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John F. Kennedy

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Gender Male
Age 105
Date of birth May 29,1917
Zodiac sign Gemini
Born Brookline
Massachusetts
United States
Height 183 (cm)
Assassinated:
Spouse Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Siblings Robert F. Kennedy
Ted Kennedy
Rosemary Kennedy
Job Author
Politician
Journalist
Army officer
Screenwriter
Awards Purple Heart
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Navy and Marine Corps Medal
Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography
World War II Victory Medal
Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal
American Campaign Medal
American Defense Service Medal
Jane Addams Children's Book Award
Latest noncurrent party Democratic Party
Presidential termJanuary 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
Children John F. Kennedy Jr.
Caroline Kennedy
:
Movies/Shows JFK
Forrest Gump
Die Hard 4.0
Malcolm X
Party :
Vice president:

Profiles in Courage
Why England Slept
A Nation of Immigrants
The strategy of peace
For the Freedom of Man
Set your compass true : the wisdom of John, Robert, & Edward Kennedy: reflections on leading an inspired life
Inaugural Addresses
Let the word go forth" : the speeches, statements, and writings of John F. Kennedy
Prelude to leadership
The Letters of John F. Kennedy
The Kennedy wit
President Kennedy Speaks
The Life and Times of JFK
Memorable quotations of John F. Kennedy
The Greatest Speeches of President John F. Kennedy
JFK wants to know
The Wicked Wit of John F. Kennedy
The Kennedy presidential press conferences
John F. Kennedy, word for word
Abraham Lincoln: Lessons in Leadership
The Uncommon Wisdom of John F. Kennedy: A Portrait in His Own Words
The wit and wisdom of John F. Kennedy
History of the Family Firm
To Turn the Tide: A Selection from President Kennedy's Public Statements from His Election Through the 1961 Adjournment of Congress, Setting Forth the Goals of His First Legislative Year
John F. Kennedy: a Self-Portrait
The quotable Kennedy
John F. Kennedy and Poland: Selection of Documents, 1948-63
The Kennedy- Khrushchev Letters
Sam Houston & the Senate
Special Relationship Special Sale
Date of Reg.
Date of Upd.
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John F. Kennedy Life story


John Fitzgerald Kennedy, often referred to by his initials JFK and also known as Jack Kennedy, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from 1961 until his assassination near the end of his third year in office.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials as JFK or by the nickname Jack, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from 1961 until his assassination near the end of his third year in office. Kennedy was the youngest person to assume the presidency by election. He was also the youngest president at the end of his tenure, and his lifespan was the shortest of any president. Kennedy served at the height of the Cold War, and the majority of his work as president concerned relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba. A Democrat, he represented Massachusetts in both houses of the U.S. Congress prior to his presidency.

Born into the prominent Kennedy family in Brookline, Massachusetts, Kennedy graduated from Harvard University in 1940 before joining the U.S. Naval Reserve the following year. During World War II, he commanded a series of PT boats in the Pacific theater. Kennedy's survival of the sinking of PT-109 and rescue of his fellow sailors made him a war hero for which he earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, but left him with serious injuries. After a brief stint in journalism, Kennedy represented a working-class Boston district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953. He was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate and served as the junior senator for Massachusetts from 1953 to 1960. While in the Senate, Kennedy published his book, Profiles in Courage, which won a Pulitzer Prize. In the 1960 presidential election, he narrowly defeated Republican opponent Richard Nixon, who was the incumbent vice president. Kennedy's humor, charm, and youth in addition to his father's money and contacts were great assets in his campaign. Kennedy's campaign gained momentum after the first televised presidential debates in American history. He was the first Catholic elected president.

Kennedy's administration included high tensions with communist states in the Cold War. As a result, he increased the number of American military advisers in South Vietnam. The Strategic Hamlet Program began in Vietnam during his presidency. In April 1961, he authorized an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro in the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. In November 1961, he authorized the Operation Mongoose, also aimed at removing the communists from power in Cuba. He rejected Operation Northwoods in March 1962, but his administration continued to plan for an invasion of Cuba in the summer of 1962. The following October, U.S. spy planes discovered Soviet missile bases had been deployed in Cuba; the resulting period of tensions, termed the Cuban Missile Crisis, nearly resulted in the breakout of a global thermonuclear conflict. He also signed the first nuclear weapons treaty in October 1963. Kennedy presided over the establishment of the Peace Corps, Alliance for Progress with Latin America, and the continuation of the Apollo program with the goal of landing a man on the Moon before 1970. He also supported the civil rights movement but was only somewhat successful in passing his New Frontier domestic policies.

On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. His vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, assumed the presidency upon Kennedy's death. Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested for the assassination, but he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby two days later. The FBI and the Warren Commission both concluded Oswald had acted alone. After Kennedy's death, Congress enacted many of his proposals, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Revenue Act of 1964. Despite his truncated presidency, Kennedy ranks highly in polls of U.S. presidents with historians and the general public. His personal life has also been the focus of considerable sustained interest following public revelations in the 1970s of his chronic health ailments and extramarital affairs. Kennedy is the most recent U.S. president to have died in office.

Early life and education


John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born outside Boston in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29, 1917, at 83 Beals Street, to Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., a businessman and politician, and Rose Kennedy (née Fitzgerald), a philanthropist and socialite. His paternal grandfather, P. J. Kennedy, served as a Massachusetts state legislator. Kennedy's maternal grandfather and namesake, John F. Fitzgerald, served as a U.S. Congressman and was elected to two terms as Mayor of Boston. All four of his grandparents were children of Irish immigrants. Kennedy had an older brother, Joseph Jr., and seven younger siblings: Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Edward.

