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The Truth About JFK and His PT Boat’s Collision with a Japanese Destroyer in WWII
In April 1943, 25-year-old John F. Kennedy arrived in the Pacific and took command of the PT-109. Just months later, the boat collided with a Japanese ship, killing two of his men (John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, PC101).
The most famous collision in U.S. Navy history occurred at about 2:30 a.m. on August 2, 1943, a hot, moonless night in the Pacific. Patrol Torpedo boat 109 was idling in Blackett Strait in the Solomon Islands. The 80-foot craft had orders to attack enemy ships on a resupply mission. With virtually no warning, a Japanese destroyer emerged from the black night and smashed into PT-109, slicing it in two and igniting its fuel tanks. The collision was part of a wild night of blunders by 109 and other boats that one historian later described as “the most screwed up PT boat action of World War II.” Yet American newspapers and magazines reported the PT-109 mishap as a triumph. Eleven of the 13 men aboard survived, and their tale, declared the Boston Globe, “was one of the great stories of heroism in this war.” Crew members who were initially ashamed of the accident found themselves depicted as patriots of the first order, their behavior a model of valor.
The Globe story and others heaped praise on Lieutenant (j.g.) John F. Kennedy, commander of the 109 and son of the millionaire and former diplomat Joseph Kennedy. KENNEDY’S SON IS HERO IN PACIFIC AS DESTROYER SPLITS HIS PT BOAT, declared a New York Times headline. It was Kennedy’s presence, of course, that made the collision big news. And it was his father’s media savvy that helped turn an embarrassing disaster into a tale worthy of Homer.
Airbrushed from this PR confection was Lieutenant Kennedy’s reaction to the accident. The young officer was deeply pained by the death of two of his men in the collision. Returning to duty in command of a new breed of PT boat, he lobbied for dangerous assignments and displayed a recklessness that worried fellow officers. Kennedy, they said, was hell-bent on redeeming himself and getting revenge on the Japanese.
Kennedy would later embrace the myths of PT-109 and ride them into the White House. But in his last months in combat, he appeared to be a troubled young man trying to make peace with what happened that dark night in the Solomons.
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Trip to Tennessee and Alabama: Arrival at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and Address at the 30th Anniversary celebration of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
Documents in this collection that were prepared by officials of the United States as part of their official duties are in the public domain. Some of the archival materials in this collection may be subject to copyright or other intellectual property restrictions. Users of these materials are advised to determine the copyright status of any document from which they wish to publish.
The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excesses of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law. The copyright law extends its protection to unpublished works from the moment of creation in a tangible form.
Design and early years Edit
Contracted as Ship Characteristic Board SCB-127C,  the ship's keel was laid on inclined Shipway 8 by Newport News Shipbuilding on 22 October 1964. By 1965, the larger semi-submerged Shipway 11 became available, where final construction was completed.  The ship was officially christened 27 May 1967 by Jacqueline Kennedy and her 9-year-old daughter, Caroline, two days short of what would have been President Kennedy's 50th birthday. The ship entered service 7 September 1968.
John F. Kennedy is a modified version of the earlier Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers.  Originally scheduled to be the fourth Kitty Hawk-class carrier, the ship received so many modifications during construction she formed her own class.  The ship was originally ordered as a nuclear carrier, using the A3W reactor, but converted to conventional propulsion after construction had begun.  The island is somewhat different from that of the Kitty Hawk class, with angled funnels to direct smoke and gases away from the flight deck. John F. Kennedy is also 17 feet (5.2 m) shorter than the Kitty Hawk class. 
After an ORI (operational readiness inspection) conducted by Commander, Carrier Division Two, John F. Kennedy left for the Mediterranean in April 1969. The ship reached Rota, Spain on the morning of 22 April 1969 and relieved USS Forrestal. Rear Admiral Pierre N. Charbonnet, Commander, Carrier Striking Forces, Sixth Fleet, and Commander, Carrier Striking Unit 60.1.9, shifted his flag to John F. Kennedy. The turnover complete by nightfall, the carrier, escorted by destroyers, transited the Strait of Gibraltar at the start of the mid watch on 22 April. The next day, John F. Kennedy refueled from USS Marias, and acquired the company of a Soviet Kotlin-class destroyer (Pennant No. 383).
John F. Kennedy ' s maiden voyage, and several of her subsequent voyages, were on deployments to the Mediterranean during much of the 1970s to help deal with the steadily deteriorating situation in the Middle East. It was during the 1970s that John F. Kennedy was upgraded to handle the F-14 Tomcat and the S-3 Viking.
John F. Kennedy was involved in the Navy response to the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East in October 1973, with her actions and the larger U.S. Navy picture being described in Elmo Zumwalt's book On Watch. 
In 1974, she won the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award for the Atlantic Fleet.
On 20 June 1975 John F. Kennedy was the target of arson, suffering eight fires, with no injuries, while at port in Norfolk, Virginia. 
On 22 November 1975, John F. Kennedy collided with the cruiser Belknap, severely damaging the smaller ship. As a result of the collision with John F. Kennedy ' s overhanging deck, JP-5 fuel lines were ruptured spraying fuel over an adjacent catwalk, and fires ensued aboard both ships. Belknap ' s superstructure was gutted almost to the main deck, and seven of her crew killed. Aboard John F. Kennedy, smoke inhalation claimed the life of Yeoman 2nd Class David A. Chivalette of VF-14, CVW-1.
On 14 September 1976, while conducting a nighttime underway replenishment 100 miles (160 km) north of Scotland, the destroyer Bordelon lost control and collided with John F. Kennedy, resulting in such severe damage to the destroyer that she was removed from service in 1977. Earlier the same day, one F-14 Tomcat, following a problem with the catapult, fell off of the flight deck of John F. Kennedy, with AIM-54 Phoenix missiles in international waters, off the coast Scotland. Both crew members ejected and landed on the deck, injured but alive.  A naval race (surface and submarine) followed between the Soviet Navy and US Navy to get back not only the plane (because of its weapon system), but also its missiles. After a prolonged search, the US Navy fished up the plane and its missiles. [ citation needed ]
In 1979 John F. Kennedy underwent her first, yearlong overhaul, which was completed in 1980. [ citation needed ]
On 9 April 1979 she experienced five fires set by arson while undergoing overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Virginia. The fires killed one shipyard worker and injured 34 others. 
On 5 June 1979 John F. Kennedy was the target of two more fires at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Virginia. No one was injured in the incident. 
On August 4, 1980, John F. Kennedy left Norfolk, Virginia and voyaged to the Mediterranean Sea. 
On 4 January 1982, John F. Kennedy, with Carrier Air Wing Three (AC), sailed as the flagship for Carrier Group Four (CCG-4) from Norfolk, Va. on her ninth deployment, and her first visit to the Indian Ocean after port visits to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, Malaga, Spain, and transiting the Suez Canal. In her time in the Indian Ocean John F. Kennedy conducted her only port visit to Perth/Fremantle, Western Australia, anchoring in Gage Roads on 19 March 1982 for a R&R visit, departing on 25 March back to the Indian Ocean. During this time John F. Kennedy played host to the first visit of the Somali head of state. Her cruise ended with port visits to Mombasa, Kenya and Toulon, France, and another visit to Malaga, Spain before returning home on 14 July 1982.
