Learn more about John F. Kennedy’s service in World War II in the South Pacific, and the history of US-Japanese relations during President Kennedy’s administration. View archival photographs, video and artifacts from the JFK Library collection, and access five of President Kennedy’s most historic speeches translated into Japanese.

A Brief History of JFK and Japan

PC101 450John F. Kennedy joined the US Navy in 1941 and was stationed in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific during World War II. Commanding the Patrol Torpedo Craft (PT) PT 109, Lieutenant Kennedy and his crew participated in early Allied war campaigns. On August 2, 1943, PT 109 was struck by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri and the entire crew was thrown into the Pacific. After fifteen hours at sea, eleven survivors made it to a nearby island with Kennedy towing one injured crew member to land. Learn more >>

JFK Speeches in Japanese

Read five (5) of President Kennedy's Historic Speeches which have been translated in Japanese:

Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, September 12, 1960

Although Irish Catholics began to play a major role in local and state politics in the latter nineteenth century, the first Catholic to seek a national office was the popular governor of New York, Alfred E. Smith, who was the Democratic nominee for president in 1928. Anti-Catholic prejudice, the fear that a Catholic president would “take orders” from the Pope, insured Smith’s defeat. John F. Kennedy quickly discovered that many Americans were still worried that a young Catholic candidate for president would be under the influence of the Catholic Church and that the nation would ultimately be run by the pope in Rome rather than the president in Washington. Some Americans vowed not to support John F. Kennedy for the presidency for this reason. Fear of a government unduly influenced by religious interests was real and seen as a distinct liability for this Catholic candidate. John F. Kennedy finally decided to try to defeat the issue by meeting it head-on, and on September 12, 1960, he spoke before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in Houston, Texas. English | Japanese

Inaugural Address, 20 January 1961

On a frigid Winter’s day, January 20, 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office from Chief Justice Earl Warren, to become the 35th President of the United States. At age 43, he was the youngest man, and the first Irish Catholic to be elected to the office of President. This is the speech he delivered announcing the dawn of a new era as young Americans born in the 20th century first assumed leadership of the Nation. English | Japanese

Watch President Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural Address with Japanese subtitles.

Motion picture of President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address in Washington, DC. In his speech, President Kennedy urges American citizens to participate in public service and "ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."

Date: 1/20/1961

Address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Effort, May 25, 1961

When John F. Kennedy became president in January 1961, Americans had the perception that the United States was losing the “space race” with the Soviets. President Kennedy understood the need and had the vision of not only matching the Soviets, but surpassing them. On May 25, 1961, he stood before Congress and proclaimed that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy delivered a speech describing his goals for the nation’s space effort before a crowd of 35,000 people in the football stadium at Rice University in Houston, Texas. English | Japanese

American University Commencement Address, June 10, 1963

President Kennedy began to feel in the spring of 1963 that there was a possibility for some kind of new movement in US relations with the Soviet Union, and he began to look for an opportunity to make a “peace speech”. In his commencement address at American University on June 10, 1963, President Kennedy called on the Soviet Union to work with the United States to achieve a nuclear test ban treaty and help reduce the considerable international tensions and the specter of nuclear war at that time. He announced a new round of high-level arms negotiations with the Russians and boldly called for an end to the Cold War. The Soviet government broadcast a translation of Kennedy’s entire speech, and allowed it to be reprinted in the controlled Soviet press. English | Japanese

Remarks at Amherst College on the Arts, October 26, 1963

On a beautiful autumn Saturday at the end of October 1963, President Kennedy flew to Amherst College in Massachusetts to take part in a ceremony in honor of the poet Robert Frost who had died in January of that year. In deciding what he might say, the President decided upon Frost’s inaugural theme of poetry and power and the significance of Robert Frost and of poetry for the United States and for the world. In the thousand days of his administration, President and Mrs. Kennedy had sparked a revival of national interest in matters cultural and intellectual. In this speech delivered on October 26, 1963 before an estimated crowd of 10,000 people, President Kennedy made clear the need for a nation to represent itself not only through its strength but also through its art. English | Japanese

JFK and Japan Gallery

06 JFK artifact in Navy uniform

Browse photos and curated artifacts from our collection which highlight JFK's relationship with Japan.