Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.

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Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.
Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Navy.JPG
Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., U.S.Navy (c. 1942)
Born Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr.
(1915-07-25)July 25, 1915
Hull, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died August 12, 1944(1944-08-12) (aged 29)
Over Blythburgh, East Suffolk, United Kingdom (remains never recovered)
Cause of death Naval airplane explosion during Operation Aphrodite
Education Harvard College
London School of Economics
Harvard Law School
Occupation U.S. Naval Aviator
Political party Democratic
Parent(s) Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.
Rose Fitzgerald
Relatives See Kennedy family
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 1941–1944
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Lieutenant
Unit Patrol Squadron 203
Bombing Squadron 110, Special Air Unit 1
Battles/wars World War II
Awards

Navycross.jpg Dfc-usa.jpg 23px Air Medal front.jpg

Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart Medal, Air Medal

Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy Jr. (July 25, 1915 – August 12, 1944) was a United States Navy lieutenant. He was killed in action while serving as a land-based patrol bomber pilot in World War II and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. 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 president John F. Kennedy. Joe Sr. had plans for Joe Jr. to become president.[1][page needed] However, Kennedy died while participating in a top-secret mission in 1944, and the high expectations of the father then fell upon Joe Jr's younger brother John.

Early life and education

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 ambitions and views

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.

Initially, Kennedy expressed ambivalence about Adolf Hitler. His father sent him to visit Nazi Germany in 1934. He wrote to his father (and possibly influenced by experience with his intellectually disabled sister Rosemary), praising Hitler’s sterilization policy as “a great thing” that “will do away with many of the disgusting specimens of men.” [2] He explained that "Hitler is building a spirit in his men that could be envied in any country." [3][4]

U.S. Navy (1941-1944)

Kennedy left before his final year of law school at Harvard to enlist in the U.S. Naval Reserve on June 24, 1941.[5] He entered flight training to be a Naval Aviator, and after training, he received his wings and was commissioned an ensign on May 5, 1942[5] He was assigned to Patrol Squadron 203 and then Bombing Squadron 110.[5] In September 1943, he was sent to Britain and became a member of Bomber Squadron 110, Special Air Unit ONE, in 1944. 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.[6]

Operations Anvil & Aphrodite

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.[6] 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.

Kennedy was appointed a lieutenant on July 1, 1944.[5] After the U.S. Army Air Forces operation missions were drawn up on July 23, 1944, Lieutenants Wilford John Willy[7] and Kennedy, were designated as the first Navy flight crew. Willy who was the executive officer of Special Air Unit ONE, also volunteered for the mission and "pulled rank" over Ensign James Simpson who was Kennedy's regular co-pilot. Kennedy and Willy (co-pilot), flew a BQ-8 "robot" aircraft (drone; 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 August 12, 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 U-boat pens at Heligoland in the North Sea.[8][9]

Last photograph of Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. on day of flight, August 12, 1944.

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.[10] 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[11]

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."[12] 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.[13] However, Air Force records cannot substantiate this. Instead, an after-action account by the 8th Combat Camera Unit (CCU) noted that:

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

".....'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."[14]

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, but was ignored.[11] Kennedy and Willy were both posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart Medal.

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.[15] 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.[16]

Military awards

Kennedy's military decorations and awards include:

Navy Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal
Purple Heart Medal
American Defense Service Medal
Bronze star
American Campaign Medal with one 316" bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one 316" bronze star
World War II Victory Medal

Navy Cross citation

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Joseph Patrick Kennedy, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Commander of a Navy Liberator Patrol Plane in Bombing Squadron ONE HUNDRED TEN (VB-110), Special Air Unit ONE (Europe), during a special air mission directed at Mimoyecques, France, on August 12, 1944. Well knowing the extreme dangers involved and totally unconcerned for his own safety, Lieutenant 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.[17]

Legacy

In 1946, the Navy named a destroyer for Kennedy, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., aboard which his younger brother, (future U.S. Senator) Robert F. Kennedy, briefly served. 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 spaceflights 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. A television movie based on Searls' book won a primetime Emmy in 1977. [18]

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. is the only son of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy who was never a candidate for the U.S. presidency.

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Olsen, Jack (2004) [1970]. Aphrodite: Desperate Mission. ISBN 978-0-7434-8670-5. 
  2. Gordon, Meryl (October 6, 2015). "‘Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter,’ by Kate Clifford Larson". New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  3. Honig, Sarah (February 28, 2015). "Another Tack:Movie Musings". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  4. Beauchamp, Cari (December 2004). "Two Sons, One Destiny". Vanity Fair. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/850.htm
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sorensen, Theodore (1966) [1965]. Kennedy (paperback). New York: Bantam. p. 37. OCLC 2746832. 
  7. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=56295618
  8. Freeman, Roger A. (1970) [1970]. The Mighty Eighth, A History of the U.S. 8th Army Air Force (Hardback). London: Macdonald. ISBN 0-385-01168-7. 
  9. "US Navy and US Marine Corps Bureau Numbers, Third Series (30147 to 839998)". Joseph F. Baugher. Retrieved April 10, 2007. 
  10. Hansen, Chris (2012) [2012]. Enfant Terrible: The Times and Schemes of General Elliott Roosevelt. Tucson: Able Baker. ISBN 978-0-615-66892-5. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Renehan, Edward J. Jr. (2002). The Kennedys at War, 1937–1945. New York: Doubleday. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-385-50165-1. 
  12. Telegram to AWW, cipher, Top Secret, August 17, 1944, Project Aphrodite box, Air Force Historical Research Agency.
  13. Searls, Hank (1977) [1969]. Young Joe, the Forgotten Kennedy (paperback). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-27395-8. 
  14. 8th AAF CCU unit history for August 1944, 25-GP-HI (Recon), AFHRA
  15. Lieut Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr. at Find a Grave
  16. New York Times, August 15 and 17, 1944 (announcement of Kennedy's death) and October 25, 1945 (detailed account of the mission)
  17. http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=21302
  18. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076943/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_16

External links