Remains of JFK's PT-59 find new home at Battleship Cove

PT-59, which changed ownership several times after its service in World War II, sank 45 years ago in Manhattan's North Cove, an urban wetland off the Harlem River. PT-59 was the second boat of President John F. Kennedy in WWII; he commanded it after the loss of PT-109.


By GREG SULLIVAN | The Herald News | Published: June 18, 2020

FALL RIVER, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — Salvaged pieces of the U.S. Navy patrol torpedo boat captained by John F. Kennedy after the loss of PT-109 have started to arrive at Battleship Cove.

PT-59, which changed ownership several times after its service in World War II, sank 45 years ago in Manhattan's North Cove, an urban wetland off the Harlem River, where New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority is currently building a seawall, according to abc7ny.com. The wooden-hulled boat sat under 6 feet of water and eight feet of mud, the site reported.

Battleship Cove has been shut down since March due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

"We're trying to do something positive," said Rich Angelini, vice-president of the board at Battleship Cove. "They (NYC MTA) contacted us and said, 'We think you guys would benefit most'" from the PT-59 remnants. Angelini said he had previously contacted the New York City MTA to offer assistance in identifying parts.

On the starless, moonless night of Aug. 1, 1943, the then future U.S. President Kennedy was captaining PT-109 in the South Pacific when his boat was split in two in a collision with the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. His heroic efforts to save crew members has been well documented.

Kennedy was subsequently given command of PT-59. The abc7ny.com story quoted "PT-109" author William Doyle as saying Kennedy captained PT-59 for three months and during that time rescued at least 10 Marines under fire. Prior to Kennedy's command of PT-59, the boat, Angelini said, was credited with sinking a Japanese submarine.

"This load consisted of all propeller shafts and hull penetrations, struts, one propeller, rudders, and the port and [starboard] shaft wooden hull from the boat. Also is the port side aft rear corner of PT-59," read a Battleship Cove Facebook post, written by Angelini.

Another Battleship Cove post read, "Our review of the remains shows that only the lower areas of the engine room and stern of the boat are present. Much of the wood is so brittle it falls apart on contact. We will be bringing home and preserving all items of historical value in coordination with the NY MTA."

The heavy lifting has been done by Battleship Cove volunteers Thomas Lowney, Robert Young and Paul Scalabroni. They made the round trip to NYC and back to collect the first load of pieces. Angelini is overseeing the PT-59 project at Battleship Cove.

Battleship Cove already has the complete ELCO PT-617 on display, with plans to display the PT-59 pieces, as well PT-59 photos, nearby.

According to artnet.com, PT-59 after WWII was sold for surplus and was used as fishing charter boat (under the names "Sun Tan" and "Sea Queen 5") and finally as an engineless houseboat at 208th Street. According to an Angelini Facebook post, the boat unexpectedly caught fire and sunk at its mooring beside the 207th Street Bridge over the Harlem River.

Doyle, said artnet.com, actually discovered PT-59 in 2017 and expressed hope that an organization would salvage it. The New York City MTA is building the sea wall at the discovery site and discovered the boat late in May. The wall is to protect the MTA's train yard there from flooding as it did during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

©2020 The Herald News, Fall River, Mass.
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