To Hollywood and most of the rest of the world it was John Kennedy's exploits in the South Pacific aboard his ill fated PT boat 109 that brought the tiny motor Torpedo boat to national attention, however to scores of war buffs the true hero of the south Pacific PT action was New York born Irish American named Robert B. Kelly. Captain Kelly was the executive officer of the now famed PT boat squadron 3.
It was Kelly, who lived most of his life around the DC area, and his men who risked life and limb to evacuate Douglas MacArthur, his family and Staff from the Japanese Navy infested waters of Corregidor Island in the dark of night. Kelly was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery and was given command of squadron 3 which included Lt. J.G John Kennedy.
Shortly after taking command, Kelly was again cited for bravery in action and awarded a second silver star and still later the Navy Cross for heroism in combat when his PT boat attacked and sank a Japanese light cruiser that had been protecting four other enemy destroyers. Kelly managed to sink the cruiser with two torpedos from a firing range of 300 feet. The following morning, with only one of his four guns working, five dead crewmen, and taking in water from a six foot hole in his hull from a Japanese shell, Kelly managed to fight off attacks by enemy dive bombers, eventually bringing his remaining crew back to safety. His dare devil actions brought home a few bright moments to a war weary American public. Kelly's action were later made in to the film "They Were Expendable" starring John Wayne