"PT-109" was a song by Jimmy Dean about the combat service of John F. Kennedy and the crew of the PT-109. The boat was famous even before Kennedy ran for office because Kennedy and most of the crew had survived after it was rammed and cut in two by a Japanese destroyer (Kennedy and the crew were rescued after several days on an uninhabited island by two native islanders Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana although the islanders are not mentioned in the song.
In 1961 Dean had recorded "Big Bad John", a song that would become his biggest hit ever, peaking at number one on the country and pop charts. Dean had five more top forty songs in 1962. "PT-109" was his biggest hit in 1962, reaching the top ten with Kennedy still in the White House — it preceded the 1963 film of the same title. The song was Dean's sixth release on the country chart and peaked at number three and stayed on the country chart for thirteen weeks. "PT-109" also went to number eight on the pop chart and number two on the Hot Adult Contemporary chart. It was one of several military themed singles of the 1960s — some pro-military, some anti-military. Others include "Ballad of the Green Berets", "Sink The Bismarck!," "Billy and Sue", "Gonna Raise A Ruckus Tonight", "Sky Pilot (Part One)", "Navy Blue," and"Soldier Boy."
The lyrics reflect the accepted usages of the time with references to "a Jap destroyer" and "the heathen gods of old Japan."