Joseph Kennedy Jr

Joseph Kennedy Jr

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Joseph P. A talented student and athlete, Kennedy graduated from Harvard College in 1938. He attended Harvard Law School but left before graduation to join the U.S. Navy during World War II (1939-1945). In August 1944, Kennedy, a naval pilot, was killed at age 29 during a secret bombing mission off the coast of Normandy, France. After Kennedy’s death, his brother John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) pursued a political career and took office as the nation’s first Irish Catholic president in January 1961.

Joseph Kennedy Jr.’s Childhood and Education

Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr. was born on July 25, 1915, at his parents’ rented summer house in Hull, Massachusetts, near Boston. His father and namesake was the son of a Boston saloon owner and the grandson of Irish immigrants. Joseph Kennedy Sr. made a large fortune in the stock market and through investments in a variety of industries, including real estate and film production. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) appointed Kennedy the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and from 1938 to 1940 he served as the American ambassador to Great Britain. His wife, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, a devout Catholic, was the daughter of Massachusetts politician John Francis “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald (1863-1950), who served as mayor of Boston and in the U.S. House of Representatives. Joseph and Rose Kennedy raised their family in Brookline, Massachusetts, before moving to the suburbs of New York City in the mid-1920s.

In 1933, Joseph Kennedy Jr. graduated from Choate (now known as Choate Rosemary Hall), a boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut, where he was a talented athlete and popular student. He went on to attend Harvard College, where he continued to excel in academics and sports. After graduating in 1938, he studied at the London School of Economics and later entered Harvard Law School. However, he left law school early to enlist in the U.S. Navy in June 1941.

Joseph Kennedy Jr.’s Military Career and Death in Plane Crash

Joseph Kennedy Jr. attended flight training school and in the spring of 1942 became a naval aviator. After flying patrols in the Caribbean, he went to Europe in the fall of 1943 to fly with the British Naval Command. He completed enough combat missions to become eligible to return home to the United States but opted to remain in the military and volunteer for a dangerous, top-secret bombing campaign over Normandy, France, codenamed Operation Aphrodite. Kennedy’s mission was to direct an explosives-packed, radio-controlled drone Liberator bomber into a German V-2 rocket launching site. However, on the evening of August 12, 1944, the explosives in Kennedy’s plane detonated prematurely in flight, and he died at age 29.

Kennedy’s younger brother John also served in the Navy during the war, and was hailed for his heroics following an August 1943 incident in which he led his crew to safety after their PT boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer in the Solomon Islands. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in March 1945. When he returned home, his father, who had dreamed of a political career for his first-born son, focused his energy on his second-born. John Kennedy was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946 and served as a congressman from Massachusetts for six years. From 1953 to 1960, he was a U.S. senator, and on January 20, 1961, he was sworn in as America’s 35th president.

Joseph Kennedy Jr.’s Posthumous Honors

After his death, Joseph Kennedy was posthumously awarded the Air Medal and Navy Cross for heroism. In December 1945, the Navy commissioned a Gearing-class destroyer named for Kennedy. In 1946, Kennedy’s younger brother Robert (1925-1968) briefly served as an apprentice seaman on the warship. In its 27 years in service, the USS Joseph P. DD850 saw action in the Korean War (1950-1953) and participated in the U.S. naval blockade of Cuba during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Also during the 1960s, the ship took part in recovery operations for various U.S. space missions.

The USS Joseph P. was decommissioned in 1973. Today, the vessel is part of the Battleship Cove maritime museum in Fall River, Massachusetts.

USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (DD 850)

USS JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. was one of the GEARING - class destroyers and the first ship in the Navy to bear the name. Decommissioned in July 1973, the ship was donated to the Battleship Cove Museum at Fall River, Mass., the same month and is now open to the public. Click here for a photo tour of the preserved JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR.

General Characteristics: Awarded: October 1, 1943
Keel laid: April 2, 1945
Launched: July 26, 1945
Commissioned: December 15, 1945
Decommissioned: July 2, 1973
Builder: Bethlehem Steel, Quincy, Mass.
FRAM I Conversion Shipyard: New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, NY
FRAM I Conversion Period: July 1961 - May 1962
Propulsion system: four boilers, General Electric geared turbines 60,000 SHP
Propellers: two
Length: 391 feet (119.2 meters)
Beam: 41 feet (12.5 meters)
Draft: 18.7 feet (5.7 meters)
Displacement: approx. 3,400 tons full load
Speed: 34 knots
Aircraft after FRAM I: two DASH drones
Armament after FRAM I: one ASROC missile launcher, two 5-inch/38 caliber twin mounts, Mk-32 ASW torpedo tubes (two triple mounts)
Crew after FRAM I: 14 officers, 260 enlisted

This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR.. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.


JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. was launched by Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass., 26 July 1945 sponsored by Miss Jean Kennedy, sister of Lt. Kennedy and commissioned at Boston 15 December 1945, Comdr. H. G. Moore in command.

The new destroyer sailed 4 February 1946 for shakedown training in the Caribbean. She returned to her homeport, Newport, in April, and was occupied for the next few months in Naval Reserve Training. Arriving Norfolk 8 October, the ship joined Admiral Leahy's flagship WISCONSIN (BB 64), and other units for a cruise to Chile and Venezuela. She transited the Canal twice on this voyage, and was reviewed by the President of Venezuela 25 November 1946. JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. returned to her home port 14 December 1946.

During 1947 the destroyer operated on the East Coast and in the Caribbean. She sailed for fleet maneuvers off Puerto Rico 9 February and upon completion steamed eastward to join the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. During this period of great unrest in Europe, the fleet carried out the important role of peacekeeper and stabilizer. JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. visited various Mediterranean ports before arriving Newport 26 June 1948. The remainder of the year was spent in antisubmarine exercises, and the first half of 1949 saw her make two training cruises to the Caribbean.

