I came home yesterday and Dad gave me your letter with the gold coin. The coin is now fastened to my identification tag and will be there, I hope, for the duration. I couldn't have been more pleased. Good luck is a commodity in rather large demand these days and I feel you have given me a particularly potent bit of it.
John F. Kennedy to Clare Boothe Luce ,
September 29, 1942.
Words and Deeds in American History
In 1942, John F. Kennedy entered the United States Navy to join American forces fighting in World War II. Prior to his departure, playwright Clare Boothe Luce, a close friend of the Kennedy family, sent the young naval officer a good luck coin that once belonged to her mother. On September 29, 1942, Kennedy wrote to Luce thanking her for sharing such an important token with him.
President John F. Kennedy,
Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present
In the summer of 1943, Lieutenant "Jack" Kennedy commanded a PT boat operating against the Japanese near the island of New Georgia in the Pacific. One night Kennedy's boat was rammed and cut in two by a Japanese destroyer. Although injured during the attack, Kennedy and most of his crew survived.
A few months later, Kennedy again wrote to Luce. With his note he enclosed a gadget, originally intended to be a letter opener, made "from a Jap 51 cal. Bullet and the steel from a fitting on my boat, part of which drifted onto an island." He concluded the note with a word of thanks for Luce's earlier gift:
With it goes my sincere thanks for your good-luck piece, which did service above and beyond its routine duties during a rather busy period.
John F. Kennedy to Clare Boothe Luce, October 20, 1943.
Clare Boothe Luce Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
No stranger to the frontline herself, Luce covered World War II as a journalist. As early as 1940, she published Europe in the Spring, an anti-isolationist account of her experiences in embattled Europe.
Clare Boothe Luce,Carl Van Vechten, photographer,December 9, 1932.
Creative Americans: Portraits by Van Vechten 1932-1964
Learn more about Clare Boothe Luce. Visit Women Come to the Front, a Library of Congress exhibition highlighting the work of eight female journalists, photographers, and broadcasters during World War II.
Search the Today in History Archive on Kennedy to read more about the lives of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Search on the term World War II to learn more about that conflict, for example, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the invasion of North Africa, and D-Day.
Search across American Memory on the term letter to find a wide variety of images and documents related to the fine art of letter writing. See, for example, Letters of a Volunteer in the Spanish-American War from the collection Puerto Rico at the Dawn of the Modern Age, and the 1857 The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility, in Manners, Dress, and Conversation…Also a Useful Instructor in Letter Writing from An American Ballroom Companion, ca. 1490-1920.
Enjoy the posters That Letter Will Be Appreciated and quot;Censored", presented in the collection By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA 1936-1943. The Collection Highlights includes a section on posters from World War II.
Silhouette of Soldier with Rifle,
David B. Allen, photographer,
History of the American West, 1860-1920
On September 29, 1789, the final day of its very first session, the United States Congress passed "An act to recognize and adapt to the Constitution of the United States, the establishment of the troops raised under the resolves of the United States in Congress assembled" officially creating the military of the United States. To the men already serving on the frontier under orders of the Continental Congress, the change probably meant little.
Although the Constitution of the United States charged Congress with raising and regulating military forces, newly-elected House and Senate members delayed acting on this provision. Busy organizing the federal government and debating the location of the new Federal City, Congress neglected dealing with the issue of military forces until prodded by President and Commander in Chief George Washington.
On August 7, Washington reminded both Houses that the provision for troops made under the Continental Congress must be superseded by action under the new Constitution. The establishment of United States troops was an issue, the President wrote:
the national importance and necessity of which I am deeply impressed; I mean some uniform and effective system for the Militia of the United States. It is unnecessary to offer arguments in recommendation of a measure, on which the honor, safety and well being of our Country so evidently and essentially depend: But it may not be amiss to observe that I am particularly anxious it should receive an early attention as circumstances will admit; because it is now in our power to avail ourselves of the military knowledge disseminated throughout the several States by means of the many well instructed Officers and soldiers of the late Army; a resource which is daily diminishing by deaths and other causes. Letter from George Washington to Congress, August 7, 1789.
George Washington Papers, 1741-1799
Henry Knox,Secretary of War,Photograph of painting by Constantino Brumidi.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America, 1880-1920
This appeal, delivered by Secretary of War, Henry Knox, was not immediately acted upon. Three days later, on August 10, Washington again urged Congress to address the issue. Finally, on September 29, 1789, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the bill that transformed the Continental Army into the armed forces of the United States of America.
The American Memory collection A Century of Lawmaking contains many resources that provide insight into the formative years of the United States government. The proceedings of both the House of Representatives and the Senate are available. Search across the collection on a specific term or use the navigator to go directly to a particular date. For each date in the Journals, a link is provided to The Annals of Congress. Formally known as The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, the Annals often contain more in-depth coverage of Congressional activity.
The George Washington Papers held by the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress is the largest collection of original Washington documents in the world. It encompasses Washington's correspondence, letterbooks, commonplace books, diaries, journals, financial account books, military records, reports, and notes for the period 1741 through 1799. The online George Washington Papers, 1741-1799 makes available 147,000 digital images of these manuscripts along with transcripts of their contents. Search the full text of Washington's Papers using keywords relevant to your interests, or browse the collection series, organized by date and type of document.