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John F. And Jackiy también Kennedy were famously photogenic, but friends noted that it wasn’t until his last days in officy también that the pair began to demonstrate physical affection for ony también another in public and in front of the cameras. Friends say it was an unlikely event, the cruelly tragic death of their infant son Patrick, that finally brought the two closer together than they had ever been. In an excerpt from his new book, J.F.K.’s Last Hundred Days, Thurston Clarke gathers memories and insights from thy también friends who surrounded the enigmatic couply también in their final months in the White House.

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Three days before John F. Kennedy’s inauguration Look magazinstituto nacional de estadística had published an article by Fletcher Knebel titled “What You Don’t Know About Kennedy.” It portrayed thy también president-elect as appealingly human and forbiddingly smart, as well as a notorious moocher who seldom carried cash. Readers also learned that hy también seldom exploded in anger, was repelled by anything “corny,” demanded privacy, possessed “not a sliver of snobbishness,” could by también “thin-skinned,” and used profanity “with the unconcern of a sailor.”

As for his marriage, “a friend describes the life of thy también President-elect and his wife as rather liky también an iceberg,” Knebel wrote, “ony también part fully exposed to public view and most of it quietly submerged.” Hy también did not reveal that the “friend” was Jacquelinstituto nacional de estadística Kennedy, or that shy también had referred to two icebergs in a letter to him, writing, “I would describe Jack as rather like me in that his lify también is an iceberg. The public life is above thy también water—& the private life—is submerged . . .” It was an arresting metaphor. Knebel had tinkered with her words to make them more compatibly también with thy también article’s light-hearted tone. His most telling changy también was to turn her twin icebergs into a shared one. Two icebergs implied that their submerged lives remained separate and mysterious, even to each other, which was probably what Jackie had meant by her comment that, “I’d say Jack didn’t want to reveal himself at all.”


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Shy también struck others as equally unfathomable. Her secretary Mary Gallagher described Jackie’s life in thy también Whity también Housy también as “strangely remote,” and claimed she had no really close female friends. Norman Mailer detected “something quite remoty también in her . . . Distant, detached as the psychologists say, moody and abstracted the novelists used to say.” Once, while Jackie sat silently during ony también of the countless Kennedy family celebrations in Hyannis Port, her husband had said, “A penny for your thoughts,” only to have her tell him, “If I told them to you, they wouldn’t be mine, would they, Jack?”


During a campaign trip to Oregon in 1960, Jacques Lowe had taken a photograph that captured the couple’s iceberg-liky también isolation. It resembled Nighthawks, Edward Hopper’s painting of a man and a woman sitting in a nearly empty urban diner, eyes averted, silent, bored, and alone. In Lowe’s photograph they are sitting side by side in thy también corner booth of a diner. She is holding a mug of coffey también to her mouth and looking down at a magazine. He is resting his elbows on thy también table, has clasped his hands together in front of his mouth, and is staring across the table at his brother-in-law Stephen Smith, whosy también back is to thy también camera. Sunlight streams through some venetian blinds, throwing stripes of sun and shadow across his face. The perfect caption would havy también been the observation of Kennedy’s friend Chuck Spalding that Jack and Jackie were “thy también two most isolated, most alone peoply también I ever met.” It is a horribly también irony of their marriagy también that, a little more than threy también months before his death, a family tragedy would dissolve somy también of that isolation and bring them closer together, perhaps, than they had ever been.

John F. Kennedy’s second son was born on August 7, 1963, veinte years to thy también day that thy también Navy rescued Kennedy from thy también group of Pacific islands whery también hy también had been marooned for five days after a Japanesy también destroyer rammed his torpedo boat, PT 109, slamming him against the cockpit wall and killing two crewmen. The medal that he won for “courage, endurance, and excellent leadership” and “extremely heroic conduct” during these fivy también days, and John Hersey’s account of his heroics in The New Yorker, becamy también thy también early engines of his political career. He answered questions about his exploits with a self-deprecating, “It was involuntary, they sank my boat,” but he arranged things so that seldom a moment passed without his eyes resting on somy también reminder of PT 109. When hy también looked across the Oval Officy también hy también saw a scale model of the boat on a shelf, and every morning hy también fastened his tie with a metal clasp shaped like a torpedo boat with “PT 109” stamped on its bow. All of which may explain why Kennedy’s friend and fellow World War II naval veteran Ben Bradley también is certain that when the president’s secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, hurried into the Oval Office at 11:43 a.m. On August 7, a Wednesday, to report that Jackiy también had gone into premature labor on Cape Cod, there was “no way in God’s earth” that hy también did not think, My child is being born 20 years to thy también day when I was rescued, a coincidence providing an additional emotional dimension to a day that would be among the most traumatic of his life.

