September 1963- President Kennedy's Schedule - History

September 1963- President Kennedy's Schedule - History

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1President Kennedy and Caroline attend Church at St Francis Xavier. President Kennedy cruises aboard the Honey Fitz, Hyannis Port.2Meeting with Vice President Johnson, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.3President Kennedy returned to Washington. His first meeting was a review of the situation in Vietnam. Attended were all the senior defense and foreign policy advisors. Many of the same people (Rusk, McNamara and other) took place in a meeting on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The President's last meeting was with Douglas Dillon and Robert Roosa.4The President first met with Congressman Leo O'Brien. Next President Kennedy greets a group attending the convention of the International Federation of Catholic Universities. I the afternoon the President met with Najeeb Halaby.5The President began the day with a Pre Press meeting. Attending the meeting were Rusk, Manning, Bundy, Feldman, Hatcher, Heller and Sorensen. The President next met with George Meany. Following that meeting the President met with George Anderson the US Ambassador to Portugal. The President next had a meeting on the economy with Douglas Dillon, Walter Heller, Kermit Gordon, William McChesney Martin, Robert Roosa, Gardner Ackley, John Lewis and Charles Schultz. An official National Security Council Meeting was next held. The President next met with members of the United Negro College Development Campaign. After lunch the President gave his Press Conference.6President Kennedy met with Mennen Williams and Ed Gullion. The next meeting was another meeting on Vietnam. Rusk, McNamara and RFK were among those attending the meeting. The President presented the Distinguished Service Medal to General Emmett O'Donnell. The President attended a Luncheon at the Afghanistan Embassy. After the luncheon the President met with King of Afghanistan. He then headed to Hyannis Port.7The President Kennedy cruises aboard the Honey Fitz, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.8President Kennedy and Caroline attend Church at St Francis Xavier. President Kennedy cruises aboard the Honey Fitz, Hyannis Port. The President returned to Washington late at night.9President Kennedy began the day by giving a Television Interview with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley for broadcast on the evening's Huntley-Brinkley Report. The President met with Senator Mansfield and Senator Dirksen. The President next met with Dean Rusk, George Ball, Averell Harriman, Robert McNamara, Paul Nitze Philip Talbot, William Tyler, John McCone, G Menmen Williams and General Quinn. After Lunch the President had a meeting with Rusk, Ball, Harriman, Cleveland, Stevenson and Sisco in preparation to the coming trip to the UN. The President's next meeting was with Dr Giorgio Borg Oliview the Prime Minister of Malta. The President next met with the joint Chiefs of Staff. President Kennedy's last meeting of the day was with Senator Henry Jackson.10President Kennedy began his day with a Legislative Leaders Breakfast. The President's first meeting was with James Wine the US Ambassador to the Ivory Coast. The President next met with Roswell Gilpatric, General Lewis Hershey, Norman Paul, William Gorkam. The President next hosted a full meeting of his Defense and Foreign Policy Advisors on Viet Nam. The President next met with Senator Magnuson, Senator Henry Jackson, Senator Bartlett, Senator Edward Kennedy and Ben Smith. The President then went to Statler Hotel to speak to the luncheon of Business Committee of Tax Reduction in 1963. After returning to the White House the President met with John Badeau the US Ambassador to the United Arab Republic. The President next met with Congressman Fred Rooney, followed by Congressman Emanual Celler. The President next met with Henry a Byroade the US Ambassador to Burma.11The President met with Congressman Jack Brooks. The President next met with General Chiang Ching-kuo the Deputy Secretary General of the National Defense Council of the Republic of China. The President next met with General Charles Ailleret the Chief of the Armed Forces Staff of France. The president made a presentation of Congressional Gold Medal to Bob Hope. The President next met with Milton Berle. After Lunch the President met held a meeting on Balance of Payments, Rusk, McNamara and Dillon were there. The President ended his day with a meeting on Viet Nam.12The President had breakfast to prepare for the afternoon press conference. At the meeting as Rusk, Manning, Bundy, Feldman, Hatcher, Heller, Sorensen. President Kennedy next met with George Anderson the US Ambassador to Portugal. The President next meeting was with Douglas Dillon, Walter Heller, Kermit Gordon, William McChesney Martin, Robert Roosa, Gardner Ackley, John Lewis and Charles Schultz. The President next met with the National Security Council. The President met with members of the Unite Negro Colleges Development Campaign. After lunch the President gave a Press Conference. The President then flew the Hammersmith Farm Newport Rhode Island.13President and Mrs. Kennedy and Mr. and Mrs. Ben Bradlee cruise aboard the Honey Fitz, Newport, Rhode Island
14President Kennedy cruises aboard the Honey Fitz, Newport, Rhode Island.15The President and Mr Bradlee attended church at St Mary's. President and Mrs. Ben Bradlee cruise aboard the Honey Fitz, Newport, Rhode Island. In the evening the President returned to Washington.16The President began his day with a meeting with Charles Horsky and Lee White. Next the President met with Senator Robert Byrd. The President took part with swearing-in ceremonies for representatives and alternates to the 18th United Nations General Assembly. After lunch the President met with Congressman John Shelley. After lunch the President met with Douglas Dillon and William McChesney Martin. The President last meeting of the day was the Luther Hodges.17The President began his day with Legislative Leaders Breakfast. The President first meeting of his day was with Princess Norodom Rasmi Sobbana of Cambodia. The President next gave an address before the White House Conference on Exports. The President next met with Foy Kohler the US Ambassador to the USSR. The next meeting was with four governors and their highway commissioners . The President next met with Richard Maguire, followed by David Bruce. The President ended his day with a meeting on Viet Nam.18President Kennedy met with Orville Freeman. He then met with William Battle the US Ambassador to Australia. Next the President met with Dr Tulsi Giri the Chairman of Nepal Council of Minister. The President's next meeting was with James Webb. The President met with General Herbor Powell the USS Ambassador to New Zealand. After lunch the President received a delegation from COPE (Committee on Political Education). The President participated in a meeting of the Drop-Out Group. The Presidents last meeting of the day was with General David Shoup.19The President's first meeting of the day was with the US Ambassador to Algeria William Porter. He then Met with former President of Mexico Miguel Aleman. The President next met with George McGhee the US Ambassador of West Germany. The President met with the Secretary of the Navy and then with Senator Herman Talmadge. After the lunch the President had a meeting on the Grain Case. The President next met with Dean Rusk and Robert McNamara. The President had a meeting with Reverand Martin Luther King Jr, Reverend Ralph Abernathy and other Civil Rights Leaders. The President next flew to New York.20The President gave and address to the UN Nations General Assembly. The President met separately with United States United Nations Workers. The President then traveled to Hammersmith Farm.21President Kennedy Mrs Kennedy Secretary and Mrs. Paul Fay, Mrs Virginia Crespi and the children went to the beach. In the evening the President gave a telephone address to the 5th annual National Conference of State Legislative Leaders convened at the Statler Hotel in Boston.22The President and Caroline went to church at St Mary's. Cruise aboard the Honey Fitz with Mrs. Paul Fay, Newport, Rhode Island.23The President returned to Washington. His first meeting of the day was with Robert McNamara, Maxwell Taylor and George Ball. The President next met with Pierre Paul Schwiter the Deputy Managing Director of the IMF. The President next had a meeting with the Cabinet. The President next met with the officers of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Associations. The President had a meeting with officials for Birmingham Alabama. After lunch the President met Attilio Piccion the Foreign Minister of Italy. The President next met with Prince Souvanna Phouma, Prime Minister of Laos. The President next met with General Wallace Greene the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The President next met with John McCone and McGeorge Bundy. Next the President met with an interdenominational meeting with clergy from Birmingham.24The President began his day with a Legislative Leaders Breakfast. The President signed HR 12 an act to increase Training of Physicians and Dentists. The President next met with Congressman Dan Rostenkowski. He then met a delegation of the United Packinghouse Workers. The President next met with Dr Gerhad Schroeder the Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany. The President then traveled for the dedication of the Pinchot institute for Conservation Studies in Milford, Pennsylvania. The President then traveled Ashland Wisconsin were he gave a brief address. The President next flew to Duluth were he gave a speech at the University of Minnesota.25President Kennedy traveled to Grand Forks North Dakota. He gave a speech at the University of North Dakota. The President then traveled to Cheyenne Wyoming were he gave a short speech. He then traveled to Laramie Wyoming. The President gave ann address at the University of Wyoming War Memorial Fieldhouse. The President then traveled to Billing Montana. He gave a speech at the Yellowstone County Fair Grounds. The President then traveled to Jackson Hole Wyoming. The President spent the night at Jackson Lake Lodge in the Grand Teton National Park.26President Kennedy flew to Great Falls Montana. The President gave an address. The President traveled to Hanford Washington and gave a spoke at the Nuclear Generating Plant. The President next flew to Salt Lake City. There he gave an address on foreign policy at the Mormon Tabernacle, Salt Lake City.27President Kennedy flew to Tacoma Washington. At Cheney Stadium the President gave an address. The President flew to Tongue Point, Oregon, there he gave an address. The President next flew to Redding California for a visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park.28 The President next traveled to Whiskey Dam. The President participated in the dedication of Whiskey Dam and Reservoir. The President then traveled to Las Vegas. The President gave an address on conservation, Convention Center, Las Vegas. The President then traveled to Palm Beach were he stayed at the Crosby Residence.29 President Kennedy rests at the home of singer Bing Crosby in Palm Desert, California before returning to Washington, D.C. at 12 AM.30 The President returned to Washington. He then traveled to Sheraton Park Hotel and addressed the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund. The President next met with Dr Muhieddince Fekini the Prime Minister of Libya. The President next met with Eugene Carson Blake. After lunch the President met with Ekrea Alican the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey. The President next participated in a reception for the Finance Minister attending the IMF meeting. The President ended the day with a meeting with Douglas Dillon, Henry Fowler and Larry O'Brien.

