President JOHN F. KENNEDY
"Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life
worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and
satisfaction, I served in the United States Navy," wrote President John
F. Kennedy in August 1963. A former naval officer, Kennedy was born in
Brookline, Massachusetts on 29 May 1917 to Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy.
After attending public schools in Brookline, Kennedy went on to The
Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, and attended the London
School of Economics from 1935 to 1936. Kennedy graduated cum laude from
Harvard University in 1940 and began graduate school at Stanford
Despite having a bad back, Kennedy was able to join the U.S. Navy
through the help of Captain Alan Kirk, the Director, Office of Naval
Intelligence (ONI) who had been the Naval Attache in London when Joseph
Kennedy was the Ambassador. In October 1941, Kennedy was appointed an
Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve and joined the staff of the Office of
Naval Intelligence. The office, for which Kennedy worked, prepared
intelligence bulletins and briefing information for the Secretary of
the Navy and other top officials. On 15 January 1942, he was assigned
to an ONI field office the Sixth Naval District in Charleston, South
Carolina. After spending most of April and May at Naval Hospitals at
Charleston and at Chelsea, Massachusetts, Kennedy attended Naval
Reserve Officers Training School at Northwestern University in Chicago,
Illinois, from 27 July through 27 September. After completing this
training, Kennedy entered the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training
Center, Melville, Rhode Island. On 10 October, he was promoted to the
rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade. Upon completing his training 2
December, he was ordered to the training squadron, Motor Torpedo
Squadron FOUR, for duty as the Commanding Officer of a motor torpedo
boat, PT 101, a 78- foot Higgins boat. In January 1943, PT 101 with
four other boats was ordered to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron FOURTEEN,
which was assigned to Panama.
Seeking combat duty, Kennedy transferred on 23 February as a
replacement officer to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron TWO, which was based
at Tulagi Island in the Solomons. Traveling to the Pacific on USS
Rochambeau, Kennedy arrived at Tulagi on 14 April and took command of
PT 109 on 23 April 1943. On 30 May, several PT boats, including PT 109
were ordered to the Russell Islands, in preparation for the invasion of
New Georgia. After the invasion of Rendova, PT 109 moved to Lumbari.
From that base PT boats conducted nightly operations to interdict the
heavy Japanese barge traffic resupplying the Japanese garrisons in New
Georgia and to patrol the Ferguson and Blackett Straits near the
islands of Kolumbangara, Gizo, and Vella-Lavella in order to sight and
to give warning when the Japanese Tokyo Express warships came into the
straits to assault U.S. forces in the New Georgia-Rendova area.
PT 109 commanded by Kennedy with executive officer, Ensign Leonard Jay
Thom, and ten enlisted men was one of the fifteen boats sent out on
patrol on the night of 1-2 August 1943 to intercept Japanese warships
in the straits. A friend of Kennedy, Ensign George H. R. Ross, whose
ship was damaged, joined Kennedy's crew that night. The PT boat was
creeping along to keep the wake and noise to a minimum in order to
avoid detection. Around 0200 with Kennedy at the helm, the Japanese
destroyer Amagiri traveling at 40 knots cut PT 109 in two in ten
seconds. Although the Japanese destroyer had not realized that their
ship had struck an enemy vessel, the damage to PT 109 was severe. At
the impact, Kennedy was thrown into the cockpit where he landed on his
bad back. As Amagiri steamed away, its wake doused the flames on the
floating section of PT 109 to which five Americans clung: Kennedy,
Thom, and three enlisted men, S1/c Raymond Albert, RM2/c John E.
