The President plunged into the heavy surf and swam out beyond it
while a crowd gathered, shouting and staring at his bobbing head.
He swam in the ocean, about a hundred yards offshore, for ten minutes
while a crowd of almost a thousand people gathered on the beach.


When the President was coming out of the water
a photographer in street clothes waded out to his waist to take pictures.
Kennedy glanced at the photographer and said,
"Oh, no, I can't believe it".

In the news today -- 12/12/12 -- there's a story explaining the story behind the 1962 photograph of President Kennedy being mobbed by adoring fans on the beach in front of his sister's house in Santa Monica, California.

JFKbeachSwimStory JFKswimFrontPage

The story in the Los Angeles Times explains how the photographer captured the picture and it also identifies the woman in the polka-dot bathing suit who JFK is laughing with. She was in the water looking for her 13-year-old son who had run into the ocean with the hundreds of other fans on the beach. She said, in an interview later, that she and JFK were laughing about a lady who kept shouting "I touched him Mabel".

The photo made it onto the front page of the LA Times that day -- August 19, 1962 -- and it gave Eva Ban fifteen minutes of glorious fame -- and she talks about it to this day -- she's now 91 years old. The article goes on to explain that the photographer -- Bill Beebe -- won prestigious awards for the photo -- capturing as it does the joy of people's love for JFK.

There's a picture of that beach photo in one of the earliest JFK books written after the assassination, ie A JOHN F KENNEDY MEMORIAL that came out in 1964:

JFKbookMemorial JFKbeachpeopleLove

The caption beside it reads: ...That glow came from the inner man himself as he bathed at a public beach and exulted in the warmth and love that went out to him from the people.

The background behind that famous photo of JFK on the beach is also described in the 1975 book JOHNNY WE HARDLY KNEW YE by Kenny O'Donnell and Dave Powers, his two closest aides. Here's the excerpt, transcribed below with another pic of the photo taken from one of my coffee table books:

pages 466-467

...The President loved sports, football especially, and enjoyed meeting star athletes.... Kennedy was a good athlete himself. He could throw a long and accurate pass with a football and he could hit a softball sharply to the opposite field. His appearance in swimming trunks was surprising. Weighing around 172 pounds, with muscular shoulders and arms and solid legs, he had the build of a light-heavyweight boxer and seemed much bigger and more powerful than he looked when dressed in one of his well-tailored suits. He loved the ocean and enjoyed swimming in it and sailing on it. When we spent a night on a Navy ship, he would pace the deck in the darkness saying, "I want to feel the salt on my face".

One Sunday on a trip to California, he spent the afternoon at the beach home of Pat and Peter Lawford at Santa Monica, sitting in his swimming trunks beside the pool, reading a book, but glancing from time to time at the ocean surf. "Dave, look at that surf out there," he said to Powers, who was stretched out beside him. Dave was silently hoping that the President would be able to resist the urge to plunge into the surf, because the beach was open to the public and crowded with Sunday visitors who would rush upon Kennedy if they spied him heading toward the water.

But after an hour or so the dark glasses came off, the book was put down, and he was walking across the public beach toward the waves. Dave jumped up and hurried after him, wondering if he should summon the Secret Service guards from the front of the Lawford house for protection. He heard one sunbather saying, "He looks like President Kennedy, but President Kennedy isn't that big and powerful looking."

The President plunged into the heavy surf and swam out beyond it while a crowd gathered, shouting and staring at his bobbing head. One woman dropped to her knees and prayed. "He's out so far!" she cried. "Please, God, don't let him drown!" Another woman, fully dressed, followed him into the surf before she turned back. He swam in the ocean, about a hundred yards offshore, for ten minutes while a crowd of almost a thousand people gathered on the beach.


When he was coming out of the water a photographer in street clothes waded out to his waist to take pictures. Kennedy glanced at the photographer and said, "Oh, no, I can't believe it." The ten Secret Service men who were guarding him splashed into the water in their business suits, forming a protecting wedge around him with Dave and Peter Lawford to hold back the crowd that struggled to touch him and shake his hand while he made his way back across the sand to the house. The President returned to the lounge chair beside the pool, picked up his sunglasses and his book and said contentedly, "That was the best swim I've had in months."