Kennedy lived in Brookline for the first ten years of his life. He attended the local St. Aidan's Church, where he was baptized on June 19, 1917. He was educated through the 4th grade at the Edward Devotion School, the Noble and Greenough Lower School, and the Dexter School; all located in the Boston area. His earliest memories involved accompanying his grandfather Fitzgerald on walking tours of historic sites in Boston and discussions at the family dinner table about politics, sparking his interest in history and public service. His father's business had kept him away from the family for long stretches of time, and his ventures were concentrated on Wall Street and Hollywood. In 1927, the Dexter School announced it would not reopen before October after an outbreak of polio in Massachusetts. In September, the family decided to move from Boston by "private railway car" to the Riverdale neighborhood of New York City. Several years later, his brother Robert told Look magazine that his father had left Boston because of signs that read: "No Irish Need Apply." The family spent summers and early autumns at their home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, a village on Cape Cod, where they enjoyed swimming, sailing, and touch football. Christmas and Easter holidays were spent at their winter retreat in Palm Beach, Florida. Young John attended the Riverdale Country School – a private school for boys – from 5th to 7th grade, and was a member of Boy Scout Troop 2 in Bronxville, New York. In September 1930, Kennedy, then 13 years old, was shipped off to the Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut, for 8th grade. In April 1931, he had an appendectomy, after which he withdrew from Canterbury and recuperated at home.In September 1931, Kennedy started attending Choate, a prestigious boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut, for 9th through 12th grade. His older brother Joe Jr. had already been at Choate for two years and was a football player and leading student. He spent his first years at Choate in his older brother's shadow and compensated with rebellious behavior that attracted a coterie. Their most notorious stunt was exploding a toilet seat with a powerful firecracker. In the next chapel assembly, the strict headmaster, George St. John, brandished the toilet seat and spoke of certain "muckers" who would "spit in our sea". Defiantly Kennedy took a cue and named his group "The Muckers Club", which included roommate and lifelong friend Kirk LeMoyne "Lem" Billings.

During his years at Choate, Kennedy was beset by health problems that culminated with his emergency hospitalization in 1934 at Yale New Haven Hospital, where doctors suspected leukemia. In June 1934, he was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota; the ultimate diagnosis there was colitis. Kennedy graduated from Choate in June of the following year, finishing 64th in a class of 112 students. He had been the business manager of the school yearbook and was voted the "most likely to succeed".In September 1935, Kennedy made his first trip abroad when he traveled to London with his parents and his sister Kathleen. He intended to study under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics (LSE), as his older brother had done. Ill-health forced his return to the United States in October of that year, when he enrolled late and attended Princeton University but had to leave after two months due to a gastrointestinal illness. He was then hospitalized for observation at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He convalesced further at the family winter home in Palm Beach, then spent the spring of 1936 working as a ranch hand on the 40,000-acre (16,000-hectare) Jay Six cattle ranch outside Benson, Arizona. It is reported that ranchman Jack Speiden worked both brothers "very hard".In September 1936, Kennedy enrolled at Harvard College, and his application essay stated: "The reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several. I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better liberal education than any other university. I have always wanted to go there, as I have felt that it is not just another college, but is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a 'Harvard man' is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain." He produced that year's annual "Freshman Smoker", called by a reviewer "an elaborate entertainment, which included in its cast outstanding personalities of the radio, screen and sports world".He tried out for the football, golf, and swimming teams and earned a spot on the varsity swimming team. Kennedy also sailed in the Star class and won the 1936 Nantucket Sound Star Championship. In July 1937, Kennedy sailed to France—taking his convertible—and spent ten weeks driving through Europe with Billings. In June 1938, Kennedy sailed overseas with his father and older brother to work at the American embassy in London, where his father was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James's.In 1939, Kennedy toured Europe, the Soviet Union, the Balkans, and the Middle East in preparation for his Harvard senior honors thesis. He then went to Berlin, where the U.S. diplomatic representative gave him a secret message about war breaking out soon to pass on to his father, and to Czechoslovakia before returning to London on September 1, 1939, the day that Germany invaded Poland to mark the beginning of World War II. Two days later, the family was in the House of Commons for speeches endorsing the United Kingdom's declaration of war on Germany. Kennedy was sent as his father's representative to help with arrangements for American survivors of SS Athenia before flying back to the U.S. from Foynes, Ireland, on his first transatlantic flight.

While Kennedy was an upperclassman at Harvard, he began to take his studies more seriously and developed an interest in political philosophy. He made the dean's list in his junior year. In 1940 Kennedy completed his thesis, "Appeasement in Munich", about British negotiations during the Munich Agreement. The thesis eventually became a bestseller under the title Why England Slept. In addition to addressing Britain's unwillingness to strengthen its military in the lead-up to World War II, the book also called for an Anglo-American alliance against the rising totalitarian powers. Kennedy became increasingly supportive of U.S. intervention in World War II, and his father's isolationist beliefs resulted in the latter's dismissal as ambassador to the United Kingdom. This created a split between the Kennedy and Roosevelt families.In 1940, Kennedy graduated cum laude from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts in government, concentrating on international affairs. That fall, he enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and audited classes there. In early 1941, Kennedy left and helped his father write a memoir of his time as an American ambassador. He then traveled throughout South America; his itinerary included Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

U.S. Naval Reserve (1941–1945)


Kennedy planned to attend Yale Law School after auditing courses on business law at Stanford, but canceled when American entry into World War II seemed imminent. In 1940, Kennedy attempted to enter the army's Officer Candidate School. Despite months of training, he was medically disqualified due to his chronic lower back problems. On September 24, 1941, Kennedy, with the help of the director of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) and the former naval attaché to Joseph Kennedy, Alan Kirk, joined the United States Naval Reserve. He was commissioned an ensign on October 26, 1941, and joined the staff of the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C.

In January 1942, Kennedy was assigned to the ONI field office at Headquarters, Sixth Naval District, in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended the Naval Reserve Officer Training School at Northwestern University in Chicago from July 27 to September 27 and then voluntarily entered the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons Training Center in Melville, Rhode Island. On October 10, he was promoted to lieutenant junior grade. In early November, Kennedy was still mourning the death of his close, childhood friend, Marine Corps Second Lieutenant George Houk Mead Jr., who had been killed in action at Guadalcanal that August and awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery. Accompanied by a female acquaintance from a wealthy Newport family, the couple had stopped in Middletown, Rhode Island at the cemetery where the decorated, naval spy, Commander Hugo W. Koehler, USN, had been buried the previous year. Ambling around the plots near the tiny St. Columba's chapel, Kennedy paused over Koehler's white granite cross grave marker and pondered his own mortality, hoping out loud that when his time came, he would not have to die without religion. "But these things can't be faked," he added. "There's no bluffing." Two decades later, Kennedy and Koehler's stepson, U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell had become good friends and political allies, although they had been acquaintances since the mid-1930s during their "salad days" on the same Newport debutante party "circuit" and when Pell had dated Kathleen ("Kick") Kennedy. Kennedy completed his training on December 2 and was assigned to Motor Torpedo Squadron FOUR.His first command was PT-101 from December 7, 1942, until February 23, 1943: It was a patrol torpedo (PT) boat used for training while Kennedy was an instructor at Melville. He then led three Huckins PT boats—PT-98, PT-99, and PT-101, which were being relocated from MTBRON 4 in Melville, Rhode Island, back to Jacksonville, Florida, and the new MTBRON 14 (formed February 17, 1943). During the trip south, he was hospitalized briefly in Jacksonville after diving into the cold water to unfoul a propeller. Thereafter, Kennedy was assigned duty in Panama and later in the Pacific theater, where he eventually commanded two more PT boats.

