John F. Kennedy

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John F. Kennedy (1963), Photo: Cecil W. Stoughton
John F Kennedy Signature.svg

John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (born May 29, 1917 in Brookline , Massachusetts , † November 22, 1963 in Dallas , Texas ), often called by his initials JFK , was the 35th  President of the United States from 1961 to 1963 . During his tenure during the heyday of the Cold War , historical events such as the Bay of Pigs invasion , the Cuban Missile Crisis , the construction of the Berlin Wall , the beginning of manned space travel , the escalation of the Vietnam War and the period of civil disobedience by the Afro-American civil rights movement occurred .

Kennedy was a member of the Democratic Party and the first US president to be Roman Catholic . Because of his comparatively young age and his charisma , for many he embodied the hope of a renewal of the USA. The background to his murder in 1963 is still controversial today.


Youth and Studies

John F. Kennedy (top left) with family in Hyannis Port , September 1931

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, the second eldest son of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy in Brookline, Massachusetts. He came from an important family : his maternal grandfather was the Democratic politician John F. Fitzgerald . His younger brothers Robert - who was also assassinated in 1968 - and Edward both played a vital role as politicians in 20th century American history.

As the son of wealthy parents, Kennedy enjoyed a privileged youth. The family spent the summer at their home on the Atlantic in Hyannis , Massachusetts , southeast of Boston, and the Christmas days at their home in Palm Beach , Florida . The father's job - he owned an investment company - resulted in many family moves. Kennedy attended various private schools in the states of Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut . From 1931 he attended the Choate School in Wallingford , Connecticut, a boarding school for boys. Kennedy was already having health problems at this time. The young Kennedy also had to give up his passion for football due to his poor health during his time at Choate School. He had been a member of the Boy Scouts since his time in Bronxville .

Half dollar coin (1968) with Kennedy's profile

After graduating from school in 1935, he traveled to England with his sister Kathleen and parents to enroll at the London School of Economics to study economics . However, an illness forced him to give up the project and seek medical treatment. Back in the United States, he enrolled at Princeton University , but had to leave after suffering from jaundice . One year later, in 1936, Kennedy finally made it into the university. From 1936 to 1940 he studied politics at Harvard University . He wrote to his friend Lem Billings about his attraction to women: “I'm now called Playboy here .” During his student days he traveled a lot, including through Europe, which was on the verge of war. He first came to France, Spain, Italy and Germany in July 1937 with his convertible and accompanied by Billings. In his diary he commented on the political situation. In December 1937, his father was appointed US ambassador to the United Kingdom. In the summer of 1938, Kennedy was able to work at the embassy, ​​but also enjoyed the warm welcome from the English nobility in salons, at balls, regattas and races. Encouraged by Joseph P., Kennedy went his own way in the diplomatic service, also thanks to his prominent position in the staff, and experienced the brief Czecho-Slovak Republic and the destruction of the rest of the Czech Republic on site. The father saw the opportunity in the work in London to get into the social register of the USA. The son's studies were marked by his deteriorating health. Steroids that had been prescribed to control his bowel inflammation did not improve, but caused osteoporosis in the lumbar vertebrae . In 1939 Kennedy wrote three months on his thesis, the senior thesis ; he had the support of his father, who brought him together with Lord Lothian , the British ambassador. The title of his thesis was: "Appeasement in Munich: The inevitable result of the slowness of British democracy in turning away from a policy of disarmament". In addition, he could rely on the US press secretary in London, James Seymour, who opened up sources. He could also pay typists. The paper read like a defense of the respective British Prime Ministers. In 1940 Kennedy first drew attention to himself when he published this elaboration on England's appeasement policy , actually intended only for study purposes , as a book under the title Why England Slept . The well-known journalist Arthur Krock helped him with the stylistic revision, suggested the title ultimately chosen and recommended a literary agent . The book was discussed favorably and around 80,000 copies were sold. In the summer of 1940, Kennedy was busy with public relations such as interviews and radio broadcasts. He'd left Harvard in June of that year with a degree in international affairs. In the fall he enrolled at Stanford University for a few months .


Kennedy as a naval officer (1942)
Kennedy as a lieutenant on board his speedboat

In 1941, Kennedy volunteered for the US Army . But here, too, his poor health caused him difficulties, especially his back problems. After first being rejected, he was accepted into the US Navy in September of that year with the help of his father and his former colleague, Alan G. Kirk , Chief of the Office of Naval Intelligence . He was initially assigned an office job. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the war , Kennedy attended a naval officer school at Northwestern University in Chicago for two months . After completing his training, he was sent to the Pacific as the commander of the PT-109 speedboat . This command seemed desirable to him because another speedboat had succeeded in getting General Douglas MacArthur 500 miles through enemy territory from the Philippines to Australia, and this was very popular. Kennedy was selected as one of 1,024 applicants for the 50 commandos.

On August 2, 1943, Kennedy's boat took part in a secret night operation near the Solomon Islands . PT-109 was rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri during the operation and sank. Two members of Kennedy's crew died. He himself was injured on his already weak back. Even so, he dragged a wounded comrade with him to an island five kilometers away, to which the rest of his crew swam. This island was later named Kennedy Island ; it is located near the provincial capital Gizo . After a few days, the survivors were rescued from the island. Kennedy received various military awards for his service, including the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal , the second highest non-combat mission award in the US Navy, and was celebrated as a war hero in the United States. During this time he became a strong critic of the military leadership: He saw in many generals "nothing more than incompetent bureaucrats".

