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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Report on Loss of PT-109

[Copy of original document held by Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Adminiatration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740, except for sake of clarity typographic errors were corrected, ship and boat names were italized, and unfamiliar abbreviations are explained in brackets.]


COMMANDER MOTOR TORPEDO BOAT SQUADRONS

SOUTH PACIFIC FORCE

13 January 1944.

CMTB/L11-1
Serial 006
Declassified (8 SEP 59)

From: Commander, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons, South Pacific Force.
To: Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet.

Via: Commander, South Pacific Force.

Subject: Loss of PT-109 - Information concerning.

Reference: (a) ComSoPac's secret ltr. L11-1(11) Ser. 002867 of 30 December 1943.

Enclosure:

(A) Copy of ComMTB Rendova action report of 1-2 August 1943.
(B) Copy of ComMTB Rendova action report of 7-8 August 1943.
(C) Copy of Intelligence Officers' Memo to ComMTB Flot One of 22 August 1943.

1. Enclosures (A), (B), and (C) are forwarded in compliance with directive contained in reference (a).

2. Enclosures (A) and (B) are copies of action reports of Commander, Motor Torpedo Boats, Rendova, and contain information in connection with the loss of the PT 109. Enclosure (C) is a memorandum compiled by Intelligence Officers of Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla ONE on the basis of information given them by survivors of PT 109. It is the most detailed account of this incident and it is hoped that it will provide the information requested in Enclosure (A) to reference (a).

E. J. MORAN.


W. C. SIECHT,
By direction.


Enclosure (A)

MOTOR TORPEDO BOATS, RENDOVA

5 August 1943.

MTBR/A16-3
Serial 0034
Declassified (8 SEP 59)

From: The Commander.
To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet.
Via: Official Channels.

Subject: PT Operations night 1-2 August 1943.

1. Force: All available boats (15) on patrol.

2. Enemy contracts: Five enemy destroyers, attacked in Blackett Strait, five or possibly six torpedo hits scored.

3. Weather: Overcast, visibility poor.

4. Patrols:

AREA B (BLACKETT STRAIT)
DIVISION B - OFF VANGA VANGA
Lt. H. J. Brantingham      PT 159    OAK 27
Lt. (jg) W. F. Liebenow    PT 157    OAK 21
Lt. (jg) J. R. Lowrey      PT 162    OAK 36
Lt. (jg) Jack Kennedy      PT 109    OAK 14

DIVISION A - OFF GATERE
Lt. A. H. Berndtson        PT 171    OAK 44
Lt. (jg) P. A. Potter      PT 169    OAK 31
Lt. (jg) S. Hamilton       PT 172    OAK 47
Ens. E. H. Kruse           PT 163    OAK 19

DIVISION R - EAST OF MAKUTI ISLAND
Lt. R. W. Rome             PT 174    OAK 50
Lt. (jg) R. E. Keresey     PT 105    OAK 7
Lt. (jg) R. K. Roberts     PT 103    OAK 1

DIVISION C - SOUTH OF FERGUSON PASSAGE
Lt. G. C. Cookman          PT 107    OAK 13
Lt. (jg) R. D. Shearer     PT 104    OAK 4
Lt. (jg) D. M. Payne       PT 106    OAK 10
Lt. (jg) S. D. Hix         PT 108    OAK 16

INCOMING TOKYO EXPRESS
All boats on the stations above indicated by 2130.

At 2400 Division B made radar contact indicating 5 craft approaching from the North close to the coast of Kolombangara Island. Visual contact was made shortly thereafter, by PT 159 which saw 4 shapes in column heading Southeast close into the coast at 15 knots. The PT 157 saw only two. The shapes were first believed to be large landing craft. The PTs 159 and 157, after directing the PTs 162 and 109 to lay to, began closing to make a strafing attack. In a moment the enemy opened fire with many large caliber guns, which was continued for several minutes. PT 159 fired a spread of 4 torpedoes and the PT 157, 2 torpedoes, all at a range of about 1800 yards. The torpedo tubes of the PT 159 flashed and one caught fire. A large explosion was seen at the target by personnel on both of these boats. They then retired to the Northwest laying puffs of smoke and making frequent radical course changes, until they were in Gizo Strait, where they lay to. It was decided that PT 157 should return to station and that the PT 159 should return to base, as it was out of torpedoes, all of which was done. PTs 162 and 109 lay to as directed. When the firing began, there was so much and over such a long stretch of coast, they thought shore batteries had opened up and retired to the Northwest, but did not regain contact with the other two boats. After the firing had ceased, they were joined by PT 169 from Division A, and after receiving radio orders to do so, took up station, but did not make contract with PT 157. The PT 169 stayed with the PTs 162 and 109 on Division A's station off Vanga Vanga.

