November 22 Dallas- The aftermath

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I can’t think of any other political family who had to endure the amount of tragedies as the Kennedys did.I will not go into the details of the assassination of President KennedyLyndon B. Johnson because so much is already written about it, I will focus more on some of the events which happened in the aftermath.

But before I do that I will touch a small bit on the Kennedy history prior to November 22 1963.

JFK was not the first Kennedy who had his live cut short .On August 12, 1944 Joe Kennedy Jr was killed in action during WWII.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2017/11/07/joe-kennedy-jr-one-last-mission/

Another Kennedy who is often forgotten is Patrick Bouvier Kennedy , the last child of United States President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Patrick died only a few months before his dad, on August 9 1963.

He was born on August 7  the 20th anniversary of the day the Navy had rescued his Father in World War II.

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Patrick Bouvier Kennedy only lived for 36 hours.

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The swearing in and the inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson

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In the hospital, Johnson was surrounded by Secret Service agents, who encouraged him to return to Washington in case he too was targeted for assassination. Johnson wished to wait until he knew of Kennedy’s condition; at 1:20 pm he was told Kennedy was dead and left the hospital almost twenty minutes later.

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At this point arrangements were made to provide Secret Service protection of the two Johnson daughters (Lynda Bird Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson), and it was decided that the new president would leave on the presidential aircraft because it had better communications equipment. Johnson was driven by an unmarked police car to Love Field, and kept below the car’s window level throughout the journey.

Johnson waited for Jacqueline Kennedy, who in turn would not leave Dallas without her husband’s body, to arrive aboard Air Force One. Kennedy’s casket was finally brought to the aircraft, but takeoff was delayed until Johnson took the oath of office.

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Spare a thought here, Jackie Kennedy who 3 months earlier lost a child and who still had the blood of her husband on her suit had to attend the inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson on Air Force One. What an amazing woman.

I have heard people say “why couldn’t they wait until they were back at the White House” but legally in order to keep the office of the President of the United States of America in continuation, the vice president most be sworn in as soon as possible.

The Kennedy children.

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People often forget that the Children were victims too, as their mother had to deal with the grief of losing a child and husband, they had to deal with the loss of a sibling and father.

On the day of JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963, nanny Maud Shaw took Caroline and John Jr. away from the White House to the home of their maternal grandmother, Janet Lee Auchincloss , who insisted that Shaw be the one to tell Caroline about her father’s death. That evening, Caroline and John Jr. were brought back to the White House, and while Caroline was in her bed, Shaw broke the news to her.

John Jr had his 3rd Birthday 3 days after his Father’s assassination. The state funeral was held , on John Jr.’s third birthday. In a moment that became an iconic image of the 1960s, John Jr. stepped forward and rendered a final salute as his father’s flag-draped casket was carried out from St. Matthew’s Cathedral.

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr died  On July 16, 1999,when the airplane he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The two passengers on board, Kennedy’s wife Carolyn Bessette and her sister Lauren, were also killed. The Piper Saratoga light aircraft had departed from Essex County Airport in Fairfield, New Jersey, and its intended route was along the coastline of Connecticut and across Rhode Island Sound to Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

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J.D. Tippit

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At 12:45 p.m., 15 minutes after Kennedy was shot, Tippit received a radio order to drive to the central Oak Cliff area as part of a concentration of police around the center of the city. At 12:54, Tippit radioed that he had moved as directed. By then several messages had been broadcast describing a suspect in the killing of Kennedy as a slender white male, in his early thirties, 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) tall, and weighing about 165 pounds (75 kg). Oswald was a slender white male, 24 years old, 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall, and an estimated weight of 150 pounds (68 kg) at autopsy.

At approximately 1:11–1:14 p.m.,Tippit was driving slowly eastward on East 10th Street — about 100 feet (30 m) past the intersection of 10th Street and Patton Avenue — when he pulled alongside a man who resembled the police description.Oswald walked over to Tippit’s car and apparently exchanged words with him through an open vent window.