The ship sailed 23 August 1949 for 6th Fleet duty as flagship of Destroyer Squadron 18, returning 27 January 1950. With the advent of war in Korea she carried out reserve training during July 1950, followed by bombardment and convoy exercises to prepare for action defending South Korea from Communist aggression. JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. sailed for Japan 3 January 1951 by way of the Panama Canal, Pearl Harbor, and Midway. At Sasebo she loaded ammunition and, exactly 1 month after departure from Newport, joined Task Force 77 off Korea. From February to April she screened the attack carriers as they pounded enemy positions and supply lines. She departed 8 April for the Formosa Patrol, helping to prevent further hostilities across the volatile Straits. JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. then returned to Korea arriving off Wonsan 20 May to take up bombardment station in support of the Allied siege and occupation of harbor islands. This duty continued until 13 June, a period of almost constant bombardment of great importance to the operation, after which the ship steamed to Sasebo.

JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. did not return to the West Coast immediately upon the termination of this combat duty, but instead steamed westward to complete a circuit of the globe. With other units of Destroyer Squadron 8, she visited Singapore, Bahrain, Port Said, Naples, and Gibraltar before returning to Newport 9 August 1951. Until January 1953 she conducted battle practice and served as school ship for the Fleet Training School at Newport that serves well to keep the fleet abreast of the latest developments. She sailed 7 January for another 6th Fleet cruise, returning to Newport 18 May 1953. Antisubmarine training exercises and another Mediterranean cruise January-May 1954 comprised her duty through most of 1955, and she sailed 5 November for Arctic maneuvers off northern Europe. The ship visited Oslo, Norway, and Bremerhaven, Germany, carrying out tactical exercises with units of the 6th Fleet before returning to Newport 5 March 1956.

In June 1956 the veteran ship arrived Annapolis with IOWA (BB 61) and NEW JERSEY (BB 62) to embark Naval Academy midshipmen for a practice cruise. Upon returning from Northern Europe 1 August, the ship took part in training operations until 6 May 1957, when she sailed once more for 6th Fleet duty. The Jordanian crisis had just passed with the strong support of the fleet, and JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. took part in carrier operations until September, when she steamed to the coast of Norway for NATO joint maneuvers. She returned to Newport 22 October 1957. Again in 1958, the ship sailed to the Mediterranean, and on this cruise spent April in the Persian Gulf with the Middle East Force that helps stabilize that critical area before arriving Newport 1 July 1958.

After a needed period of overhaul at Boston, JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. arrived Annapolis once more 3 June 1959 for midshipman training. Along with other ships of the task group, she entered the St. Lawrence and represented the Navy at the opening of the Seaway 26 June 1959. Following the ceremonies, in which both President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II took part, the destroyer entered the Seaway and steamed to Chicago 2 July. The ship visited various ports before returning to the Atlantic 6 August. In 1960 she returned to the Mediterranean with FORRESTAL (CVA 59) and FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVB 42), returning to Newport 15 October.

In January 1961, JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. steamed to Washington for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, brother of her namesake. During February and April of that year she took part in space shots in the Project Mercury series. She then arrived New York 1 July 1961 for a FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) overhaul in the Naval Shipyard. During this period she received the latest in antisubmarine gear, a new helicopter flight deck and hangar aft, and numerous other modifications designed to increase greatly her useful life. After emerging in her new dress in late May 1962, she underwent exhaustive shakedown out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, returning 26 August 1962.

JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR., with other ships of the fleet, reacted quickly to the threat of offensive missiles in Cuba, and President Kennedy's quarantine order. Sailing 22 October, the ship took an active part in the blockade which forced an easing of the crisis, and boarded Greek freighter MARUCLA 26 October. After participating in this graphic demonstration of the power and mobility of the modern Navy, JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. remained on patrol in the Caribbean until returning to Newport 7 December 1962.

During 1963 the veteran destroyer carried out training operations off the Virginia Capes and Nova Scotia. She departed Newport 29 April 1964 for another Med cruise until 26 August, and in October was underway for Operation "Steel Pike I", one of the very largest amphibious operations since World War II. During the passage of the task force to the Spanish coast, she acted as antisubmarine screening ship. JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. returned to Newport 19 November 1964.

Late in January of 1965, JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. put to sea for Port Canaveral, Fla., where she helped qualify two newly constructed Polaris submarines for patrol over seas. Thereafter followed a regular 3-month overhaul in the Boston Naval Shipyard.

Cdr. J. W. Hayes took over command of JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. from Capt. J. V. Peters on July 14 the next day, a 2-month period of refresher training commenced as the ship set sail for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The U.S. Man In Space Program was one of JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR.'s next commitments leaving Newport on November 27, 1965, the ship took station 1,200 miles southeast of Bermuda as part of the afloat recovery team for Gemini 6 and 7 on a 14-day orbital and rendezvous mission in space. The shots a success and her duty done, JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. returned to Newport 21 December to prepare for another deployment in the Mediterranean.

Assigned to DesRon 10, JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. departed Newport 15 February 1966 for duty with the 6th Fleet. After arriving Gibraltar 24 February, she participated during the next 4 months in AAW and ASW operations and ranged the Mediterranean from the North African coast to Turkey. She completed her peace-keeping patrols late in June and returned to Newport 8 July.

During the remainder of the year she conducted destroyer exercises and carrier screening operations off the eastern seaboard. In mid-November she participated in recovery operations following the successful 4-day flight of Gemini 12. On 1 March 1967 JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. again sailed for duty with the mighty 6th Fleet. She cruised the Mediterranean until late April, thence transited the Suez Canal for the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Late in June she departed the Gulf of Aden for the United States. Steaming via the Cape of Good Hope and South America, she arrived Newport the following month. There she resumed readiness training.

Following another Mediterranean cruise in the first half of 1970, the JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. departed on her final cruise in December 1972, returning to the familiar waters of the Mediterranean. The destroyer was decommissioned in early July 1973, at Newport, RI.

JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. received two battle stars for Korean service.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr., older brother of President John F. Kennedy, was born in Nantasket, Mass., 25 July 1915. He attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School, enlisting in the Naval Reserve 24 June 1941. After flight training, Kennedy was commissioned Ensign 5 May 1942.

