2 Aug: How JFK Got His Purple Heart

It’s rare to find a politician behaving as heroically as John F. Kennedy did on 2nd August, 1943. After his torpedo boat was exploded by a Japanese destroyer in the South Pacific, he swam more than three miles to the nearest island, towing along with him all the way an injured crew member – using just his teeth.

When asked to explain how he had come to be a hero, Kennedy replied laconically, “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.” His actions during this ordeal helped ensure the survival of his men and earned him a Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider if the story of the coconut shell Kennedy used to transmit their position has become romanticised; reveal how the injuries he sustained as a Navy lieutenant still impacted his health as President; and explain why British colonial racism spoiled the guestlist for his inauguration… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Why JFK Kept a Coconut Shell in the Oval Office’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2017): https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/why-jfk-kept-coconut-shell-white-house-desk-180964263/

• ‘The Navy Disaster That Earned JFK Two Medals for Heroism’ (HISTORY, 2018): https://www.history.com/news/jfk-wwii-purple-heart-torpedo-boat

• ‘JFK’s Survival Story: Shipwrecked War Hero to President | PT 109’ (HarperCollins, 2015):

#WW2 #US #Politics #Racism