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Tippit opened his car door and as he walked toward the front of the car, Oswald drew his handgun and fired four shots in rapid succession. One bullet hit Tippit in the chest, one in the stomach, another in his right temple (one bullet hit a button and did not penetrate his skin). Tippit’s body was transported from the scene of the shooting by ambulance to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:25 p.m. by Dr. Richard A. Liguori.

I know there are gazillions of conspiracy theories and every one is free to believe them. I however tend to stick with the facts.

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Joe Kennedy Jr-One last mission

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I always like ‘What if?’ scenarios. What if Joe Kennedy Jr would not have embarked on his last mission, would we be remembering the assassination of JFK? Or would Joe Kennedy have been President of the USA?

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The story of the Kennedy family is not only tragic it is also amazing and its legacy still lives on today.

High expectations were placed on the first born son of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. In the wake of his support for the pre-war policy of appeasement, Joseph P. Kennedy knew he would never be President.

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He seamlessly transferred his ambition to his children, anointing the oldest, Joe Jr, as his proxy for the White House. Joe Jr was living the Ivy League life of the east coast social elite until the call to England interrupted his idyllic lifestyle as President Roosevelt appointed the elder Kennedy to be his ambassador to England. Joseph Sr placed huge pressure on Joe Jr, instilling his Irish American insecurities on his son to always compete and win. In peace and war, Joe Jr’s pursuit of excellence propelled him forward. War hero was the next expectation place on him.

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., a lieutenant in the Navy, died in 1944 testing a very rudimentary drone program called Operation Aphrodite.

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Here’s how it worked: the Navy would load up B-17’s or B-24’s with a ton of explosives, and then control them via radio from a trailing aircraft and steer them into targets kamikaze-style.

There was just one issue, the technology did not exist for these remotely-piloted aircraft to take off. So a crew had to take off the aircraft, get it to a safe altitude, and then parachute from the vessel.

Operation Aphrodite was combat tested program, meaning they tested the development of this new weapon by simply trying to make it happen in actual combat scenarios.

Although Joe Kennedy Sr had asked his son to maybe reconsider this mission, Joe Kennedy Jr had responded that he wanted to do just one more mission and this one was very safe.

On August 12, 1944, KennedyJOE KENNEDY JR. and Lieutenant Wilford John Willy took off in a converted B-24 Liberator (the drone versions were designated BQ-8) from Royal Air Force Station Fersfield, near Norwich. Their target was a massive underground military complex called the Fortress of Mimoyecques that had the potential to launch devastating attacks directly at London. Several minutes short of the planned bail out, an electrical fault in the Liberator caused the Torpex to detonate. In a thunderous instant.The single US Navy BQ-8 detonated prematurely over the Blyth estuary, eastern England, killing Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. and Lieutenant Wilford J. Willy

 

A formerly classified telegraph captures what happened:

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

The irony was that the mission was not necessary because the previous attack on Mimoyecques which initially deemed to be a failure had in fact been succesful.

Tallboy, or Bomb, Medium Capacity, 12,000 lb, was an earthquake bomb developed by the British aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis and used by the RAF during the Second World War.

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On the 6th of  July 1944 –  The tall boy was dropped on the Mimoyecques  V3-weapon targets,believed to be Hitler’s super weapon .Damage was unknown at the time, and efforts continued. In September, allied ground forces found galleries blocked with earth and debris where Tallboys had hit one of the shafts. The V-weapon was revealed to be the V-3 cannon.

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A young officer called Earl Olsen had spotted a potentially defect in the control panel of the BQ-8  and reported it to his superiors.But since he wasn’t a high ranking officer and had no official qualifications in electronics his concerns were dismissed, even by Joe Kennedy  himself. What if they just would have listened to Earl Olsen.

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Lyndon B. Johnson taking the Presidential Oath.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas, Texas, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Jackie was angled in such a way as to hide the blood on her coat. It’s the perfect image reflect the American Pain of the moment, the quick need for seamless succession, and yet, and yet, in that relatively desperate moment, attention is still given to the gloss and optics of how the whole thing is presented.

