Oh, some PTs do seventy-five
And some do sixty-nine.
When we get ours to run at all
We think we're doing fine.


From the time he had taken command nearly two months before
Kennedy was possessed with a desire to make the boat go faster.
He was forever instructing the motormacs, "Let's get more speed."
He loved to be at the wheel, and he loved speed.
He would roar into the cove with a rooster tail arching in his wake
and throttles wide open.

To Orwell Today,

Good evening,

I just stumbled across a reply concerning Homer Facto and JFK: JFK'S PT-59 CREW

Actually Homer was my uncle, my father's brother. And yes he was on the PT109. Actually Homer took many of the PT boats out of mothball and got them running. He was a top shelf mechanic. As JFK's engineman, according to Homer, JFK had a standing bet of $500.00 with the PT commanders that he had the fastest boat.

Homer left the Navy and returned to Au Sable Forks, NY to open a pool hall which he ran for many years. He devoted a good part of his life to especially the high school band up there and I believe there is now named a Homer Facto day in NY.

Jim Facteau,
Berwick, Maine

Greetings Jim,

It's always great to hear news about JFK's old PT-109 and PT-59 buddies - so thanks muchly for passing on stories of your uncle, Homer Facto - top-shelf mechanic and engine-man.

There was an email recently from Homer's great niece, Michele in response to Gary who had that original letter JFK wrote to Homer, but which he appears to have sold. One of these days I'll dig out Gary's email address if he doesn't contact the website in response to Michele's request, so the two can be in touch. See JFK PT-59 FRIEND FACTO

I'd never heard that story about JFK having a standing bet ($500 yet) with other PT commanders for the fastest boat - but I bet he won the bet!

Below are excerpts from the book PT-109 focusing on its engines and JFK's love of going fast. The dedication page of the book has a John Paul Jones quote saying: "Give me a fast ship for I intend to go in harm's way."

All the best,
Jackie Jura

PT Book Cover

"Among the scores of ships and small craft scattered about the palm-fringed harbor at Tulagi was PT 109, a grimy, battle-scarred, rat-ridden, cockroach-infested veteran of the Guadalcanal campaign....

"Without waiting for all of his crew to report, Kennedy set to work on repairs and training. At this point the new skipper was less than an old salt himself, and the men were atrociously green. On one of the first days he came jauntily down to the boat twirling his index finger over his head in a wind-her-up signal. After a struggle the best the men could do was to get one of the three engines going. Indeed the condition of the engines might have defied more seasoned hands. Kennedy's command was only a few days old when he began to feel like the PT men in New Guinea who sang,

Oh, some PTs do seventy-five
And some do sixty-nine.
When we get ours to run at all
We think we're doing fine.

"Accustomed to the clean new boats at Melville, the men were taken aback by the dirt and grime of a boat that had been in combat in the tropics for months. When 109 was moored at the shore, the heavy jungle bushes concealed her from enemy planes, as was intended, but also bridged the way for formidable boarding parties of rats and cockroaches. Once there was a dreadful stench aboard, which nobody could account for until someone found part of a dead fish that a rat had left under a step....

"When her turn came PT 109 went into drydock, and Kennedy donned shorts and worked with the men in scraping the bottom, cleaning the bilge, sandpapering and putting on a fresh coat of paint. For camouflage in the waterways among the islands the boat was painted forest green. One morning while a carpenter was doing some work on the exterior of the hull below the gunwale, out of sight from the deck, Lt. Kennedy emerged from below with a pail of dirty water and tossed the water over the side. No sooner had it disappeared than the dripping face of an enraged man glared over the gunwale.

"Why don't you watch what the hell you're doing?" the man bawled.

"Oh, I am sorry," Lt. Kennedy apologized. After trying his best to pacify the man he went below again.

"Do you know who that was you were talking to?" Radio-man Maquire asked the carpenter.

"No," he snapped, "Who?"

"That was the skipper of this boat," Maguire informed him.

"Oh, Lord!" the man said....

PT-109 on Water   PT-109

"Toward the end of May PT 109 was shipshape, and skipper and crew alike were becoming seasoned in their jobs. The boat went out for drills and maneuvers of various sorts and practiced riding in formation with other PTs. Test-firing by day and patrols by night noticeably increased the efficiency of the men. As individuals they grew more confident, as a crew they became more cohesive. They got to know one another and learned how to live together in the tightly cramped quarters of a PT boat.

