Never-before-seen personal documents and correspondence preserved for fifty years from my journal and collection of original Warren Commission documents. I have used these documents and my journal as a primary source in my book about the Warren Commission.

World War II and its Impact on JFK

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This week marks 75 years since Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and began World War II.

Sept 1939—Nazis march through Poland.

Sept 1939—Nazis march through Poland.

Approximately 60 million people would die in the war, making it the deadliest in human history. Additionally, WWII saw the redrawing of international borders, vast shifts in world power, and the emergence of the USA vs. USSR dynamic that would dominate the next four decades. (2)

 

 

 

 

Burning American warships during attack on Pearl Harbor.

Burning American warships during attack on Pearl Harbor.

WWII was also immensely influential in the life of President John F. Kennedy. Like so many other young men from all walks of life, Jack VOLUNTEERED for active military duty following the deadly Japanese attacks on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. (1)

 

 

 

 

 

According to the JFK Presidential Library:

Commanding the Patrol Torpedo Craft (PT) USS PT 109, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, John Kennedy and his crew participated in the early campaigns in the Allies’ long struggle to roll back the Japanese from their conquests throughout the island chains of the Pacific Ocean. The role of the small but fast PT boats was to attack the Japanese shipping known as the “Tokyo Express” that supplied Japanese troops in the islands, and to support the U.S. Army and Marine Corps attacking the Japanese on shore. (1)

Lt. JFK on his USS PT boat.

Lt. JFK on his USS PT boat.

The future President faced his most harrowing experience of the war on August 2, 1943. That night, while his PT boat was “running silent”, a Japanese destroyer literally cut JFK’s ship in two.

According to the library, “Kennedy towed injured crew member McMahon 4 miles to a small island to the southeast. All eleven survivors made it to the island after having spent a total of fifteen hours in the water.” (1) With the help of some courageous native islanders, JFK and his crew were thankfully able to return to their comrades.

 

 

 

The experience of going to war can profoundly shape one’s perspective. Those who have fought and seen their comrades suffer and fall around them appreciate the human costs of distant wars.

It is no longer as common as it once was for American politicians to have active military experience (3). With no experience of the hardships of war, our current politicians may be too eager to send others’ children to fight for questionable purposes. Do you agree? Comment on my FB page and let me know! 

 

Sources:

1. http://www.jfklibrary.org/Exhibits/Past-Exhibits/JFK-in-WWII.aspx

2. http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/09/world/world-war-ii-fast-facts/

3. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/11/11/the-long-decline-of-veterans-in-congress-in-4-charts/

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Howard Willens

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