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john f. kerry chronology



Richard Kerry marries Rosemary Forbes.


Dec. 11

John Forbes Kerry is born in Denver, Colo. at Fitzsimons Military Hospital, where his father Richard, an Army Air Corps pilot, had been sent by the Army Air Corps to recover from tuberculosis. John is the second of four children.



The Kerry family moves to Massachusetts where they live briefly in Groton before settling into a farmhouse in Millis.


The family moves to Washington, D.C., where Richard Kerry works for the Office of the General Counsel for the Navy and later the State Department.


Richard Kerry's new position as U.S. attorney for post-war Berlin takes the family to Germany. John, now 11, is sent to a boarding school in Switzerland, the Institut Montana Zugerberg.



John enrolls at the Fessenden School in West Newton, Mass. His family stays in Europe. While at Fessenden, Kerry becomes friends with Richard Pershing, grandson of World War I general "Black Jack" Pershing.



John enrolls at St. Paul's, a college prep school in Concord, N.H. His great-aunt, Clara Winthrop, pays a portion of his tuition. At St. Paul's, John founds a debate club called the John Winant Society, excels at hockey and soccer, and plays bass in a band called The Electras. He also meets Daniel Barbiero, who becomes a close friend.



After graduating from St. Paul's, John spends the summer doing work for Edward Kennedy's Senate campaign and spends time with his girlfriend, Janet Auchincloss, who is Jacqueline Kennedy's half-sister. In August, he meets President Kennedy at Auchincloss's home in Rhode Island, and is later photographed with him as they watch the America's Cup race.


kerry at yale

John enters Yale. He majors in political science, plays on the soccer team and is president of the Political Union. He spends his senior year as a member of the exclusive Skull and Bones society. He also meets David Thorne who becomes a good friend, and is reunited with Dick Pershing, his friend from the Fessenden School.


Feb. 18

John Kerry enlists in the Navy.


William Bundy, assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern affairs, visits Yale and spends time with his nephew Harvey who is John's roommate. He tells the young men that the country needs their service because a lot is at stake in the war in Vietnam.

June 12

Kerry graduates from Yale and gives the class oration. Rather than give a traditional reflective speech about his college years, Kerry rewrites his speech to be a critique of the nation's current foreign policy. He gets a standing ovation.

Aug. 22

Kerry begins officer training in Newport, R.I. In the coming months he is commissioned as an ensign in the Naval Reserve, and receives training in officer damage control and as a combat information center watch officer.


June 8

kerry on the frigate

Kerry reports to the guided-missile frigate U.S.S. Gridley, which patrols around Southern California.



The Gridley heads for operations in the Pacific. Kerry requests that his second tour of duty be in Vietnam. His first choice is to command a Swift boat.

Feb. 26

While on the bridge of the Gridley, Kerry receives a telegram with news of his friend Dick Pershing's death in combat.


The Gridley returns to Calif. In July, Kerry is promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) and heads for Swift boat training in Coronado, CA.

Nov. 16

Kerry is assigned to PCF-44, a Swift boat that is part of Coastal Squadron 1, Coastal Division 14 in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam. The vessel is initially sent on coastal patrols before being ordered to join Operation SEALORDS, a series of missions in which Swift crews run up river tributaries to disrupt enemy activity. While serving on PCF-44, Kerry is wounded and receives a Purple Heart.



kerry in vietnam

Kerry is assigned to PCF-94. While in command of this new vessel and crew, he receives his second and third Purple Hearts, along with a Silver Star and Bronze Star.


With three purple hearts, Kerry is eligible for transfer out of Vietnam. He puts in his request in March and leaves the country in April.

April 11

Kerry is reassigned as an aide and flag lieutenant to Rear Adm. Walter Schlech, in Brooklyn, NY. A few months later he is promoted to lieutenant.

Oct. 15

Kerry's sister Peggy, who is working for an anti-war group in New York, gets him a job flying Adam Walinsky, a former speechwriter for Robert Kennedy, to anti-war rallies around the state.


Jan. 3

Kerry requests and is granted an early discharge from the Navy. He makes plans to run for Congress in Massachusetts's Third District on an antiwar platform.


Kerry drops out of the primary, endorsing Rev. Robert Drinan's anti-war candidacy.

May 23

kerry at a vvaw meeting

John Kerry marries Julia Thorne, the twin sister of David Thorne, his friend from Yale. After his honeymoon, Kerry joins Vietnam Veterans Against War (VVAW) and spends the rest of the year becoming active in the group's activities.


Jan. 31-Feb. 2

The Winter Soldier meetings take place in Detroit, Mich. Veterans gather at this VVAW event to talk about atrocities in Vietnam. Kerry attends but does not participate. He begins to stand out as the organization's spokesperson.

April 18

Kerry joins approximately 1,000 veterans camped on the Washington Mall for the Dewey Canyon III anti-war protest.