Unlike John F. Kennedy, his brother Joseph did not survive the war. He was killed in an explosion in a Consolidated PB4Y loaded with ten tons of explosives in 1944 during a flight mission for Operation Aphrodite over the English Channel . The father's hopes for a political career that had been denied to him now rested on the shoulders of John F. Kennedy.

House of Representatives

Kennedy as Congressman, late 1940s

After his brother's death, it was now John F. Kennedy's job to get involved in politics with the aim of becoming president. His father Joseph had previously made this claim on his deceased brother. In 1945 Kennedy initially worked as a journalist and reported on the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco and the Potsdam Conference . A year later, Kennedy ran - with considerable financial support from his father - for a seat in the US House of Representatives . The seat had become vacant because Rep . James Michael Curley had become mayor of Boston . In the Primary of the Democrats, he prevailed with 42.4 percent of the vote against nine competitors. He won the actual election with a share of almost 72 percent against the Republican Lester W. Bowen.

Kennedy took his seat in the House of Representatives from January 3, 1947; he was aware of his limited influence there. He lived with his sister Eunice in a rented house with a cook and a black maid in Georgetown . Thanks to financial support from his father, he had more employees than any other MP in his two offices in the capital and the constituency . In 1950 he went on a seven-week trip to Israel, Iran, Pakistan, India, Singapore, Thailand, Korea and Japan with sister Pat and brother Robert. He was twice confirmed in his mandate with ease, so he was a member of the 80th, 81st and 82nd Congress, but knew that he would not be able to collect enough supporters in the House of Representatives to campaign for the presidential election.

In the 1952 election campaign for a seat in the Senate, his father spent several million US dollars to set up committees to support his son. He took advantage of a loophole in the law: a candidate was not allowed to use more than $ 20,000 of his own wealth, and donations were limited to $ 1,000 per person. Only one in five local Boston newspapers, the Boston Post , endorsed Kennedy; Joe Kennedy had given her a $ 500,000 loan. The outcome of the election was tight: Kennedy won 51.5 percent. The turnout was 91 percent, an increase of 17 percentage points. Subsequent analysis showed that national minorities in particular had given Kennedy their vote.


In November 1952 he was elected United States Senator for Massachusetts. His victory over Republican officer Henry Cabot Lodge was remarkable in that the concurrent presidential election saw Republicans win a clear victory in both Massachusetts and nationwide. Kennedy soon saw his new job as "the most corrupting job in the world".

With the entry into the Senate, the first hurdle to the presidency was overcome, but Kennedy knew that an unmarried man would not be elected president. In addition to his love for Jacqueline Bouvier, this was another reason for the wedding, which was celebrated on September 12, 1953. From this marriage came the two daughters Arabella and Caroline Kennedy and the two sons John F. Kennedy jr. and Patrick. Kennedy had back surgery and spent two years in the hospital. He wore a corset until his death .

In 1955, Kennedy was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . In the course of the 1956 presidential election , he ran for his nomination for the office of vice president at the Democratic Party Congress , but was narrowly defeated by Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee in the third and last vote , after he had a small lead in the second ballot. In the same year, Kennedy's book Moral Courage was published , in which he describes situations in the life of well-known American politicians in which they had to choose between party and conscience. He received the Pulitzer Prize for this in 1957 . In 2008, his then colleague Ted Sorensen confessed to authorship in his memoirs.

In 1957 alone, Kennedy received 2,500 invitations to give lectures and accepted 144 of them. He was able to use a plane that was leased by the family.

1960 presidential election

Kennedy's inauguration (1961)

In 1958 he was re-elected as Senator with a record lead over the Republican Vincent J. Celeste and was from then on as a promising Democratic presidential candidate for 1960, where he was in the intra-party struggle for the nomination first in the primaries against Senator Hubert H. Humphrey and on the Party conference against the Democratic leader in the Senate, Lyndon B. Johnson , and the two-time unsuccessful presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson was able to prevail. The Chicago Mafia and their boss Sam Giancana campaigned for a positive result for Kennedy in the West Virginia primaries . The mobsters were hoping to use Sinatra and his contacts with John F. Kennedy to avoid prosecution. Shortly thereafter, despite the reservations of his brother Robert , who led the campaign, he made his former rival Johnson his running mate for the office of vice president. Kennedy hoped to win over Texas voters - Johnson was from Texas - who were skeptical of Kennedy. Indeed, the Kennedy / Johnson team managed to win that state in the election.

This election campaign saw the first television duel of the presidential candidates on September 26th , which was seen by around 70 million viewers and which Kennedy was able to use in his favor, also because he looked more rested and well-groomed than his competitor Richard Nixon , who did not dress up had gone. Those who had only heard the debate on the radio favored Nixon. The election on November 8 won Kennedy very nearly against his Republican opponents. At the age of 43, Kennedy was the youngest elected president and, overall, the second youngest US president after Theodore Roosevelt , who was automatically promoted to the office of president in 1901 at the age of 42 after the assassination of William McKinley .

Presidency (1961–1963)

Universal Newsreel for Kennedy's Inauguration

Kennedy was introduced to the office of President of the United States on January 20, 1961. In his inaugural address , he called on the Americans in a much-quoted phrase: “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country” (“Don't ask what your country can do for you - ask, what you can do for your country ”). In the only 1,036 days that he held office, decisive foreign policy events occurred: the failure of the Cuban invasion of the Bay of Pigs , the continuously simmering unrest in Vietnam and the intensification of US military engagement there, the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 , the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 about the stationing of Soviet nuclear missiles in the western hemisphere (see Monroe Doctrine ) and the announcement of the moon landing before 1970. He was unable to achieve any noteworthy political successes due to the short term in office as president.