Maguire and QM3/c Edman Edgar Mauer. Kennedy yelled out for others in
the water and heard the replies of Ross and five members of the crew,
two of which were injured. GM3/c Charles A. Harris had a hurt leg and
MoMM1/c Patrick Henry McMahon, the engineer was badly burned. Kennedy
swam to these men as Ross and Thom helped the others, MoMM2/c William
Johnston, TM2/c Ray L. Starkey, and MoMM1/c Gerald E. Zinser to the
remnant of PT 109. Although they were only one hundred yards from the
floating piece, in the dark it took Kennedy three hours to tow McMahon
and help Harris back to the PT hulk. Unfortunately, TM2/c Andrew
Jackson Kirksey and MoMM2/c Harold W. Marney were killed in the
collision with Amagiri.
Because the remnant was listing badly and starting to swamp, Kennedy
decided to swim for a small island barely visible (actually three
miles) to the southeast. Five hours later, all eleven survivors had
made it to the island after having spent a total of fifteen hours in
the water. Kennedy had given McMahon a life-jacket and had towed him
all three miles with the strap of the device in his teeth. After
finding no food or water on the island, Kennedy concluded that he
should swim the route the PT boats took through Ferguson Passage in
hopes of sighting another ship. After Kennedy had no luck, Ross also
made an attempt, but saw no one and returned to the island. Ross and
Kennedy had spotted another slightly larger island with coconuts to eat
and all the men swam there with Kennedy again towing McMahon. Now at
their fourth day, Kennedy and Ross made it to Nauru Island and found
several natives. Kennedy cut a message on a coconut that read "11 alive
native knows posit & reef Nauru Island Kennedy." He purportedly
handed the coconut to one of the natives and said, "Rendova, Rendova!,"
indicating that the coconut should be taken to the PT base on Rendova.
Kennedy and Ross again attempted to look for boats that night with no
luck. The next morning the natives returned with food and supplies, as
well as a letter from the coastwatcher commander of the New Zealand
camp, Lieutenant Arthur Reginald Evans. The message indicated that the
natives should return with the American commander, and Kennedy complied
immediately. He was greeted warmly and then taken to meet PT 157 which
returned to the island and finally rescued the survivors on 8 August.
Kennedy was later awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his
heroics in the rescue of the crew of PT 109, as well as the Purple
Heart Medal for injuries sustained in the accident on the night of 1
August 1943. An official account of the entire incident was written by
intelligence officers in August 1943 and subsequently declassified in
1959. As President, Kennedy met once again with his rescuers and was
toasted by members of the Japanese destroyer crew.
In September, Kennedy went to Tulagi and accepted the command of PT 59
which was scheduled to be converted to a gunboat. In October 1943,
Kennedy was promoted to Lieutenant and continued to command the motor
torpedo boat when the squadron moved to Vella Lavella until a doctor
directed him to leave PT 59 on 18 November. Kennedy left the Solomons
on 21 December and returned to the U.S. in early January 1944.
On 15 February, Kennedy reported to the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron
Training Center, Melville, Rhode Island. Due to the reinjury of his
back during the sinking of PT 109, Kennedy entered a hospital for
treatment. In March, Kennedy went to the Submarine Chaser Training
Center, Miami, Florida. In May while still assigned to the Center,
Kennedy entered the Naval Hospital, Chelsea, Massachusetts, for further
treatment of his back injury. At the Hospital in June, he received his
Navy and Marine Corps Medals. Under treatment as an outpatient, Kennedy
was ordered detached from the Miami Center on 30 October 1944.
Subsequently, Kennedy was released from all active duty and finally
retired from the U.S. Naval Reserve on physical disability in March
USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) is named for the 35th President of the
United States. The ship’s keel was laid October 22, 1964, at
the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Virginia.
President KENNEDY’s 9-year-old daughter, Caroline, christened
the ship May 27, 1967 in ceremonies held at Newport News. The ship
subsequently entered naval service Sept. 7, 1968.
KENNEDY was originally designated as CVA 67, attack aircraft carrier.
In the early 1970s, the classification was changed to CV 67, indicating
the ship was capable of supporting antisubmarine warfare aircraft,
making it an all-purpose, multi-mission aircraft carrier.
KENNEDY's maiden voyage was to the Mediterranean in response to a
deteriorating situation in the Middle East. Subsequently, she made
another seven deployments to this area of the world during the '70s.
By the mid-'70s, KENNEDY was upgraded to handle the F-14 Tomcat and the
S-3 Viking. KENNEDY underwent her first, yearlong, major overhaul
ending in 1979. The ship’s ninth deployment, in 1981, marked
her first trip to the Indian Ocean. KENNEDY transited the Suez Canal,
hosted the first visit aboard a United States ship by a Somali head of
state, and achieved its 150,000th arrested landing.
In 1982, KENNEDY won an eighth Battle Efficiency award and fourth
Golden Anchor retention award. In 1983, as a result of growing crisis
in Beirut, Lebanon, KENNEDY was called upon to support what would
define the ship’s operations into the next year. Awards
received during that period included a ninth Battle
“E,” the Silver Anchor Award for Retention, the
Rear Adm. Flatley Award for Safety and the Battenburg Cup for being the
overall best ship in the Atlantic Fleet.
KENNEDY spent the winter of 1984 in drydock for a complex overhaul at
Norfolk Naval Shipyard. In 1985, the ship received a fifth Golden
Anchor Retention Award and several departmental efficiency awards.
While in the shipyard, the ship recieved the inaugural Department of
Defense Phoenix Award, signifying a level of maintenance excellence
above Department of Defense components worldwide. In July 1986, KENNEDY
served as the centerpiece for a vast international naval armada during
the International Naval Review in honor of the 100th Anniversary and
Rededication of the Statue of Liberty. KENNEDY departed for the
Mediterranean Aug. 1986 and returned March 1987.
KENNEDY departed Norfolk, Va. for her 12th major deployment to the
Mediterranean in August 1988. On Jan. 4, 1989, embarked F-14 Tomcats
shot down two Libyan MIG-23s that were approaching the battlegroup in a
hostile manner. Following a variety of exercises in early 1990, KENNEDY
paid visits to New York for Fleet Week and Boston July 4. In August,
with just four days notice, KENNEDY deployed in support of Operation
KENNEDY entered the Red Sea in September 1990 and became the flagship
of the Commander, Red Sea Battle Force. On Jan. 16, 1991, aircraft from
the ship’s Carrier Air Wing Three began Operation Desert
Storm with attacks on Iraqi forces. The ship launched 114 strikes and
2,895 sorties, with aircrews of CVW-3 flying 11,263 combat hours and
delivering more than 3.5 million pounds of ordnance in the conflict.
After the cease fire, KENNEDY transited the Suez Canal for the fourth
time in seven months and began its journey home. KENNEDY arrived in its
homeport of Norfolk on March 28, 1991, to the greatest homecoming
celebration since World War II. KENNEDY then entered a four-month
restricted availability period at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The ship
departed the shipyard in September with extensive repairs and
maintenance to engineering systems, flight deck systems and equipment.
The ship was readied to handle F/A-18 Hornet aircraft to replace A-7E
Corsair IIs that had flown on their last deployment from the deck of
The 1992-93 deployment, from Oct. 7, 1992, until April 7, 1993, marked
KENNEDY’s 14th to the Mediterranean area. The tone of the
deployment was set by turmoil in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. The
ship conducted multiple exercises with the armed forces of
Mediterranean littoral nations, hosted a great number of visitors in
port and at sea, and spent substantial operating time in the Adriatic
Sea. On Dec. 8, 1992, KENNEDY passed a milestone by achieving its
250,000th aircraft trap. Upon her return from cruise, JFK celebrated
her Silver Anniversary, then moved north for a two-year, comprehensive
overhaul in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The overhaul was completed
Sept. 13, 1995, whereupon KENNEDY moved to its new homeport at Mayport
Naval Station in Florida.