April 22

kerry testifying

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by William Fulbright, hears John Kerry's testimony on behalf of the VVAW. His powerful recounting of the stories of atrocities that he had heard in Detroit a few months earlier draws the attention of the national media and the Nixon administration.

April 23

Members of VVAW throw their medals over the fence of U.S. Capitol building in protest. Kerry is among them, tossing ribbons he had with him and the medals of veterans who were unable to make the trip to Washington.

June 30

Kerry debates pro-war Vietnam veteran John O'Neill on The Dick Cavett Show.

Nov. 13

As the views of VVAW increasingly diverge from his own, Kerry resigns from the group. He begins to consider a career in public service and soon decides to make a second run for Congress.



kerry campaigning

Kerry wins the Democratic primary for Massachusetts's Fifth Congressional District, but loses by nine percentage points to Republican Paul Cronin. Kerry couldn't survive editorials from the conservative newspaper, The Lowell Sun, whose attacks fuelled the district's perception of Kerry as a carpetbagger and anti-war radical.

1973 to 1976

Kerry enrolls at Boston College Law School. He and his wife Julia now have two daughters, Alexandra and Vanessa. Before graduation, he secures a job as a prosecutor in the D.A.'s office in Middlesex County, an area northwest of Boston.



kerry as prosecutor

John Kerry is promoted to first assistant district attorney. The following May, he opens a private law practice in Boston.



At the Massachusetts Democratic Convention, John Kerry is nominated to be Michael Dukakis' lieutenant governor.


Kerry and his wife Julia separate. Julia has been struggling with depression and with being in the political spotlight. They will divorce six years later.

Nov. 7

Michael Dukakis is elected Massachusetts governor and Lt. Gov. Kerry becomes the liaison between the governor's office and the U.S. government. He also works on the acid rain issue and authors a computer crime bill.



Sen. Paul Tsongas announces he will not seek re-election. Kerry decides to run for his seat.

Sept. 18

Kerry wins the Democratic nomination over James Shannon in a campaign that focuses on a nuclear freeze and cutting defense spending. He wins the general election Nov. 6, beating Republican Raymond Shamie.


Jan. 3

pow/mia sign

Kerry is sworn in as U.S. senator. He successfully lobbies for a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and gains attention for tough investigations. His most impressive achievement is closing the book on the Vietnam war. He successfully works to normalize U.S.-Vietnam relations and resolve the bitter, lingering POW-MIA issue. As chair of the investigating committee, teams up with fellow senator and Vietnam veteran John McCain and makes five trips to Vietnam to chase down rumors about surviving POWs and MIAs being held there. The committee's final unanimous report declares there is no compelling reason to believe that any POWs or MIAs remain alive.


Nov. 6

Kerry wins re-election to the senate, beating James Rappaport.


Jan. 12

Saddam Hussein invades and occupies Kuwait. Sen. Kerry is among a group of fellow Vietnam veterans who vote against a resolution to give President George H.W. Bush authority to go to war against Iraq. In his public statements, Kerry strongly cautions about the risk of war to America's soldiers. But the war resolution passes by a vote of 52-47, and months later, coalition forces oust the Iraqis and liberate Kuwait.


May 26

John Kerry marries Teresa Heinz, the widow of Sen. John Heinz III (R-Pa.).


Nov. 5

kerry victory against weld

In a hard-fought campaign, Sen. Kerry wins re-election against popular Massachusetts Gov. William Weld. The eight televised debates between Weld and Kerry receive national attention.


Sept. 10

On the eve of the terrorist attacks on America, Sen. Kerry and Sen. McCain are in Boston to receive an award from the World Affairs Council honoring their work in normalizing relations with Vietnam. The following morning, Kerry watches the news coverage of the attacks in his office before being forced to evacuate the Capitol.


Oct. 11

In a speech to the Senate, Kerry cautions that war should be a last resort in the effort to disarm Saddam Hussein. However, two days later, he votes to support the Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.


Jan. 12

Kerry announces that he will run for president in 2004.

Oct. 17

kerry speaking before the vote

President Bush asks Congress to approve a bill authorizing $87 billion for the reconstruction effort in Iraq. Kerry favors a version of the bill that includes an amendment calling for part of the $87 billion to be paid for by eliminating one year of the tax cut for the top 1 percent of taxpayers, in order to not increase the deficit. The final version of the bill does not include this amendment. Kerry votes against the bill.


Jan. 19

Although he trails other candidates through much of the primary season, John Kerry wins the Iowa caucus. Sen. John Edwards places second.

Jan. 27

Kerry wins the New Hampshire primary.

March 2

On Super Tuesday, Kerry appears to have a lock for the Democratic nomination, winning California, New York, Ohio, and Maryland. Sen. Edwards drops out of the race.

July 6

Kerry chooses Sen. John Edwards as his running mate.

July 28

John Kerry officially becomes the Democratic presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

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posted oct. 12, 2004

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