Cabinet and closer circles of power

The closest adviser was his brother Robert , whom he made Minister of Justice in his cabinet . This form of assigning office to family members was later prohibited by law in the USA (see nepotism ). Kennedy did not appoint a chief of staff , so that no one in the inner circle could feel like a chief.

The Kennedy's team in the West Wing of the White House consisted almost entirely of people who had worked for him for a long time. Larry O'Brien was Kennedy's liaison with the legislature, Ted Sorensen wrote speeches, did programmatic work and was responsible for planning issues, Pierre Salinger was press officer, Kenneth O'Donnell coordinated the appointments, David Powers supported him, and Evelyn Lincoln was chief secretary . Then there was McGeorge Bundy , the National Security Advisor . Due to the limited space in the west wing of the White House, few other employees had their offices there. Employees in the east wing were seen as "residents of another world". Other employees did not have direct access to the president on a daily basis.

Like all US presidents at the start of their term in office, Kennedy had a large number of new positions to fill. He left the pre-selection to his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver . Harvard professor Arthur M. Schlesinger was appointed as an advisor to keep in touch with the liberals in the capital. The treasury secretary was deliberately looking for a Republican to establish bipartisan unity, and the banker C. Douglas Dillon was appointed . At the same time, Kennedy appointed Walter Heller as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers , thus creating a counterbalance to Dillon. He named Dean Rusk as Foreign Minister . The "featureless and loyal bureaucrat" was chosen to give the president a free hand in shaping US foreign policy .

The President observes the flight of astronaut
Alan Shepard with Jacqueline and Lyndon B. Johnson

Kennedy immediately after his election focused on inauguration day . As a sign that "men of spirit" should play a major role again in the capital, he asked the 86-year-old poet Robert Frost to read a poem. As a sign to the African American , he let the prominent singer Marian Anderson sing the national anthem.

Kennedy was the first and so far only Catholic US president. The Kennedy family originally came from Ireland . Many of Kennedy's confidants were of Irish descent, such as Kenneth O'Donnell . Robert McNamara was Secretary of Defense under him .

Domestic politics

Kennedy (center right) with representatives of the civil rights movement in the Oval Office , August 1963

Domestically, Kennedy sought reforms. Already during the election campaign in 1960 he announced the government program of the New Frontier : Modeled after the American settlers it was important new frontier to conquer. His presidency will deal with the unfulfilled hopes and dreams , the unsolved problems of war and peace , the disorganized niches of ignorance and prejudice, and the unanswered questions of poverty and abundance . However, Kennedy only managed to get a third of his legislative initiatives through Congress . Most of his reform ambitions were only implemented by his successor Lyndon B. Johnson as part of the Great Society's reform program .

In addition, although he often spoke of peace, he carried out the greatest rearmament in peacetime that the USA had experienced up to then (→ arms race ).

In 1962, Kennedy sent military units to the University of Mississippi so that the black student James Meredith could enroll there. In 1963, Mississippi was the last US state to give up racial segregation in the education system and allow integration . While standing in the Schoolhouse Door , Kennedy ordered the National Guard on June 11, 1963 to prevent Governor George Wallace from continuing to close the University of Alabama to African American students. That evening he gave a televised address on civil rights, the ideas of which formed the basis of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . Kennedy's security concerns about the March on Washington for Work and Freedom were not materialized, and he received the speakers on August 28, 1963 after the event at the White House.

After his election, Kennedy dealt with the construction of the Kinzua Dam under pressure from various civil rights movements such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Friends Service Committee and at the urging of celebrities such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Johnny Cash . They had hoped for a political change in this matter from the change in the White House. Ultimately, he saw no way to stop construction, so the last Seneca living in Pennsylvania had to be relocated . In addition, Governor David Leo Lawrence , who had helped Kennedy to victory in this swing state , was a big proponent of the dam.

On May 5, 1961, Kennedy signed an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 . This increased the minimum hourly wage to US $ 1.25 within two years. In addition, the scope for the minimum wage was enlarged, so that an additional 3.6 million workers fell into this sector. As early as February 17, 1959, as Senator and Chairman of the Subcommitee on Labor, with the support of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, he had submitted an almost identical legislative proposal, which James Roosevelt presented to the House of Representatives on the same day.

Housing conditions were improved and unemployment benefits increased.

Foreign policy


The beginning of Kennedy's presidency was mainly characterized by concerns about an expansion of the communist sphere of influence after Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba . Kennedy reacted on the one hand with the so-called Alliance for Progress , a development policy initiative in the non-communist states of Latin America, and on the other hand, in April 1961 , the CIA supported the attempted invasion of Cubans in exile in the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, which failed. Ten days later, in a public address, Kennedy rejected all secret operations, but reiterated the anti-communist orientation of his government and warned against the further spread of communism :

“Everywhere in the world we are facing a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that primarily increases its sphere of influence with covert actions - with infiltration instead of invasion, with subversion instead of elections, with intimidation instead of free choice, with guerrillas by night instead of armies during the day . It is a system that has amassed enormous human and material resources to build a tight-knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. "

This speech, taken out of its historical context, is often cited by conspiracy theorists as evidence of various suspicions. The fact that Kennedy polemicized against the Soviet Union and its henchmen in the communist parties of many countries is concealed.

The Soviet decision to station nuclear weapons in Cuba sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when Kennedy threatened nuclear war in a televised address on October 22 if the missiles were not withdrawn. Successfully overcoming this crisis, which had brought the world to the brink of World War III, can be seen as one of Kennedy's greatest foreign policy successes.