KENNEDY departed Mayport April 1997 for its 15th deployment to the
Mediterranean Sea and returned to Mayport October 1997. After a brief
maintenance period, KENNEDY participated in Fleet Week ’98 in
New York City.
During 1999, continuing at-sea periods prepared KENNEDY for its 16th
deployment to the Mediterranean Sea/Arabian Gulf. After a heroic rescue
of the crew from the foundered tug Gulf Majesty, during Hurricane Floyd
in mid-September, KENNEDY carried the banner of freedom to our friends
and allies overseas, making history, once again. The ship made the
first carrier port call to Jordan, and hosted the King of Jordan,
allowing him to experience life at sea. JFK then participated in
Operation Southern Watch, flying combat missions while enforcing the
no-fly zone over Iraq. The JFK/CVW-1 team set new records in bombing
accuracy while employing the most lethal combination of precision
weaponry ever put to sea, amassing 10,302 arrested landings along the
On Jan. 1st, JFK became the “Carrier of the New
Millennium” by being the only carrier underway as the year
2000 arrived. Her triumphant return to Mayport on March 19, 2000,
marked the completion of yet another successful forward deployment as
one of our nation’s most visible guarantors of support for
our allies and freedom of the seas.
KENNEDY returned to Mayport, March 19, 2000, and after a few weeks in
port, KENNEDY returned to the sea headed north for New York where
‘Big John’ participated in the 2000 International
Naval Review over the July 4 holiday. After Independence Day, JFK went
even further north to Boston for Sail Boston 2000.
Upon returning to Mayport, KENNEDY underwent a brief, but extensive
availability period, installing components of the most recent
technology. As a test bed for Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC),
“Big John” is flagship to the most
technologically-advanced battle group in history. CEC enables battle
group ships and aircraft to share sensor data and provide a single,
integrated picture to all. With CEC, KENNEDY can see and respond, with
fire-control accuracy, to air contacts further from the ship than was
previously possible. KENNEDY is currently in the training cycle,
preparing for its 17th deployment.
of Coat of Arms:
The ship's seal was designed by KENNEDY's first Commanding Officer,
Rear Admiral (Ret.) Earl P. Yates.
The ship's seal is based on the coat of arms of the Kennedy and
Fitzgerald families. These ancient symbols represent the stability that
stems from tradition. Modern symbols have been incorporated to show the
progress that stems from innovations. Both stability and progress were
notable characteristics of the policies of President John F. Kennedy,
and are essential to the continued accomplishment of our mission.
The black shield with three gold helmets is the traditional coat of
arms of the O'Kennedy of the Ormonde. The helmets represent the
original Gaelic word from Kennedy, Ceinneide, which means, "helmeted
head." The red and white borders are the colors of Fitzgerald of
Desmond. Above the shield is the single helmet crowned with a wreath of
the Kennedy colors: black, gold, and flanked by the red and white
mantel in Fitzgerald colors, symbolic of courage.
The crest of the coat of arms is a mailed forearm, holding a sheaf of
arrows and framed by olive branches, symbolizing power and peace, as do
the eagle's claws in the Presidential Seal.
The bottlenose dolphins holding the banner at the bottom are
traditional symbols of the sea and seaman. They represent our freedom
to roam the seas, freedom essential to progress in the world community.
Dolphins are friends of man, but deadly enemies of aggressors and
attack only when provoked.
The shamrock-shaped banner symbolizes good luck, President Kennedy's
Irish ancestry, and our ties with Ireland. Written on the banner in
Latin is the ship's motto, Date Nolite Rogare, which means Give, be
unwilling to ask. The phrase represents the spirit of President
Kennedy's inaugural address and specifically the famous line: "Ask not
what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your
The wings are symbols not only of KENNEDY's air power, but also of
progress and the freedom to roam the skies. Stars representing the 50
states surround the shield. A 51st star, the topmost in the seal,
represents the high state of readiness sought by KENNEDY. In years that
she earns the coveted Navy "E" for efficiency, this top star will gold