In October 1983 John F. Kennedy was diverted to Beirut, Lebanon from her planned Indian Ocean deployment, after the Beirut barracks bombing killed 241 US military personnel taking part in the Multinational Force in Lebanon, and spent the rest of that year and early 1984 patrolling the region. On 4 December 1983 ten A-6 aircraft from John F. Kennedy along with A-6 and A-7 aircraft from USS Independence took part in a bombing raid over Beirut, in response to two US F-14 aircraft being fired upon the previous day. The Navy lost two aircraft during the raid: an A-7E from Independence and an A-6E from John F. Kennedy were shot down by SAMs. The A-7E pilot was picked up by a fishing boat, but the A-6E pilot Lt. Mark Lange died after ejecting and the B/N Lt. Robert "Bobby" Goodman was taken prisoner and released on 3 January 1984. 
In 1984 the ship was drydocked at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a one-and-a-half year complex overhaul and upgrades.
In 1985 John F. Kennedy received the initial awarding of the Department of Defense Phoenix Award for Maintenance Excellence for having the best maintenance department in the entire Department of Defense. 
Setting sail in July 1986, John F. Kennedy participated in the International Naval Review to help mark the Re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty. John F. Kennedy served as the flagship for the armada before departing on her eleventh overseas deployment to the Mediterranean in August – highlighted by multiple Freedom of Navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra, and operations off of the coast of Lebanon as a response to increasing terrorist activities and U.S. citizens being taken hostage in Beirut. The ship returned to Norfolk, Virginia in March 1987 and was dry-docked a second time for fifteen months for critical upgrades and major repairs.
In August 1988 John F. Kennedy departed on her twelfth overseas deployment. During this deployment, a pair of MiG-23 Flogger fighter aircraft from Libya approached the carrier task force, which was 81 miles (130 km) off the shore of Libya near the declared Libyan territorial waters of the Gulf of Sidra. John F. Kennedy launched two F-14 Tomcats from VF-32 "Fighting Swordsmen" to intercept the incoming MiGs. The U.S. planes were sent to escort the MiGs away from the task force. During the course of the intercept, the MiGs were determined to be hostile and were both shot down.
John F. Kennedy returned to the U.S. in time to participate in Fleet Week in New York and Independence Day celebrations in Boston, Massachusetts before receiving an "All-hands" recall on 10 August 1990, for Operation Desert Shield. The ship was empty of fuel, and ordnance and equipment as it was ready to join the yards for some SRA maintenance. Once the Warning order was issued, the ship went into 24-hour supplies replenishment procedures. She took on all the supplies and equipment she had just been offloading. She took on additional fuel and ordnance while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. She departed the United States combat ready faster than any ship had accomplished since the Vietnam War. She departed on 15 August 1990, and became the flagship for the commander of the Red Sea Battle Force. At midnight on 17 January 1991 John F. Kennedy ' s Carrier Air Wing 3 commenced the very first strike operations against Iraqi forces as part of Operation Desert Storm. Between the commencement of the operation and the cease-fire, John F. Kennedy launched 114 airstrikes and nearly 2,900 sorties against Iraq, which delivered over 3.5 million pounds of ordnance. On 27 February 1991 President George H. W. Bush declared a cease-fire in Iraq, and ordered all U.S. forces to stand down. John F. Kennedy was relieved, and began the long journey home by transiting the Suez Canal. She arrived in Norfolk on 28 March 1991.
While at Norfolk the ship was placed on a four-month selective restricted-availability period as shipyard workers carried out maintenance. Extensive repairs to the flight deck, maintenance and engineering systems were made. Additionally, the ship was refitted to handle the new F/A-18C/D Hornet.
With the upgrades completed, John F. Kennedy departed on her 14th deployment to the Mediterranean, assisting several task forces with workup exercises in anticipation of intervention in Yugoslavia. When John F. Kennedy returned she was sent to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where she underwent a two-year extensive overhaul. Upon completion of the overhaul the ship was transferred to the Mayport Naval Station near Jacksonville, Florida, which remained the ship's home port.
On 1 October 1995, John F. Kennedy was designated to be an operational reserve carrier and Naval Reserve Force ship with a combined full-time active duty and part-time Naval Reserve crew complement, assigned to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. John F. Kennedy would be available to deploy with either an active or reserve carrier air wing when mobilized in support of urgent operational requirements. In this capacity, John F. Kennedy ' s new primary function would be to provide a surge capability, and in peacetime, to support training requirements. She would participate in routine fleet exercises, aviator carrier qualifications, and battle group training.  The impetus for this initiative was post-Cold War defense spending in the mid-1990s, however, the Naval Reserve was never adequately funded to accomplish major maintenance actions for the John F. Kennedy, further exacerbated by additional defense cutbacks that eliminated Carrier Air Wing Reserve 30 and the downgrading of Carrier Air Wing Reserve 20 to a non-deployable Tactical Support Wing and the return of many of the Reserve's front-line combat aircraft to the active duty force. Following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, the Operational Reserve Carrier concept was discontinued and John F. Kennedy was returned to the active duty fleet and placed back in the same maintenance rotation as active duty carriers.
John F. Kennedy made a high-profile visit to Dublin, Ireland during an Atlantic deployment in 1996. Here, more than 10,000 people were invited to tour the ship at anchor in Dublin Bay. The visit was also intended to honor two personalities who had made a great impact on history: John F. Kennedy, for whom the ship was named, and Commodore John Barry, a native of County Wexford, Ireland who played an instrumental role in the early years of the United States Navy. Officers and crew from John F. Kennedy joined local military and civilian organizations in celebrating Barry's achievements at his statue in Crescent Quay, Wexford, and three F-14 Tomcat fighters flew at low level over the town. Jean Kennedy Smith, sister of John F. Kennedy, was the U.S. ambassador to Ireland at the time, and was among those who welcomed the ship to Ireland.
During her visit to Ireland, high winds in Dublin Bay caused the boarding pontoon to tear a large hole in John F. Kennedy ' s hull.
John F. Kennedy ' s 15th Mediterranean deployment included two transits of the Suez Canal, and four months deployed in the Persian Gulf. One night in the Gulf two Iranian F-14's were flying low altitude at high speed heading toward the ship. The AEGIS cruiser Vicksburg acquired the jets on radar and warned them to turn away, which they did. She returned in time to participate in Fleet Week '98 in New York City.
Shortly before John F. Kennedy ' s 16th deployment, she became involved in a rescue mission when the tug Gulf Majesty foundered during Hurricane Floyd in mid-September 1999. The ship successfully rescued the crew of the vessel, then headed toward the Middle East, where she became the first U.S. aircraft carrier to make a port call in Al Aqabah, Jordan, in the process playing host to the King of Jordan, before taking up station in support of Operation Southern Watch.
John F. Kennedy was the only conventionally powered U.S. carrier underway at the end of 1999, arriving back at Mayport on 19 March 2000. After a brief period of maintenance (Advanced combat direction system was installed), the carrier sailed north to participate in 4 July International Naval Review, then headed to Boston for Sail Boston 2000.  The City of Boston arranged this independent event to take advantage of the transit of Tall sailing ships participating in Operation Sail 2000 as they passed by from New London, Connecticut en route to their final port-of-call in Portland, Maine.
During John F. Kennedy ' s last round of refits the ship became a testbed for an experimental system for the Cooperative Engagement Capability, a system that allowed John F. Kennedy to engage targets beyond original range.
In 2001, during a pre-deployment trial, John F. Kennedy was found to be severely deficient in some respects, especially those relating to air group operations most problematic, two aircraft catapults and three aircraft elevators, which are used to lift aircraft from the hangar deck to and from the flight deck, were non-functional during inspection, and two boilers would not light. As a result, her captain and two department heads were relieved for cause.
