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JFK on war: Those in charge should make sure the fight is ‘headed for some definite goal’

Updated

Let me finish tonight with this.

It’s a letter Lt. (jg) John F. Kennedy wrote his Danish girlfriend from an island in the South Pacific during World War II. The young commander wrote it just after his PT boat had been rammed in half by a Japanese destroyer and he’d courageously led his crew to safety.

The war goes slowly here, slower than you can ever imagine from reading the papers at home. The only way you can get the proper perspective on its progress is put away the headlines for a month and watch us move on the map.

The war is a dirty business. It’s very easy to talk about the war and beating the Japanese if it takes years and a million men, but anyone who talks like that should consider well his words. We get so used to talking about billions of dollars, and millions of soldiers, the thousands of casualties sound like drops in the bucket. But if those thousands want to live as much as the ten I saw, the people deciding the whys and wherefores had better make mighty sure that all this effort is headed for some definite goal, and that when we reach that goal we may say it was worth it, for if it isn’t, the whole thing will turn to ashes, and we will face great trouble in the years to come after the war.

Inga Binga, I’ll be glad to see you again.

I’ve had a great time here everything considered, but I’ll be just as glad to get away from it for a while. I used to have the feeling that no matter what happened I’d get through. It’s a funny thing that as long as you have that feeling you seem to get through. I’ve lost that feeling lately but as a matter of fact I don’t feel badly about it. If anything happens to me I have this knowledge that if I lived to be a hundred I could have only improved the quantity of my life, not the quality. This sounds gloomy as hell. I’ll cut it. You are the only person I’m saying it to. As a matter of fact knowing you has been the brightest point in an already bright twenty-six years.


It’s from my book Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. It’s just out in paperback. Go get a copy this weekend. The holidays are a great time to read this heroic story.

JFK on war: Those in charge should make sure the fight is ‘headed for some definite goal’

Updated