DIVISION A: Around 0004 Division A picked up 4 destroyers headed close in shore off Gatere. When PT 171 got in position it was abeam the first destroyer. Estimating its speed at 30 knots, the PT 171 closed to 1500 yards, at which point the destroyers fired starshells and opened fire, straddling the PT 171 and splashing water on its deck. Fire was also opened with automatic weapons and one destroyer turned on its searchlight but did not pick up PT 171. The PT 171 let go 4 torpedoes at the second destroyer. The tubes flashed and the destroyers turned directly toward it to evade. One destroyer stood on South toward Ferguson Passage. The last destroyer was soon to drop 2 1/2 miles behind the others. The PT 171 retired to the South laying smoke puffs and then getting out from behind them to the right and left. Feeling that the first destroyer might be blocking Ferguson Passage the PT 171 reversed course and proceeded Northwest along the reefs to the East of Gizo and out Gizo Passage departing for base, having expended all its torpedoes. The other three boats, PTs 170, 169 and 172 did not receive the contact report or any message to deploy for attack and could not fire their torpedoes after the destroyers opened fire, as PT 171 was in the way crossing their bows in its turn to the South. Contact between PT 169 and the other 3 PTs was lost as it reversed course to the Northwest after hearing radio message that destroyers might be blocking Ferguson Passage. After proceeding some distance North, (where it joined the PTs 159 and 157), the PTs 170 and 172 were straddled by the gunfire from the 2 destroyers, which they saw, but could not fire at because PT 171 was in front of them, retired zig-zagging and laying smoke puffs to the South thru Ferguson Passage. Going thru they were attacked by 4 float planes which dropped 3 flares and 2 bombs, which missed. They proceeded to the South and East, but returned to station on orders at 0255. Nothing further happened.

DIVISION C: When enroute to station Southeast of Gizo Island this section was circled by planes. At 0005, 2 ships were picked up by the radar on the PT 107. No previous contact report had been received, but a searchlight and gunfire had been seen to the North. PT 107 proceeded at high speed thru Ferguson Passage to attack, leaving the other 2 PTs behind. Inside of Ferguson Passage the PT 107 fired a spread of 4 torpedoes by radar. Shortly thereafter a dull red flash was seen in the direction of the target. Course was reversed and the PT 107, apparently undiscovered, proceeded South thru Ferguson Passage, enroute to base, its fish expended. PTs 104, 106, and 108 coming North thru the Passage were passed. In Ferguson Passage all these boats were attacked by a plane, which dropped flares and bombs and attempted to strafe the boats. There were no injuries or damage by this attack. PTs 104, 106, and 108 had no radar and saw nothing to fire at, however, they proceeded into Blackett Strait where they saw an explosion East of Makuti Island. They patrolled until ordered to resume their original station at 0137. The rest of their patrol was negative.

DIVISION R: At 0010 this division saw gun flashed to the North which continued for about 10 minutes, 3 or 4 much larger flashes were seen. A flare and bombs were dropped about a mile west of them a moment later. At 0025 the shape of ship was seen by PT 174 to the Northeast lying to or moving very slowly, about one mile off the shore of Kolombangara Island and seemed to be guarding the entrance to Blackett Strait from Ferguson Passage. She was firing at something to the West using a searchlight, all of which illuminated her. PT 174 fired 4 torpedoes at 1000 yards range and two explosions were seen at the target. The PT 174 circled to the right, passed behind Makuti Island and headed for Ferguson Passage. The ship fired shells which passed overhead, so the PT 174 used smoke puffs and put on speed. A plane also made a strafing run on it. PT 174 then proceeded to base as it had expended all its torpedoes. PT 103 sighted the destroyer when it turned on its searchlight. It had no previous information of contact with the enemy. After the PT 174 fired, the PT 103 also fired 4 torpedoes at a range of 2 miles. One flash was seen about 3 minutes later and possible a second. They retired at slow speed but when shells hit about 150' behind they increased speed and used smoke puffs. The passed out behind Makuti Island and headed for base, having fired all torpedoes.

