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Kennedy, John Fitzgerald (b. May 29, 1917, d/ Nov. 22, 1963)
John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of the U.S. (1961-63).
The son of Joseph P. Kennedy, he graduated from
Harvard University in 1940 and joined the navy the following year. He commanded a patrol torpedo (PT) boat in
World War II and was gravely injured in an attack by a Japanese destroyer; he was later decorated for heroism. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946 and the U.S.
Senate in 1952, he supported social-welfare legislation and became increasingly committed to civil rights; in foreign affairs, he supported the
Cold War policies of the
In 1960 he won the Democratic nomination for president, beating out Lyndon B. Johnson, who became his running mate. In his acceptance speech Kennedy declared, "We stand on the edge of a New Frontier"; thereafter the phrase "New Frontier" was associated with his programs. After a vigorous campaign managed by his brother Robert F. Kennedy and aided financially by his father, he narrowly defeated the Republican candidate,
Richard Nixon. He was the youngest person and the first
Roman Catholic elected president. In his inaugural address he called on
Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
His legislative program, including massive income-tax cuts and a sweeping civil-rights measure, received little support in the
Congress, though he did win approval of the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress. In 1961 he committed the U.S. To land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. In foreign affairs he approved a plan drawn up during the
Eisenhower administration to land an invasion force of
Cuban exiles on their homeland, but the Bay of Pigs invasion (1961) was a fiasco. Determined to combat the spread of communism in
Asia, he sent military advisers and other assistance to South
Vietnam. During the Cuban missile crisis (1962) he imposed a naval blockade on Cuba and demanded that the
Soviet Union remove its nuclear missiles from the island.
In 1963 he successfully concluded the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty with
Britain and the
Soviet Union. By July 1963, Kennedy faced a crisis in Vietnam: despite increased U.S. Support, the South Vietnamese military was only marginally effective against pro-
Communist Viet Minh and Viet Cong forces. Regarding Ngo Dinh Diem, the Roman Catholic President of South Vietnam, as insufficiently anti-Communist, the U.S. Gave secret assurances of non-interference for an impending coup d'état. On November 1, 1963, South Vietnamese generals overthrew the Diem government, arresting and soon killing Diem (though the circumstances of his death were obfuscated). In November 1963, while riding in a motorcade in
Dallas, he was assassinated by a sniper, allegedly Lee Harvey Oswald who was charged with the crime but was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby before he could be put on trial. The
FBI, the Warren Commission, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Oswald was the assassin, with the HSCA allowing for the probability of conspiracy based on disputed acoustic evidence.
Kennedy, Another American star in the
In 1963, the Kennedy administration backed a coup against the government of
Iraq headed by General Abdol Karim Qasem, who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. The
CIA helped the new
Baath Party government led by Abdol Salam Aref in ridding the country of so-called leftists and Communists. In a Baathist coup, the government used lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the CIA, to systematically murder untold numbers of Iraq's educated elite—killings in which
Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. The victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers, and other professionals as well as military and political figures. The U.S. Sent arms to the new regime, weapons later used against the same
Kurdish insurgents the U.S. Supported against Qasem and then abandoned him. American and
UK oil and other interests, including
Mobil, Bechtel, and
British Petroleum, were conducting business in Iraq.
The killing is considered the most notorious political murder of the 20th century. Kennedy's youth, energy, and charming family brought him world adulation and sparked the idealism of a generation, for whom the Kennedy
White House became known as "Camelot." Revelations about his powerful family and his personal life, especially concerning his extramarital affairs, tainted his image in later years.