November 23, 1963OBITUARY: JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY: PART III OF V
Kennedy Boyhood and Youth Were Often a Tale of Sharp Rivalry of 2 BrothersJoseph Jr. Ruled John With Fists
Future President Offered Few Signs Then of His Interest in Politics
In the absence of the boys' father, young Joseph took on some of his authority. In the big family it was Joseph Jr. who laid down the law. He had a quick temper and he tended to enforce his rulings with his fists.
All through childhood and early adolescence Joseph Jr. and John fought. The outcome was inevitable--John was smaller, slimmer and less developed than his brother. But still the boys fought. Their younger brother, Robert, remembered years later how he and his sisters had cowered in an upstairs room while the two boys fought below.
The rivalry was not confined to the physical. Joseph Jr. was an able, aggressive, outgoing youngster.
John Kennedy gave few signs in his youth that he might some day head for the Presidency.
He was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, a Boston suburb. His first years were spent in Brookline at 83 Beals Street, a comfortable white frame house in a pleasant upper middle- class neighborhood.
Attended Private School In Brookline, John started his education at the Dexter school, a private school rather than a parochial institution.
By 1926 Joseph Kennedy's business interests were concentrated in New York and he decided to uproot his family from the Boston milieu.
John went to fourth, fifth and sixth grades in the Riverdale Country Day School. Years later he was dimly remembered by his teachers as a likable youngster, moderately studious, polite and hot-tempered.
The family then moved to near-by Bronxville where Joseph Kennedy had purchased an 11- bedroom red brick house.
Only one year of John's education was spent in a Catholic institution. This was Canterbury, a preparatory school at New Milford, Mass., where John went for a year at the age of 13.
The next fall he shifted to Choate at Wallingford, Conn. Choate was a rather exclusive boys' school with a strong Protestant Episcopal orientation. His brother, Joseph Jr., had gone to the school two years ahead of John and was a leader.
There was nothing brilliant about John Kennedy's record at Choate. To his teachers he gave no outward sign of special ability. His grades were average.
At Choate John made friends with Lemoyne Billings, a boy from Baltimore. This was one of the earliest of his school friendships that were to endure and grow as his political career began to gather headway.
John Kennedy was graduated from Choate in 1935, when he was 18. He was tall, thin, wiry, good-looking and energetic.
John had decided to break with family tradition and go to Princeton rather than Harvard, where his father had studied, and where Joseph Jr. was already cutting out an important career.
However, John had a recurrence of jaundice in December and left Princeton. In the autumn of 1936 he entered Harvard.
His first two years at Harvard were undistinguished. He got slightly better than a C average as a freshman and about the same as a sophomore.
John went out for freshman football but was too light to make the team. He suffered a back injury that was to plague him seriously later on. But football gave him another of his lifetime friends. This was Torbert H. Macdonald.
The turning point in John's college career probably was a trip to Europe that he made in the summer of 1937 with Billings.
John had an audience with the Pope and met Cardinal Pacelli, who was to become Pope Pius XII.
'Quite a Fellow' "He is quite a fellow," John wrote his parents. John also admired the Fascist system in Italy "as everyone seemed to like it," but took a balanced view of the civil war in Spain.
Toward the close of 1937 his father was named Ambassador to the Court of St. James's by President Roosevelt.
Ambassador Kennedy was in the thick of the controversy over United States policy. He took the side of the supporters of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, backed the Munich agreement and, in general, expressed views regarded by his critics as those of isolationism and appeasement.
John Kennedy's interest in foreign affairs was further stimulated when he obtained permission from Harvard to spend the second semester of his junior year in Europe.
John's final year at Harvard was by far the best of his educational career.
For the first time he demonstrated intellectual drive and vigor. He was determined to be graduated with honors and took extra work in political science toward this end. His grades improved to a B average.
But his principal achievement of the year was the writing of a thesis, "Appeasement at Munich." In it, his basic point was:
Most of the critics have been firing at the wrong target. The Munich Pact itself should not be the object of criticism but rather the underlying factors such as the state of British opinion and the condition of Britain's armaments which made "surrender" inevitable.
"To blame one man, such as Baldwin, for the unpreparedness of British armaments is illogical and unfair, given the condition of democratic government."
In June, 1940, John Kennedy was graduated cum laude in political science. His thesis had won a magna cum laude.
BITUARY: JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY: PART IV OF V
Coconut Shell in the White House Recalled Rescue in World War II
"Native knows posit he can pilot 11 alive need small boat kennedy."
This crude memento was a souvenir of as close a brush with death as John Kennedy--or any other man--was likely to experience and live to talk about. It also marked the climax of his brief but daring and courageous military career.
Mr. Kennedy was graduated from Harvard in June, 1940, just after the so-called "phony war" had ended in Europe.
With World War II more and more dominating the world's headlines and the thoughts of men, Mr. Kennedy found it impossible to settle down to civilian existence.
He had talked of entering Yale Law School in the fall of 1940. But he changed his mind at the last moment and enrolled at the Stanford University business school for graduate work.
Wanted Military Service He was restless, however, and left school to make a long tour of South America. By the time he got back he had one interest--to get into the armed forces.
He undertook a rigorous course of conditioning and exercises and managed to pass a Navy physical in September, 1941.
He was assigned at first to a desk in Naval intelligence in Washington, preparing a news digest for the Navy Chief of Staff.
This was not to his liking. He invoked his father's influence and managed to get transferred to the torpedo boat training station at Melville, R.I., where a number of his friends, including his Harvard roommate, Torbert H. Macdonald, were already stationed.
In March, Lieutenant (j.g.) Kennedy had command of PT-109, a boat that was part of a PT squadron based at Rendova, south of New Georgia.
Not long after midnight Aug. 2, 1943, PT-109 was on patrol in Blackett Strait in the Solomon Islands, about forty miles from the Rendova base. The 26-year-old Lieutenant Kennedy was in charge, leading three other PT boats.
His first officer, George Ross, a Princeton graduate, was at the wheel.
Suddenly out of the murk the Japanese destroyer, Amagiri, bore down on them at 30 knots. It rammed the boat squarely, cutting it in two and steamed on without loss of speed.
2 Crewmen Killed Two members of the PT crew were killed outright. Lieutenant Kennedy was hurled onto the deck, falling on his back.
But he was not killed. Nor was his craft sunk. The after half of the PT remained afloat although the sea was covered with burning gasoline. Although his back had been injured by his fall, Lieutenant Kennedy and several of his crew members managed to aid two men who were badly hurt--Patrick H. McMahon, the engineer who was severely burned, and Harris, a fellow Bostonian who had hurt his leg.
The men hoped for an early rescue but no help came. Apparently the other PT boats had assumed all men were lost.
The next night the hull capsized and Lieutenant Kennedy led his party to a small island. Most of the way he swam, breast-stroke, pulling the injured Mr. McMahon by life preserver straps that he clasped in his teeth.
Lieutenant Kennedy left his exhausted mates on the atoll and swam on further to Ferguson Passage through which PT boats frequently operated. He carried with him a heavy ship's lantern for signaling.
All night long he swam and drifted in the Ferguson Passage, hoping a PT boat would come along. Sometimes he dozed in the water. No PT boats appeared. In early morning he swam back to the reef where his comrades waited and sank exhausted and sick on the sand.
The next night Mr. Ross swam to Ferguson Passage but had no more luck.
The next day Lieutenant Kennedy moved his men to another island closer to Ferguson Passage. All were hungry and thirsty. Some were ill.
On the fourth day Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Ross swam to Cross Island, even closer to Ferguson Passage. Here they made a great find--a keg of water and a box of biscuits and hard candy left behind by the Japanese. They also found a native dugout canoe. Mr. Kennedy left Mr. Ross on Cross and paddled back to his crew with food and water.
On the fifth day he returned to Cross, but on the way a storm swamped the canoe. But, in imminent peril of drowning, he was sighted by a group of Solomon Islanders in a large canoe. They took him to Cross and Mr. Ross. Here they led the Americans to a larger canoe concealed on the island.
Mr. Kennedy took a coconut, scratched on it the message:
"Native knows posit he can pilot 11 alive need small boat kennedy." He told the natives again and again "Rendova, Rendova." They paddled away.
That night he and Mr. Ross again went out to Ferguson Passage. Again their canoe was capsized and they nearly drowned. They made it back to Cross and sank on the beach in exhausted slumber.
But on that morning--the sixth since the disaster--Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Ross were awakened by four natives, one of whom spoke excellent English and said:
"I have a letter for you, sir."
More than seventeen years later, after Lieutenant Kennedy had become President Kennedy, the man who received the message and summoned help was identified as A. R. Evans, an Australian serving in his country's Naval Reserve. Mr. Evans was now an accountant at Sydney.
Within a matter of hours the PT survivors had all been rounded up and were back at their base, the worse for wear and tear, but happily alive.
The commander of the destroyer Amagiri Kohei Hanami, now a farmer in Japan, sent Mr. Kennedy congratulations on his election. Mr. Kennedy sent him a bronze medal commemorating the ceremony.
Lieutenant Kennedy's conduct won him the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal with a citation from Adm. William F. Halsey that paid tribute to "his courage, endurance and excellent leadership in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
But his career with the PT boats quickly ended. He contracted malaria. His weight dropped to 125 pounds. He was suffering some pain from the aggravation of his old back injury.
