3 Sep 2007

Solomon Islander recognised for helping future US President during WW2

6:15 am on 3 September 2007

64 years after Eroni Kumana helped rescue young U.S. naval officer John F. Kennedy he has been officially recognised by the U.S. Navy.

Mr Kumana and Biuku Gasa found the crew of torpedo boat PT-109 - including its skipper, Lt. Kennedy, the future president - after their vessel was cut in two by a Japanese destroyer.

The crew had been stranded on what is now Kennedy Island for six days, living on coconuts.

The two Solomon Islanders then rowed 60 kilometres through enemy-held waters to summon a rescue boat.

Mr Gasa, who died a few years ago, was belatedly recognized in 2002.

But Mr Kumana who is now 85 years old, got nothing and remained a forgotten hero - until last week when a presentation ceremony took place on the USS Peleliu, which was visiting Solomon Islands.

A close friend of the family, Danny Kennedy, - no relation to JFK - accompanied Mr Kumana to the presentation.

He says Mr Kumana was so overwhelmed during the presentation.

"He actually openly wept and in fact wailed, a wailing cry and it was really tears of joy, but at the same time a bit of sadness that it has taken so long for him to be recognised for what he did."

Danny Kennedy.