Saturday, December 7, 2013


December 7, 2013


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) John F. Kennedy entered the United States Navy as an ensign in September 1941.  

JFK, fresh out of Officer Training School, was assigned, at the age of 24, to the Office of Naval Intelligence here in the Nation's Capital.

Sunday, December 7, 1941, Jack Kennedy had been enjoying one of his favorite pastimes, a pick up touch football game with his friend Lem Billings on the Mall close to the Washington Monument.

As the two young friends were returning to Jack's apartment on 16th Street, they heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor over their car radio.

Nigel Hamilton writes...

"(Lem) Billings was 'terribly excited.'  Thick, billowing smoke rose above the Japanese embassy on Massachusetts Avenue as guilty diplomats burned their papers.  Hundreds began to assemble outside the White House...wanting to know what would be the president's reaction."

USS Arizona 
Pearl Harbor
December 7, 1941
NARA Photo

John F. Kennedy could not have known then how much of an impact this event would have on his life and that of his family.  He would go on to serve in the South Pacific during the coming war and narrowly escape death on the PT109.

His older brother, Joseph P. "Joe" Kennedy Jr., who seemed destined to a political career, was killed while on a hazardous mission during the war.

Ralph G. Martin writes that JFK "had no romantic conception of war" and that "he saw it as an event of shattering waste and horror."

Mr. Martin quotes Jacqueline Kennedy as saying...

"The poignancy of young men dying haunted him."

As to the immediate impact of Pearl Harbor, Nigel Hamilton tells us that after FDR's 'Day of Infamy' address, the Office of Naval Intelligence immediately "moved into wartime gear," working "round the clock."

At war's end, JFK took Joe's place in politics and the rest is history.


"A Hero For Our Time:  An Intimate Story of the Kennedy Years," by Ralph G. Martin, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1983.

"Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero," by Chris Matthews, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2011.

"JFK, Reckless Youth," by Nigel Hamilton, Random House, New York, 1992.


Honolulu, Hawaii (JFK+50) At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time 72 years ago this morning, December 7, 1941, Oahu and the city of Honolulu came under attack by Japanese war planes.

Two waves composed of more than 350 Japanese aircraft participated in the raid in which 8 American battleships were severely damaged or destroyed.

Both Hickam and Wheeler Air Fields were attacked with an estimated two-thirds of US aircraft damaged or destroyed.

More than 2000 Americans, civilian and military, were killed with a thousand more wounded.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his address to a joint session of Congress on Monday, December 8, said...

"Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."


Honolulu, Hawaii (JFK+50) I reported for work immediately this morning when the first news - OAHU IS BEING ATTACKED -- crackled over the radio.  

I saw a formation of black planes diving straight into the ocean off Pearl Harbor.

The blue sky was punctured with...smoke.

I saw a rooftop fly into the air.

I was assigned to cover the emergency room of the hospital where the victims were brought.

Bombs were dropping over the city while in the morgue bodies were laid on slabs in the grotesque positions in which they had died.

There was blood...and the emergency room as doctors calmly continued to treat the victims.

I had never known that blood could be so bright red.

I went to a bombed store on King Street where I often stopped for a Coke at the cool drug counter only to find it along with six others had nearly completely burned down.*

*Elizabeth "Betty" P. McIntosh was a reporter for the Honolulu Star Bulletin on Dec 7 1941.  She wrote an article for her newspaper "after a week of war," but her editors thought it too graphic to publish.

The complete article was published for the 1st time in 71 years on Dec. 6, 2012 in the Washington Post. 
Betty McIntosh worked for the OSS and CIA before retiring in Prince William County.

SOURCE:  WP OPINIONS, "Honolulu After Pearl Harbor:  A Report Published for the First Time, 71 Years Later,"

Betty McIntosh Interviews Sailor
               Honolulu, Hawaii