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For the inauguration twenty-seven people squeezed into the sixteen-foot square stateroom of Air Force One for the proceedings. Adding to the discomfort was the lack of air conditioning as the aircraft had been disconnected from the external power supply, in order to take off promptly. As the inauguration proceeded the four jet engines of Air Force One were being powered up.

The Warren Commission’s report detailed the inauguration: “From the Presidential airplane, the new President telephoned Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who advised that Mr. Johnson take the Presidential oath of office before the plane left Dallas. Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes hastened to the plane to administer the oath. Members of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential parties filled the central compartment of the plane to witness the swearing in. At 2:38 p.m. CST, Lyndon Baines Johnson took the oath of office as the 36th President of the United States. Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Johnson stood at the side of the new President as he took the oath of office. Nine minutes later, the Presidential airplane departed for Washington, D.C.”.

 

The swearing-in ceremony administered by Judge Hughes in an Air Force One conference room represented the first time that a woman administered the presidential oath of office as well as the only time it was conducted on an airplane. Instead of the usual Bible, Johnson was sworn in upon a missal found on a side table in Kennedy’s Air Force One bedroom. After the oath had been taken, Johnson kissed his wife on the forehead. Mrs. Johnson then took Jackie Kennedy’s hand and told her, “The whole nation mourns your husband”.

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The famous photograph of the inauguration was taken by Cecil Stoughton, John F. Kennedy’s official photographer. On Stoughton’s suggestion Johnson was flanked by his wife and Jacqueline Kennedy, facing slightly away from the camera so that blood stains on her pink Chanel suit would not be visible. The photograph was taken using a Hasselblad camera.

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Ich bin ein Berliner

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The speech is considered one of Kennedy’s best, both a notable moment of the Cold War and a high point of the New Frontier. It was a great morale boost for West Berliners, who lived in an enclave deep inside East Germany and feared a possible East German occupation. Speaking from a platform erected on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg for an audience of 450,000, Kennedy said: Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!“… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”.

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Kennedy used the phrase twice in his speech, including at the end, pronouncing the sentence with his Boston accent and reading from his note “ish bin ein Bearleener”, which he had written out using English spelling habits to indicate an approximation of the German pronunciation. Another phrase in the speech was also spoken in German, “Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen” (“Let them come to Berlin”), addressed at those who claimed “we can work with the Communists”.

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While the immediate response from the West German population was positive, the Soviet authorities were less pleased with the combative Lass sie nach Berlin kommen. Only two weeks before, Kennedy had spoken in a more conciliatory tone, speaking of “improving relations with the Soviet Union”: in response to Kennedy’s Berlin speech, Nikita Khrushchev, days later, remarked that “one would think that the speeches were made by two different Presidents”.

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Kennedy held the speech on 26 June 1963, less then 3 months later he was killed.

 

Overshadowed Historical events.

I did a blog recently about JFK and found out that the same day JFK was assassinated , the authors CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley had died. This made me wonder how more historical event were forgotten because they were over shadowed by even bigger events. Below are a few examples.

Harriet Quimby

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Although her name is nowadays remembered by a small group of people, Harriet Quimby was one of the greatest early female aviators. In 1911, Quimby became the first woman in the country to get her pilot’s license with the Aero Club of America. When she wasn’t busy flying planes recreationally, Harriet Quimby enjoyed quite a successful career in Hollywood by writing screenplays that were turned into silent shorts.

Eventually, Quimby set her sights on more ambitious projects and was soon planning a flight across the English Channel, a first for a female pilot. She completed it on April 16, 1912 by taking off from Dover and landing 59 minutes later on a beach near Calais in France. She officially became the first female pilot to fly the Channel, but her feat drew little interest from the media. It’s not that it wasn’t newsworthy, but something really big just the day before completely captured the public’s attention.

On April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank during its maiden voyage.

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Quite understandably, all other events took a backseat in the press. And unfortunately for Harriet, she didn’t get to enjoy her legacy once the frenzy around the Titanic subsided, either. Just two and a half months later, Harriet Quimby died in an accident during an aviation contest in Boston.

