Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr

Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr

Hull, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 12 Aug 1944 (aged 29)
Blythburgh, Suffolk Coastal District, Suffolk, England
Memorial Site* Coton, South Cambridgeshire District, Cambridgeshire, England

* A structure erected in honor of someone whose remains lie elsewhere.

Plot Name is listed on the Tablets of the Missing
Memorial ID 55852104 · View Source
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World War II United States Navy Officer. He was the oldest son of Kennedy Family patriarch Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr. and his wife, Rose Fitzgerald, and the brother of American politicians John Fitgerald, Robert Francis and Edward "Ted" Moore Kennedy. Groomed by his father for high political office, he graduated from Harvard College in 1938, entered Harvard law school, and served as a delegate to the 1940 Democratic National Convention. Leaving law school in his final year, he entered the US Navy, before the US entry into World War II. He also became engaged to Athalia Ponsell, an aspiring actress and model, and made plans to enter politics as the democratic candidate for US Congressman from Massachusetts once his war service ended. In May 1942, he was awarded his wings as a Naval Aviator, and was sent to Great Britain the following year, to fly anti-submarine patrols in PBY4 Liberator bombers. He would serve two tours on anti-submarine patrols, and quickly earned the 25 missions needed to return home. Turning down a return to the US, he volunteered for Operation Aphrodite, which involved taking an aged bomber, loading it with high explosives and a remote control device, and flying it towards the coast of France with the intention of remotely flying it into a highly guarded and hardened target. Because the remote controls could not take off the airplane, two pilots were required to take off in the plane, and then would turn on the remote control and arm the explosives, before parachuting out of the aircraft before it left English airspace. A second bomber would take remote control of the abandoned bomber and fly it to its intended target, crashing the plane into a highly protected target and destroying it. These missions were extremely dangerous, in that both the remote controls and the target bomber itself were not very reliable, and the explosives were extremely sensitive. Kennedy volunteered for the first US Naval aviator flight during Operation Aphrodite, against a hardened German V-3 artillery site at Mimoyecques in northern France. His copilot was Lieutenant Wilford John Willy. As the two men prepared to abandon the plane, near the town of Blythburgh, the plane suddenly exploded, killing both men instantly. Kennedy was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross (second highest award for valor), a Distinguished Flying Cross, and an Air Medal. His Navy Cross citation reads: "For extraordinary heroism and courage in aerial flight as pilot of a United States Liberator bomber on August 12, 1944. Well knowing the extreme dangers involved and totally unconcerned for his own safety, Kennedy unhesitatingly volunteered to conduct an exceptionally hazardous and special operational mission. Intrepid and daring in his tactics and with unwavering confidence in the vital importance of his task, he willingly risked his life in the supreme measure of service and, by his great personal valor and fortitude in carrying out a perilous undertaking, sustained and enhanced the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service." His copilot, Lt. Willy, also was awarded the Navy Cross. Joe's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing in the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in Cambridge, England, and he has a memorial marker in Section 45 in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1947, his parents started the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation in his honor.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: R
  • Added: 4 Aug 2010
  • Find a Grave Memorial 55852104
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr (25 Jul 1915–12 Aug 1944), Find a Grave Memorial no. 55852104, citing Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, Coton, South Cambridgeshire District, Cambridgeshire, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .