Joseph Kennedy Jr.
Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. was born on July 25, 1915. He shared his father's intense drive for success. At Harvard, he too was invited to join the Hasty Pudding Club, and he also received an invitation to join the elite Spee Club. By most accounts, his drive for success was his most memorable quality.
“Yet, for all the difficulty between the two brothers, they shared a common vitality and an essential closeness…. After Joe's death, Jack would confess that in all his experience, he didn't know anyone with a better sense of humor or anyone with whom he would ‘rather have spent an evening or played golf or in fact done anything.’” — Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys
In 1938, Joe graduated cum laude from Harvard. He decided to attend law school, which he anticipated would prepare him for a political career. One year after he entered Harvard Law School, he decided to run for delegate to the 1940 presidential convention. His grandfather John Fitzgerald was still up to his old tricks and advised Joe that he could fix the election in his favor through a contact. Joe Sr. was strongly opposed and encouraged his son to vie for the seat by campaigning. Joe did as his father wished, and when voting day arrived it was evident that he had run a successful campaign. He came in second, winning one of the two delegate seats.
When it came time to vote at the convention in July 1940, Joe emerged as a young politician able to hold his own. During the campaigning, he had promised to support and cast his vote for Jim Farley. However, when the convention got underway, Roosevelt suddenly decided to run for a third term. Initially, Farley, the Democratic Committee chairman, had widespread support from the delegates, but with Roosevelt's announcement many switched sides. Roosevelt was intent on a unanimous victory, but Joe was one of the delegates who stood in the way. He refused to change his vote from Farley. He reasoned that since he had committed to vote for the chairman, he would keep his pledge. When the votes were finally cast, Joe stood true to his word. Although he was among the minority, he made his father proud that he had stood up for his convictions. His actions, too, caught the attention of the public.
“Joe refused his proffered leave and persuaded his crew to remain on for D-day…. He felt it unfair to ask his crew to stay on longer, and they returned to the United States. He remained. For he had heard of a new and special assignment for which volunteers had been requested which would require another month of the most dangerous type of flying.”
A political career, however, would have to wait. In May 1941, before entering his final year of law school, he signed up to join the navy as a pilot. After training at a navy air base in Quincy, Massachusetts, he was sent to Jacksonville, Florida, for more instruction. After ten tough months of preparation, Joe graduated in May 1942. Following his training to fly a B-24 Liberator, Joe was stationed in the English Channel where he was charged with making routine flights over the area.
More than anything, Joe was drawn to excitement. In July 1943 when he heard about a dangerous assignment in the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay, he quickly volunteered for the mission. He wrote his father about the assignment, but Joe Sr., far less enthusiastic, cautioned him not to push his luck. Nevertheless, this caution came too late. Joe had already committed to the mission, and on August 12, 1944, after checking his flight plans and plane, he was all set to go. Joe and a copilot took off from the airfield. At first it seemed that the mission was proceeding as planned, but ten minutes before its scheduled completion, the plane exploded.