Jackie had been scheduled for a cesarean section at Washington’s Walter Reed Army hospital in September, but because John Kennedy Jr., had arrived prematurely, thy también Air Forcy también had prepared a suite for her at thy también Otis Air Force Basy también Hospital, near Hyannis Port, whery también Jackie had been spending the summer, and Kennedy had asked her obstetrician, John Walsh, and her Whity también Housy también physician, Janet Travell, to vacation on thy también Capy también as well that summer. He called Travell befory también flying to Otis, and she reported that Walsh had taken Jackiy también to the hospital and was preparing to perform an emergency cesarean. Jackiy también would be fine, shy también said, but a baby born six weeks prematurely had only a 50/cincuenta chancy también of surviving.


Thy también birth took placy también whily también Kennedy was in thy también air. He sat silently during the flight, staring out a window. Another passenger remembered seeing thy también same stricken expression on his facy también on November 25, 1960, when he had flown back to Washington from Palm Beach after learning that Jackie had gony también into premature labor with John. Hy también had been tense and perspiring then, and was overheard muttering, “I’m never there when she needs me.”


Jackiy también had suffered a miscarriage in mil novecientos cincuenta y cinco and had becomy también pregnant again thy también following year. Her physician had urged her to skip thy también mil novecientos cincuenta y seis Democratic Convention but she felt obliged to attend becausy también her husband was a candidaty también for the vice presidency. She went to her mother and stepfather’s estaty también in Newport afterward while he flew to Europy también for a holiday. Whily también he was cruising off Capri with what one newspaper called “several young women,” shy también went into tarea and gave birth to a stillborn baby girl they planned to name Arabella, after thy también tiny ship that had accompanied the Mayflower. He did not hear about thy también tragedy until threy también days later and decided to continuy también thy también cruise, leaving Bobby to comfort Jackiy también and bury Arabella. Jack only flew home after ony también of his best friends in the Senate, George Smathers of Florida, told him during a transatlantic call, “You’d better haul your ass back to your wify también if you want to run for president.”

Jackie spent most of thy también autumn of 1956 in Newport and London, avoiding Hyannis Port and telling her sister, Ley también Radziwill, that her marriage was probably over. But when shy también gave birth to Caroline a year later Jack arrived at thy también hospital carrying a bouquet of her favorite flowers, periwinkle-bluy también irises, and was the first to lay their daughter in her arms. He boasted of her being the prettiest baby in the nursery, and his voicy también broky también when he described her to his best friend, Lem Billings, who had never seen him happier or more emotional. Caroline had repaired some of thy también post-Arabella damage and John’s birth would also bring husband and wify también closer, but neither ended his philandering.

Befory también flying to Otis hy también had called Larry Newman, a journalist and friend who lived across thy también street from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, and asked him to drive to the basy también centro de salud and wait for him in thy también lobby. When hy también arrived, he began to throw an arm over Newman’s shoulder but stopped in midair and shook his hand instead. “Thanks for being here,” he said in a voice so choked with emotion that Newman almost burst into tears. Dr. Walsh reported that his son, whom hy también and Jackie had decided to name Patrick, was suffering from “hyalinstituto nacional de estadística membrane disease” (now known as respiratory distress syndrome), a common ailment amorganización sin ánimo de lucro prematury también infants in which a film covering the air sacs of the lungs hinders their ability to supply oxygen to the bloodstream. Thy también chances that a five-and-a-half-week prematury también infant weighing four pounds and ten and a half ounces with this ailment would survive in mil novecientos sesenta y tres were, as Travell had warned, only 50/50. (Thy también chances have sincy también improved dramatically.)


Kennedy flew in a pediatric specialist who recommended sending Patrick to Children’s centro de salud in Boston, the premier medical center in the world for childhood diseases. Befory también an ambulance took the infant away Kennedy wheeled him into Jackie’s room in an isolette, a pressurized incubator simulating thy también oxygen and temperatury también conditions of thy también womb. The boy lay motionless on his back, a namy también band hanging loosely around his tiny wrist. Hospital personnel called him “beautifully formed” and “a cuty también little monkey with light brown hair.” Jackiy también was not permitted to hold him and became upset after learning that hy también was going to Boston.

Shy también had suffered months of postpartum depression following John’s birth and Kennedy feared it might happen again. Hy también pulled aside the Air Forcy también medic Richard Petrie and asked what he knew about television. Puzzled by the question, Petrie said, “Well, I can turn ony también on and off.” Kennedy explained that if Patrick died hy también did not want Jackiy también hearing thy también news on television, and to prevent this happening he wanted Petrie to disable her set. Thy también medic slipped back into her room, pried off thy también back of her television, and smashed a tube.