He served with Patrol Squadron 203 and Bombing Squadron 110 before joining a special air unit in Britain in 1944. He was appointed Lieutenant 1 July 1944. Lt. Kennedy took part in a secret project to destroy German V-2 rocket launching sites by the use of radio controlled drone aircraft loaded with explosives. The plane could not take off by radio control, however, and Kennedy volunteered to take her into the air where guidance systems would take over. After exhaustive preparations he and another brave flyer, Lt. W. J. Willy, took off from Winfarthing 12 August 1944. However, the drone exploded with two enormous blasts, killing both officers. Lt. Kennedy was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for this dangerous mission in the drone Liberator bomber. His citation testifies: "Intrepid and daring in his tactics and with unwavering confidence in the vital importance of his task, he willingly risked his life in the supreme measure of service, and, by his great personal valor and fortitude in carrying out a perilous undertaking, sustained and enhanced the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service."


After FRAM I Conversion:

The photos below were taken by me on August 21, 2010, during a visit to the USS JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. at Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA.

10 He Made A Fortune Through Insider Trading

Joseph Kennedy knew how to make money. By the time he&rsquod turned 25, he was already the president of a bank, the youngest in America. He got rich by working hard and making smart decisions, but he turned that wealth into a fortune by cheating on the stock market.

Kennedy turned the stock market into a gold mine by using tricks that, today, are illegal. He used insider trading, created artificial scarcities to drive up stocks, and sold other ones short to drive them down. It was all unethical, but at the time, it wasn&rsquot illegal, and Kennedy&rsquos fortune soared.

He knew what he was doing. Encouraging a classmate to do the same, Kennedy said, &ldquoIt&rsquos easy to make money in this market. We&rsquod better get in before they pass a law against it.&rdquo

Someone did pass a law against it: Joseph Kennedy. In 1934, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made Kennedy the head of the SEC, saying, &ldquoIt takes a crook to catch a crook.&rdquo He was right. Kennedy criminalized insider trading, making it a crime to use the very tricks that made him his fortune.

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr survives

Now with the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy we reflect back on his life and contributions, and also on his brothers JFK and RFK. But the eldest brother seems to be forgotten.

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr's dream was to be the first Roman Catholic President of The United States, a dream fostered in him by his father. After Joe Jr was killed in WWII that dream was passed on to his brother Jack who did of course become President.

But what if Joe Jr had not been killed, what if his last mission was a success and he had come home from war a decorated hero? Following his father's plans he first is elected to The US House of Representatives, then The Senate, finally The White House.

What kind of President would Joseph P. Kennedy Jr have been? What things would he have handled the same as Jack did? What things would he have handled differently and how would he have handled them differently?

How would Joe Jr surviving and becoming President have influenced and changed the lives and political careers of his three brothers?

There is a book about Joe Jr called "The Forgotten Kennedy" which how different his personality was from Jack's and from his other two brothers as well.



If Joe lives, that butterflies away Jack's OTL career. What's Jack do with Joe holding those positions during the period he would have in OTL?

Perhaps Boston politics? City councilman to Mayor of Boston?

State politics? State House to State Senate to Governor of Mass.?

Say he's elected Governor 1956, when he's 39. He takes office in January of '57 for a four year term, putting him up for re-election in 1960. If he's well liked by the people of Mass. and seen as doing a good job as governor, would he ditch that on the hope that Joe gets elected? The reason this question has to be asked is, if he's running for Gov. a lot of people are going to be asking, "If you run and win, are you going to serve your second term, or are you going to leave if your brother gets elected PoTUS?"

It's a legit question as people would have to question whether they would vote for him for gov if he's not even going to serve the second term. In which case, he's either got to make one of to announcements:

1. He supports his brother's candidacy for the Presidency, but he will seek re-election as governor and intends to serve dutifully if re-elected to that post.

2. He will not seek re-election to the office of governor as he will be working in his spare time to campaign for his brother. He will dutifully discharge his duties as governor, but he can only work one campaign at a time and he's chosen to campaign for his brother.

If he's doing a good job and feels like he's accomplishing a lot as governor, or, more importantly, feels that he has a unique opprotunity to accomplish even more with a second term, I would think he'd seek re-election and even his dad would have to understand. Besides, Joe's still got Bobby and Ted to campaign for him. Jack's a governor and well liked and doing a good job and the people like him, there's no reason to make him give that up, plus a successful and popular eight years as governor of one of the most populous states in the nation only makes him a stronger candidate for a possible run at the presidency of his own at a future date.

Good chance Bobby still ends up AG if Joe wins. I don't see Joe's survival changing Bobby's credentials. All it changes is that all the things Bobby did for Jack OTL he does for Joe TTL.

Now, if Joe goes eight years as PoTUS, in 1968, Bobby's probably been AG for eight years and if Jack's riding a wave of popularity through '64, what's to stop him from going for a third term? If he's still popular and gained a national standing, that'll make '68 an interesting year.

Or is it a given that Bobby steps aside and Jack gets to run in 1968.

If Bobby's AG, does it look good if he quits to run Jack's campaign?

Would the idea of a "Kennedy Dynasty" turn some folks off? What if Joe did well in his first term, but not so well in his second?

More butterflies than I considered when I started this.

This one could break a whole lotta different ways.

During the Bay of Pigs, Joe sends the air strikes Jack didn't.

We're talking about a guy who died OTL on a mission he volunteered for after he'd already flown his required 25 and was free to rotate back to the states.

That's a fighter and the kind of guy who, if convinced the purpose of the fight is righteous, sees it through to it's conclusion.

Was Joseph Kennedy Really an Anti-Semite?

Credit: Wiki Commons.

Was Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of President John F. Kennedy, really an anti-Semite?

David Nasaw, Kennedy's recent biographer, defined an anti-Semite, for the purposes of his book The Patriarch, as "someone who believes that there's something in the genetic makeup -- in the blood -- of Jews that makes them sinister, corrupt, and committed to destroying Christian morality." Under this definition, Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford were anti-Semites, as were other officials in the State Department. Kennedy, he argued, was not an anti-Semite in that sense.

But Nasaw admitted that Kennedy believed in a Jewish conspiracy to push the United States into an unnecessary war with Germany. And as ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1938 to 1940, he was in a position -- even if he wasn't a believer in "scientific" anti-Semitism -- to do far more damage to European Jews than his stateside contemporaries.

