It’s a well known fact that President John F. Kennedy served with the Navy during WW2 and that he won a medal for heroism and generally being awesome. What isn’t as well known is how ridiculously badass Kennedy acted on that fateful day.
Before we get into that though we need to explain how Kennedy came to enlist with the Navy in the first place because it’s an awesome story and because we can. Today it’s fairly well known that President Kennedy suffered from horrific, chronic back pain virtually his entire adult life and that the pain this ailment caused him was so severe that when WW2 broke out, the US Army refused to let him enlist after his medical examination. Unwilling to let something like crippling back pain stop him from serving his country, Kennedy used his family connections to enlist in the Navy instead, making him perhaps the first person in history to use power and wealth to not dodge being drafted into the military.
After signing up with the Navy, which was again, something he actively went out of his way to do, and working his way through the ranks, Kennedy was put in charge of the PT-109, a torpedo patrol boat, after voluntarily putting himself forward for training so that he could move away from a cushy desk job. We hope you’re starting to see a repeating pattern notably absent of fucks right about now. Because damn did Kennedy run out of those early in life.
In 1943 Kennedy’s boat was hit by a Japanese destroyer and when we say “hit” we don’t mean by a torpedo, we mean the boat Kennedy was in command of was literally hit by an enemy ship which ripped the boat clean in two. The crash which killed two sailors outright and threw several more into the cold, unforgiving sea, also caused fuel which had leaked onto the surface of the water to catch fire. Which is when Kennedy started to get annoyed.
Despite being injured himself, Kennedy dove into the flaming water and dragged three of his injured comrades to relative safety, which roughly translates to, the patch of sea smart enough to not be on fire around John F. Kennedy. However, after 12 agonising hours of clinging to what remained of the ship, Kennedy decided that he and the other 10 survivors needed to get to land, which would mean swimming for five hours, through shark infested water, some of which was on fire.
Another problem for the survivors was deciding what to do with sailor Patrick McMahon, who had been so badly hurt during the crash that he couldn’t swim or even float convincingly. Unwilling to entertain the idea of leaving a man behind, Kennedy strapped a lifevest to McMahon, secured one of its straps between his teeth and then swam five hours to a nearby uninhabited island, all while pushing a piece of driftwood laden with salvaged supplies.
When they all arrived at the island, after ensuring that everyone was safe Kennedy stripped down to his underwear (we’re not making that up) and swam to another nearby island to look for help, in the dark. When he couldn’t find any help, he swam back to the island and drank coconut milk. When that ran out, he dragged McMahon into the water and swam to another island where some friendly natives helped them flag down a passing American ship, which Kennedy did by firing his pistol wildly into the air.
Reminder, Kennedy did all of this while suffering from the kind of back pain limbo dancers experiences during rough sex.
Unsurprisingly, Kennedy was awarded a medal for his heroism, in typical Kennedy fashion, when later asked how he won his medals for heroism and subsequently became a war hero, he wryly responded “It was easy, they cut my boat in half.”