September 1963- President Kennedy's Schedule - History

In September 1963, President John F. Kennedy made his historical Conservation Tour across the United States. The tour was organized by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. They suggested that Kennedy make a tour of the nation, highlighting environmental crises and proposing solutions to existing environmental concerns. Those topics were likely to get positive responses from the members of the audience and potential voters in the upcoming 1964 election. During his five-day trip, the President visited eleven states from Pennsylvania to California and delivered fifteen speeches. Most of his addresses focused on the environment and were intended to raise the country’s awareness of the existing problems however, Kennedy also discussed his political agenda concerning the country’s national and international affairs.

This tour highlights five locations in the Intermountain West (in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Utah), where President John F. Kennedy delivered his historical speeches.

Address Before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations, 20 September 1963

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Kennedy and Khruschev’s Nuclear Rivalry

An emboldened Khrushchev again tested Kennedy’s mettle by attempting in the summer and fall of 1962 to deploy offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba and redress the nuclear imbalance between the USSR and the United States, which had a seventeen-to-one advantage in nuclear warheads. Also, Khrushchev and his colleagues were delighted that a communist revolution had occurred in Cuba without assistance from Moscow, seeming to confirm Marx’s prediction about the course of history they wanted to encourage other “revolutions” in Latin America.

Kennedy and Khruschev ordered respective military build-ups. Soviet ships began unloading technicians, planes, and ballistic missiles. Cuban exiles informed members of Congress and administration officials that missile sites were being built. Soviet officials assured the Kennedy administration that the missiles were defensive. A concerned president ordered U-2 flights to determine what was really going on. Photos revealed short-range missiles that could hit targets from Washington to Panama and medium-range missiles with a range from Hudson Bay to Lima, Peru. Soviet ships with additional missiles on board were photographed headed to Cuba.

The president established an executive committee of the National Security Council to evaluate the escalating crisis and recommend an appropriate U.S. response. For Secretary of State Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, writes the historian Katherine A. S. Sibley, “the Munich analogy was compelling—the United States must not allow Soviet aggression as Europeans had appeased Hitler in 1938.” A majority of the executive committee’s members favored direct military action although not a full-scale invasion. Attorney General Robert Kennedy blocked the idea, arguing that if the United States followed such an offensive course, its moral position in the world would be destroyed. More practically, it was almost certain that Soviet troops would be killed, provoking a military response from Moscow. A consensus formed for a “quarantine” of Cuba, using over 180 American ships.

On October 22, a stern-faced President Kennedy announced over national television that the United States was placing a quarantine around Cuba and demanded that the Soviets remove their nuclear missiles. For almost two weeks, the world wondered whether a nuclear war threatened. High priority messages flashed back and forth between Moscow and Washington. As tension mounted and U.S. forces, including sixty nuclear-loaded B-52s, were placed on high alert, the Soviets began dismantling the sites and shipping their missiles back to Russia. A chastened Khrushchev acknowledged the superior military strength, including nuclear weapons, of the United States.

But in return the United States publicly pledged that it would not invade Cuba, abandoning the Monroe Doctrine and giving Castro a safe base from which to disseminate communist agitation and propaganda in Latin America. Privately, the White House promised to remove U.S. intermediate-range missiles in Turkey, aimed at the Soviet Union, and nearly all of the forty-two thousand Soviet troops and experts in Cuba were allowed to remain. They began training a large Cuban army that engaged in anti-American operations in Africa and Asia in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s.

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Changed Motorcade Route in Dallas?

Y ou'll find it discussed in most conspiracy books, and most especially in Jim Garrison's book, On the Trail of the Assassins (right). Supposedly, John Kennedy's motorcade through Dallas, which was to go directly down Main Street and onto the Stemmons Freeway, was changed at the last minute to turn of Houston Street, and then Elm Street.

Why is this supposed to be sinister? Because the route down Elm Street takes the limo near the Grassy Knoll, where a shooter was supposedly stationed. It also takes the motorcade near other buildings (such as the Dal-Tex) were shooters could be hidden, supposedly creating a "triangulation of crossfire."

Below is a drawing of the "originally planned" parade route, and the "revised" parade route -- taken from On the Trail of the Assassins is shown below.

Garrison's Account of His "Discovery"

The temporary respite from the investigation did not last long. Frank Klein could not stay away from it, and neither could I. One morning I was in my office reading and rereading a newspaper. I did not hear Frank enter.

"I have never seen you so preoccupied," said Frank.

"It's not just any paper, son," I said. "This is the front page of the Dallas Morning News for November 22, 1963."

"Well, what's got you so hypnotized?"

I gestured to the large diagram on the paper's front page, indicating the route of the presidential parade. "Have I ever shown you this before?" I asked.

He shook his head.

I turned the paper around facing his way so that he could read the diagram of the motorcade. It covered almost five-sixth of the front page.

"Frank," I said, "I want you to follow the parade route with me. Let's pick it up right here as it comes down Main approaching Dealey Plaza. Are you with me?"

"Yes," he said, his finger following the thick line indicating the motorcade. "And here is where it reaches Dealey Plaza . . . " He stopped.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"This diagram indicates that the President's parade was supposed to continue on Main Street through the center of Dealey Plaza -- without even leaving Main." He stared at it in disbelief.

"So what's wrong with that?" I asked.

His finger was moving off of Main, inches downward to Elm until he found the Depository area where the President had been shot. "If that was the presidential parade route up there on Main . . . "

I finished the question for him. "How did he get way down here on Elm?"

Frank looked up at me with a slight frown, then looked back at the diagram. He moved his finger back along Main Street to where it reached Houston. "The motorcade turned right on Houston and went down onto Elm," he said. . . . "Here on Main Street, continuing through the open meadow," he said, "they couldn't have hit him. Are you telling me that at the last moment they just moved the President of the United States off of his scheduled route to here where the Depository is?" He pushed back his chair and stood up. "Hell, I haven't read a damned word about that anywhere. How can they keep something like that a secret for three years?"

[. ]

Frank grabbed the front page of the Dallas Morning News and pointed to the diagram. "Hell," he said, "was the Warren Commission blind? Didn't they see this?"

"Oh," I said. "Would you like to see the front page that was introduced to the Warren Commission?"

