SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) — A retired Lieutenant Commander credited with rescuing John F. Kennedy during World War II recounted his experience in front of a packed crowd in San Rafael Monday.
95-year old U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Ted Robinson was a young ensign in the South Pacific when he got word that a Navy torpedo boat had been sunk, and its crew set adrift.READ MORE: State Sen. Wiener's Recovery Incentives Act Would Pay Meth Addicts to Stay Sober
That boat was the PT 109, and its skipper was a young lieutenant named John F. Kennedy.
âHe had a lot of guts, and what he did to try to save his men after his boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer is unbelievable,â Robinson said.
Kennedy dove into a burning sea to pull his men back onto the wreckage, and then swam for two miles towing an injured sailor, despite his own serious injuries.
Robinson was asked to make a rescue attempt.READ MORE: Notorious Norteño Gang Member 'Lil Rhino' Sentenced For Carrying Out Jailhouse Attacks
âIf youâre a little pissy-ass ensign, which I was, and the commanding officer of the United States Navy asks if youâd like to do something, itâs gotta be the greatest idea in the whole freakinâ world!â Robinson said.
Against all odds, Robinson sailed his own PT boat through 30-miles of enemy-controlled water to save Kennedy and his crew. After his own boat was destroyed, Robinson shared a hospital tent with the future president, where they took photos of each other.
Even then, Robinson remembers Kennedy being concerned about the living conditions of the island natives.
âHe was talking about someday we ought to help people like this, and that was the start of the Peace Corps,â he said.
Robinson spoke for nearly an hour Monday, and received a standing ovation from the audience.MORE NEWS: Santa Rosa Lawmaker Proposes Plan For City-Sanctioned Sideshows
Robinson lives in the Sacramento area, and has written a book on his experience during the war, called âWater In My Veins: The Pauper Who Helped Save A President.â