Zinser, Gerald Emil, born 31-05-1918 from Belleville, Illinois, served on the cruisers Cincinnati CL-6 and Trenton CL-11. He was twenty five when he came aboard PT-109 as a replacement for Leon Emery Drawdy in August of 1943. Drawdy died 12-11-1962, aged 49, in Orange County, Florida. Zinser lied about his age to a Navy recruiter in Illinois, his son said, “just to get three squares. “He would spend 20 years in uniform, eventually retiring and taking a job carrying mail in Winter Park. His story of the PT-109 and the young Navy Lieutenant named John F. Kennedy
who skippered the ill-fated vessel in 1943, never truly faded away. In September 1942, Joseph Patrick (Joe) Kennedy sr
had secured PT Lieutenant Commander John Bulkeley’s help in placing his son in the PT boat’s service and enrolling him in their training school, after meeting with Bulkeley in a New York Plaza suite near his office at Rockefeller Plaza. Joe Kennedy an anti Jewish man, served as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1938 until late 1940, when he annoyed Franklin Roosevelt by his pessimism about Britain’s survival. Zinser the 82-year-old Orange Park man, the last survivor of the patrol torpedo boat when he died Tuesday at Orange Park Medical Centre, never forgot. “He had a picture of Kennedy in his room,” Mark Zinser said yesterday of his father. “You could ask him questions on his personal life and he couldn’t answer you. But you point to the picture and say, ‘Do you know who that guy is?’ and he’d say, ‘Well, hell, yeah. That’s the skipper.'” Zinser was a 24-year-old motor machinist new to the boat when PT-109 was shredded by an enemy warship 02-08-1943. He had been sleeping on deck when the boat, patrolling quietly in the Ferguson and Blackett Straits about 2:30 in the morning, was sliced in two by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri.
Lieutenant Commander Kohei Hanami — who commanded Amagiri at that time — attended President Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Burned on his chest, arms and face by flames, Zinser was knocked out by the impact. Two other crew members, including the man who had relieved Mr. Zinser after his shift, were killed in the attack and Kennedy further injured a bad back. The future president ordered his crew to swim for Cross Island, where the sailors were rescued five days later. It was more then six decades ago that a Japanese collision with his boat clinched Gerard Zinser’s slot in history. The crew of the PT-109, who were rescued when John F. Kennedy carved a message on a coconut shell and friendly natives delivered it to the US Forces. Crew: Lt. John F. Kennedy, Ensign Leonard Jay Thom, Ensign George H. R. Ross, S1/c Raymond Albert, RM2/c John E. Maguire, QM3/c Edman Edgar Mauer, GM3/c Charles A. Harris, MoMM1/c Patrick Henry McMahon, MoMM2/c William Johnston, TM2/c Ray L. Starkey, MoMM1/c Gerald E. Zinser , MoMM2/c William Johnston, TM2/c Ray L. Starkey. He went on with his life, carried mail in Winter Park, Florida, raised eight children, seven of them girls, retired to a life of fishing in Naples and, later, slowly fell into the fog of Alzheimer’s disease. On 20-01-1961, Mr. Zinser and seven fellow crewmen rode in the Kennedy inaugural parade on a float replicating PT 109. Mr. Zinser moved in with his only son and his family in 1998 after Mark Zinser decided he couldn’t leave his father in a nursing home. “Dad is going to come stay with us for a weekend,” he said he told the staff. “And they never saw him again. I think that gave him a couple more years.”
Death and burial ground of Zinser, Gerald Emil.
Gerald Zinser, old age 82, died on 21-08-2001 of Alzheimer in Orange Park, Florida and is buried on Arlington National Cemetery, Section 54. Mr. Zinser is survived by seven daughters, Jerilyn Dill, Carolyn Pickard, Patricia Vriesenga, Rosemary Shiflet, Pamela McLin, Marcia Cristell and Margaret Zinser, 24 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.