Sandusky's PT 109 war hero

Tom Jackson
Jun 25, 2013


If you know anything about World War II, you have probably heard about John F. Kennedy and PT-109. The future president's torpedo boat was hit by a Japanese destroyer in the middle of the night, and Kennedy's efforts to save the surviving crew helped make him a war hero.

What you may not know is that Kennedy's second in command, executive officer Leonard J. Thom, was from Sandusky. (I was tipped off about this by a caller who asked me not to use his name).

According to this account, Thom deserves some of the credit for saving the crew, although JFK's role got more play in the press. Thom married a woman from Youngstown, died in a 1946 car-train crash in Ohio, and is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Youngstown.

This account from Youngtown's newspaper, the Vindicator, seems to be missing the beginning part of the story, but it adds some details and reveals that JFK showed up for the funeral in Youngstown.



Eph 2 8-10

Went to high school with his son. He was a guest at the the Ohio theater [I think] for the movie PT-109.

2cents's picture

Hats off to our vets every day!

Now, I stumbled across a WWII PT boat Packard center engine in Canada a few weeks ago. The guy that has it is a marine engine collector that is liquidating his collection. The engine is fully restored and ready to fire but he only wants people restoring PT boats to have access to it and use it. I bet the price would be good for the proper group restoring a PT boat. Port Clinton, are you doing a full restore????

Darwin's choice

Maybe bring this up to the Liberty Aviation people at the Port Clinton Airport. They had a boat that needs restoration.....and also have the fully restored one.

Mime Bloggling

My Dad graduated with Leonard Thom at Sandusky High School in 1936...and if I'm not mistaken the Thom homestead is still standing on East Perkins Ave. I remember my Dad showing us the house years ago and the fact that they had a large family. Of course with all the new construction going on through the years in Sandusky maybe it's not there anymore...does anyone know? Sad he died so young.


I am Leonard Thom's niece. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to meet him. From everything I heard from my mom and aunts and uncles he was an absolutely admirable man. He was a "gentle giant" according to some. The East Perkins Street home was my Uncle Duraine's home. Uncle Lenny grew up on Hayes Avenue behind the Schipple Farm. There was a book written called "The Unsung Hero" written by Mike Bell which I believe is still available. If I'm not mistaken there was actually a documentary on National geographic channel a couple years ago stating that my Uncle definitely played a big part of the crew being rescued.

"July 1943, Members of the crew of PT-109 pose for a photo on deck.
Top row left to right are Al Webb (standing far left, friend and not a crew member) Leon E. Drawdy,
Edgar E. Mauer, Edmund T. Drewitch, John E. Maguire.
Bottom row left to right are Charles A. Harris, Maurice L. Kowal, Andrew J. Kirkesy, Leonard J. Thom,
and John F. Kennedy (standing far right)."


Never had much use for the Kennedys,but he did outclass all the rest.They even wanted to discharge him and he refused.Joe Jr. was also a WW2 hero,killed on a mission he would'n had to flown.The real idiot of the family was Ted.he enlisted for 3 years and and Old Joe went nuts,when they would have only drafted him for two.He said,I didn't know that"The old man made sure he went to Germany instead of Korea.


Re: "Never had much use for the Kennedys,"

Not that much different from any other crime family trying to make themselves look legit.


Who cares what you think Winnie? Get a job.


PT 728 is the Liberty Aviation Museum project that is being restored. The museum has renamed the boat the "ThomCat" in honor of Leonard Thom.
The museum website is posting updates of the restoration process.

There you go again

That was a nice story!!


@ Mr. Jackson:

Good to know.

My father told me about seeing the PTs operating in the Philippines.

Fantastic boats. High casualty rate.


Leonard did also play football as a lineman for Ohio State.