News / USA

Presidential Recordings Shed Light on Final Kennedy Days

President John F. Kennedy speaks to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, on May 25, 1961.
President John F. Kennedy speaks to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, on May 25, 1961.

Newly released recordings reveal many of President John F. Kennedy’s private conversations and meetings during the final months of his administration.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Tuesday declassified the final 45 hours of White House audio recordings the president secretly taped.

The tapes include meetings with then Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, discussions on the conflict in Vietnam, Oval Office visits from the president’s two young children, and discussions about his schedule for the week after he was killed.

The tapes end just two days before the president was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963. In a conversation with an advisor, he discusses a day he could meet with an Indonesian general. Kennedy describes Monday, which eventually was the day of his funeral, as “a tough day.”

“I will see him, when is he here?  Monday?"  [Answer: "Monday and Tuesday"].  "Well, that’s a tough day."  [Response: "It’s a hell of a day Mr. President.  He’ll be coming back here though, I understand, on Friday because I offered to entertain at dinner"].

In the background of a recorded meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, you can hear the president's young children, Caroline, then five years old, and two-year-old John, playing. The children stop into the meeting and Kennedy explains to them that Gromyko’s boss, the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, is the one that gave the family a dog, Pushinka.

“You can just open the door there - Just have you say hello to my daughter and son.  Come in a minute and say hello.  Want to say hello to the minister?  Do you want to say hello to John?”... “His chief is the one who sent you Pushinka.”

In the tapes made mostly in the Cabinet room or the Oval Office, the Russian diplomat tells the president that U.S. relations with the Soviet Union did not offer “much of a fresh look.”  Kennedy had a more optimistic response on the Cold War relationship, saying they had made progress.

“I don’t want you to be discouraged. … There is only a certain tempo which you can move in these matters.  We’ve gone ahead with the test ban, we’ve made some progress which for the United States is rather - do you realize that in the summer of 1961, the Congress unanimously passed resolutions against trade with the Soviets and now we’re going ahead, we hope, with this very large trade arrangement that represents what’s changed in American policy of some proportions. That’s progress.”

In the tapes released by the Boston library, Kennedy appears frustrated that his military and diplomatic advisors on Vietnam deliver two different viewpoints on the ongoing war, asking if they visited the same country.

“I mean how is that you get such different - this is not a new thing, this is what we’ve been dealing with for three weeks.  On the one hand you get the military saying the war is going better and on the other hand you get the political [opinion] with its deterioration is affecting the military … What is the reason for the difference - I’d like to have an explanation what the reason is for the difference.”

Kennedy also discusses his re-election campaign plans, asking his advisors “what do we have to sell” to young voters to garner their support. He also talks about creating the films for the 1964 Democratic Convention in color rather than black and white. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. race to the moon is also discussed.

In all, Kennedy recorded over 248 hours of meetings and telephone conversations during nearly three years in the White House, keeping them secret from even some of his closest aids. Historians say they were not made in any apparent pattern.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs