Korea at War 1950
This nameplate was used in 1950
Atlantic Liners collide 1956
This nameplate was used in 1956

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From the Archives

Captain of ship that hit PT-109 mourns JFK

Captain of ship that hit PT-109 mourns JFK

File photo

File photo

TOKYO — The former Japanese Imperial Navy officer who almost killed John F. Kennedy in World War II Saturday mourned the late President's loss to the world.

Kohei Hanami, now a head man in the farming village of Shiokawa, in Fukushima Prefecture about 100 miles north of Tokyo, said that he first heard of the news from townspeople who came to his door at 5 a.m.

"'My first thought," Hanami said by long distance telephone, "was, 'There is no other person besides Kennedy himself who can talk with Khrushchev and can tie the East and West in peace. So what is going to happen to this world?' "

On Aug. 2, 1943, Hanami vas an Imperial Navy lieutenant commander and at 32 the youngest destroyer captain in the Navy. His ship, the Amagiri, was patrolling the Solomon Sea when American Patrol Torpedo Boat 1.09 was sighted off the port bow.

Hanami swung the Amagiri around and rammed the approaching craft, slicing it in two.

The skipper aboard the PT boat was Lt. (jg) John F. Kennedy. He was one of 11 survivors of a crew of 13 and swam more than six miles with a wounded crewman in tow before they reached safety.

Both Hanami and Kennedy survived the war. In 1951 Kennedy, a U.S. congressman, visited Japan and got in touch with Hanami through Dr. Gunji Hosono, chairman of the Japan Institute of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo.

They did not meet, but corresponded for years. And when Kennedy was inaugurated in 1961 he sent his former enemy a bronze medallion with the President's profile. It was one of a few struck in honor of the occasion.

Hanami, whose village was in the midst of a three-day cultural celebration when the news came, said that former crewmen of the Amagiri in Hiroshima sent him a telegram of. condolence, which he planned to forward with his own sympathies in a letter to U.S. Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer in Tokyo.