Dramatization of President John F. Kennedy's WWII military experiences during which he commanded a PT boat that sank after being rammed by a Japanese destroyer while on patrol in the South Pacific on a very dark night. He and the other survivors, some of whom were wounded, made their way to a nearby island where they had to survive on meager rations and avoid capture by enemy forces till they could find a way to signal the Navy for rescue.Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com> / Hans Delbruck
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Timely (in 1963) dramatization of President Kennedy's Naval service.
Cliff Robertson was a good choice to play Lt. John F. Kennedy, new PT boat commander in 1944. He looked a bit like Kennedy and was able to recreate many of his mannerisms. This movie hit the theaters in the USA in June 1963, just after I graduated from high school, and only five months before President Kennedy died from a bullet in Dallas, Texas. I remember it well, it was perfect for the times, as it dramatized the events where the boat, PT 109, was rammed by a Japanese destroyer and sank, but Kennedy was able to lead the survivors to safety in the hostile South Pacific waters.
The movie opens in August 1942, the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, the US Navy was using PT boats because they were fast, had a shallow draft, and carried a good complement of torpedoes. We first see Lt. Kennedy receiving his assignment aboard a destroyer, in 1943 or 1944, then landing on the island base. With no active boats available, he was offered the PT 109, which had been neglected and was not ship-shape. He was given a makeshift crew, and one week to get it seaworthy. Which he and his men do, and pass the inspection with flying colors. Kennedy is shown as a leader by example, working side by side with his men, and taking the time to thank them for a job well done.
The movie goes on to show the deployment of the 109 into regular service, and the incident which resulted in the sinking of the boat and subsequent fight for survival. Even though he was eligible for an assignment stateside, Kennedy took another boat and continued the battle. It is well made for a 1963 movie.
Kennedy was born in 1917 and was 26 when he enlisted in the Navy after Harvard. When he was 38 he completed his book, "Profiles In Courage" which won a Pulitzer Prize. When he was only 43, in 1960, he defeated Richard Nixon and became President of the USA. In November 1963, he was dead. In spite of his flaws as a man, as a leader and as a President he was remarkable, and this is a good movie to remind us of that.
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