John J. Domagalski - Author
Into the Dark Water
The Story of Three Officers and PT-109
Made famous by her final commanding officer, John F. Kennedy, PT-109 is one of the most celebrated warships in American history. However, a full chronicle of PT-109’s wartime story has been lacking. Behind the familiar account of the future president and the boat’s violent demise is the little-known record under two previous officers during the swirling battles around Guadalcanal.
In these nocturnal fights, when the Japanese Navy was at its apex, America’s fast-boat flotillas would sally out to probe enemy strength, vying with Japanese destroyers, who were similarly roaming the waters. It was constant hit-and-run and dodging between searchlights across Iron Bottom Sound, as the PT-boats darted in among the enemy fleet. Bryant Larson and Rollin Westholm preceded Kennedy as commanders of PT-109, and their fights with the brave ship and its crew hold second to none in the chronicles of the US Navy. As the battles moved on across the Pacific the PT-boat flotillas gained confidence, even as the Japanese, too, learned lessons in how to destroy them.
Under her third and final commander, Kennedy, PT-109 was sunk as a Japanese destroyer suddenly emerged from a dark mist and rammed her in half. Two crewmen were killed immediately but Kennedy was able to shepherd his wounded and others to refuge. His gallantry cannot resist retelling, yet the courage of the boat’s previous commanders has not until now seen the light of day.
$29.95 • 288 pages • 6 x 9 • 16 pp photos • April
2014 • Hardback • 978-1-61200-234-7
Copyright 2016 John J. Domagalski
A side view of a PT off the East Coast in July 1942 reveals the sleek lines of an Elco 80-foot PT boat.
PT-109 sitting on the deck of the Liberty ship Joseph Stanton in preparation for the voyage to Panama. The photo was taken at the Norfolk Navy Yard on August 20, 1942.
“Well researched and written, Domagalski has done something admirable with the PT-109 saga.”
- Tim McGrath, author of John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail
“History has long recorded that John F. Kennedy's heroic efforts after the sinking of his PT-109 led to his successful political career as Representative, Senator, and ultimately President. But, as John Domagalski demonstrates in this thoroughly researched narrative, there was far more to the boat's achievements in the South Pacific than the terrifying night when a Japanese destroyer cut her in two. This account crackles with intensity.”
- Paul Stillwell, Naval Historian and Author