On a dark night in August of 1943, young Jack Kennedy is cruising silently through the waters of the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands on a PT-109, a small boat only 80 feet long. He and his 11 man crew are trying to avoid detection. When the PT is torn in half by a 300-foot Japanese destroyer, it is all too clear that they succeeded.
Ten of the men go overboard, two have died on impact. The remaining men are caught in the chaos of trying to keep their heads above water in a turbulent wake filled with the wreckage of their destroyed torpedo boat. One man is so badly burnt that he cannot swim.
Our future president becomes a hero on that night. He takes the straps of the injured man’s lifejacket into his teeth and drags him three miles to the nearest shore.
Imagine how tempting it must have been to give up. Saltwater in his eyes, the dead weight of another soldier pressing against his teeth, trying to breathe and swim at the same time without the use of his mouth. A harrowing rescue indeed.
The story told in this video by the American Heroes Channel is recounted in detail, including what happens when they reach the shore.