As we approach the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, here is a look back at 10 iconic facets of the 35th president. Even today, the public continues to piece together the mystique of a leader gone too soon.
THE WAR HERO During his World War II naval service, Kennedy was presented with the Purple Heart and the Navy Marine Corps Medal in honor of his heroics in the rescue of his PT-109 crew after the torpedo boat was struck by a Japanese destroyer.
THE UNLIKELY CANDIDATE Kennedy broke the mold as the youngest man elected president—and the first Catholic.
THE FAMILY MAN In 1953, John married Jacqueline Bouvier. They had two children—Caroline and John Jr. A third child, Patrick, passed away just two days after his birth. Today, Caroline is the only immediate family member who survives the late president.
THE PHILANDERER Despite reports of extramarital affairs that circulated after his death, the negative press has hardly seemed to cloud Kennedy's respected image. To this day, the late president maintains famously high public-opinion ratings.
ON THE HOME FRONT While in office, Kennedy created the Peace Corps, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the Alliance for Progress, and the Navy SEALs, and he propelled the U.S. into the space race. The promise he made in a 1961 speech that the U.S. would put a man on the moon "before this decade is out" was ultimately fulfilled.
THE CIVIL-RIGHTS CHAMPION Regarded as an opponent of segregation and supporter of civil rights for African-Americans, Kennedy became the first president to call on all Americans to denounce racism as morally wrong. Motivated by demonstrations by Martin Luther King Jr., Kennedy's civil-rights proposals set the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
THE DIPLOMAT His foreign policy record lists both successes—such as the peaceful resolution to the Cuban missile crisis—and missteps, including the Bay of Pigs invasion and escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
VISAGE OF VIGOR Although initially unknow to the general public and concealed well by his charismatic nature, Kennedy suffered a number of health issues, including Addison's disease and chronic back pain.
THE PROGRESSIVE MARTYR Kennedy's early death framed him as a martyr for civil rights and other liberal ideologies.
GONE TOO SOON Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, received heavy coverage via major news networks—a milestone in the new age of televised news.