Everybody knows how John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated that unfateful Friday of November 22, 1963, while he was in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza. Not many of us know about his brother’s death in the Navy, a story that’s not much told in what was labeled the “Kennedy curse,” with the series of premature deaths, accidents, assassinations, and other unfortunate events that happened in the Kennedy family.

Here’s his story:

Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr. was the eldest of the nine children of Joseph Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, born on July 25, 1915. Together with his brother John, he attended the Dexter School in Brookline and then the Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, where he graduated in 1933. He then got his degree in government from Harvard College, where he also actively participated in football, rugby, and crew (boat racing). He was also a member of the student council. After that, he spent a year at the London School of Economics before enrolling at Harvard Law School. His career path was clear as far as his father was concerned— he would become the first Roman Catholic US president, something that the family groomed and instilled in him the moment that he was born into his family’s actively political family. Like his grandfather, John Fitzgerald, mayor of Boston, told the press, “This child is the future president of the nation.”

Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr. in the Harvard College Class of 1938 yearbook. (Harvard CollegeCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Fate, however, had a different plan for him.

Entering the Navy

When World War II began, Joseph Kennedy expressed his approval of Adolf Hitler’s actions and programs. He was 18-years old when his father sent him to visit Nazi Germany in 1934, where he saw the Nazis in action. He commented that the sterilization program was a means of “doing away with many of the disgusting specimens of men” and that the Germans’ “dislike of the Jews was well-founded.”