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The Lost Kennedy Brother

The Kennedys may well be the most photographed, written about, and

controversial family in American history, more so than the Hearsts and Rockefellers

combined. Not only have they been prominent in recent American history, but in our

nation’s pop culture as well. When one thinks of the Kennedy brothers, certain images

come to mind. Jack. The young and energetic President who was savagely killed. Bobby.

The natural heir to the Kennedy throne who met a similar fate as his older brother. Ted.

Never quite reaching the White House, he has nontheless made a name for himself as a

major politician in the Senate.

What many people are seemingly unaware of is that there existed another Kennedy

brother, the eldest of the four. His name was Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr., named after his

father and two years older than JFK. He was the son that his father had planned on

molding to one day be President, not Jack. If not for Joe Jr.’s terrible fate, it would have

most likely been him, and not JFK as our commander-in-chief.

The Kennedy household was a patriarchy ruled by Joe Senior. He ruled with an

iron fist and recieved deep respect, fear, and love from his family in return. Besides taking

a part in their educational development, Joe Sr. also encouraged his children to compete in

most everything against one another to win their father’s favor. Out of this, a tense rivalry

evolved between Joe Jr., and Jack, with the eldest son usually defeating the younger.

Meanwhile, Joe Sr. did not hide the fact that Joe Jr. was his favorite son, molding him to

become President to compensate for his failure to reach the White House. The spitting

image of his father, Joe Jr. was destined for greatness. The intense rivalry between Joe Jr.

and Jack continued into their early twenties when they enlisted in the armed services for

World War II; both in the Navy, but Joe Jr. enlisting under Aviation.

While Joe Jr. was stuck patrolling the Atlantic in mostly inactive recconaissance

missions, Jack was made captain of a small PT boat in the Pacific war zone. On August 4,

1943, a Japanese destroyer mysteriously plowed into the smaller American craft, splitting it

in half. JFK managed to grab a drowning crew member, and swim three miles to an island

with the sailor in tow, where they were rescued almost a week later. In short, the “PT 109″

incident made national headlines, and Jack was the newest hero of the American cause.

Everyone in the family was thrilled about JFK’s success……except for Joe Jr. of course. A

family friend even heard the eldest son weeping in his sleep. He begged for a chance to

show his family, especially his father, that he was better than Jack, just like before. He

grey an insane jealousy over his brother’s new found glory.

Three weeks later, he was off to England to test himself in battle at last. Young Joe

flew in the D-Day invasion in June 1944, but many of his fellow fliers remembered a

driven desperation in his actions to prove he was the better, stronger sibling. His extended

tour ending, he had all but given up hope and was packing his belongings when he heard of

a top-secret mission in which experienced pilots were being sought. He immediately


The mission involved destroying a launching facility of German V-1 rockets by

flying a plane full of explosives into the target, then bailing out before the imminent crash.

The mission had been previously tried four times, but none of the bombers made it

anywhere near the target. The night before take-off, the mission was to be delayed due to

electrical malfunctions. Stubbornly wanting to prove himself to the world and his father,

Joe Jr. called off the delay. On August 12, 1944, a little before six in the evening, Joe Jr.

lifted off the runway on his PBY 4 bomber loaded with over ten tons of TNT. Twenty

eight minutes after take-off, just after uttering “Spade Flush”to give up control of the

bomber to the mother ship, there was a sudden gasp from Joe over the radio followed by a

huge fireball and an explosion that damaged his escort planes. There was no doubt that

Young Joe was dead.

After the initial shock upon hearing the news, Joseph Kennedy Sr. took on his new

protege, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Up until that time, JFK was hoping to use his new

found fame and eventually become a journalist or an author (his thesis Why England Slept

was a Pulitzer Prize winner). Joe ignored his son’s wishes and began to instill the art of

politics which Jack would later learn to love. After World War II, his political career took

off, and he won a seat in the House in 1946, the Senate in 1952, and eventually the

Presidency in 1960. Through his political career, he sometimes felt like a stand-in for his

dead brother. Nobody knows what may have happened had Joe Junior survived his death

marked mission. Nonetheless, President John Kennedy went on to become the leader of

his generation and his imprint on American history, unlike his older brother, will remain


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