As the 11 September attacks of 2001 unfolded, John F. Kennedy and her battle group were ordered to support Operation Noble Eagle, establishing air security along the mid-Atlantic seaboard, including Washington, D.C. John F. Kennedy was released from Noble Eagle on 14 September 2001. 
During the first six months of 2002, John F. Kennedy aircraft dropped 31,000 tons of ordnance on Taliban and al Qaeda targets in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 
In August 2002, John F. Kennedy visited the city of Tarragona in Spain. 
In July 2004 John F. Kennedy collided with a dhow in the Persian Gulf, leaving no survivors on the traditional Arab sailing boat.  After the incident the Navy relieved the commanding officer of John F. Kennedy. The carrier itself was unscathed, but two jet fighters on the deck were damaged when an F-14B Tomcat assigned to VF-103 slid into an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to VFA-81 damaging the wing of the F-14 as well as the upper section of the radome and forward windscreen of the F/A-18 as the ship made a hard turn to avoid the tiny vessel. A popular misconception is that John F. Kennedy ' s captain waited to make the turn at the last possible moment to recover aircraft critically low on fuel returning from airstrikes. The official review board determined this was not the case and the aircraft could have remained safely aloft until John F. Kennedy maneuvered to avoid the dhow. 
John F. Kennedy kept these medical struggles private
Every member of “the greatest generation” can tell you where they were on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese Air Force bombed Pearl Harbor. And every Baby Boomer has a similar clarity of mind when recalling the horrors of Nov. 22, 1963.
That, of course, was the day 56 years ago when Lee Harvey Oswald murdered President John F. Kennedy as his motorcade drove through the streets of Dallas. Yet it is only in the past few decades we have had a more thorough understanding of President Kennedy’s complex medical history.
To put it bluntly, long before he died at age 46, Kennedy was a very sick man.
As a child, Kennedy nearly died from scarlet fever and also had serious digestive problems — most likely spastic colitis or irritable bowel syndrome, which plagued him for the rest of his life. As a young man, he suffered from urinary tract infections, prostatitis, and a duodenal ulcer. Better known was his notorious spine and back problems that began while playing football in college. His lower back pain was so severe, he was initially rejected by the both U.S. Army and the Navy when he first volunteered for service in World War II.
Through his own tenacity and father’s connections, Kennedy joined the Naval Reserve and became an officer on a P.T. (patrol torpedo) boat. During a battle in the Solomon Islands, on Aug. 1, 1943, the ship was strafed in half by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. PT-109 quickly sank and two of the crew members died. Eleven others, including Kennedy, survived, floundering in the Pacific. A few of them were seriously injured. Along with the crew, Kennedy swam several miles to an island, towing one of the injured men by a life-vest strap. He then swam to other islands in search of fresh water and a U.S. vessel. Eventually, the men were rescued thanks in part to a distress signal Kennedy carved on a coconut shell.
The following year, 1944, Kennedy underwent the first of four unsuccessful back surgeries he had three more procedures between 1954 and 1957 while he was a U.S. senator. His spinal surgeries, which included fusions of the lumbar vertebrae and the placement of metal plates, were complicated by poor wound healing, painful abscesses, and osteomyelitis (an infection of the bone). He was so ill at a few points during this period that his Catholic priest administered last rites. During a long period of recuperation in 1956, he wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Profiles in Courage,” with the help of his eloquent speechwriter Theodore Sorenson.
Almost every day of Kennedy’s adult life, he experienced debilitating back pain, especially in the lumbar spine and the sacroiliac joints. Many times, his back was so stiff from pain and arthritis that he could not even bend over to tie his shoes. Few people who live free of this disability understand how badly it affects one’s life. Still, Kennedy soldiered on to make his indelible mark on the world — until his assassination.
Some physicians have argued that the rigid back brace he wore while sitting in the presidential limousine on Nov. 22, 1963, contributed to his death. After the first, non-fatal gunshot struck him, Kennedy was unable to bend down. Instead of crumpling to the bottom of the car, the stiff brace held him upright and he remained in Oswald’s gun sight so that the killer was able to shoot the president in the head.
Yet Kennedy’s most serious health issue was Addison’s disease. This is an insufficiency of the adrenal glands, the organs which produce the vital hormones that help control sodium, potassium, and glucose levels in the blood, and mediate the body’s reactions to stress. Addison’s disease patients often begin their illness by experiencing severe diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and low blood pressure. If left untreated, it is a life-threatening disease. Since the late 1930s, doctors have been able to manage this serious illness with the prescription of corticosteroids, which, according to his biographer Robert Dallek, Kennedy probably began taking in one form or another since at least 1947, when he was officially diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency. Some reports, however, claim he may have taken the medication earlier. The chronic use of steroids over his lifetime likely caused osteoporosis of various bones in his body, most notably his spine, where he suffered from three fractured vertebrae.
During his presidency, Kennedy was also treated with a slew of opiate pain killers, local anesthetic (lidocaine) shots for his back pain, tranquilizers such as Librium, amphetamines and stimulants, including Ritalin, thyroid hormones, barbiturate sleeping pills, gamma globulin to stave off infections, as well as the steroid hormones he needed to keep his adrenal insufficiency at bay. According to The New York Times, during the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962, the president was prescribed “antispasmodics to control colitis antibiotics for a urinary infection and increased amounts of hydrocortisone and testosterone along with salt tablets to control his adrenal insufficiency and boost his energy.”
In his 1965 book “A Thousand Days,” the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. described an interview with Kennedy in July of 1959, in which he asked the U.S. senator about the rumors of his having Addison’s disease. Kennedy, who was about to run for president, confidently told Schlesinger, “No one who has the real Addison’s disease should run for the presidency, but I do not have it.”
Here, Kennedy was being both a duplicitous politician and an astute historian of medicine. In 1855, Thomas Addison, the senior physician to London’s Guy’s Hospital, published his treatise, “On the Constitutional and Local Effects of Disease of the Suprarenal Capsules.” The adrenal insufficiency of the six patients he described in this publication was caused by a destructive and infectious tuberculosis of the adrenal glands. Kennedy had adrenal insufficiency of an unknown cause but he was not in any way, shape or form, infected with tuberculosis. So, technically, he did not have “real Addison’s disease.”
Such verbal flim-flam recalls a mordant observation often attributed to our 35th president: “Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don’t want them to become politicians in the process.”
Left: President John F. Kennedy. Photo by Gerald L French/Corbis via Getty Images
The idea for a national cultural center dates to 1933 when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt discussed ideas for the Emergency Relief and Civil Works Administration to create employment for unemployed actors during the Great Depression.  Congress held hearings in 1935 on plans to establish a Cabinet level Department of Science, Art and Literature, and to build a monumental theater and arts building on Capitol Hill near the Supreme Court building. A 1938 congressional resolution called for construction of a "public building which shall be known as the National Cultural Center" near Judiciary Square, but nothing materialized. 
The idea for a national theater resurfaced in 1950, when U.S. Representative Arthur George Klein of New York introduced a bill to authorize funds to plan and build a cultural center. The bill included provisions that the center would prohibit any discrimination of cast or audience. In 1955, the Stanford Research Institute was commissioned to select a site and provide design suggestions for the center.  From 1955 to 1958, Congress debated the idea amid much controversy. A bill was finally passed in Congress in the summer of 1958 and on September 4, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the National Cultural Center Act which provided momentum for the project. 