~ end quoting Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye ~

That anecdote and photo of JFK swimming with the people at the beach encapsulates a huge component that swimming has always played in JFK's life. As a child his summers were spent at the family cottage at Hyannisport, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

HyannisPortCompound CapeCodMap JFKbeachfamily1925

At university in 1936, age 19, JFK tried out for and earned a place on the Harvard swim team -- quite an accomplishment as the competition was really tough. A story is told of JFK defying doctor's orders not to swim (he had a bad cold) by getting a friend to sneak him into the pool at night to practice when no one was there.


Above is JFK readying to dive into the pool at Harvard.

Ultimately, JFK's great swimming ability saved his life and the lives of his crew in WWII after PT109 was hit by an enemy destroyer. Everyone's heard the story about JFK swimming with the lifejacket strap between his teeth pulling the badly burned engine mechanic behind him to Plum Pudding island (now Kennedy Island) in the Solomons. It was made into a movie during JFK's lifetime.

Melanasia Islands JFKsteerPT109 PT109atSea


Plum Pudding Island JFKlifejacketMcMahon

But most people don't fully comprehend that the Plum Pudding swim was just one of many swims JFK swam over the six days between when PT-109 was hit and the rescue after JFK wrote the note on the coconut and sent it with the natives. He swam, in shark-infested waters, to and from Plum Pudding, Olasana and Naru islands -- with no food to eat or water to drink -- into Ferguson Passage more than once.

JFK Islands Map JFKswimOutfit


One of JFK's most treasured possessions was that coconut and he had it encased in glass and it sat on his desk in the Oval Office:

JFK's Coconut


Swimming was an important part of JFK's daily routine after he became President. He swam at least once a day, and often twice a day, in the White House pool doing laps to strengthen his back. That, plus his daily physio-therapy stretching exercises are why JFK's body was so toned and muscular -- something that surprised the people at the beach that day.

JFKswimmingpoolWH JFKpoolJohnJohn

When JFK became President, his father, Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, commissioned an artist to paint a mural on the walls of the White House swimming pool. The finished work of art replicated a seaside scene at Cape Cod, Massachusetts. JFK Junior, affectionately nicknamed "John John" was born a couple weeks after JFK was elected president and the White House was his first home. JFK taught John John how to swim. The photo above, of the two of them in the pool of the Palm Beach, Florida family home, was taken in April 1963, seven months before JFK died.

Getting back to the crowd surrounding JFK at the beach, I'm old enough (thirteen when JFK died) to remember when JFK was alive and can totally relate to the thrill it would have been for those who got that close -- he had that kind of affect on people. JFK was like a rock-star wherever he went -- causing as much hysteria as a Beatle sighting would inspire (they came to America just months after JFK's death and I saw them LIVE in Toronto). Bodyguards around JFK always had to be on the lookout for screamers and jumpers -- mainly women -- who would literally launch themselves out of the crowd in an attempt to touch JFK. Thousands of people always lined the streets from the airport to the destination whenever JFK was in town -- even in the middle of the night or in the pouring rain, they would wait just to see JFK drive by in his motorcade.

JFKpeopleHands JFKpeopleSwoon JFKpeopleSurround


JFK's rock-star appeal explains the monumental thrill it was for the people getting close to him in the ocean that day. Here's further description from interviews with the lady in the polka-dot bikini and the photographer:

Swimming with John F Kennedy
by Scott Harrison, Los Angeles Times, Dec 12, 2012

A measure of fame -- all because of President Kennedy's dash into the surf at Santa Monica on Sunday -- has come to a reluctant West Hollywood mother. Mrs Eva Ban, wife of architect Alexander Ban, has been getting telephone calls from friends all over the United States. They recognized her as the laughing woman in a bikini in a picture taken by Times photographer Bill Beebe in the Pacific on the day the President excited beach crowds by his appearance. "It was only by chance that I happened to be there", Mrs Ban explained Tuesday. "The reason I was in the water and in the picture was because I was looking for my 13-year-old son, Peter. He ran into the water after the President and went out farther than he ever had before. I was worried. "The reason I was laughing in the picture was because of what one woman was yelling, 'Mabel I touched him'. The President was laughing about this too". Mrs Ban said that when she finally found young Peter he told her he swam out to the President and asked him to shake his hand. "Oh, no, son, I've had enough. Let me swim now", the President answered. "Guess what"? Peter told his mother, "I got to talk to the President". Mrs Ban said it was the most important event in her son's experience. "If anyone deserves recognition, it is Peter, not I", she laughed.


