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World War II in Solomon Islands



Kennedy Island


Kennedy Island, Solomon IslandsBy Richard Moore

Lieutenant John F Kennedy, later to become a US President, rose to fame during World War II after an incident not far from Mbabanga Island in the Solomon Islands.

It was August 2, 1943, when Kennedy's patrol torpedo boat, the PT-109, was patrolling at night near New Georgia when it was rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri.

With his vessel cut in two, Kennedy organised his surviving crew around the PT-109's wreckage.

As he saw it there were two choices - "fight or surrender".

Kennedy reportedly said: "There's nothing in the book about a situation like this. A lot of you men have families and some of you have children. What do you want to do? I have nothing to lose."

His crew refused to surrender and swam to a small island with an injured Kennedy towing a badly burned sailor to shore with the man's lifejacket between his teeth.

From there the survivors swam to a second island from where they were eventually rescued.

Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and was praised in despatches.

"For extremely heroic conduct as Commanding Officer of Motor Torpedo Boat 109 following the collision and sinking of that vessel in the Pacific War Theatre on August 12, 1943.

"Unmindful of personal danger, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade) Kennedy unhesitatingly braved the difficulties and hazards of darkness to direct rescue operations, swimming many hours to secure aid and food after he had succeeded in getting his crew ashore.

"His outstanding courage, endurance and leadership contributed to the saving of several lives and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

In October that same year, Kennedy took command of PT-59 and was involved in a rescue mission on the northern island of Choiseul.

A small memorial to Kennedy, built by local man Eroni Kumana - who aided in the rescue of the crew - stands on the island.


Copyright 2014 RICHARD MOORE