This was the first time that the federal government helped finance a structure dedicated to the performing arts. The legislation required a portion of the costs, estimated at $10–25 million, to be raised within five years of the bill's passage.  Edward Durell Stone was selected as architect for the project in June 1959.  He presented preliminary designs to the President's Music Committee in October 1959, along with estimated costs of $50 million, double the original estimates of $25–30 million. By November 1959, estimated costs had escalated to $61 million.  Despite this, Stone's design was well received in editorials in The Washington Post, Washington Star, and quickly approved by the United States Commission of Fine Arts, National Capital Planning Commission, and the National Park Service. 
The National Cultural Center was renamed the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1964, following the assassination of President Kennedy. 
The National Cultural Center Board of Trustees, a group President Eisenhower established January 29, 1959, led fundraising.  Fundraising efforts were not successful, with only $13,425 raised in the first three years.  President John F. Kennedy was interested in bringing culture to the nation's capital, and provided leadership and support for the project.  In 1961, President Kennedy asked Roger L. Stevens to help develop the National Cultural Center, and serve as chairman of the Board of Trustees. Stevens recruited First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy as Honorary Chairman of the Center, and former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower as co-chairman.  In January 1961, Jarold A. Kieffer became the first Executive Director of the National Cultural Center, overseeing numerous fundraising efforts and assisting with the architectural plan. 
The total cost of construction was $70 million.  Congress allocated $43 million for construction costs, including $23 million as an outright grant and the other $20 million in bonds.  Donations also comprised a significant portion of funding, including $5 million from the Ford Foundation, and approximately $500,000 from the Kennedy family.   Other major donors included J. Willard Marriott, Marjorie Merriweather Post, John D. Rockefeller III, and Robert W. Woodruff, as well as many corporate donors.  Foreign countries provided gifts to the Kennedy Center, including a gift of 3,700 tons of Carrara marble from Italy (worth $1.5 million) from the Italian government, which was used in the building's construction. 
President Lyndon B. Johnson dug the ceremonial first-shovel of earth at the groundbreaking for the Kennedy Center December 2, 1964.  However, debate continued for another year over the Foggy Bottom site, with some advocating for another location on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Excavation of the site got underway on December 11, 1965, and the site was cleared by January 1967. 
The first performance was September 5, 1971, with 2,200 members of the general public in attendance to see a premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Mass in the Opera House,  while the Center's official opening took place September 8, 1971, with a formal gala and premiere performance of the Bernstein Mass.  The Concert Hall was inaugurated September 9, 1971, with a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Doráti.  Alberto Ginastera's opera, Beatrix Cenci premiered at the Kennedy Center Opera House September 10, 1971. The Eisenhower Theater was inaugurated October 18, 1971, with a performance of A Doll's House starring Claire Bloom. 
Architect Edward Durell Stone designed the Kennedy Center.  Overall, the building is 100 feet (30 m) high, 630 feet (190 m) long, and 300 feet (91 m) wide. The Kennedy Center features a 630-foot-long (190 m), 63-foot-high (19 m) grand foyer, with 16 hand-blown Orrefors crystal chandeliers (a gift from Sweden) and red carpeting. The Hall of States and the Hall of Nations are both 250-foot-long (76 m), 63-foot-high (19 m) corridors. The building has drawn criticism about its location (far away from Washington Metro stops), and for its scale and form,  although it has also drawn praise for its acoustics, and its terrace overlooking the Potomac River.  In her book On Architecture, Ada Louise Huxtable called it "gemütlich Speer." 
Cyril M. Harris designed the Kennedy Center's auditoriums and their acoustics.  A key consideration is that many aircraft fly along the Potomac River and overhead the Kennedy Center, as they take off and land at the nearby Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Helicopter traffic over the Kennedy Center is also fairly high. To keep out this noise, the Kennedy Center was designed as a box within a box, giving each auditorium an extra outer shell. 
After the original structure was marked for expansion, a competition in 2013 selected Steven Holl Architects to undertake the design. 
The plaza entrance of the Kennedy Center features two tableaus by German sculptor Jürgen Weber created between 1965 and 1971, which were a gift to the Kennedy Center from the West German government. Near the north end of the plaza is a display of nude figures in scenes representing war and peace, called War or Peace. The piece, 8 ft × 50 ft × 1.5 ft (2.44 m × 15.24 m × 0.46 m), depicts five scenes showing the symbolism of war and peace: a war scene, murder, family, and creativity.  At the south end is America which represents Weber's image of America (8 × 50 × 1.5 ft.). Four scenes are depicted representing threats to liberty, technology, foreign aid and survival, and free speech.  It took the artist four years to sculpt the two reliefs in plaster, creating 200 castings, and another two years for the foundry in Berlin to cast the pieces. In 1994, the Smithsonian Institution's Save Outdoor Sculpture! program surveyed War or Peace and America and described them as being well maintained.   Another sculpture Don Quixote by Aurelio Teno occupies a site near the northeast corner of the building. King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain gave the sculpture to the United States for its Bicentennial, June 3, 1976. 
The Kennedy Center has three main theaters: the Concert Hall, the Opera House, and the Eisenhower Theater.
Concert Hall Edit
The Concert Hall, located at the south end of the Center, seats 2,442 including chorister seats and stage boxes, and has a seating arrangement similar to that used in many European halls such as Musikverein in Vienna. The Concert Hall is the largest performance space in the Kennedy Center and is the home of the National Symphony Orchestra. A 1997 renovation brought a high-tech acoustical canopy, handicap-accessible locations on every level, and new seating sections (onstage boxes, chorister seats, and parterre seats). The Hadeland crystal chandeliers, given by the Norwegian Crown, were repositioned to provide a clearer view.  Canadian organbuilder Casavant Frères constructed and installed a new pipe organ in 2012. 
Opera House Edit
The Opera House, in the middle, has about 2,300 seats. Its interior features include walls covered in red velvet, a distinctive red and gold silk curtain, given by the Japanese government, and Lobmeyr crystal chandelier with matching pendants, which were a gift from the government of Austria.  It is the major opera, ballet, and large-scale musical venue of the Center, and closed during the 2003/2004 season for extensive renovations which provided a revised seating arrangement and redesigned entrances at the orchestra level. It is the home of the Washington National Opera and the annual Kennedy Center Honors.
Eisenhower Theater Edit
The Eisenhower Theater, on the north side, seats about 1,163 and is named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who signed the National Cultural Center Act into law on September 2, 1958. It primarily hosts plays and musicals, smaller-scale operas, ballet and contemporary dance. The theater contains an orchestra pit for up to 35 musicians that is convertible to a forestage or additional seating space. The venue reopened in October 2008, following a 16-month renovation which altered the color scheme and seating arrangements.
Other performance venues Edit
Other performance venues in the Center include:
- The Family Theater, with 324 seats, opened December 9, 2005. It replaced the former American Film Institute Theater located adjacent to the Hall of States. Designed by the architectural firm Richter Cornbrooks Gribble, Inc. of Baltimore, the new theater incorporates a computerized rigging system and a digital video projection system.
- The Terrace Theater, with 513 seats, was constructed on the roof terrace level in the late 1970s as a Bicentennial gift from the people of Japan to the United States. It is used for chamber music, ballet and contemporary dance, and theater.
- The Theater Lab, with 399 seats, currently houses the whodunit Shear Madness which has been playing continuously since August 1987.
- The Millennium Stage. Part of the concept of "Performing Arts for Everyone" launched by then-Chairman James Johnson in the winter of 1997, the Millennium Stage provides free performances every evening at 6:00 pm on two specially created stages at either end of the Grand Foyer. A broad range of art forms are featured on the Millennium Stage. These include performing artists and groups from all 50 states and an Artist-in-Residence program featuring artists performing several evenings in a month. Every show on the Millennium Stage is available as a simulcast of the live show at 6:00 pm, and is archived for later viewing via the Kennedy Center's website.
- The Terrace Gallery. On March 12, 2003, the space formerly known as the Education Resource Center was officially designated the Terrace Gallery. It is now home to the Kennedy Center Jazz Club.
River and rooftop terraces Edit
The Kennedy Center offers one of the few open-air rooftop terraces in Washington, D.C. it is free of charge to the public from 10:00 a.m. until midnight each day, except when closed for private events. The wide terrace provides views in all four directions overlooking the Rosslyn skyline in Arlington, Virginia, to the West the Potomac River and National Airport to the South the Washington Harbor and the Watergate Complex to the North and the Lincoln Memorial, Department of State buildings, George Washington University and the Saudi Embassy to the East.
World premiere performances of Kennedy Center-commissioned works have been offered through a commissioning program for new ballet and dance works. These works have been created by America's foremost choreographers—Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch, and Merce Cunningham—for leading American dance companies including American Ballet Theatre, Ballet West, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet. The Kennedy Center formerly supported and produced the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in performances at the Center and on extended tours.
The Center sponsors two annual dance residency programs for young people Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell and the Dance Theatre of Harlem Residency Program, both now in their second decade. The Kennedy Center's Contemporary Dance series offers a wide range of artistic perspectives, from the foremost masters of the genre to the art form's newest and most exciting artists. In the 2008/2009 series, the Kennedy Center recognized Modern Masters of American Dance, bringing Martha Graham Dance Company, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Limón Dance Company, Mark Morris Dance Group, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Paul Taylor Dance Company.
In recent years the Kennedy Center has dramatically expanded its education programs to reach young people, teachers, and families throughout the nation. The 2005 opening of the Family Theater has helped achieve this.
Performances for Young Audiences Edit
The 2008–2009 season programming for Performances for Young Audiences reached more than 100 performances for young people and their families and over 110 performances for school audiences. The season included four Kennedy Center-commissioned world premieres: The Trumpet of the Swan, a musical adapted by Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman from the book by E.B. White with music by Jason Robert Brown Mermaids, Monsters, and the World Painted Purple, a new play by Marco Ramirez Unleashed! The Secret Lives of White House Pets, a new play by Allyson Currin in collaboration with the White House Historical Association and OMAN. O man!, a new dance production conceived and directed by Debbie Allen and is part of the Center's Arab festival, Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World. Theater for Young Audiences on Tour toured with two nationally touring productions of The Phantom Tollbooth and Blues Journey.
On June 8, 2016 it was announced that the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences-commissioned musical Elephant & Piggie's We are in a Play!, with book and lyrics by Mo Willems and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, will transfer to the Off-Broadway New Victory Theater in January 2017. 
National Symphony Orchestra Performances for Young Audiences
Members of the National Symphony Orchestra will continue to present Teddy Bear Concerts throughout its seasons. During these concerts, children aged three to five bring their favorite stuffed animal to interactive musical programs featuring members of the NSO. Members of the NSO present NSO Ensemble Concerts, connecting music with various school subjects such as science and math, Kinderkonzerts, introducing kids to orchestral instruments and classical composers, as well as NSO Family Concerts.
Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Edit
Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center's founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide which has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. The KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents. Since its establishment in 1969, KCACTF has reached more than 17.5 million theatergoing students and teachers nationwide.
Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) Edit
The Kennedy Center's CETA program's mission is make the arts a critical component in every child's education. CETA, which stands for Changing Education Through the Arts, creates professional development opportunities for teachers and school administrators. Each year over 700 teachers participate in approximately 60 courses that focus on ways to integrate the arts into their teaching.  The Kennedy Center's CETA program also partners with sixteen schools in the Washington DC Metro area to develop long-range plan for arts integration at their school. Two of these schools, Kensington Parkwood Elementary School in Kensington, MD and Woodburn Elementary School for the Fine and Communicative Arts in Falls Church, Virginia serve as Research and Development schools for CETA.
Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell (EBSF) Edit
Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell is a three-week summer ballet intensive for international pre-professional ballerinas ages 14–18. Suzanne Farrell, one of the most revered ballerinas of the 20th century, has been hosting this Balanchine-inspired intensive at the Kennedy Center since 1993.   During their three weeks in Washington, D.C., Farrell's students practice technique and choreography during twice daily classes, six days per week. Outside of the classroom, excursions, activities and performance events are planned for EBSF students to fully immerse themselves in the culture of the nation's capital. 
The Kennedy Center presents festivals celebrating cities, countries, and regions of the world. The festivals are filled with a wide range of performing arts, visual arts, cuisine, and multi-media. In 2008, the Center presented an exploration of the culture of Japan entitled Japan! culture + hyperculture. The 2009 Arab festival was an unprecedented exploration of the culture of the 22 Arab countries in the League of Arab States, titled Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World. In 2011, the Kennedy Center presented maximum INDIA, a three-week-long celebration of the arts and culture of the sub-continent.
Since its establishment in September 1971, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has showcased jazz in solo, various ensembles, and big band settings. In 1994, the Kennedy Center appointed Dr. Billy Taylor as Artistic Advisor for Jazz, and his first installation was his own radio show Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center. Featuring his trio and guest artists in performance and discussion, the series ran for seven seasons on NPR. Since Taylor's appointment in 1994, the Center has initiated numerous performance programs to promote jazz on a national stage, featuring leading international artists and rising stars, including: the Art Tatum Piano Panorama, named after Dr. Taylor's mentor the Louis Armstrong Legacy, highlighting vocalists the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, the first festival by a major institution promoting outstanding female jazz artists Beyond Category, featuring artists whose work transcends genre the Platinum Series, with internationally acclaimed headliners Jazz Ambassadors with the United States Department of State, sending musicians on worldwide goodwill tours (1998–2004) the KC Jazz Club, a highly praised intimate setting and Discovery Artists in the KC Jazz Club, highlighting up-and-coming talent. Kennedy Center and NPR annually collaborated on the beloved holiday broadcast 'NPR's Piano Jazz Christmas', until the retirement of host Marian McPartland, and hence the show, in 2011. Since 2003, the Center's jazz programs have been regularly broadcast on NPR's JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater. Recent highlights, produced by the Center, have included Great Vibes, A Salute to Lionel Hampton (1995) Billy Taylor's 80th Birthday Celebration (2002) Nancy Wilson, A Career Celebration (2003) Michel Legrand with Patti Austin, part of the Center's Festival of France (2004) A Tribute to Shirley Horn (2004) James Moody's 80th Birthday (2005) and Benny Golson at 80 (2009). In March 2007, the Center hosted a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, Jazz in Our Time, which bestowed the Center's Living Jazz Legend Award to over 30 revered artists. During Dr. Taylor's tenure, the Center has created recognized educational initiatives, including national jazz satellite distance-learning programs adult lecture series master classes and workshops with national artists and local metropolitan Washington, D.C. students and Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead—continuing the singer's legacy of identifying outstanding young talent. In 2015, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett performed there as part of their Cheek to Cheek Tour.
National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Edit
The National Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center's artistic affiliate since 1987, has commissioned dozens of new works, among them Stephen Albert's RiverRun, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Music Morton Gould's Stringmusic, also a Pulitzer Prize-winner William Bolcom's Sixth Symphony, Roger Reynolds's george WASHINGTON, and Michael Daugherty's UFO, a concerto for solo percussion and orchestra.
