President John F. Kennedy is known for many things. While thrust into the spotlight at an early age because of his father’s business dealings and his grandfather’s position as mayor of Boston, Kennedy also became known for his heroism during the second world war. Volunteering for the war, he quickly earned the fascination of the American public with his heroic behavior. During this time, he was promoted to captain. When his boat was sunk in the South Pacific, Kennedy helped his crew find shelter in a small island. What is less known is that he also had some help after his boat was sunk by Japanese bombers. His PT boat was a heavily armed attack vessel that was bombed a Japanese destroyer while on patrol in 1943 near the heavily guarded Solomon Islands.
A Brave and Daring Rescue
As was later recounted in a best selling book, Kennedy assessed the situation and, despite suffering from serious war injuries, helped lead his crew to safety. What is not as well known to the general public is that he had help himself along the way. That help came in the form of William “Bud” Liebenow. Liebenow, like Kennedy, was a young college graduate at the time and also serving in the navy on the popular PT boats. Like Kennedy, he was also a captain of a boat and someone who was looked up to as leader among local navy cadets. On August 7th, 1943, he undertook a special secret mission. That mission was to rescue the sailors of the downed PT boat including the future president. The bombing had been hard on the crew, killing two and leaving Kennedy and everyone else to scavenge for food on the local tropical islands. Bravely bringing his boat into enemy patrolled waters, Liebenow successfully brought the young Kennedy and his men home.
In addition to rescuing Kennedy, Liebenow went on to pilot his boat and engage in yet more rescues during the world war. His efforts helped save dozens of his fellow countrymen and continued for the rest of the war. After the end of the war, he earned both a Bronze and a Silver Star for heroism. He also earned the gratitude of the future president. Kennedy invited Liebenow to join him on the campaign trail, thanking him many times for his heroic rescue efforts. Leibenow was also invited to an inaugural ball when Kennedy became president. In his later career, he was involved in many areas of railroad management. Kennedy had the full support of Kennedy and his admiration for the rest o his life. He was repeatedly interviewed by those seeking to write about the late president. His death at 97 leaves behind his wife, a son, two grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. In addition to his service in the Pacific, he was also part of the campaign in Europe, serving as part of the invasion of Normandy.