"Kennedy spent a good deal of time aboard the boat, and his men liked him. They thought he did a fair share of the work. They found that he treated them much more like equals than some other officers treated their crews. He was never dictatorial. In particular the crew was grateful for his nonchalance toward Navy regulations and Annapolis men.

JFK Crew

"Now deeply tanned, he usually went about stripped to the waist, wearing a sheath knife in his belt, sun glasses and any one of a variety of headgear....

"One welcome installation at the Russells base that Tulagi had lacked was a dock where the PT boats could refuel without the back-breaking work of hauling drums aboard and pumping 100-octane gasoline into the tanks through chamois strainers.

"When the boats returned from patrol at dawn they would pull up to the dock and refuel through hoses. The standing orders were, however, that the crews had to refuel before they could knock off for breakfast and a few hours' sleep. Since it took a couple of hours to refuel all the boats on a patrol, the crew that filled up first would have a longer rest. Naturally, this led to intense competition to get to the head of the line. When they were released from patrol, the PTs would come thundering into the cove in a fierce race for the dock, an old wooden affair standing on coconut logs, with a large tool shed at one end.

"As the days passed it was remarked that no crew got more rest than the crew of PT 109. From the time he had taken command nearly two months before Kennedy was possessed with a desire to make the boat go faster. He was forever instructing the motormacs, "Let's get more speed." He loved to be at the wheel, and he loved speed. On these sprints to the fuel dock he would roar into the cove with a rooster tail arching in his wake and throttles wide open. He would hold his speed to the last second, then order the engines into reverse just in time to brake his momentum in front of the dock.

"The hairbreadth finishes began to worry the motormacs. The braking at such speed put a heavy strain on the engines. Drawdy cautioned Kennedy that the engines might not always reverse under such pressure. However, they always had, and Kennedy liked to win.

"One morning when the clouds above the eastern horizon were pink and the palms on the shore mirrored in the glassy calm, he found himself in a furious race with another boat. Rather than fight for the lead all the way he decided to swing in behind the other boat and ride her wake. In this order the two boats went skimming across the water until the final stretch before the dock. Then Kennedy edged his throttles forward and swung back out again to challenge for the lead.

"Gradually he crept up even with the other PT, and as they raced prow to prow the issue resolved itself into the simple matter of which skipper would have the nerve to hold his speed the longer with the dock rushing in on both of them. In the end Kennedy held just long enough to go in front.

"Immediately he ordered the engines into reverse. All three conked out, and PT 109 went streaking at the dock like an eight-foot missile on the loose.

"On the dock, the fueling crew had reported and a work party under a warrant officer had entered the shed to get out the tools when the whole world came crashing down on them.

"Tools flew in all directions. Wrenches, jacks, screwdrivers and hammers plopped into the water. Some of the men who were still outside toppled off the dock. Those on the inside who weren't too terrified to move clawed their way out. When they burst through the door, however, they beheld not the expected formation of Japanese dive bombers overhead, but a single PT boat sliced into a corner of the dock, her skinny bronzed skipper standing in his motionless cockpit, ruefully surveying the scene. Some of his crew were motionless, too, having been knocked flat by the crash.

"The warrant officer howled at Lt. Kennedy, who was his senior. Shaken-up enlisted men stamped about the dock cussing out 109 and everyone aboard. A gale of indignation was blowing, and beyond uttering a word of quiet apology here and there, Kennedy could do little but wait for the storm to blow itself out. Unostentatiously, he tried backing the boat out, but this only made matters worse as more tools fell onto his deck and into the water.

"The whole business might have had more serious consequences for Kennedy if Irish luck had not come to his rescue. At the height of the commotion two or three other PT boats were discovered to have broken away from their moorings. The attention of everyone ashore shifted to this greater emergency and Kennedy idled 109 away from the dock into a small stream where he moored out of sight until the trouble blew over. For some days afterward the crew referred to him as "Crash" Kennedy"." [end quoting from PT-109]



JFK PT-59 FRIEND FACTO (...I was doing a google search for my Great Uncle, Homer Facto, and I came across your webpage....)





JFK SPEECH TO NAVAL CADETS (...I recognize JFK shirtless in the cockpit up there at the front - I mean the bow - but maybe Facto would be down below in the engine room...)


JFK'S PT-59 CREW (Alexander, Christianson, Cline, Drawdy, Drewitch, Facto, Helmer, Kowal, Maquire, Mauer, Scribner, Servatius, Slagle, Strickland)












Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com