Commanding PT-109


In April 1943, Kennedy was assigned to Motor Torpedo Squadron TWO, and on April 24 he took command of PT-109, which was based at the time on Tulagi Island in the Solomons. On the night of August 1–2, in support of the New Georgia campaign, PT-109 was on its 31st mission with fourteen other PTs ordered to block or repel four Japanese destroyers and floatplanes carrying food, supplies, and 900 Japanese soldiers to the Vila Plantation garrison on the southern tip of the Solomon's Kolombangara Island. Intelligence had been sent to Kennedy's Commander Thomas G. Warfield expecting the arrival of the large Japanese naval force that would pass on the evening of August 1. Of the 24 torpedoes fired that night by eight of the American PTs, not one hit the Japanese convoy. On that dark and moonless night, Kennedy spotted a Japanese destroyer heading north on its return from the base of Kolombangara around 2:00 a.m., and attempted to turn to attack, when PT-109 was rammed suddenly at an angle and cut in half by the destroyer Amagiri, killing two PT-109 crew members.Kennedy gathered around the wreckage his surviving ten crew members to vote on whether to "fight or surrender". Kennedy stated: "There's nothing in the book about a situation like this. A lot of you men have families and some of you have children. What do you want to do? I have nothing to lose." Shunning surrender, around 2:00 p.m. on August 2, the men swam towards Plum Pudding Island 3.5 miles (5.6 km) southwest of the remains of PT-109. Despite re-injuring his back in the collision, Kennedy towed a badly burned crewman through the water to the island with a life jacket strap clenched between his teeth. Kennedy made an additional two-mile swim the night of August 2, 1943, to Ferguson Passage to attempt to hail a passing American PT boat to expedite his crew's rescue and attempted to make the trip on a subsequent night, in a damaged canoe found on Naru Island where he had swum with Ensign George Ross to look for food.On August 4, 1943, he and his executive officer, Ensign Lenny Thom, assisted his injured and hungry crew on a demanding swim 3.75 miles (6.04 km) southeast to Olasana Island, which was visible to the crew from their desolate home on Plum Pudding Island. They swam against a strong current, and once again Kennedy towed the badly burned motor machinist "Pappy" MacMahon by his life vest. The somewhat larger Olasana Island had ripe coconut trees, but still no fresh water. On the following day, August 5, Kennedy and Ensign George Ross made the one-hour swim to Naru Island, an additional distance of about .5 miles (0.80 km) southwest, in search of help and food. Kennedy and Ross found a small canoe, packages of crackers, candy and a fifty-gallon drum of drinkable water left by the Japanese, which Kennedy paddled another half mile back to Olasana in the acquired canoe to provide his hungry crew. Native coast watchers Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana first discovered the 109 crew on Olasana Island and paddled their messages to Ben Kevu, a Senior Scout who sent them on to coast watcher Lieutenant Reginald Evans. On the morning of August 7, Evans radioed the PT base on Rendova. Lieutenant "Bud" Liebenow, a friend and former tentmate of Kennedy's, rescued Kennedy and his crew on Olasana Island on August 8, 1943, aboard his boat, PT-157.

Commanding PT-59


It only took Kennedy a month to recover and return to duty, commanding the PT-59. He and his crew removed the original torpedo tubes and depth charges and refitted the vessel into a heavily armed gunboat, mounting two automatic 40mm guns and ten .50 caliber Browning machine guns. The new plan involved attaching a gunboat to each PT boat section adding gun range and defensive power against barges and shore batteries which the 59 went on to encounter on several occasions from mid-October to mid-November. On October 8, 1943, Kennedy was promoted to full lieutenant. On November 2, Kennedy's PT-59 took part with two other PTs in the successful rescue of 40–50 marines. The 59 acted as a shield from shore fire and protected them as they escaped on two rescue landing craft at the base of the Warrior River at Choiseul Island, taking ten marines aboard and delivering them to safety. Under doctor's orders, Kennedy was relieved of his command of PT-59 on November 18, and sent to the hospital on Tulagi. From there he returned to the United States in early January 1944. After receiving treatment for his back injury, he was released from active duty in late 1944.Kennedy was hospitalized at the Chelsea Naval Hospital in Chelsea, Massachusetts from May to December 1944. On June 12, he was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroic actions on August 1–2, 1943, and the Purple Heart Medal for his back injury while on PT-109. Beginning in January 1945, Kennedy spent three more months recovering from his back injury at Castle Hot Springs, a resort and temporary military hospital in Arizona. After the war, Kennedy felt that the medal he had received for heroism was not a combat award and asked that he be reconsidered for the Silver Star Medal for which he had been recommended initially. Kennedy's father also requested that his son receive the Silver Star, which is awarded for gallantry in action.

On August 12, 1944, Kennedy's older brother, Joe Jr., a navy pilot, was killed while on a special and hazardous air mission for which he had volunteered; his explosive-laden plane blew up when its bombs detonated prematurely over the English Channel.On March 1, 1945, Kennedy retired from the Navy Reserve on physical disability and was honorably discharged with the full rank of lieutenant. When later asked how he became a war hero, Kennedy joked: "It was easy. They cut my PT boat in half."In 1950, the Department of the Navy offered Kennedy a Bronze Star Medal in recognition of his meritorious service, which he declined. Kennedy's two original medals are currently on display at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Military awards


In addition to the various campaign medals received for his war service, Kennedy was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his conduct during and after the loss of PT-109, as well as the Purple Heart for being wounded.

Navy and Marine Corps Medal citation


For extremely heroic conduct as Commanding Officer of Motor Torpedo Boat 109 following the collision and sinking of that vessel in the Pacific War area on August 1–2, 1943. Unmindful of personal danger, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade) Kennedy unhesitatingly braved the difficulties and hazards of darkness to direct rescue operations, swimming many hours to secure aid and food after he had succeeded in getting his crew ashore. His outstanding courage, endurance and leadership contributed to the saving of several lives and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Journalism and personal diary


In April 1945, Kennedy's father, who was a friend of William Randolph Hearst, arranged a position for his son as a special correspondent for Hearst Newspapers; the assignment kept Kennedy's name in the public eye and "expose[d] him to journalism as a possible career". He worked as a correspondent that May and went to Berlin for a second time, covering the Potsdam Conference and other events.