A wealthy and influential man in political circles, Joseph Kennedy was appointed ambassador to Great Britain by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and according to Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman, both professors at American University in Washington, D.C. and authors of the recent book FDR and the Jews, his unlikely appointment (Kennedy was an Irish Catholic) was because Roosevelt wanted Kennedy out of Washington. Parts of British society, in which Kennedy found himself enjoyably immersed, argued that appeasement of Hitler was the best option. This was not uncommon thinking at the time, and indeed appeasement was the official policy of the British government until 1939. Kennedy, on his arrival at London became affiliated with the aristocratic “Cliveden Set,” who were not only pro-appeasement, but also in favor of improved relationships between Great Britain and Nazi Germany. Before long, his views on how to deal with Hitler mirrored those of the circle.

In late 1938, the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees was established at the instigation of President Roosevelt to find ways of addressing the German refugee question. FDR asked British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to reason with Hitler to allow German Jews out of the country, with at least some of their possessions in order to finance their new lives abroad. Kennedy, as the ambassador, was tasked with passing the message to Chamberlain,, but instead of delivering the message personally, Kennedy passed the message on in writing, then said in an interview to The Nation that he was all for the committee so long as it did not stand in the way of other interests.

On Kristallnacht -- the Night of Broken Glass, November 9-10, 1938 -- one hundred Jews were murdered in Germany, and about 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. This was officially sanctioned by the Nazi government, and by now the writing was on the wall for German Jews. The governments of the United States and Great Britain were shocked but were unable to arrive at quick solution to getting Jews out of Germany. As FDR lobbied Congress to increase in the quota for refugees, amid a domestic political climate rife with anti-Semitism, the press reported that Kennedy seemed to have his own refugee plan. No one seemed to know what that entailed, however. What was clear was that the Kennedy position was appeasement and the development of business ties with Germany.

Hjalmar Schacht, president of the German Reichsbank, proposed after Kristallnacht that Jews would be allowed to leave Germany with some amount of property in exchange for foreign economic concessions, and both Breitman and Lichtman argue that the proposal was in effect a ransoming of Jews. Schacht’s proposal was widely criticized -- except by Joseph Kennedy, who is on record to have said in a conversation with the British Jewish activist Neville Laski that the appeasement of Hitler was positive, as it would intensify economic ties between the two sides, and act as a barrier to war. Kennedy further stated that it was a win-win situation for all. Kennedy blamed the Jews for the German problem, and he is reported to have said that the lives of Jews in Central Europe were not really worth all the agitation. The only reason why they needed to be allowed out of Germany was to avert war as their continued stay in Germany “were a festering sore leading to international complications straight along the path of war. the world’s most difficult and dangerous problem.”

The Kennedy family has long been famous for their political ambitions and accomplishments, but even before John F. Kennedy set his sights on the Oval Office, there was another Kennedy who wanted to be president.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr. was born on July 25, 1915, the eldest child of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy's nine children.

Joe Kennedy, Sr.'s political ambitions for his family began with his namesake. Shortly after Joe Jr.'s birth, his proud grandfather, John Fitzgerald, then Mayor of Boston, told the press " this child is the future president of the nation."

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., holds his sons, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., and John F. Kennedy (right), near the home the family rented in Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Growing up, Joe Jr. was a skilled athlete and bright student attending the Choate School in Connecticut, then Harvard University just like his father and all of his brothers. He also studied at the London School of Economics for a year before enrolling at Harvard Law.

All signs were pointing to a career in politics - he even attended the 1940 Democratic National Convention with an eye for running for Congress in 1946.

But unlike his younger brothers John, Robert, and Ted, all of whom sought political office, Joe never got the chance.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. in Killarney on a family trip to Ireland, c. 1937. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

In June of 1941, instead of attending his final year of law school at Harvard, Joe enlisted with the US Naval Reserve and began flight training to become a Naval Aviator.

He got his wings and became an ensign on May 5, 1942, and flew patrols in the Caribbean. In 1943, he was assigned to Bomber Squadron 110 to fly B-24's with the British Naval Command.

After he flew his 25th mission, which should have been his last, Kennedy decided to stay for longer. Then, in August of 1944, he decided to volunteer for one more: Mission Aphrodite, a delicate, top-secret expedition.

Last known photo taken of Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. before Mission Aphrodite, August 12, 1944. Photo: Earl P. Olsen/Public Domain

As described in a declassified report shared by the JFK Library:

Joe, regarded as an experienced Patrol Plane Commander, and a fellow-officer, an expert in radio control projects, was to take a 'drone' Liberator bomber loaded with 21,170 pounds of high explosives into the air and to stay with it until two 'mother' planes had achieved complete radio control over the drone. They were then to bail out over England the "drone," under the control of the mother planes, was to proceed on the mission which was to culminate in a crash-dive on the target, a V-2 rocket launching site in Normandy. The airplane. was in flight with routine checking of the radio controls proceeding satisfactorily, when at 6:20 p.m. on August 12, 1944, two explosions blasted the drone resulting in the death of its two pilots. No final conclusions as to the cause of the explosions has ever been reached.

Joe was 29 when he died. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery and posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and the Air Medal. Later that year, the US Navy named a destroyer after him, the USS Joseph. P. Kennedy, Jr.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.'s grave in Arlington. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In his honor, his family began the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, which aims to improve life for people with intellectual disabilities and to further research about the origins of and treatments for intellectual disabilities.

JFK, who went on to carry out his late brother's goal of becoming president, had the following to say about his extraordinary selflessness and courage:

"It may be felt, perhaps, that Joe should not have pushed his luck so far and should have accepted his leave and come home. But two facts must be borne in mind. First, at the time of his death, he had completed probably more combat missions in heavy bombers than any other pilot of his rank in the Navy and therefore was preeminently qualified, and secondly, as he told a friend early in August, he considered the odds at least fifty-fifty, and Joe never asked for any better odds than that."

Political career [ edit | edit source ]

From a very young age Joe was groomed by his father and predicted to be the nation's first Roman Catholic-Irish President of the United States, when he was born his grandfather John F. Fitzgerald (1863—1950), then Mayor of Boston told the news, "This child is the future President of the nation". He often boasted that he would be president even without help from his father.

He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1940. Joe planned to run for Massachusetts's 11th congressional district in 1946. He and his father had begun laying the groundwork for the campaign when he was killed.

