Key moments in the life of John F. Kennedy

A timeline of key moments in the life of slain US President John F. Kennedy as America prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination:

May 29, 1917: John Fitzgerald Kennedy is born at Brookline, near Boston, Massachusetts, the second of nine children raised by wealthy businessman Joseph Patrick Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald, daughter of the mayor of Boston. The Kennedys come from a line of Irish Catholic immigrants.

1936-1940: "Jack," as he became known to his family, studies at Harvard. He becomes a regular visitor to Britain after his father is appointed ambassador to London in December 1937.

1941: Despite chronic back pain caused by Addison's disease, Kennedy joins the war effort, enlisting in the Navy and fighting in the Pacific campaign.

August 2,1943: After the torpedo boat he commands is sunk by a Japanese ship in the Solomon Islands, Kennedy swims to safety, dragging a badly burned comrade with him. He is later honored for "extremely heroic conduct" in the incident.

1945: Kennedy is demobilized. Following the 1944 death in combat of his elder brother Joe, who had been destined for a career in politics, the torch passes to JFK.

1946: First elected to Congress as a Democratic representative for Massachusetts. He is re-elected in 1948 and 1950.

1952: Elected to Senate, later re-elected in 1958.

September, 1953: Kennedy, 36, marries 24-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier, a young journalist at the Washington Times-Herald. Their first child, Caroline, is born four years later on November 27, 1957.

1957: Kennedy wins a Pulitzer Prize for his book "Profiles In Courage," spotlighting the lives of eight US politicians through the ages.

1960: Kennedy launches his presidential campaign with victory in the Democratic primary. He goes on to defeat Republican rival Richard Nixon in one of the closest US elections ever fought.

November 25, 1960: John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr is born, known affectionately as "John-John."

January 20, 1961: Kennedy is sworn in as the 35th president of the United States. Still only 43, he is the youngest-ever elected US president and the first Catholic.

March 1961: Kennedy creates the Peace Corps, dedicated to humanitarian work in the developing world.

April 1961: Kennedy authorizes the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, a 1,500-strong band of US-trained Cuban exiles hoping to topple Fidel Castro. The invasion ends in disaster, with the exiles routed by Castro's forces within a few days.

May 1961: Kennedy launches the Apollo space program with the goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

At the same time, Kennedy also increases the number of soldiers, military advisers and equipment deployed to Vietnam.

October 1962: The United States and Soviet Union edge to the brink of nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis, triggered after a US spy plane discovers Cuba is building Soviet missile bases on the island.

June 11, 1963: Kennedy issues his famous Civil Rights Address, calling for an end to discrimination and full equality for African Americans. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr describes Kennedy's proposals as "the most sweeping and forthright ever presented by an American president."

June 26, 1963: Kennedy rallies to the support of Berlin, declaring in an iconic speech to the divided German city: "Ich bin ein Berliner."

November 22, 1963: Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. He is buried three days later at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, near Washington.