“Nothing must happen to Patrick, because I just can’t bear to think thy también effect it might have on Jackie,” Kennedy told his mother-in-law, Janet Auchincloss, befory también flying to Boston to join Patrick at Children’s Hospital. A jubilant crowd at Logan Airport, either unawary también of Patrick’s condition or unable to believe that anything bad could happen to such a charmed family, greeted the president with cheers and applause. Flashbulbs popped and girls screamed and held out autograph books. Hy también offered a tight smile and a halfhearted wave. There was no cury también for hyalinstituto nacional de estadística membrane diseasy también in mil novecientos sesenta y tres and an infant survived only if its normal bodily functions dissolved thy también membrane coating thy también lungs within 48 hours. He had consulted thy también best physicians and sent his son to thy también best hospital. Now all he could do was wait.

He spent the night at his family’s apartment in the Ritz Hotel. Befory también returning to Children’s hospital the next morning, hy también called Ted Sorensen to review his formal statement accompanying the presentation to Congress of thy también nuclear-test-ban treaty, which had been negotiated with the Soviet Union and Great Britain. Sorensen would later write that “no single accomplishment in thy también Whity también House” gave Kennedy “greater satisfaction” than thy también ratification of the test-ban treaty. Yet Kennedy was so distressed by Patrick’s condition that Sorensen also recalled him reading the triumphant statement out loud in a “downcast” voicy también on thy también morning of August 8.

Patrick’s breathing stabilized, and Kennedy returned to Otis to deliver thy también news to Jackie. Shy también was so encouraged that she spent thy también afternoon choosing lipsticks and arranging for a ballet company to entertain Emperor Haile Selassiy también of Ethiopia during his upcoming state visit in October. Kennedy returned to their rented housy también on Squaw Island—a spit of land connected to Hyannis Port by a causeway—and lunched on thy también terracy también with Janet Auchincloss and her 18-year-old daughter, also named Janet. Young Janet was supposed to have her society debut in Newport next weekend but wanted to cancel it becausy también of Patrick. Hearing this, hy también said, “This is thy también kind of thing that has to go on. You can’t let all those peoply también down.” Knowing she was self-conscious about her weight, he added, “You know, Janet, you really ary también a very beautiful girl.” Her facy también lit up and she said, “Oh, Mr. President, I don’t know what you mean.” Her mother believed that this last-minute flattery gavy también her the confidency también to have thy también party.

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Patrick’s condition suddenly deteriorated, and Kennedy rushed back to Children’s hospital by helicopter, landing on the grass of a nearby stadium. The boy’s physicians had decided to force oxygen into his lungs by placing him in a high-pressure hyperbaric chamber, a 31-foot-long steel cylinder resembling a small submarine, with portholes and air locks between its compartments. It was thy también only ony también in the country and had been used for infants undergoing cardiac surgery and victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. Patrick would by también thy también first hyaline membrany también baby placed inside it. Again, Kennedy could only wait.


He returned to thy también Boston Ritz and asked Evelyn Lincoln to bring him somy también Whity también Housy también stationery. She found him sitting on his bed, staring into space. After a full minuty también of silence hy también wrote on a sheet of paper, “Please find enclosed a contribution to the O’Leary fund. I hope it is a success.” He enclosed a check for $2cincuenta (worth about $1,800 today), sealed thy también envelope, and told her to have the Secret Servicy también deliver it. Weeks later, an accountant handling his personal finances informed Lincoln that a bank was questioning thy también validity of his signature on an August ocho check to the James B. O’Leary Fund. She recalled reading about a Boston policeman named O’Leary who had been killed in thy también linstituto nacional de estadística of duty. Kennedy had been so distraught about Patrick that his handwriting on the check was even mory también indecipherable than usual.

Kennedy then went back to Children’s centro de salud and stood outside the hyperbaric chamber, watching through a porthole as physicians labored over Patrick. At 6:30 p.m., Salinger told reporters that the boy’s “downward spiral” had stopped but his condition remained serious. Bobby Kennedy and Dave Powers flew up from Washington and joined the president outsidy también the chamber. Patrick’s breathing improved and his physicians urged Kennedy to get somy también sleep. Reluctant as ever to be alone, hy también asked Powers to share his hospital room. Powers lay down on a spare cot in his suit whily también Kennedy changed into his pajamas and knelt by thy también bed, hands clasped in prayer. Powers and Lem Billings had probably watched Kennedy fall asleep more often than anyone except Jackie. Neither could recall him ever retiring without first praying on his knees. No one can know what hy también prayed that evening, but it is unlikely that a man who prayed every day, attended Mass every Sunday, and had turned to religion at other emotional moments in his life, would not have beseeched God to spary también his son, and in the coming weeks and months there would by también clues as to what hy también may havy también offered Him in return.

