PT Boat Veterans of WWII

In the 1963 film "PT 109," actor Cliff Robertson portrayed a young John F. Kennedy. The motion picture tells the story of Kennedy’s heroism as a PT boat skipper during World War II, and reportedly President Kennedy personally selected Robertson to play the role.


George William Cannon Jr . (Muskegon Chronicle)While Robertson played a PT boat commander on film, George William Cannon Jr. was a PT boat commander in real life.

Cannon, who died Aug. 29, 2011 at age 96, “was honored to serve as a Lieutenant in the United Stated Navy during WWII, where he commanded PT Boat 108 in the Pacific,” according to the obituary published in the Muskegon Chronicle.

The founder of Cannon-Muskegon Corp., Cannon “and his colleagues developed a number of alloys that are essential in jet engines,” the obit said.


Other PT boat veterans who died in recent weeks include:

Byrne Cleavy Fernelius, a university professor, who died Aug. 12 at age 92. He also “served our country in the U.S. Navy as a P.T. Boat Commander in the South Pacific during World War II,” according to the obit in the Los Angeles Daily News.

Fernelius “was a founding faculty member at California State University, Northridge where he retired as Chairman of the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies,” the obit said. He and his wife, Jean, “spent almost 20 years as docents at the Gene Autry Museum.”

George Hardy, who died Aug. 23 at age 86, “served as a Quartermaster and Navigator on a PT Boat in the South Pacific during WWII,” according to the obituary in the St. Petersburg Times.

Hardy became a First National Bank of Clearwater executive, president of the YMCA and a founding member of the Clearwater Jaycees and Clearwater Sertoma.

Dean Franklin Patton, who died Aug. 15 at age 87, “was a World War II Navy PT Boat combat veteran, having served throughout the South Pacific as a Gunner’s Mate aboard PT 160,” according to the obit in the Lancaster (Ohio) Eagle-Gazette.

“He retired in 1984 after 35 years of employment as a Carman at the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad Jackson Car Shops.”

Henry Patrick “Red” Bulger, who died Sept. 10, “served in the Pacific Theater on PT Boat 248 from 1944-1946,” according to the Scranton (Pa.) Times.

“Prior to retirement, he was employed by Pennsylvania Power and Light Co. as a troubleman. He served as past president of the IBEW Local 1520 for 16 years, and also was an IBEW union organizer at the national level.”

Stanley H. Gilman, who died Aug. 31, “served in the U.S. Navy before and during World War II, primarily on PT boats in the Aleutians and the South Pacific,” according to the obit in the Virginian Pilot.

He “was in newspaper marketing for many years and retired as a marketing consultant.”


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She was the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers before she passed away in 2015.

Originally published September 2011