The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt , with Kennedy in the White House, March 13, 1961
Kennedy's speech in front of Schöneberg Town Hall on June 26, 1963
"I am a Berliner"
“One Day in Berlin”: Film report on the Kennedy visit
John F. Kennedy with Wernher von Braun , May 19, 1963

In terms of German politics, Kennedy had to deal with the Berlin crisis , which the Soviet state and party leader Nikita Khrushchev had triggered in 1958 with his Khrushchev ultimatum . As more and more people fled the GDR, the German satellite state of the Soviets threatened to collapse if the loophole West Berlin was not closed. Kennedy's personal meeting with Khrushchev on June 3, 1961 in Vienna at least made the atmosphere more relaxed, even if Khrushchev insisted on his ultimatum. In a televised address on July 25, 1961, Kennedy indicated a way out of the messy situation: The three essentials he named did not sound willing to compromise: a) the right to the presence of American troops in Berlin, b) the right to access and c) the right of West Berliners to self-determination and the free choice of their way of life. By not referring to the freedom of movement of GDR citizens, Moscow was signaled freedom of movement. On July 25 and 26, 1961, Kennedy sent the former High Commissioner John Jay McCloy to Khrushchev in his summer vacation in Sochi and let him know that the United States would at most protest against unilateral Soviet measures in the eastern sector of Berlin , but would do nothing else to oppose them. According to the testimony of his advisor Walt Whitman Rostov in the summer of 1961, Kennedy knew:

“East Germany is slipping away from Khrushchev. He can't let that happen. [...] He must do something to curb the flow of refugees - maybe a wall. And we won't be able to do anything about it. I can hold the alliance together to defend West Berlin. But I can't keep East Berlin open. "

Kennedy reacted with relief to the construction of the Berlin Wall. Outwardly, however, he showed indignation: on the 15th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift on June 26, 1963, he was the first American President to visit West Berlin. Kennedy was accompanied by Secretary of State Dean Rusk and General Lucius D. Clay . At the Schöneberg Town Hall , Kennedy gave a sharply anti-communist speech in front of around 1.5 million people, in which he invited everyone to Berlin who left a good hair on communism. At the side of the then governing mayor Willy Brandt , he said his famous sentence: " I am a Berliner ". Kennedy promised the city and Germany the support of the USA as an allied protecting power in the future .

Two days later, on June 28, 1963, Khrushchev - apparently in response to Kennedy's visit - visited Walter Ulbricht , the chairman of the GDR's State Council , in East Berlin . The official occasion was Ulbricht's 70th birthday.

Soviet Union

The then newly elected John F. Kennedy met on June 3 and 4, 1961 with the Soviet head of state and party leader Khrushchev in Vienna, the capital of the then officially neutral Republic of Austria. Discussions about disarmament were on the agenda, but they remained fruitless. At the end of the talks, Khrushchev proposed in the so-called Berlin Memorandum that West Berlin should be demilitarized and converted into a neutral city.

Especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy began his policy of détente between East and West to end the Cold War . The USA and the Soviet Union installed the red telephone , which in reality represented a direct telex connection between Moscow and Washington, DC, in order to enable both governments to communicate more quickly in crisis situations and thus to prevent nuclear war .

In 1963, Kennedy reached an agreement with the Soviet Union and Great Britain on a nuclear test ban agreement , which banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere as one of the first steps and thus stopped the atomic contamination of the earth's air envelope. Underground experiments were allowed. That same year, Kennedy began campaigning for a next term . A second term was considered almost certain.

On November 12, 1963, just ten days before his death, Kennedy signed National Security Memorandum No. 271 , in which he sought cooperation with the Soviet Union on space matters. However, a joint space program between the two world powers in the 1960s was no longer to come.


Kennedy initially increased the US military engagement in Vietnam by increasing military aid to South Vietnam and increasing the number of US soldiers sent to South Vietnam as " military advisors " from a good 700 to over 16,000. He also ordered helicopters, armored vehicles, combat bombers and artillery to Vietnam and at the end of 1961 agreed to the use of napalm and defoliants . He also suggested the formation of an elite unit to fight the Viet Cong , the United States Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) , which was soon nicknamed "Green Berets" because of its headgear. Kennedy's engagement in Vietnam was based on the domino theory he shared , according to which a success of the communists in Vietnam would mean that other states in the region would be lost to the “free world”. He overlooked the fact that the struggles in Indochina were conducted more for nationalist and anti-colonialist motives than for class struggle motives.

Kennedy's remarks on the Vietnam War are contradictory. In an interview from September 1963, he said it was the Vietnamese war. The US could supply military equipment for this and send its people as advisors, but the Vietnamese people would have to win the war against the communists. At the same time, he contradicted calls for the US to withdraw from Vietnam, which would be a big mistake. According to a memorandum dated October 11, 1963, he planned to withdraw 1,000 American military personnel from Vietnam by the end of the year. According to political scientist Larry Sabato, this should not initiate a change of strategy. Rather, Kennedy had three short-term opportunity goals in mind, namely a) to create the impression that South Vietnam alone was strong enough, b) to take the wind out of the sails of the inner- Vietnamese opposition to the unpopular President Ngô Đình Diệm , who was murdered shortly afterwards , and c) make the US appear honorable. On November 22, 1963, in a speech in Dallas, he even wanted to acknowledge the continued military presence of the Americans in Southeast Asia:

“Our economic and military aid plays such a key role in enabling those living on the periphery of the communist world to maintain their freedom of choice. Our aid to these nations can be painful, risky and expensive as it is, it is true, in Southeast Asia today. But we must not dare to get tired of this task. "

