Prelude to Leadership
John F. Kennedy's Diary from the Summer of 1945
Live Auction will be held in Boston, MA on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 1:00 PM EDT
Towards the close of World War II in 1945, Ambassador Joseph Kennedy arranged for his 28-year-old son, Jack, to work for Hearst newspapers. This allowed the young veteran to attend the opening session of the United Nations in San Francisco in May and then travel abroad to cover post-war Europe during the Summer of 1945.
JFK’s first assignment as a Hearst reporter was attending the formation of the United Nations in May 1945. As he hobnobs with political heavyweights of the time, young Jack witnesses and harshly critics the gathering with incredible insight on the future of the UN.
Having observed the UN proceedings for weeks, Kennedy records startling predictions on Russia, including incredulous premonitions of The Cold War, which would be synonymous with his presidency: “The clash with Russia...may be finally and indefinitely postponed by the eventual discovery of a weapon so horrible that it will truthfully mean the abolishment of all the nations employing it.”
Kennedy next travels to England to cover the first post-war British Elections. His boyhood hero, Winston Churchill, was vying for reelection and lost in a fantastic upset that the pragmatic young journalist himself predicted.
The 28-year-old reporter reveals his unedited beliefs on FDR and his effect on American capitalism: “Mr. Roosevelt has contributed greatly to the end of capitalism in our own country, not through the laws which he sponsored or were passed during his Presidency, but rather through the emphasis he put on rights rather than responsibilities.”
JFK’s visit to Ireland shows his great interest in the country of his heritage. With extensive knowledge of Irish political and economic history, Kennedy used this trip to his advantage in preparation for his 1946 congressional run.
Young Kennedy witnesses the devastation in Berlin as he travels the streets, an experience that would hold great sway over his feelings on war: “the stench—sickish and sweet from dead bodies—is overwhelming.” There are several amazing photographs documenting the young reporter’s presence in the German capital. Time columnist, Hugh Sidey, who knew Kennedy well, would later say of the 35th President, “If I had to single out one element in Kennedy’s life that more than anything else influenced his later leadership it would be the horror of war.”
JFK even viewed the remains of Hitler’s bombed out bunker, as documented in these to historic photographs, and declares in his diary doubt that the Fuhrer’s true body was recovered: “Hitler’s Reich Chancellery was a shell. The walls were chipped and scarred by bullets...The room where Hitler was supposed to have met his death showed scorched walls and traces of fire. There is no complete evidence, however, that the body that was found was Hitler’s body. The Russians doubt that he is dead.”
Kennedy ends his European trip with a visit to Berchtesgaden, the location of Hitler’s chalet and famed, ‘Eagles Nest; in reflection, the young reporter records shocking views of the German Fuhrer: “After visiting these two places, you can easily understand how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived...He had boundless ambition for his country which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him. He had in him the stuff of which legends are made.”
Some of Kennedy’s most interesting political quotes are:“‘The best politician is the man who does not think too much of the political consequences of his every act.’”
“Says I’ll get murdered—No political experience—A personal district. Says I don’t know 300 people personally.”
“‘In politics you don’t have friends—you have confederates...You can buy brains but you can’t pay—loyalty.”
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Email Tricia Eaton at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the diary.