During this time, he kept a diary—his only known—in which he wrote that Adolf Hitler "had a mystery about him in the way he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him", and speculated that the dictator could still be alive. Kennedy gave the diary to a research assistant, who auctioned it in 2017.

Congressional career (1947–1960)


JFK's elder brother Joe had been the family's political standard-bearer and had been tapped by their father to seek the presidency. Joe's death during the war in 1944 changed that course and the assignment fell to JFK as the second eldest of the Kennedy siblings.

House of Representatives (1947–1953)


At the urging of Kennedy's father, U.S. Representative James Michael Curley vacated his seat in the strongly Democratic 11th congressional district of Massachusetts to become mayor of Boston in 1946. Kennedy established his residency at an apartment building on 122 Bowdoin Street across from the Massachusetts State House. With his father financing and running his campaign under the slogan "The New Generation Offers a Leader", Kennedy won the Democratic primary with 42 percent of the vote, defeating ten other candidates. His father joked after the campaign, "With the money I spent, I could have elected my chauffeur." Campaigning around Boston, Kennedy called for better housing for veterans, better health care for all, and support for organized labor's campaign for reasonable work hours, a healthy workplace, and the right to organize, bargain, and strike. In addition, he campaigned for peace through the United Nations and strong opposition to the Soviet Union. Though Republicans took control of the House in the 1946 elections, Kennedy defeated his Republican opponent in the general election, taking 73 percent of the vote. Along with Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy, Kennedy was one of several World War II veterans elected to Congress that year.Kennedy served in the House for six years, joining the influential Education and Labor Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee. He concentrated his attention on international affairs, supporting the Truman Doctrine as the appropriate response to the emerging Cold War. He also supported public housing and opposed the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, which restricted the power of labor unions. Though not as vocal an anti-communist as McCarthy, Kennedy supported the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which required communists to register with the government, and he deplored the "loss of China".Having served as a boy scout during his childhood, Kennedy was active in the Boston Council from 1946 to 1955 as district vice chairman, member of the executive board, vice-president, and National Council Representative. Almost every weekend that Congress was in session, Kennedy would fly back to Massachusetts to give speeches to veteran, fraternal, and civic groups, while maintaining an index card file on individuals who might be helpful for a future campaign for state-wide office. JFK set a goal of speaking in every city and town in Massachusetts prior to 1952.

Senate (1953–1960)


As early as 1949, Kennedy began preparing to run for the Senate in 1952 against Republican three-term incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. with the campaign slogan "KENNEDY WILL DO MORE FOR MASSACHUSETTS". Joseph Kennedy again financed his son's candidacy, while John Kennedy's younger brother Robert F. Kennedy emerged as an important member of the campaign as manager. The campaign hosted a series of "teas" (sponsored by Kennedy's mother and sisters) at hotels and parlors across Massachusetts to reach out to women voters. In the presidential election, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower carried Massachusetts by a margin of 208,000 votes, but Kennedy defeated Lodge by 70,000 votes for the Senate seat. The following year, he married Jacqueline Bouvier.Kennedy underwent several spinal operations over the next two years. Often absent from the Senate, he was at times critically ill and received Catholic last rites. During his convalescence in 1956, he published Profiles in Courage, a book about U.S. senators who risked their careers for their personal beliefs, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1957. Rumors that this work was co-written by his close adviser and speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, were confirmed in Sorensen's 2008 autobiography.

At the start of his first term, Kennedy focused on Massachusetts-specific issues by sponsoring bills to help the fishing, textile manufacturing, and watchmaking industries. In 1954, Senator Kennedy voted in favor of the Saint Lawrence Seaway which would connect the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, despite opposition from Massachusetts politicians who argued that the project would cripple New England's shipping industry, including the Port of Boston. Three years later, Kennedy chaired a special committee to select the five greatest U.S. senators in history so their portraits could decorate the Senate Reception Room. That same year, Kennedy joined the Senate Labor Rackets Committee with his brother Robert (who was chief counsel) to investigate crime infiltration of labor unions. In 1958, Kennedy introduced a bill (S. 3974) which became the first major labor relations bill to pass either house since the Taft–Hartley Act of 1947. The bill dealt largely with the control of union abuses exposed by the McClellan committee but did not incorporate tough Taft–Hartley amendments requested by President Eisenhower. It survived Senate floor attempts to include Taft-Hartley amendments and gained passage but was rejected by the House.At the 1956 Democratic National Convention, Kennedy gave the nominating speech for the party's presidential nominee, Adlai Stevenson II. Stevenson let the convention select the vice presidential nominee. Kennedy finished second in the balloting, losing to Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee but receiving national exposure as a result.

A matter demanding Kennedy's attention in the Senate was President Eisenhower's bill for the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Kennedy cast a procedural vote against it and this was considered by some to be an appeasement of Southern Democratic opponents of the bill. Kennedy did vote for Title III of the act, which would have given the Attorney General powers to enjoin, but Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson agreed to let the provision die as a compromise measure. Kennedy also voted for Title IV, termed the "Jury Trial Amendment". Many civil rights advocates at the time criticized that vote as one which would weaken the act. A final compromise bill, which Kennedy supported, was passed in September 1957. He proposed on July 2, 1957, that the U.S. support Algeria's effort to gain independence from France. The following year, Kennedy authored A Nation of Immigrants (later published in 1964), which analyzed the importance of immigration in the country's history as well as proposals to re-evaluate immigration law.In 1958, Kennedy was re-elected to a second term in the Senate, defeating Republican opponent, Boston lawyer Vincent J. Celeste, by a margin of 874,608 votes, the largest margin in the history of Massachusetts politics. It was during his re-election campaign that Kennedy's press secretary at the time, Robert E. Thompson, put together a film entitled The U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy Story, which exhibited a day in the life of the Senator and showcased his family life as well as the inner workings of his office to solve Massachusetts-related issues. It was the most comprehensive film produced about Kennedy up to that time. In the aftermath of his re-election, Kennedy began preparing to run for president by traveling throughout the U.S. with the aim of building his candidacy for 1960.When it came to conservation, Kennedy, a Massachusetts Audubon Society supporter, wanted to make sure that the shorelines of Cape Cod remained unsullied by future industrialization. On September 3, 1959, Kennedy cosponsored the Cape Cod National Seashore bill with his Republican colleague Senator Leverett Saltonstall.Kennedy's father was a strong supporter and friend of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Additionally, Bobby Kennedy worked for McCarthy's subcommittee, and McCarthy dated Kennedy's sister Patricia. Kennedy told historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., "Hell, half my voters [particularly Catholics] in Massachusetts look on McCarthy as a hero." In 1954, the Senate voted to censure McCarthy, and Kennedy drafted a speech supporting the censure. However, it was not delivered because Kennedy was hospitalized at the time. The speech put Kennedy in the apparent position of participating by "pairing" his vote against that of another senator and opposing the censure. Although Kennedy never indicated how he would have voted, the episode damaged his support among members of the liberal community, including Eleanor Roosevelt, in the 1956 and 1960 elections.

