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Saving Lieutenant Kennedy

The heroic story of the Australian who helped rescue JFK

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The incredible story of an Australian hero who helped save the life of a future president.

On a moonless night in August 1943, a US torpedo boat commanded by Lt John F Kennedy, on patrol in Solomon Islands, was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. Left clinging to wreckage within sight of Japanese encampments, the eleven surviving members of Kennedy’s crew eventually struggled ashore on a small uninhabited island. Missing, presumed dead, behind enemy lines, with no food or water, and with several injured, the future looked bleak for the shipwrecked Americans. Fortunately, Australian ‘coast watcher’ Lt Reg Evans witnessed the immediate aftermath of the collision from his nearby jungle hideaway. Working under the searching eye of the Japanese military, over the next five days Evans and two Solomon Islander scouts — Eroni Kumana and Biuku Gasa — located Kennedy and his crew and ensured their rescue.

This story of wartime bravery and survival helped create JFK’s legend and paved his way to the White House. It also shone a spotlight on Australia and America’s shared wartime experience. In Saving Lieutenant Kennedy, Brett Mason, author of Wizards of Oz, sets the heroic rescue and its colourful aftermath against the background of the Pacific war and the birth of the Australia–US alliance, which remains as vital today as when Kennedy and Evans first shook hands.

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