BOAT
JFK TRUTH & UNTRUTH & JFK ASSASSINATION PUZZLE PIECES
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