KENNEDY, John F. (1917-1963). One autograph letter signed ("Jack Kennedy"), and two typed letters signed ("Jack"), to Inga Arvad (1913-1973), n.p. [1943-1944]. Together 10 pages, 4to, one on Navy stationery. [With:] KENNEDY, Kathleen ("Kick"). Autograph letter signed ("Kick") to Inga Arvad, 3 July. 7 pages, 4to.
"IF I HAD LIVED TO BE A HUNDRED, I COULD ONLY HAVE IMPROVED THE QUANTITY OF MY LIFE, NOT THE QUALITY"
"KNOWING YOU HAS BEEN THE BRIGHTEST POINT IN AN EXTREMELY BRIGHT TWENTY-SIX YEARS." A fascinating, highly revealing set of letters from JFK to his lover, Inga Arvad, the married older woman he met through his sister Kathleen in wartime Washington, where Inga and Kathleen were roommates. Arvad was a Danish-born columnist for the Washington Times-Herald. In the mid-1930s she worked as a correspondent in Berlin, interviewing Hitler and other leading Nazis. This was enough to make her suspicious in the eyes of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. JFK's letters are by turns filled with sexual longing for his "Inga Binga," resentment at her seeming coolness, and deep bitterness about the waste of war. But Kennedy's searing wit and worldly sense of humor are also very much on display. There's also a moving (and modest) discussion of his life-saving exploits on PT-109.
"What the hell is the story," he demands in the first letter. "I write you a six page letter--trash I admit--but not as bad as that last story of yours [in the newspaper] in which you tied up Joe Stalin, Wendell Willkie, & Cupid into a sort of Blessed Trinity...and what do I get--nothing--not even a rejection slip. What's the idea. Has your 'husband' come between us?..." In the next letter, sent a week later, he confesses that he wrote the first "when I was a little under," i.e., drunk. "I think that an indignant, incoherent letter to you was the result...so disregard it."
He comments about the tenacious fighting spirit of the Japanese, and contrasts it with the weak motivations of the Americans. The Japanese were fighting for the Emperor and their homeland, he says, but Americans "are fighting on some island belonging to the Lever Company...I suppose if we were stockholders we would perhaps be doing better, but to see that by dying at Munda you are helping to insure peace in our time takes a larger imagination than most men possess." He could be scathing about the chest-beating jingoes back home. He mocks that "gallant armed guard on the good ship U. S. S. Stork Club, Lt. Commander Walter Winchell," who want to be "out here killing Japs, while everyone out here wants to be back at the Stork Club." Civilian talk of "thousands of casualties sounds like drops in the bucket, but if those thousands want to live as much as the ten that I saw [on PT-109], the people deciding the whys and wherefores had better make mighty sure that all this effort is headed for some definite goal..." Ironically, it was Winchell's mention of the Kennedy-Arvad romance in his gossip column that not only embarassed the couple but heightened the scrutiny of the FBI.
REFERRING DIRECTLY TO HIS HEROIC RESCUE OF A PT-109 CREWMAN, JFK says, "I received a letter today from the wife of my engineers, who was so badly burnt that his face and hands and arms were just flesh, and he was that way for six days. He couldn't swim and I was able to help him, and his wife thanked me, and in her letter she said '...if he had died I don't think I would have wanted to go on living...' There are so many MacMahons that don't come through..."
He'd grown more fatalistic as the war progressed, he says, but "if I had lived to be a hundred, I could only have improved the quantity of my life, not the quality. This sounds gloomy as hell. I'll cut it. You are the only person I'd say it to anyway. As a matter of fact, knowing you has been the brightest point in an extremely bright twenty-six years." In the letter from JFK's sister Kathleen ("Kick") Kennedy to Inga, she says: "Had a sweet letter from Jack. I blubbed for the 1st time in months when I read 'of course you know you have always been my favorite in the family and I would have liked you to marry one of my friends.' I hear he's had his operation. I do hope he's okay." Provenance: From a direct descendant of Inga Arvad. THESE ARE THE ONLY KNOWN SURVIVING LETTERS FROM THIS CORRESPONDENCE. Together 4 items. (4)