Thursday, July 25, 2013


July 25, 2013


Hull, Massachusetts (JFK+50) Mr. and Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy announced the birth 98 years ago today, July 25, 1915, of their first child named Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr.*

Joe Junior was delivered by Kennedy family doctor Frederick L. Good in a rented cottage on Atlantic Avenue in Nantasket**.

                  Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.
             John F. Kennedy Library Photo

Having graduated from Harvard in 1938, Joe Jr. became a naval aviator in WWII.  Joe Jr. was said to be...

"such a courageous and skilled flier that even after completing his designated number of missions...volunteered to fly bombing runs during the D Day invasion."

One of his mechanics who worked with Joe, Jr. for more than 2 years, Alvin Jones, Jr. later recalled...

"Kennedy was such a good pilot that we would have flown with him anywhere."

Joe was scheduled to return home on leave, but instead volunteered for a special assignment known as Operation Aphrodite^.

^One source says Operation Aphrodite was "a complete disaster."  Out of more than a dozen missions attempted, only one target was damaged.

The target was to be the Nazi fortress in northern France known as Mimoyecques***, a V-3 Supergun site designed by Hitler's architect Albert Speer.

                      Map by Prioryman 

The installation, when completed, would house 25 cannons, each 420 feet in length.  They were designed to reach London 95 miles away.

Joe, Jr. and co-pilot/radio control technician, Lt. Wilford John Willy, took off from the RAF station at Fersfield at 5:59 p.m. on August 12, 1944 in a B-24 Liberator PB4Y loaded with 21,150 pounds of Torpex**** explosives packaged in 347 boxes.

                    B24 Liberator Bomber
                             USAF Photo

The B-24, accompanied by 2 Ventura "mother ships," 4 Mustangs, 1 B-17 and 2 Mosquitoes, reached and maintained a cruising altitude of 2000 feet while the other planes climbed to 20,000 feet.

Joe Jr.'s aircraft became a drone as one of the mother ships flew it by remote control.  

The purpose of the B-24's pilot and co-pilot was to complete take off and position the plane for remote-control flying and then parachute out into the English Channel to be picked up by the Navy.

After the B-24 was in position at 2000 feet, Joe Jr. radioed the code words "ZOOT SUIT" which meant everything was o.k.

Lt. Willy then switched on the TV camera in the nose of the B-24 which was to guide the drone into the target, but 2 minutes later the drone exploded.

The remains of Joe Jr. and Lt. Willy were never found, and the wreckage of the B-24 was scattered over an area 3 miles x 2 miles.

The details of the secret mission were not revealed publicly until 1966.

An investigation revealed the cause of the explosion was a failure to provide electrical shielding which allowed electromagnetic emissions to open a relay solenoid which in turn set off a MK9 detonator.

Joe Jr.'s death hit the Kennedy family really hard, but especially father Joe, Sr. who reportedly locked himself in his bedroom for days and weeks to come. Before going on the mission, Joe Jr. had reportedly told a friend that if something happened to him... "tell my father I love him very much."

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., 29 years old at the time of his death, was awarded posthumously the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. 

In 1946, a destroyer was christened named the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. and the following year the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation was established.

In 1945, "As We Remember Joe," a book of remembrances for Kennedy family, friends and associates, was published.  The book included a forward by brother Jack along with his essay titled "My Brother Joe."

500 copies were to be published, although one source says that only 360 were actually produced.

It had been the hope and expectation of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald that Joe Jr. would become the first Catholic President of the United States.  

Joe's younger brother, Jack, however inherited that hope and expectation and the rest is history.


"Lt. Joe Kennedy," by Trevor Jermy, edited by Lester Curtis, Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum,

"Top Secret Drone Mission That Killed Joseph Kennedy, Jr." by Ed Grabianowski, February 21, 2013,

"What if Joseph Kennedy, Jr. had not died on WWII mission?," by Jagdtigerl,

*Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (1915-1944) graduated from Harvard in 1938.  He studied at the London School of Economics and was a delegate to the 1940 Democratic Convention.  Joe joined the US Navy earning his wings as a naval aviator in May 1942.  He completed 25 combat missions before volunteering for the one that took his life.

**Nantasket Beach, located in Hull, Massachusetts, is one of the busiest beaches in the Boston area.  Its name is derived from the Wampanoag word meaning "where the tides meet."  

                  Nantasket Beach (1910)

***The Fortress of Mimoyecques, located in northern France, was an underground Nazi military complex built in 1943 and 1944.  It was to house 25 V-3 cannons which could fire 600 rounds an hour at London.

The installation was partially destroyed by RAF bombers in July 1944 and demolished after the war.  Today the site is a privately owned museum.

         Captured V-3 Projectile (1946)
   US Army Military Historical Institute

****Torpex (Torpedo Explosive) was a secondary explosive developed in the UK during WWII which had 50% more power than TNT.  Torpex is said to be obsolete today.