If it weren’t for American Navy Officer William “Bud” Liebenow deftly guiding a warship into Japanese waters, John F. Kennedy would never have lived to become the 35th President of the United States.
Bud not only helped save JFK and the lives of his crew in 1943 (they were both PT captains in the Pacific), but when the Allies invaded Normandy a few years later, he commanded a vessel to pick up those whose own boats had been blown to smithereens by the Nazis.
The World War II veteran passed away in Arlington, Virginia on Friday. He was 97.
Born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia, he enlisted right after graduating college in 1941, and soon took to the machines that would one day make him a hero, the fast, quick maneuverable PTs.
As fate would have it, he would play a major role in the story of — easily — the most famous PT to roam the open ocean.
109. And the skipper and future patriarch of “Camelot.”
This from the Associate Press:
Kennedy and 10 other surviving crew members swam to a small island. Kennedy scratched a note into a coconut that two Solomon Islands natives carried to an American base.
Liebenow guided his boat behind enemy lines to track down the survivors of PT-109 on the island where they were hiding.
“Pulled right up to the beach,” Liebenow told WRAL-TV in 2015. “Just a part of the job really.”
Almost two decades after the rescue, Kennedy remembered, and extended an invitation to his presidential inauguration to Liebenow and his family.
After the service the former Navy man worked for the Ohio and Chesapeake railways as a chemist. He retired after 30 years.
He’s survived by his daughter, his son, and his wife.
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