SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A Sacramento man saw President John F. Kennedy’s bravery in the Navy after the rescue of the future commander-in-chief in the south Pacific during World War II.
Aug. 1, 1943—a small group of PT boats were on a night mission against the Japanese.
In one boat, a young officer named Ted Robinson. Another officer in a lead boat was John F. Kennedy.
It was a long time ago, and a long way from Robinson’s home today in Sacramento.
Robbie, as he was called, arrived in Guadalcanal about three months before Kennedy, who had used family influence to get out of desk duty in Philadelphia.
“He volunteered to go into PTs, which was suicide work,” Robinson said.
That August night in the Solomon Islands eventually found Kennedy’s PT-109 alone. That is, until the Japanese destroyer Amagiri rammed it at full speed, splitting it in half.
His crew was thrown through flaming fuel and into the churning ocean.
Days later, one Kennedy crewman would tell Robinson about Kennedy’s courage.
“He said Mr. Kennedy could have stayed safe on that hull, and like a damn fool, he dove into that gasoline, and one at a time he hauled back his men,” Robinson said.
Kennedy decided they all had to swim more than two miles to make it to a small island.
“And one of the men was so seriously hurt he was bleeding,” Robinson said. “Nobody wanted them on their wreckage, because the south Pacific is totally filled with sharks.”
But Kennedy took matters into his own hands, or rather his teeth.
“And Jack took that hopeless man, and he took the man’s tie jacket in his teeth,” he said.
Kennedy towed that injured sailor leaving a trail of blood in the water. That is Kennedy Courage.
“Jack wasn’t the only guy that was ever rammed,” he said. “He was the only guy that became president for God’s sake.”
Robinson has written about his experiences in the war with Kennedy called Water In My Veins.