1960 presidential election


On December 17, 1959, a letter from Kennedy's staff which was to be sent to "active and influential Democrats" was leaked stating that he would announce his presidential campaign on January 2, 1960. On January 2, 1960, Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Though some questioned Kennedy's age and experience, his charisma and eloquence earned him numerous supporters. Many Americans held anti-Catholic attitudes, but Kennedy's vocal support of the separation of church and state helped defuse the situation. His religion also helped him win a devoted following among many Catholic voters. Kennedy faced several potential challengers for the Democratic nomination, including Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, Adlai Stevenson II, and Senator Hubert Humphrey.Kennedy's presidential campaign was a family affair, funded by his father and with his younger brother Robert, acting as his campaign manager. John preferred Ivy League policy advisors, but unlike his father, he enjoyed the give and take of Massachusetts politics and built a largely Irish team of campaigners, headed by Larry O'Brien and Kenneth O'Donnell. Kennedy traveled extensively to build his support among Democratic elites and voters. At the time, party officials controlled most of the delegates, but several states also held primaries, and Kennedy sought to win several primaries to boost his chances of winning the nomination. In his first major test, Kennedy won the Wisconsin primary, effectively ending Humphrey's hopes of winning the presidency. Nonetheless, Kennedy and Humphrey faced each other in a competitive West Virginia primary in which Kennedy could not benefit from a Catholic bloc, as he had in Wisconsin. Kennedy won the West Virginia primary, impressing many in the party, but at the start of the 1960 Democratic National Convention, it was unclear as to whether he would win the nomination.When Kennedy entered the convention, he had the most delegates, but not enough to ensure that he would win the nomination. Stevenson—the 1952 and 1956 presidential nominee—remained very popular in the party, while Johnson also hoped to win the nomination with the support from party leaders. Kennedy's candidacy also faced opposition from former president Harry S. Truman, who was concerned about Kennedy's lack of experience. Kennedy knew that a second ballot could give the nomination to Johnson or someone else, and his well-organized campaign was able to earn the support of just enough delegates to win the presidential nomination on the first ballot.Kennedy ignored the opposition of his brother, who wanted him to choose labor leader Walter Reuther, and other liberal supporters when he chose Johnson as his vice presidential nominee. He believed that the Texas Senator could help him win support from the South. The choice infuriated many in labor. AFL-CIO President George Meany called Johnson "the arch foe of labor", while Illinois AFL-CIO President Reuben Soderstrom asserted Kennedy had "made chumps out of leaders of the American labor movement." In accepting the presidential nomination, Kennedy gave his well-known "New Frontier" speech, saying, "For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won—and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier. ... But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises—it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them."At the start of the fall general election campaign, the Republican nominee and incumbent vice president Richard Nixon held a six-point lead in the polls. Major issues included how to get the economy moving again, Kennedy's Roman Catholicism, the Cuban Revolution, and whether the space and missile programs of the Soviet Union had surpassed those of the U.S. To address fears that his being Catholic would impact his decision-making, he famously told the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960: "I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters—and the Church does not speak for me." Kennedy questioned rhetorically whether one-quarter of Americans were relegated to second-class citizenship just because they were Catholic, and once stated that "[n]o one asked me my religion [serving the Navy] in the South Pacific". Despite Kennedy's efforts to quell anti-Catholic concerns and similar statements by high-profile Protestant figures, religious bigotry would dog the Democratic candidate through the end of the campaign. His score among white Protestants would ultimately be lower than Adlai Stevenson's in 1956, though Stevenson lost his election. Some Catholic leaders also expressed reservations about Kennedy, but the vast majority of laypeople rallied to him.

Between September and October, Kennedy squared off against Nixon in the first televised presidential debates in U.S. history. During these programs, Nixon had an injured leg, "five o'clock shadow", and was perspiring, making him look tense and uncomfortable. Conversely, Kennedy wore makeup and appeared relaxed, which helped the large television audience to view him as the winner. On average radio listeners thought that Nixon had won or that the debates were a draw. The debates are now considered a milestone in American political history—the point at which the medium of television began to play a dominant role in politics.Kennedy's campaign gained momentum after the first debate, and he pulled slightly ahead of Nixon in most polls. On Election Day, Kennedy defeated Nixon in one of the closest presidential elections of the 20th century. In the national popular vote, by most accounts, Kennedy led Nixon by just two-tenths of one percent (49.7% to 49.5%), while in the Electoral College, he won 303 votes to Nixon's 219 (269 were needed to win). Fourteen electors from Mississippi and Alabama refused to support Kennedy because of his support for the civil rights movement; they voted for Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia, as did an elector from Oklahoma. Kennedy became the youngest person (43) ever elected to the presidency, though Theodore Roosevelt was a year younger at 42 when he automatically assumed the office after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901.

Presidency (1961–1963)


John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president at noon on January 20, 1961. In his inaugural address, he spoke of the need for all Americans to be active citizens, famously saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." He asked the nations of the world to join to fight what he called the "common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself". He added:

"All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin." In closing, he expanded on his desire for greater internationalism: "Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you."

The address reflected Kennedy's confidence that his administration would chart a historically significant course in both domestic policy and foreign affairs. The contrast between this optimistic vision and the pressures of managing daily political realities at home and abroad would be one of the main tensions running through the early years of his administration.

Kennedy brought to the White House a contrast in organization compared to the decision-making structure of former General Eisenhower, and he wasted no time in scrapping Eisenhower's methods. Kennedy preferred the organizational structure of a wheel with all the spokes leading to the president. He was ready and willing to make the increased number of quick decisions required in such an environment. He selected a mixture of experienced and inexperienced people to serve in his cabinet. "We can learn our jobs together", he stated.Much to the chagrin of his economic advisors, who wanted him to reduce taxes, Kennedy quickly agreed to a balanced budget pledge. This was needed in exchange for votes to expand the membership of the House Rules Committee in order to give the Democrats a majority in setting the legislative agenda. Kennedy focused on immediate and specific issues facing the administration and quickly voiced his impatience with pondering deeper meanings. Deputy National Security Advisor Walt Whitman Rostow once began a diatribe about the growth of communism, and Kennedy abruptly cut him off, asking, "What do you want me to do about that today?"Kennedy approved Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's controversial decision to award the contract for the F-111 TFX (Tactical Fighter Experimental) fighter-bomber to General Dynamics (the choice of the civilian Defense department) over Boeing (the choice of the military). At the request of Senator Henry Jackson, Senator John McClellan held 46 days of mostly closed-door hearings before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations investigating the TFX contract from February to November 1963.During the summer of 1962, Kennedy had a secret taping system set up in the White House, most likely to aid his future memoir. It recorded many conversations with Kennedy and his Cabinet members, including those in relation to the "Cuban Missile Crisis".

