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JFK & Caroline Swims

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was a competent swimmer which enabled him to save lives during his US Navy service in World War II.

On 2nd August 1943, while serving as a Lieutenant in the Solomon Islands (pictured above), the 26 years-old future President’s Patrol Torpedo Craft (PT109) was sunk by the Japanese and Kennedy and his crew survived by clinging to the flaming pieces of his boat in the pitch darkness.

Kennedy then led his crew on a four-mile, 15-hour swim to a nearby island while pulling a badly burned crew member by biting the rope on his life jacket to free his arms for swimming.

After days without food or water, Kennedy and his men swam to another island where two natives found them. Kennedy sent them for help by delivering a message he carved into a piece of coconut shell: “NAURO ISL…COMMANDER…NATIVE KNOWS POS’IT…HE CAN PILOT…11 ALIVE…NEED SMALL BOAT…KENNEDY”.

The coconut message was delivered and Kennedy and his PT-109 crew were rescued on 8th August 1943. Kennedy’s father, Joseph, later had the coconut shell mounted on a wood base and JFK used it as a paperweight on his desk in the Oval Office. The ‘President’s Rescue Coconut’ is now in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, USA. (the source for this article) For his service, Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and the Purple Heart.

By Ria Bleathman, (Reproduced from the Brighton Iceberger Newsletter 6th Aug 2021).

Referring to the article above about the remarkable survival story of future US President John Kennedy during World War II when he swam his US Navy crew of ten to safety in the Solomon Islands after their patrol boat had been rammed by an enemy vessel. Kennedy and his crew were saved by the heroics of the Solomon Islanders who carried Kennedy’s rescue message carved on a coconut to a nearby Australian radio base.

It was a poignant sequel that, on the 80th anniversary of that event in August 2023, J.F.K.s daughter and current US Ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy and her son Jack Schlossberg, waded into the waters between two deserted islands in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands to commemorate her father’s remarkable story. (pictured at the top).

Kennedy said before her swim that “it makes me feel connected to my family and to my father.” John Koloni, 60, whose father was one of two Solomon Islanders who carried J.F.K.’s coconut to the Australian base, was present and thanked Kennedy for following through on a pledge from her father. “He made a promise to come back and visit,” he said. “It never happened, but now his daughter is here. The promise has been fulfilled.” To add further poignancy to this story, the island in the Solomons where J.F.K. and his crew were marooned is now two islands due to rising sea levels

By Ria Bleathman, (Reproduced from the Brighton Iceberger Newsletter 28 Sept 2023).

Kennedy Island (local name Kasolo Island, also known as Plum Pudding Island), is a 1.17 hectares (2.9 acres), uninhabited island in Solomon Islands.

Further information on Wikipedia here

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