Joe Kennedy Jr.: Fallen Hero of Operation Aphrodite

Winston Churchill titled a chapter of his monumental history of World War II “The Wizard War.” It was all about the incredible technological innovations the war both produced and demanded, including such Allied advances as radar and the arsenal of Nazi “wonder weapons,” the most famous of which were the early cruise missile known as the V-1 and the world’s first ballistic missile, the V-2.

German V2 rockets were often used as vengeance weapons during the latter part of WWII. This image is in the public domain via Wikimedia

The pilotless V weapons—“vengeance weapons,” as propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels called them—were built for just one purpose: terrorizing populations into submission. They were nevertheless true wonders of technology massively accelerated by war. To counter them, the British and Americans hitched their own technological prowess to a seemingly inexhaustible genius for improvisation that pushed technology beyond what had been tested at the time.

When, for example, it became clear that conventional fighter pursuit techniques were not effective at downing the V-1s, RAF pilots quickly learned to maneuver their aircraft so that its wing broke up the airflow above the wing of the incoming V-1. This required sliding the fighter’s wingtip to within six inches of the lower surface of the V-1 wing while flying at 400 mph. The maneuver flipped the V-1 wing up, disrupting the craft’s gyros, and sending it into an uncontrolled dive. Executed close to the Channel and away from population centers, the crash was relatively harmless.

The V-1 was a stubby-winged cruise missile, fast, but still vulnerable to the fastest RAF fighter planes. The V-2, however, flew at 3,580 miles per hour in a trajectory that reached the stratosphere—as high as 128 miles—too high and fast to be shot down. The U.S. Army Air Forces and, mostly independently, the U.S. Navy therefore improvised a weapon capable of destroying the V-2s on the ground, while they were still awaiting launch in hardened ferroconcrete bunker fortresses arrayed along the French side of the English Channel at the Pas de Calais.

Joe Kennedy Jr. completed 25 missions as pilot of a land based PB4Y patrol bomber by 1944 and was eligible to return home to the United States. Image is in the public domain via The Cumberland Post

Lieutenant General Jimmy Doolittle, commanding officer of the Eighth U.S. Air Force, knew all about desperate innovation. On April 18, 1942, just five months after Pearl Harbor, Doolittle did the impossible by leading sixteen twin-engine B-25 medium bombers off the deck of the U.S. aircraft carrier Hornet to raid Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Two years later, he championed Operation Aphrodite, a plan to install radio control equipment in “war-weary” four-engine B-17s, pack the planes with a dozen tons of high explosive, and fly them by remote control directly into the German launch sites. The state of radio control was so rudimentary that live pilots were required to get the flying bombs off the ground. Once airborne, they armed the payload and established radio contact with the manned mother ships that would remotely pilot them into their targets. Then they bailed out over England before the now-pilotless “drone” reached the English Channel.

It was the closest thing to a suicide mission since the Doolittle Raids, and only a few volunteered for it. U.S. Navy Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. was the eldest son of the former ambassador to Great Britain. Having embraced Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s now-infamous appeasement policy, the senior Kennedy was forever branded a defeatist.

Joe Jr. volunteered to fly in Project Anvil, the navy counterpart of Aphrodite. His PB4Y-1 (navy version of the B-24 Liberator) was packed with 12 tons of torpedo explosive. The navy had been working on remote-control flight both longer and more intensively than the army and had created far more sophisticated radio-control technology. But the electronics used to actually arm the most lethal explosive package prior to Hiroshima, had been quickly thrown together on a plywood circuit board so crude that one officer who saw it compared it to “something you’d make with a number two Erector set and Lincoln Logs.”

At least 25 B-17s were fitted with radio controls and television cameras, loaded with 20,000 lb of high-explosives, and dubbed BQ-7 “Aphrodite missiles” for Operation Aphrodite. Image is in the public domain via Aviation Figure

Joe Jr. took off from an RAF base in England on August 12, 1944. Eighteen minutes into the mission, his aircraft exploded over Newdelight Wood near the Suffolk hamlet of Blytheburgh. Kennedy’s commanding officer, Commander James Smith, flying in an observation aircraft, later remarked that “nothing larger than a basketball could have survived the blast.” Kennedy and his single crew member, Lieutenant Wilford John “Bud” Willy, died instantly.

They had paid the price of war or, more precisely, the price of desperate improvisation a “wizard war” demanded. The rocket speed of technological advance called for a new breed of hero. Driven by a hunger to redeem the Kennedy name from his father’s errors of political and moral judgment, by lifelong competitiveness with his younger brother, Lieutenant (jg) John F. Kennedy, hero of PT-109, and, more selflessly, by a passionate desire to spare London further V-weapon devastation, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. answered the call.

Historian Alan Axelrod is the author of Lost Destiny: Joe Kennedy Jr. and the Doomed WWII Mission to Save London the business bestsellers Patton on Leadership and Elizabeth I, CEO, the Great Generals series books Patton, Bradley, and Marshall, and many books on American and military history. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Ice Pick Lobotomist: Dr. Walter Freeman

Dr. Walter Freeman, the ice pick lobotomist

I’d fully intended to move away from the subject of insane asylums and talk about a cowgirl from Oklahoma by the name of Lucille Mulhall. But I cannot in good conscience leave the subject without telling what I’ve learned about the barbaric brain surgeon responsible for Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy, the operation that permanently incapacitated her at the young age of 23. Rosemary had been acting in an agitated behavior, according to her father, Joseph P. Kennedy, throwing fits and showing interest in boys, and he sought an operation to settle her down. Two doctors were in the operating room that day in 1941: Dr. Walter Freeman, the director of the laboratories at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., together with his partner, James W. Watts, MD, from the University of Virginia.

Dr. Freeman was obsessed with finding a cure for mental illness. In the day before psychiatric drugs, mentally ill patients were shuttered away in institutions like St. Elizabeth’s. Shock therapy, pioneered in the thirties, though not completely successful, had effectively reduced some psychiatric symptoms in agitated patients, rendering them calmer for a time following treatment. Psychiatrists like Dr. Freeman wanted to find the locus of mental illness of the brain. They understood that there were regions of the brain and were looking for surgical answers instead of just locking people up for life. Freeman, however, was not a surgeon but a neurologist. He was wildly ambitious and longed to achieve the lasting fame of his grandfather, a pioneer brain surgeon, once the president of the American Medical Association. Freeman was determined to find a procedure that would root out the defect in the brain that he believed responsible for mental illness.

