Robert F Kennedy

John and Robert Kennedy, Shortly before John's assassination.

John and Robert Kennedy, Shortly before John’s assassination.

Robert Francis Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on November 20th 1925, the seventh child of nine, to Joseph P Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald. His father was a prominent Politician, and his maternal grandfather, his father’s main political rival. Robert’s great grandparents on his father’s side were all Irish Catholic immigrants to America, fleeing the 19th Century potato famine.
Kennedy’s family have since become synonymous with American politics, his older brother John was US president until his 1963 assassination, his younger brother Edward was a US senator until his death from brain cancer. The oldest Kennedy son, Joseph Junior was the only one of the sons who did not enter the world of politics, although it was their father’s ambition and was expected that he would eventually become President, young Joseph joined the Allied World War 2 war effort as an aviator and was killed in August 1944, whilst flying a secret test mission over Suffolk, England. With regard to his large number of siblings, Robert famously once stated “When you come from that far down, you have to struggle to survive”.

When Bobby was two, the family moved to New York and later attended a private boys school, Riverdale, where he appeared an average student, who found it difficult to fit in, and was shy and a bit of a loner. He was quite clumsy, suffering a number of accidents, occasionally requiring hospital treatment. His siblings teased him quite relentlessly, which Bobby endured by teasing himself or remaining quiet. He was close to his mother, who was a devout Catholic, and Bobby also displayed more faith than his brothers and sisters.
As Bobby’s brothers were quite a bit older then him, eight and ten years of age when he was born, the gap appears to have been a permanent one in his childhood, with the two older boys having little to do with him. John was quite sickly however, and so did spend time reading and walking with Bobby. At the outbreak of World War Two, Bobby briefly attended an elite prep school, but his mother transferred him in his father’s absence to a nearby Catholic school, as she was unhappy with their use of the Protestant bible.

Just before Bobby turned 18, he followed his older brothers and enlisted for Military service. His actual participation was deferred on account of his attendance at college, which he left in March 1944. He had enlisted in the Naval reserve and commenced his training in both Harvard and Maine, but was frustrated at his lack of active duty. Following his brother’s death, a Navy destroyer was named in his honour, the Joseph P Kennedy Jr, and Bobby requested to join the ship, which he was granted in February 1946, he completed his enlistment in May of that year.

After returning to Harvard to complete a degree in Political science, in 1948, after graduating, Bobby worked as a journalist, visiting the Middle East and corresponding on the situation with the Arabs and Jews in Palestine. Despite being impressed by the efforts of both parties to work together, he predicted the project would end in war. In 1950, Bobby married Ethel Skakel, and their first child of eleven was born the following year, a month after Kennedy graduated law school. A few months later, Bobby accompanied his older brother John, on a trip to Japan, Asia, Israel and Vietnam, the first lengthy period of time they had spent together. The trip brought them closer, and led to John naming Bobby as his Attorney General following his success in the 1960 Presidency. Sadly their new closeness was not to last long, as John’s life was cut short by assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, in November 1963.

During his few years in the Presidential office, Bobby Kennedy had continued to be a staunch supporter of the civil rights movement for Black Americans, and social equality, as well being known for his strong stance on foreign policy and the economy. John Kennedy stated that it was Robert’s input that averted the Cuban missile crisis of 1961. After his brother’s death, and following the assassination of his fellow civil rights campaigner, Martin Luther King Jr, in 1966, Bobby Kennedy announced his decision to run for the Presidential candidacy. After beating his opposition to gain an early lead in the primaries in three out of four states, Bobby seemed to be on track to become the second Kennedy in the White House. With hindsight it has even been theorised that the younger Kennedy would have outshone his famous brother with his dedication to a range of policies.

Around midnight on the night of June 5th following his victory in the California Primary, Kennedy had given a celebratory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, and was being escorted from the Ballroom via the kitchen area, when he was confronted by Palestinian Sirhan SIrhan who fired eight shots, three of which hit Kennedy in the head and back, five other people were also hit. A stray bullet passed harmlessly through Kennedy’s jacket.

Sirhan later stated that he shot Kennedy in retaliation for his support of the Israeli’s in Palestine, during the previous year’s Six-Day war. Sirhan was a Palestinian Christian with Jordanian citizenship. His family had moved to America when he was 12, his father, a brutal man by all accounts, returned to the Middle East the following year. Sirhan admitted immediately to shooting Kennedy and never changed his plea, despite which a four month long trial followed, after which he was given a sentence of death, later commuted to life.
Kennedy underwent extensive surgery but died 26 hours later on the morning of June 6th 1968. A doctor later stated that it was a miracle Bobby Kennedy hung on for as long as he did and had he survived, he would have suffered massive brain damage. The five others hurt in the shooting, all recovered from their injuries. Six months after his death, in December 1968, his youngest daughter Rory was born.

In recent years, previous unreleased evidence and testimonies have come to light regarding the assassination, which have led to various conspiracy theories, in the same way that an element of doubt as to the circumstances of John F Kennedy’s assassination five years before that of his brother. Witnesses have claimed several more shots were fired, a claim appeared to be backed up by the unusual trajectories of the shots fired and claims of tape recordings of the shots being fired, which appear to number more than a dozen in total. The maximum capacity of Sirhan’s revolver being eight bullets. The major injury inflicted on Kennedy was the shot to his head. Ballistics experts claim the wound caused by the bullets fired from Sirhan’s gun could not have made a hole of the size claimed in post-mortem reports. It seems there may have been more than one grassy knoll in the Kennedy family.

Phoebe