John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Burial Location Visited President Grave #
Arlington, Virginia July 2003 3rd Visited

At forty-three years old, John F. Kennedy
was the youngest person elected U.S.
president. He and First Lady Jacqueline
Kennedy brought to the White House an
aura of youth and hope that many
Americans felt had been lacking in
preceding years. In November 1963, not
quite three years into his term, he was
fatally shot. The Warren Commission,
formed to investigate the assassination,
deemed Lee Harvey Oswald was the
sole person responsible for his murder.

President Kennedy was laid to rest at
Arlington National Cemetery, across the
Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
The first lady is buried alongside him, as
as is their infant, Patrick, and a stillborn
child. I first paid my respects in July 2003,
though these pictures are from June 11,
2004. At the time, former President
Ronald Reagan's
funeral was being held
at the Washington National Cathedral

* Fast Facts * *

- First Lady: Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

  - Spouse: Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (m. 1953-1963)

- Political Party: Democratic Party

- Term: 1961-1963

- Vice President: Lyndon Baines Johnson

- Born: May 29, 1917

- Died: November 22, 1963

- Age: 46

- Cause of Death: Gunshot Wound to Head

- Last Words: "That's very obvious."

 Cemetery: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

- GPS Coordinates: 38°52'53.6"N 77°04'17.2"W

* * * Background on John F. Kennedy * * *

* Twenty-four years old when the United States declared war on Japan in December 1941, John F. Kennedy was a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve stationed at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C. Due to his affair with Danish journalist Inga Arvad, a suspected Nazi spy, Jack was transferred out in early 1942 to a naval station in South Carolina. He subsequently received training at the Naval Reserve Officer Training School in Chicago, and then in Middletown, Rhode Island, at the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons Center. Achieving the rank of lieutenant junior grade, in December Kennedy was assigned the command of a patrol torpedo boat in the Pacific Theater. In April, he was put in charge of PT-109. A few months later, as PT-109 cruised through the pitch black night, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri broadsided and decimated the small American vessel. Two crew members were killed, and Kennedy and others were wounded. After the wrecked craft sank, the lieutenant and his men began their swim for shore. For the three and a half mile journey, Kennedy towed wounded engineer Patrick McMahon with a belt he clenched with his teeth. Those who could not swim were transported on a plank pulled and pushed by their other comrades. The servicemen eventually reached Plum Pudding Island, a small component of the Solomon Islands. After several days, Kennedy encountered two indigenous Allied scouts, who helped facilitate their rescue.

For his efforts in bringing his crew to safety, Lieutenant Kennedy was awarded a Purple Heart and a Navy and Marine Corps Medal. Heroic accounts of the saga appeared in publications such as Reader's Digest and The New Yorker. Jack's father, shrewd businessman Joseph Kennedy, used PT-109 write-ups to promote his son's campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946. Joseph Kennedy had once aspired to be elected president -- aspirations that he transferred to his eldest son, Joe, Jr., after his controversial tenure as ambassador to the United Kingdom ended in 1940. Joe, Jr., a naval aviator, was killed in an explosion in the war, and the family's political hopes were placed on Jack's shoulders. He was elected three times as a member of the House from Massachusetts, and in 1952 he staged an upset victory for a Senate seat, defeating Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. As senator, Kennedy supported legislation to benefit labor unions, housing, and civil rights.

His political stock rose nationally in the mid-to-late-1950s, helped in part by his second place finish to be the Democratic vice presidential nominee in the 1956 election. Then, in 1957, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Biography for his book Profiles in Courage, which was largely ghostwritten by his chief legislative aide, Ted Sorensen. That same year, the senator played an active part in televised investigative hearings on the role of organized crime in labor unions. Riding high, in January 1960 JFK announced his candidacy for the presidency. As a Roman Catholic, many protestants voiced concern that, if elected president, Kennedy would be beholden to the pope and not the American people. The candidate avowed he supported the absolute separation of church and state, and, with the help of the effective surrogates in his large family, beat out more experienced Democrats for the nomination. Kennedy went on to defeat Vice President Richard Nixon in the general election on November 8th.

* JFK's inaugural address of January 20, 1961 put great emphasis on international relations and the United States defining its role in the world. Like his immediate predecessors, Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, President Kennedy was intent on limiting the spread of communist influence throughout the world. One place of particular concern was the Republic of Cuba, located just ninety miles from the Florida coast. Since 1959, Cuba had been run by communist revolutionary Fidel Castro. Castro had allied himself with the Soviet Union, America's Cold War nemesis. Toward the end of the Eisenhower administration, the Central Intelligence Agency began to formulate a plan to topple the new regime. The strategy centered on training and arming 1,400 Cuban exiles who would invade their homeland. It was thought the exiles' actions would inspire others on the island nation to rise up against Castro. With Kennedy now in charge, he gave the go-ahead for the invasion.

The first leg of the attack, which commenced on April 15th, went awry. A preliminary airstrike on Cuban military aircraft failed, as the bombers used by the CIA missed many of their targets. Two days later, the invasion force landed at Cuba's Bay of Pigs without the support of a second air strike, as had been planned. The president cancelled it out of concern America's direct ties to the attempted coup would be discovered. The U.S. was found out anyway. The invading exiles were significantly outmanned, and they did not inspire widespread revolt among locals, which was necessary for victory. More than 100 of the exiles were killed, and 1,200 of them were taken prisoner. The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an embarrassing blunder for the U.S. It provided Castro's regime with a great victory, and it pushed Cuba and the Soviet Union even closer together as the former sought protection from its northern, capitalist neighbor.

The U.S. government soon commenced Operation Mongoose, with the objective of disrupting the Cuban economy and assassinating Castro. Tensions with both Cuba and the U.S.S.R. reached their peak in October 1962. On the morning of the 16th, National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy briefed President Kennedy on photographic evidence that Soviet missile bases were being constructed in Cuba. Additional evidence of the presence of ballistic missiles emerged on the 17th. Over the next few days, the president met with advisors and weighed his options. The National Security Council advised the best course of action was to launch a full-scale invasion of the island, which Kennedy wished to avoid. In a televised speech on the evening of the 22nd, JFK revealed the existence and placement of the missiles to the American public. He also announced the U.S. was establishing a naval quarantine around Cuba to prevent Soviet vessels from delivering additional missile supplies. America and the Soviet Union remained precariously on the brink of nuclear war for the next week. On the 28th, an agreement was announced: the Soviet Union was going to withdraw its weaponry from Cuba, and the U.S. would lift the quarantine and pledge not to invade the island. Another component of the deal, the removal of U.S. missiles in Turkey, remained secret.

* Like Franklin Roosevelt before him, Kennedy was slow to act on civil rights issues during his presidency. Both men held concerns that aggressive action would roil southern conservatives in the Democratic coalition and endanger the passage of other bills more central to their agenda. Kennedy did make a point of appointing a number of black people to posts within the executive branch, and in 1961 his Justice Department acted to protect Freedom Riders who peacefully protested the continued segregation of buses in the South. Yet it was not until spring 1963 that JFK pivoted to a more activist approach against racial discrimination. In May, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led an integration campaign in Birmingham, Alabama. In front of news media, civil rights advocates were beaten, sprayed with fire hoses, and attacked by police dogs. The images sickened many Americans, the president included.

Then, on May 22nd, Alabama Governor George Wallace announced his intention to defy a federal court order mandating the integration of the University of Alabama. The president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, saw the need to override Governor Wallace and strategized how to do so without making him a martyr for the segregationist cause. On the morning of June 11th, with African American students Vivian Malone and James Hood kept in a car away from Governor Wallace, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach approached the school auditorium. Wallace, symbolically standing in front of the doorway to prevent the students' entry, reaffirmed his commitment to states' rights and segregation. Katzenbach soon communicated this to Washington so JFK could give the command to federalize the Alabama National Guard. Hours later, accompanied by troops and under the orders of the president, General Henry Graham arrived on campus and asked Wallace to step aside. The governor stood down, and Malone and Hood were enrolled without further incident.

That evening, the president delivered a televised speech calling for more civil rights laws. He asked Congress to enact legislation to prevent discrimination in public facilities and to provide voting rights protection. He stressed, though, that laws would not be enough to end discrimination -- that all of America was facing a moral issue and had a duty to fulfill the nation's promise of freedom. Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King, Jr. hailed the address as "one of the most eloquent, profound and unequivocal pleas for justice and the freedom of all men ever made by any president." The bill that was drafted in response was languishing with the House Rules Committee when Kennedy was assassinated on November 22nd. In an address before a joint session of Congress five days later, his successor, Lyndon Johnson, told the legislature that "no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long." The landmark legislation was approved by Congress the following year, and President Johnson signed it into law on July 2nd.

Sources Consulted                                                                                                                                                     

American Dynasties: The Kennedys. "Brothers in Arms." Directed by Tim Dunn. CNN, 2018.

American Dynasties: The Kennedys
. "Family Secrets." Directed by Jonathan Jones. CNN, 2018.

American Dynasties: The Kennedys. "The Path to Power." Directed by Tim Dunn. CNN, 2018.

American Dynasties: The Kennedys. "The Power of Wealth." Directed by Tim Dunn. CNN, 2018.

"The Bay of Pigs." John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Accessed May 25, 2020.

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment. Directed by Robert Drew. New York: ABC News and Drew Associates, 1963.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. "A Moral Mandate." In JFK: A Vision for America, edited by Stephen Kennedy Smith and Douglas Brinkley, 413-17. New York: HarperCollins, 2017.

"John F. Kennedy and PT 109." John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Accessed May 24, 2020.

Kazin, Michael. "John F. Kennedy." In The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, 418-30. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

Lamb, Brian, and the C-SPAN Staff. Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000. Reprinted. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

"Life Portrait of John F. Kennedy." C-SPAN video, 2:55:39. November 5, 1999. 151631-1/life-portrait-john-f-kennedy.

Maier, Thomas. The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings. New York: Basic Books, 2003.

McMillen, David. "JFK in Congress: Kennedy Develops Expertise on National Issues as He Prepares to Seek Presidency." Prologue Magazine 49, no. 1 (Spring 2017):

"November 27, 1963: Address to Joint Session of Congress." Miller Center. Accessed May 25, 2020. congress.

"The World on the Brink: John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Thirteen Days in October 1962." John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Accessed May 25, 2020.

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