Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.

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Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.
Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Navy.JPG
Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. as Ensign,
U.S. Navy (c. 1942)
Born Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr.
(1915-07-25)July 25, 1915
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died August 12, 1944(1944-08-12) (aged 29)
Over East Suffolk, United Kingdom (remains never recovered)
Cause of death
Naval airplane explosion on August 12, 1944 over the English Channel
Education Harvard College
London School of Economics
Harvard Law School
Occupation Lieutenant, USN pilot
Political party
Democratic
Religion Roman Catholicism
Parents Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.
Rose Fitzgerald
Relatives
Military career
Memorial – Wall of the Missing Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial
Cambridge, England
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1940–1944
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Lieutenant
Unit
Battles/wars World War II
Awards

Lieutenant Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy, Jr. (July 25, 1915 – August 12, 1944) was a junior officer in the United States Navy, a Naval Aviator, and a land-based patrol bomber pilot during World War II. He was the eldest of nine children born to Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (1888–1969) and Rose Fitzgerald (1890–1995).

He was the elder brother of future U.S. President, John F. Kennedy. Joseph Kennedy had been expected to become president,[1] especially after his father's political exile for supporting the appeasement policy of Neville Chamberlain in the advent of World War II.[2] However, Kennedy was killed in action during the war in a top-secret mission, and the high expectations then fell upon his younger brother John.

Early life and education[edit]

Kennedy first attended the Dexter School in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his brother, John. He graduated from The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in 1933 in Wallingford, Connecticut. He then entered Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating in 1938. Kennedy participated in football, rugby, and crew, and he served on the student council. Kennedy then spent a year studying under the tutelage of Harold Laski at the London School of Economics before enrolling in Harvard Law School.

Political career[edit]

From a very young age, Kennedy was groomed by his father and predicted to be the first Roman Catholic Irish-American 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. Kennedy planned to run for Massachusetts's 11th congressional district in 1946.

World War II service[edit]

During World War II, Kennedy left before his final year of law school to begin officer training and flight training in the U.S. Navy. He earned his wings as a Naval Aviator in May 1942 and was sent to Britain in September 1943. He piloted land-based PB4Y Liberator patrol bombers on anti-submarine details during two tours of duty in the winter of 1943–1944. Kennedy had completed 25 combat missions and was eligible to return home. He instead volunteered for an Operation Aphrodite mission.[3]

Operations Anvil & Aphrodite[edit]

Memorial for Joseph Kennedy Jr. inside the fortress of Mimoyecques (France)

Operation Aphrodite (US Army Air Forces) & Operation Anvil (US Navy) made use of unmanned, explosive-laden Army Air Forces Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator bombers, that were deliberately crashed into their targets under radio control.[3] These aircraft could not take off safely on their own, so a crew of two would take off and fly to 2,000 feet (610 m) before activating the remote control system, arming the detonators and parachuting from the aircraft.

After U.S. Army Air Forces operation missions were drawn up on July 23, 1944, Kennedy and Lieutenant Wilford John Willy were designated as the first Navy flight crew. Willy had "pulled rank" over Ensign James Simpson (who was Kennedy's regular co-pilot) to be on the mission. They flew a BQ-8 "robot" aircraft (a converted B-24 Liberator) for the U.S. Navy's first Aphrodite mission. Two Lockheed Ventura mother planes and a Boeing B-17 navigation plane took off from RAF Fersfield at 1800 on 12 August 1944. Then the BQ-8 aircraft, loaded with 21,170 lb (9,600 kg) of Torpex, took off. It was to be used against the Fortress of Mimoyecques and its V-3 cannons in northern France.[4]

Following behind them in a USAAF F-8 Mosquito to film the mission were pilot Lt. Robert A. Tunnel and combat camera man Lt. David J. McCarthy, who filmed the event from the perspex nose.[5] As planned, Kennedy and Willy remained aboard as the BQ-8 completed its first remote-controlled turn at 2,000 feet near the North Sea coast. Kennedy and Willy removed the safety pin, arming the explosive package, and Kennedy radioed the agreed code Spade Flush, his last known words. Two minutes later (and well before the planned crew bailout, near RAF Manston), the Torpex explosive detonated prematurely and destroyed the Liberator, killing Kennedy and Willy instantly. Wreckage landed near the village of Blythburgh in Suffolk, England, causing widespread damage and small fires, but no injuries on the ground. According to one report, a total of 59 buildings were damaged in a nearby coastal town.

