ARC Review – John F. Kennedy and PT-109 by Richard Tregaskis

18 Nov

John F. Kennedy and PT-109

John F. Kennedy and PT-109 by Richard Tregaskis. November 15, 2016. Open Road Media, 191 p. $9.99 ASIN: B01LVZ9SFI.

“From the bestselling author of Guadalcanal Diary: The thrilling true story of the future president’s astonishing act of heroism during World War II.

In the early morning hours of August 2, 1943, US Navy motor torpedo boat PT-109 patrolled the still, black waters of Blackett Strait in the Solomon Islands. Suddenly, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri loomed out of the darkness, bearing directly down on the smaller ship. There was no time to get out of the way—the destroyer crashed into PT-109, slicing the mosquito boat in two and setting the shark-infested waters aflame with burning gasoline. Ten surviving crewmembers and their young skipper clung to the wreckage, their odds of survival growing slimmer by the instant.

Lt. John F. Kennedy’s first command was an unqualified disaster. Yet over the next three days, the privileged son of a Boston multimillionaire displayed extraordinary courage, stamina, and leadership as he risked his life to shepherd his crew to safety and coordinate a daring rescue mission deep in enemy territory. Lieutenant Kennedy earned a Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart, and the story of PT-109 captured the public’s imagination and helped propel the battle-tested veteran all the way to the White House.

Acclaimed war correspondent Richard Tregaskis—who once beat out the future president for a spot on the Harvard University swim team—brings this remarkable chapter in American history to vivid life in John F. Kennedy and PT-109. From the crucial role torpedo boats played in the fight for the Solomon Islands to Kennedy’s eager return to the front lines at the helm of PT-59, Tregaskis tells the full story of this legendary incident with the same riveting style and meticulous attention to detail he brought to Guadalcanal Diary and Invasion Diary.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Richard Tregaskis including rare images from the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. — Publisher’s Description


From history classes and documentaries I was definitely familiar with John F. Kennedy and in a cursory way familiar with his naval career, especially as it related to action with PT-109.  Until reading this book, however, I was unaware of the full story of not only Kennedy’s service, but of the PT boat program as a whole.

Richard Tregaskis is perhaps best known for his gripping account Guadalcanal Diary, but I had been unaware that he also wrote several more WWII histories, this one in particular.  First published in 1962 during the Kennedy administration, John F. Kennedy and PT-109 serves to highlight the military career and heroism of who was then the sitting President of the United States.  Tregaskis seems to have written it through that lens, as there is very little that does not paint JFK in the most glowing light, and honestly, I can see why.  The calm and poise he seemed to show throughout the harrowing days after the sinking of PT-109 and his efforts to save himself and his crew are second to none.

As for Tregaskis’ account, it is very methodical to say the least.  He does an excellent job painting the scene, not only of a young Lt. Kennedy’s military career up to that fateful day in 1943, but how he came to be in the Pacific Theater and on a PT boat specifically.  We are walked through step by step the young officer’s entry to naval service while at the same time learning about the development and implementation of the little PT boats that served so heroically in the war.  Tregaskis had taken very little liberty with the facts surrounding events and this makes John F. Kennedy and PT-109 a good piece of source material for research on this subject.

My only real knocks on this text is that first, because of the methodical nature of the prose I was not as gripped in the story or held in suspense as much as I would have liked to be.  I had trouble imagining myself serving there alongside Kennedy and really experiencing the danger and horror and fear that must have swept over each crew member (whether they would have admitted it or not) after their boat was lost.  This could also be in part because I knew how it would all turn out in the end!  My second fault was the lack of maps, diagrams, and pictures about Kennedy and his PT boat and crew.  I am not sure if this is a feature of just my copy, or is the final publication will have these items.  As a visual learner, I would have enjoyed reading much more if I was able to see and experience these within the text or as an insert, rather than looking elsewhere.  Overall these are not enough to dissuade me from recommending John F. Kennedy and PT-109 to anyone interested in the subject matter and I would consider this as a possible addition to my high school library collection.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Media for the opportunity to read and review John F. Kennedy and PT-109.

Three of Five Stars

John F. Kennedy and PT-109 on Amazon

John F. Kennedy and PT-109 on Barnes and Noble

John F. Kennedy and PT-109 on Goodreads

John F. Kennedy and PT-109 on LibraryThing

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Posted by on November 18, 2016 in Reviews


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