Whether Kennedy actually avoided the escalation of the war and direct warfare of the US armed forces in Vietnam under Johnson is controversial among historians and former employees of both presidents. The Kennedy biographer Alan Posener believes that the US involvement in the war is "Kennedy's legacy"; that if he had lived longer he would not have allowed himself to be drawn to war, is a "legend". Historian Stephen G. Rabe believes Kennedy would have faced the same crisis that Johnson faced in 1964-65: either the Communists would win the war or the United States would intervene massively to stop it. Therefore, Johnson had reason to believe that his policy towards Vietnam was in line with his predecessor. Former intelligence officer John M. Newman argues against it that Kennedy never had American combat troops stationed in Vietnam; had he lived on, the military advisers would have been withdrawn by 1965. Kennedy biographer Robert Dallek believes that Kennedy ultimately considered a military victory for US troops in Vietnam to be impossible - an attitude that he had already taken as a senator in the 1950s - and therefore favored the withdrawal. Finally, Larry Sabato argues that Kennedy did not develop a consistent strategy for Vietnam in his short term in office and was considering a revision of American policy in Southeast Asia in his last few weeks. It is hard to imagine that as an experienced foreign politician he would have stumbled into the disaster of the Vietnam War as clumsily as the domestic politician Johnson.

Private life

marriage and family

John and Jacqueline Kennedy with John, Jr. and Caroline at Hyannisport, 1962

In 1951, John F. Kennedy and the already engaged journalist Jacqueline Lee Bouvier , who was twelve years his junior, met at a dinner party. The couple became engaged in June 1953. The two married on September 12, 1953 in Newport , Rhode Island . They spent the first years of their marriage in Washington .

After two miscarriages, Jacqueline Kennedy gave birth to their first daughter, Caroline , on November 27, 1957 ; on November 25, 1960, John F. Kennedy Jr. born. Another son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, died shortly after he was born on August 7, 1963.


Kennedy is considered a womanizer : The New York Times wrote: "The effect he has on women voters is downright indecent." "Women either want to mother him or marry him." He has been said to have had numerous extramarital affairs, including with celebrity actresses like Marilyn Monroe . The rumored connection with Monroe, in view of her mysterious death and the rumors of her liaison with his brother Robert F. Kennedy, caused much speculation about the involvement of the American secret service. From 1960 to 1962 Kennedy had a love affair with Judith Campbell , which during this time also associated with gangsters Sam Giancana and John Roselli .

Kennedy also used call girls in the White House , often referred to him through his friend Bill Thompson. Through Thompson and Kennedy's advisor Bobby Baker , he came into contact with Ellen Rometsch in the summer of 1963 , with whom he began an affair. Rometsch, of German descent, was suspected of espionage by the FBI and expelled in August 1963 at the instigation of Justice Minister Robert Kennedy. A Senate investigation began that year against Baker on charges of money bribery and sexual services.


Kennedy had severe health problems all his life and was convinced that he would die young from one of his numerous diseases.

In 1935 he traveled to England to enroll at the London School of Economics ; an illness caused him to return to the USA. In the fall of 1935 he enrolled at Princeton University ; he had to drop out of the course for health reasons.

Kennedy's biographer Robert Dallek said in an interview: "If the nation had known how sick John F. Kennedy really is, he would never have become president." His family always claimed the back pain was the result of a serious football accident. In fact, as a young boy, Kennedy suffered from back problems, asthma, extreme fatigue, and numerous allergies. After one in three major back operations, he fell into a coma and was in critical condition for several weeks. He was required to wear braces and orthopedic shoes, and took up to five hot baths a day to alleviate his suffering. When traveling he often took a foldable rocking chair with him. He used special hard mattresses or slept on the floor in hotels. He took pain killers, antibiotics, antidepressants, and sleeping pills.

Dallek emphasized that the incorrect treatment of his irritable bowel by a doctor was more serious than his back pain . Kennedy suffered from diarrhea, fatigue and mysterious breakdowns as a child. In 1949 he was diagnosed with Addison's disease , an underactive adrenal cortex . The drug cortisone bloated his body, attacked his bones and arguably led to osteoporosis - which made his back problems worse. Kennedy consulted eight doctors at the same time - including the German-born doctor Max Jacobson (1900-1979, "Dr. Feelgood" or "Miracle Max" called), who prescribed him a mixture of amphetamines and sheep placenta . Outwardly, Kennedy preserved the image of a sporty person. Friends and companions said the medication did not affect Kennedy's ability to perform his duties.

The assassination

Robert Kennedy, Jacqueline and their children at the funeral, far left Peter Lawford
Tomb of John F. Kennedy with the Eternal Flame

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was murdered on a campaign trip around 12:30 p.m. at Dealey Plaza , a plaza in Dallas , Texas with multiple rifle shots while driving an open car through downtown Dallas. Less than an hour and a half after the attack, a suspect named Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and then presented to the public. Two days later, Oswald was to be transferred to the Dallas State Prison. Oswald was shot dead by night club owner Jack Ruby in the basement of the police building before there could be an indictment or a trial.

According to an estimate by the New York Times, just under a million people attended the funeral for Kennedy on November 25, 1963 , including his 98-year-old maternal grandmother. Kennedy was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial service was a worldwide media event .

Four days after the attack, President Lyndon B. Johnson , who was previously Vice President and was sworn in as President a few hours after the attack in Air Force One , set up the so-called Warren Commission to investigate the circumstances of the attack on Kennedy . The commission came to the conclusion a year later that Oswald was the sole culprit and that there had been no conspiracy to murder Kennedy. However, further investigation revealed that the state agencies FBI , CIA and the Secret Service had kept significant information secret from the Warren Commission, which could have led to a different conclusion. There is also strong doubt that the Warren Commission itself was even interested in investigating the attack, as its members were dependent on, or were even members of, the various state institutions.