Foreign policy


Kennedy's foreign policy was dominated by American confrontations with the Soviet Union, manifested by proxy contests in the early stage of the Cold War. In 1961 he anxiously anticipated a summit with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. He started off on the wrong foot by reacting aggressively to a routine Khrushchev speech on Cold War confrontation in early 1961. The speech was intended for domestic audiences in the Soviet Union, but Kennedy interpreted it as a personal challenge. His mistake helped raise tensions going into the Vienna summit of June 1961.On the way to the summit, Kennedy stopped in Paris to meet French President Charles de Gaulle, who advised him to ignore Khrushchev's abrasive style. The French president feared the United States' presumed influence in Europe. Nevertheless, de Gaulle was quite impressed with the young president and his family. Kennedy picked up on this in his speech in Paris, saying that he would be remembered as "the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris".

On June 4, 1961, Kennedy met with Khrushchev in Vienna and left the meetings angry and disappointed that he had allowed the premier to bully him, despite the warnings he had received. Khrushchev, for his part, was impressed with the president's intelligence but thought him weak. Kennedy did succeed in conveying the bottom line to Khrushchev on the most sensitive issue before them, a proposed treaty between Moscow and East Berlin. He made it clear that any treaty interfering with U.S. access rights in West Berlin would be regarded as an act of war. Shortly after Kennedy returned home, the U.S.S.R. announced its plan to sign a treaty with East Berlin, abrogating any third-party occupation rights in either sector of the city. Depressed and angry, Kennedy assumed that his only option was to prepare the country for nuclear war, which he personally thought had a one-in-five chance of occurring.In the weeks immediately following the Vienna summit, more than 20,000 people fled from East Berlin to the western sector, reacting to statements from the U.S.S.R. Kennedy began intensive meetings on the Berlin issue, where Dean Acheson took the lead in recommending a military buildup alongside NATO allies. In a July 1961 speech, Kennedy announced his decision to add $3.25 billion (equivalent to $29.47 billion in 2021) to the defense budget, along with over 200,000 additional troops, stating that an attack on West Berlin would be taken as an attack on the U.S. The speech received an 85% approval rating.A month later, both the Soviet Union and East Berlin began blocking any further passage of East Germans into West Berlin and erected barbed wire fences, which were quickly upgraded to the Berlin Wall, around the city. Kennedy's initial reaction was to ignore this, as long as free access from the West to West Berlin continued. This course was altered when West Berliners had lost confidence in the defense of their position by the United States. Kennedy sent Vice President Johnson and Lucius D. Clay, along with a host of military personnel, in convoy through East Germany, including Soviet-armed checkpoints, to demonstrate the continued commitment of the U.S. to West Berlin.Kennedy gave a speech at Saint Anselm College on May 5, 1960, regarding America's conduct in the emerging Cold War. His address detailed how he felt American foreign policy should be conducted towards African nations, noting a hint of support for modern African nationalism by saying, "For we, too, founded a new nation on revolt from colonial rule."

Cuba and the Bay of Pigs Invasion


The Eisenhower administration had created a plan to overthrow Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba. Led by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), with help from the U.S. military, the plan was for an invasion of Cuba by a counter-revolutionary insurgency composed of U.S.-trained, anti-Castro Cuban exiles led by CIA paramilitary officers. The intention was to invade Cuba and instigate an uprising among the Cuban people, hoping to remove Castro from power. Kennedy approved the final invasion plan on April 4, 1961.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion began on April 17, 1961. Fifteen hundred U.S.-trained Cubans, dubbed Brigade 2506, landed on the island. No U.S. air support was provided. CIA director Allen Dulles later stated that they thought Kennedy would authorize any action that was needed for success once the troops were on the ground.By April 19, 1961, the Cuban government had captured or killed the invading exiles, and Kennedy was forced to negotiate for the release of the 1,189 survivors. Twenty months later, Cuba released the captured exiles in exchange for $53 million worth of food and medicine. The incident made Castro feel wary of the U.S. and led him to believe that another invasion would take place.Biographer Richard Reeves said that Kennedy focused primarily on the political repercussions of the plan rather than military considerations. When it proved unsuccessful, he was convinced that the plan was a setup to make him look bad. He took responsibility for the failure, saying, "We got a big kick in the leg and we deserved it. But maybe we'll learn something from it." He appointed Robert Kennedy to help lead a committee to examine the causes of the failure.In late-1961, the White House formed the Special Group (Augmented), headed by Robert Kennedy and including Edward Lansdale, Secretary Robert McNamara, and others. The group's objective—to overthrow Castro via espionage, sabotage, and other covert tactics—was never pursued. In March 1962, Kennedy rejected Operation Northwoods, proposals for false flag attacks against American military and civilian targets, and blaming them on the Cuban government in order to gain approval for a war against Cuba. However, the administration continued to plan for an invasion of Cuba in the summer of 1962.

