PT-109 Survivor "Barney" Ross Interview Transcript Reflecting on Kennedy, ca. 1964: "he was one of the boys"
30+pp possibly unpublished interview transcript of George H.R. "Barney" Ross, one of the crew members of Commander Jack Kennedy's ill-fated PT-109. The blue three-hole-punched soft cover binder actually contains two complete copies of the same transcript each entitled "Reel #4-5-6." Some of the pages have been incorrectly paginated, and there are a few photocopied edits in pen found throughout. In near fine condition. Accompanied by a World War II-era color postcard of the PT-117, "The Navy's Famous Fighting 'PTs'" signed by "Barney" Ross as "Geo Ross" verso. Ex-Estate of "Barney" Ross. From the collection of Ronald Hoskins, assassinologist.
Multiple references found in the transcript suggest that Ross sat for this interview almost a year after Kennedy's assassination, around the time of the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The transcript unfolds chronologically, beginning with Ross's recollections of first meeting Kennedy, through the sinking of the PT-109, and concluding with Ross's involvement in the Kennedy administration. Ross's transcript provides us with a very human portrait of the young Kennedy. We see Kennedy as Ross saw him: as a relaxed and confident kid whose scrawny physique belied his natural leadership abilities.
Some remarkable excerpts can be found below, with original spelling and edits:
About meeting Jack Kennedy for the first time, Ross recalled: "Well, I - the thing that comes to my mind that I will never forget is how youthful xxxxxxx he seemed, physically. I mean he seemed to me - the first time I saw him I thought he was maybe 17 or 18 years old, and I thought he was a young enlisted man in the Navy…We were on the same time and we were huddling and he seemed to be running the team" (1).
Ross joined the PT-109 at Rendova in the Solomon Islands. He recounted the August 2, 1943 crash with the Amagiri:
"So - I was up - as I say I was up on the bow and the president also kidded me about being the lookout, in the 109 incident. (LAUGHS) So I guess I'm responsible for the whole tragedy. But we were all - it was so dark, as I said before, we were all - I think we all saw it about the same time. And that's what I'll always remember --seeing the mast against the sky, because we - I guess we all realized we were about to get run over by a destroyer…Then the destroyer saw us I would say 10 seconds before he hit us, and that was a sight I'll never forget. The mast keeping over at a 45 degree angle toward us - this destroyer mast, and of course at this distance it would probably be maybe 100 feet. If he hadn't turned he would have just missed us, but by turning he caught us on the sa starboard bow at about a 20 degree angle to the longitudinal center of the boat. So he split xxx the boat sort of longways - not across the boat. He hit the bow up there about five feet from my right, and it continued on back, completely obliterating the starboard turret where I believe a young fellow named Curtse (?) [Andrew Jackson Kirksey] was on watch, past the president about two feet on the president's right, throwing him back against the cockpit…" (10-12)
On what servicemen thought of Commander Kennedy, and of his special bond with Ross:
"Well the thing that - he was really a -- my image is sort of a growing image. When I first--when we knew him back in the service, we didn't feel any particular awe about him. I mean, we didn't really pay any more attention to him than to any body else. He was just one of those guys. We knew he was the Ambassador's son and so forth, but we had quite a few celebrities in our group. He was very well respected and liked and all that during the service.
We became - even in those days, I always had kind of an unusual feeling toward him. I never felt that we had too much in common. We were xx from very different backgrounds, you might say, but nevertheless I always felt sort of close to the guy. Because we had sort of a special relationship. I always felt privileged that I was able to be the guy that had gone swimming with him, so to speak, on some of those islands, because we -- at one island we were on, we were the only two people that were there. I mean, it was just he and I.
And then later of course - I didn’t feel this in those days. This is later -- like now. I think in those days I - the later president of the U.S. sitting in the water, -- gives me a real creepy feeling at this time…" (27-28)
Future 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)--Ambassador's son, recent Harvard graduate, and military medical reject--became commander of the PT-109 in April 1943. Commander Kennedy and his 12-person crew patrolled the waters off the Solomon Islands in the 80' long motor torpedo boat heavily armed with machine guns, cannon, and anti-tank guns.
In the early morning hours of August 2, 1943, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri rammed the PT-109, cutting 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. More than once, and despite reinjuring his back in the collision with the Amagiri, Kennedy towed the badly burned machinist Patrick H. McMahon on his back gripping only the life jacket strap between his teeth (See page 17 of Ross's transcript for an account of this). The dangers were numerous: Japanese vessels, crocodiles, and sharks infested the South Sea waters.
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, delivered relief supplies, and transported the survivors in a canoe to safety.
Ensign George Henry Robertson "Barney" Ross (1918-1983) was an itinerant skipper and a 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.
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.
WE PROVIDE IN-HOUSE SHIPPING WORLDWIDE!