Joe Kennedy Jnr's Last Mission by Mick Muttitt
At 1752 hours on 12th August 1944, a Consolidated PB4Y–1 Liberator (Bureau No. 32271. Coded T-11) of United States Navy Squadron VB-110 took off from Fersfield–Winfarthing airfield near Diss in Norfolk. It was on a top–secret (Project Anvil) mission. The crew consisted of only two men. Captain was Lieutenant J. P. Kennedy (Junior), USN, son of the former US ambassador to the United Kingdom, Joe Kennedy, and elder brother of the future US President JFK. Co-pilot was Lieutenant W. J. Willy, USN.
The aircraft had been stripped of all armament to save weight, but broom handles were put in the turrets to fool the enemy. Twelve tons of Torpex had been packed into the aircraft (actually 21,170 lbs of Torpex plus six demolition charges each containing 100 lbs of TNT). The Torpex was contained in 374 boxes. The target was the giant 150mm German ‘Super-Gun’ site at Mimoyecques near Calais. After setting a heading for this, the crew were to bale out and the pilotless aircraft would then be radio-controlled to its final destination.
Escorting aircraft were officially listed as two Lockheed PV–1 Venturas, one of which was the radio-control aircraft, one De–Havilland Mosquito photographic aircraft which was flown by Colonel Roosevelt, the son of the US President at that time, two Lockheed P–38 Lightnings and two Boeing B–17 Flying Fortresses. Sixteen North American P–51 Mustangs were also detailed as top cover for the North Sea crossing. The Liberator had been flown manually from take–off in a wide circuit of East Anglia. While over Blythburgh, just before heading out to sea, the radio-controller in the Ventura decided to feed a test alteration of course to the bomber to prove the system. As soon as this signal was executed, at exactly 1820 hours, the Liberator was torn apart by an enormous explosion. The tragedies that were to befall the unfortunate Kennedy household had begun.
My account of what I saw from the ground on that summer evening is given in History Note 11 (here). At the time I had no idea of the cause of the disaster or the number and identity of the crew members. It was sixteen years later that I read a Daily Mail article about the Kennedy family stating that Joe, the elder brother of President John F. Kennedy, had been killed during the war when his bomber had exploded in mid–air over Southern England while on a top–secret mission.
This was too much of a coincidence. As my parents now lived in the cottage over which the aircraft exploded I decided to locate as much of the wreckage remaining on site as possible. I found many large pieces, including a complete engine with constructor’s plate (which I removed and still have today), a main landing–gear actuating assembly unit (with easily readable transfers), plus many smaller fragments of tyres, formers and magnesium alloy. The latter ensured that Guy Fawkes’s bonfires on Blythburgh Fen were the brightest in the area for many years!
Subsequent research into the disaster has proved that the tragic event witnessed by my brother Peter and me was in fact the untimely death of Joe Kennedy and his co–pilot. Full details of the secret mission have at last been released.
Some Favourite Websites For December 2018:
Hetty’s Little Copy Shop – A wide range of printing services - including 3D - plus passport photos and more
The Little Copy Shop is in Thoroughfare, Halesworth, and offers all sorts of useful services involving printing, laminating, scanning, binding and copying plus various photographic services including passport photos.
Stoneware Birds – Life-sized handmade and unique British birds, now available to buy online.
A charming unique gift or a treat for oneself. See the website to know how each one is made. Now available to buy online. Each bird is an individual creation, varying in choice from the perky wren to the plump bullfinch together with other well-loved British birds. Which will you choose?
Singtong Neeyom Thai Restaurant – Delicious authentic Thai Cuisine
Take a look at Singtong Neeyom Thai Restaurant in the centre of Halesworth, for a range of delicious and skillfully prepared Thai dishes created by their own native Thai, Piek.
Victoria Cottage – Centrally-located Southwold Cottage for Two, plus up to two dogs at no extra charge
Just minutes from Southwold's seafront, High Street, pubs and pier, this Victorian cottage has views of Southwold's iconic lighthouse from the upstairs day room and the charming rear courtyard. WiFi. Up to two well-behaved dogs welcome. Summer weeks and flexible breaks available.
Valley Farm – A large family farmhouse in Walberswick
A Grade II listed farmhouse for up to 11, plus 2 cots, with amazing views across the marshes to the sea.