Life JFK

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Did you know? John F Kennedy factfile

Ronan Abayawickrema

Published 15/06/2013 | 05:00

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Kennedy served in the US navy during World War Two and received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Valour and a Purple Heart
Kennedy served in the US navy during World War Two and received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Valour and a Purple Heart
A Presidential campaign poster for the Senator
JFK with 'Dunker' during his tour in Europe in the summer of 1937

A random selection of little-known facts about the President.

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The US Navy's special forces Sea, Air, and Land Teams, better known as the Navy SEALs, were founded by President Kennedy in 1962.

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Terence O'Neill, prime minister of Northern Ireland during John F Kennedy's visit to the Republic in 1963, invited the US president to briefly visit the North during his trip. Issued via the British government, the invitation was swiftly rebuffed, with US National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy replying that there was not "the remotest chance of it being accepted".

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Kennedy served in the US navy during World War Two and received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Valour and a Purple Heart for rescuing the crew of his torpedo boat after it was rammed by a Japanese destroyer in 1943. However, he also faced a naval inquiry into the incident on his return to the States.

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Kennedy identified "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth" before the end of the decade as an "urgent national need" in an address to Congress in May 1961. His vision was realised, and within his stated time-frame, with the moon landing on July 20, 1969, although he did not live to see it.

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Prior to President Kennedy's arrival in Limerick on June 29, 1963, street vendors did a roaring trade selling Irish and American flags for a shilling apiece.

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JFK established the Peace Corps in 1961, encouraged by over 25,000 letters in response to his speech at the University of Michigan the previous year calling for students to volunteer abroad. Since its foundation, approximately 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers have worked in 139 nations.

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At a dinner in his honour held in Iveagh House, Dublin, on June 27, 1963, President Kennedy was presented with a cake decorated with a sugar model of PT-109, the torpedo boat on which he had served in World War Two.

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In 1957, the then Senator John F Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize in history for his book 'Profiles in Courage', which detailed the careers of eight US senators.

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When JFK's helicopter landed in O'Kennedy Park on his June 27, 1963 visit to New Ross, Co Wexford, the chopper's rotor blades caused cow dung lying on the field to fly up, splattering some young spectators.

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In 1938, Joseph Kennedy, then US ambassador to the UK, received an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland. Twenty-five years later, his son, President John F Kennedy, received the same honour from NUI, as well as another honorary doctorate from Trinity College.

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In 1963, JFK received the Hollywood treatment in 'PT 109', a film starring Cliff Robertson based on Kennedy's experiences as a torpedo-boat commander in World War Two. It ran in Dublin's Aldephi Cinema in August of that year.

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When President Kennedy addressed Dail Eireann on June 28, 1963, it was the first time in the history of the State that cameramen and photographers had been allowed to record events in the chamber.

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Actors to have portrayed John F Kennedy on screen include Cliff Robertson ('PT 109', 1963), Martin Sheen ('Kennedy', 1983) and Bruce Greenwood ('Thirteen Days', 2000). Rob Lowe will play JFK in the upcoming US TV drama 'Killing Kennedy'.

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Gifts presented to President Kennedy during his trip to Ireland in June, 1963 included a Waterford glass bowl with engravings representing the 'Kennedy story', from the New Ross Harbour Commissioners, and a replica of the Great Mace of Galway, from the city's Chamber of Commerce.

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John F Kennedy published his first book, 'Why England Slept' in 1940. Originally written as his senior thesis at Harvard, it explored Britain's policy of appeasement in the 1930s. A first edition of the book is advertised online for $950 (€730).

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The June 29, 1963 edition of the 'Limerick Leader' ran an article asking why Telefis Eireann would not be broadcasting live President Kennedy's visit to Limerick later that day. Questioned on the issue, the state broadcaster replied that all its cameras would be in use, in Galway and at the Irish Sweeps Derby in the Curragh.

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The now-famous White House Situation Room, from which President Barack Obama watched the Navy SEAL operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, was created for President John F Kennedy in 1961. A bowling alley was removed to make space for the room.

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Stung by the failed US-backed invasion of Fidel Castro's Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961, the Kennedy administration launched the lesser-known Operation Mongoose to covertly destabilise the Caribbean island's communist government and possibly assassinate Castro. It also failed.

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One of the few occasions on John F Kennedy's visit to Ireland which received negative press was the garden party held at Áras an Uachtaráin on June 27, 1963. An Irish Independent columnist called it "incredibly disorganised", while the 'Irish Times' described some of the guests' attempts to get close to the US president as "something close to mob hysteria".

Irish Independent

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