In addition to its regular season concerts, the National Symphony Orchestra presents outreach, education, and pops programs, as well as concerts at Wolf Trap each year. The annual American Residencies for the Kennedy Center is a program unique to the National Symphony Orchestra and the Center. The Center sends the Orchestra to a different state each year for an intensive period of performances and teaching encompassing full orchestral, chamber, and solo concerts, master classes and other teaching sessions. The Orchestra has given these residencies in 20 states so far: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, North and South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Nevada, and Wyoming/Montana.
The NSO recording of John Corigliano's Of Rage and Remembrance won a Grammy Award in 1996.
Performing Arts for Everyone (PAFE) Edit
The Kennedy Center is the only U.S. institution that presents a free performance 365 days a year, daily at 6pm (12 noon on December 24). The Millennium Stage, created as part of the Center's Performing Arts for Everyone initiative in 1997 and underwritten by James A. Johnson and Maxine Isaacs, features a broad spectrum of performing arts, from dance and jazz, to chamber music and folk, comedy, storytelling and theater. In the past twelve years, over three million people have attended Millennium Stage performances. The Millennium Stage has presented more than 42,000 artists, which includes over 4,000 international artists from more than 70 countries performers representing all 50 states and 20,000 Washington-area ensembles and solo artists. The Charlie Byrd Trio and the Billy Taylor Trio were the first artists to delight audiences with a free performance on March 1, 1997. In 1999, the Center began web-casting each night's live performance, and continues to archive and maintain each event in a database of over 3,000 performances which may be accessed via the Center's website. Performing Arts for Everyone initiatives also include low- and no-cost tickets available to performances on every stage of the Kennedy Center, and several outreach programs designed to increase access to Kennedy Center tickets and performances.
The Conservatory Project Edit
An initiative of the Millennium Stage, the Conservatory Project is a semi-annual event occurring in February and May that is designed to present the best young musical artists in classical, jazz, musical theater, and opera from leading undergraduate and graduate conservatories, colleges and universities.
Artist Residencies Edit
The Kennedy Center hosts residencies for artists to collaborate with the Center's performing ensembles, programmers, and community initiatives. The Center holds positions for Composer-in-Residence, Education Artist-in-Residence, and Culture Artist-in-Residence. The current artists-in-residence are The Roots, author Jacqueline Woodson, composer Carlos Simon, and pianist Robert Glasper. 
The Center has co-produced more than 300 new works of theater over the past 43 years, including Tony-winning shows ranging from Annie in 1977 to A Few Good Men, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The King and I, Titanic, and the American premiere of Les Misérables. The Center also produced the Sondheim Celebration (six Stephen Sondheim musicals) in 2002, Tennessee Williams Explored (three of Tennessee Williams' classic plays) in 2004, Mame starring Christine Baranski in 2006, Carnival! in 2007, August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle (Wilson's complete ten-play cycle performed as fully staged readings) and Broadway: Three Generations both in 2008, and a new production of Ragtime in 2009. The Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays has provided critical support in the development of 135 new theatrical works. In 2011, a new production of Follies starring Bernadette Peters opened at the Eisenhower Theater, and transferred to Broadway that fall. [ needs update ]
Kennedy Center Honors Edit
Since 1978, the Kennedy Center Honors have been awarded annually by the Center's Board of Trustees. Each year, five artists or groups are honored for their lifetime contributions to American culture and the performing arts, including dance, music, theater, opera, film, and television.  The Center has awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor since 1998.
Local performing arts organizations Edit
Many local arts organizations present (or have presented) their work at the Kennedy Center. Some of these include:
Other events Edit
During the American Bicentennial, the Kennedy Center hosted numerous special events throughout 1976, including six commissioned plays.  The center hosted free performances by groups from each state.  In December 1976, Mikhail Baryshnikov's version of The Nutcracker ballet played for two weeks. 
The Kennedy Center also hosts special inauguration events and galas.
In 1977, the Opera House hosted George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra with Rex Harrison and Elizabeth Ashley.  The American Ballet Theatre has also frequently performed at the Kennedy Center.  The troupe's 2004 production of Swan Lake, choreographed by Kevin McKenzie, was taped there, shown on PBS in June 2005, and released on DVD shortly after.
Productions of The Lion King and Trevor Nunn's production of My Fair Lady (choreographed by Matthew Bourne) were presented in the 2007–2008 season, to name a few. 
The Kennedy Center stages free daily performances on its Millennium Stage in the Grand Foyer. Featured on the Millennium Stage are a range of art forms, including performing artists and groups.
The two theaters of The Millennium Stage are equipped with lights, sound systems, and cameras. Every free event performed at this stage is recorded and archived on the Kennedy Center's website. These archives have been available to the public for free since 2009. 
VSA (formerly VSA arts) is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1974 by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to create a society where people with disabilities learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts. VSA provides educators, parents, and artists with resources and the tools to support arts programming in schools and communities. VSA showcases the accomplishments of artists with disabilities and promotes increased access to the arts for people with disabilities. Each year 7 million people participate in VSA programs through a nationwide network of affiliates and in 54 countries around the world. Affiliated with the Kennedy Center since 2005, VSA was officially merged into the organization in 2011 to become part of the Center's Department of VSA and Accessibility.
On June 16, 1971, Congress authorized appropriations for one year to the Board of Trustees for operating and maintenance expenses. In following years, the appropriations were provided to the National Park Service for operations, maintenance, security, safety and other functions not directly related to the performing arts activities.  The National Park Service and the Kennedy Center signed a cooperative agreement requiring each party to pay a portion of the operating and maintenance costs based on what proportion of time the building was to be used for performing arts functions. The agreement did not specify who was responsible for long-term capital improvement projects at the Kennedy Center, along with only periodic funding by Congress for one-time projects. 
In fiscal years 1991 and 1992, Congress recommended that $27.7 million be allocated for capital improvement projects at the Center, including $12 million for structural repairs to the garage and $15.7 million for structural and mechanical repairs, as well as projects for improving handicapped access.  In 1994, Congress gave full responsibility to the Kennedy Center for capital improvement projects and facility management.  From 1995 to 2005, over $200 million of federal funds were allocated to the Kennedy Center for long-term capital projects, repairs, and to bring the center into compliance with modern fire safety and accessibility codes.  Improvements included renovation of the Concert Hall, Opera House, plaza-level public spaces, and a new fire alarm system.  The renovations projects were completed 13 to 50 percent over budget, due to modifications of plans during the renovations resulting in overtime and other penalties.  Renovations to the Eisenhower Theater were completed in 2008. 
The Center is currently engaged in a 60,000 square feet (5,600 m 2 ) expansion project on four acres in the Center's South Plaza. The project will add classroom, rehearsal, and performance space and includes construction of three pavilions (the Welcome Pavilion, the Skylight Pavilion, and the River Pavilion), reflecting pool, a tree grove, a sloping lawn to be used for outdoor performances, and a pedestrian bridge over Rock Creek Parkway.   The architect is Steven Holl,  with assistance from architectural firm BNIM.  Edmund Hollander Landscape Architects is the landscape architect. 
Plans for the project began after David M. Rubenstein donated $50 million to the center.  A groundbreaking ceremony took place in December 2014. Originally estimated to cost $100 million, the cost of the project grew to $175 million, and design changes and a major D.C. sewer project significantly delayed construction. The opening of the expansion is set for September 2019.  The fundraising goal for the new Reach arts center grew to $250 million  as the project progressed, and the target was achieved just two days before opening.
