A New Look at JFK in ‘PT 109’



On October 6th, author William Doyle will publish PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy, a new book that aims to reexamine the president’s legacy through the lens of his World War II service.

Our readers know Doyle as Chris Kyle’s coauthor on American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms and  SEAL legend Dick Couch’s coauthor on Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story, the excellent companion book to last year’s PBS documentary.

We’re debuting a clip in which William Doyle talks about the book and the impact JFK’s heroism had on his political career.

Doyle draws on declassified documents, materials uncovered in Japanese military archives, and new firsthand interviews with the last surviving links to event, including JFK’s rescuer Lieutenant William “Bud” Liebenow, captain of 109’s sister ship, PT 157.

The author also talks about how the slow pace of the rescue impacted JFK’s future dealings with the military. As president, Kennedy had a skeptical attitude toward military bureaucracy and an intimate experience with fallout from the fallibility of the brass.

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It’s been over 50 years since Cliff Robertson portrayed JFK in a movie version of PT 109, so Doyle’s book seems aimed to inspire a new movie version of the story.


  • Rosemarie ma

    Wow orates and gloves scars oh my what an adventure

  • harvk5

    Anyone who has spent 10 seconds in the military has developed a healthy skepticism for the military bureaucracy and if smart maintains that skepticism throughout life!

  • guest

    Slept through the approach of a Japanese Destroyer running at high speed towards them.
    Is more like it.

  • John Patterson

    It was a foggy, still, dark night the Japanese Destroyer must have had secret GPS or the worlds best charts on those islands to be running at high speed. More likely 1/2 speed is more than enough when its steel versus plywood.

  • MMCS(SW) USN Ret.

    They all were asleep or drunk on torpedo juice. You have to deaf not to hear the whine of a destroyers blower turbines. Way back when I was a FN on a diesel boat a Cheif Engineman came back to the boat semi two sheets to the wind (CPO’s never get fully drunk). It was a week or two after Kennedy was assassinated. The Chief was a Motor Machinist Mate in the Pacific during WW2 and stationed at Kennedy’s base. Holding court on the mess deck he told those present that JFK’s family connections kept him from being court-martialed over the PT109 mess. Who knows.

  • JohnD

    MacArthur wanted him court-martialed, Papa Joe wanted the Medal of Honor, The truth is somewhere in between. There was a made for TV movie about Kennedy which has him playing skipper, hijinks and kids playing at war attitudes of him and the crew but when the tin can hit the fantail, Kennedy immediately matured from a spoiled college kid to a real leader that saved his crew. This was a turning point for Kennedy. He had real responsibility and had to live up to those bars on his collar, couldn’t have Daddy save him. He was the spark that kept them alive, He, like many, matured in wartime when faced with real problems and only his leadership could help! He rose to the occasion and rose higher!

    • JohnD


  • Royal V. Sefton

    Admiral Bull Halsey at the time was Commander SW Pacific area and wanted to court martial Kennedy for leaving his boats raft off so they could put the 37MM cannon on the fore deck. Intense lobbying by Papa Joe Kennedy got the Navy Cross awarded to JFK instead! Apparently that was the compromise to the Kennedy family wanting the CMH!

  • Seadawg

    There was NO Navy Cross. He got the Sailors Medal.

  • This is simply what the militant expects in wars. Great article.