Friday, April 26, 2013

John F Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States from 1961 to 1963.

He was born into privelege in 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts.  His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., was a very successful businessman and stock market investor. 

His Grandfather was born in Boston in 1858. His parents were Irish immigrants who married in Boston. His older brother and father died of cholera in an epidemic in Boston. When he was old enough he got work on the Boston docks to support his mother and siblings. In his mid-20s he had saved enough to buy a saloon in downtown Boston. It was so successful, that he soon bought another bar on the docks and another "upper class" bar in a prominent Boston Hotel. Before he was 30 he also bought a whiskey import business to service his bars and cut out the middleman. He attended Boston College on a scholarship, and served 7 consecutive terms in the Massachusetts legislature. He died in 1929.

His father, Joseph P. Kennedy was born in Boston in 1888.  He increased his inherited wealth by investments.  He started out as a bank inspector.  As general manager of Bethlehem Steel, during WWI he became well acquainted with Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delinore Roosevelt, building Navy ships together.  His whiskey import business flourished during 1920s prohibition, and, although a mobster claimed he was a bootlegger, Joe Kennedy's whiskey business was legal as far as anyone knew.  He and his partner, James Roosevelt (FDRs son), formed Somerset Importers and got exclusive rights to import Scotch, Whiskey and Gin from Ireland (huge market).  As soon as Prohibition was repealed, they made a killing.  His stockmarket tactics were more questionable.  He used insider information to raise stock values, planted false news stories and used other tactics that would be illegal today.  He survived the "crash" of 1929 because he saw it coming, sold high, and invested heavily in real estate.  His own speculation and men who copied him were partially responsible for the crash.  He supported FDR for his 1932 Presidential Campaign, and in return he was appointed as chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission.  In this role he made illegal the very practices which made him a rich man.  When someone asked Roosevelt why he hired such a crook, Roosevelt replied "It takes one to know one".  He also bought several movie studios and merged them into RKO studios as well as movie theater chains.  Gloria Swanson was his big star.  He was Ambassador to Britain when WWII started.

 His daughter Rosemary was mentally retarded.  She only reached a 4th grade level and when she reached her 20s she became prone to fits of temper and tantrums.  Her father allowed a couple of quack doctors to perform the new procedure called a "lobotomy" on her in the hopes that it would calm her down.  Instead she became a non-functioning, drooling vegetable.  He was anti-semitic and said the Jews in Germany brought the holocaust on themselves.  He befriended anti-communist and anti-civil rights Republican candidate George Wallace.  He was determined that one of his sons would become President one day.

John F Kennedy was editor of most of his school papers in high school and college.  He made the Dean's List at Harvard and published his Senior Thesis "Appeasement in Munich" under the title "While England Slept".  It became a bestseller.  He had travelled throughout Europe and Russia with his ambassador father and had extensive knowledge of the political workings of the world.


He joined the Navy in 1941 and eventually became the leader of PT boat 109 protecting the Solomon Islands.  There his boat was disabled and rammed by a Japanese Destroyer.  His boat was cut in half and sank.  He kept his crewmen together in the water and swam to a nearby Island.  He towed an injured crewman to shore with a tether in his teeth.  He and others swam to another Island to procure food and supplies returning with them.  His crew was eventually rescued and he became a war hero.

Johns older brother Joe was killed in action, so that left the presidential bid for John.  In 1946 John ran for US Representative from Massachusetts and won handily.  He ran for US Senate in 1952 and won.  He married Jacqueline in 1953.  During these couple of years he had quite a few back surgeries to repair damage done during the war and his long-standing back pain.  He was frequently sick and was touch and go several times.  Consequently, he didn't make much of an impact on the Senate during his early terms.

During his recovery, he co-wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles In Courage, with his speech-writer Theodore Sorenson.  It was short biographies of Senators who risked their political careers to stand for their beliefs. 

When Eisenhower's Civil Rights Act of 1957 came through the Senate, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson worked out a compromise bill that passed, basically outlawing all attempts to deny voting rights to US citizens or to make rules or regulations making it difficult for minorities to vote.

Jan. 1960, John F Kennedy began his campaign for President of the United States.  John's campaign manager was his brother Robert.  They worked hand in hand in just about everything... except, notably, JFKs running mate Lyndon Johnson.  But Johnson carried huge sway in the Southern States and JFK needed the votes that Johnson could swing there.  So, over Robert's objection, LBJ became the running mate of JFK.

Sept-Oct 1960, JFK participated in a number of TV debates with vice-president and Republican Presidential candidate Richard Nixon.  John Kennedy's good looks and natural speaking skills helped him in the polls.  Nov 8, JFK defeated Nixon in a very close race for President.

One of JFKs first acts as President was the ask Congress to create the Peace Corp with his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, as the director. 

April 17, 1961, JFK inherited the Cuban policy from the Eisenhower/Nixon administration.  The CIA had covertly been attempting to overthrow Fidel Castro.  They had been training exiled Cubans in the US and Mexico.  Kennedy went along with this and ordered the "Bay of Pigs" invasion which landed 1500 US trained Cubans in Cuba plus CIA advisors.  Within 2 days, the entire invasion force was either killed or captured.  The popular uprising didn't happen as predicted.  The CIA called on Kennedy for air cover.  Kennedy knew that this would lead to war with the USSR and refused to send the air support.  After a couple years the remaining 1150 invasion survivors were released back to the US for $53 million in food and medicine.  The CIA kept to the Eisenhower era plan of covertly assassinating Castro and other Latin American leaders not "friendly" to US interests.  After the Bay of Pigs, JFK didn't trust the CIA and they didn't trust him.

June 1961, JFK attends the Vienna Summit meeting the USSR Premier Kruschev.  In it, Kennedy advocated a treaty between East and West Berlin, but made it clear that any attempt to curtail Western access to West Berlin would be an act of war.  Kruschev responded by signing a treaty with East Berlin and making it clear that it was strictly aligned with the USSR.  20,000 people fled East Berlin to West Berlin after the Summit.  Kruschev responded by building the Berlin Wall and not allowing East Berliners to leave.

Oct 14, 1962,  a U2 spyplane took photos of Soviet interballistic missiles in Cuba.  On Oct 22, Kennedy announced a Naval blockade of Cuba with mandatory inspection of all Soviet ships arriving in Cuba.  One Soviet ship was stopped and boarded by the US.  After this, Kennedy and Kruschev worked out a compromise.  The USSR would dismantle the missile sites in Cuba and allow UN inspection and the US promised to never invade Cuba again and to remove our missiles from Turkey. 

June 10, 1963,  JFK gives a speech at American University in DC, that describes the world devestation of nuclear war, that peace is the only answer and that world peace only requires living

Oct 11, 1963, JFK signs National Security Action Memorandum 273 ordering the withdrawal of 1000 troops from Vietnam within a year.  The US sponsored puppet dictator of South Vietnam Diem had become an embarassment.  The US supported military coup of Diem's government was even more embarassing.  JFK was beginning to change foreign policy from military force to international pressure and diplomacy.

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