On a deadly dark night during WWII, just off the coast of the Solomon Islands, a young US Navy captain led a small crew on a perilous mission. Their orders? Deliver torpedoes into the hulls of enemy destroyers supplying their land-bound troops. The challenge? It was 2:30 AM on a lightless night and the young captain couldn’t see a thing. By the time his crew spotted the hulking bow of a 388-foot-long destroyer on a collision course with their 80-foot vessel, it was too late.
To the crew aboard Patrol Torpedo Boat 109, it was like the destroyer came out of nowhere. Two men died on impact. Many more were wounded, including the captain himself. And yet, that young man was the first to act, collecting his scattered crew and regrouping them on the floating wreckage of their ship. He’d been a member of his college swim team, grown up sailing with his family, and learned to navigate by the stars. All of his experience came into play as he pointed toward a nearby island and told his men to swim the distance. He himself had another task to manage: one of his men was too wounded to swim.
Gripping the strap of the man’s lifejacket, the captain shoved it between his teeth, plunged into the oil-slick water, and began to swim, towing the wounded soldier three agonizing miles to safety. Upon heaving himself and his man out of the waves, young John F. Kennedy emptied his stomach of salt water once, then collapsed face-first into the sand.
It would take 6 long days and nights, another towing session in search of fresh water and food, and a makeshift SOS message carved into the husk of a coconut and carried by friendly native allies before young JFK and his team would be rescued.
For his heroic actions, and for saving the life of a fellow officer, John was awarded the Purple Heart, as well as the Navy and Marine Corps medal. This story was the beginning of something greater, too. This was the moment when John F. Kennedy became an American hero, and in due time, it would be the story that would inspire a nation to elect him to a more significant, high-stakes leadership role…President of the United States.
Stay tuned for the next chapter in this Miles Standish-designed, 7k exclusive series, An American Life, featuring JFK…
An American Icon…
An American Hero…
An American Life.
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