I pulled open my middle desk drawer and took out a copy of the Dallas Morning News front page that had been introduced as a Commission exhibit. I handed it to Frank and lit my pipe. I had hardly taken the first puff on it when he yelled.

"Those bastards! They just removed the entire motorcade route from the front page."

That was true. On five-sixths of the Dallas Morning News page where the diagram of the motorcade route was supposed to be was nothing but a large square of solid gray. "And this has been printed as an official exhibit by the Warren Commission?" he asked.

I noded.

"And just what in the hell are we supposed to call this?" he asked, waving the nearly blank exhibit.

I took a puff or two on my pipe. "This is what you call," I replied, "a coup d'etat."

On the Trail of the Assassins , pp. 101-103.

What did that map in the Dallas Morning News look like? It is shown at right. And indeed, it does show the motorcade proceeding from Main Street in Dallas to the Trade Mart with no turn onto Elm Street.

But what about Garrison's claim that the map took up "five-sixths of the front page" of the Dallas Morning News ? Take a look at the front page that showed the map.

The reason for no turn being shown should be easy to figure out: the scale of the map was too small.

The preceeding evening, the Dallas Times-Herald ran a much larger map of the motorcade route. See what it shows.

A Garrison Discovery?

But might Garrison have discovered the "changed parade route" independently, in just the way he claimed? There is one huge problem with this idea. Garrison said:

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Garrison never saw that front page. Like so much else from the Garrison "investigation" this was picked up from the conspiracy buffs who flooded into New Orleans when the District Attorney announced his inquiry.

It's a Trap!

  • Jean Hill, who now says she saw a shooter on the Grassy Knoll, claimed in her book, The Last Dissenting Witness , that her boyfriend "J.B. Marshall," a Dallas Police officer, told her about the change. Supposedly Lyndon Johnson's agents gave the instructions to change the route at Love Field on the morning of the assassination.
  • James Files, who now claims to have been the Grassy Knoll shooter, says that on the morning of the assassination he went to a pancake house with mobster Johnny Roselli. Jack Ruby then came in and gave Roselli an envelope containing Secret Service identification and a map of the motorcade route. The map showed a "change" in the route: a "zig-zag, that little turn they should never have made . . . ."

Conspiracy book authors uniformly claim to have read the Warren Commission Report . But on issue after issue they show that they have not. It's not a matter of their reading the Report and not believing it. On a matter like this, they could easily check out the evidence and confirm that the Report told the truth. Both news stories from November 19th mentioning the turn onto Elm, for example, were printed in the Warren Commission volumes.

The following is the account of the selection of the motorcade route, taken from the Warren Commission Report .

Planning the Texas Trip

Everyone agreed that, if there was sufficient time, a motorcade through downtown Dallas would be the best way for the people to see their President. . . . According to [Kenneth] O'Donnell, "we had a motorcade wherever we went," particularly in large cities where the purpose was to let the President be seen by as many people as possible. In his experience, "it would be automatic" for the Secret Service to arrange a route which would, within the time allotted, bring the President "through an area which exposes him to the greatest number of people."

Advance Preparations for the Dallas Trip

Advance preparations for President Kennedy's visit to Dallas were primarily the responsibility of two Secret Service agents: Special Agent Winston G. Lawson, a member of the White House detail who acted as the advance agent, and Forrest V. Sorrels, special agent in charge of the Dallas office. Both agents were advised of the trip on November 4. Lawson received a tentative schedule of the Texas trip on November 8 from Roy H. Kellerman, assistant special agent in charge of the White House detail, who was the Secret. Service official responsible for the entire Texas journey. As advance agent working closely with Sorrels, Lawson had responsibility for arranging the timetable for the President's visit to Dallas and coordinating local activities with the White House staff, the organizations directly concerned with the visit, and local law enforcement officials. . . .

The Luncheon Site

An important purpose of the President's visit to Dallas was to speak at a luncheon given by business and civic leaders. The White House staff informed the Secret Service that the President would arrive and depart from Dallas' Love Field that a motorcade through the downtown area of Dallas to the luncheon site should be arranged and that following the luncheon the President would return to the airport by the most direct route. Accordingly, it was important to determine the luncheon site as quickly as possible, so that security could be established at the site and the motorcade route selected. . . . Kenneth O'Donnell made the final decision to hold the luncheon at the Trade Mart [Gerald] Behn [Secret Service Agent in Charge of the White House detail] so notified Lawson on November 14.

The Motorcade Route

A lthough accurate, the Warren Commission "official version" downplays some of the political maneuvering that accompanied Kennedy's trip to Dallas, and his schedule there. Joel Grant discusses these in his essay "The Three Furies." Rather than the sinister hand of a conspiracy, we see ordinary politics.
On November 8, when Lawson was briefed on the itinerary for the trip to Dallas, he was told that 45 minutes had been allotted for a motorcade procession from Love Field to the luncheon site. Lawson was not specifically instructed to select the parade route, but he understood that this was one of his functions. Even before the Trade Mart had been definitely selected, Lawson and Sorrels began to consider the best motorcade route from Love Field to the Trade Mart. On November 14, Lawson and Sorrels attended a meeting at Love Field and on their return to Dallas drove over the route which Sorrels believed best suited for the proposed motorcade. This route, eventually selected for the motorcade from the airport to the Trade Mart, measured 10 miles and could be driven easily within the allotted 45 minutes. From Love Field the route passed through a portion of suburban Dallas, through the downtown area along Main Street and then to the Trade Mart via Stemmons Freeway. For the President's return to Love Field following the luncheon, the agents selected the most direct route, which was approximately 4 miles.

After the selection of the Trade Mart as the luncheon site, Lawson and Sorrels met with Dallas Chief of Police Jesse E. Curry, Assistant Chief Charles Batchelor, Deputy Chief N. T. Fisher, and several other command officers to discuss details of the motorcade and possible routes. The route was further reviewed by Lawson and Sorrels with Assistant Chief Batchelor and members of the local host committee on November 15. The police officials agreed that the route recommended by Sorrels was the proper one and did not express a belief that any other route might be better. On November 18, Sorrels and Lawson drove over the selected route with Batchelor and other police officers, verifying that it could be traversed within 45 minutes. Representatives of the local host committee and the White House staff were advised by the Secret Service of the actual route on the afternoon of November 18.

The route impressed the agents as a natural and desirable one. Sorrels, who had participated in Presidential protection assignments in Dallas since a visit by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936,as testified that the traditional parade route in Dallas was along Main Street, since the tall buildings along the street gave more people an opportunity to participate. The route chosen from the airport to Main Street was the normal one, except where Harwood Street was selected as the means of access to Main Street in preference to a short stretch of the Central Expressway, which presented a minor safety hazard and could not accommodate spectators as conveniently as Harwood Street. According to Lawson, the chosen route seemed to be the best.

To reach the Trade Mart from Main Street the agents decided to use the Stemmons Freeway (Route No. 77), the most direct route. The only practical way for westbound traffic on Main Street to reach the northbound lanes of the Stemmons Freeway is via Elm Street, which Route No. 77 traffic is instructed to follow in this part of the city. Elm Street was to be reached from Main by turning right at Houston, going one block north and then turning left onto Elm. On this last portion of the journey, only 5 minutes from the Trade Mart, the President's motorcade would pass the Texas School Book Depository Building on the northwest corner of Houston and Elm Streets. . . .

The Elm Street approach to the Stemmons Freeway is necessary in order to avoid the traffic hazards which would otherwise exist if right turns were permitted from both Main and Elm into the freeway. To create this traffic pattern, a concrete barrier between Main and Elm Streets presents an obstacle to a right turn from Main across Elm to the access road to Stemmons Freeway and the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike. This concrete barrier extends far enough beyond the access road to make it impracticable for vehicles to turn right from Main directly to the access road. A sign located on this barrier instructs Main Street traffic not to make any turns. In conformity with these arrangements, traffic proceeding west on Main is directed to turn right at Houston in order to reach the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike, which has the same access road from Elm Street as does the Stemmons Freeway.