Prior to 1980, daily operations of the Kennedy Center were overseen by the chairman of the board of directors, and by the board itself. Aspects of the center's programming and operations were overseen by various other people. George London was the Kennedy Center's first executive director (often called "artistic director" by the press, although that was not the formal title), serving from 1968 to 1970,  while William McCormick Blair, Jr. was its first administrative director.  Julius Rudel took over as music director in 1971.  In 1972, Martin Feinstein replaced London and held the position of artistic director until 1980.  Marta Casals Istomin was named the first female artistic director in 1980, a position she held until 1990  she was also the first person to be formally invested with that title.  
In 1991, the board created the position of chief operating officer to remove the day-to-day operations of the Kennedy center from the chairman and board. Lawrence Wilker was hired to fill the position, which later was retitled president.  The artistic director continued to oversee artistic programming, under the president's direction.
Michael Kaiser became president of the Kennedy Center in 2001. He left the organization when his contract expired in September 2014.  
In September 2014, Deborah F. Rutter became its third president she is the first woman to hold that post. Rutter had previously been president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, a position she held from 2003. 
Board of Trustees Edit
The Kennedy Center Board of Trustees, formally known as the Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, maintains and administers the Center and its site. David M. Rubenstein is the chairman of the board.
The honorary chair members of the board are the First Lady and her living predecessors. Members of the board are specified by 20 USC 76h and include ex officio members such as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Librarian of Congress, the Secretary of State (substituting for the Director of the United States Information Agency after that agency was abolished), the Chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, the Superintendent of Schools of the District of Columbia, the Director of the National Park Service, the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, as well as 36 general trustees appointed by the President of the United States for six-year terms. 
John F. Kennedy and the TVA - HISTORY
(CVA-67: dp. 75,000 1. 1046' b. 129'4" ew. 249' dr. 3517" s. 30 k. cpl. . 3,297 cl. Kitty Hawk)
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 in May 1967 in ceremonies held at Newport News, Virginia the ship subsequently entered naval service on September 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 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, making it an all-purpose, multi-mission aircraft carrier.
KENNEDY's maiden voyage was to the Mediterranean sea. She subsequently made another seven deployments to this area of the world through the '70s in response to a deteriorating situation in the Middle East. The ship's fourth Mediterranean cruise included her first visit to a North Atlantic port, Edinburgh, Scotland.
By the mid-'70s, KENNEDY had been upgraded to handle both the F-14 "Tomcat" and the S-3 "Viking." KENNEDY underwent her first year-long major overhaul in 1979. The ship's ninth deployment, in 1981, was her first to the Indian Ocean. KENNEDY transitted 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 "E" efficiency award and fourth Golden Anchor retention award. In 1983, as a result of growing crisis in Beirut, Lebanon, KENNEDY was called upon once again to support efforts that 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 RADM 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 the 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 was also awarded the inaugural Department of Defense Phoenix Award, signifying a level of maintenance excellence above all other 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 in August 1986 and returned in March 1987.
KENNEDY departed Norfolk, Virginia, for her 12th major deployment to the Mediterranean in August 1988. On January 4, 1989, while conducting routine operations in international waters, F-14s TOMCATs from the embarked air wing shot down two Libyan MIG-23s that were approaching the battlegroup in a hostile manner.
After spending the first half of 1990 participating in a variety of exercises, KENNEDY paid visits to New York for Fleet Week '90 and Boston for the Fourth of July. In August, with just four days notice, KENNEDY deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield.
KENNEDY entered the Red Sea in September 1990 and became the flagship of the Commander, Red Sea Battle Force. On January 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 and outpouring of public support since World War II.
KENNEDY then entered a four-month shipyard restricted availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The ship departed the shipyard at the end September with extensive repairs and maintenance accomplished on engineering systems, flight deck systems and equipment. Additionally, the ship was ready to handle F/A-18 HORNET aircraft to replace the A-7E CORSAIR IIs that had flown on their last deployment from the deck of KENNEDY.
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 December 8, 1992, KENNEDY passed a milestone by making its 250,000 trap of an aircraft.
USS JOHN F. KENNEDY completed a two-year comprehensive overhaul in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on September 13, 1995. Following the overhaul, KENNEDY moved to its new homeport at the Mayport Naval Station in Mayport, Florida.
KENNEDY departed Mayport in April 1997 for its 15th deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and returned to Mayport in late October 1997.
After their return, KENNEDY entered a three-month ship's restricted availability at Naval Station Mayport is February 1998 for many upgrades. In April 1998, after extensive repairs and maintenance, KENNEDY got underway for several at-sea periods for carrier qualifications, weapons onload and offload training, student pilot and general shipboard damage control training. KENNEDY also participated in the week long Fleet Week '98 activities, strengthening the Navy's relationship with New York City residents.
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 way.
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. Secretary of the Navy, Gordon England, recognized Kennedy Battle Group members for their participation in the test and evaluation of CEC January 2002 with a Meritorious Unit Citation.
Kennedy's 17th deployment was accelerated by three weeks in response to terrorist attacks on America Kennedy deployed Feb. 7, 2002 to the North Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During Kennedy’s four months in the North Arabian Sea, their air wing, CVW 7, dropped more than 64,000 pounds of ordnance on Taliban and al Qaeda targets. Kennedy’s air wing flew day- and night-missions over Afghanistan, supporting American and coalition Forces on the ground with close air support. In early April, Kennedy became the only aircraft carrier operating in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Big John returned in mid-August, after more than six months away from homeport. The ship continues to support, serving as the east coast platform for carrier qualifications and will begin an extensive maintenance period in 2003.
John F. Kennedy’s Warning to the Republic
A Cold War thriller imagined the United States caught in the midst of a military coup. Surprisingly, it was endorsed by the president himself, who recognised its power as a cautionary tale.
Kirk Douglas in Seven Days in May, 1964.
I t marked a turning point in the Cold War: the president of the United States had just signed a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. The US military’s top brass were furious, having warned that the treaty endangered national security. But the president had signed it anyway. To the generals, that amounted to treason. They assembled a secret combat unit to topple the president. A coup d’état was coming the American Republic would fall.
The plot of the Hollywood film Seven Days in May (1964) is, of course, fiction. But its journey to the screen is historically significant, because the person who got the ball rolling on the production in 1962 was not a Hollywood mogul but someone with even more power: President John F. Kennedy.
JFK more than earned his reputation as a playboy. But he was also an avid reader, a habit formed during years of illness and forced bedrest. The president favoured history (he was a subscriber to History Today) and spy novels. When in 1962, midway through his tenure, he received the galleys of a new thriller about a military takeover of the US government he read it eagerly.
The pulpy novel, written by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey, was partly inspired by events in Kennedy’s presidency. Knebel and Bailey were seasoned political reporters. They began writing Seven Days in May after interviewing General Curtis LeMay in the wake of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, when the US landed anti-communist rebels in Cuba to depose Castro. LeMay blamed JFK for aborting the operation too early, accusing him of ‘cowardice’. The more Knebel and Bailey investigated, the more they realised that the military establishment and the intelligence community despised Kennedy.
President Kennedy with Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay and Commanders-in-Chief of The Strategic Air Command General Thomas S. Power, 7 March 1962.
