Why hello there, ELCO

Lt. John F. Kennedy’s PT-59, photographed in an unspecified location near Vella Lavella and Choiseul, played a key role in the diversionary mission at Choiseul Island in early November 1943. Note the shielded 40mm Bofors on her stern and broadside .50-cals. (John F. Kennedy Library)

In case you haven’t seen it, USS PT-59, an S-Class (ELCO) Patrol Torpedo boat originally intended for Lend-Lease to the British in World War II (as PTC-27) she was instead placed in U.S. service.

Deployed to the Solomons with MTBRon 3(2) in 1943, the 77-foot PT boat in 1943 landed her torpedoes and gained an all-gun armament including two 40mm guns (fore and aft singles) and no less than 10 M2 .50 cal machine guns, used to help stop the regular “Tokyo Express” at Guadalcanal.

One of her skippers was a young JFK after he was recovered from the much more famous PT-109.

While Kennedy’s life is well-chronicled, PT-59, reclassified as C102584, was transported back to the Motor Torpedo Boat Training Base in Rhode Island in late 1944. Used for tests at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, she was sold in 1947 on the private market and, after a mixed career, sank at a pier adjacent to the 207th Street railroad bridge in Harlem following a fire around 1976.

Now, what is left of her wreck (she was of wooden construction after all) has been identified and is being raised by MTA crews.

Historians at the Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts, home of the USS Massachusetts (BB-59) and the National PT Boat Memorial and Museum, are assisting with the efforts to preserve what is left.

From the Museum:

Battleship Cove was contacted by NY MTA regarding the possible salvaging of a PT boat. We sent a team of volunteers to identify and remove items from PT-59s remains to save as much as we could for display and preservation in our extensive PT Boat exhibit. For the most part, all that remained of PT-59 in 2020 was the very lower portions of the engine room and lazarette areas. Some of the wood even at this lower level presents burn marks from the fire.

The enclosed circle in red shows the main sections of the boat that we have recovered for preservation. It is only a small section of the 77′ boat but also an original section as she was built.

We are still working on this project with more hull section recovery planned.

We feel this completely volunteer-led project is worthwhile. To save historic items from a very early combat veteran PT Boat is of great importance. Add to it that President JFK turned the helm to move the rudders and shafts that are being recovered is a bonus for history.

To donate to the effort, click here. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.