Numerous other investigations followed later, which, although uncovering inaccuracies, contradictions and falsifications of previous investigations, did not unequivocally solve the riddle of the assassination attempt on Kennedy. The files on Kennedy's murder remained under lock and key until October 26, 2017. A significant percentage of Americans surveyed believe in some kind of conspiracy over the death of President Kennedy.

In October 2017, President Donald Trump announced the disclosure of more than 3,000 documents. On October 27, 2017, however, only 2,891 classified files were released, the rest remained under lock and key at the request of the FBI, the CIA and other services.



Kennedy's official portrait in the White House
US postage stamp based on a design by Raymond Loewy

The good looks of the young president, his violent death, and the glamor that surrounds him and the entire Kennedy clan helped create a true Kennedy myth . According to an American poll from 2003, Kennedy was considered the greatest American president alongside Abraham Lincoln . His widow, who in an interview described the life and reign of her husband as Camelot , also contributed to this, the mythical castle of King Arthur and his round table. This made the assassination look like regicide, sacrilege . Counterfactual speculation is widespread that unfortunate developments in American history such as the race riots of the 1960s , the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy , the Vietnam War, and the Watergate affair would not have happened if Kennedy had not been murdered and - that many take it for granted - re-elected in 1964. The strong fascination even over 50 years after his assassination of Kennedy, revealed in February 2013, as at an auction one of him in the Air Force One carried Fliegerjacke generated proceeds of 570,000 US dollars.

Objects named after John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy in literature

  • Jed Mercurio: American Adulterer (2009, novel)

Films about John F. Kennedy

Films about the assassination


Feature films

  • The war film Patrol Boat PT 109 shows Kennedy's career in the US Navy in the South Pacific.
  • The trashy horror comedy Bubba Ho-Tep shows how Kennedy spent his last days together with Elvis Presley in a Texas retirement home in 2002.
  • Oliver Stone's 1991 JFK Dallas crime scene depicts prosecutor Jim Garrison's attempt to uncover the exact circumstances of Kennedy's murder.
  • The political thriller Flashpoint - Die Grenzwölfe from 1984 is based on the discovery of the body of the alleged Kennedy assassin.
  • Also Executive Action (dt .: Company state power) from 1973 pursued a more conspiracy theory approach.
  • Jackie , feature film, USA, Chile, France, 2016


  • Why England Slept . Wilfred Funk, Inc., New York NY 1940 (extension of JFK's thesis at Harvard)
  • As We Remember Joe . Private print, Cambridge MA 1945 (private print for relatives and friends in memory of JFK's older brother Joseph)
  • Profiles in courage . Harper & Row, New York NY 1955 (German edition: Zivilcourage , Wilhelm Frick Verlag, Vienna 1960; retransmitted by Hans Lamm, Econ-Taschenbuch, Düsseldorf / Vienna 1992, ISBN 3-612-26003-0 ).
  • A Nation of Immigrants . Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, New York NY 1958 (German edition: The nation of many peoples , Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf 1965)
  • The Strategy of Peace . Harper & Brothers, New York NY 1960 (German edition: Der Weg zum Frieden , Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf 1961)
  • To turn the tide . Harper & Brothers, New York NY 1962 (German edition: Dams against the flood , Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf 1962)
  • The Burden and the Glory . Harper & Brothers, New York NY 1964 (German edition: Glanz und Bürde , Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf 1964)
  • John F. Kennedy: Among Germans. Travel diaries and letters 1937–1945 . Ed .: Oliver Lubrich . Construction Verlag, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-351-02761-2 .

See also


  • Christopher Andersen: These Few Precious Days: The Final Year of Jack with Jackie . Gallery Books, New York 2013 (English).
  • Irving Bernstein: Promises Kept. John F. Kennedy's New Frontier. Oxford University Press, New York 1991, ISBN 0-19-504641-2 (English).
  • Joseph P. Berry: John F. Kennedy and the Media. The First Television President. Univ. Pr. Of America, Lanham 1987, ISBN 0-8191-6552-2 (English).
  • Harald Biermann : John F. Kennedy and the Cold War. US Foreign Policy and the Limits of Credibility. Schöningh, Paderborn 1997, ISBN 3-506-77504-9 .
  • Honoré M. Catudal: Kennedy in the wall crisis. A case study on decision making in USA. Berlin-Verlag, Berlin 1981, ISBN 3-87061-230-4 .
  • Shana Corey: John F. Kennedy. Time to act. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, German by Elisa Martins. Picture book from 8 years. NordSüd Verlag, Zurich 2017, ISBN 978-3-314-10385-8 .
  • Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. An unfinished life. German by Klaus Binder, Bernd Leineweber and Peter Torberg . DVA, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-421-05200-X .
  • Andreas W. Daum: Kennedy in Berlin. Politics, culture and emotions in the Cold War. Schöningh, Paderborn 2003, ISBN 3-506-71991-2 .
  • Winfried Fluck: The fallen hero. The Kennedy myth from a cultural studies point of view. In: John Andreas Fuchs, Michael Neumann (eds.): Myths of Europe. Key figures in the imagination. Regensburg: Pustet 2009, ISBN 978-3-7917-1940-5 , pp. 68-95.
  • Lawrence Freedman: Kennedy's Wars. Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam. Oxford University Press, New York 2000, ISBN 0-19-513453-2 (English).
  • Anthony Frewin: The assassination of John F. Kennedy. An annotated film, TV, and videography, 1963–1992. Greenwood Press, Westport 1993, ISBN 0-313-28982-4 (English).
  • Jürgen Heideking : John F. Kennedy (1961–1963): The imperial president. In: Christof Mauch (ed.): The American Presidents: 44 historical portraits from George Washington to Barack Obama. 6th, continued and updated edition. Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-58742-9 , pp. 346-360.
  • Andrew Hoberek (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to John F. Kennedy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2015, ISBN 978-1-1076-6316-9 .
  • Jacqueline Kennedy : Conversations about a life with John F. Kennedy. With a foreword by Caroline Kennedy . Interviews with Arthur M. Schlesinger . Hoffmann and Campe Verlag, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-455-50238-1 .
  • Alan Posener : John F. Kennedy . Rowohlt Verlag , Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-498-05313-0 .
  • Thomas C. Reeves: A Question of Character. A Life of John F. Kennedy. Free Press, New York 1991, ISBN 0-02-925965-7 .
  • Georg Schild: John F. Kennedy. Man and myth. Muster-Schmidt, Göttingen 1997, ISBN 3-7881-0148-2 .

