TRAVEL: by Eric Mackenzie Lamb
During the early stages of World War II, Lieutenant John F. Kennedy was apppointed as leader of a secret effort to defeat the Japanese invasion of the Pacific islands. One night, in total darkness, his PT-109 boat was struck by a passing Japanese destroyer. Kennedy swam for three and a half miles to safety, a strap clenched in his mouth while dragging a badly burned sailor and urging his remaining crew to follow him during the perilous four hour swim. Exhausted and struggling ashore, he found himself marooned on this tiny speck of an island.
Kennedy, then 26 years old, hid from the enemy and set out swimming against strong currents as he looked for help during a six day survival oddysey.
Two native scouts, Eroni Kumana and Biaku Gasta, found the sailors and saved their lives. Gasta instructed Kennedy to carve a distress message into a green coconut. The scouts then paddled for 35 miles through enemy waters. Finally, they managed to deliver the coconut to military rescuers.
Within 48 hours, Kennedy and his crew were rescued by local fishermen and taken to a nearby island. They received a traditional tribal welcome upon landing.
Years later, a monument was erected at their landing site by the local tribal chiefs.
The engraved coconut husk now sits on display for all to see at the John F. Kennedy presidential library and museum.