As the date for the President's visit approached, the two Dallas newspapers carried several reports of his motorcade route. The selection of the Trade Mart as the possible site for the luncheon first appeared in the Dallas Times-Herald on November 15, 1963. The following day, the newspaper reported that the Presidential party "apparently will loop through the downtown area, probably on Main Street, en route from Dallas Love Field" on its way to the Trade Mart. On November 19, the Times-Herald afternoon paper detailed the precise route:

From the airport, the President's party will proceed to Mockingbird Lane to Lemmon and then to Turtle Creek, turning south to Cedar Springs.

The motorcade will then pass through downtown on Harwood and then west on Main, turning back to Elm at Houston and then out Stemmons Freeway to the Trade Mart.

September 1963- President Kennedy's Schedule - History

JFK and the Diem Coup

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 101

Posted - November 5, 2003




Washington D.C., November 5, 2003 - A White House tape of President Kennedy and his advisers, published this week in a new book-and-CD collection and excerpted on the Web, confirms that top U.S. officials sought the November 1, 1963 coup against then-South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem without apparently considering the physical consequences for Diem personally (he was murdered the following day). The taped meeting and related documents show that U.S. officials, including JFK, vastly overestimated their ability to control the South Vietnamese generals who ran the coup 40 years ago this week.

The Kennedy tape from October 29, 1963 captures the highest-level White House meeting immediately prior to the coup, including the President's brother voicing doubts about the policy of support for a coup: "I mean, it's different from a coup in the Iraq or South American country we are so intimately involved in this…." National Security Archive senior fellow John Prados provides a full transcript of the meeting, together with the audio on CD, in his new book-and-CD publication, The White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on the President (New York: The New Press, 2003, 331 pp. + 8 CDs, ISBN 1-56584-852-7), just published this week and featuring audio files from 8 presidents, from Roosevelt to Reagan.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Diem coup, a critical turning point in the Vietnam war, Dr. Prados also compiled and annotated for the Web a selection of recently declassified documents from the forthcoming documentary publication, U.S. Policy in the Vietnam War, to be published in spring 2004 by the National Security Archive and ProQuest Information and Learning. Together with the Kennedy tape from October 29, 1963, the documents show that American leaders discussed not only whether to support a successor government, but also the distribution of pro- and anti-coup forces, U.S. actions that could be taken that would contribute to a coup, and calling off a coup if its prospects were not good.

"Supporting the Diem coup made the U.S. responsible for the outcome in South Vietnam in exactly the way Bobby Kennedy feared on October 29," said Dr. Prados. "Ironically, though, as the conversation continued, he and the other doubters abandoned these larger considerations and concentrated only on whether a coup would succeed - nothing else mattered."

The posting today also includes the transcript of Diem's last phone call to U.S. ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, inquiring "what the attitude of the U.S. is" towards the coup then underway Lodge dissembled that he was not "well enough informed at this time to be able to tell you."

By 1963, about mid-way through America's involvement in the wars of Vietnam, the policymakers of the Kennedy administration felt trapped between the horns of a dilemma. South Vietnam, the part of the former state of Vietnam which the United States supported, remained in the throes of a civil war between the anti-communist government the U.S. favored and communist guerrillas backed by North Vietnam. Government forces could not seem to get a handle on how to cope with the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, as the communist movement was known. American military and intelligence agencies disputed progress in the war. While denying journalists' observations that the United States was slipping into a quagmire in Vietnam, the Kennedy administration was privately well aware of the problems in the war and tried measures of all kinds to energize the South Vietnamese effort.

One big problem was in Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, with the South Vietnamese government itself. Plagued by corruption, political intrigues, and constant internal squabbling, the South Vietnamese were often at loggerheads. With the Americans, whose interest lay in combating the National Liberation Front guerrillas, the South Vietnamese promised cooperation but often delivered very little. There were other difficulties rooted in the way the South Vietnamese government had been created originally, and the way the U.S. had helped organize the South Vietnamese army in the 1950s, but these factors would not be directly relevant to the events of 1963. (Note 1)

The Saigon government was headed by President Ngo Dinh Diem, an autocratic, nepotistic ruler who valued power more than either his relations with the Vietnamese people or progress in fighting the communists. Diem had originally come to power by legal means, appointed prime minister of the government that had existed in 1954, and he had then consolidated power through a series of military coups, quasi-coups, a government reorganization, a referendum on his leadership, and finally a couple of staged presidential elections. Diem styled South Vietnam a republic and held the title president, but he had banned political parties other than his own and he refused to permit a legal opposition. From 1954 onwards the Americans had been urging political reforms upon Diem, who repeatedly promised that reforms would be made but never enacted any.

The autocratic style of Diem's leadership was not lost upon the South Vietnamese, who were less and less enamored of the Saigon leader. A major military coup against Diem had occurred in November 1960, which he had survived only due to divisions among the military leadership. Diem exploited these to play factions off against each other and thus secure his own political survival. In February 1962 disgruntled air force pilots had bombed the presidential palace in hopes of killing Diem and forcing new leadership, but that too did not work, as Diem at that moment had been in a different part of the palace to the one that was attacked. Diem reassigned military officers to improve his security but again neglected to undertake political reforms. (Note 2)

The Kennedy administration between 1961 and 1963 repeatedly increased the levels of its military aid to Saigon, funding growth in the Vietnamese armed forces. The U.S. military, and American military intelligence, focused on the improvements in the ratio of troop strength between the government and guerrillas that followed from force increases and argued the war was successful. Diplomats and aid officials were more pessimistic. The CIA, ordered to make an intelligence assessment in the spring of 1963, permitted their view to be swayed by the military and produced a national intelligence estimate that downplayed Diem's political weaknesses. President Kennedy heard warnings from his State Department officials and a rosy picture from the military, and felt reassured by the CIA estimate. (Note 3)

White House impressions were shattered beginning on May 8, when South Vietnamese security forces acting under the orders of one of Ngo Dinh Diem's brothers, fired into a crowd of Buddhist religious marchers celebrating the Buddha's 2,527th birthday. The rationale for the breakup of this march was no more serious than that the Buddhists had ignored a government edict against flying flags other than the South Vietnamese state flag. Another of Diem's brothers, the Roman Catholic archbishop for this same area of South Vietnam had flown flags with impunity just weeks before when celebrating his own promotion within the Church the Buddhists may have been encour-aged by that act to think their own actions would be permitted as well. Suppression of this Buddhist march in the ancient Vietnamese imperial capital of Hue led to a political crisis, the "Buddhist crisis," that ignited Saigon throughout the summer and fall of 1963. (Note 4)

The two brothers of Diem implicated in the Hue suppression were not even the Saigon leader's main problem. Diem's brother Ngo Dinh Nhu sat in the presidential palace as private counselor, manipulator, emissary, and puppetmaster of the Saigon government. Even more than Diem himself Nhu was regarded widely in South Vietnam as a menace, directing Diem's political party, some of his intelligence services, and Special Forces created under one of the American-sponsored aid programs. Nhu took a very negative view of the Buddhist troubles. President Diem's response to the Buddhist crisis, once he passed beyond denying that anything was happening, was to promise political and religious reforms, and negotiations for a modus vivendi with the Buddhists were carried out in Saigon. Nhu, however, encouraged the South Vietnamese leader to renege on the agreement and, once again, Diem failed to enact any of the political concessions that had been agreed.

