It was a moment that stunned the world. Movies and books have been written about it. One of those rare moments that united the country in mourning, despite the turmoils of the 60s. While riding in a motorcade in downtown Dallas, TX, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.
Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, first elected in 1961 over Republican Richard Nixon. He was born John Fitzgerald Kennedy on May 29th, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts, the second oldest of nine children. After being disqualified for the Army Officer Candidate School due to lower back problems, Kennedy successfully join the Naval Reserve in 1940, seeing action in the South Pacific.
He earned both the Navy and Marine Corps Medals for Heroism after saving members of his PT boat when it was sunk by a Japanese destroyer. When later asked how he became a war hero, Kennedy joked: “It was easy. They cut my PT boat in half.”
Kennedy was only 46 when he was killed in 1963. His trip to Dallas was to smooth over tensions between liberal and conservative Democrats in Texas. He was smiling and waving when Lee Harvey Oswald opened fire from a nearby book depository at approximately 12:30 local time.
Kennedy was hit twice, once in the back and once in the head. Texas Governor John Connally was also injured in the shooting. Kennedy survived initially and was raced to Parkland Hospital nearby. The AP reports that his wife, Jackie Onassis, held him the entire way to the hospital. Despite blood transfusion and doctor’s best efforts, he was given his Last Rites and pronounced dead at 1:00.
President Kennedy was the fourth and currently last US president to be assassinated, the others being Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley. It was the first assassination in modern US history, the first to be caught on camera, and the first to truly fixate the nation.
To this day, the events surrounding his death are still debated. According to a Gallup poll in 2013, over 60% believed his death was the result of a conspiracy, while only 30% believed Oswald acted alone. The subsequent murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby raised even more questions.
President Kennedy’s term was tragically short, but he is remembered fondly by history. His handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis earned him massive appeal at home and abroad. He was known for his progressive stance on and vocal support for the Civil Rights Movement. He all but created military ties with Israel, and his support for the space program and NASA truly cemented America’s position in the race to the moon. But perhaps his legacy is best remembered by the famous quote from his inaugural address:
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge—and more.