John F. Kennedy Timeline
How It All Went Down
Birth of John F. Kennedy
Young Jack contracts scarlet fever just before his third birthday and is hospitalized for two months.
Choate Boarding School
Jack Kennedy begins high school at Choate, an elite boarding school in Connecticut. Despite his high intelligence and academic potential, Jack earns only mediocre grades.
Graduation from Harvard
John F. Kennedy graduates from Harvard with a degree in International Affairs. His senior thesis, a critique of Britain's preparedness for World War II, will later serve as the foundation for his first book, Why England Slept.
On the eve of America's entry into World War II, JFK enlists in the Navy. His older brother, Joe Jr., is already training to be a navy pilot.
Command of PT Boat
After an eight-week training course in Rhode Island, Kennedy is assigned to take command of a patrol boat stationed in the South Pacific. He sails west from San Francisco, but does not arrive at his final destination—the Solomon Islands—for another month and a half.
Sinking of PT 109
Kennedy's patrol boat, (PT 109, collides with a Japanese destroyer. Two of his men are killed instantly; the remaining crewmembers, including Kennedy himself, are severely injured. Jack orders all the men to abandon ship and leads them to shore on a nearby island.
Death of Brother Joe, Jr.
Joseph Kennedy, Jr., Jack's older brother, is killed while fighting in Europe. Jack, the second oldest Kennedy child, is now "next in line" for political leadership within the powerful Kennedy clan.
Election to Congress
With the help of his father's campaign financing, Jack is elected to the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts' 11th District.
At the age of 30, John F. Kennedy is diagnosed with Addison's disease, a potentially fatal disorder of the adrenal glands. In order to manage the illness, Jack is prescribed a strict regimen of medications.
Death of Sister Kathleen
Kennedy's sister, Kathleen, is killed in a plane crash. Her tragic death reminds Jack of his mortality and inspires him to pursue politics with greater fervor and dedication.
Bobby Kennedy Becomes Campaign Manager
Jack Kennedy's younger brother, Bobby, becomes his campaign manager in the 1952 Senate race, signaling the birth of an enduring political partnership between the two brothers.
Election to US Senate
Largely due to Bobby Kennedy's effective strategic planning in the campaign, John F. Kennedy is elected to the United States Senate. Joe Sr., Jack, and Bobby all consider the Senate seat to be a key step in Jack's political ascendancy.
Marriage to Jackie Kennedy
John F. Kennedy marries Jacqueline Bouvier, a beautiful young journalist from a wealthy New England family.
Jack undergoes risky back surgery to address his excruciating and constant back pain, a legacy of the injuries he suffered when PT 109 was sunk during World War II. During his recovery, he begins work on Profiles in Courage.
Failure to Win VP Nomination
At the Democratic National Convention, Jack unsuccessfully vies for the vice presidential spot on Adlai Stevenson's ticket. Another senator, Estes Kefauver, earns the VP nomination.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Kennedy gains a plum assignment to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, allowing him to gain valuable political experience and increase his prestige within Congress.
Birth of Caroline Kennedy
Jack and Jackie's first child, Caroline Kennedy, is born in New York City.
Kennedy-Nixon TV Debate
John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon participate in the first-ever televised presidential debate. The debate, which showcases Jack's youth and charm, marks a turning point in the campaign.
Kennedy Defeats Nixon in 1960 Election
John F. Kennedy is elected the 35th President of the United States, defeating his Republican opponent, Richard Nixon, by a slim margin of only 118,000 votes nationwide.
Birth of JFK, Jr.
Jack and Jackie's second child—and first son—is born. He is named John F. Kennedy, Jr., after his father.
JFK is sworn into the Presidency and delivers his inaugural address, a landmark speech in which he urges Americans to seek out opportunities to serve their country.
John F. Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps by executive order.
Bay of Pigs
Less than three months into JFK's presidency, a group of CIA-trained Cuban exiles attempts to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The Cuban army quickly thwarts their efforts, and the Kennedy-approved fiasco becomes a major embarrassment for the new president.
Mission to the Moon
Kennedy announces his goal of putting a man on the moon.
Cuban Missile Crisis
JFK is shown photos of Soviet nuclear missile sites being installed in Cuba. To minimize Soviet power in the West, the president initiates a blockade of Cuba the following week. For nearly two weeks, the Cuban Missile Crisis will bring the world closer to nuclear war than ever before or after.
Khrushchev Pulls Missiles Out of Cuba
After a week of extreme U.S.-Soviet tension, the Cuban Missile Crisis ends when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev finally agrees to remove the missiles from Cuba.
In a televised address to the nation, Kennedy proposes the enactment of civil rights legislation, marking his first decisive action on civil rights.
Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
U.S. and Soviet officials sign the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, agreeing not to test nuclear bombs in air, space, or water.
Death of Patrick Kennedy
Jack and Jackie's third child, Patrick, dies from a lung ailment only two days after his birth.
Lee Harvey Oswald shoots and kills John F. Kennedy in Dallas, where the president is campaigning for re-election.