PT 105 sighted the destroyer when it turned on searchlight and began firing to the West, but had not received the previous advice that the enemy was in the area.

OUTGOING TOKYO EXPRESS,
DIVISION R
. As related PT 105 with 2 torpedoes was on duty at Ferguson Passage patrolling just inside on one engine. Just before 0230 a flame flashed up to the Northwest in the middle of Blackett Strait opposite Gatere. Gunfire immediately broke out about a mile to the North along the Kolombangara Coast. All of this showed the outline of a destroyer 2000 yards away to the East moving slowly to the North at about 10 knots. PT 105 was abeam this vessel. Two torpedoes were fired, but no explosion was observed. The PT 105 retired to the South and radioed that a target was proceeding North,. As the PT 105 passed thru Ferguson Passage heading for base, its fish expended, three PTs were seen headed North thru the Passage.

DIVISION C. PT 107 had left for base, all its torpedoes gone, PTs 104, 106, and 108 had resumed station south of Ferguson Passage. When the explosion and firing were seen to the North around 0215, these three PTs went back through Ferguson Passage into Blackett Strait, but were unable to find anything.

DIVISION A. PTs 172 and 163 which had retired well to the South of Ferguson Passage did not resume station until after 0255 and were too late to make contact. PT 169 was with Division B to the North in Blackett Strait.

DIVISION B. As hereinbefore set out, PTs 162 and 109 of Division B with PT 169 of Division A were in Blackett Strait off Vanga Vanga, as was PT 157, which however, was not in contact with them. Around 0215 the three were due East of Gizo Island headed South, in right echelon formation with PT 109 leading, PT 162 second and PT 169 last. PT 162 saw on a collision course, a warship headed Northward about 700 yards away. The PT 162 turned to fire its torpedoes, but they did not fire. The PT 162 finally turned to the Southwest upon getting within 100 yards of the warship, to avoid collision. Personnel aboard the PT 162 saw 2 raked stacks, and at least 2 turrets aft, and possibly a third turret. At the time of turning, PT 109 was seen to collide with the warship, followed by an explosion and a large flame which died down a little, but continued to burn for 10 or 15 minutes. The warship when it was about 3000 yards away headed toward them at high speed. The PT 169 stopped just before the warship hit PT 109, turned toward it and fired two torpedoes when abeam at 150 yards range. The destroyer straddled the PT 169 with shell fire, just after it a collision with PT 109, and then circled left toward Gizo Island at increased speed and disappeared.

The PT 169 laid smoke screen and zigzaged to the Southeast along the reefs off Gizo Island. About 0245 a wake was seen coming up from the near Northwest and on a parallel course. The PT 169 swung around to the left toward the ship (a destroyer) and fired port and starboard forward torpedoes at 2000 yards. The destroyer turned to its port just in time for the starboard torpedo to hit its bow and explode. The PT 169 continued its swing and retired South thru Ferguson Passage going at high speed for 1/2 mile laying smoke and zigzaging and headed for base. All its torpedoes gone.

PT 157 was farther North than the other 3 PTs. About 0200 the PT 157 saw a ship close in shore off Kolombangara due East of the center of Gizo Island and fired 2 torpedoes at it, but no explosion was seen. The ship continued Northwest at about 5 knots, without firing and disappeared.

No further contact was made with the express. The boats remaining on station departed for base at 0400.

5. All times are Love.

6. COMMUNICATIONS: Communications with base were good, however, several PTs failed to put out immediate intelligible report of contact with the enemy, with the result that the others had no chance to get into position for an attack.

7. COMMENTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
(a) Contact reports giving the senders call, the type, position, course and speed of the enemy should be radioed immediately in plain language. PTs not making the contact should refrain from all radio traffic themselves (except contact reports) until all reasonable possibility of making contact has ended. The boats making contact should continue reports of enemy position, etc. after torpedo firing and as long as the enemy is visible or on radar.

(b) PTs should stay together in "V" formation and follow their division leader. All boats should fire their torpedoes when their section leader fires, without deployment. They should spread torpedoes about the base torpedo course of the leader.

(c) The boats should fire at shorter range. Some boats retired without firing and had to be directed to return to station.

(d) The Mark VIII torpedo again manifested its want of capacity to inflict real damage. Enemy destroyers kept going after certain hits had been scored. Intelligence reports that 5 unexploded torpedoes are on the shore of Kolombangara Island.

(e) Flashes and burning in the tubes on firing not only give target opportunity to avoid but disclose PT positions. Not enough interest is being taken in this matter behind the firing line.

T. G. WARFIELD.

Advance copy to:

CicPac
CTF 31
Copy to:
CoMTB, Russells
CNB, Dowser
ComAirSols
ComAir, New Georgia
ComGen, New Georgia


Enclosure (B)

MOTOR TORPEDO BOATS, RENDOVA

8 August 1943.

MTBR/A16-3
Serial 0038 (1)
Declassified (8 SEP 59)


From: The Commander.
To: The Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet.
Via: Official Channels.

Subject: PT Operations night 7-8 August 1943,

1. FORCE: Eight boats on patrol. Two boats on the alert at base.

2. ENEMY CONTACTS: None.

3. WEATHER: Overcast with occasional showers, visibility poor to fair.

4. PATROL:

AREA K (EASTERN SIDE OF LOWER VELLA GULF)
DIVISION A
Lt. A. H. Berndtson        PT 171    OAK 44
Ens. W.F. Criffin          PT 168    OAK 28

DIVISION P
Lt.(jg) D. M. Payne        PT 106    OAK 10
Lt.(jg) R. D. Shearer      PT 104    OAK 4

DIVISION T
Lt.(jg) P. A. Potter       PT 169    OAK 31
Lt.(jg) J. E. McElroy      PT 161    OAK 33

DIVISION D
Lt.(jg) D. S. Kennedy      PT 118    OAK 6
Lt.(jg) H. D. Smith        PT 154    OAK 12

All boats arrived on station 2130, except PT 171 which waited to accompany PT 157 on the rescue mission hereinafter set out. No contacts or sightings were made during the night by radar or otherwise. Left for base at 0330. Enroute to base a raft with two Japs on it, made of two empty oil drums and planks, was found five miles West of Rendova Harbor. The Japs were taken prisoner and after delivered with all their gear to Army Intelligence, Commanding General, New Georgia.

5. COMMUNICATIONS: Communications were good with base, but transmissions between some of the boats were weak.

6. RESCUE MISSION: August 6, word was received from the Coastwatcher and by Native Messenger that eleven survivors of PT 109, sunk in a collision with an enemy destroyer on the morning of August 2, were alive and on a small Islet near Cross Island on the West side of Ferguson Passage. Arrangements were made through the Offices of the Coastwatcher Organization for the rescue. Lt.(jg) W. F. Liebenow in PT 157, assisted by PT 171 of the regular patrol made the rescue. The Native messengers were taken along as guides and were most helpful in guiding the PT 157 through the reefs and in handling the small boats. Several trips from shore over the reef to the PT 157 were required to remove all the men, three of whom had been badly, but not critically burned. Everything went off smoothly. The natives had fed and done everything to make the men comfortable during their stay on the island. PT 157 returned to base at 0500.

7. All times are Love.

T. G. WARFIELD.

Advance copy to:

CincPac
CTF 31
Copy to:
CoMTB, Russells
CNB Dowser
ComAirSols
ComAir, New Georgia
ComGen, New Georgia


Enclosure (C)

MOTOR TORPEDO BOAT FLOTILLA ONE


Declassified (8 SEP 59)

Subject: Sinking of PT 109 and subsequent rescue of survivors.

Source: Survivors of PT 109.

