Fading memories of World War II — In December it was the Pearl Harbor Veterans who held their last planned reunion — too many of the vets wer too old to think many could comfortably travel to another reunion. This week, it’s the PT boat veterans who held their last planned gathering, for the same reasons. Those who have the most vivid memories of the war dwindle in number to a precious few.
According to the Associated Press in the Navy Times:
The 16 elderly survivors — down from 21 last year — of Peter Tare, Inc., an organization for former officers of PT boats, lined up next to the boat Friday, taking one last sail down memory lane.
For them, World War II is really almost over now.
“It’s sort of pitiful the way the crowd has dwindled,” said William Paynter, 90, who commanded both a PT boat and a squadron in the South Pacific.
“The executive secretary is just getting over a stroke and it seemed like the best time to do it,” he said of this past week’s reunion.
The group, which began meeting in 1947, has better than $25,000 in assets, Paynter said. Originally the plan was to turn the assets over to the sole survivor, but as the years passed, that seemed impractical.
Of course, there’s a story about “Peter Tare,” too:
Peter Tare, so named for the phonetics used to designate letters in World War II — P, Peter; T, Tare — was formed for officers on the small boats used to harry the enemy during the war. The most famous members were former president John F. Kennedy and former Supreme Court justice Byron White.
After Kennedy was elected president, a book on his exploits made the best seller lists, and as I recall, was actually read by many of the people who bought it. The book and a National Geographic article were turned into a movie in 1963, PT-109, starring Cliff Robertson as a young, thinner Jack Kennedy. (Wikipedia says the VHS is out of print, and the movie has not been released on DVD; for my money, this would be one movie suitable for classroom use on World War II in the Pacific.)
The last meeting of the Peter Tare group reminds us again — did we need the reminder? — that our local sources of history die out. While fewer than two dozen PT boat vets met this year, there may be as many as 100 of them left alive. A good history assignment, for early in the year (these vets are not getting younger), would be to have a couple of students record an oral history from any local PT boat veterans in your area. Such histories can be deposited in local libraries, in the Museum of the War in the Pacific in Fredericksburg, Texas, in the PT boat museums, and copies kept at your school. An ambitious project might be video histories.
- Peter Tare, Inc., the alumni association
- PT Boat Museum, located at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts
- PT-309, in Fredericksburg, Texas, at the Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War (see also here)
- PT boat advertisements
- D-Day Museum in New Orleans