The CIA∇ on the Sino-Soviet Dispute
Upon his return from a conference of key military and civilian officials in Honolulu, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara briefs President Kennedy on a timetable for ending the insurgency in Vietnam--an uprising he understands to be largely indigenous--and bringing American troops home. During the course of the conversation, McNamara displays frustration with the Joint Chiefs' plan for continued military assistance to Vietnam. He also lays out the context within which he believes that a U.S. troop withdrawal should occur. The Secretary and the President agree that the possible withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. advisers should take place only in an atmosphere of military success.
Following the Battle of Ap Bac in early January 1963, in which South Vietnamese troops and U.S. military advisers came under heavy attack, Army Chief of Staff General Earle G. Wheeler led a fact-finding mission to Vietnam to assess the situation. Three days after he returned to the United States, Wheeler briefed the president on the state of the press and the U.S. advisory mission in Vietnam. In the process, he gave President Kennedy a series of recommendations for improving South Vietnam's military capabilities in its war against the Communist-dominated National Liberation Front, or Vietcong.
President Kennedy met with his senior military advisors immediatly preceding their departure on a fact-finding trip to Vietnam. The Wheeler Mission, named for Army Chief of Staff Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, had been proposed by the Joint Chiefs the previous week following the Battle of Ap Bac, the first major confrontation between South Vietnamese and Vietcong forces. The ensuing Wheeler Report would be the third such review that Kennedy would receive in the span of a month. In late December, Sen. Mike Mansfield∇ (D-MT) had toured Indochina and provided Kennedy with a pessimistic account of progress in the war. The State Department's Roger Hilsman and White House aide Michael Forrestal had also visited South Vietnam and had criticized the military's preference for engaging the Vietcong with conventional tactics.
In anticipation of someday writing his memoirs, John F. Kennedy periodically dictated notes on recent developments or on other issues he might one day want to include in the book. Although he had not yet won the presidency--"the ultimate source of action," as he called it--when he made this recording, probably in the fall 1960 during the height of the presidential campaign, Kennedy reflected on his political career up to that point and his philosophy of politics in national service.
In this recording, made on the evening of Monday, November 4, 1963, less than three weeks before he himself would eventually be assassinated, Kennedy reflected upon the tumultuous events that had transpired in Saigon over the previous weekend, the overthrow and murder of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem∇ and his brother Ngo Ding Nhu.
While Kennedy was recording, his young children, John John (aged 3) and Caroline (aged 6), joined their father for a few moments.
On January 2, 1963, South Vietnamese troops and their U.S. military advisers engaged Vietcong forces in what became known as the Battle of Ap Bac. Three U.S. soldiers died in the skirmish, which received extensive coverage in the American press. Several of those accounts were critical of the South Vietnamese performance, generating searching editorials on the status of the U.S. military advisory effort. Less than a week after the engagement in South Vietnam, President Kennedy invited legislative leaders to the White House to hear a briefing on the campaign from Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara∇. During the course of his report, McNamara would propose that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Earle G. Wheeler tour South Vietnam to conduct a more intensive study of the war.
In this clip, recorded in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy considers the implications of U.S. nuclear strategy as well as the wisdom of procuring additional nuclear arms.
On November 21, 1962, the White House Cabinet Room became the setting for a pivotal and volatile meeting on the course of the U.S. space program. The main participants in the meeting were President John F. Kennedy and James Webb, head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. At issue was the very purpose of NASA∇ and its Apollo program, the project that sought to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
In the course of discussions about the removal of Soviet IL-28 bombers from Cuba, Kennedy considers the implications of Sino-Soviet tensions on the resolution of the Cuban problem.
President Kennedy and his advisers consider the ramifications of trading Jupiter missiles in Turkey for Soviet missiles in Cuba.
Kennedy placed this call after having held crisis meetings with advisers all day. Macmillan received the call around midnight London time. U Thant, acting secretary-general of the United Nations, had been holding round-the-clock talks in New York. In the latest development, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson∇, had met with U Thant earlier that day in New York. U Thant, in turn, had been talking Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations Valerian Zorin.
While discussing various options for dealing with the threat posed by Soviet missiles in Cuba, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, after criticizing calls to blockade the island, sums up the President's political and military troubles.
During a conversation about Cuba and Berlin, President Kennedy hears from two experienced Soviet specialists, former ambassador to Moscow Llewellyn Thompson and former State Department Counsel, and current ambassador to France, Charles E. Bohlen. According to Bohlen, Beijing's rhetorical campaign against Moscow marked "the first time in Bolshevik history that this has ever happened."