Freeman discovered the work of a Portuguese neurologist named Egas Moniz who had performed a radical new operation on a group of 20 mental patients. By taking small corings of their brains, Moniz asserted, it had been possible to rid a third of these patients of their symptoms. Moniz didn’t explain why this worked. He had a crude notion that people “who are mentally ill are sort of obsessed, he called them fixed ideas. And that these fixed ideas probably resided in some way in the frontal lobes.”

Along with Dr. Watts, Freeman began to perform lobotomies, or surgeries on the frontal lobes. After several operations, Dr. Freeman called his operation a success. According to Edward Shorter, Medical Historian, “Freeman’s definition of success is that the patients are no longer agitated. That doesn’t mean that you’re cured, that means they could be discharged from the asylum, but they were incapable of carrying on normal social life. They were usually demobilized and lacking in energy. And they were that on a permanent basis.” Many had to be retaught how to use the toilet. They were definitely not the same persons they were before the operation.

Why didn’t the medical establishment stop Drs. Freeman and Watts from performing this radical and untested procedure? This was back in the day when it was considered unethical for doctors to criticize their peers – plus, Dr. Freeman manipulated the press in his favor. He proclaimed he’d found a cure for mental illness. Soon he was receiving glowing reviews. The Washington Star called prefrontal lobotomy “One of the greatest surgical innovations of this generation.” The New York Times called it “surgery of the soul,” and declared it “history making.”

It gets worse. Freeman decided that there was a simpler way to get into the brain than through the top of the skull, as he had done with Rosemary Kennedy. He decided that the skull was thinner behind the eye and that he could make an incision there with an ice pick. Freeman “would hammer the ice pick into the skull just above the tear duct and wiggle it around.”

He began to travel around the nation in his own personal van, which he called his “lobotomobile”, hawking this new procedure which he performed with a gold ice pick, and training other doctors in his methods. He even performed a few lobotomies in hotel rooms. Before he was stopped and the lobotomy discredited, Walter Freeman had performed over 3,500 lobotomies. His medical license was revoked when one of his patients died during a lobotomy. Nevertheless, he continued to tour the country in his lobotomobile, visiting his former patients, until his death from cancer in 1972.

Joseph Kennedy Jr - HISTORY

By Peter Kross

In 1939, Joseph P. Kennedy, the scion of the modern-day Kennedy family which included three United States senators, an attorney general, and the 35th president of the United States, was appointed the American ambassador to Great Britain by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Upon his appointment to the Court of St. James’s, Joe Kennedy was flung into a world on the brink of war, a conflict that he opposed and out of which he tried desperately to keep the United States. During his tumultuous time in London, Joseph Kennedy fought bitterly with the State Department, as well as FDR, in his outspoken opposition to the president’s policy of coming to the aid of Britain in the wake of Adolf Hitler’s European onslaught.

Kennedy ruffled feathers in Washington when he met secretly with German diplomats and made few friends with his anti-Semitic remarks. In the end, his opposition to America’s anti-Nazi policies led to his resignation in disgrace from his coveted ambassadorship and, for all intents and purposes, ended whatever political career he harbored for himself.

Joseph P. Kennedy’s Story of Rags to Riches

Joseph P. Kennedy was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 6, 1888. His grandparents had come to the United States from Ireland in the 1840s to flee the Irish famine. The political and social mores in Boston at that time separated the Irish from the Protestant “blue bloods,” effectively keeping the Irish from participating in the worlds of business and politics. As a young man, Joe delivered newspapers to make extra money, attended the Boston Latin School, and eventually was accepted to Harvard. At Harvard he was an excellent baseball player but still suffered discrimination because of his Irish heritage. Before graduating, he made a promise to himself that he would become a millionaire by age 30. That he did––and more.

Shortly after his graduation from Harvard, Joe was hired as a bank examiner and received a hands-on education in how banks and financial institutions work. His first big break came when he was able to resist the takeover of the Columbia Trust Bank, the only Irish-owned bank in Boston. At age 25, Joe was appointed president of Columbia Trust.

During World War I, Joe, to avoid military service, obtained a job with Bethlehem Steel’s Forge River shipbuilding plant in Quincy, Massachusetts, an industry that was deemed vital to winning the war. There he was appointed to the position of assistant general manager. (Read more about the First World War and other events prior to WWII inside Military Heritage magazine.)

His next job was with the brokerage house of Hayden Stone and Company in Boston. Through shrewd business practices, Joe amassed a small fortune, and he bought a home for his family in Brookline, a suburb of Boston. In what would be called “insider trading” today, Joe was able to buy and sell stock using information obtained from his colleagues before that information got out to the general public. Joe pulled most of his money out of the stock market before it crashed in October 1929.

Between his business successes, in 1914 he married Rose Fitzgerald, the daughter of Boston’s popular and gregarious mayor, John Francis “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald.

From Hollywood to the Mafia

Using his now considerable fortune, Joe branched out and began producing Hollywood movies. Most of the films he produced were not big hits, but he made more contacts with the Hollywood moguls, who would add another layer of legitimacy to his already bourgeoning portfolio.

If Joe flopped in Hollywood, he more than made up for it when it came to the distribution of liquor during Prohibition. There are no documents that positively link Joe Kennedy to the illegal distribution of liquor during the time when America was “dry,” but allegations by prominent mob figures of the time tell a different story. In 1922, during Joe’s 10th Harvard reunion, he purportedly brought a large stock of scotch for his guests. According to one person who attended the party, Joe had the scotch brought in by boat right on the beach at Plymouth, saying, “It came ashore the way the Pilgrims did.”

26-year-old Joseph P. Kennedy photographed in 1914 while president of the Columbia Trust Company.

According to the late mobster Frank Costello, one of the most prominent members of organized crime during that period, he and Kennedy were in a silent partnership during Prohibition and were visible in keeping bars and saloons overflowing with illegal booze. Costello told author Peter Maas (who was writing a book on Costello’s life––a book that was never completed due to Costello’s death) that Kennedy had a monopoly when it came to the importation of liquor into the United States.

