John F. Kennedy: Scholar, War Hero, Nation's President

Pictured above clockwise, is JFK as a happy baby, JFK with some his men from the PT109 during WWII (he's far right), JFK with Jackie on their picture perfect wedding day in Newport RI, and in the center, JFK's Presidential Portrait which hangs in the White House.

The Makings of A President

Born John "Jack" Fitzgerald Kennedy May 29, 1917, John was welcomed into the world with not as much fanfare as his oldest brother, Joseph Kennedy Jr, born in 1915. American History remembers John as our nation's President. The dream of US President was supposed to be that of baby Joseph. However a secret mission during World War II which killed Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. altered American history. And left John as the bearer of the family dreams and hopes.

From the beginning, Jack was to compete with Joe for everything. Joe Jr. was blessed with amazing good looks, charm, studiousness, leadership ability, toughness and overall health, and a devout child of his Catholic faith. As much as Jack loved Joe and vice versa, he detested all the attention Joe received at times. Whatever slight animosities or resentments the boys held toward each other, they always protected each other when they were attacked at their Protestant private schools by Brahmin boys for being Irish Catholics.

Jack was a sickly child who spent most of his time in bed for one ailment or the other. To pass the time he developed a love for reading constantly. His favorite books were ones on Great Britain and European history. It was from these books he learned of aristocracy and gallant men. He admired Cecil Melbourne, who was the prime minister for Queen Victoria, and men like him in the Sir Walter Scott novels. These books he read as a youth, were to intermingle with those teachings of his father to make the man he became and the President he was, when he finally took office. His wife Jacqueline seemed to understand this as she remarked after his funeral, "Jack had more to do with myth, magic, legend, saga, and story than with political theory or political must think of him as this little boy, sick so much of the time, reading in bed, reading history, reading the Knights of the Round Table, reading Marlborough".

When Joseph Jr. was killed in the war, Jack instantly became a "child of fate". As in the Irish tradition, when the eldest son falls, the next takes over and Jack was second in line. Second in line to be the star of the family. Instantly, Joseph Sr. poured more attention onto his second son. Jack had recently become an author and a war hero. The former happened when during Jack's stay in England during the pre-World War II years, with his family. Jack was prompted to write an essay as to why England had not been ready for the war. His essay, became an honors thesis at Harvard, which became the book Why England Slept it was published to critical success. And it was a bestseller, thanks to Joe's connections and his connections storerooms. Delighted with the success of the book with critics Joe said to Jack: " You would be surprised how a book that really makes the grade with high class people stands you in good stead for years to come".

Becoming a war hero, was not something Jack or Joseph Sr. could have predicted. But it did. Jack as lieutenant of his battalion PT 109 saved his entire crew's life. A Japanese destroyer rammed their ship right in two. Jack had directed most of his men, those who had not drowned, in the barracuda infested waters to safety. He even held one man's life jacket in his teeth and pulled him as they swam to a nearby island. Along with a Congressional Medal of Honor, his narrative garnered interest from a New Yorker reporter, John Hersey. And Jack's story was turned into tale of heroic do and dare called "Survival".

When Jack decided to run for Congress in 1946, Joseph Sr. instantly prevailed upon the New Yorker, to reprint the article, editorial policy --which prohibited condensed reprints of its publications-- did not stop Joseph Sr. He swayed them into his camp by convincing them he would use proceeds to go to servicemen's widows. The article was reprinted and distributed to every single house in every single area of Jack's district. Joe had private polls conducted and discovered that the one thing most people wanted to hear of most from men campaigning was their time in the war. Therefore Joe insisted Jack in every speech bring up the time on PT 109. Joe Sr also instructed the family aides to make sure the press had plenty of family photo opps, themes and "facts"--enabling his son to be presented in the appealing formula of All-American man.

It was with this methodology that Joe attacked Jack's wedding to Jacqueline Bouvier, a socialite from the Rhode Island Auchinclosses. Joe had every intention, barring protests of the Jackie's mother and Jackie that the wedding would be attended by every single member of the press and half the United States Senate. This marriage, with the beautiful young cultured wife the large family, and his son's good looks and political promise would give Jack the advantage he needed in his race for the White House.

With one more book written, this one entitled Profiles in Courage, a pretty three year-old daughter named Caroline with Jack's pretty socialite wife and mother Jackie, AND all of his siblings and in-laws traveling the nation to get him elected, Jack won the election of 1960. Joe was determined to have his son seen as the All-American boy next door, in spite of voiced doubts over Jack's Catholic faith interfering with his presidency. The determination and engineering paid off, John F. Kennedy was became the first Irish Catholic President of the United States of America.

Other Links:

The Irish in America: 1840's-1930's|Joseph P. Kennedy|The Kennedys:Making of a Dynasty
John F. Kennedy |Camelot:The Kennedy White House|The Post Camelot Years