Dr Who

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The longest running Sci-Fi show nearly didn’t happen. Like the aforementioned deaths of CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley, the pilot episode of Dr Who had been scheduled on the 22nd of November 1963. The day of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

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The BBC did broadcast the pilot episode again a week later.

John Fairfax

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On January 20, 1969, Fairfax set off on his own from the Canary Islands in a boat. On July 19, he arrived in Florida, becoming the first person to row across an ocean solo.

Fairfax became the talk of the town, but only for a day. His bad timing didn’t allow him to bask in the adulation of the media because the very next day, something truly historic was happening. On July 20, 1969, all of humanity was watching as the Apollo 11 astronauts became the first humans to walk on the Moon.

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Steamboat Sultana

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The greatest maritime disaster in United States history occurred on April 27, 1865, when the steamboat Sultana had a boiler explosion, sinking the ship and killing an estimated 1,800 of her 2,427 passengers.

Unfortunately, another event happened across the Mississippi River: the death of President Abraham Lincoln and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

1959: U.S. and Soviets on Brink of War; Nobody Notices

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On Feb. 3, 1959, Soviet border guards stopped a convoy of four U.S. Army trucks headed from West Berlin, on a routine trip from the free section of the divided German capital, through communist territory to East Germany. After the Americans refused an inspection, the Soviets seized the trucks, along with five American personnel, and held them captive overnight. New York Times correspondent Arthur J. Olsen wrote this kidnapping “appeared to be a planned test” of the U.S. ability to support a garrison in West Berlin.

It took a high-level official protest from the U.S. embassy in Moscow to get the Soviets to finally release the prisoners and let their trucks through the checkpoint more than two days later

On a different day, the Soviet provocation might have dominated the newspapers. But a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson also took off from Mason City, Iowa, and crashed, killing the rock ‘n’ roll stars and their pilot, Roger Peterson. Feb. 3 became known as “The Day the Music Died,” not a day when Cold War tensions simmered.

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Michael Chekhov

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As an actor, Michael Chekhov was probably best known for his role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, for which he was nominated for an Oscar (Best Supporting Actor.) As an acting instructor, Chekhov wrote a book called To The Actor, which is still cited as a developmental tool by actors such as Johnny Depp today. Chekhov would count among his students such luminaries as Marilyn Monroe, Lloyd Bridges, Anthony Quinn, Clint Eastwood, Elia Kazan, and Yul Brynner. But on September 30th 1955, Michael Chekhov’s death was not even a news story compared to another person who would become associated with method acting.

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When James Dean died in a car crash on September 30, 1955, the world stopped and nothing else happened for the rest of the year. Dean was only 24, and had primarily been a television actor. Dean was starting to break through in movies though, with moving performances in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. It was Rebel that catapulted Dean to icon status. He had just finished work on his final film, Giant. As a symbol of eternal youth, Dean would quickly become legend. And while even Dean himself would have probably admitted that Chekhov had the more influential career, it is his death, now Chekhov’s, that still resonates to this day.

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C.S Lewis- The WWII Years and his forgotten death.

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Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland, on 29 November 1898. His father was Albert James Lewis (1863–1929), a solicitor whose father Richard had come to Ireland from Wales during the mid-19th century.

This is my tribute to one of the best authors that ever lived.Together with his friend J.R.R. Tolkien they have written amazing stories that have inspired generations.

I am starting with his death which was almost completely overshadowed by news of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, which occurred on the same day (approximately 55 minutes following Lewis’s collapse), as did the death of English writer Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/11/22/22-november-1963-dealey-plaza-dallas/

Few people attended his funeral in Headington Quarry, just outside Oxford, partly because his brother, Major Warnie Lewis, had taken to his bed with a whiskey bottle when Lewis died and told no one of the burial arrangements.

After the outbreak of the war in 1939, the Lewises took child evacuees from London and other cities into The Kilns.