Joe Kennedy later ran a legitimate liquor distributorship called Somerset Importers Ltd. In 1933, Kennedy sailed in London prior to the end of Prohibition in the U.S. and emerged as the sole American distributor of two brands of scotch, as well as Gordon’s Gin. In 1946, Kennedy would sell Somerset Importers for a hefty $8 million.

Joe Kennedy in the Democratic Party

Besides his business interests, it was politics that drove Joe Kennedy into the public spotlight. He had always harbored ambitions to be the first Catholic president of the United States but despite his increasing fortune the blatant anti-Catholic resentment he encountered in Boston remained the ultimate obstacle to his ambitions.

His first foray into national politics came in 1918, when he contributed money to his father-in-law’s campaign for Congress. Joe was also an early supporter of another rising star in the Democratic Party, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Joe traveled with FDR when the New York governor, then campaigning against President Herbert Hoover, was making a swing around New England. Joe relished the sights and sounds of the campaign and believed that his future lay in FDR’s success.

After Roosevelt’s election in 1933, he offered Joe the ambassadorship to Ireland, but the latter turned it down. The next July, FDR appointed Joe to head the newly created Securities and Exchange Commission, a body that would oversee Wall Street and stop illegal trading among its members.

The elder Kennedy photographed in 1934 as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Joe’s appointment as head of the SEC was an unusual one, to say the least. He was not well liked by the leading members of Wall Street due to his less than honest approach to gaining his fortune––not to mention his alleged ties to mobsters during the Prohibition era. But Joe surprised many of his critics and for the next 14 months did a more than adequate job of keeping unethical business practices from taking over the securities industry.

In 1937, Kennedy left the SEC and took a job as chairman of the Maritime Commission. His principal achievement was to break the deadlock between the powerful labor unions and the ship owners. Speaking of this time, Joe said that it was “the toughest thing I ever did in my life.”

Ambassador to Britain: Pledging American Neutrality

In 1938, President Roosevelt appointed Joe Kennedy as the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, an extraordinary post that put him in the spotlight of international affairs. For Joe, the appointment was the fulfillment of a lifetime of work in the political realm, a chance to put to rest all the slights he felt as a Catholic outsider in Boston society.

But if Joe believed that his nearly two-year stint as head of the Maritime Commission was tough, the ambassador’s post was to prove far tougher and more demanding than he ever imagined and ruined whatever ambitions he harbored for a political future for himself.

What neither Joe Kennedy nor anyone else could predict, as he and his large (nine children) and gregarious family arrived in Britain on March 1, 1938, was that one year later all of Europe would be embroiled in another full-scale war.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (seated) congratulates Joseph P. Kennedy on becoming the new ambassador to Great Britain, January 1938. Associate Justice Stanley Reed, center, administered Kennedy’s oath. Because of intemperate remarks, Kennedy’s ambassadorship lasted less than three years.

At 49 years of age, he was now pulled directly into a line of fire that few U.S. ambassadors ever had to endure much of it was of his own making. For example, he made his first public speech in England at London’s Pilgrim Club, whose attendees were the leading figures in British politics and business. He startled the audience with his comments in which he said that it was in America’s best interests to stay neutral in any coming conflict with Germany and that the U.S. would not see eye to eye with Britain as it had done in the past. Those were strong words for an ambassador to say to the citizens of the country in which he was residing.

Naturally, Joe’s remarks caused quite a stir in the British press as well as in Washington. In a letter to his friend Bernard Baruch, Kennedy said that he wanted to “reassure my friends and critics alike that I have not yet been taken into the British camp.” In time, Kennedy’s actions would cause more consternation and irritation across both sides of the Atlantic.

From Phony War to Blitzkrieg

War clouds were building over Europe. In September 1938, after the Anschluss with Austria, Adolf Hitler annexed the German-speaking portions of Czechoslovakia, and then, a year later, Hitler’s blitzkrieg overran Poland, setting off a major crisis in both London and Paris as to how to respond to Germany’s aggression. A year earlier, Britain had given Poland its assurances that if it were attacked by Germany, Britain would come to her aid. In the days and months after the German invasion, neither France nor Britain took any forceful military action against Germany.

This period was known as the Phony War––when the British and French armies stood their ground and let Germany prepare to gobble up the rest of Europe. In time, German forces invaded both Norway and Denmark. By the middle of 1940, Hitler’s troops successfully marched on Belgium and Holland. In June, Hitler rode triumphantly into Paris, the conquered City of Light. With the fall of France, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany’s tyranny. The United States did not enter the war for another year and a half.

When Paris fell, the German commander in that city made a courtesy call to the American military and naval attaches at the U.S. embassy, and brought with him the “very best brandy in the Grillon [the Hotel Grillon––the residence of the German military command in Paris].”

The FBI’s File on Joe Kennedy

The FBI, under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, opened a file on Joe Kennedy as it did with many other prominent people. Joe Kennedy’s FBI files are now available to the public and show the extent of the interest the FBI had in him. One unidentified person wrote the following on Ambassador Kennedy:

“(Blank) described Mr. Kennedy as a man with a very dynamic personality who was brilliant that he feels there is not a more patriotic man in the United States than Mr. Kennedy.

“He said that Mr. Kennedy is a man whose temperament is such that he easily becomes angry, and that during the time he is angry, he does not care what he says. He stated, however, that he does not believe that even during a period of anger, Mr. Kennedy is the type of man who would reveal any information which would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

Ambassador Kennedy said that, in case of war between Britain and Germany, the U.S. might remain neutral—words that angered Britain. Here he meets with German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop at a London reception in 1938.

An FBI memo dated April 28, 1947, from Director Hoover to his aide, D.M. Ladd, gives more information on the Bureau’s relationship with Ambassador Kennedy: “In June 1938, Special Agent (Blank) advised that he had received very cordial treatment from Ambassador Kennedy in London, while (Blank) was there visiting Scotland Yard. Kennedy’s Ambassadorship to Britain is widely regarded in the United States as demonstrating that Kennedy was an appeaser and believed that Britain would lose the war. His appointment during this period is thought to be important only as it throws light on his present views about Russia as reported by Mr. Arthur Krock.

