History In Full Color | Politics | I10086 - Lt. John F. Kennedy
Taken 3-Jan-17
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Date modified3-Jan-17 10:24
I10086 - Lt. John F. Kennedy

I10086 - Lt. John F. Kennedy

"Jack's life had more to do with myth, magic, legend, saga, and story than with political theory or political science." - Jacqueline Kennedy

On August 2, 1843, PT109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, sinking the boat. The next seven days, as he fought to save his crew, would pave the start of John F. Kennedy’s road to the White House.

As the son of the politically powerful and wealthy Joseph Kennedy, it would have been simple for Kennedy to avoid military service during World War II. Instead he enlisted in 1941 before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Kennedy’s date with destiny was launched when he spotted a “motor torpedo boat” or PT (patrol torpedo) while sailing his own sloop. The boats were designed for a fast attack, carrying four torpedoes, ten depth charges, mounted machine guns, and a small crew. In an interview, Kennedy said he was attracted by the boat’s "trim lines and scrappy look … when he inspected her he had an urge to climb behind the wheel and open the throttles wide."

Kennedy was enticed into the PT service both by the boat’s function and the opportunity for officers with small craft experience to achieve a command early in their naval career.

After graduating from the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center, he was assigned to help guard the Panama Canal. Kennedy’s reaction - “I got shafted!”

Kennedy appealed to his maternal grandfather, “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, to pull strings to get him reassigned to the South Pacific. On March 15, 1943 Kennedy was shipped out from San Francisco to the South Pacific as a replacement officer for Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 2, based in the Solomon Islands.

The next seven months in the combat zone transformed Kennedy from “a pampered, globe-trotting young man barely out of college… [into someone] capable of leadership and command, and possessing considerable courage under fire.”