Narrative: On the night of August 1, fourteen boats were ordered into Blackett Strait from the Rendova PT base in anticipation of the Bougainville Express running into Vila. Four patrol sections were formed: 1st, under Lt. G. C. Cookman was stationed in Ferguson Passage; 2nd, under Lt. W. Rome, whose station was East of Makuti Island; 3rd, under Lt. A. H. Berndston stationed between Makuti Island and Kolombangara; and the 4th, the section in which PT 109 was a part, under Lt. E. J. Brantingham stationed five miles West of the 3rd section. Lt. Brantinghams' boats were further subdivided into two sections; PT 159, radar equipped, operating with PT 157, while PT 162, under the command of Lt.(jg) J. R. Lowrey, was the lead boat of the second section with PT 109 following. PTs 159 and 162 both carried TBYs for inter-boat communications. Instructions were issued to Lt.(jg) Jack Kennedy, captain of PT 109, to follow closely on PT 162's starboard quarter, which would keep in touch with the radar equipped PT 159 by TBY. [Portable radio equipment of low power used as emergency for TBS.]

All boats departed from Rendova at 1830 and reached their patrol station about 2030. The 4th section patrolled without incident until gunfire and a searchlight were seen in the direction of the southern shore of Kolombangara. No radio or other warning had been received of enemy activity in the area. It was impossible to ascertain whether the searchlight came from shore or from a ship close into shore. Presumably it was not a ship as PT 162 retired on a westwardly course toward Gizo Strait. PT 109 followed and inquired as to the source of the firing. PT 162 replied that it was believed to be from a shore battery. However, PT 109 intercepted the following sudden terse radio message: "I am being chased through Ferguson Passage. Have fired fish". That was all, but it was enough to inform the group that an action with the enemy was in progress, and a significant one. At this time PT 169 came alongside to inquire about the firing in Blackett Strait and to report that one of her engines was out of order. PT 169 lay to with PTs 109 and 162 to await developments.

In the meantime all contact with PT 109 had been lost. Instructions from base were requested and orders were received to resume normal patrol station. PT 162, being uncertain as to its position, requested PT 109 lead the way back to the patrol station, which it proceeded to do. When Lt. Kennedy thought he had reached the original patrol station, he started to patrol on one engine at idling speed.

The time was about 0230. Ensign Ross was on the bow as lookout: Ensign Thom was standing beside the cockpit: Lt. Kennedy was at the wheel, and with him in the cockpit was McGuire, his radioman; Marney was in the forward turret; Mauer, the quartermaster was standing beside Ensign Thom; Albert was in the after turret; and McMann was in the engine room. The location of other members of the crew upon the boat is unknown. Suddenly a dark shape loomed up on PT 109's starboard bow 200-300 yards in the distance. At first this shape was believed to be other PTs. However, it was soon seen to be a [Japanese] destroyer identified as the Ribiki Group of the Fubuki Class bearing down on PT 109 at high speed. The 109 had started to turn to starboard preparatory to firing torpedoes. However, when PT 109 had scarcely turned 30, the destroyer rammed the PT, striking it forward of the forward starboard tube and shearing off the starboard side of the boat aft, including the starboard engine. The destroyer traveling at an estimated speed of 40 knots neither slowed nor fired as she split the PT, leaving part of the PT on one side and the other on the other. Scarcely 10 seconds elapsed between time of sighting and the crash.

A fire was immediately ignited, but, fortunately, it was gasoline burning on the water's surface at least 20 yards away from the remains of the PT which were still afloat. This fire burned brightly for 15-20 minutes and then died out. It is believed that the wake of the destroyer carried off the floating gasoline there by saving PT 109 from fire.

Lt. Kennedy, Ensigns Thom and Ross, Mauer, Mc McGuire and Albert still clung to the PT 109's hull. Lt. Kennedy ordered all hands to abandon ship when it appeared the fire would spread to it. All soon crawled back aboard when this danger passed. It was ascertained by shouting that Harris, McMahon and Starkey were in the water about 100 yards to the Southwest while Zinser and Johnson were an equal distance to the Southeast. Kennedy swam toward the group of three, and Thom and Ross struck out for the other two. Lt. Kennedy had to tow McMahon, who was helpless because of serious burns, back to the boat. A strong current impeded their progress, and it took about an hour to get McMahon aboard PT 109. Kennedy then returned for the other two men, one of whom was suffering from minor burns. He traded his life belt to Harris, who was uninjured in return for Harris's waterlogged kapok life jacket which was impeding the latters' swimming. Together they towed Starkey to the PT.