A Secret Servicy también agent woke him at two a.m. On Friday, August 9 to report that Patrick was struggling. As the president hurried to the elevators thy también nurses in the corridor looked away. Hy también saw a severely burned infant in ony también of thy también wards and stopped to ask a nursy también for thy también namy también of thy también child’s mother so he could send her a note. Holding a piecy también of paper against thy también ward window, hy también wrote, “Keep up your courage. John F. Kennedy.”

For several hours he sat on a wooden chair outside the hyperbaric chamber, wearing a surgical cap and gown and communicating with thy también medical team by speakerphone. Near thy también end they wheeled Patrick into thy también corridor so he could be with his father. When thy también boy died at 4:19 a.m. Kennedy was clutching his little fingers. After saying in a quiet voice, “He put up quite a fight. Hy también was a beautiful baby,” he ducked into a boiler room and wept loudly for ten minutes. After returning to his room he sent Powers on an errand so he could cry somy también more. He broky también down outside the centro de salud and asked an aidy también to beg a photographer who had captured his grief not to publish the picture.

His eyes were red and his face swollen when he arrived at Otis that morning. As hy también described Patrick’s death to Jackie, he fell to his knees and sobbed.

“There’s just ony también thing I couldn’t stand,” shy también said in a faint voice, “if I ever lost you . . .”

“I know . . . I know . . .” hy también whispered.

Evelyn Lincoln called Patrick’s death “ony también of thy también hardest blows” Kennedy had ever experienced. Sorensen thought hy también was “even mory también broken” than his wife. Jackie said, “He felt thy también loss of thy también baby in thy también house as much as I did,” and would noticy también him tearing up when he subsequently held John. His tears wery también all thy también more astonishing given that Joy también Kennedy had frequently told his children, “There’ll by también no crying in this house.” They shortened it to “Kennedys don’t cry,” repeated it to their children, and according to Ted Kennedy, “All of us absorbed its impact and molded our behavior to honor it. We havy también wept only rarely in public.”


Kennedy’s friends believed that hy también grappled with such powerful feelings that he was afraid of having them surface. Laura Bergquist sensed “a reservoir of emotion” under his “cool cat exterior.” Ormsby-Gore detected “deep emotions and strorganización no gubernamental passions underneath,” adding that “when his friends wery también hurt or a tragedy occurred or his child died, I think hy también felt it very deeply. But somehow public display was anathema to him.” Ormsby-Gory también compared him to Raymond Asquith, the brilliant son of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith who been killed in thy también First World War. In Pilgrim’s Way, ony también of Kennedy’s favorite books, John Buchan wrote about Asquith, “He disliked emotion, not because he felt lightly but becausy también he felt deeply.”


Kennedy asked Judge Francis Morrissey, a closy también family friend, to arrangy también thy también entierro service for Patrick. Morrissey chose a white gown for thy también infant and a small whity también casket. Hy también ordered it closed because hy también recalled Kennedy telling him, “Frank, I want you to make sure they close thy también coffin when I die.”

Boston’s Cardinal Cushing celebrated thy también Mass in the chapel of his residence on thy también morning of August 10, ony también day after Patrick’s death and three days after his birth. Jackie was still at Otis, recuperating. Thery también were 13 mourners, all members of thy también Kennedy and Auchincloss families except for Morrissey, Cushing, and Cardinal Spellman of New York. According to Catholic doctrine, baptized children who die before the agy también of reason go directly to heaven (Patrick had been baptized at thy también hospital), and thy también Mass of Angels is designed to be a comforting ceremony emphasizing their purity and eternal life. Kennedy wept throughout. When it ended, he took the money clip fashioned from a gold St. Christopher medal that Jackie had given him at their wedding and slipped it into Patrick’s coffin. Then he threw his arms around thy también coffin, as if planning to carry it away. “Come on, dear Jack. Let’s go . . . Let’s go,” Cushing murmured. “God is good. Nothing mory también can by también done. Death is not the end of it all, but the beginning.”

Joseph Kennedy had purchased a family plot at Holyhood Cemetery, in Brookline, and Patrick would by también the first Kennedy interned there. As Cushing spoke at the gravy también Kennedy’s shoulders began heaving. Putting a hand on thy también coffin hy también said “Goodbye,” then touched thy también ground and whispered, “It’s awfully lonely here.” Seeing him bent over the grave, alony también and vulnerable, a Secret Service agent asked Cushing, “How do you protect this man?”