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Lewis was only 40 when the war started, and he tried to re-enter military service, offering to instruct cadets; but his offer was not accepted. He rejected the recruiting office’s suggestion of writing columns for the Ministry of Information in the press, as he did not want to “write lies”to deceive the enemy. He later served in the local Home Guard in Oxford.

From 1941 to 1943, Lewis spoke on religious programmes broadcast by the BBC from London while the city was under periodic air raids. These broadcasts were appreciated by civilians and servicemen at that stage. For example, Air Chief Marshal Sir Donald Hardman wrote:

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“The war, the whole of life, everything tended to seem pointless. We needed, many of us, a key to the meaning of the universe. Lewis provided just that.”

The broadcasts were anthologised in Mere Christianity. From 1941, he was occupied at his summer holiday weekends visiting R.A.F. stations to speak on his faith, invited by the R.A.F.’s Chaplain-in-Chief Maurice Edwards.

It was also during the same wartime period that Lewis was invited to become first President of the Oxford Socratic Club in January 1942, a position that he enthusiastically held until he resigned on appointment to Cambridge University in 1954.

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22 November 1963-Dealey Plaza Dallas

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President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 pm Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, while on a political trip to Texas to smooth over frictions in the Democratic Party between liberals Ralph Yarborough and Don Yarborough (no relation) and conservative John Connally.Traveling in a presidential motorcade through downtown Dallas, he was shot once in the back, the bullet exiting via his throat, and once in the head.

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At 12:30 p.m. CST, as President Kennedy’s uncovered 1961 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible limousine entered Dealey Plaza, Nellie Connally (the First Lady of Texas) turned around to President Kennedy, who was sitting behind her, and commented, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” which President Kennedy acknowledged by saying “No, you certainly can’t.” Those were the last words ever spoken by John F. Kennedy.

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Kennedy was taken to Parkland Hospital for emergency medical treatment, but pronounced dead at 1:00 pm. Only 46, President Kennedy died younger than any other U.S. president to date.

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Lee Harvey Oswald, an order filler at the Texas School Book Depository from which the shots were suspected to have been fired, was arrested for the murder of police officer J.D. Tippit, and was charged subsequently with Kennedy’s assassination.

kennedy_11-22_oswald-mugshot_3239398-eHe denied shooting anyone, claiming he was a patsy( A person who is taken advantage of, especially by being cheated or blamed for something), and was killed by Jack Ruby on November 24, before he could be prosecuted.

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Ruby was arrested and convicted for the murder of Oswald. Ruby successfully appealed his conviction and death sentence but became ill and died of cancer on January 3, 1967, while the date for his new trial was being set.

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A Requiem Mass was held for Kennedy at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on November 25, 1963. Afterwards, Kennedy was interred in a small plot, (20 by 30 ft.), in Arlington National Cemetery. Over a period of three years (1964–1966), an estimated 16 million people visited his grave. On March 14, 1967, Kennedy’s remains were moved to a permanent burial plot and memorial at the cemetery. The funeral was officiated by Father John J. Cavanaugh. It was from this memorial that the graves of both Robert and Ted Kennedy were modeled.

 

 

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/08/02/john-f-kennedy-and-pt-109/

 

John F. Kennedy and PT 109

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PT-109 was a PT boat (Patrol Torpedo boat) last commanded by Lieutenant, junior grade (LTJG) John F. Kennedy (later President of the United States) in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Kennedy’s actions to save his surviving crew after the sinking of PT-109 made him a war hero, which proved helpful in his political career.

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of The Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 being rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri and sinking of the boat Lt. John F. Kennedy, saved all but two of his crew.

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Lieutenant John F. Kennedy’s encounter with a Japanese destroyer on the night of August 1, 1943, may be the most famous small-craft engagement in naval history, and it was an unmitigated disaster.

At a later date, when asked to explain how he had come to be a hero, Kennedy replied laconically, “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.”

PT-109 belonged to the PT-103 class, hundreds of which were completed between 1942 and 1945 by Elco in Bayonne, New Jersey. PT-109s keel was laid 4 March 1942 as the seventh Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) of the 80-foot-long (24 m)-class built by Elco and was launched on 20 June. She was delivered to the Navy on 10 July 1942, and fitted out in the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn.

