Kennedy tributes are everywhere. They transcend Teddy Kennedy and include the entire Kennedy clan. Stories about the parents, wives, sons and daughters abound. But it is the brotherly triumvirate of Teddy, John and Bobby that captures our imaginations the most.
It is the brothers that the media covers and honors. One of many Kennedy specials being aired is a MSNBC special called ‘The Kennedy Brothers: A Hardball Documentary’. It’s indicative of the coverage and specials on the Kennedy brothers. The promotional picture is familiar:
Captivating pictures of the three brothers flood the news. The Kennedy brothers are remembered, revered and honored. The Kennedy brothers… minus one:
Sadly, history has forgotten Joseph Patrick Kennedy Junior, the eldest brother. It was Joseph who was the shining star, the graduate of Harvard University and the London School of Economics. He was Joe Senior’s prodigal son.
It was also Joseph who died a true American hero. Joseph quit Harvard Law School to join the Navy during the height of WWII. He completed twenty five combat missions as a fighter pilot and was eligible return home. Instead, he volunteered for an extremely dangerous bombing mission known as Operation Aphrodite. During that mission, he was shot down. His body was never recovered. Joseph won the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal posthumously. His story is an incredible story of duty and valor.
His Navy Cross citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism and courage in aerial flight as pilot of a United States Liberator bomber on August 12, 1944. Well knowing the extreme dangers involved and totally unconcerned for his own safety, Lieutenant Kennedy unhesitatingly volunteered to conduct an exceptionally hazardous and special operational mission. Intrepid and daring in his tactics and with unwavering confidence in the vital importance of his task, he willingly risked his life in the supreme measure of service and, by his great personal valor and fortitude in carrying out a perilous undertaking, sustained and enhanced the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Our new media and intellegentsia classes have forgotten Joseph. True military service and sacrifice is not revered, at least not nearly as much as political service and sacrifice. It is not service to country that matters. It is service to an ideological crusade that matters.
Maybe, Joseph was too old and taken too early to captivate the imaginations of the baby boomers. But that doesn’t change his ultimate sacrifice. His story is part of the Kennedy story. That he should become a footnote in that story is a shame.
I know a little bit about Joseph. In the city where I was born, there is an old battleship cove, where the lady USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. now rests. It was of the very few reminders of the forgotten brother. When I was younger I wondered why. I’ve since learned the unfortunate reasons.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy Junior, American hero, first lost and now forgotten.