We all know President John F. Kennedy, but have you heard of his older bro Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.? That’s because the young aviator was tragically killed during World War II. Although he was gone too soon, he accomplished so many amazing things during his short lifetime. Check out the incredible story of bomber pilot Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.
The original Kennedy
On July 25, 1915, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. started his early life in Hull, Massachusetts. His first education experience was at the Dexter School, where his famous brother John was his classmate. By 1933, Joseph had already received a degree from Connecticut’s Choate School. Then, he was admitted to the prestigious Harvard College in Massachusetts, where he graduated in 1938. At that time, the original Kennedy was a sports fanatic and enjoyed playing football, rugby, and crew. He also spent a year at the London School of Economics before he became a student at Harvard Law School.
Although John became president, their father Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. originally had dreams for his son Joseph to become the head of state. In fact, Joseph’s grandfather, the former mayor of Boston, declared when Joseph was born that, “This child is the future president of the nation.” Joseph even attended the 1940 Democratic National Convention and had big plans of running for the U.S. House in Massachusetts in 1946. So what prevented this ambitious man from becoming president?
Born to fly
Even though Joseph had goals of entering politics, he was too enticed by the siren call of aviation. After prematurely leaving Harvard Law School, he signed up to join the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1941. The following year, he began his basic training for naval aviation and accepted his wings. After being assigned to a number of patrol squadrons in the U.S., he was appointed to a bomber squadron in England in 1944. At that point, he had successfully finished 25 missions and had the opportunity to go back home. However, he had one last mission in mind: a voluntary one with Operation Aphrodite.
This classified mission involved an extensive bombing procedure in Normandy, France. Joseph’s job was to steer a drone filled with bombshells into a rocket missile site in Germany via remote control. He radioed his final words, the aerial code “Spade Flush.” Just a few minutes later, the drone’s bombs exploded early, killing Kennedy and his co-pilot Wilford John Willy. About the horrific incident, President Kennedy reflected, “It may be felt, perhaps, that Joe should not have pushed his luck so far and should have accepted his leave and come home.” But he continued, “he considered the odds at least fifty-fifty, and Joe never asked for any better odds than that.” Joseph was only 29 years old.
Walking on air
Following Joseph’s death, his ambassador parents created the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation in 1946. The charity dedicated all of its proceeds to people with mental disabilities. His family also paid for the establishment of Boston College’s Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Memorial Hall. Even the U.S. Navy honored the fighter pilot by naming a destroyer ship the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., a vessel that his younger brother Robert F. Kennedy had served on.
After Joseph passed on in 1944, his father shifted his presidential ambitions to his second son, John F. Kennedy. From then on, John had an extremely successful career as a member of the House of Representatives, a Massachusetts congressman, and an American senator. By 1961, John fulfilled his dad’s fantasy: to become the 35th president of the United States. The rest is history!