John Fitzgerald Kennedy
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Kennedy, John Fitzgerald,1917–63, 35th President of the United States (1961–63), b. Brookline, Mass.; son of Joseph P. KennedyKennedy, Joseph Patrick,
1888–1969, U.S. ambassador to Great Britain (1937–40), b. Boston, grad. Harvard, 1912. The founder of an American dynasty, he was the father of nine children, including John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Edward M.
..... Click the link for more information. .
While an undergraduate at Harvard (1936–40) he served briefly in London as secretary to his father, who was ambassador there. His Harvard honors thesis on the British failure to judge the threat of Nazi Germany was published as Why England Slept (1940). Enlisting in the navy in Sept., 1941, he became commander of a PT boat in the Pacific in World War IIWorld War II,
1939–45, worldwide conflict involving every major power in the world. The two sides were generally known as the Allies and the Axis. Causes and Outbreak
..... Click the link for more information. . In action off the Solomon Islands (Aug., 1943), his boat, PT 109, was sunk, and Kennedy was credited with saving the life of at least one of his crew.
As a Congressman from Massachusetts (1947–53), Jack Kennedy consistently supported the domestic programs of the TrumanTruman, Harry S.,
1884–1972, 33d President of the United States, b. Lamar, Mo. Early Life and Political Career
He grew up on a farm near Independence, Mo., worked at various jobs, and tended the family farm.
..... Click the link for more information. administration but criticized its China policy. In 1952, despite the EisenhowerEisenhower, Dwight David
, 1890–1969, American general and 34th President of the United States, b. Denison, Tex.; his nickname was "Ike." Early Career
When he was two years old, his family moved to Abilene, Kans., where he was reared.
..... Click the link for more information. landslide, he defeated Henry Cabot LodgeLodge, Henry Cabot, Jr.,
1902–85, American public official and diplomat, U.S. senator from Massachusetts (1937–44, 1947–53), b. Nahant, Mass.; grandson of Henry Cabot Lodge.
..... Click the link for more information. for a seat in the U.S. Senate, where he served on the Labor and Public Welfare and Foreign Relations committees. In 1953, Kennedy married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (see Onassis, Jacqueline KennedyOnassis, Jacqueline Bouvier
, 1929–94, b. Southampton, N.Y. Of a socially prominent family, she worked (1951–53) as a journalist and photographer before marrying (1953) John F. Kennedy.
..... Click the link for more information. ). While recuperating in 1955 from an operation to repair a spinal problem, one of the many serious and often extremely painful illnesses that plagued him from childhood until his death, he wrote Profiles in Courage (1956). The book dealt with American political leaders who defied public opinion to vote according to their consciences; for this work (later revealed to have been written in part by Theodore Sorensen and others) he received the Pulitzer Prize. Although Kennedy narrowly lost the Democratic vice presidential nomination in 1956, his overwhelming reelection as Senator in 1958 helped him toward the goal of presidential candidacy.
In 1960 he entered and won seven presidential primaries and captured the Democratic nomination on the first ballot. To balance the ticket, he selected Lyndon B. JohnsonJohnson, Lyndon Baines,
1908–73, 36th President of the United States (1963–69), b. near Stonewall, Tex. Early Life
Born into a farm family, he graduated (1930) from Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Southwest Texas State Univ.), in San Marcos.
..... Click the link for more information. as his vice presidential candidate. In the campaign that followed, Kennedy engaged in a series of televised debates with his Republican opponent, Richard M. NixonNixon, Richard Milhous,
1913–94, 37th President of the United States (1969–74), b. Yorba Linda, Calif. Political Career to 1968
A graduate of Whittier College and Duke law school, he practiced law in Whittier, Calif.
..... Click the link for more information. . Defeating Nixon by a narrow popular margin, Kennedy became at 43 the youngest person ever, and the first Catholic, elected President.
Soon after his inaugural, Kennedy set out his domestic program, known as the New Frontier: tax reform, federal aid to education, medical care for the aged under Social Security, enlargement of civil rights through executive action, aid to depressed areas, and an accelerated space program. He was almost immediately, however, caught up in foreign affairs crises. The first (Apr., 1961) was the abortive Bay of Pigs InvasionBay of Pigs Invasion,
1961, an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles, supported by the U.S. government. On Apr. 17, 1961, an armed force of about 1,500 Cuban exiles landed in the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) on the south coast of Cuba.
..... Click the link for more information. of Cuba by Cuban exiles trained and aided by the Central Intelligence Agency. Although the invasion had been planned under Eisenhower, Kennedy had approved it, and was widely criticized.
In June, 1961, the President met in Vienna with Soviet Premier Khrushchev. Hopes of a thaw in the cold war were dashed by Khrushchev's threat that the USSR would conclude a peace treaty with East Germany and thus cut off Western access to West Berlin. In the period of tension that followed, the United States increased its military strength while the East Germans erected the Berlin WallBerlin Wall,
1961–89, a barrier first erected in Aug., 1961, by the East German government along the border between East and West Berlin, and later along the entire border between East Germany and West Germany.
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In Oct., 1962, U.S. reconnaissance planes discovered Soviet missile bases in Cuba. Kennedy immediately ordered a blockade to prevent more weapons from reaching Cuba and demanded the installations' removal. After an interval of extreme tension when the world appeared to be on the brink of nuclear war, the USSR complied with U.S. demands. Kennedy won much praise for his stance in the crisis, but some have criticized him for what they held to be unnecessary "brinkmanship." In Aug., 1963, tension with the USSR was eased by conclusion of a treaty that prohibited the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.