Despite having a bad back, JFK used his father Joseph P. Kennedy’s influence to get into the war. He started out in October 1941 as an ensign with a desk job for the Office of Naval Intelligence. Kennedy was reassigned to South Carolina in January 1942.On 27 July 1942, Kennedy entered the Naval Reserve Officers Training School in Chicago.

After completing this training on 27 September, Kennedy voluntarily entered the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons Training Center in Melville, Rhode Island, where he was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) (LTJG).

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He completed his training there on 2 December. He was then ordered to the training squadron, Motor Torpedo Squadron 4, to take over the command of motor torpedo boat PT-101, a 78-foot Huckins PT boat.

In January 1943, PT-101 and four other boats were ordered to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 14 (RON 14), which was assigned to Panama. He detached from RON 14 in February 1943 while the squadron was in Jacksonville, Florida, preparing for transfer to the Panama Canal Zone.

The Allies had been in a campaign of island hopping since securing Guadalcanal in a bloody battle in early 1943. Seeking combat duty, Kennedy transferred on 23 February 1943, as a replacement officer to Motor Torpedo BoatSquadron 2, which was based at Tulagi Island in the Solomon Islands. Traveling to the Pacific on USS Rochambeau,

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Kennedy arrived at Tulagi on 14 April and took command of PT-109 on 23 April. On 30 May, several PT boats, including PT-109, were ordered to the Russell Islands in preparation for the invasion of New Georgia.

After the capture of Rendova Island, the PT boat operations were moved to a “bush” berth there on 16 June.From that base, PT boats conducted nightly operations, both to disturb the heavy Japanese barge traffic that was resupplying the Japanese garrisons in New Georgia, and to patrol the Ferguson and Blackett Straits in order to sight and to give warning when the Japanese Tokyo Express warships came into the straits to assault U.S. forces in the New Georgia–Rendova area.

PT-109 stood at her station, one of fifteen PT boats (“Patrol Torpedo” boats) that had set out to engage, damage, and maybe even turn back the well-known “Tokyo Express.” US forces gave that name to the Japanese navy’s more or less regular supply convoy to soldiers fighting the advance of US forces in the islands farther south.

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When the patrol actually did come in contact with the Tokyo Express—three Japanese destroyers acting as transports with a fourth serving as escort—the encounter did not go well. Thirty torpedoes were fired without damaging the Japanese ships. No US vessels suffered hits or casualties. Boats that had used up their complement of torpedoes were ordered home. The few that still had torpedoes remained in the strait for another try.

PT 109 was one of the boats left behind. Lieutenant Kennedy rendezvoused his boat with two others, PT 162 and PT 169. The three boats spread out to make a picket line across the strait. At about 2:30 in the morning, a shape loomed out of the darkness three hundred yards off PT 109’s starboard bow. The young lieutenant and his crew first believed it to be another PT boat. When it became apparent that it was one of the Japanese destroyers, Kennedy attempted to turn to starboard to bring his torpedoes to bear. But there was not enough time.

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The destroyer, later identified as theAmagiri, struck PT 109 just forward of the forward starboard torpedo tube, ripping away the starboard aft side of the boat. The impact tossed Kennedy around the cockpit. Most of the crew were knocked into the water. The one man below decks, engineer Patrick McMahon, miraculously escaped, although he was badly burned by exploding fuel.

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Fear that PT 109 would go up in flames drove Kennedy to order the men who still remained on the wreck to abandon ship. But the destroyer’s wake dispersed the burning fuel, and when the fire began to subside, Kennedy sent his men back to what was left of the boat. From the wreckage, Kennedy ordered the men with him, Edgar Mauer and John E. Maguire, to identify the locations of their crew mates still in the water. Leonard Thom, Gerard Zinser, George Ross, and Raymond Albert were able to swim back on their own.