Beebe recently added some additional information about how he made this photo:

"I had been assigned to cover the front door for anyone of significance who showed up. Staff photographer Nelson Tiffany, dressed in a suit and tie (we all were) covered the beach, and another photographer (whose name I can't remember) covered the Lawfords' fenced backyard swimming pool, etc from a neighboring second-floor balcony in case JFK went swimming. [Actor Peter Lawford was married to Kennedy's sister, Patricia.] Thankfully, there was a vacant lot on the Lawfords' north side that was close to the entry doorway. I had a close relationship with the local FBI agent and the Santa Monica police and lifeguards. If JFK decided to go swimming in the ocean, I'd asked them to give me a high sign so that I could join in. Art Verge, the lifeguard who manned their patrol boat, waved to me that the president was about to enter the surf for a swim. By the time I got there, he was well on his way and out of range for a photo.

When he began his return to the beach is when he was mobbed by beach-goers. Having made many photos of rescues from the surf while dressed, getting wet was nothing new to me. So I took off my shoes and handed them to a former Mirror reporter friend who had moved to the Examiner and asked him to hold them for me. He did, and I went in after realizing the best possible photos could only be made where JFK was being mobbed. I got pretty wet all the way to my pants pockets and my jacket, but it was worth it, as I'm sure you must agree...

watch John F Kennedy takes a swim, Aug 19, 1962
by Scott Harrison, May 13, 2011

To cap off a 33-hour visit to Los Angeles, President Kennedy takes an impromptu dip at the beach in Santa Monica as throngs of admirers try to get close. Kennedy was staying at the Santa Monica home of his brother-in-law actor Peter Lawford for his LA visit. At about 5 pm, JFK emerged for a quick dip in the ocean. The crowd of 300 followed. As The Times reported, "Sunbathers were overwhelmed when Mr Kennedy strode out of the canvas-draped fence in blue boxer swim trunks". Scores of people followed him into the water -- some were fully clothed, such as Los Angeles Times photographer Bill Beebe, who was dressed in a suit -- and frolicked happily with the president for 20 minutes. Beebe stood in waist-deep water to snap pictures.

Recently Beebe shared some additional information on this image: Less than an hour after I took that pix, Pierre Salinger, Kennedy's chief information clerk, phoned The Times and tried to get the photo killed. Of course, he got nowhere with that request. While the photo did not win the Pulitzer, which the paper had submitted for consideration, it won many other awards, including the American Airlines 1962 News Photo of the Year, which hangs on our dining room wall. Some months later, a longtime friend, with his friend in tow, stopped by for a visit. His friend saw that plaque on the wall, in which the photo of Kennedy in the water returning from his swim is included. In the photo is a woman pictured clinging to Kennedy's left arm, The friend of my friend said: "My god. That's my sister. She was visiting here from Canada"...

~ end quoting LA Times interviews ~

Reading the story behind the story of JFK's ocean swim with the people -- fifty years ago -- brought him back to life as though it were only yesterday and Dallas never happened. With eyes stinging from the salt of my tears I remember JFK saying that we are all connected to the ocean. I looked up the entire passage to share with readers:

JFKbeachCrowd JohnJohnOceanBeach JFKswimbeachRFK/Ted

"I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea,
except I think it's because in addition to the fact that
the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change,
it's because we all came from the sea.
And it is an interesting biological fact that
all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean,
and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea -- whether it is to sail or to watch it --
we are going back from whence we came."

Godcidently, it turns out that JFK spoke those words on September 14, 1962 (at a dinner for the America's Cup yacht-race crews) which was almost exactly one month after his swim in the ocean with the people on August 19, 1962.

Look at the photos above of JFK emerging from the ocean with the crowd in 1962 alongside the photo of son John-John emerging from the ocean thirty-five years later around 1997. Look also at JFK and his two brothers, Bobby and Teddy emerging from the ocean in 1957 -- all looking almost identical. Symbolically, the four of them are living proof that the salt of the ocean -- like we, the salt of the earth -- exists in our blood, sweat and tears.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

JFKbeachCrowd TrudeauShirtlesSurfboard RED TRUDEAU-2 SHEDS SHIRT & JOBS






LINCOLN & JFK AT GETTYSBURG (In March 1963, eight months before he died, JFK once again goes into the midst of the public, this time surprising them almost speechless as they keep their distance hardly believing what their eyes are seeing...)




watch PT 109 MOVIE & listen PT 109 SONG


Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com