KENNEDY, John Fitzgerald. An archive of 14 letters: 8 autograph letters signed, 6 typed letters signed (mostly "Jack Kennedy" ), all to John E. Maguire ("Mac"), a crew-member of PT 109 commanded by Kennedy in the Pacific in World War II. Various places (Navy Submarine Chaser Training Center, Miami; Hyannisport, Mass.; Washington, D.C.), various dates from 23 February 1944 to 11 May 1959. Together 26 pages, 4to and 8vo, most with original addressed envelopes, several letters with small file holes at top margin.
[With:] KENNEDY, JOSEPH P. Two typed letters signed to the same, 1956-57 -- KENNEDY, ROBERT F. Typed letter signed, 2 September 1964 -- LINCOLN, EVELYN, Kennedy's private secretary. Two typed letters signed, 1963 and 1986; all to John E. Maguire - ROBERTSON, CLIFF. Typed letter signed, 1962, regarding Maguire's assistance on the Warner Brothers film "PT-109," in which Robertson starred as JFK -- Ephemera, including a ticket to the Kennedy inaugural, a program for a dinner in Kennedy's honor, a 1944 photograph of the entire crew of PT-109 in the stern of the vessel, etc.
THE SAGA OF PT 109: THE GENESIS OF THE KENNEDY LEGEND. TWO DECADES OF LETTERS TO A FORMER CREW MEMBER OF THE ILL-FATED TORPEDO BOAT
An extensive file of letters from Kennedy and members of his family to Maguire, Radioman 2nd Class on the PT-109, a motor torpedo boat commanded by the young Lieutenant Kennedy during the hard-fought Guadalcanal campaign. Kennedy had joined the Navy in September 1941 and he and his crew were posted to the Solomon Islands in April 1943, during the critical Guadalcanal campaign, working to interdict Japanese supply columns ("the Tokyo express"). On the night of August 2, 1943, while on patrol in the Solomon Islands, the vessel was rammed by the Japanese destroyer, Amagiri, killing two crewmen. At the time the collision occurred, Maguire and Kennedy were in the cockpit together. After the wreckage of the vessel sank, the surviving crew eventually swam to safety. In spite of his badly injured back, Kennedy swam for four hours towing a wounded crewman by the strap of a life-jacket held in his teeth. After several days on two small islands, they were rescued with the aid of coast-watchers and Solomon islanders. (For the full original Navy reports see http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq60-11.htm) Kennedy was awarded a purple heart and the Navy and Marine Corps medal for his heroic actions, but spent months in the hospital and was never able to return to active duty. The incident attracted the attention of reporter John Hersey, covering the Guadalcanal campaign, and his article, "Survival," published in the New Yorker on 17 June 1944, first made public the dramatic story of the ordeal of the PT-109 survivors. It was followed in 1961 by a full-length book and a successful Warner Brothers feature film.
The archive documents the enduring sense of comraderie between the two men, and the warm attachment between them which lasted through Kennedy'd subsequent career in Congress and the Senate. A sampling from this extensive series:
23 February 1944 (to Mrs. Maguire): "...I have the greatest liking and respect for your husband..." -- 26 April 1944: "...I'll get busy on the pictures and see what I can round up, and also have a drawing of the boat which I will forward. The situation here is normal [as in "SNAFU"--situation normal, all fucked up], but once you get your feet up on the table in the morning the real tough work of the day is done. What do they plan to do with you fellows?..." - 18 May 1944: "Enclosed please find a picture...featuring you, Mr. Kerwell and myself taken that day we waited for so long off Lunga [Guadalcanal] for generals who never showed." In a postscript, he adds, "That rather gloomy looking gent to the right who is obviously wishing he was back in the States is you." -- 30 May 1944: John Hersey's story, he reports, "is to come out...in a couple of weeks--not I hope in the comic section, but you never can tell...It looks as though I'm going to have to go back to the hospital, this time for an operation" -- 9 June 1944: He is having a photograph of the crew at Guadalcanal, copied for all the them, and notes that the John Hersey article "came out in this week's New Yorker. Hersey has done fairly good although there are some features of it I didn't like...but it's done now." He adds that "the Reader's Digest has bought the reproduction rights...and they have agreed to turn over the funds to Navy Relief...I worked it out so that Mrs. Kerksey [widow of one of the PT-109 crew who was killed] and her family get whatever portion of this they may need, [which] makes the whole thing worth-while as I have always been concerned about her..." -- 17 June 1944: "I want to thank you for your letter. Letters like that from friends are a great help...I'm glad about the Mass and please thank your wife for me" -- 18 November 1944, reporting that he is to be discharged: "Went up before the Survey Board the other day, and I'm on my way out. It's going to seem peculiar paying full price at those movie theaters again. It won't seem quite right until everyone is out...." -- 28 September 1949, on Congressional stationery: "The P.T. organization is in great shape. I thought before I made a mistake in going with P.Ts and now I know it. That son-of-a-bitch Wells absconded with $3,000 and we now owe about $2,000...I may need a quick loan from you after all...I was on the West Coast last week to watch Harvard play Stanford and saw Red Lay of Sq[ua]d[ron...We had a long conversation about what a swell bunch of guys they had in Sqd. 10" -- 12 December 1957, on Senate stationery: "I imagine it would be rather difficult to get the film of Navy Log Program on the Pt-109. However, I do have a copy of that film...and if you would like me to send it to you I would be very glad to do so..." 29 February 1960, on Senate stationery: "Needless to say, I am very grateful for your interest and support in my campaign for the Presidency...."
Kennedy's letters from the period of his naval service in World War II are extremely uncommon; the present archive includes a number of fine examples. (14)