Joe Kennedy saw his chance to become a hero. He was eager to go, and was a very experienced pilot. The system to be used was to load a B-24 with explosives, using two pilots, and the installation of an arming pin to prevent accidental ignition of the explosives. The target was Mimoyecques, France. A P-38 weather plane reported acceptable conditions, it was a go. Kennedy and his co-pilot Bud Willy took off at 5:55PM. The safety pin had been properly installed in the arming unit. Fourteen other aircraft gathered in formation with the "flying bomb". The lead plane was a B-17. There were two P-38s to accomplish aerial photography over the target. Also included were two Mosquito bombers, one to monitor weather, the other flown by Elliot Roosevelt, the son of the President of the United States. Another B-17 acted as a signal relay over the channel, with six P-51s as escort. The flying bomb was followed by two Lockheed Venturas which are believed to have been the "mother" guidance planes. This armada after hooking up in formation flew from Fersfield to Framingham, England, then to Beccles testing their RC equipment. Final test would be made with the B-24 flying alone on Radio Control. They flew from Beccles to Clacton, then took the final turn to head for the target. Both pilots were scheduled to bail out near Dover after preparing the plane to continue to the launch target guided by the mother plane. The actual flight plan called for a flyover Beccles but went further east than intended and flew over Blytheburgh. Kennedy made final preparations to set the plane on remote control. He removed the safety pin, and signaled O.K. with the code phrase "Stay Flush". These would be his last words as the plane exploded at 6:20PM over Blytheburgh.
Joseph Kennedy Jr. was to be the first tragedy to strike the Kennedy Family. Very few parts of the B-24 were found, no bodies.The official crash report indicated the cause of the accident was unknown. Once the safety pin was removed ignition could have been triggered by any aircraft making radio contact with the aircraft. Joe was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously. The Navy Cross was also awarded to his brother in the PT-109 incident. After the accident there was an immediate coverup of the entire accident which was already clouded in secrecy. No information was released for almost 60 years, even now no real disclosure. One point that is pretty hard to swallow, the whole truth is that the mission was pointless. Through a huge intelligence failure it was later disclosed that the target launch site had been severely damaged by RAF raids a week before. They had dropped massive "Tall Boy" bombs on it. So- the disaster was probably unnecessary. It is largely believed this is the reason behind the coverup. 20 years after the war ended the case was opened up, which only raised more questions. Claims bordered on the ridiculous. The Germans claimed they shot the plane down, Joe was captured and later killed in an escape attempt. Other claims were that Joe parachuted and was captured by a Panzer division, and later Kennedy and Willy were both shot. Many articles were published which claimed mostly erroneous information. Finally Elliot Roosevelt, son of FDR, called all of the reports ridiculous and complete nonsense. He was there and saw first hand what happened. He witnessed the useless death of a potentially great American. After all, the U.S. had tried 19 RC bomb test and none of them were successful. Was this mission hushed up and so secret because it was not necessary?
In 1946 a destroyer, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, JR. was launched. Destroyer number 850, it was the final tribute by the Navy to a gallant officer and his heroic devotion to duty. This ship is now a museum, permanently docked at Battleship Cove, Fall River, Massachusetts. It is a National Historic Landmark and member of the Historic Naval Ships Assoc, a tribute to an American Hero and to those who sailed on Destroyers.

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy
Hyannisport, Cape Cod

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy:

This is as difficult a letter as I will ever have to write, and as you know, it is not the first of it's kind. By now you will have been notified by the Navy Department that your son, Joe, has been killed in an aircraft accident while on an operational mission. The delay incident to your receipt of this letter is regrettable but it is necessary due to carrying out proper security restrictions. Joe's effects have been packed and inventoried and will be shipped to the Personal Effects Distribution Center, Naval Supply Depot for further shipment to New York in accordance with the instructions received from his sister, Lady Hartington.

I am not at liberty to disclose the nature of Joe's mission but I can assure you that he gave his life while on a mission vital to the cause for which we are all fighting. As you must know, he volunteered for a special detail which was exceedingly dangerous. By thus volunteering Joe exhibited courage above and beyond the call of duty and contributed his fullest share toward the destruction of our enemy.

Joe was highly regarded by all of us over here and was considered outstanding as an officer and man in every way, in his personal conduct and his devotion to duty. His clean cut, and intelligent way of life was an example to all of us which makes me confident that a nation composed of men like Joe will triumph over any obstacle. He will be missed by his shipmates and his loss will be felt by the Navy and his Country. Mass was said by Chaplain Callery after which we all rededicated our lives to carry on the fight relentlessly until we have won the struggle.

Comment: This letter , endorsed by the United States Navy was notification of the death of Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., received by his parents.



Joseph P. Kennedey, Jr., the oldest child of Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy, was born in Massachusetts on July 28, 1915. He was graduated from Choate School in Connecticut and attended the London School of Economics for one year before entering Harvard in 1934. At Harvard he played football and rugby, served on the Student Council and was graduated in 1938, cum laude. He attended Harvard Law School, but left before his final year to volunteer as a Navy Flier. Awarded his wings in May 1942, he flew B-24s with the British Naval Command. His military service, which ended with his death on August 12, 1944, was described as follows by his brother, John F. Kennedy:

His squadron, flying in the bitter winter over the Bay of Biscay,
suffered heavy casualties, and by the time Joe had completed his
designated number of missions in May, he had lost his former co-
pilot and a number of close friends.

Joe refused his proffered leave and persuaded his crew to remain on
for D-day. They flew frequently during June and July, and at the end
of July they were given another opportunity to go home. He felt it
unfair to ask his crew to stay longer, and they returned to the United
States. He remained, for he had heard of a new and special
Assignment for which volunteers had been requested which would
Require another month of the most dangerous type of flying.

…It may be felt, perhaps, that Joe should not have pushed his luck
so far and should have accepted his leave and come home. But two
facts must be borne in mind. First, at the time of his death, he had
completed probably more combat missions in heavy bombers than
any other pilot of his rank in the Navy and therefore was
preeminently qualified, and secondly, as he told a friend early in
August, he considered the odds at least fifty-fifty, and Joe never
asked for any better odds than that.

The Secret mission on which he lost his life was described by a fellow
officer after it was declassified:

Joe, regarded as an experienced Patrol Plane Commander, and a
fellow-officer, an expert in radio control projects, was to take a
"drone" Liberator bomber loaded with 21,170 pounds of high
explosives into the air and to stay with it until two "mother"planes
had achieved complete radio control over the "drone". They were
to bail out over England; the "drone', under the control of the
"mother" planes, was to proceed on the mission which was to
culminate in a crash-dive on the target, a V-2 rocket launching
site in Normandy. The airplane…. was in flight with routine
checking of the radio controls proceeding satisfactorily, when at
6:20 p.m. on August 12, 1944, two explosions blasted the "drone"
resulting in the death of its two pilots. No final conclusions as to
the cause of the explosions has ever been reached.

Joe was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross… and also the Air
Medal… In 1946 a destroyer, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.
destroyer No. 850 was launched at the Fore River shipyards as the
Navy's final tribute to a gallant officer and his heroic devotion to


Comment: This Biography was published by "The Joseph P.
Kennedy, Jr. Foundation.

Story written by website manager Wayland Mayo.

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