Web links

Commons : John F. Kennedy  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files
Wikisource: Ich bin ein Berliner  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. An unfinished life. Special edition of the Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-421-04233-0 , p. 49.
  2. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 52.
  3. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 56.
  4. ^ Arthur M. Schlesinger : Robert Kennedy and his times. Ballantine Books, 1978, ISBN 0-345-32547-8 , p. 27.
  5. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 62.
  6. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 64.
  7. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 65.
  8. ^ Herbert Parmet: Jack: The Struggles of John F. Kennedy. Dial, New York 1980, p. 74.
  9. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 66.
  10. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 78.
  11. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 83.
  12. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 88.
  13. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 101.
  14. John Fitzgerald Kennedy .
  15. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 130.
  16. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 144.
  17. ^ A b Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 152.
  18. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 155.
  19. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 160.
  20. Information on a page in the JFK Presidential Library ( memento from January 15, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on September 16, 2011.
  21. Richard J. Tofel: Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2008, p W3 review of Counselor , by Ted Sorensen., May 9, 2008, accessed September 15, 2011 .
  22. ^ Gert Raeithel: History of North American Culture. 3 volumes. Volume 3, 4th edition. Frankfurt am Main 2003, p. 338.
  23. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 195.
  24. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 202.
  25. ^ David Copeland: The Media's Role in Defining the Nation: The Active Voice . Peter Lang, New York City 2010, ISBN 978-1-4331-0379-7 , pp. 230 ( ).
  26. Knud Krakau , John F. Kennedy. November 22, 1963. In: Alexander Demandt (Hrsg.): The assassination in history. area, Erftstadt 2003, p. 411. (1st edition. Böhlau 1996, ISBN 3-412-16795-9 ).
  27. West Wing Floor Plan, on an unofficial page on the White House , accessed March 23, 2011.
  28. ^ A b Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 266.
  29. ^ A b Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 264.
  30. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 273.
  31. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, p. 279.
  32. a b Horst Dippel : History of the USA. 8th edition. CH Beck-Verlag, 2007, p. 114.
  33. ^ Paul C. Rosier: Serving Their Country: American Indian Politics and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century . 1st edition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2009, ISBN 978-0-674-05452-3 , pp. 205-209 ( ).
  34. Irving Bernstein: Promises Kept: John F. Kennedy's New Frontier . 1st edition. Oxford University Press, New York 1991, ISBN 0-19-987966-4 , pp. 198 ( ).
  35. Irving Bernstein: Promises Kept: John F. Kennedy's New Frontier . 1st edition. Oxford University Press, New York 1991, ISBN 0-19-987966-4 , pp. 193 ( ).
  36. ^ "We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence - on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. " John F. Kennedy:" Address' The President and the Press' Before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, New York City. " April 27, 1961. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley on American Presidency Project website , accessed November 30, 2013; Stephen G. Rabe: The Most Dangerous Area in the World. John F. Kennedy Confronts the Communist Revolution in Latin America . University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1999, p. 127.
  37. Christoph Meister: No News without Secrets. Political leaks in the United States from 1950-1976. Tectum Verlag, Marburg 2016, ISBN 978-3-8288-3764-5 , p. 150.
  38. ^ Manfred Görtemaker : History of the Federal Republic of Germany. From the foundation to the present . CH Beck, Munich 1999, p. 363 f.
  39. Walt W. Rostow: The Diffusion of Power. An Essay in Recent History . New York 1972, p. 231, quoted from Manfred Görtemaker: History of the Federal Republic of Germany. From the foundation to the present . CH Beck, Munich 1999, p. 364.
  40. ^ Manfred Görtemaker: History of the Federal Republic of Germany. From the foundation to the present . CH Beck, Munich 1999, p. 364.
  41. ^ Press and Information Office of the State of Berlin (1963), p. 1.
  42. ^ Rbb: Kennedy visit in Berlin, with speech in front of Schöneberg town hall. Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg , November 3, 2013, accessed on January 15, 2014 .
  43. Christoph Gunkel: Forgotten Khrushchev visit - I'm also a Berliner! Spiegel Online , June 28, 2013, accessed June 29, 2013 .
  44. ^ A b c John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum: JFK in History: Vietnam , accessed July 23, 2016.
  45. John F. Kennedy. An exhibition by the German Historical Museum in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Institute of the Free University of Berlin , June 26 to October 13, 2003 , accessed on August 20, 2009; Alan Posener, John F. Kennedy in personal testimonies and picture documents , Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek 1991, p. 90.
