August 2, 1943 ~ JFK, PT-108, & the Coconut
1943 – World War II: The Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 is rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri and sinks. Lt. John F. Kennedy, future U.S. President, saves all but two of his crew.
On August 2, 1943, a 26-year-old LTJG John F. Kennedy and his crew were marooned on a deserted island after his Motor Torpedo Patrol Boat PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer and sunk.
Kennedy and his remaining crew swam more than three miles to the nearest island.
The men stayed on the island for two days with only coconuts to provide nourishment
While foraging for food and water Kennedy saw two Solomon Islanders in a canoe and called out to them. The pair, Kumana and Gasa offered to help get a message to the U.S. Navy on a neighboring island
Kennedy used one of the discarded coconut shells to carve out a message for his new found friends to take back to the Allies.
Kumana and Gasa carried the coconut message by boat through Japanese-occupied waters at great personal risk, successfully reaching allied-controlled territory.
Thanks to two daring men and a coconut shell, the crew of PT-109 was rescued. Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal as well as a Purple Heart.
The heroic story followed him into politics, and so did the Coconut shell. Along the way, the Coconut shell was returned to Kennedy. He would later cast it in resin and use it as paperweight throughout his career.
He also displayed the coconut that saved his crew proudly on the Resolute Desk throughout his time in in the Oval office.
Kennedy kept in touch with Kumana and Gasa, exchanging letters with them throughout the remained of his life.
As for the Coconut Shell. It is on display at the The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.