Meanwhile, Ensigns Thom and Ross had reached Zinser and Johnson who were both helpless because of gas fumes. Thom towed Johnson, and Ross took Zinser and Johnson who were both helpless because of gas fumes. Thom towed Johnson, and Ross took Zinser. Both regained full consciousness by the time the boat was reached.

Within three hours after the crash all survivors who could be located were brought aboard PT 109. Marney and Kirksey were never seen after the crash. During the three hours it took to gather the survivors together, nothing was seen or heard that indicated other boats or ships in the area. PT 109 did not fire its Very pistols for fear of giving away its position to the enemy.

Meanwhile the IFF [Identification, friend or foe] and all codes aboard had either been completely destroyed or sunk in the deep waters of Vella Gulf. Despite the fact that all water- tight doors were dogged down at the time of the crash, PT 109 was slowly taking on water. When daylight of August 2 arrived, the eleven survivors were still aboard PT 109. It was estimated that the boat lay about 4 miles north and slightly east of Gizo Anchorage and about 3 miles away from the reef along northeast Gizo.

It was obvious that the PT 109 would sink on the 2nd, and decision was made to abandon it in time to arrive before dark on one of the tiny islands east of Gizo. A small island 3 1/2 - 4 miles to the southeast of Gizo was chosen on which to land, rather than one but 2 1/2 miles away which was close to Gizo, and, which, it was feared, might be occupied by the Japs.

At 1400 Lt. Kennedy took the badly burned McMahon in tow and set out for land, intending to lead the way and scout the island in advance of the other survivors. Ensigns Ross and Thom followed with the other men. Johnson and Mauer, who could not swim, were tied to a float rigged from a 2 x 8 which was part of the 37 mm gun mount. Harris and McGuire were fair swimmers, but Zinser, Starkey and Albert were not so good. The strong swimmers pushed or towed the float to which the non-swimmers were tied.

Lt. Kennedy was dressed only in skivvies, Ensign Thom, coveralls and shoes, Ensign Ross, trousers, and most of the men were dressed only in trousers and shirts. There were six 45s' in the group (two of which were later lost before rescue), one 38, one flashlight, one large knife, one light knife and a pocket knife. The boats first aid kit had been lost in the collision. All the group with the exception of McMahon, who suffered considerably from burns, were in fairly good condition, although weak and tired from their swim ashore.

That evening Lt. Kennedy decided to swim into Ferguson Passage in an attempt to intercept PT boats proceeding to their patrol areas. He left about 1830, swam to a small island 1/2 mile to the southeast, proceeded along a reef which stretched out into Ferguson Passage, arriving there about 2000. No PTs were seen, but aircraft flares were observed which indicated that the PTs that night were operating in Gizo not Blackett Strait and were being harassed as usual by enemy float planes. Kennedy began his return over the same route he had previously used. While swimming the final lay to the island on which the other survivors were, he was caught in a current which swept him in a circle about 2 miles into Blackett Strait and back to the middle of Ferguson Passage, where he had to start his homeward trip all over again. On this trip he stopped on the small island just southeast of "home" where he slept until dawn before covering the last 1/2 mile lap to join the rest of his group. He was completely exhausted, slightly feverish, and slept most of the day.

Nothing was observed on August 2 or 3 which gave any hope of rescue. On the night of the 3rd Ensign Ross decided to proceed into Ferguson Passage in another attempt to intercept PT patrols from Rendova. Using the same route as Kennedy had used and leaving about 1800, Ross "patrolled" off the reefs on the west side of the Passage with negative results. In returning he wisely stopped on the islet southeast of "home", slept and thereby avoided the experience with the current which had swept Kennedy out to sea. He made the final lap next morning.