In Southeast Asia the Kennedy administration perceived a growing Communist threat to the South Vietnamese government; it steadily increased the number of U.S. military advisers in South Vietnam and for the first time placed U.S. troops in combat situations. As disaffection in South Vietnam grew, moreover, the United States involved itself in political maneuvering and finally connived at the overthrow (Oct., 1963) of the corrupt South Vietnamese dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem (see Vietnam WarVietnam War,
conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divided (1954) Vietnam at 17° N lat.
..... Click the link for more information. ). Within the Western Hemisphere, Kennedy established (1961) the Alliance for ProgressAlliance for Progress,
Span. Alianza para el Progreso, U.S. assistance program for Latin America begun in 1961 during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. It was created principally to counter the appeal of revolutionary politics, such as those adopted in Cuba (see Fidel
..... Click the link for more information. , which provided economic assistance to Latin American countries. He also initiated the Peace CorpsPeace Corps,
agency of the U.S. government, whose purpose is to assist underdeveloped countries in meeting their needs for trained manpower. The Peace Corps was established in 1961 by executive order of President Kennedy; Congress approved it as a permanent agency within the
..... Click the link for more information. program, which sent U.S. volunteers to work in developing countries.
Many of Kennedy's domestic reform proposals were either killed or not acted on by Congress. In the area of civil rights and integrationintegration,
in U.S. history, the goal of an organized movement to break down the barriers of discrimination and segregation separating African Americans from the rest of American society.
..... Click the link for more information. the administration assigned federal marshals to protect Freedom Ride demonstrations and used federal troops in Mississippi (1962) and a federalized National Guard in Alabama (1963) to quell disturbances resulting from enforced school desegregation. In June, 1963, Kennedy proposed civil-rights legislation, but this, like his tax reform program, languished until after his death.
On Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Tex. The Warren CommissionWarren Commission,
popular name given to the U.S. Commission to Report upon the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, established (Nov. 29, 1963) by executive order of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
..... Click the link for more information. , appointed by his successor Lyndon Johnson to investigate the murder, eventually concluded that it was the work of a single assassin, Lee Harvey OswaldOswald, Lee Harvey,
1939–63, presumed assassin of John F. Kennedy, b. New Orleans. Oswald spent most of his boyhood in Fort Worth, Tex. Later, he attended a Dallas high school, and enlisted (1956) in the Marines and served until 1959.
..... Click the link for more information. . Kennedy's death shocked the nation. Many felt that he would have gone on to achieve greatness as a President. Subsequent revelations, especially concerning his sexual activity, have somewhat dimmed his luster, but the sense that his administration was a youthful, idealistic "Camelot" remains powerful. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
See C. Kennedy and T. Widmer, Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy (2013); Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, interviews with A. M. Schlesinger, Jr., 1964 (2011); M. W. Sandler, ed., The Letters of John F. Kennedy (2013); biographies by V. Lasky (1963), R. Caro (1982), T. Sorenson (1988), G. Perret (2001), R. Dallek (2003), A. Brinkley (2012), and F. Longevall (Vol. 1, 2020); T. H. White, The Making of the President, 1960 (1961); A. M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days (1965); H. S. Parmet, JFK: The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (1983); N. Hamilton, JFK: Reckless Youth (1992); R. Reeves, President Kennedy: Profile of Power (1993); S. Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot (1997); E. R. May, The Kennedy Tapes (1997); B. Leaming, Jack Kennedy: The Education of a Statesman (2007); C. Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero (2011); T. Clarke, JFK's Last Hundred Days (2013); R. Dallek, Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House (2013); W. Manchester, The Death of a President (1967, repr. 2013); L. J. Sabato, The Kennedy Half-Century (2013); I. Stoll, JFK, Conservative (2013).
Kennedy, John Fitzgerald
Born May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Mass.; died Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. US statesman. Son of a millionaire of Irish Catholic extraction.
Kennedy studied at the London School of Economics and Harvard University. From 1941 to 1945 he served in the US Navy in the Pacific. He began to work in journalism in 1945. From 1947 to 1953 he was a member of the House of Representatives of the US Congress, where he represented the state of Massachusetts as a member of the Democratic Party. He was a senator from 1953 to 1961. On Jan. 20, 1961, Kennedy, having defeated R. Nixon, candidate of the Republican Party, in the 1960 election, assumed the office of president. He put forward the “New Frontier” program, which reflected a certain understanding of the need for America to adapt its domestic and foreign policy to the changed balance of forces in the international arena. His domestic program contemplated, in particular, a speed-up in the pace of economic development, partial lowering of taxes, and lessening of racial discrimination against the Negro population. In foreign policy, in place of the doctrines of the “rolling back of communism” and “massive retaliation,” his administration proclaimed the doctrine of “flexible response.” While calling for the strengthening of military blocs and growth in the military power of the USA, as well as the use of economic “aid” and ideological penetration to “contain communism” and strengthen the position of the USA and the capitalist system as a whole, Kennedy at the same time (especially toward the end) favored the solving of vexed international problems by negotiations and a more realistic approach in relations with the USSR (speech of June 10, 1963). In August 1963 his administration signed the Moscow Treaty of 1963 banning the testing of nuclear weapons in three spheres. Kennedy’s political course aroused attacks from extreme reactionary circles of the USA. In the fall of 1963, during a trip around the country, he was assassinated in villainous fashion. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.