In a special donation ceremony Wednesday, April 21, Lt. Cmdr. Ted Robinson, U.S. Navy Reserve, donated a cane used by President John F. Kennedy during World War II to the National Museum of American History. The donation also included photographs and a camera. The cane has been in Robinson’s possession since Kennedy used it on Tulagi, a South Pacific Island where the future president recovered from injuries in 1943. It will be part of the museum’s Division of Political History.
Robinson, author of “Water In My Veins: The Pauper Who Helped Save A President,” is a former Navy colleague of Kennedy’s.
On Aug. 2, 1943, then-Lt. j.g. Kennedy was in command of the motor torpedo boat PT-109 when it was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer in the South Pacific. Kennedy and the surviving 10 crew members managed to swim to tiny Olasana Island where they were picked up six days later by PT-157. Robinson was aboard PT-157, and was the first to speak to the sun-burned and starving men about their experiences over the course of that week.
After the loss of his own PT boat a month later, Robinson again met Kennedy, who was recovering from a back injury and also without a vessel, on the island of Tulagi where they were tent mates. Robinson and Kennedy became friends and shared their wartime experiences.
One day while out with his camera, Robinson came upon Kennedy using a cane that Robinson had acquired in a trade with native islanders. He snapped a picture of Kennedy, who was smiling and leaning on the cane for support. The future president then took Robinson’s picture in the same pose. The two photos, cane and camera have been on display in Robinson’s living room since his return to the United States after the war’s end.
Posted: 26 April 2010