University Archives

Lot 178

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JFK "PT-109" Reunion Photos

A small collection of photographs personally owned by Ensign George Henry Robertson "Barney" Ross (1918-1983), one of the crew members of Commander Jack Kennedy's ill-fated patrol boat, "PT-109." Items are related to the Jack Paar television show episode which reunited the "PT-109" crew with their rescuers for the first time since the 1943 shipwreck. Provenance: From the collection of Ron Hoskins, assassinologist; from the estate of George H.R. "Barney" Ross.

The lot is comprised of six glossy black and white photographs showing Solomon Islander Benjamin Kevu (b. ? - d. ?) and Australian coast watcher Arthur Reginald Evans (1905-1989) during a September 1962 visit to the United States. The "Jack Paar Tonight Show" had located Kevu and paid for him to travel to the United States to open its Season 1 Premiere. The 58-minute-long episode aired on Friday night, September 21, 1962 on NBC. The program featured the "PT-109" reunion, World War II Pacific theater battle footage, and singer Robert Goulet. The "PT-109" reunion was in advance of the June 1963 release of a feature-length Warner Bros. Studios picture about the catastrophe.

The lot is comprised of:

1. Photo showing Jack Paar, George H.R. "Barney" Ross, Benjamin Nevu, and "Reg" Evans wearing leis and sipping tropical cocktails from carved coconut shells. Photo signed by the host as "Jack Paar" verso. Light expected surface wear including discolored mounting traces at the corners, else very good to near fine. 9.125" x 7."

2. The remaining photos, three 5.25" x 3.5" and two 3.5" square snapshots, depict Kevu entertained by his American hosts, including Ross shown seated next to him on a couch.

Commander John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) and his 12-person crew had patrolled the waters off the Solomon Islands in the "PT-109," their heavily armed 80' long motor torpedo boat, during the spring and summer of 1943. In the early morning hours of August 2, 1943, the Japanese destroyer "Amagiri" rammed the "PT-109," splitting it in half and killing two crew members, near the Japanese-held island of Kolombangara. "PT-109" survivors hid on nearby Plum Pudding Island, Olasana Island, and Naru Island in the Blackett Strait to scavenge for supplies and reconnoiter rescue over the next several days. Kennedy and the 10 survivors were eventually rescued on August 8, 1943 after a remarkable sequence of events that culminated in a S.O.S. message carved into a coconut shell! Solomon Islanders Benjamin Kevu, Eroni Kumana, and Biuku Gasa were instrumental in achieving their rescue. The trio relayed messages to Australian coast watchers like "Reg" Evans, delivered relief supplies, and transported the survivors in a canoe to safety.

Ensign George Henry Robertson "Barney" Ross was an itinerant skipper and "PT-109" survivor. Ross accompanied Kennedy on August 5th reconnaissance mission to Naru Island, and was later awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. In 1959, Kennedy asked Ross to help him drum up support for his presidential campaign, and during his administration, Ross served as a special committee adviser.

Jack Paar (1918-2004), talk show host, comedian, author, and actor, hosted his eponymous late night television program between 1957-1962.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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3 March 2021 10:30 EST

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