A MERE NAVY LIEUTENANT (JG) JOINS SOME ACTION-FIGURE GENERALS
Both the Army and Navy rejected him on health grounds in 1940. When he finally won over the Navy, three months before Pearl Harbor, he had to beg to escape routine desk jobs and land a position on an actual boat. He finished the war a lowly lieutenant, junior grade. But John F. Kennedy can now finally take his place among the five-star generals Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower and the four-stars Colin Powell and George Patton—as G.I. Joe’s newest recruit.
The 12-inch action figure, which is part of the adult-targeted G.I. Joe Classic Collection, commemorates Kennedy’s days as commander of PT-109 . Text on the back of the box recounts JFK’s heroism after a Japanese destroyer sliced his boat in two in August 1943: He led his crew to a nearby island, towing an injured comrade while he swam, and carved a rescue message into a coconut shard that natives ferried to rescuers. Hasbro, the company that makes G.I. Joe, worked in conjunction with the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum to create faultless accessories for the pint-sized Kennedy, including dog tags, fatigue cap, revolver, and a replica of the coconut. Tom McNaught, the Kennedy Library’s director of communications, guarantees that “the toy coconut is very accurate; the message is identical to the real one.” Whether the figure itself looks like the real Kennedy is another matter. To create the likeness, a sculptor, working from World War II-era photos, carved a walnutsized head in wax. After library officials tweaked the nose a bit, Hasbro cast a mold and grafted the results onto a standard G.I. Joe body. This explains why the sickly Kennedy, a six-footer who came home from the war weighing 127 pounds, in this incarnation has the equivalent of 13.5-inch biceps. In a playroom police lineup, this G.I. Joe could probably be identified as Kennedy (or at least more easily than the Bradley and Eisenhower figures could be named as their counterparts), but his family’s trademark jawline seems too oblique and his eyes lose something in the translation.
Nonetheless, collectors have already proved willing to shell out the figure’s $30 sticker price, a portion of which benefits the library. McNaught, for one, is pleased. “Hasbro approached this with dignity,” he says. “And we knew Kennedy would be in good company with Patton, Powell, and Ike.” Even so, should G.I. Jack get lonely, the Franklin Mint sells a series of Jackie O. dolls, and three versions of Marilyn Monroe Barbie hit the market in 1997.