Kennedy swam out to McMahon and Charles Harris. Kennedy towed the injured McMahon by a life-vest strap, and alternately cajoled and berated the exhausted Harris to get him through the difficult swim. Meanwhile, Thom pulled in William Johnston, who was debilitated by the gasoline he had accidentally swallowed and the heavy fumes that lay on the water. Finally Raymond Starkey swam in from where he had been flung by the shock. Floating on and around the hulk, the crew took stock.

Harold Marney and Andrew Jackson Kirksey had disappeared in the collision, very likely killed at impact. All the men were exhausted, and a few were hurt, and several had been sickened by the fuel fumes. There was no sign of other boats or ships in the area; the men were afraid to fire their flare gun for fear of attracting the attention of the Japanese who were on islands on all sides. Although the wreckage was still afloat, it was taking on water, and it capsized on the morning of August 2.

The eleven survivors clung to PT-109’s bow section as it drifted slowly south. By about 2:00 p.m., it was apparent that the hull was taking on water and would soon sink, so the men decided to abandon it and swim for land. As there were Japanese camps on all the nearby large islands, they chose the tiny deserted Plum Pudding Island, southwest of Kolombangara. They placed their lantern, shoes, and non-swimmers on one of the timbers used as a gun mount and began kicking together to propel it. Kennedy, who had been on the Harvard University swim team, used a life jacket strap clenched between his teeth to tow his badly-burned senior enlisted machinist mate, MM1 Patrick McMahon.It took four hours to reach their destination, 3.5 miles (5.6 km) away, which they reached without interference by sharks or crocodiles.

The island was only 100 yards (91 m) in diameter, with no food or water. The crew had to hide from passing Japanese barges. Kennedy swam to Naru and Olasana islands, a round trip of about 2.5 miles (4.0 km), in search of help and food. He then led his men to Olasana Island, which had coconut trees and drinkable water.

The explosion on 2 August was spotted by an Australian coastwatcher, Sub-lieutenant Arthur Reginald Evans, who manned a secret observation post at the top of the Mount Veve volcano on Kolombangara, where more than 10,000 Japanese troops were garrisoned below on the southeast portion.

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The Navy and its squadron of PT boats held a memorial service for the crew of PT-109 after reports were made of the large explosion.

However, Evans dispatched islanders Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana in a dugout canoe to look for possible survivors after decoding news that the explosion he had witnessed was probably from the lost PT-109. They could avoid detection by Japanese ships and aircraft and, if spotted, would probably be taken for native fishermen.

Kennedy and his men survived for six days on coconuts before they were found by the scouts. Gasa and Kumana disobeyed an order by stopping by Naru to investigate a Japanese wreck, from which they salvaged fuel and food. They first fled by canoe from Kennedy, who to them was simply a shouting stranger. On the next island, they pointed their Tommy guns at the rest of the crew since the only light-skinned people they expected to find were Japanese and they were not familiar with either the language or the people.

Gasa later said “All white people looked the same to me.” Kennedy convinced them they were on the same side. The small canoe was not big enough for passengers. Though the Donovan book and movie depict Kennedy offering a coconut inscribed with a message, according to a National Geographic interview, it was Gasa who suggested it and Kumana who climbed a coconut tree to pick one. Kennedy cut the following message on a coconut:

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NAURO ISL
COMMANDER… NATIVE KNOWS POS’IT…
HE CAN PILOT… 11 ALIVE
NEED SMALL BOAT… KENNEDY

Kennedy told Gasa and Kumana, “If Japan man comes, scratch out the message.”

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The message was delivered at great risk through 35 nmi (65 km; 40 mi) of hostile waters patrolled by the Japanese to the nearest Allied base at Rendova. Other coastwatcher natives who were caught had been tortured and killed. Later, a canoe returned for Kennedy, taking him to the coastwatcher to coordinate the rescue. PT-157, commanded by Lieutenant William Liebenow, was able to pick up the survivors.

