John F. Kennedy 35th President of the United States.
 
 
John F. Kennedy served in the Navy during WWII in the Pacific.  He reached the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade and eventually commanded a Patrol Torpedo Boat (PT boat) in the Solomon Islands.  In August 1943, his boat (PT109) was sunk in the dark of night by a Japanese Destroyer while on patrol.  Kennedy was a very good swimmer however, and managed to get his crew to a deserted island where they hid for eight days.  Eventually, the young officer talked some native Islanders into carrying a message out to his Squadron and thereby saved his entire crew.  Kennedy was a Naval hero, receiving a purple heart (he had badly damaged his back in the ramming by the Japanese Destroyer) and the Navy medal.  The photo above shows the future President as a young man in uniform.
 


John B. Connally served as Secretary of the Navy and as Governor of Texas.

 

 
John Connally served in the Navy during WWII and was a hero.  He served on the planning staff for the Invasion of North Africa and later was transferred to the Pacific where he served on aircraft carriers, earning a bronze star and the legion of merit.  Connolly participated in many of the major Pacific Battles against the Empire of Japan and at the end of the war was a Lt. Commander.  After the war he attended law school and eventually went to work for a newly elected Texas Senator named, Lyndon Johnson.

In 1961 President Kennedy choose John Connally to serve as Secretary of the Navy; as a Naval war hero, he was entirely qualified for the post.  Later, Connally left the post and ran successfully for Governor of Texas.
 


The Assassin
 

 

Lee Harvey Oswald murdered John F Kennedy.  Oswald was a former Marine sharpshooter who had defected to the Soviet Union after being dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps.  While in the Soviet Union, Oswald attended the KGB terrorist school known as, Patrice Lamumba University.  He later married a Russian woman and was sent back to the United States where he was continually involved in extreme Left Wing political groups.



 

   
 
 
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Assassination of a President:
 
In October of 1962, the American President confronted the Soviet Union and Communist Cuba over aggressive nuclear missiles the Soviets were installing in Cuba, which were aimed at the United States.  John F. Kennedy was the President who confronted the Communists, standing his ground for fourteen fearful days, until eventually, they backed down.  The two photos below were taken during the Crisis.  On the right, the photo shows General Curtis Le May, the four-star Air Force General who brought the fascist powers of WWII to their knees.  In the photo, General Le May is shown advising the young President at the height of the Crisis.  In the second photo, (on the left) President Kennedy is shown lecturing the Soviet Dictator, Nikita Khrushchev.  After his humiliation during the Cuban Crisis, Khrushchev was purged from leadership of the Soviet Communist Party and went into obscurity.  The Soviet Communists never forgot that their vaunted military had been forced to back down by a young, rich-boy, President.
 
             
 
On November 22nd of 1963, President John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, by an individual, who had been born in the United States to American parents, who had at one point in his adult life defected to the Soviet Union and became a communist.  The assassin’s name was, Lee Harvey Oswald.  Oswald was a well-known figure among left wing agitators and Hollywood Progressives.  When he was younger, Oswald joined the Marines and became a trained Marine Sniper.  Eventually, however, because of his left-wing activities and dangerous associations, Oswald was discharged from the Marines less than honorably.  Within months he defected to the Soviet Union.  The evidence suggests that Oswald was chosen by the Soviet KGB (communist spy agency) to assassinate the young President who had humiliated the Socialist State during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  
 
For years after the Kennedy assassination, people would ask the question:  Where were you when you heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated?

For me the answer is simple.  I was sitting just inside the Deck Division sleeping quarters, shooting the breeze with two other sailors.   Someone, I don’t remember who, filled the open hatch and almost shouted, “Someone shot the President!”  This was a statement that made no sense, because in those days no one had ever considered that an American President would ever be shot.

 “What?”  Someone said.

 “They just shot, President Kennedy!”  Was the breathless reply.  
 
Then the messenger ran off to tell others who had not heard.  We rushed down to the radio shack the only source of contact with the outside world for the Tracer when at sea

The radioman told us, Yes; The President was shot in Dallas, Texas.  No one knew at that time what his condition was but we all presumed he would survive and be all right in the end.  He wasn’t and he didn’t.

We learned later that the President was dead.  The President of the United States (a former Navy man) had been assassinated.
 