In December, 1943, he was sent back to the United States.
Mr. Kennedy still hoped for more active duty and thought he might be sent to the Mediterranean. But he was not well and late in the spring of 1944 he entered Chelsea Naval Hospital, near Boston.
Almost a year to the day after his adventure in the South Pacific the Kennedy family was gathered at Hyannis Port when two priests appeared and asked to see Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.
Joseph Jr. had been reported missing in action. Beginning in September, 1943, Joseph had flown combat duty with a Liberator bomber squadron attached to the British Coastal Command.
By July, 1944, after a second tour of duty, Joseph had orders to go home when he learned about and volunteered for an experimental mission called "Project Anvil."
The plan was to load a Liberator with 22,000 pounds of TNT, take it into the air with a pilot and co-pilot and then fix its flight controls on a course for the German V-2 rocket bases. The pilot and co-pilot would then parachute to safety.
On Aug. 12, 1944, Joseph Jr. and Lieut. Wilford J. Willy of Fort Worth, took off in the robot plane with two control planes accompanying them. About 6:20 P.M., as the plane coast, it blew up. The two pilots were instantly killed.
The death of Joseph Jr. at the age of 29 was but the first of a series of tragedies to strike the Kennedys. Less than four weeks later, on Sept. 10, 1944, the British War Office announced the death in action in France of Lord Hartington. He was the husband of Kathleen, oldest of the Kennedy girls and the only member of the family to marry outside the Roman Catholic Church.
Kathleen and Lord Hartington were married at the Chelsea Registry Office, London, in early May, 1944. She herself became the second member of the Kennedy family to die when, in May, 1948, she was killed in the crash of a small private plane in France.
John Kennedy remained in the hospital near Boston for a disk operation on his back. Finally, thin and in far from robust health, he appeared before a Navy board and was mustered out of service. His military career was at an end. His civilian life opened ahead of him.
OBITUARY: JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY: PART V OF V
Death of Brother in War Thrust Kennedy Into Career of Politics
But he did not appear to have made up his mind about his career. By this time, however, he was seriously considering entering politics.
For this decision his father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., has taken full credit. He told an interviewer in 1957:
"I got Jack into politics. I was the one. I told him Joe was dead and that it was therefore his responsibility to run for Congress. He didn't want to do it. He felt he didn't have the ability and he still feels that way. But I told him he had to do it."
Journalism 'Too Passive' That was not the way President Kennedy remembered it. He said he had been attracted strongly to journalism, but finally concluded that "it was too passive."
"We all liked politics," he said, "but Joe seemed a natural to run for office. Obviously, you can't have a whole mess of Kennedys asking for votes. So when Joe was denied his chance, I wanted to run and was glad I could.
By a quirk of political fortune, James Michael Curley, long a dominant figure in Boston politics, was vacating the Congressional seat in the Eleventh District in 1946. Mr. Curley, a political enemy of both of John Kennedy's grandfathers--Patrick J. Kennedy and John F. Fitzgerald--was about to become Mayor of Boston.
Thus, it was in the old Eleventh District that John Kennedy first tried his political fortunes.
The district included East Boston, where John Kennedy's father was born. It included the North End, where his mother, Rose, and her father, John F. Fitzgerald, had been born. It included Cambridge, where the Kennedys had gone to Harvard.
It was a great district for a young Kennedy to run in--except for one thing.
No Roots in Boston John Kennedy had no roots there, or hardly any roots in Boston. He had been born and spent a few childhood years in Brookline. He had gone to college at Harvard. He had summered at Hyannis Port on Cape Cod.
But he was not a genuine Bostonian. He had kept a Boston address--the Bellevue Hotel, next door to the State House, where his grandfather maintained rooms.
Regardless of any handicaps, John Kennedy got into the race with all he had. He was still yellow from the atabrine he had taken to combat malaria picked up in war service in the South Pacific. He was only 28 years old and looked about 21. He was scrawny and he was shy about meeting people.
But he had determination. He had the Kennedy name and the Kennedy money. He also had a rapidly growing group of fervent supporters, built around his family and his friends of prep school, college and Navy days. Mr. Kennedy started campaigning early in the year for the June primary. If he was inept about treating the boys in the East Boston saloons he proved to be one of the most energetic campaigners the Eleventh District had ever seen.
And his organization began to grow, turning his headquarters at 122 Bowdoin Street into a bustling political center.
War Record Cited Mr. Kennedy ran largely on his war record. Reprints of articles about his exploits in the South Pacific were widely circulated.
On Election Day, Mr. Kennedy swamped his opponents.
His political career was now fairly launched and he won the final election without difficulty in November. In January, 1947 he presented himself at the House of Representatives.