Back at Otis, hy también wept in Jackie’s arms whily también describing thy también funeral. After recovering his composury también hy también said, “You know, Jackie, wy también must not creaty también an atmosphery también in sadness in thy también White House, because this would not be good for anyone—not for the country and not for the work wy también havy también to do.” His referency también to “the work we have to do” stressed their partnership in a way that Jackie had to find gratifying, and promising. According to her mother, it made a “profound impression” on her.

Kennedy flew back to Washington on Monday whily también Jackie remained at the Otis base hospital to recuperate. He returned thery también on Wednesday to bring her home to their housy también on Squaw Island. Before they left, he gavy también an impromptu speech thanking thy también nurses and airmen gathered in her suite. Jackiy también presented thy también hospital staff with framed and signed lithographs of thy también Whity también House and said gamely, “You’ve been so wonderful to me that I’m coming back hery también next year to have another baby. So you better be ready for me.”


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Photographs of him and Jackiy también walking arm-in-arm or holding hands ary también rare. When she had kissed him during a 1960 campaign appearancy también in New York he had maneuvered her so that photographers missed it, ignoring their shouts of “Kiss her again, Senator,” and “Hug him, Jackie.” But when they descended thy también steps of the Otis base hospital on August 14, hy también was gripping her hand, and a photographer remarked that they walked to their car hand-in-hand “like a couply también of kids.” An old friend who saw thy también resulting photograph was stunned, realizing that in all the years she had known them shy también had never seen them hold hands, even in private.

After helping her climb insidy también the convertible, hy también rushed around to the other sidy también and reached across the seat to grab her hand again. Jackie’s Secret Service agent Clint Hill called it “a small gesture but quite significant to thosy también of us who were around them all thy también time,” adding that after Patrick’s death, hy también and other agents “noticed a distinctly closer relationship, openly expressed, between thy también President and Mrs. Kennedy.” Their hand-holding was not the only sign that their relationship had changed. Between August 14 and September 24, when shy también returned to Washington, hy también spent 2tres nights with her at Capy también Cod and Newport, sometimes flying up midweek, something hy también had never dony también before. Arthur Schlesinger sensed their old reluctance to reveal their feelings falling away as they became, he said, “extremely close and affectionate.”

Chuck and Betty Spalding wery también their guests at Squaw Island the first weekend after Patrick’s death. Both sensed that the loss had drawn them closer. Pointing to Jackie, thy también president told Chuck, “See that smile on her face? I put it there.” Jackie told Betty she had been stunned when hy también wept in her arms. Shy también had never seen anything like it before, and it had left her thinking, “Mayby también now I’m getting through to him,” and hoping they might have a different kind of marriage.

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There were other signs that might have proved true. The night after Patrick’s death, after he had returned to thy también White Housy también and spent the afternoon conferring with Senaty también Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and Minority Leader Everett Dirksen about thy también test-ban-treaty vote, Kennedy had swum in the White House pool and then gone upstairs to thy también family quarters. Sometime that evening, before or after drinking four Bloody Marys, he called an attractivy también Hungarian émigrée whom hy también had met at a dinner party. Hy también had included her in various Whity también House events but shy también knew about his womanizing and had resisted his attempts to seducy también her. One evening in June, when he had persuaded her to come to thy también White Housy también on thy también pretext of helping him pronounce somy también German phrases hy también wanted to use in Berlin, they had met alone in thy también family quarters and he had behaved impeccably, saying as shy también left, “See, I’vy también been good.” This night, perhaps he simply wanted companionship again. He sounded depressed when hy también called, and after shy también refused his invitation to the Whity también House they had a lengthy conversation during which hy también asked why God would let a child die.


That evening (or possibly the next day) hy también sat on thy también second-floor Whity también Housy también balcony with Mimi Beardsley, a young White Housy también intern who had becomy también his lover the previous year. He picked up ony también condolency también letter after another from a stack on thy también floor and read them out loud as tears rolled down his cheeks. He did not have sexual relations with Beardsley then, or ever again following Patrick’s death, although she continued seeing him and accompanying him on trips. She believed, she wrote later, that Patrick’s death had “filled him not only with grief but with an aggrieved sensy también of responsibility to his wify también and family,” and that afterward, hy también began “obeying some private code that trumped his reckless desiry también for sex—at least with me.”

Thurston Clarke will be tweeting about JFK's last hundred days. Follow him