“Arthur Krock, of the New York Times … described Kennedy as spokesman for a group of industrialists and financiers, who believe that Russia should not be opposed at any point. All energies should be devoted to keeping America prosperous.”

The FBI was interested in using Joe Kennedy as a source of information, and the memos from that time spell out what they hoped to gain from his knowledge of world affairs. On October 18, 1943, after Kennedy ended his role as ambassador to Great Britain, Hoover wrote the following memo to the special agent in charge in the FBI’s Boston office:

“In the event you feel that Mr. Kennedy is in a position to offer active assistance to the Bureau such as is expected of Special Service Contacts, there is no objection to utilizing him in this capacity. If he can be made use of as a Special Service Contact, the Bureau should be advised as to the nature of the information he is able to provide, or the facilities he can offer for the Bureau’s use. Every effort should be made to provide him with investigative assignments in keeping with his particular ability and the Bureau should be advised the nature of these assignments, together with the results obtained. “

Despite the work that Ambassador Kennedy did for the Bureau (the records do not reflect exactly what he did), Director Hoover “recommended that the meritorious service award not be awarded to Mr. Joseph P. Kennedy for the reason that he has not affirmatively actually done anything of special value to the Bureau despite his willingness to perform such services.”

“Jittery Joe”

If there was a course in diplomacy, Joe Kennedy either did not know it existed or forgot to attend. That is really not what happened, but over time the new ambassador’s actions and rather indiscreet remarks would make FDR cringe. Examples of this include Joe Kennedy’s blatant anti-Semitic remarks. For a person who suffered from religious discrimination while a young man living in Boston, Kennedy was either too naïve or really didn’t understand what his words meant, especially coming from someone in such a high position.

For four months after his arrival in London, the ambassador tried to arrange a meeting with Adolf Hitler through the German ambassador to Great Britain, Herbert von Dirksen. In his meetings with von Dirksen, Kennedy spelled out his personal animosity toward the Jewish people. In reaction to the Germans’ “Final Solution to the Jewish problem,” which was causing such an uproar in Western countries, Kennedy told von Dirksen that in his opinion, “it was not so much the fact that we [i.e., Germany] wanted to get rid of the Jews that was so harmful to us, but rather the loud clamor with which we accomplished this purpose.”

Kennedy, center, talks with volunteer drivers of the “American Ambulance Unit of Great Britain” in London, July 1940. Kennedy donated the money to purchase one of the vehicles.

The ambassador’s remarks were picked up and reproduced in the United States, much to the chagrin of the president. However, if FDR believed that his ambassador was finished making anti-British and anti-Semitic remarks, he was badly mistaken.

Kennedy did not endear himself to the British population during German air raids on London. As the Blitz attacks grew stronger, the ambassador moved his family out of London to escape the raids. After touring the destruction in London, he remarked at how much he admired the local citizens for their bravery and fortitude in the face of such horrific German attacks. In time, the papers began calling Kennedy, “Jittery Joe.”

Leaving Great Britain

Believing that his effectiveness as ambassador was coming to an end, Kennedy, on October 6, 1940, wrote a letter to FDR asking that he be relieved of his duties in London and demanded that he be brought home. If his request was denied, he would come home anyway. The Roosevelt administration accepted Kennedy’s wishes, and he arrived in New York on October 27, arriving at La Guardia Airport. FDR had asked Joe and Rose to come to see him at the White House when they arrived, and they took the train to Washington immediately. After dinner, Joe gave the president a piece of his mind. He told FDR that he did not like the way he was treated in London, saying candidly that he was kept out of the loop as far as policy formulation was concerned. He took a direct swipe at the State Department, saying it was directly responsible for his being shut out of policy making.

Joe arrived home one month before the 1940 presidential election in which FDR was running for an unprecedented third term. The press was aware of the growing rift between FDR and Kennedy, and speculation was the order of the day when it came to what trouble Kennedy might inflict on the campaign. Joe agreed to make a radio speech endorsing the president, which he paid for himself. It cost $20,000 for a nationwide hookup. He endorsed FDR but said that he still believed it wise for the U.S. to stay out of the European war.

Joe officially resigned as U.S. Ambassador in February 1941, one month into FDR’s third term. His final remarks were, “Having finished a rather busy political career this week, I find myself much more interested in what young Joe is going to do than what I am going to do with the rest of my life.”

“Democracy is Finished in England”

As the Roosevelt administration was debating whether or not to grant military aid to Britain (a March 1941 Lend-Lease deal would eventually send 50 obsolete destroyers to Great Britain in exchange for leases from the British of a number of bases in the Caribbean), Kennedy publicly spoke out against any such U.S. action. He chilled both Washington and London with his comments, “Democracy is finished in England. It may be here,” referring to the United States. His remarks were published in the Boston Sunday Globe on November 10, 1940.

Kennedy further embellished his remarks on the subject of the future of democracy in the U.S. and Britain with the Boston Globe’s Louis Lyons and Ralph Coglan of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. He said of the situation in Europe, “It’s all a question of what we do with the next six months. The whole reason for aiding England is to give us time. As long as she is there, we have to prepare. It isn’t that she’s fighting for democracy. That’s the bunk. She’s fighting for self-preservation, just as we will if it comes to us. I know more about the European situation than anybody else, and it’s up to me to see that the country gets it.”

He spent his time planning the political future of his two eldest sons, Joe Jr., and John. But, as fate would have it, his hopes and aspirations for his sons were caught up in the tragedies of war.

Two of Kennedy’s sons served in World War II: Navy Lt. (jg) John F., and Ensign Joseph Jr., photographed in May 1942. Joe Jr. was killed testing a secret drone aircraft in August 1944.

The war that Joseph P. Kennedy so deeply tried to avoid resulted in the deaths of his eldest son, Joe Jr., who was killed while on a secret mission over Europe, and his son-in-law, William “Billy” Hartington, the Marquess of Hartington, who married his daughter Kathleen. It almost cost John his life in the Solomon Islands after his PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer.

John F. Kennedy later became the 35th president of the United States––a job that Joe once hoped would be his own. Kennedy’s isolationist views and pro-German remarks came at a high personal price. For a man with limitless ambitions, his fall from grace must have been the cruelest cut of all.


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