Buddhist religious demonstrations came to Saigon in late May and soon became almost daily events. On June 11 the protests attained a new level of intensity after a bonze publicly immolated himself at a busy Saigon street intersection as the climax of a demonstration. Photographs of the scene startled the world, and made the Buddhist troubles a political issue in the United States for President Kennedy, who faced a tough problem in continuing economic and military aid to a government so clearly violating the human rights of its people. The CIA put out an addendum to its previous national intelligence estimate revising its assessment of Diem's political prospects, and State Department intelligence circulated a report predicting major trouble in Saigon. (Note 5)

President Diem's worsening situation led him to declare martial law in August 1963, and on August 21 Ngo Dinh Nhu used the martial law authority to carry out major raids on the largest pagodas of the Buddhist group behind the protests. Nhu conducted the raids in such a way as to suggest that South Vietnamese military commanders were behind them, and used troops funded by the United States through the CIA to carry out the raids. Within days of the raids, South Vietnamese military officers were approaching Americans to inquire as to what the U.S. response might be to a military coup in Saigon. (Note 6)

This situation forms the background to the selection of documents included in this briefing book. The documents frame those meetings and major instructions in which President Kennedy was directly involved in considerations of a coup in Saigon. There were two main periods during which these deliberations took place, August and October 1963. The first sequence followed quickly on the pagoda raids, the second occurred once the South Vietnamese generals initiated a new round of coup preparations. The documents here consist primarily of records of meetings or key cabled instructions or reports pertinent to the coup, which would eventually take place on November 1, 1963. (Note 7)

There were two major episodes where the American involvement in these Vietnamese political events would be the most intense, although the U.S. remained heavily engaged in Vietnam throughout. We have for the most part selected documents that reflect high level action by the United States government-meetings with President Kennedy and his chief lieutenants. Our document selections reflect these intense sequences, but they are drawn from a much larger set of materials in the National Security Archive's U.S. Policy in the Vietnam War, Part I: 1954-1968. The first period of intense activity occurred in August 1963, when South Vietnamese military officers initially planned to secure American support for their coup against Ngo Dinh Diem. This period included an incident that became very well-known in U.S. government circles, in which State Department official Roger Hilsman originated a cable giving the South Vietnamese generals the green light for a coup against Diem (Document 2). Much of the succeeding U.S. activity revolved upon making it seem that policy had been rescinded without in fact changing it. The second high point came in October 1963, when final preparations were made for the coup that was carried out.

In the wake of the coup against Diem and the assassination of the Saigon leader and his brother, many observers have wrestled with the question of President Kennedy's involvement in the murders. In 1975 the Church Committee investigating CIA assassination programs investigated the Diem coup as one of its cases. (Note 8) Kennedy loyalists and administration participants have argued that the President had nothing to do with the murders, while some have charged Kennedy with, in effect, conspiring to kill Diem. When the coup did begin the security precautions taken by the South Vietnamese generals included giving the U.S. embassy only four minutes warning, and then cutting off telephone service to the American military advisory group. Washington's information was partial as a result, and continued so through November 2, the day Diem died. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara recounts that Kennedy was meeting with his senior advisers about Vietnam on the morning of November 2 (see Document 25) when NSC staff aide Michael V. Forrestal entered the Cabinet Room holding a cable (Document 24 provides the same information) reporting the death. (Note 9) Both McNamara and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., a participant as White House historian, record that President Kennedy blanched at the news and was shocked at the murder of Diem. (Note 10) Historian Howard Jones notes that CIA director John McCone and his subordinates were amazed that Kennedy should be shocked at the deaths, given how unpredictable were coups d'etat. (Note 11)

Records of the Kennedy national security meetings, both here and in our larger collection, show that none of JFK's conversations about a coup in Saigon featured consideration of what might physically happen to Ngo Dinh Diem or Ngo Dinh Nhu. The audio record of the October 29th meeting which we cite below also reveals no discussion of this issue. That meeting, the last held at the White House to consider a coup before this actually took place, would have been the key moment for such a conversation. The conclusion of the Church Committee agrees that Washington gave no consideration to killing Diem. (Note 12) The weight of evidence therefore supports the view that President Kennedy did not conspire in the death of Diem. However, there is also the exceedingly strange transcript of Diem's final phone conversation with Ambassador Lodge on the afternoon of the coup (Document 23), which carries the distinct impression that Diem is being abandoned by the U.S. Whether this represents Lodge's contribution, or JFK's wishes, is not apparent from the evidence available today.

A second charge has to do with Kennedy administration denials that it had had anything to do with the coup itself. The documentary record is replete with evidence that President Kennedy and his advisers, both individually and collectively, had a considerable role in the coup overall, by giving initial support to Saigon military officers uncertain what the U.S. response might be, by withdrawing U.S. aid from Diem himself, and by publicly pressuring the Saigon government in a way that made clear to South Vietnamese that Diem was isolated from his American ally. In addition, at several of his meetings (Documents 7, 19, 22) Kennedy had CIA briefings and led discussions based on the estimated balance between pro- and anti-coup forces in Saigon that leave no doubt the United States had a detailed interest in the outcome of a coup against Ngo Dinh Diem. The CIA also provided $42,000 in immediate support money to the plotters the morning of the coup, carried by Lucien Conein, an act prefigured in administration planning Document 17).

The ultimate effect of United States participation in the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem was to commit Washington to Saigon even more deeply. Having had a hand in the coup America had more responsibility for the South Vietnamese governments that followed Diem. That these military juntas were ineffectual in prosecuting the Vietnam war then required successively greater levels of involvement from the American side. The weakness of the Saigon government thus became a factor in U.S. escalations of the Vietnam war, leading to the major ground war that the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson opened in 1965.

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DCI Briefing, July 9, 1963

SOURCE: John F. Kennedy Library: John F. Kennedy Papers (Hereafter JFKL: JFKP): National Security File: Country File, box 51, folder: Cuba: Subjects, Intelligence Material.

This document shows that Director of Central Intelligence John A. McCone briefed President Kennedy within twenty-four hours after a South Vietnamese general first approached CIA officer Lucien Conein. At the time multiple different plots were anticipated, at least one of which might become active the following day (the Tuyen plot referred to aborted, Tran Kim Tuyen was sent out of the country as ambassador to Egypt). The CIA also here recognizes the political significance of the Buddhist issue in South Vietnam.

State-Saigon Cable 243, August 24, 1963

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Meetings & Memoranda series, box 316, folder: Meetings on Vietnam 8/24/63-8/31/63

This is the notorious "Hilsman Cable," drafted by Assistant Secretary of state For Far Eastern Affairs Roger A. Hilsman in response to a repeated contact between General Don and Conein on August 23. The U.S. government position generally supported action to unseat Ngo Dinh Nhu and if Diem's departure were necessary to reach that goal, so be it. Hilsman's stronger formulation of that position in this cable was drafted while President Kennedy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and CIA director McCone were all out of town. Though the cable had the proper concurrences by their deputies or staff, the principals were converted by officials who opposed the Hilsman pro-coup policy. Much of the rest of August 1963 was taken up by the U.S. government trying to take back the coup support expressed in this cable while, out of concern for the U.S. image with the South Vietnamese generals, without seeming to do so.

Memorandum of Conversation, "Vietnam," August 26, 1963, Noon

SOURCE: JFKL: Roger Hilsman Papers, Country Series, box 4, folder: Vietnam: White House Meetings 8/26/63-8/29/63, State Memcons

The first of a series of records of meetings in which President John F. Kennedy and his lieutenants consider the implications of a coup and the difficulties of bringing off a successful one.

Memorandum for the President, August 27, 1963

SOURCE JFKL: John Newman Papers, Notebook, August 24-31, 1963.

National Security Council staffer Michael V. Forrestal sends a memo to President Kennedy advising on what he may expect to hear at the meeting on Vietnam policy scheduled for that afternoon.

Memorandum of Conversation, "Vietnam," August 27, 1963, 4:00PM

SOURCE: JFKL: Roger Hilsman Papers, Country Series, box 4, folder: Vietnam: White House Meetings 8/26/63-8/29/63, State Memcons

President Kennedy continues his consideration of a policy of support for a coup in Saigon, this time with the participation of recently-returned ambassador to Saigon Frederick C. Nolting. The former ambassador opposes any coup in Saigon but frankly admits that the prospects for a coup depend upon the U.S. attitude. Secretary Rusk argues that Nolting's recommendations are inadequate. Kennedy orders Assistant Secretary Hilsman to prepare a study of the contingency options. This is the State Department record of the meeting.

Memorandum of Conference with the President, August 27, 1963, 4:00 PM

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File, Meetings & Memoranda series, box 316, folder: Meetings on Vietnam 8/24/63-8/31/63

A different record of the same Vietnam policy meeting, one compiled by the National Security Council (NSC) staff, reports more fully on comments by CIA's William Colby, Secretary McNamara, Roger Hilsman, McGeorge Bundy and others.