He was 29 years old but so boyish in appearance that he was often mistaken for a college student. He had a shy smile, a great shock of hair and a thin but wiry frame.
Mr. Kennedy served three terms in the House. His record was not spectacular but his votes usually were on the liberal side.
He demonstrated flashes of independence, such as in his refusal to kowtow to Representative John W. McCormack, long-time leader of the Massachusetts Democratic delegation.
He also fought the American Legion for its opposition to housing projects, declaring that Legion "hasn't had a constructive thought since 1918."
Meantime, Mr. Kennedy was beginning to focus his eye on wider horizons. He had considered running for the Senate in 1948 against Leverett Saltonstall, but, after weighing the prospects, decided against it.
His chance came in 1952 when Gov. Paul A. Dever decided not to run for the Senate against Henry Cabot Lodge. Senator Lodge was a redoubtable candidate.
Once more the Kennedy family turned out in force to campaign. John Kennedy's brother, Robert, 27, was his campaign director. His sisters, Jean, Eunice and Patricia, went from door to door, poured tea and presided over coffee hours. His mother also took a leading part.
During the later part of the campaign an old back injury bothered Mr. Kennedy and he was forced to make appearances on crutches. But there was always a Kennedy to substitute for another Kennedy.
Confident of Victory The year 1952 was the year of the Eisenhower landslide. But Mr. Kennedy felt confident of victory.
His confidence was well founded. He defeated Mr. Lodge by 1,211,984 votes to 1,141,247- -a margin of 70,000--while the Republican Presidential ticket won in Massachusetts by 208,800 votes.
It was 36 years since John Kennedy's grandfather, Mr. Fitzgerald, had been defeated by Henry Cabot Lodge's grandfather of the same name, in the United States Senatorial election.
Mr. Kennedy's first years in the Senate were marked by three major events--one personal, one political and one physical.
The personal event was his marriage. In 1951 he first met Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, then 21 and a student at George Washington University. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John V. Bouvier 3d, who were divorced. She was brought up in New York and Washington, attended Vassar College and the Sorbonne in Paris and was a Roman Catholic.
Miss Bouvier was a striking young woman with soft, abundant hair, modulated voice and an independent, inquisitive mind.
Although Mr. Kennedy was instantly attracted to the dark, slender girl, it was months before he saw much of her. They met just on the eve of his Senate campaign. Not until he returned to Washington in 1953 as a Senator did the courtship begin in earnest.
They were married on Sept. 12, 1953, at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Newport. The Most Reverend Richard J. Cushing, then Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston and later a Cardinal, performed the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kennedy's back was giving him new difficulty. The trouble grew worse. On Oct. 21, 1954, he entered Manhattan's Hospital for Special Surgery and underwent a double fusion of spinal discs in a long, difficult operation.
The operation was not altogether successful. He was in the hospital until late December. After a brief vacation, he had another operation in mid-February, 1955.
The most frequent rumor was that he suffered from Addison's disease, a serious malfunctioning of the adrenal glands. He had experienced some malfunctioning of the adrenals because of his wartime malaria. But after his critical back operations his health soon built back to the typically vigorous Kennedy level.
Against the background of these personal events a major political crisis occurred. This was once again on the subject of McCarthyism, a word given to the activities of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, a crusader against communism.
Course Is Cautious Senator Kennedy had, in effect, evaded the McCarthy issue in his campaign of 1952. But now as the Wisconsin Senator's activities impinged more and more on the national scene and sentiment rose in the Senate for curbing Mr. McCarthy's activities, the question of Mr. Kennedy's position came to the fore.
As the issue was drawn tighter Senator Kennedy continued to steer a cautious course in correspondence with his constituents and in public speeches.
Senator Kennedy did vote against Mr. McCarthy on certain issues. He voted for confirmation of James B. Conant as Ambassador to West Germany and Charles E. Bohlen as Ambassador to the Soviet Union, two appointments opposed by Mr. McCarthy.
But the direct issue of Senate censure of Mr. McCarthy was building up rapidly. Mr. Kennedy decided to vote for censure--but on the narrow technical ground that Mr. McCarthy had jeopardized the dignity and honor of the Senate.
Senator Kennedy prepared a speech outlining his views. But he never delivered it and he was not in the Senate when the censure issue arose. When the vote on the censure was taken on Dec. 2, 1954, and Mr. McCarthy's power was checked by a 67-to-22 vote of the Senate, Mr. Kennedy was "absent by leave of the Senate because of illness." He was still recuperating from back surgery.
This was not the end of the matter, however. The question of Mr. Kennedy's attitude toward Mr. McCarthy and McCarthyism was to persist through his broadening political career. As late as 1959, the satirists of the Washington Press Club sang at a Gridiron dinner:
"Where you were, John,
Where were you, John,
When the Senate censored Joe?"