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John Lambros & John F. Kennedy.... Same PT Group

John Lambros enlisted in the Navy as an Apprentice Seaman at the end of 1942. He was sent to Midshipman School at Columbia University for 4 months andcommissioned as an Ensign in March 1943. Of 900 Midshipmen in his class, Ensign Lambros and 10 others were selected for duty aboard Patrol/Torpedo (PT) Boats. They were sent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where PT Squadron 11 was being formed. A squadron consisted of 3 groups of 4 boats. Squadron 11 was moved to the PT Boat Training Base in Melville, Rhode Island. 

Later in 1943, the squadron’s 12 boats and crew were loaded aboard a tanker and transported to Panama for 1 ½ months of experience operating in the tropics and in the open ocean. By then, John was commander of PT #183 and ready for action. In early 1944, John’s squadron was again loaded on a tanker and transported to Noumea, New Caledonia, where the squadron was unloaded and ordered to make its way north, under its own power, to set up a base of operations at Rendova Island in the Solomon Islands. Its mission was to attack and sink Japanese barges and cargo vessels making their way from Japan to re-supply their troops on Guadalcanal and the other Japanese-held islands in the Solomons. 

The battle to dislodge the Japanese from Guadalcanal was huge. Before it was over, the Japanese Air Force had lost 100 planes. After Allied Forces had secured the island, John put his crew ashore to hunt for 37-millimeter, nose-mounted machine guns on British Bel-Aire Cobra planes downed during the battle. The one they found was brought back and mounted on the forward deck of PT #183 to increase its fire power. Slowly, island by island, the US Forces won their way north. At one point, the Japanese began sending out 250 mile-an-hour biplanes loaded with 500-pound bombs as a psychological weapon. The GI’s called them “Washing Machine Charlies,” because of their unique noise pattern. John’s squadron was ordered to support an attack on the air base at Vella Lavella Island from which the Charlies were operating.

Enroute, PT #183 was attacked by a Japanese plane and a 50-caliber bullet tore through John’s right shoulder leaving a 9-inch long “track”. Knocked to the deck, John’s Executive Officer strapped towels around his wound and secured John to the stanchions supporting one of the torpedo tubes, so John wouldn’t fall off the boat as it zig-zagged at full speed in a dash to avoid further enemy air action. Because this was a night operation, PT #183 was forced to continue its operation as an integral part of the squadron’s battle plan. At dawn, 6 hours later, PT #183 was returning to base, still doing its duty, skimming the coastline of other Japanese held islands to get shore gun batteries to fire at it to disclose their positions. PT #183 would relay gun position coordinates to Army and Navy fighter pilots who were operating in the area who could destroy the shore batteries. Finally John’s boat reached its base and he was placed in a dug out serving as a hospital ward. Since his wound went through his shoulder, it had to heal from the inside out, a slow process. Each week he was moved to a different hospital, each further south, until he finally reached New Zealand and received proper care. After recovering by the end of 1944, John was sent back to his squadron’s new base on Emirau. Shortly thereafter, he was sent back to the PT Base at Melville, RI, as an instructor in PT Boat Operations. His last assignment involved training new recruits at the Columbia Midshipman School. Lt. John Lambros was awarded a well-deserved Bronze Star and Purple Heart when he was discharged from the Navy in December 1945.

The PT Boat was a fighting machine, 80’ long and 20’ wide, with 3 Packard Marine engines capable of producing a speed of 60 knots at full throttle. It was operated by a crew of 10 enlisted men and 2 officers. For armament, it carried 4 torpedoes, 4 depth charges, and twin 20-caliber machine guns, both port and starboard. The engines were well muffled so that they ran very quietly, a key to effective night operations.

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