Month to honour Kennedy

In the chronicles of stirring events, grand adventures and honest to goodness derring-do, John F. Kennedy has an exalted place.

His most signal, noteworthy exploits, of course, were the heroic deeds following the sinking of PT 109, the patrol torpedo vessel he skippered near the Solomon Islands in World War 2.

In short, the small boat was cut in two during action by a Japanese destroyer.

Kennedy and the surviving crew clung to timbers used as a gun mount and, kicking together to propel themselves, managed to reach a tiny island 5.6km away.

Braving waters home to sharks and crocodiles, Kennedy used a life jacket strap clenched between his teeth to tow a badly-burned shipmate to safety.

Once at the island, Kennedy swam about 4km to another island in search of help and food before he managed to organise a rescue.

It was, of course, the sort of activity he could complete in the morning, then still turn up for tiffin with a smile on his face and a perfectly knotted bow tie.

And that's why he became president of the United States.

These adventurous events are just some of those in the remarkable life and early death of John F. Kennedy.

And it is that early death that is behind a raft of television programmes featuring on a number of channels in November; 50 years since he was shot in Dallas, Texas.

JFK is one, and the series begins on Friday on the Arts Channel.

It begins with another grave event in Kennedy's life: the Cuban missile crisis.

Over early '60s black and white aerial photographs of missile installations and warships we hear crackling recordings of the CIA's deputy director explaining: ''This is the result of photography taken Sunday, sir.''

An analyst adds to the sense of alarm with: ''Sir, we've never seen this kind of installation before.''

It was certainly a tough spot for the youngest president the United States had voted in.

And apart from his war heroics, much of Kennedy's life had been all about yachts, dark glasses, hair and teeth - and there are plenty of pictures to prove it.

The son of one of America's wealthiest men got something of a shock to discover in his late teens there were people during the Depression who had gone without food.

JFK, while not apparently providing much new, is still a fascinating exploration of one of the US's most famous sons.

It is also not the only show on the passed-away president showing during November.

National Geographic has JFK: Seven Days That Made a President on the 20th, which will no doubt include the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, while the Discovery, History and BBC Knowledge channels have their own televisual obituaries.

 

- Charles Loughrey

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