THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Rescuing JFK by Alan C. Elliott & Anna A. Kwai

When I started this new blog post series, I did it with the idea of sharing the WHY I created my stories, but then I thought…why not share OTHER authors STORY BEHIND “THEIR” STORY? I put the call out and soon I had tons of authors who wanted to share their backstories with my readers. This week children’s book author, Alan C. Elliott, is sharing the WHY he wrote his book, “Rescuing JFK”. Take it away, Alan…

Rescuing JFK by Alan C. Elliott & Anna A. Kwai

The story behind writing the chapter book Rescuing JFK: How Solomon Islanders Rescued JFK and the Crew of the PT-109 started a long time ago. I’ve always been a fan of history books and read through The Outline of History by H.G. Wells (and similar books) while in elementary school. So, when I began writing, I tended toward that genre. The first book of history I wrote was a collection of short biographies of inventors, inventions, and how people became famous. (A Daily Dose of the American Dream) Later, I wrote a history of the area where I grew up in Dallas (Images of America: Oak Cliff), and another book that featured stories of famous Texans. (Texas Ingenuity) Then I partnered with a history professor and wrote a brief history of the United States. Of course, this text included the dramatic events of the Cuban missile crisis when John F. Kennedy was president. My other interest was in children’s books, and I’ve had two picture books published. (On Sunday the Wind Came and Willy the Texas Longhorn

Fast forward to a little over a year ago when I was talking to some friends who were missionaries in the Solomon Islands, (particularly Martha Matzke) and working with their Education Department of the Solomon Islands to help with literacy. 

One type of book they wanted for the Solomon Islands kids was histories told from the country’s perspective. They had in mind a particular story that is the pride of the Solomon Islands Coastwatcher Scouts history during World War II. By helping the US and Australian armies, the scouts were able to help free their Islands from invaders. One particular incident that changed the course of world history was when two Scouts rescued Lieutenant John F. Kennedy and the Crew of the PT-109 (Patrol Torpedo Boat) after it was rammed and broken in half by a Japanese destroyer.

So, I began the process of researching the story of the rescue. To do this, I partnered with a Solomon Island historian named Anna Kwai, whose expertise included Solomon Island history during World War II. After studying the oral histories of the Scouts, getting information from living relatives, researching documents from the JFK library, and other material, we wrote the story. Careful attention was paid to telling the story in a way that honored the country’s cultural heritage.  

An American illustrator, Evelyn Morgan, and book designer Cindy Rodella-Purdy also worked with Anna, Martha, and others in the Solomon Islands to ensure every leaf and canoe in every illustration was exactly right.  

The result was an illustrated chapter book that has been well received by people all over the country. It was even presented as a gift to JFK’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy, at a World War II commemoration ceremony honoring the Coastwatcher Scouts in August, 2022. We’re hoping this book will not only provide Solomon Islands kids with a story that honors their culture, but one enjoyed by people around the world interested in this important story that changed the world by making famous a U.S. Navy Lieutenant who would later become the President of the United States.

Now, Rescuing JFK: How Solomon Islanders Rescued JFK and the Crew of the PT-109, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and bookstores everywhere.

Photo credit; Stefan Armbruster


Book blurb:

Rescuing JFK is the story of the PT-109’s dramatic rescue in World War II – told from the perspective of the two Solomon Islands Scouts who saved the crew. In this story, future president John F. Kennedy’s patrol torpedo boat (PT-109) is rammed by a Japanese destroyer and sunk during World War II. Two young Solomon Islanders, Scouts for the Australian Royal Navy’s Coastwatchers, rescue the crew in a daring adventure that shaped Kennedy’s (and America’s) future. These heroic deeds (of Biuku Gasa, Aaron Kumana) had a long-lasting effect on American history.

Available at these links


Barnes & Noble


Sandman Books


About the Author:

Alan C. Elliott is an author of over 25 books and numerous articles on history, innovation, ethics, and computing – as well as two picture books and a screenplay. Alan served on the UT Southwestern Medical Center faculty for 30 years and at SMU for six years. In addition, he’s served on academic, civic, and community boards, including Executive Director of Baby Moses Dallas, a non-profit organization with a mission to prevent violence against infants. He also founded the Dallas Area Writers Group (DAWG) to help writers achieve their dream of being published.

Alan’s latest books include Rescuing JFK: How Solomon Islanders Rescued John F. Kennedy and the Crew of the PT-109. (August 2022), Dreams That Built America (Thomas Nelson, October 2022), Willy the Texas Longhorn (Pelican, picture book, 2013), Texas Ingenuity (History Press, 2016)

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Alan’s website is