Memorandum of Conversation, "Vietnam," August 28, 1963, Noon

SOURCE: JFKL: Roger Hilsman Papers, Country Series, box 4, folder: Vietnam: White House Meetings 8/26/63-8/29/63, State Department Memcons

State Department record of the meeting on Vietnam policy, notes continued opposition by former ambassador Nolting, interventions by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Deputy Secretary of State W. Averell Harriman, Secretary of the Treasury C. Douglas Dillon, and others. There is discussion of the status of coup forces as well as U.S. military moves. The meeting ends with an understanding the White House will re-establish a policy-making body along the lines of the "Executive Committee" created during the Cuban Missile Crisis and that it shall meet daily. (Another, NSC staff, record of this meeting with additional detail is available in Foreign Relations of the United States 1961-1963, v.4, pp. 1-9, ed. John P. Glennon, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1991.) The importance of the Vietnam issue is further highlighted by the fact that President Kennedy is taking the time to hold two of these policy sessions on the same day as the massive March on Washington for civil rights by African-Americans and others.

Central Intelligence Agency, Current Intelligence Memorandum (OCI 2703/63), "Cast of Characters in South Vietnam," August 28, 1963

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Country File, box 201, folder: Vietnam: General, CIA Reports 11/3/63-11/5/63 [An August document filed with November materials]

The front page of this intelligence memorandum contains notes by McGeorge Bundy on his impressions of the discussion at the White House meeting that day at noon. The memorandum itself is a useful rundown on the various South Vietnamese persons involved in the coup plots and counterplots.

Memorandum of Conversation, "Vietnam," August 28, 1963, 6:00 PM

SOURCE: JFKL: John Newman Papers, Notebook, August 1963

In a brief meeting following President Kennedy's encounter with the civil rights leaders who had led the March on Washington (see the recording of that meeting and its transcript, available in John Prados, ed. The White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on the President. New York: The New Press, 2003, pp. 69-92 and Disc 2), the President declares that a series of personal messages from him to U.S. officials in Saigon will be designed to elicit their views on a coup and a general cable will furnish fresh directives.

Memorandum of Conference with the President, August 29, 1963, 1200 Noon

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Meetings & Memoranda series, box 316, folder: Meetings on Vietnam, 8/24/63-8/31/63

Policy review of the latest issues in the coup plotting in South Vietnam, where President Kennedy asks for disagreements with the course of action the U.S. is following. Secretary McNamara recommends the U.S. disassociate itself from the South Vietnamese military's coup plans, with some support from other officials, particularly Ambassador Nolting. All agree that Diem will have to get rid of Nhu, however. The President is told that American official Rufus D. Phillips, a former CIA officer, has been ordered to inform the South Vietnamese generals that Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge is behind the contacts which CIA officers are having with them. Kennedy issues instructions, then breaks up for a smaller meeting in the Oval Office.

Memorandum of Conversation, "Vietnam," August 29, 1963, 12:00 Noon

SOURCE: JFKL: Roger Hilsman Papers: Country Series, box 4, folder: Vietnam: White House Meetings 8/26/63-8/29/63, State Department Memcons

President Kennedy explores the possibility of "an approach to Diem" on reforms and getting rid of Ngo Dinh Nhu. However, Secretary Rusk reports that both the U.S. ambassador, Henry Cabot Lodge, and the military advisory group leader, General Paul D. Harkins, are on record agreeing that the war cannot be won with a Diem-Nhu combination at the head of the Saigon government. This is a different version of the meeting described in Document 10.

State-Saigon Cable 272, August 29, 1963

SORUCE: Lyndon B. Johnson Library: Lyndon B. Johnson Papers: National Security File: Country File Vietnam Addendum, box 263 (temporary), folder: Hilsman, Roger (Diem)

These are the instructions adopted by President Kennedy at the White House meetings on this date. They are carefully drawn to associate the United States with moves to oust Ngo Dinh Nhu from the South Vietnamese government, notes that "a last approach to Diem remains undecided," and that the U.S. will not engage in joint coup planning though it will support a coup "that has a good chance of succeeding."

National Security Council Staff-State Department Draft, Michael Forrestal and Roger Hilsman, "Suggested Draft of Presidential Letter Adapted to Phase I of the Plan," September 12, 1963

SOURCE: JFKL: Roger Hilsman Papers, Country File, box 4, folder: Vietnam, September 11-20, 1963 (2)

President Kennedy's instructions in late August to Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Roger Hilsman led to a two-phase plan to put pressure on Diem for reforms and to dispense with his brother Nhu. Hilsman prepared such a plan, which included evacuation of Americans and terminating aid parts of the South Vietnamese military. This plan was at the center of U.S. discussions throughout much of September, but in the middle of it Kennedy privately had Hilsman prepare a letter to Diem with the help of Michael Forrestal of the NSC staff designed to ask Diem to make reforms, while simultaneously reassuring the Saigon leader and warning him that the U.S. would take actions (according to the Hilsman pressure plan) "which make it clear that American ccoperation and American assistance will not be given to or through individuals whose acts and words seem to run against the purpose of genuine national reconciliation and unified national effort." This was a reference to Ngo Dinh Nhu. The annotations in this draft are Roger Hilsman's.

State Department-National Security Council Staff Draft, Roger Hilsman-Michael Forrestal, Potential Kennedy-Diem Letter, September 12, 1963

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Meetings & Memoranda, box 316, folder: Meetings on Vietnam, September 11-12, 1963

This is a clean copy of the final draft of the letter included as Document 13. President Kennedy brought up the letter at a national security meeting in the evening of September 11, asking if one had been prepared as he had previously suggested. National security adviser McGeorge Bundy tried to dissuade Kennedy from the letter idea. The letter was prepared, however, but ultimately rejected as too awkward and indirect (trying to get rid of Nhu without mentioning him by name, for example). Instead President Kennedy decided to send Robert McNamara and General Maxwell D. Taylor on a survey trip to South Vietnam, where they could speak to Diem privately, as well as evaluate prospects for a coup on the ground. That trip took place at the end of September. Diem proved unresponsive. Kennedy turned back to his pressure program.

Central Intelligence Agency, Untitled Draft, October 8, 1963

SOURCE: JFKL: President's Office File, Departments and Agencies series, box 72, folder: CIA, 1963.

Ngo Dinh Nhu struck back at his American enemies by using newspapers he controlled in Saigon to reveal the name of the CIA station chief in Saigon, John Richardson, claim there were divisions between Ambassador Lodge and the CIA station, and that the CIA was responsible for adverse developments in South Vietnam since the Pagoda Raids of August. Much of this was then picked up and reported in the press in the United States. John Kennedy had scheduled a press conference for October 9 and in this briefing note the CIA tried to prepare him for questions that might be asked. Kennedy was indeed asked about the CIA in Saigon at that news conference, and he replied, "I can find nothing . . . to indicate that the CIA has done anything but support policy. It does not create policy, it attempts to execute it in those areas where it has competence and responsibility." The president described John Richardson as "a very dedicated public servant." Clearly JFK kept very close to his CIA briefing note.

Department of State, "Successor Heads of Government," October 25, 1963

SOURCE: JFKL: Roger Hilsman Papers, Country File, box 4, folder: Vietnam, 10/6/63-10/31/63

Joseph A. Mendenhall, of the Far East Bureau of the State Department, who had recently completed a survey mission to South Vietnam at President Kennedy's request, supplies a list of possible Vietnamese figures to head a successor government in Saigon. Note that the list assumes a civilian government and includes none of the military men who eventually constituted the junta that replaced Diem.

Department of State, "Check-List of Possible U.S. Actions in Case of Coup," October 25, 1963

SOURCE: JFKL: Roger Hilsman Papers, Country File, box 4, folder: Vietnam 10/6/63-10/31/63

Mendenhall also compiles a set of options the Kennedy administration can take in support of a coup aimed at the Diem government. Note that he mentions providing money or other "inducements" to Vietnamese to join in the plot. The CIA would actually provide $42,000 to the coup plotters during the coup itself (other amounts in support are not known).

