60th Anniversary of JFK’s Epic Solomon Islands Swim

HONIARA, Solomon Islands, August 3. JFK's boat was rammed by a Japanese craft during World War II. Sixty years after it helped turn him into a war hero, a swim made by former US President John F Kennedy in the Solomon Islands is being re-enacted.

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) reported on that re-enactment:

"The organizer of [yesterday's] event hopes it will raise money for the local community and bring back tourists to the Solomons, where unrest has led to the dispatch of an international peacekeeping force.

"Despite the current troubles, the swim is likely to be easier than that completed by the former president, who was trying to save comrades trapped behind Japanese enemy lines during World War II.

"Danny Kennedy, no relation to JFK, told BBC News Online the participants would have to negotiate sharks and an ocean swell, but not enemy troops.

"In contrast, John F Kennedy was swimming for his life – rescuing his men and trying to avoid being spotted by the Japanese, who were occupying the Solomons in an attempt to extend their rule to nearby Australia and New Zealand.

"His adventure began when the patrol boat he was skippering against Japanese convoys off Ghizo island in the Solomons was rammed by a Japanese destroyer.

"Kennedy's PT109 sank, and the future president, who swam at Harvard University, spent 30 hours helping the survivors to nearby Plum Pudding Island – later renamed Kennedy Island – six kilometres (3.5 miles) away.

"He then made a round trip of about 4km to Naru and Olasana islands in search of help and food.

"Kennedy and his men survived for six days on coconuts before they were found by two local men who sent a message by coconut husk to an Australian military unit in the area that arranged a rescue.

"One of the locals, Biuku Gasa, lives in a house paid for by the Kennedy family, in recognition of his help.

"There were only five overseas and two local participants in Sunday's race.

"'A lot of people bailed because they felt it was too unsafe to come,'" said Mr Kennedy. He said that local tourism had been battered by an Australian travel advisory warning against visits to the entire Solomons region, even though Kennedy Island and the surrounding area was so remote – completely removed from any violence.

"'Our numbers are down to about 70%,'" he said.

"But Mr Kennedy said that the finances of the local community, which he hopes will be improved by money raised by the race, have been more damaged by corruption and misappropriation of funds than the civil unrest.

"The swim aims to raise money for medical supplies and a library."

Photograph of Kennedy Island

President John F Kennedy on Boat

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Author: Archive Team


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