ATTEMPTED FIRST APHRODITE ATTACK TWELVE AUGUST WITH ROBOT TAKING OFF FROM FERSFIELD AT ONE EIGHT ZERO FIVE HOURS PD ROBOT EXPLODED IN THE AIR AT APPROXIMATELY TWO THOUSAND FEET EIGHT MILES SOUTHEAST OF HALESWORTH AT ONE EIGHT TWO ZERO HOURS PD WILFORD J. WILLY CMA SR GRADE LIEUTENANT AND JOSEPH P. KENNEDY SR GRADE LIEUTENANT CMA BOTH USNR CMA WERE KILLED PD COMMANDER SMITH CMA IN COMMAND OF THIS UNIT CMA IS MAKING FULL REPORT TO US NAVAL OPERATIONS PD A MORE DETAILED REPORT WILL BE FORWARDED TO YOU WHEN INTERROGATION IS COMPLETED

— Top Secret telegram to General Carl Andrew Spaatz from General Jimmy Doolittle, August 1944[6]

According to USAAF records, the trailing Mosquito "was flying 300 feet above and about 300 yards to the rear of the robot. Engineer photographer on this ship was injured and the ship was damaged slightly by the explosion."[7] The Mosquito, which made an immediate emergency landing at RAF Halesworth, belonged to the 325th Reconnaissance Wing, a unit under the command of the son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Colonel Elliott Roosevelt. Years later, Roosevelt claimed to have been aboard this trailing aircraft, and his version of the event has gained wide currency.[8] However, Air Force records cannot substantiate this. Instead, an after-action account by the 8th Combat Camera Unit (CCU) noted that:

".....'the Baby just exploded in mid-air as we neared it and I was knocked halfway back to the cockpit. A few pieces of the Baby came through the plexiglass nose and I got hit in the head and caught a lot of fragments in my right arm. I crawled back to the cockpit and lowered the wheels so that Bob could make a quick emergency landing,' Lt. McCarthy reported from his hospital bed."[9]

The 8th CCU film of the event, has, so far as is known, not been found.

The Navy's informal board of review, discussing a number of theories, discounted the possibility of the crew making a mistake, or that suspected jamming or a stray signal could have armed and detonated the explosives. An electronics officer who believed the wiring harness had a design defect had warned Kennedy of this possibility the day before the mission.[6] Kennedy was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal. His Navy Cross citation reads:

For extraordinary heroism and courage in aerial flight as pilot of a United States Liberator bomber on August 12, 1944. Well knowing the extreme dangers involved and totally unconcerned for his own safety, Kennedy unhesitatingly volunteered to conduct an exceptionally hazardous and special operational mission.
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.[10]

Willy also was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. The names of both men are listed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, a cemetery and chapel near the village of Madingley in Cambridgeshire, Britain, that commemorates American servicemen who died in World War II.[11] Later reports that Kennedy's final mission were kept top secret until many years later[1] are negated by a detailed public account of the operation and Kennedy's death released in 1945.[12]

Legacy[edit]

In 1946, the Navy named a destroyer for Kennedy, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., which his younger brother (future U.S. Senator) Robert F. Kennedy briefly served aboard. Among the highlights of its service are the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the afloat recovery teams for Gemini 6 and Gemini 7, both 1965 manned spaceflight in NASA's Gemini program. It is now a floating museum in Battleship Cove, Fall River, Massachusetts.

In 1947, the Kennedys established the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation and funded the construction of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Memorial Hall at Boston College, now a part of Campion Hall and home to the college's Lynch School of Education. The foundation was led by his youngest brother, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, until his death in August 2009. In 1957, the Lieutenant Joseph Patrick Kennedy Junior Memorial Skating Rink was opened in Hyannis, Massachusetts, with funds from the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation.

In 1969, Hank Searls wrote a biography of Joe Jr., entitled The Lost Prince: Young Joe, the Forgotten Kennedy.

Awards and decorations[edit]

Navy Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal
Purple Heart
American Defense Service Medal
Bronze star
American Campaign Medal with one bronze service star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze service star
World War II Victory Medal

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Olsen, Jack (2004) [1970]. Aphrodite: Desperate Mission. ISBN 978-0-7434-8670-5. 
  2. ^ Dallek, Robert (2003). An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-316-17238-7. 
  3. ^ a b Sorensen, Theodore (1966) [1965]. Kennedy (paperback). New York: Bantam. p. 37. OCLC 2746832. 
  4. ^ "US Navy and US Marine Corps Bureau Numbers, Third Series (30147 to 839998)". Joseph F. Baugher. Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  5. ^ Hansen, Chris (2012) [2012]. Enfant Terrible: The Times and Schemes of General Elliott Roosevelt. Tucson: Able Baker. ISBN 978-0-615-66892-5. 
  6. ^ a b Renehan, Jr., Edward J. (2002). The Kennedys at War, 1937–1945. New York: Doubleday. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-385-50165-1. 
  7. ^ Telegram to AWW, cipher, Top Secret, 17 August 1944, Project Aphrodite box, Air Force Historical Research Agency.
  8. ^ Searls, Hank (1977) [1969]. Young Joe, the Forgotten Kennedy (paperback). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-27395-8. 
  9. ^ 8th AAF CCU unit history for August 1944, 25-GP-HI (Recon), AFHRA
  10. ^ "JFK's Brother". OrwellToday.com. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  11. ^ Lieut Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr at Find a Grave
  12. ^ New York Times, 15 and 17 August 1944 (announcement of Kennedy's death) and 25 October 1945 (detailed account of the mission)

External links[edit]