National Security Council Staff, "Check List for 4 PM Meeting," no date [October 29, 1963]

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Country File, box 201, folder: Vietnam, General, Memos & Miscellaneous, 10/15/63-10/28/63

National security adviser McGeorge Bundy supplies an agenda for the last meeting President Kennedy held with his top officials prior to the actual coup in Saigon. Bundy suggests opening with an intelligence briefing on the array of opposing forces, proceeding to a discussion of whether Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge should make an expected trip home for consultations, and ending contingency planning for a coup.

President Kennedy Meets with His National Security Council on the Question of Supporting a Coup in South Vietnam (10 minutes 55 seconds) From John Prados, ed. The White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on the President (New York: The New Press, 2003, 331 pp. + 8 CDs, ISBN 1-56584-852-7)
(See Document 19 below for the official NSC staff record of this meeting)
[NOTE: This audio clip is a Windows Media Audio file (.wma) and should be opened using Windows Media Player]

Memorandum of Conference with the President, October 29, 1963, 4:20 PM

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File, Meetings & Memoranda series, box 317, folder: Meetings on Vietnam, 10/29/63

The NSC staff record of the discussion at the meeting that followed from Bundy's agenda. American leaders suddenly exhibit cold feet, starting with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy who, as he had done during the Cuban Missile Crisis, warns against precipitate action. Bobby Kennedy was seconded by Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Maxwell D. Taylor and CIA director John McCone. Other doubts are also expressed. The group also considered a cable of instructions to Ambassador Lodge. (The recording and a transcript of the discussion at this key meeting is available in John Prados, ed. The White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on the President, op. cit., pp. 97-140 and Disc 3.)

Draft Cable, Eyes Only for Ambassador Saigon, October 29, 1963

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Country File, box 204, folder: Vietnam: Subjects: Top Secret Cables (Tab C) 10/28/63-10/31/63

This document is the NSC staff's draft of a cable to Ambassador Lodge which is discussed at the meeting recorded in Document 18. It contains instructions for the ambassador's travel as well as arrangements for operating the embassy in a coup situation, and material on Washington's attitude toward the coup.

Draft Cable, Eyes Only for Ambassador Lodge [CIA cable 79407, noted in upper right hand corner], October 30, 1963

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Country File, box 201, folder: Vietnam, General: State & Defense Cables, 10/29/63-10/31/63

McGeorge Bundy answers a cable from Ambassador Lodge with additional commentary flowing from President Kennedy's meeting on October 29. Note Washington's presumption that "We do not accept . . . that we have no power to delay or discourage a coup." The discussion at the meeting and in the previous cable and this one clearly indicate the Kennedy White House miscalculated its ability to influence the South Vietnamese generals and their plans.

Memorandum of Conference with the President, November 1, 1963, 10:00 AM

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File, Meetings & Memoranda series, box 317, folder: Meetings on Vietnam 11/1/63-11/2/63

President Kennedy meets with his national security team even as the South Vietnamese generals in Saigon are activating forces for their coup. Kennedy is briefed on coup forces and on the progress of the coup thus far, which appears to be (and is) going against President Diem. Secretary Rusk and CIA director McCone advise on relevant matters for U.S. action and Secretary McNamara comments on public relations aspects of the situation.

Department of State, John M. Dunn, Memorandum for the Record, November 1, 1963

SOURCE: Gerald R. Ford Library: Gerald R. Ford Papers: National Security Adviser's Files: NSC Convenience File, box 6, folder: Henry Cabot Lodge, inc. Diem (2)

This document records President Ngo Dinh Diem's last conversation on the telephone with Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge. Diem asks what is the attitude of the United States toward the coup plot and Lodge replies, disingenuously, that he does not feel well-enough informed to say what the U.S. position actually is.

Central Intelligence Agency, "The Situation in South Vietnam," November 2, 1963

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: President's Office File, box 128A, folder: Vietnam: Security, 1963

The CIA reports the fall of Diem and the success of the generals' coup. The report notes that Diem and Nhu are dead, by suicide as announced on the radio.

Memorandum of Conference with the President, November 2, 1963, 9:15 AM

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Meetings & Memoranda series, box 317, folder: Meetings on Vietnam 11/1/63-11/2/63

This is the NSC staff record of the initial high level meeting held by President Kennedy in the wake of the Saigon coup. It was during this meeting that NSC staffer Michael Forrestal entered the room with news of Diem's death. Kennedy and his advisers confront the necessity of making public comment on the death of Ngo Dinh Diem and consider the implications for the United States.

Embassy Saigon, Cable 888, November 2, 1963
SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Country File, box 201, folder: Vietnam: General, State Cables, 11/1/63-11/2/63

The Embassy provides several accounts of what actually happened to Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu.

Memorandum of Conference with the President, November 2, 1963, 4:30 PM

SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Meetings and Memoranda series, box 317, folder: Meetings on Vietnam, 11/1/63-11/2/63

A follow-up meeting is held by President Kennedy in the afternoon, as recorded in this NSC staff record. Director McCone of the CIA argues that Washington lacks any "direct evidence" that Diem and Nhu are, in fact, dead. There is discussion of resuming U.S. military aid programs that had been suspended in the last weeks of the Diem regime. Note that Kennedy's appointments schedule for this date indicates the meeting took slightly more than one hour. The discussion as noted in this document cannot have consumed that amount of time.

CIA, "Press Version of How Diem and Nhu Died" (OCI 3213/63), November 12, 1963
SOURCE: JFKL: JFKP: National Security File: Country File, box 203, folder: Vietnam: General, Memos and Miscellaneous 11/6/63-11/15/63

This document comments on what is known about the deaths of Diem and Nhu and raises questions about some of the details that have appeared in the press. The CIA shows (Paragraph 7) that it still does not have an authoritative version of the deaths even almost two weeks after the coup. Its best judgment is, however, close to the truth (for the most authoritative account of the killings see Nguyen Ngoc Huy, "Ngo Dinh Diem's Execution," Worldview Magazine, November 1976, pp. 39-42).

Department of State, Memorandum William P. Bundy-Bill Moyers, "Discussions Concerning the Diem Regime in August-October 1963," July 30, 1966

SOURCE: Lyndon B. Johnson Library: Lyndon B. Johnson Papers, National Security File, Country File Vietnam, box 263, folder: Hilsman, Roger (Diem 1963)

At the request of President Johnson's press secretary, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs William P. Bundy sets to paper a retrospective view of the Kennedy administration's decisions regarding policy toward Diem, the forcing out of Nhu, and how support for the South Vietnamese coup developed at top levels in Washington.

1. For a general overview see Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking, 1983.

2. See Denis Warner, The Last Confucian. New York: Macmillan, 1963 also Anthony T. Bouscaren, The Last of the Mandarins: Diem of Vietnam. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1965. A recent reinterpretation that frames Diem as a misunderstood reformist is in Philip E. Catton, Diem's Final Failure: Prelude to America's War in Vietnam. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002.

3. John Prados, Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 105-108.

4. See, in general, Pierro Gheddo, The Cross and the Bo Tree: Catholics and Buddhists in Vietnam. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1970.

5. American eyewitness reports on these events can be found in Malcolm Browne, The New Face of War. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968 and David Halberstam, The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era. New York: Knopf, 1964. An important recent reconstruction of these events through the eyes of American journalists can be found in William Prochnau, Once Upon a Distant War: Young War Correspondents and the Early Vietnam Battles. New York: Random House, 1995. For the CIA intelligence reporting see Harold P. Ford, CIA and the Vietnam Policymakers: Three Episodes, 1962-1968. Langley (VA): CIA History Staff/Center for the Study of Intelligence, 1998 (the last-named source is available in the National Security Archive's Vietnam Document Collection).

6. Prados, Lost Crusader, pp. 113-115.

7. Specific studies of the coup against Diem include Ellen J. Hammer, A Death in November: America in Vietnam, 1963. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1987 and, more recently, Howard Jones, Death of a Generation: How the Assassinations of Diem and JFK Prolonged the Vietnam War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

8. United States Congress, Senate (94th Congress, 1st Session). Select Committee to Study Governmental Activities with Respect to Intelligence, Interim Report: Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1975.

