John F. Kennedy's WWII-era patrol boat is raised from Harlem River

Monday, June 15, 2020
JFK's WWII era patrol boat is raised from Harlem River
N.J. Burkett has more on the WWII-era boat raised from the Harlem River.

INWOOD, Manhattan (WABC) -- From the mud and muck of the Harlem River, a piece of American history has been uncovered.

The MTA recently discovered the main hatchway from a World War II-era warship believed to be the remains of PT-59, a patrol boat captained by a young naval officer named John F. Kennedy.

"This is the patrol boat that an American president served on for three months in combat in World War II," said William Doyle, Author of PT-109. "Not only that, but John F. Kennedy rescued at least 10 Marines under fire on this boat. It's an astonishing archaeological find."

The ship is being recovered piece by piece by Naval historians and divers contracted by the MTA. The Harlem River is adjacent to the MTA's Inwood railyards.

When they sent divers into the river to clear the way for an enormous seawall, they found the wreckage under six feet of water and eight feet of mud.

PT-59 is not to be confused with PT-109. It was an 80-foot ship that Kennedy skippered after PT-109 sank.

It was sold as surplus after the war and changed hands many times before it was abandoned and sank in the river's north cove.

"It sat here in the mud for 45, 46 years in a sort of like La Brea Tar Pits," Doyle said. "A lot of it is preserved in pieces."

Historians are hoping to piece together as much as they can at Battleship Cove, a maritime museum in Fall River, Massachusetts.

"Now we have a part of that history," said Tom Lowny, of Battleship Cove. "Something you can reach out and touch."

Much of the work on the project was halted so that the ship could be salvaged.

Historians credit the agency for researching the wreck and helping to preserve it.

Robert Laga, MTA Program Officer, is overseeing the project.

"I'm glad we're done with that project, and we can go ahead and complete the job," Laga said.


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