The arranged signal was four shots, but since Kennedy only had three bullets in his pistol, Evans gave him a Japanese rifle for the fourth signal shot. The sailors sang “Yes Jesus Loves Me” to pass the time. Gasa and Kumana received little notice or credit in military reports, books, or movies until 2002 when they were interviewed by National Geographic shortly before Gasa’s death.

In a more recent visit to the area, writer/photographer Jad Davenport managed to track down the then-90-year-old Eroni Kumana, and together they made a visit to view Kennedy Island. In typical fashion for the time, Kumana reports that the first thing the survivors asked for was cigarettes. When they realized they had no matches, Kumana surprised and delighted the men by making a fire by rubbing two sticks together.

The coconut shell came into the possession of Ernest W. Gibson, Jr. who was serving in the South Pacific with the 43rd Infantry Division.

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Gibson later returned it to Kennedy. Kennedy preserved it in a glass paperweight on his Oval Office desk during his presidency. It is now on display at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts.

Kennedy’s coconut message was not the only message given to the coastwatchers. A more detailed message was written by the executive officer of PT-109, Leonard Jay Thom. Thom’s message was a “penciled note” written on paper.Kennedy’s message was written on a more hidden location in case the native coastwatchers were stopped and searched by the Japanese.

Thom’s message read:

To: Commanding Officer–Oak O
From:Crew P.T. 109 (Oak 14)
Subject: Rescue of 11(eleven) men lost since Sunday, August 1 in enemy action. Native knows our position & will bring P.T. Boat back to small islands of Ferguson Passage off NURU IS. A small boat (outboard or oars) is needed to take men off as some are seriously burned.
Signal at night three dashes (- – -) Password–Roger—Answer—Wilco If attempted at day time–advise air coverage or a PBY could set down. Please work out a suitable plan & act immediately Help is urgent & in sore need. Rely on native boys to any extent
Thom
Ens. U.S.N.R
Exec. 109

Thom and Kennedy were both awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. Kennedy was also awarded the Purple Heart for injuries he sustained in the collision. Following their rescue, Thom was assigned as commander of PT-587 and Kennedy was assigned as commander of PT-59 (a.k.a. PTGB-1).Kennedy and Thom remained friends, and when Thom died in a 1946 car accident, Kennedy was one of his pallbearers.

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Gerard Zinser, a retired chief petty officer and the last survivor of PT-109, died in Florida in 2001. Both Solomon Islanders Biuki Gasa and Eroni Kumana were alive when visited by National Geographic in 2002. They were each presented with a gift from the Kennedy family.

Biuki Gasa died in late August 2005, his passing noted only in a single blog by a relative. According to Time Pacific magazine, Gasa and Kumana were invited to Kennedy’s inauguration. However, the island authorities tricked them into giving their trip to local officials. Gasa and Kumana gained a little fame only after being identified by National Geographic. In 2007, the commanding officer of USS Peleliu, Captain Ed Rhoades, presented Eroni Kumana with gifts, including an American flag for his actions more than sixty years earlier.In 2008, Mark Roche visited Kumana and discussed the PT-109 incident. Kumana was a scout for the Coastwatchers throughout the war, and besides rescuing the crew of PT-109, also rescued two downed American pilots who parachuted into the sea. Kumana noted that Kennedy visited him several times after the rescue and always brought trinkets to swap. Regarding attending the inauguration, Kumana noted that he and Gasa made it to the airport in Honiara, but were turned back by Solomon Island officials on the grounds that they would be an embarrassment in their appearance. Kumana lived atop a cliff on his native island with his extended family. His most prized possession was his bust of President Kennedy, given him by the Kennedy family. Kumana gave Roche a valuable family heirloom, a large piece of Kustom Money, to place on the President’s grave. Among other uses, Kustom Money was used to pay tribute to a chief, especially by placing it on the chief’s grave. In November 2008, Roche placed the tribute on the President’s grave in a private ceremony. The artifact was then taken to the Kennedy Library and placed on display beside the coconut with the rescue message.[31]

Eroni Kumana died on 2 August 2014, exactly 71 years after PT-109s collision with Amagiri. He was 93.