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Where is PT 109 Filmed? A Classic War Biopic

Where Was PT 109 Filmed?
Where Was PT 109 Filmed?

Today, we take a look at a biopic from 1963 called PT 109. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, it tells the story of former president of the United States John F. Kennedy during his tour of deployment in World War II when he was in the Navy in the Pacific Theater as skipper of a Patrol Torpedo boat in the Solomon Islands. The film, directed by Leslie H. Martinson and Lewis Milestone, is a hagiographic piece written by Richard L. Breen and stars Cliff Roberson and James Gregory. 

The film takes a glorious approach to the rather dull deployment that JFK actually did have in his Pacific tour. Moreover, the entire production was heavily overseen by Kennedy and his clique, always looking toward portraying a glorified version of him as a war hero in the media at a time when the Vietnam conflict was bringing him bad press. Now, let’s take a look at where was PT 109 filmed.

Where Was PT 109 Filmed?

A still from PT 109

PT 109 Production Details

JFK’s father, former bootlegger Joseph Kennedy Sr. was the US ambassador to Great Britain during the onset of WWII, and also was a big-time Hollywood producer and head honcho at RKO studios, where they promoted this film. In 1961, he penned a deal to make a movie about his son’s life in the Navy and had Jack L. Warner, Head of Production for Warner Bros., strictly supervise the feat. Moreover, the Kennedy administration sent Alvin Cluster, a wartime friend of JFK under contract with the Executive branch, to act as a liaison with Warner Bros. and the White House to get everything according to the wishes of the Kennedys.

Historical Accuracy 

After the sinking of PT 109, when President Kennedy had been given command of PT 59, the scene depicting the rescue of ambushed Marines took place. As U.S. Navy Mark 8 torpedoes of that era were notoriously inaccurate, Kennedy requested that the older 77-foot Elco PT boat be converted into a heavily armed gunboat. Before the 109’s loss, Kennedy had already provisionally mounted a.37 mm antitank gun on the boat’s bow. Marines pinned down in cramped quarters on Choiseul were successfully rescued by the 59 thanks to its exceptional firepower.

The movie also shows that PT 109 has been reported missing, and a search has been launched. Even though the boat explosion was seen from nearby PT boats and the vessel was declared lost, according to National Geographic and the original book, at least an air reconnaissance was later carried out. Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana, who are from the Solomon Islands, are portrayed as haphazard natives when, in reality, Reg Evans, a coastwatcher, sent them out to find the sailors.

Ensign Ross is first seen putting forth the suggestion to carve a message into coconut in the movie. Later, Gasa asserted that he had suggested the idea and sent Kumana to gather a fresh coconut. Even though the senior native is specifically mentioned when the big canoe arrives, the actors who played Gasa and Kumana were not given credit.

Where Was PT 109 Filmed?

Little Palm Island in Florida

Where Was PT 109 Filmed?

Though the film takes place in The Solomon Islands, the film was actually shot on Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys. The boats employed were 80-footer Elco Patrol Torpedo boats in bad operational condition that were refurbished for filming purposes. Moreover, the producers sought other US Army Air Forces crash rescue boats. They turned them into Elco Patrol Torpedo boats to resemble the original PT boats in World War II in the Pacific Theater. Those boats were designed by Dair N. Long and were then employed as props. 

As for the airplanes that the Japanese forces used, the production team employed some old AT-6 Texan training planes. Also, the United States Navy brought in a tank landing ship model LST 758, a destroyer called the USS Saufley, and other vessels from the Naval Station Key West to add realism to the movie. 

Where To Watch PT 109?

If you want to watch PT 109, you can do it from YouTube, Apple iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu Fandango, the Microsoft Store, and DirecTV Streaming. With this, we wrap up our coverage of this JFK biopic. What do you think of this movie? Have you heard of it? Let us know in the comments. If you liked this article, share it with your friends on social media. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook. Until next time!

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I'm a Venezuelan writer who specializes in writing gossip and entertainment from streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. When I'm not here, you'll find me doing technical analysis for cryptocurrency charts and doing stonks in big pharma.

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