Collision with History: The Search for John F. Kennedy's PT 109

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National Geographic Society, 2002 - 191 pages
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Michael Hamilton Morgan writes on the PT 109 collision:

It?s about 2 a.m., August 2, 1943. Lt. John F. Kennedy squints into the fog and black while at the wheel of PT 109, idling in the Blackett Strait off Gizo in the Solomon Islands. His orders are to attack the ?Tokyo Express? resupplying Japanese installations.... He and his young crew are ready, but handicapped by darkness and fog.... Suddenly, only 300 yards away, a black shape looms...traveling without lights and at high speed. Only seconds before impact...the ship is identified as a Japanese destroyer, the Amagiri. The much larger craft slices through the hull of PT 109, cutting the 80-foot wooden-hulled boat in two. Several of the crew are injured, one critically. The crew takes refuge on the larger section that remains afloat until dawn. Then all are into the water, and Lt. Kennedy begins the series of epic swims that will save his crew and earn him a place in history.

Forty years after his death and 60 years after his first collision with history in the South Pacific, John F. Kennedy and his story still inspire readers. In Collision with History, JFK?s heroic efforts to save the 11-man crew of PT 109 are brought to vivid life, interwoven with a comprehensive history of PT boats and the World War II campaign in the Solomon Islands. Combining renowned explorer Robert Ballard?s account of his search for the wreckage of PT 109 with survivor accounts and Kennedy family members? personal recollections, this companion volume to the major National Geographic television event is a moving introduction to the young war hero who would later become president.

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About the author (2002)

Robert Ballard was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1942, and was educated at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Hawaii, the University of Southern California, and the University of Rhode Island, where he received his Ph.D. in 1974. Part explorer, part geologist, part oceanographer, and part marine engineer, Ballard has worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Falmouth, Massachusetts, since 1969. He is currently director of the Center for Marine Exploration there. Ballard is perhaps best known to the general public in connection to the luxury liner Titanic. Ballard organized and participated in the expedition that discovered the ship in 1985. More important, however, is his work in designing underwater survey vehicles and in participating in dives to explore the ocean floor. His work in marine design and engineering, in particular, has led to a dramatic increase in the scope of deep-sea exploration. In the 1960s, Ballard helped develop the Alvin, a deep-sea, three-man submersible equipped with a remote controlled mechanical arm for collecting specimens from the ocean floor. The device played an important role in mid-ocean studies, including exploration of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and dives to the Cayman Trough, a 24,000-foot-deep gash in the ocean floor south of Cuba. Ballard was part of the Galapagos Hydrothermal Expedition in 1977, which discovered and investigated deep-sea thermal vents spouting mineral-rich water from volcanic cracks in the Earth's crust. In the 1980s, Ballard helped develop the Argo-Jason unmanned submersible system, the most advanced craft of its kind. Argo is a 16-foot submersible vehicle and Jason is a self-propelled robot tethered to Argo. The search for the Titanic was undertaken as a test of the Argo-Jason system; the success of the expedition demonstrated its capabilities and, according to Ballard, "ushered in a new era of undersea exploration." The author of several bestselling books on deep-sea exploration, Ballard also contributes regularly to National Geographic and other magazines and he has produced several videotapes of deep-sea expeditions. His reputation as a "science populizer" has prompted harsh criticism from some of his scientific colleagues. In 1985, Ballard was one of four scientists awarded a Secretary of the Navy Research Chair in Oceanography, an award that carries with it an $800,000 grant for oceanographic research.

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