9. Robert S. McNamara with Brian VanDeMark, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. New York: Times Books, 1995, p. 83.

10. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House. Greenwich(CT): Fawcett Books, 1967, p. 909-910.

Marriage to John F. Kennedy and 1960 election

In 1951 Jacqueline met John F. Kennedy, a popular congressman from Massachusetts, and two years later, after he became a U.S. senator, he proposed marriage. On September 12, 1953, the couple wed in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island. The early years of their marriage included considerable disappointment and sadness. John underwent spinal surgery, and she suffered a miscarriage and delivered a stillborn daughter. Their luck appeared to change with the birth of a healthy daughter, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, on November 27, 1957. Three years later John announced that he was running for president, and Jacqueline initially traveled with her husband. However, after becoming pregnant again, she stayed at home on the advice of her doctors but continued to be involved in the campaign. She notably wrote “Campaign Wife,” a weekly news column. On November 8, 1960, John was narrowly elected president, and weeks later Jacqueline gave birth to a son, John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Kennedy, John Fitzgerald

The 1960 presidential campaign between Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican candidate Richard Nixon proved to be one of the closest elections in U.S. history, and one in which Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement played a pivotal role.

Born 29 May 1917 to a wealthy and politically prominent Boston family, Kennedy graduated from Harvard University in 1940. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he followed his father into politics and served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight years in the Senate before securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 1960.

During the 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy interceded when King was convicted for a probation violation after participating in a sit-in in Atlanta. Following the recommendations of campaign advisors, Kennedy called Coretta Scott King to offer his sympathy and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, made phone calls that helped hasten King’s release on bail from Georgia State Prison at Reidsville. In a statement following his release, King told reporters he owed “a great debt of gratitude to Senator Kennedy and his family,” and downplayed the candidate’s political motivations: “I’m sure that the senator did it because of his real concern and his humanitarian bent” (Papers 5:39). Though pressed by reporters, King declined to endorse Kennedy, explaining that it would be inappropriate for him to do so as the leader of the nonpartisan Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). On election day, Kennedy defeated Nixon by less than one percent of the popular vote, a margin of victory that highlighted the importance of African American support.

Initially Kennedy proceeded cautiously with respect to civil rights. Despite pleas from King and other civil rights leaders for federal intervention during the violence surrounding the Freedom Rides and the Albany Movement, the Kennedy administration produced little policy progress on civil rights for racial minorities. In 1962, Kennedy slowly began to move forward a civil rights agenda with his administration’s participation in the creation of the Voter Education Project. Later that year, he sent federal troops to Oxford, Mississippi, to quell riots at the University of Mississippi following its integration by James Meredith.

The 1963 Birmingham Campaign, headed by SCLC and local leaders, proved to be a catalyst for increased federal involvement in the struggle. The national media showed images of peaceful demonstrators being attacked by police dogs and high-powered water hoses sweeping people down the street, and Kennedy had little choice but to increase efforts to restore peace. On 11 June 1963, he directly addressed national concerns over civil rights: “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated” (Kennedy, “President Kennedy’s Radio,” 970). Kennedy followed his speech by introducing to Congress a comprehensive civil rights bill that primarily focused on the desegregation of schools, restaurants, hotels, and similar public facilities.

As Kennedy’s proposed legislation was filibustered in Congress, King and other civil rights leaders pressured the president for action and proceeded with plans for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, scheduled for late August. In a meeting with King, Kennedy initially expressed concern about the march and its effect on the pending civil rights bill. King assured Kennedy of the event’s peaceful intentions and the president did not request the demonstration’s cancellation.

Two weeks after the March on Washington, a dynamite blast at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killed four girls. King was devastated by the killings, writing to Kennedy: “In a few hours I will be going to Birmingham. I will sincerely plead with my people to remain non violent.… I am convinced that unless some steps are taken by the federal government to restore a sense of confidence in the protection of life, limb and property my pleas shall fall on deaf ears and we shall see the worst racial holocaust this nation has ever seen” (King, 15 September 1963). A few days later Kennedy met with King and other leaders regarding federal intervention in the civil rights struggle.

Kennedy’s civil rights legislation remained stalled in Congress when he was assassinated on 22 November 1963. King wrote an epitaph to the slain president in a column appearing in the New York Amsterdam News, a month after Kennedy’s death. Proclaiming that we can all learn something from Kennedy in death, King wrote that the former president’s death “says to all of us that this virus of hate that has seeped into the [veins] of our nation, if unchecked, will lead inevitably to our moral and spiritual doom.” Concluding his eulogy, King described Kennedy’s life as a challenge to “move forward with more determination to rid our nation of the vestiges of racial segregation and discrimination” (“What Killed JFK?”). It would take another eight months of battles with southern politicians before the Civil Rights Act was signed on 2 July 1964.

Name Changes

In 1893, a post office was built in this region. On its completion, the office was named “Artesia.” The name was retained until 1954 when it was officially changed to Port Canaveral. Port Canaveral was used between 1954 and 1962 before becoming Cape Kennedy in 1963. In 1973, the Florida Legislature decided to restore the cape’s initial name. The US Board on Geographic Names approved the name change. The name Cape Canaveral was officially restored on October 9, 1973. Despite the restoration of the original name, the Space Center in the cape is still referred to as Kennedy.

1963 Newspaper Headlines Summary

Some of the most memorable 1963 newspaper headlines tell the stories of the Big Freeze, which saw temperatures drop dramatically for 3 months, the beginning of Beatle-mania, and the Great Train Robbery where robbers made off with £2.6 million. Other 1963 news stories which stand out are the coverage of president Kennedy’s assassination in the United States. The suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was later shot dead.

It was a year filled with ups and downs, all of which are chronicled in our collection. If you’re curious about what happened in 1963, or know somebody who is, then an authentic newspaper is the perfect gift idea.

January 1963
The Big Freeze of 1963 begins, with temperatures reaching as low as -16C (3.2F) in places. The ice and snow finally starts to thaw in early March.

14th January 1963
The locomotive ‘Flying Scotsman’ makes its last scheduled run before being handed over to Sir Alan Pegler for preservation.

March 1963
The divorce case of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll causes scandal in the United Kingdom.

4th March 1963
Six people are sentenced to death in Paris for conspiring to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle pardons five of the convicted, but the other conspirator is executed by firing squad a few days later.

22nd March 1963
The Beatles release their first album, “Please Please Me“.

15th April 1963
70,000 marchers arrive in London from Aldermaston, to demonstrate against nuclear weapons.

5th July 1963
The Roman Catholic Church accepts cremation as a funeral practice.

8th August 1963
The Great Train Robbery of 1963 takes place in Buckinghamshire. £2.6 million is stolen, but thirteen men are later convicted and jailed for the crime.

29th September 1963
The University of East Anglia is established in Norwich.

19th October 1963
Alec Douglas-Home succeeds Harold Macmillan as Prime Minister.

18th November 1963
The Dartford Tunnel opens.

22nd November 1963
U.S. President John F. Kennedy is shot to death in Dallas. Texas Governor John B. Connally is also seriously wounded and Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson takes over as the 36th President. All television coverage for the next three days is devoted to the assassination, its aftermath, the procession of the horse-drawn casket to the Capitol Rotunda, and the funeral of President Kennedy. Shops and businesses shut down for all three days in tribute.

23rd November 1963
The first episode of the BBC television series “Doctor Who” is broadcast. A reference to this date is later included in one episode of the modern spin-off “Torchwood”.

24th November 1963
Lee Harvey Oswald, alleged assassin of John F. Kennedy, is shot dead by Jack Ruby on live television in America. The hastily arranged programme “A Tribute to John F. Kennedy from the Arts“ is also broadcast on ABC, featuring dramatic readings and music performed by various actors, opera singers, and noted writers.

26th December 1963
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” are released in America, marking the beginning of full-scale ‘Beatle-mania‘.

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