John F. Kennedy
The 4th successfully assassinated president of the United Statesby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Can you name one of the bravest presidents who lived briefly but with great impact? On May 29, 1917, in Boston, Mass., John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was born to a fiercely competitive Roman Catholic family whose passions were politics, sailing, and contact sports. John’s father, who was a combative businessman, became a multimillionaire, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the ambassador to Great Britain. The Kennedy family progressively moved to Riverdale and finally to Bronxville, both suburbs of NYC. Like all his siblings, John attended private schools as a child. After graduating from Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut in 1935, he briefly attended Princeton University until an illness forced him to leave. In 1936, he went to Harvard University. At Harvard University, he wrote an honors thesis on British foreign policies in the 1930’s. The book was published under the title "Why England Slept in 1940". Upon graduating from Harvard University, he signed up for the U. S. Navy.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the USA into World War II against
the Japanese, Kennedy was assigned to a PT boat, 109. PT boats are fast, highly
maneuverable patrol boats that are used for lightning attacks on enemy barges,
destroyers, and other watercraft. On one such patrol, a little after midnight,
Kennedy’s boat was cut in half by a destroyer. As soon as all of the crew
that was alive had been discovered, Kennedy’s crew built a raft from the
timber of the PT boat. As many as were able climbed on to the raft, while the
rest swam nearby. Although he had a hurt back, Kennedy towed a crewman, who
couldn’t swim, for five hours to shore. The rest of the crew arrived with
the raft two hours later. For the next four days, it was said Kennedy swam from
sunrise to sunset looking for help. After swimming on the fifth day to Cross
Island, Kennedy persuaded the friendly natives to go for help. Finally, on the
sixth day, the crew was rescued on August 7. When he reached headquarters, Kennedy
received the Navy and Corps Medal for his heroism and bravery and was awarded
the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat.
When he retired from the military, John F. Kennedy got into politics. In 1946, he ran successfully for a Boston-based seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and was reelected in 1950. In 1952, he challenged the incumbent Republican senator from Massachusetts and defeated him with a platform of social legislation. Unfortunately, he was an ineffectual senator during parts of 1954 and 1955, as he was seriously ill with back ailments. During his illness, though, he was able to write a book of biographical studies of American political heroes. The book was published in 1956 under the title Profiles in Courage and it won the Pulitzer Prize. Like his other book, it revealed his admiration for forceful political figures. In 1956, he bid unsuccessfully for Democratic vice-president nomination. Thereafter, he set his sights on presidency. In 1960, he ran for president and won against Richard Nixon.
While Kennedy was a Cold War president during the nuclear arms race against the U.S.S.R. At this point, the United States had made nuclear missiles that could hit Russia from the USA base in Turkey. To maintain detente (power balance), Russia asked Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuba, if they could move their missiles into his country. Castro, who had recently fought off an invasion of the U.S. at the Bay of Pigs, heartily agreed. When the U.S. confirmed this through high altitude U2 spy plane photos, they immediately surrounded Cuba with a Naval Blockade. If one of the U.S. ships saw a Russian ship, the U.S. would warn that Russian ship by shooting across their bow. If the Russian ship didn’t stop after three warnings, the U.S. would shoot the Russian ship. Although hawkish advisors pushed President Kennedy into brinkmanship, others realized this plan could rapidly escalate into a nuclear war. The Russian Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, also realized this but he did not want to back down and appear weak in front of his cabinet. Just before the Russian fleet arrived to counter the US blockade, Kennedy contacted Khrushchev and told him, “If you move all your missiles out of Cuba, we will break the blockade and not invade Cuba.” Khrushchev agreed. The U.S. removed the blockade and Russia poled their missiles out of Cuba. People say that this is the closest the world has come to a nuclear war.
Suddenly, in 1963, the president’s life ended. As the Governor of Texas, President John F. Kennedy, his wife, Vice-president Lyndon B. Johnson, and his wife drove through Dallas in an open limo, three shots rang out. Kennedy was shot in the back of the neck and head. The third bullet hit the governor in the back. They were immediately rushed to the nearest hospital. Kennedy died about a half hour later. The governor survived.
The man who assassinated him, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a U.S. citizen who had joined communism. His reason for killing Kennedy was unknown for, on his way to jail he was shot by Jack Ruby. This left many questions unanswered and led to many conspiracy theories. Was there more than one assassin? Did other political leaders know about the assassination? Was it a within the administration? While Oswald was with a communist group, did someone hire him to kill Kennedy? We may never know.
The youngest president of the United States had accomplishment great things in a short time. These were graduating from Harvard University, receiving the Navy and Corps Medal, becoming the president, and stopping the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy did many great deeds and, of all of them, the one that impacted his life the most was during World War II, after their PT boat was cut in half, he risked his life swam around for five days to save his crewmembers and himself.
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