We were on a northerly station, 500 miles off Washington State.  The weather was bad the ship was tossing about and the skies were gray.  A gloom fell over the Tracer’s crew and secretly we were all nervous.  No one knew what the assassination of a President meant.  Were the Soviets going to attack?  We didn’t know.  When they could, sailors began making calls home to their families, which was an involved process that meant going to the radio shack and having your call patched through to a ham radio operator on the mainland.  You spoke into a microphone and when you were finished speaking you said, “Over!”  And the family member repeated the process.

If I remember correctly, the picket had just begun so we had another thirty-some days to go.  For the next couple of weeks the Tracer was a joyless vessel made even more miserable because we were patrolling in bad weather.  At one point we patrolled on station with the ship's running lights off because no one knew what would happen next and there was concern that the early warning system would be neutralized prior to an all out Communist attack. 

During this period, I recall standing a lookout watch on the wing of the bridge, probably the mid-watch, and looking out over a broiling sea; the weather was cold and it was windy.  Standing watch after midnight on the wing was always a little eerie even during the best of times, but for days and weeks after the Kennedy assassination night watches became downright creepy.  That particular evening, the sky was dark, the water churning and tossing about, veins of white foam crisscrossing the troubled surface of the sea.  In places, spouts of brine splashed upward toward the blackened dome of the sky; and the wind would howl and then still, then howl again.  I was somewhat unnerved when suddenly, somewhere aft, a bucket, or something metal, broke loose and rattled down the length of the weather deck, sending shivers up my spine. 


The entire ship seemed to creak and groan each time her bow smashed headlong into the power of the ocean. 

I pushed my face down into my coffee cup; the brew had been in the pot since the evening watch, which was something like five hours, and with every sip I tasted the gritty bitter grounds on the tip of my tongue.  Sporadically, the wind would howl and slap against my face and I would turn my head away from its force, making a little tent out of the hood on my parka, lifting my cup up to allow the steam to flow over my face.      
 

A seaman named, Richard Archelletta was on watch on the opposite wing at the time.  He was on the Starboard wing and the hatch leading into the bridge was closed because the wind was blowing from Starboard.

I was lost in thought when I heard a voice speak to me. 

It was Archelletta.  He had walked through the bridge from the opposite wing out onto the Port wing where I was and just stood there, sipping lukewarm, rather bitter coffee, obviously stalling.  After a while I mentioned that he should go back to his own wing because he was on lookout watch.  Archelletta responded he was too nervous out there all alone because of the assassination.  Normally, a sailor who said something like that would have provided the Deck Division with fodder for a campaign of merciless ridicule for weeks.  But, I never mentioned the incident to anyone for a month or more.  Even the Officer of the Deck, that evening, understood how Archie felt.
 
Sometime after we got the news that the President was dead, there was a memorial service; our Captain and Executive Officer presided.  I believe that Lieutenant Commander Albert Reid, (The Tracer’s Captain) may have, at some point in his career, served with the young President.  Reid was old time Navy, including service during WWII.  You could tell that Captain Reid was taking the assassination hard, while speaking at the service, his lip quivered and his voice cracked.  It was a difficult day.  
 
At the time the Tracer’s Captain was Lieutenant Commander Albert Reid and the Executive officer was Lieutenant Rod Flannery.  I understand that Captain Reid had been in the Navy during WWII and that Lt Flannery was an Annapolis graduate who had not been in the Navy that long when he was assigned to the Tracer as Executive Officer.  I have read that Mister Flannery stayed in the Navy and eventually retired as a Rear Admiral.

There is another, more personal aspect for the author, to this story:  The author, Roland Phillips, graduated from Boot-Camp in July of 1961.  When a company graduates from Boot-Camp after three months there is a ceremony of sorts.  Relatives are invited and dignitaries are in the stands and each graduating company marches by and performs some of the military maneuvers they have learned over the weeks.  Our dignitary, the man who headed the dignitaries program at the graduation of our company was the Secretary of the Navy.  He was a politician from Texas named, John Connally.  On November 22, 1963, John Connally, then Governor of Texas was sitting in the front seat of the vehicle in which the young President and his wife were riding.  The bullets that struck John Kennedy also struck John Connally.  John Connally was seriously wounded, but the President was killed.
 
  

The photo above shows the President and the Governor just moments before the Assassin's bullet struck.  John Connally is in the front seat, wearing a Stetson.

From 1963 on… the assassination of John F Kennedy defined the American Experience.  Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated?  Was the question asked around the water cooler thousands of times for years after?  America had lost her innocence…

 



 
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