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Response to MarineCombatEngineer (Reply #2)

Mon May 31, 2021, 07:21 PM

15. That's one reason why I so appreciate JFK...

While he was brave and volunteered for combat — the story of PT-109 demonstrates his courage — President Kennedy hated war for the reasons you know. He lost his big brother, a US Navy aviator, fighting the NAZIs.

Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.

The President’s big brother was the one being groomed for a life in politics by The Old Man, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. The younger Joe had served as a delegate from Massachusetts at the 1940 Democratic convention. A brave, athletic and conscientious young man, he volunteered for service in the US Navy before World War II.

After completing his tour as pilot of a US Navy B-24 Liberator on anti-submarine warfare patrol from 1943-44 over the North Atlantic, flying out of an airbase in England, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. volunteered for a top-secret mission, Project APHRODITE. The objective was to knock out the NAZI V-1 buzz bombs that were killing civilians in London and other English towns.

The Navy, in cooperation (and in competition) with the Army Air Corps, worked to develop a secret weapon — a remotely piloted flying bomb. They would convert four-engine bombers into flying bombs that would be flown by remote control into the V-1 sites along the coast of France.

Joe and other pilots were needed to get the experimental versions of the 4-engine B-24 and B-17 bombers airborne. The planes had been converted from being a 10-man bomber, capable of carrying sixteen 500 pound bombs, into one giant flying bomb with a crew of two — the pilot and the bombardier-engineer.

For the time, it was state-of-the-art science, engineering, and warfare. Joe Kennedy’s plane was among a few Liberators and Flying Fortresses modified for a very early version of remote control. The ship, basically, was history’s first guided missile. The entire fuselage was filled with Torpex and gelignite, IIRC, and was to be armed by a rather elaborate, and untested, electronic arming panel.

Like something out of Buck Rogers, the Navy equipped the airplane with a primitive 2-channel remote-control pilot. One radio signal could make the plane dive and climb and another signal could make it turn left and right. A prototype video camera would also send information to the Mother Ship, where the remote pilot sat before a tiny TV monitor.

The scientists and engineers in the Mother Ship would take over and signal on two radio frequencies: One to turn the stick RIGHT or LEFT; or push the stick FORWARD or pull the stick BACK. Primitive today, they were the first remote-controlled weapon of mass destruction. The Mother Ship would follow two miles or so back and then fly it over the English Channel and guide it down into the rocket launch sites.

The technology was so primitive, human pilots were needed to get the flying bombs aloft. Once aloft, they were to turn on the radio-guidance controls and arm the flying bomb. Then, somewhere over the English countryside, they were to bail out. Sounds simple, but it was anything but.

The pilot and bombardier were to bail out at an altitude of about one thousand feet. Bailing out from the modified aircraft was extremely dangerous work. One B-17 pilot was killed and another lost an arm in the process. By the time it was Joe’s turn in the first APHRODITE B-24, there was reason for concern about a plan that looked like a suicide mission.

For the Kennedys and the future of American politics, the tragedy was that the Navy ship used a rather primitive arming panel. The regular engineer/co-pilot refused to fly and instead the Navy sent aloft the engineer who designed and installed the system.

Over the English countryside, the ship exploded, killing the two flyers and changing American political history. Joe's younger brother John Fitzgerald Kennedy then became the heir to the family's political ambitions.

John F. Kennedy made an outstanding President, living up to his brother’s promise of greatness. JFK, it should be remembered, saved the world from nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

While he never lived to see the dream realized, JFK also stretched mankind’s imagination and reach to the moon. Ironically, he even used the NAZI rocket scientist who developed the V-1 to do so. The same von Braun who the allied air command sent his lost brother, Joseph, to destroy.

One of Hitler's superweapons, the V-2 was developed by Werner von Braun and his team at Peenemünde. History's first ballistic missiles were used to rain death, destruction and terror upon London. The allies were worried that if the Nazis continued developing their super-weapons, the V-2’s descendants would be delivering bombs — possibly atomic — to New York City.

# # #

Two outstanding books on the subject of Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. and his service in World War II:

“Aphrodite: Desperate Mission” by Jack Olsen


“The Lost Prince: Young Joe, the Forgotten Kennedy” by Hank Searls.

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