Cuban Missile Crisis


On October 14, 1962, CIA U-2 spy planes took photographs of the Soviets' construction of intermediate-range ballistic missile sites in Cuba. The photos were shown to Kennedy on October 16; a consensus was reached that the missiles were offensive in nature and thus posed an immediate nuclear threat.Kennedy faced a dilemma: if the U.S. attacked the sites, it might lead to nuclear war with the U.S.S.R., but if the U.S. did nothing, it would be faced with the increased threat from close-range nuclear weapons. The U.S. would also appear to the world as less committed to the defense of the hemisphere. On a personal level, Kennedy needed to show resolve in reaction to Khrushchev, especially after the Vienna summit.More than a third of U.S. National Security Council (NSC) members favored an unannounced air assault on the missile sites, but for some of them this conjured up an image of "Pearl Harbor in reverse". There was also some concern from the international community (asked in confidence), that the assault plan was an overreaction in light of the fact that Eisenhower had placed PGM-19 Jupiter missiles in Italy and Turkey in 1958. It also could not be assured that the assault would be 100% effective. In concurrence with a majority-vote of the NSC, Kennedy decided on a naval quarantine. On October 22, he dispatched a message to Khrushchev and announced the decision on TV.The U.S. Navy would stop and inspect all Soviet ships arriving off Cuba, beginning October 24. The Organization of American States gave unanimous support to the removal of the missiles. Kennedy exchanged two sets of letters with Khrushchev, to no avail. United Nations (UN) Secretary General U Thant requested both parties to reverse their decisions and enter a cooling-off period. Khrushchev agreed, but Kennedy did not.One Soviet-flagged ship was stopped and boarded. On October 28, Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the missile sites, subject to UN inspections. The U.S. publicly promised never to invade Cuba and privately agreed to remove its Jupiter missiles from Italy and Turkey, which were by then obsolete and had been supplanted by submarines equipped with UGM-27 Polaris missiles.This crisis brought the world closer to nuclear war than at any point before or after. It is considered that "the humanity" of both Khrushchev and Kennedy prevailed. The crisis improved the image of American willpower and the president's credibility. Kennedy's approval rating increased from 66% to 77% immediately thereafter.

Latin America and communism


Believing that "those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable," Kennedy sought to contain the perceived threat of communism in Latin America by establishing the Alliance for Progress, which sent aid to some countries and sought greater human rights standards in the region. He worked closely with Puerto Rican Governor Luis Muñoz Marín for the development of the Alliance of Progress and began working to further Puerto Rico's autonomy.

The Eisenhower administration, through the CIA, had begun formulating plans to assassinate Castro in Cuba and Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. When Kennedy took office, he privately instructed the CIA that any plan must include plausible deniability by the U.S. His public position was in opposition. In June 1961, the Dominican Republic's leader was assassinated; in the days following, Undersecretary of State Chester Bowles led a cautious reaction by the nation. Robert Kennedy, who saw an opportunity for the U.S., called Bowles "a gutless bastard" to his face.

Peace Corps


In one of his first presidential acts, Kennedy asked Congress to create the Peace Corps. His brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, was its first director. Through this program, Americans volunteered to help developing nations in fields like education, farming, health care, and construction. The organization grew to 5,000 members by March 1963 and 10,000 the year after. Since 1961, over 200,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps, representing 139 countries.

Southeast Asia


As a U.S. Congressman in 1951, Kennedy became fascinated with Vietnam after visiting the area as part of a big fact-finding mission to Asia and the Middle East, even stressing in a subsequent radio address that he strongly favored "check[ing] the southern drive of communism." As a U.S. senator in 1956, Kennedy publicly advocated for greater U.S. involvement in Vietnam. When briefing Kennedy, Eisenhower emphasized that the communist threat in Southeast Asia required priority; Eisenhower considered Laos to be "the cork in the bottle" regarding the regional threat. In March 1961, Kennedy voiced a change in policy from supporting a "free" Laos to a "neutral" Laos, indicating privately that Vietnam, and not Laos, should be deemed America's tripwire for communism's spread in the area. In May, he dispatched Lyndon Johnson to meet with South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. Johnson assured Diem more aid to mold a fighting force that could resist the communists. Kennedy announced a change of policy from support to partnership with Diem to defeat of communism in South Vietnam.During his presidency, Kennedy continued policies that provided political, economic, and military support to the governments of South Korea and South Vietnam.

We have one-million Americans today serving outside the United-States. There's no other country in history that's carried this kind of a burden. Other countries have had forces serving outside their own country, but for conquest. We have two divisions in South-Korea, not to control South-Korea, but to defend it. We have a lot of Americans in South Vietnam. Well, no other country in the world has ever done that since the beginning of the world; Greece, Rome, Napoleon, and all the rest, always had conquest. We have a million men outside, and they try to defend these countries.

The Viet Cong began assuming a predominant presence in late 1961, initially seizing the provincial capital of Phuoc Vinh. After a mission to Vietnam in October, presidential adviser General Maxwell D. Taylor and Deputy National Security Adviser Walt Rostow recommended the deployment of 6,000 to 8,000 U.S. combat troops to Vietnam. Kennedy increased the number of military advisers and special forces in the area, from 11,000 in 1962 to 16,000 by late 1963, but he was reluctant to order a full-scale deployment of troops. However, Kennedy, who was wary about the region's successful war of independence against France, was also eager to not give the impression to the Vietnamese people that the United States was acting as the region's new colonizer, even stating in his journal at one point that the United States was "more and more becoming colonists in the minds of the people." A year and three months later on March 8, 1965, his successor, President Lyndon Johnson, committed the first combat troops to Vietnam and greatly escalated U.S. involvement, with forces reaching 184,000 that year and 536,000 in 1968.In late 1961, Kennedy sent Roger Hilsman, then director of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, to assess the situation in Vietnam. There, Hilsman met Sir Robert Grainger Ker Thompson, head of the British Advisory Mission to South Vietnam, and the Strategic Hamlet Program was formed. It was approved by Kennedy and South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem. It was implemented in early 1962 and involved some forced relocation, village internment, and segregation of rural South Vietnamese into new communities where the peasantry would be isolated from communist insurgents. It was hoped that these new communities would provide security for the peasants and strengthen the tie between them and the central government. By November 1963, the program waned and officially ended in 1964.In early 1962, Kennedy formally authorized escalated involvement when he signed the National Security Action Memorandum – "Subversive Insurgency (War of Liberation)". "Operation Ranch Hand", a large-scale aerial defoliation effort, began on the roadsides of South Vietnam. Depending on which assessment Kennedy accepted (Department of Defense or State), there had been zero or modest progress in countering the increase in communist aggression in return for an expanded U.S. involvement.

In April 1963, Kennedy assessed the situation in Vietnam, saying, "We don't have a prayer of staying in Vietnam. Those people hate us. They are going to throw our asses out of there at any point. But I can't give up that territory to the communists and get the American people to re-elect me."On August 21, just as the new U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. arrived, Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu ordered South Vietnam forces, funded and trained by the CIA, to quell Buddhist demonstrations. The crackdowns heightened expectations of a coup d'état to remove Diem with (or perhaps by) his brother, Nhu. Lodge was instructed to try getting Diem and Nhu to step down and leave the country. Diem would not listen to Lodge. Cable 243 (DEPTEL 243) followed, dated August 24, declaring that Washington would no longer tolerate Nhu's actions, and Lodge was ordered to pressure Diem to remove Nhu. Lodge concluded that the only option was to get the South Vietnamese generals to overthrow Diem and Nhu. At week's end, orders were sent to Saigon and throughout Washington to "destroy all coup cables". At the same time, the first formal anti-Vietnam war sentiment was expressed by U.S. clergy from the Ministers' Vietnam Committee.A White House meeting in September was indicative of the different ongoing appraisals; Kennedy received updated assessments after personal inspections on the ground by the Departments of Defense (General Victor Krulak) and State (Joseph Mendenhall). Krulak said that the military fight against the communists was progressing and being won, while Mendenhall stated that the country was civilly being lost to any U.S. influence. Kennedy reacted, asking, "Did you two gentlemen visit the same country?" Kennedy was unaware that both men were so much at odds that they did not speak to each other on the return flight.In October 1963, Kennedy appointed Defense Secretary McNamara and General Maxwell D. Taylor to a Vietnamese mission in another effort to synchronize the information and formulation of policy. The objective of the McNamara Taylor mission "emphasized the importance of getting to the bottom of the differences in reporting from U.S. representatives in Vietnam". In meetings with McNamara, Taylor, and Lodge, Diem again refused to agree to governing measures, helping to dispel McNamara's previous optimism about Diem. Taylor and McNamara were enlightened by Vietnam's vice president, Nguyen Ngoc Tho (choice of many to succeed Diem), who in detailed terms obliterated Taylor's information that the military was succeeding in the countryside. At Kennedy's insistence, the mission report contained a recommended schedule for troop withdrawals: 1,000 by year's end and complete withdrawal in 1965, something the NSC considered to be a "strategic fantasy".In late October, intelligence wires again reported that a coup against the Diem government was afoot. The source, Vietnamese General Duong Van Minh (also known as "Big Minh"), wanted to know the U.S. position. Kennedy instructed Lodge to offer covert assistance to the coup, excluding assassination. On November 1, 1963, South Vietnamese generals, led by "Big Minh", overthrew the Diem government, arresting and then killing Diem and Nhu. Kennedy was shocked by the deaths.News of the coup led to renewed confidence initially—both in America and in South Vietnam—that the war might be won. McGeorge Bundy drafted a National Security Action Memo to present to Kennedy upon his return from Dallas. It reiterated the resolve to fight communism in Vietnam, with increasing military and economic aid and expansion of operations into Laos and Cambodia. Before leaving for Dallas, Kennedy told Michael Forrestal that "after the first of the year ... [he wanted] an in depth study of every possible option, including how to get out of there ... to review this whole thing from the bottom to the top". Asked what he thought Kennedy meant, Forrestal said, "It was devil's advocate stuff."

Historians disagree on whether the Vietnam War would have escalated if Kennedy had not been assassinated and had won re-election in 1964. Fueling the debate were statements made by Secretary of Defense McNamara in the film "The Fog of War" that Kennedy was strongly considering pulling the United States out of Vietnam after the 1964 election. The film also contains a tape recording of Lyndon Johnson stating that Kennedy was planning to withdraw, a position in which Johnson disagreed. Kennedy had signed National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263, dated October 11, which ordered the withdrawal of 1,000 military personnel by year's end, and the bulk of them out by 1965. Such an action would have been a policy reversal, but Kennedy was publicly moving in a less hawkish direction since his speech on world peace at American University on June 10, 1963.At the time of Kennedy's death, no final policy decision was made to Vietnam. In 2008, Kennedy administration White House Counsel and speechwriter Ted Sorensen wrote, "I would like to believe that Kennedy would have found a way to withdraw all American instructors and advisors [from Vietnam]. But ... I do not believe he knew in his last weeks what he was going to do." Sorensen added that, in his opinion, Vietnam "was the only foreign policy problem handed off by JFK to his successor in no better, and possibly worse, shape than it was when he inherited it." U.S. involvement in the region escalated until his successor Lyndon Johnson directly deployed regular U.S. military forces for fighting the Vietnam War. After Kennedy's assassination, President Johnson signed NSAM 273 on November 26, 1963. It reversed Kennedy's decision to withdraw 1,000 troops, and reaffirmed the policy of assistance to the South Vietnamese.

American University speech


On June 10, 1963, Kennedy, at the high point of his rhetorical powers, delivered the commencement address at American University in Washington, D.C. Also known as "A Strategy of Peace", not only did Kennedy outline a plan to curb nuclear arms, but he also "laid out a hopeful, yet realistic route for world peace at a time when the U.S. and Soviet Union faced the potential for an escalating nuclear arms race." Kennedy wished

to discuss a topic on which too often ignorance abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived—yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace ... I speak of peace because of the new face of war ... in an age when a singular nuclear weapon contains ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied forces in the Second World War ... an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and air and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn ... I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men ... world peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor—it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance ... our problems are man-made—therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.

Kennedy also made two announcements: 1.) that the Soviets had expressed a desire to negotiate a nuclear test ban treaty, and 2.) that the U.S. had postponed planned atmospheric tests.

West Berlin speech


In 1963, Germany was enduring a time of particular vulnerability due to Soviet aggression to the east as well as the impending retirement of West German Chancellor Adenauer. At the same time, French President Charles de Gaulle was trying to build a Franco-West German counterweight to the American and Soviet spheres of influence. To Kennedy's eyes, this Franco-German cooperation seemed directed against NATO's influence in Europe.To reinforce the U.S. alliance with West Germany, Kennedy travelled to West Germany and West Berlin in June 1963. On June 26, Kennedy toured West Berlin, culminating in a public speech at West Berlin's city hall in front of hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic Berliners. He reiterated the American commitment to Germany and criticized communism, and was met with an ecstatic response from a massive audience. Kennedy used the construction of the Berlin Wall as an example of the failures of communism: "Freedom has many difficulties, and democracy is not perfect. But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us." The speech is known for its famous phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a resident of Berlin"), which Kennedy himself had begun to try out in preparation for the trip. Kennedy remarked to Ted Sorensen afterwards: "We'll never have another day like this one, as long as we live."

Israel


In 1960, Kennedy stated, "Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom."As president, Kennedy initiated the creation of security ties with Israel, and he is credited as the founder of the US-Israeli military alliance, which would be continued under subsequent presidents. Kennedy ended the arms embargo that the Eisenhower and Truman administrations had enforced on Israel. Describing the protection of Israel as a moral and national commitment, he was the first to introduce the concept of a "special relationship" (as he described it to Golda Meir) between the US and Israel.

Kennedy extended the first informal security guarantees to Israel in 1962 and, beginning in 1963, was the first US president to allow the sale to Israel of advanced US weaponry (the MIM-23 Hawk) as well as to provide d

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