SIGNED BY JOHN F. KENNEDY DURING WORLD WAR II: RARE ORIGINAL 1942 TRANSFER REQUEST BY JFK ASKING TO MOVE TO A NAVY HOSPITAL IN MASSACHUSETTS TO BE CLOSER TO HIS FAMILY, SUBMITTED JUST A YEAR PRIOR TO PT-109
KENNEDY, John F. Document signed. Charleston, South Carolina, April 18, 1942. Single sheet of cream paper, measuring 8 by 10-1/2 inches; p. 1; matted and framed with a photograph of JFK, entire piece measures 24 by 18 inches. $16,800.
Rare original 1942 Navy transfer request, in which future-President John F. Kennedy, suffering chronic pain from a back injury, asked to be moved from a Charleston, South Carolina naval hospital to its Chelsea, Massachusetts equivalent in order to be hospitalized closer to his family in Boston, submitted only a year before the PT-109 disaster in which Kennedy saved his shipwrecked crewmen and earned both the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart, signed by JFK.
The typed transfer request, dated "April 18, 1942," reads: "From: Ensign John Fitzgerald KENNEDY, I-V(S), USNR. To: The Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, Washington, D.C. Via: (1) Medical Officer in Command, U.S. Naval Hospital, Charleston, S.C. (2) Commandant, Sixth Naval District. (3) The Chief of the Bureau of Medicine & Surgery, Navy Department, Washington D.C. Subject" Transfer to U.S. Naval Hospital, Chelsea Massachusetts for further observation and treatment—at own expense. 1. It is requested that I be ordered to report ot the U.S. Naval Hospital, Chelsea, Massachusetts, for further observation and treatment. 2. My reason for making this request is that I desire to be with my family in Boston and am advised that hospitalization in my case will require some time. 3. I agree to travel at my own expense and no travel of dependents is involved. [signed] John F Kennedy." Below a tear-off line, the request continues with a "FIRST ENDORSEMENT," which reads: "From: medical Officer in Command. To: The Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. Via: (1) Commandant, Sixth Naval District. (2) The Chief of the Bureau of Medicine & Surgery. 1. Forwarded, approve. Period of hospitalization will be indefinite. 2. The patient was readmitted to this hospital on 13 April, 1942, with a diagnosis of Dislocation, chronic, recurrent (Sacro-iliac) No. 2570. Condition existed prior to entry in the U.S. Naval Service. [signed] W.J. Riddick. [stamped] MAY 4 1942."
This rare document is a fascinating artifact of JFK's military service during World War II. While JFK was twice designated 4F due to his chronic back problems (likely from a Harvard football injury), his father, then the Ambassador the Britain, was able to pull strings with his close friend, the Director of Naval Intelligence, to get JFK past the medical screening stage of enlistment. Originally assigned to be an ensign in the Naval Reserves, JFK was sent to South Carolina following an affair with a Danish journalist, Inga Arvad. JFK immediately began to be troubled by his back. After being admitted to a Navy hospital in South Carolina, JFK filed this transfer request asking to be moved to Chelsea, closer to his family's enclave. Following treatment, JFK soon found a place in Officers Training School in summer of 1942. JFK was elated at the chance to be like his older brother, Joe (a pilot who would ultimately die in combat). Upon graduating OTS, JFK was given command of PT-109, a fast-moving torpedo boat ideal for sneak attacks on the Japanese Navy. In August of 1943, PT-109 was slammed into by a Japanese destroyer. JFK was thrown onto his bad back by the collision. With the boat in ruins, JFK ignored his pain and used his championship swimming skills to save crewman stranded at sea by dragging them toward PT-109's floating wreckage. In one case, JFK pulled a crewman for five hours, securing him by holding the strap of the man's life jacket between his teeth. JFK and his crew eventually made it to a small island devoid of food and water, then, after four days, they proceeded to a larger island that at least had coconuts to eat and palm trees for shade. Realizing that the crew could not survive indefinitely, JFK and his friend, Ensign George Ross, swam miles to the island of Neru, where they were able to secure assistance. After several months of recuperation, JFK was assigned to another PT boat, where he distinguished himself by saving dozens of marines who had been pinned down by the Japanese. By 1944, however, JFK was too badly hurt to continue serving. The injury from the initial collision with the Japanese destroyer required intense treatment and physical therapy. Unfortunately, the therapy JFK received there did little to alleviate his ongoing back problems. He underwent a—likely unnecessary—disc surgery that resulted in constant pain and forced him to use crutches whenever he was out of the public eye. As senator, JFK had a second surgery in which his spine was fused with a metal plate. This was a radical and possibly ill-advised treatment. JFK's recovery was hindered by a persistent staph infection in original incision and he was eventually forced to have the metal plate removed just a year later. In 1957, JFK had a fourth surgery to fix an abscess in the lumbar spine. As a result, JFK spent the years prior to his presidency searching for a cure, a process that led him from antibiotics to pain pills to amphetamines. Nothing helped. Finally, in 1961, orthopedist Hans Kraus came to the White House and put JFK on a strict exercise and physical therapy regimen that offered some relief. However, JFK refused to give up his back brace. Many researchers now agree that it was this back brace that was responsible for JFK's death. After being shot once in the neck, a normal person would have fallen forward into the car, avoiding Oswald's second shot. JFK, though, was forced upright by the brace, putting him in the perfect position to be shot in the head. Three decades after the initial injury, JFK's back killed him. This fascinating document offers evidence of the initial decline—and likely incorrect diagnosis—that led him to his tragic end. Numerous pencil notations in an unknown hand including check marks, a time of signature for the endorsement, and "(attached to 6th Naval District)" near JFK's name. Three stamps, including "27745," "S-3" and "Finished File—Detail Office—Jamieson."
Reinforcements over original punch holes, evidence of staple removal, signature early and legible. Near-fine condition.