  46. ^ NA Wynn: The Sixties. In: Willi Paul Adams (ed.): The United States of America. (= Fischer Weltgeschichte. Volume 30). Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1977, p. 418 f.
  47. National Security Action Memorandum 263 of October 11, 1963 at, accessed January 5, 2014.
  48. ^ Larry J. Sabato: The Kennedy Half-Century. The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy . Bloomsbury, New York 2013, p. 126.
  49. “Our military and economic assistance plays such a key role in enabling those who live on the periphery of the Communist world to maintain their independence of choice. Our assistance to these nations can be painful, risky, and costly, as is true in Southeast Asia today. But we dare not weary of the task. " Trade Mart Speech, 1963 at, accessed January 5, 2014.
  50. ^ Alan Posener: John F. Kennedy in self-testimonies and picture documents . Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek 1991, pp. 91 and 95; similar to Manfred Berg : History of the USA (= Oldenbourg floor plan of history . Vol. 42). Oldenbourg, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-486-70482-2 , p. 125 f. (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  51. Stephen G. Rabe: John F. Kennedy and the World. In: the same and James N. Giglio: Debating the Kennedy Presidency . Rowman & Littlefield, Oxford 2003, pp. 64 f.
  52. ^ John M. Newman: JFK and Vietnam. Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power. Warner Books, New York 1992.
  53. ^ Robert Dallek: John F. Kennedy. 2006, pp. 170-172, 623.
  54. ^ Larry J. Sabato: The Kennedy Half-Century. The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy . Bloomsbury, New York 2013, p. 126 f.
  55. Michael Nelson: Guide to the Presidency and the Executive Branch, Volume I (5th edition). CQ Press, Thousand Oaks (CA) 2013, ISBN 978-1-60426-953-6 , p. 1825
  56. Jacqueline Kennedy Timeline ( Memento from March 17, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  57. ^ Dorothy Schneider, Carl J. Schneider: First Ladies: A Biographical Dictionary . 3. Edition. Infobase Publishing, New York City 2010, ISBN 978-1-4381-2750-7 , pp. 279 ( ).
  58. ^ David Kaiser : The Road to Dallas. The Assassination of John. F. Kennedy. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 2008, pp. 90 and 126 f.
  59. Michael O'Brien: John F. Kennedy's Women: The Story of a Sexual Obsession . Now and Then, 2011, p. 60 ff.
  60. a b c Katja Iken: Kennedy medical record: Sex, lies and osteoporosis. on: , January 7, 2011.
  61. .
  62. Robert A. Caro (2013), The Years of Lyndon Johnson , Vol. IV ( Passage of Power ), p. 43 f.
  63. Vincent Bugliosi , Four Days in November. The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. WWNorton, New York 2007, p. 15.
  64. ^ Christian Morgner: World events and mass media. On the theory of the world media event. Studies on John F. Kennedy, Lady Diana and the Titanic. Bielefeld 2009, ISBN 978-3-8376-1220-2 .
  65. ^ Saad, Lydia (Nov. 21, 2003). "Americans: Kennedy Assassination a Conspiracy". Gallup, Inc .: Americans: Kennedy Assassination a Conspiracy. November 21, 2003, accessed April 16, 2020 .
  66. ^ JFK files: British newspaper received an anonymous tip before the attack. In: Zeit Online. October 27, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2017 .
  67. ^ John Hellmann: The Kennedy Obsession. The American Myth of JFK . Columbia University Press, New York 1997.
  68. ^ Gallup survey, November 2003, ( ), accessed October 22, 2011.
  69. Knud Krakau: John F. Kennedy. November 22, 1963. In: Alexander Demandt (Hrsg.): The assassination in history. area, Erfstadt 2003, p. 423 f.
  70. See, for example, Walter Isaacson: If Kennedy Had Lived. In: Time, April 13, 1992 ( , accessed October 19, 2011); Arthur M. Schlesinger : An End to Vietnam, No Watergate, and a Chance for Liberalism. Kennedy's Biographer on the Might-have-beens. In: Newsweek 131/18 (1998), p. 3 f .; Robert Dallek : JFK's Second Term. In: Atlantic Monthly 291/5, June 2003; Howard Jones: Death of a Generation. How the Assassinations of Diem and JFK Prolonged the Vietnam War . Oxford University Press, New York 2003; Gallup Survey November 2003, ( ), accessed October 22, 2011; Knud Krakow: John F. Kennedy. November 22, 1963. In: Alexander Demandt (Hrsg.): The assassination in history. area, Erfstadt 2003, p. 423; James G. Blight, David A. Welch, Janet M. Lang: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived. Virtual JFK . Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2009; Andrew Roberts: What if JFK had lived? Historian Andrew Roberts 50 years on from Kennedy becoming president. In: Daily Mirror . January 20, 2011 ( , accessed October 19, 2011); Stanley Karnow: JFK. Oliver Stone and the Vietnam War. In: Mark C. Carnes (Ed.): Past Imperfect. History According to the Movies. Holt, New York 1995, pp. 270-273; Peter Knight: The Kennedy Assassination . Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 2007, p. 159 ff.
  71. Michael Muskal: JFK's bomber jacket sells at auction for $ 570,000. In: Los Angeles Times . February 18, 2013. ( , accessed October 21, 2013).
  72. Dallas, une journée particulière .
  73. Timeline of a Murder - The tapes of the JFK assassination. ( Memento of 9 April 2014 Internet Archive ) to: .
  74. detailed discussion with further materials e.g. B. under JFK widow in an interview-So spoke Jackie .