The Incredible Story Behind John F. Kennedy's Purple Heart

Despite not needing to serve in World War II, John F. Kennedy wanted to fight for his country. This was not Kennedy's first try in the Army, though.

Joining The Military

With his father's influence and help, Kennedy's back issues were swept aside, and he was able to join the Office of Naval Intelligence in October 1941. However, Kennedy did not want to stay there.

Kennedy went to the Naval Reserve Officers Training School and graduated in September of 1942. Post-graduation, he went to the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training center and was made lieutenant, junior grade.

His first assignment was commanding a PT-101 in Panama with the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Four. However, Kennedy was only there for a couple of months before becoming a replacement officer on a Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Two on the Island of Tulagi.

Sunken Ship, Not Spirits

He was the commanding officer of the boat PT-109 by April 1943. Unfortunately, the PT-109 was sunk by the Japanese, but that did not dampen Kennedy's spirit.

Two men died when the ship sank, but the rest were left treading water. The men were over three miles from shore, but Kennedy led them to the island.

One of the men could not swim, so Kennedy took a boat strap, wrapped it around the man, and put it between his teeth to pull him to shore. The Japanese patrolled the water, and there was no food or water available. Kennedy wrote a note on a coconut and got it to a native who passed it along to the Navy.

When all of his crew were together, getting ready to vote on fighting or surrendering, he said, "there's nothing in the book about a situation like this. A lot of you men have families, and some of you have children. What do you want to do? I have nothing to lose."

The Navy got his message and saved the men six days later. After that day, Kennedy was awarded a Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

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