A Navy officer who helped rescue three men from a remote Pacific island says it took several approaches and a smoke marker to convince the castaways that their "help" signal had been spotted and they would be saved.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Harkins told the Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday night that the three men, whose small skiff capsized off an island in Micronesia days earlier, continued to frantically wave their orange life vests overhead as the sailors circled above in their aircraft.

The flight crew first rocked the aircraft's wings, then made several low approaches before finally dropping a smoke marker in front of the men.

Harkins says the stranded men eventually understood their ordeal was over and rested on the palm fronds that spelled out "help" on the desolate beach.