Deadline Hollywood is reporting that Ansel Elgort, who is appearing in the current film “Baby Driver,” has been tapped to play Lt. JG John F. Kennedy in the upcoming “Mayday 109.” The film will tell the true story of the future president’s World War Ii heroics when his PT boat was sunk by a Japanese Destroyer. The movie was written by Samuel Franco and Evan Kilgore, who also wrote the script for “Keeper of the Diary,” the real story of how Otto Frank published his daughter Anne’s diary after World War II, now being directed by Kenneth Branagh.

What happened to PT 109?

John Kennedy, a scion of a prominent Massachusetts family, used his father’s influence to enlist in the Navy even before Pearl Harbor.

He served in a desk job, then in command of a PT Boat near Panama. However, by April 1943 Kennedy found himself in command of PT 109, a fast motor boat armed with torpedoes and machine guns, and began combat operations during the island hopping campaign in the South Pacific.

On the night of August 2, 1943, PT 109 was run down by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri and cut in half. Two of Kennedy’s crew were killed and two badly wounded. After clinging to the bow section for some time, Kennedy and his men decided to swim for nearby Plum Pudding Island, a desolate place without food or water.

Kennedy, who had been on the swim team at Harvard, dragged one of his wounded men with the strap of his life jacket between his teeth.

Subsequently, Kennedy swam to two nearby islands for help and food. He then led his men to Olasana Island which had water and coconuts. They survived for six days before they were discovered by local scouts and subsequently rescued by another PT boat. Kennedy was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and the Purple Heart.

The experience helped immensely with Kennedy’s political ambitions. However, his back problem was aggravated to the extent that he was plagued by pain and questionable medication during his later years.

The 1963 movie

The story of Kennedy and PT 109 has already been told in a 1963 film starring Cliff Robertson as the future president. The film was developed, in part, to be a feature-length campaign commercial for Kennedy when he ran for a second term in 1964.

The film was typical of the era in that it celebrated American heroism, but has a relatively sanitized view of combat compared to more modern films. Unfortunately, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas before he could run, so the film became a sort of memorial to the slain president.

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