Study Guide

John F. Kennedy Timeline

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May 29, 1917

Birth of John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy—known in his family as Jack—is born in Brookline, Massachusetts, a wealthy suburb of Boston. He is the second of Rose and Joseph Kennedy's nine children.

Dec 19, 2019

Scarlet Fever

Young Jack contracts scarlet fever just before his third birthday and is hospitalized for two months.

Dec 19, 2019

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.

Jun 1, 1940

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.

Oct 1, 1941

Navy Enlistment

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.

Mar 6, 1943

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.

Aug 2, 1943

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.

Aug 12, 1944

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.

Nov 1, 1946

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.

Dec 19, 2019

Addison's Disease

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.

May 13, 1948

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.

Jun 1, 1952

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.

Nov 1, 1952

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.

Sep 12, 1953

Marriage to Jackie Kennedy

John F. Kennedy marries Jacqueline Bouvier, a beautiful young journalist from a wealthy New England family.

Dec 19, 2019

Back Surgery

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.

Aug 1, 1956

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.

Dec 19, 2019

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.

Nov 27, 1957

Birth of Caroline Kennedy

Jack and Jackie's first child, Caroline Kennedy, is born in New York City.

Sep 26, 1960

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.

Nov 8, 1960

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.

Nov 25, 1960

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.

Jan 20, 1960

Kennedy Inaugural

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.

Mar 1, 1961

Peace Corps

John F. Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps by executive order.

Apr 17, 1961

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.

Sep 12, 1962

Mission to the Moon

Kennedy announces his goal of putting a man on the moon.

Oct 16, 1962

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.

Oct 28, 1962

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.

Jun 11, 1963

Civil Rights

In a televised address to the nation, Kennedy proposes the enactment of civil rights legislation, marking his first decisive action on civil rights.

Aug 5, 1963

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.

Aug 9, 1963

Death of Patrick Kennedy

Jack and Jackie's third child, Patrick, dies from a lung ailment only two days after his birth.

Nov 22, 1963

JFK Assassination

Lee Harvey Oswald shoots and kills John F. Kennedy in Dallas, where the president is campaigning for re-election.

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