The feeling was mutual. After the Bay of Pigs, JFK publicly assumed responsibility for the debacle. Privately, however, he was furious, swearing from then on ‘never to rely on the experts’ and ‘to watch the generals’. Soon, an event would put this resolution to the test: the Cuban missile crisis. For 13 days in October 1962, the US and the Soviet Union were locked in a standoff over the latter’s deployment of missiles in Cuba. The stakes were gigantic: nuclear war might erupt any second. The generals urged Kennedy to bomb Cuba. Reluctant to trigger a Third World War, he instead ordered a naval blockade of the island. Raging, LeMay told the president ‘that was almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich’.
Yet Kennedy stayed the course, successfully negotiating a diplomatic solution with the USSR. LeMay considered it to be ‘the greatest defeat in our history’. JFK’s opinion of the military decreased further. Their attitude during the crisis showed that they posed a threat to humanity’s survival. He told his inner circle ‘the military are mad’ and if ‘we do what they want us to do, none of us will be alive’. It didn’t take much for Knebel and Bailey to imagine a situation in which the army might foment a coup.
After reading Seven Days in May, Kennedy remarked ‘it could happen’ and some generals ‘might hanker to duplicate fiction’. The possibility of a coup – and the threat of his own assassination – was a leitmotiv in Kennedy’s conversations with friends. The president had a dark sense of humour and often joked about it. On one occasion, he called Chuck Spalding to announce he was writing a novel about a coup led by Vice President Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy would sporadically update Spalding: ‘I’ve just got the second chapter’, he once quipped, ‘Lyndon has me captured just as I hit the pool!’.
One summer at their Cape Cod retreat, Kennedy talked his wife, Jackie, into making a short film together. The theme was his assassination. The president was the star but the first lady took directing duties. She enlisted Secret Service agents as co-stars, explaining ‘we’re making a movie about the president’s murder’, directing them to ‘look desperate, like you heard shots’. The film’s eerie climax featured Kennedy collapsing as gunshots were fired at him, fake blood (perhaps tomato juice) spilling from his mouth. As historian Thurston Clarke comments, ‘the skit reflected … [Kennedy’s] rich but carefully concealed fantasy life’. It also reveals the president’s innermost fears and his way of coping with them.
Poster for Seven Days in May, directed by John Frankenheimer, 1964.
Kennedy thought Seven Days in May should become a movie. Arthur Schlesinger, a presidential adviser, said Kennedy wanted the film ‘made as a warning to the generals’. The president reached out to Hollywood contacts and learnt Kirk Douglas, the star and producer of Spartacus, wanted to adapt the novel for the screen. In reality, Douglas was on the fence. He liked the ‘risky’ material but had been advised by peers ‘to stay away from it’ for fear of offending the government. That changed when Kennedy accosted Douglas at a Washington banquet. ‘Do you intend to make a movie out of Seven Days in May?’, the president asked, before explaining why it would make ‘an excellent movie’.
Encouraged, Douglas bought the rights and asked John Frankenheimer, who had enjoyed recent success with the Cold War thriller The Manchurian Candidate, to direct. Frankenheimer agreed, sensing an opportunity to show ‘what a tremendous force the military/industrial complex is’. Pierre Salinger, the president’s press secretary, gave the director a tour of the White House for research purposes. He also explained that, for Kennedy, the film represented ‘a warning to the republic’. It was certainly a way of alerting public opinion and, as Schlesinger put it, ‘raise consciousness about the problems involved if the generals got out of control’.
Seven Days in May attracted an all-star cast: Burt Lancaster played the general behind the coup, Ava Gardner his lover, Fredric March the president and Kirk Douglas a military whistleblower. It was filmed over the summer of 1963. One scene was shot in front of the White House with Kennedy’s blessing. The Pentagon, however, denied the production filming permits since Frankenheimer would not submit the script for ‘consideration’, aware that the military authorities would demand changes. Yet the crew still managed to shoot there Frankenheimer hid a camera inside a van while Douglas, dressed as a colonel, strode incognito into the Pentagon, even saluting a guard on his way in.
President Kennedy signs the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, 7 October 1963.
During filming, real life imitated fiction. In July 1963 JFK announced that, like the fictional president in Seven Days in May, he had struck a nuclear deal with the Soviet Union. The Test Ban Treaty – the first arms control agreement of the Cold War era – outlawed most nuclear testing. It was seen, by both supporters and detractors, as opening a peace process with the Soviet Union. The British prime minister Alec Douglas-Home deemed it ‘the beginning of the end of the Cold War’. Although it was ratified by the US Senate in September 1963, Kennedy’s treaty was initially opposed by most of the military.
Seven Days in May was released in February 1964 and was well-received by audiences and critics. Variety magazine called it ‘realistic’ and ‘provocatively topical’. What did John Kennedy think of the film he had helped get made? He never saw it he had been assassinated three months earlier.
Theo Zenou is studying for a PhD on John F. Kennedy at the University of Cambridge.
John F Kennedy and the Solomon Islands
It has been over 100 years since the birth of one of the most unlikely figures to have marked the history of the Solomon Islands &ndash John F. Kennedy. Before becoming the United States&rsquo 35 th President, Lt. Kennedy made his mark as a hero during the WWII battles against the Japanese army in the Pacific.
WWII was in full swing in Europe, and the attack on Pearl Harbor had taken place in 1941. On 2 nd August 1943, at night time, Lt. Kennedy&rsquos crew patrolled the water in the Solomon Islands, when the much larger Japanese Destroyer Amagiri crashed into their boat, PT-109. The smaller US boat was split in half, and two of the crew were killed on collision, whilst Lt. Kennedy and another sailor were injured. Showing fearless bravery and comradery, Lt. Kennedy took the injured crewmate, tied him to the front of his life jacket, and swam to a nearby island.
For two days, the surviving men survived off coconuts, tended to their injuries and looked for help. Just as hope felt dim, help came in the shape of two Solomon Islanders in a canoe. At first, the two men in the canoe thought the soldiers were Japanese and paddled away, afraid for their lives. It is said Japanese soldiers used the locals as target practice. However, Lt. Kennedy and his shipmates realised they were close to a larger island and braved the ocean again, leading to their rescue. The local Solomon Islanders taught them to write a message on a coconut and risked their lives to deliver Lt. Kennedy&rsquos message to a US Navy base in the vicinity. The message read &ldquoNAURO ISL&hellipCOMMANDER&hellipNATIVE KNOWS POS&rsquoIT&hellipHE CAN PILOT&hellip11 ALIVE&hellipNEED SMALL BOAT&hellipKENNEDY&rdquo. When he became President, JFK used that same coconut as a paperweight in the Oval Office at the White House.
On 8 th August, Lt. Kennedy and his crew men from the PT-109 were rescued. John F Kennedy never forgot the bravery and selflessness of the Solomon Island people, even inviting his two rescuers to his inauguration as President of the United States.
In turn, Solomon Islands named one of its islands after the US President. Kennedy Island is situated 15 minutes by boat from Gizo, the provincial capital of the Solomon Islands' Western Province. The island is currently uninhabited but was the stage of Kennedy&rsquos dramatic WWII bravery. It houses a shrine built for Lt. Kennedy by one of the Solomon Islanders who aided in his rescue, Eroni Kumana.
Kennedy Island is also a well-loved local tourist attraction, popular with wreckage diving enthusiasts, as well as history buffs interested in WWII.
Over 100 years from JFK&rsquos birth, you can follow in the footsteps of history. Retrace Kennedy&rsquos voyage in the Solomon Islands, take in the local culture and see the WWII relics first hand. Fly to Honiara from Brisbane every week, visit Kennedy Island and create your own story.