John F. Kennedy Writes To Clare Boothe Luce
In 1942, John F. Kennedy entered the United States Navy to join American forces fighting in World War II. Prior to his departure, playwright Clare Boothe Luce, a close friend of the Kennedy family, sent the young naval officer a good luck coin that once belonged to her mother. On September 29, 1942, Kennedy wrote to Luce thanking her for sharing such an important token with him.
In the summer of 1943, Lieutenant "Jack" Kennedy commanded a PT boat operating against the Japanese near the island of New Georgia in the Pacific. One night Kennedy's boat was rammed and cut in two by a Japanese destroyer. Although injured during the attack, Kennedy and most of his crew survived.
A few months later, Kennedy again wrote to Luce. With his note he enclosed a gadget, originally intended to be a letter opener, made "from a Jap 51 cal. bullet and the steel from a fitting on my boat, part of which drifted onto an island." He concluded the note with a word of thanks for Luce's earlier gift.
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.
After Kennedy's military service as commander of the Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 during World War II in the South Pacific, his aspirations turned political. With the encouragement and grooming of his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., Kennedy represented Massachusetts's 11th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953 as a Democrat, and in the U.S. Senate from 1953 until 1960. Kennedy defeated then Vice President and Republican candidate Richard Nixon in the 1960 U.S. presidential election, one of the closest in American history. He was the second-youngest President (after Theodore Roosevelt), and the youngest elected to the office, at the age of 43. Kennedy is the first and only Catholic president, and is the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize. Events during his administration include the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, the African American Civil Rights Movement and early events of the Vietnam War.
Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with the crime but was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby before he could be put on trial. The Warren Commission and the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Oswald was the assassin, with the HSCA allowing for the probability of conspiracy. The event proved to be an important moment in U.S. history because of its impact on the nation and the ensuing political repercussions. Today, Kennedy continues to rank highly in public opinion ratings of former U.S. presidents.
With it goes my sincere thanks for your good-luck piece, which did service above and beyond its routine duties during a rather busy period. ”— John F. Kennedy to Clare Boothe Luce, October 20, 1943. Clare Boothe Luce Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress