Wednesday, July 19, 2017

JFK and Ensign Fujita

JFK Poster
Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston, MA

2017 marks the centennial of the birth of John F. Kennedy who was born on May 29, 1917.  The 35th President of the United States famously served on a PT Boat in the US Navy during World War II.  JFK earned the Purple heart as a result of the injuries he sustained while commanding PT-109.  Most tales of JFK are well known but very few know about how JFK's life intersected with another veteran of the Pacific War in World War II who happened to fight as a member of the Imperial Japanese Navy -- Ensign Fujita.

In the Solomon Islands chapter of America Invades ( we noted...

JFK and Crew of PT-109
JFK Library, Boston, MA

"In August 1943, JFK’s motor torpedo boat, PT-109, was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer, and members of the crew had to hide on assorted islands in the Solomons until they could be saved in an epic rescue with the help of brave Solomon Islanders. Part of PT-109 was finally located in the waters of the Solomon Islands in 2002."

In the Oregon chapter of America Invaded: A State by State Guide to
Fighting on American Soil 
we discussed another naval veteran of World War II in the Pacific...

"Chief Warrant Officer Nobuo Fujita was the first and only officer serving in Axis forces to attack the US mainland from the air. He did so on September 9, 1942, with an E14Y1 reconnaissance floatplane that cruised at eighty-five miles per hour and carried 340 pounds of ordinance. Fujita’s goal was to set Oregon forests ablaze with incendiary bombs. Thermite charges were dropped on Mount Emily in the Klamath Mountains near the town of Brookings. Fujita launched a second bombing run near Port Orford on September 29. Recent rain prevented either attack from igniting serious wildfires.

On both attacks, Fujita had brought with him on his seaplane his prized four-hundred-year-old samurai sword. In 1962, amidst some controversy among veterans, Fujita returned to Oregon and apologized for his wartime mission by presenting his samurai sword to the mayor of Brookings in Curry County (named after Governor Curry). Even President Kennedy had been consulted to approve Fujita’s visit to the United States. The man who bombed America campaigned for peace and understanding between America and Japan, even helping to endow a scholarship that brought many Oregon students to Japan. His sword, a symbol of war and reconciliation, can be found today in the Chetco Public Library in Brookings."

Fujita Sword
Chetco Public Library, Brookings, OR

JFK's decision to admit Fujita to the United States was controversial in many quarters.  Some in Oregon protested the visit by a Japanese warrior who had bombed their home state.  In JFK's centennial year it seems appropriate to remember that JFK demonstrated wisdom and generosity of spirit by allowing Fujita into the United States.

JFK Library
Boston, MA

Travel Notes: The JFK Library in Boston, Massachusetts is a gem (  JFK has many hagiographers and more than a few detractors.  What I really appreciate about this Presidential Library is that it delivers a big slice of unfiltered and unmediated JFK.  There are many recordings of JFK's speeches, many of his letters and many of his treasured possessions -- such as the cocoanut he found on the Solomon Islands in WW2.  Nor does the library overdue JFK's assassination which is treated tastefully and sparingly.  Those interested in history's least mysterious mystery can find much at the 6th Floor Museum in Dallas, TX...

Chetco Public Library
Brookings, OR
Chetco Public Library ( I am delighted to announce that I will be returning to the Chetco Public Library in Brookings, OR on Wednesday, September 27 at 6:00pm to give a talk about our newest book America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil.

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Listen to my interview with John Gibson here...

1 comment:

Jack said...

If only we had similar leaders nowadays as well! the global power shift is kind of scary and we need the good old classics back in power again!