On November 22, 1963, while being driven through the streets of Dallas, Texas, in his open car, President John F. Kennedy was shot dead, apparently by the lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. The world had not only lost a common man, but a great leader of men.
From his heroic actions in World War II to his presidency, making the decisions to avert possible nuclear conflict with world superpowers, greatness can be seen. Kennedy also found the time to author several best-selling novels from his experiences . His symbolic figure represented all the charm, vigor and optimism of youth as he led a nation into a new era of prosperity.
From his birth into the powerful and influential Kennedy clan, much was to be expected of him. Kennedy was born on May 29,1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father, Joe, Sr., was a successful businessman with many political connections. Appointed by President Roosevelt, Joe, Sr., was given the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission and later the prestigious position of United States ambassador to Great Britain(Anderson 98). His mother, Rose, was a loving housewife and took young John on frequent trips around historic Boston learning about American revolutionary history. Both parents impressed on their children that their country had been good to the Kennedys. Whatever benefits the family received from the country they were told, must be returned by performing some service for the country(Anderson 12). The Kennedy clan included Joe, Jr., Bobby, Ted and their sisters, Eunice, Jean, Patricia, Rosemary, and Kathleen. Joe, Jr., was a significant figure in young John's life as he was the figure for most of John's admiration. His older brother was much bigger and stronger than John and took it upon himself to be John's coach and protector. John's childhood was full of sports, fun and activity. This all ended when John grew old enough to leave for school.
At the age of thirteen, John left home to attend an away school for the first time. Canterbury School, a boarding school in New Milford, Connecticut and Choate Preparatory in Wallingford, Connecticut completed his elementary education("JFK" 98). John graduated in 1934 and was promised a trip to London as a graduation gift. Soon after, John became ill with jaundice and
would have to go to the hospital. He spent the rest of the summer trying to recover. He was not entirely well when he started Princeton, several weeks later in the fall of 1935. Around Christmas the jaundice returned and John had to drop out of school. Before the next school year began, he told his father he wanted to go to Harvard("JFK" 98). On campus, young people took interest in politics, social changes, and events in Europe. The United States was pulling out of the Great Depression. Hitler's
Nazi Germany followed aggressive territorial expansion in Europe. It was at this time that John first became aware of the vast social and economic differences in the United States. In June 1940, John graduated cum laude(with praise or distinction) from Harvard. His thesis earned a magna cum laude(great praise)( "JFK" 98). After graduation, John began to send his paper to publishers, and it was accepted on his second try. Wilfrid Funk published it under the title Why England Slept. It became a bestseller. John, at twenty-five, became a literary sensation.
In the spring of 1941, both John and Joe, Jr., decided to enroll in the armed services. Joe was accepted as a naval air cadet but John was turned down by both the army and navy because of his back trouble and history of illness("JFK" 98). After months of training and conditioning, John reapplied and on September 19, John was accepted into the navy as a desk clerk in Washington. He was disgusted and applied for a transfer. In June 1941, Kennedy was sent to Naval Officers Training School at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and then for additional training at the Motor Torpedo Boat Center at Melville, Rhode Island. In late April 1943, Lieutenant John F. Kennedy was put in command of a PT 109, a fast, light, attack craft in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Kennedy saw action in the form of night patrols and participated in enemy bombings. On August 1, 1943, during a routine night patrol, a Japanese destroyer collided in the darkness with Kennedy's craft and the PT 109 was sunk. Through superhuman effort, the injured Kennedy heroically swam back and forth rescuing his wounded crew. Two were killed in the crash. The injury had once again aggravated his back. Still, Kennedy pushed on swimming from island to island in the South Pacific hoping for a patrol to come by. The lieutenant had no idea he had been in the water for eight hours. Finally, an island was spotted that could provided cover from Japanese planes. With no edible plants or water, Kennedy realized that he and the crew must move on.
The next day, he once again attempted to search for rescue. After treading water for hours, the lieutenant was forced to admit no patrol boats were coming. He turned back for the island but was swept away by a powerful current. Kennedy collapsed on an island and slept. He recovered enough energy to return to the island and gathered the crew to move to another island in search of food. JFK was now desperate enough to seek help from natives on a Japanese controlled island. After making contact with the natives, Kennedy persuaded the natives to deliver a message written on the back of a coconut shell to allied forces. The coconut fell into the hands of allied scouts and a patrol was sent. The coconut would appear again on the desk of an American President(Anderson 35).
The crew of the PT 109 were given a hero's welcome when they returned to base, but Kennedy would have none of it. He refused home leave and was given another boat. In constant pain from the back injury, JFK soon contracted malaria, became very ill, and lost twenty-five pounds. He was forced to give up command and was sent home to Chelsea NavalHospital near Hyannis Port. The lieutenant received the Purple Heart, the ...