Entries in John F. Kennedy (13)


JFK Tapes Reveal New Insight into Tensions During Cuban Missile Crisis

Library Of Congress/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the heat of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy thought the nation was so close to war with the Soviet Union that he game-planned how American naval vessels would fire on Soviet ships, making plans for firing warning shots, and even the confiscation of cameras aboard American boats to prevent pictures from making their way into the press.

In a phone call to Assistant Defense Secretary Roswell Gilpatric -- secretly recorded by the president on Oct. 23, 1962 -- Kennedy ordered that U.S. service members on board ships that would engage the Soviets be forced to turn in their cameras.

He also walked Gilpatric through an intricate series of steps he wanted taken in case Soviet forces defied the American quarantine of Cuba -- moves designed to try to minimize confrontations he knew could lead to World War III.

"I was wondering whether the instructions on how that's to be done, or where they're to be shot at, and so on, to cause the minimum of damage," Kennedy said.  "And in addition, if they're boarded, it's very possible the Russians will fire at them as they board, and we'd have to fire back and have quite a slaughter."

The recordings are published in a new book and accompanying CDs: Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy, on sale Sept. 25, 2012.

Much of the material is compiled in book form for the first time, though most of it had been previously released.  Portions of the recordings, touching on sensitive national security issues, were declassified as recently as this year.

The records offer a trove of first-hand material for historians focused on some of the most turbulent days of the Kennedy presidency.  Starting in July 1962, Kennedy had a sophisticated taping system installed in the Oval Office and Cabinet Room at the White House, presumably to record history for future use in memoirs.

The resulting 248 hours of meetings, plus 17-plus hours of phone conversations and private presidential reflections, were probably never listened to by Kennedy himself before his assassination in November 1963.

The recordings reveal a pressure-cooker atmosphere inside the White House at odds with popular perceptions of Camelot.  They offer an unfiltered, sometimes profane glimpse of real-time crisis decision-making in critical episodes of the Civil Rights Movement and the Cuban Missile Crisis, among dozens of other hot moments.

"To be able to be a fly on the wall and listen to things unfolding when we know how they turned out, but the -- the people talking didn't, that's what's so amazing," Caroline Kennedy, the former president's daughter, told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview.  "I think that this is a whole different insight into really work being done -- and, really, his commitment to politics as a way of solving problems."

Tune in to World News with Diane Sawyer and Nightline on Monday, Sept. 24 to see Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with Caroline Kennedy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Two Planes Held at JFK Airport for Threat Investigation

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Officials cleared two flights held for a time at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport after a threat involving the aircrafts was phoned in Monday.

A caller told authorities that the flights, a Fin Air flight from Helsinki and an American Airlines flight from San Francisco, had "two individuals" described as terrorists "secreted in the wheel wells." This claim led law enforcement officials to search each plane, a Port Authority official told ABC News.

Investigators viewed the threat as one with low credibility, but the planes taxied to a secure area, where the crews of each plane were interviewed.

No explosives or terrorists were found.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former Teenage Intern Tells All About Affair with John F. Kennedy

Library Of Congress/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Much has been written and said over the years about the active extramarital sexual life of the late President John F. Kennedy. While much has been documented -- and much more speculated upon -- a new book is raising eyebrows. Mimi Alford goes on the record with her memoir, Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy, which hits bookstores Wednesday.

Alford says she was a 19-year-old White House intern at the time she met JFK, who was then around 44.  The president was immediately smitten with the debutante, who bedded the young woman and carried on an 18-month-affair, she says.

Alford, who was Mimi Beardsley at the time, claims she was a virgin when she slept with Kennedy.  On her way home from the White House, Alford says, "[I]t kept echoing in my head: I'm not a virgin anymore."

Always addressing Kennedy as "Mr. President" even during their liaisons, Alford says he would never kiss her on the lips to maintain some distance from her. He also reportedly set up secret liasons in various cities, and once asked Beardsley to service his "little brother," former Senator Teddy Kennedy. Beardsley reportedly refused, though she claims she performed oral sex on one of Kennedy's closest confidates at the president's direction -- while the former Commander in Chief watched.

Alford maintains that Kennedy confided in her during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when the world was on the brink of destruction, telling the intern he'd "rather my children red than dead," a suggestion that he'd prefer a system under communism than losing his family.

Perhaps most haunting are Kennedy's last words to Alford shortly before he went on his ill-fated trip to Dallas in November 1963, when the president told the intern he would call her when he returned, even though her knew Alford was getting married.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dallas Relives President John F. Kennedy’s Assassination

Library Of Congress/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Tuesday marked the 48th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

The 35th U.S. president was shot as his motorcade rode through downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.  Although a 10-month investigation concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination, many Americans still believe there was a cover-up or conspiracy.

On Tuesday, the Dallas Police Department held a ceremony to honor John Brewer, the man credited with leading police to Oswald.  Even though he has received numerous awards throughout the years, Brewer was especially excited about this one.

”This one coming from the police department, the city of Dallas … is really something to me,” Brewer told ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV.

While managing a small shoe store on Jefferson Boulevard, Brewer heard about the president’s assassination on the radio.  He heard loud sirens and commotion in the streets.

