John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts,
the son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr In 1935, he studied at
the London School of Economics, then moved to Princeton
University, but was forced to leave the latter during
Christmas break because of an attack of jaundice. He
then attended Harvard University, enrolling in the fall
of 1936, but he severely injured his back playing
football. He traveled to Europe twice during his study
at Harvard. The second was to Great Britain, while his
father was serving as ambassador to that country.
Kennedy returned, and wrote his honors thesis on
analyzing the British portion of the Munich Pact of
1938. He graduated cum laude from Harvard in June 1940.
In the spring of 1941, John F. Kennedy volunteered for the US Army, but was rejected, mainly because of his injured back. However, he worked to strengthen himself during the summer, and was accepted by the US Navy in September of that year. He participated in various commands during World War II, but his most famous one was during March 1943. With the rank of lieutenant, he received command of a patrol torpedo boat, or PT boat.
While his boat, PT-109, was cruising west of New Georgia (near the Solomon Islands on August 2, it was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. He was thrown across the deck onto his already injured back, but somehow rallied the survivors onto a nearby small island, himself towing a wounded man three miles through the ocean. After a few days of searching, he found two friendly islanders, whom he sent for aid with a message carved on a coconut. For these actions, Kennedy received the Purple Heart, Navy Medal and Marine Corps Medal. However, his back injury had been aggravated after being thrown on his boat, and he also contracted malaria. He was honorably discharged in early 1945, just a few months before the Japanese surrender.
After World War II, he entered politics (partly to fill the void of his popular brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr, who was killed in the war). When Representative James M. Curley vacated his overwhelmingly Democratic district to become mayor of Boston, Kennedy ran for that seat. After a long and strenuous campaign, he beat the Republican opponent by a large margin. He was reelected two times, but had a mixed voting record, often diverging from then-President Harry S. Truman and the rest of the Democratic Party.
In 1952, John F. Kennedy decided to run for the Senate. He defeated the Republican incumbent, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr, by a margin of about 70,000 votes. He made good his slogan, "Kennedy will do more for Massachusetts", having voted and passed many ordinances that helped its citizens, especially its businessmen. However, he diverged from his constituents by speaking for censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was most famous for his advantageous manipulation of the Red Scare. Although Kennedy was ill during the 67-22 vote (the other 99 senators all voted), he had spoken repeatedly with the majority.
John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier on September 12, 1953. He underwent many spinals operations in the two following years, though, and had a prolonged absence from the Senate. However, while recovering from an operation, he wrote about acts of political courage by eight U.S. Senators, and published the book, Profiles in Courage. This book later received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. When he returned to the Senate in 1955, though, many critics called him an "untrue liberal". He had adopted many moderate positions; however, two years later, he adopted an extremely liberal position on labor, but was forced to accept a more moderate bill, the Landrum-Griffin Bill. He then decided to run for the office of President of the United States.
Eventually, he beat Richard Nixon, Vice President in the previous administration, in a famous, closely-contested presidential election in 1960. Theodore H. White's 1961 book about that election campaign, The Making of the President 1960, was not only a national best-seller but is also used as a supplementary text in high school and college courses in U.S. government and history. When he was elected, he became the youngest person to be elected president (Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest to be president, but he first came to office by succeeding William McKinley when the latter was assassinated).
For various reasons, John F. Kennedy was, during the
time he served, perhaps the most popular president in
U.S. history. He was a handsome, photogenic man who
seemed open and accessible, and his administration
marked a notable increase in direct media exposure of
the president to the public at large, through television
broadcasts from the Oval Office, televised press
conferences, and numerous photo spreads in popular
magazines. The "charisma" Kennedy and his family
projected led to the figurative designation of "Camelot"
for his administration. His glamorous wife "Jackie" was
as newsworthy as he was, and the way they handled
personal tragedies, especially the death of their
newborn son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy in August 1963,
enhanced their public image.
The house where John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline (in the Boston, Massachusetts, metropolitan area) is now a National Historic Site, open to the public. Kennedy served in the US Navy in World War II. While he was captain of a PT Boat that was sunk in the Pacific Ocean, he sustained a back injury that plagued him for the remainder of his life, exacerbating a disease the public did not learn of until long after his death. (In May 2002 a National Geographic expedition found what is believed to be the wreckage of that PT-109 in the Solomon Islands ) For his book Profiles in Courage, published in 1956 while he was serving in the US Senate, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Information released after his death leaves no doubt that he had at least one, and probably several extramarital affairs while in office, including liaisons in the White House. Such things were not then considered fit for publication, and in Kennedy's case, they were never publicly discussed.
Kennedy was president for only about 1,000 days. This brief tenure was marked by such notable events as the acceleration of the United States' role in the space race, the beginning of the escalation of the American role in the Vietnam War, the Cuban missile crisis, and the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba; these events aggravated the Cold War with the USSR. He appointed his brother Robert F. Kennedy to his Cabinet as Attorney General.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald, apprehended for the crime, was himself fatally shot by Jack Ruby before he could be formally charged or brought to trial. Four days after Kennedy and Oswald were killed, President Lyndon Johnson created the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination. See John F. Kennedy assassination for further details of the circumstances surrounding Kennedy's death.
John F. Kennedy's grave with Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery. ()On March 14, 1967 Kennedy's body was moved to a permanent burial place and memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Kennedy's life and the subsequent conspiracy theories surrounding his death have been the inspiration for many films. Recent ones include Nigel Turner's 1988 mini series The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Oliver Stone's 1991 blockbuster, JFK, and 1993's JFK: Reckless Youth, which looked at Kennedy's early years.
John F. Kennedy was the most recent Democratic president to push for income tax cuts to improve the economy. He was also the most recent Northern Democrat to win the Presidency.
In November of 2002 long-secret medical records were made public, revealing John F. Kennedy's physical ailments were more severe than previously thought. He was in constant pain from fractured vertebrae despite multiple medications, in addition to suffering from severe digestive problems and Addison's disease. Kennedy would get multiple injections of procaine before press conferences in order to appear healthy.