The complete diet of the group on what came to be called Bird Island (because of the great abundance of droppings from the fine feathered friends) consisted of coconut milk and meat. As the coconut supply was running low and in order to get closer to Ferguson Passage, the group left Bird Island at noon, August 4th, and using the same arrangements as before, headed for a small islet west of Cross Island. Kennedy, with McMahon in tow arrived first. The rest of the group again experienced difficulty with a strong easterly current, but finally managed to make the eastern tip of the island.

Their new home was slightly larger than their former, offered brush for protection and a few coconuts to eat, and had no Jap tenants. The night of August 4th was wet and cold, and no one ventured into Ferguson Passage that night. The next morning Kennedy and Ross decided to swim to Cross Island in search of food, boats or anything else which might be useful to their party. Prior to their leaving for Cross Island, one of three New Zealand P-40s made a strafing run on Cross Island. Although this indicated the possibility of Japs, because of the acute food shortage, the two set out, swam the channel and arrived on Cross Island about 1530. Immediately the ducked into the brush. Neither seeing nor hearing anything, the two officers sneaked through the brush to the east side of the island and peered from the brush onto the beach. A small rectangular box with Japanese writing on the side was seen which was quickly and furtively pulled into the bush. Its contents proved to be 30-40 small bags of crackers and candy. A little farther up the beach, alongside a native lean-to, a one-man canoe and a barrel of water were found. About this time a canoe containing two persons was sighted. Light showing between their legs revealed that they did not wear trousers and, therefore, must be natives. Despite all efforts of Kennedy and Ross to attract their attention, they paddled swiftly off to the northwest. Nevertheless, Kennedy and Ross, having obtained a canoe, for and water, considered their visit a success.

That night Kennedy took the canoe and again proceeded into Ferguson Passage, waited there until 2100, but again no PTs appeared. He returned to his "home" island via Cross Island where he picked up the food but left Ross who had decided to swim back the following morning. When Kennedy arrived at base at about 2330, he found that the two natives which he and Ross had sighted near Cross Island, had circled around and landed on the island where the rest of the group were. Ensign Thom, after telling the natives in as many ways as possible that he was an American and not a Jap, finally convinced them whereupon they landed and performed every service possible for the survivors.

The next day, August 6, Kennedy and the natives paddled to Cross Island intercepting Ross, who was swimming back to the rest of the group. After Ross and Kennedy had thoroughly searched Cross Island for Japs and found none, despite the natives' belief to the contrary, they showed the two PT survivors where a two-man native canoe was hidden.

The natives were then sent with messages to the Coastwatcher. One was a penciled note written the day before by Ensign Thom; the other was a message written on a green coconut husk by Kennedy, informing the Coastwatcher that he and Ross were on Cross Island.

After the natives left, Ross and Kennedy remained on the island until evening, when they set in the two-man canoe to again try their luck at intercepting PTs in Ferguson Passage. They paddled far out into Ferguson Passage, saw nothing, and were caught in a sudden rain squall which eventually capsized the canoe. Swimming to land was difficult and treacherous as the sea swept the two officers against the reef on the south side of Cross Island. Ross received numerous cuts and bruises, but both managed to make land where they remained the rest of the night.

On Saturday, August 7, eight natives arrived, bringing a message from the Coastwatcher instructing the senior officer to go with the natives to Wana Wana. Kennedy and Ross had the natives paddle them to island where the rest of the survivors were. The natives had brought food and other articles (including a cook stove) to make the survivors comfortable. They were extremely kind at all times.

That afternoon, Kennedy, hidden under ferns in the native boat, was taken to the Coastwatcher, arriving about 1600. There it was arranged that PT boats would rendezvous with him in Ferguson Passage that evening at 2330. Accordingly he was taken to the rendezvous point and finally managed to make contact with the PTs at 2315. He climbed aboard the PT and directed it to the rest of the survivors. The rescue was effected without mishap, and the Rendova base was reached at 0530, August 8, seven days after the ramming of the PT 109 in Blackett Strait.

B. R. WHITE,
Lieutenant (jg), USNR,
MTB Flotilla ONE Intelligence Officer


J. C. McClure,
Lieutenant (jg), USNR,
MTB Flotilla ONE Intelligence Officer

16 August 1997