President John F. Kennedy kept a unique inauguration gift on his desk: a plastic-encased coconut. The tale of that coconut is the heroic story of PT 109.


Richard L. Breen (screenplay by), Howard Sheehan (adaptation) | 2 more credits »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Cliff Robertson ... Lt. (J.G.) John F. Kennedy
Ty Hardin ... Ensign Leonard J. Thom
James Gregory ... Commander C.R. Ritchie
Robert Culp ... Ensign George 'Barney' Ross
Grant Williams ... Lt. Alvin Cluster
Lew Gallo ... Yeoman Rogers
Errol John ... Benjamin Kevu
Michael Pate ... Lt. Reginald Evans
Robert Blake ... Charles 'Bucky' Harris
William Douglas ... Gerard Zinser
Biff Elliot ... Edgar E. Mauer (as Biff Elliott)
Norman Fell ... Edmund Drewitch
Sam Gilman ... Raymond Starkey
Clyde Howdy ... Leon Drawdy
Buzz Martin ... Mate Maurice Kowal


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 <> / Hans Delbruck

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A band of men left for dead in a flaming sea and their epic heroism and survival! See more »


Biography | Drama | War


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Did You Know?


Eroni Kumana, islander credited with saving JFK and PT-109 crew during WWII, died at 93 on August 2, 2014 according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. See more »


The Australian Coast Watcher pretends to be communicating on a BC654/SCR284 crank generator powered radio. The generator is present but the "radio" is a SB71 field-phone switchboard. See more »


Commander C.R. Ritchie: [shouting at his yeoman] Schnibbe! This thing is full of strikeovers again, I could chain up a monkey in the basement to get better results! Try using your elbows.
[to Kennedy]
Commander C.R. Ritchie: Come in. Come in, sit down. Ah, it's not like the old Navy. In the old days, you could eat off the deck. I mean it, you could eat off the deck.
Lt. (J.G.) John F. Kennedy: Yes, sir, they told us that at Melville.
Commander C.R. Ritchie: Now these kids, you see, these hottentots? They take the boats out, they bounce them around like yo-yos, they... Where?
Lt. (J.G.) John F. Kennedy: Melville.
Commander C.R. Ritchie: Mr. Kennedy, I...
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User Reviews

Timely (in 1963) dramatization of President Kennedy's Naval service.
11 February 2005 | by TxMikeSee all my reviews

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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Frequently Asked Questions

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Official Sites:

Official site




English | Japanese

Release Date:

19 June 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

PT Boat 109 See more »


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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