”As I started to go outside, Oswald walked into the recessed area of my store, where the showcase was on the side, and I thought, ‘This is kind of funny -- all [of] this going on and you want to look at shoes,’” said Brewer.

When Oswald left the store, Brewer followed him.  He followed him into a theater where he alerted employees to call the police.

The Texas Theater in Oak Cliff, where Oswald was apprehended, commemorated that infamous day on Tuesday by re-creating it.

Previewing the reenactment, the theater said on its website that it would be “re-creating that day’s exact minute-to-minute programming at the historic theater, including opening doors at the same time and showing clips from the silent print of War Is Hell on a loop with a live soundtrack and a complete screening of Cry of Battle starring Van Heflin.”

The theater even sold tickets for $1, as that was the price nearly 50 years ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


John F. Kennedy’s Last Rocking Chair Up for Auction

Heritage Auction House(DALLAS) -- A true piece of American memorabilia, reputedly the last chair John F. Kennedy ever sat in, is currently up for auction at Heritage Auction House.

At first glance it is just a simple wooden rocking chair, but a closer look reveals a small plaque on the back that attaches it to one of the most important moments in American history. The plaque reads “John F. Kennedy, Rice Hotel, November 21st, 1963,” the day before his assassination.

The chair, which the Heritage Auction House expects will sell for anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000, is from Kennedy’s personal suite at the Rice Hotel, which was refurbished just for him prior to his Nov. 21, 1963 visit.

The former president is officially documented as having sat in the chair in William Manchester’s book, Death of a President. According to the book, upon entering the room, “The president removed his coat and soggy shirt and sat in the rocker, leafing through a pile of newspapers.”

The Heritage Auction House website attests to its value, saying, “Given Kennedy’s itinerary for the remainder of the trip, which would last less than 24 hours, it seems certain that the Rice Hotel chair was the last rocking chair in which the president would ever sit.”

The chair will be up for live auction in Dallas on Nov. 30, 2011.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New JFK Assassination Tapes Revealed

Library Of Congress/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) –- Nearly 48 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, fresh audio evidence from that fateful day has surfaced.  The evidence comes in the form of the original reel-to-reel Air Force One radio recording containing conversations between officials on the plane, the White House situation room, and others.  The original tape was long thought to be lost or destroyed.

The tape contains never-before-heard conversations between the presidential aircraft and the White House, and immediately after the assassination of President Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

It was held privately for years by President Kennedy’s military aide at the time, Chester Clifton. The tape was obtained by the Raab Collection of Philadelphia.

According to Nathan Raab, the vice president of the collection, the tape is the raw, unedited version of the edited audio tape from Air Force One that is in the National Archive.  The Raab Collection says the raw tape “is about 30 minutes longer than the edited version, predates it by years, and contains incidents and code names never before heard by the American public.”

“That this tape even exists will change the way we view this great event in history,” said Raab. “It took decades to analyze the shorter, newer version and it will take years to do the same here. This provides a concise ‘tale of the tapes’ and offers great insight into ongoing research.”

The tape contains a dramatic first-hand report of the president’s assassination, and the wounding of then-Texas Gov. John Connolly.  The recordings may fill in some important blanks for the assassination historians and conspiracy theorists – for example, the tapes locate Gen. Curtis LeMay at the time of the assassination.  LeMay, a member of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, was a vocal critic of JFK and there has been speculation over the years that he may have had a role in the assassination.  The tapes also placed various other officials, allowing the public to learn where they were, at what time, and what they were saying.

Much of the recording involves logistical planning – whether to take the president’s body for autopsy to Walter Reed or Bethesda Naval Hospital; plans for where Mrs. Kennedy should be taken; and how many limousines should meet the plane when it touched down.

Raab said the collection is offering the original, reel-to-reel tape for sale at $500,000.  A digital file will be provided at no cost to the National Archives and John F. Kennedy Library.

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Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jacqueline Kennedy's Audio Tapes: 'John John' Talks about Dad

1963 President Kennedy sits behind his desk, laughing as his children Caroline and John Jr show him their Halloween costumes in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When a young John Kennedy, Jr. -- still affectionately known as "John John" -- wandered into a session where his mother, Jacqueline, was recording an oral history of her slain husband's presidency, there's a moment when time stands still.  The tape keeps rolling.

The interviewer, historian and family friend Arthur Schlesinger Jr., took the opportunity to ask the boy a question on his tape recorder.

"John, what happened to your father?" Schlesinger asked.

"Well, he's gone to heaven," the 3-year-old replied.

John Jr. was born 16 days after his father was elected president, and his father's funeral was held on his third birthday.  The young boy, standing up straight to salute his father's casket, brought the nation to tears.

But when gently prodded by Schlesinger about what he remembered, the boy adopted the tactic kids everywhere use to ward off prying adults by saying mischievously, "I don't remember anything."

John made his escape seconds later, but the moment was a reminder that this president was also a father, who interrupted naps, interrupted the White House school and lined his bathtub with floatie toys for the boy who would insist on piling into the tub with his dad.

That oral history the former first lady was recording nearly 50 years ago will be released this week in a book titled Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.

ABC News' Diane Sawyer hosted a prime-time, two-hour special based on the tapes Tuesday night, featuring exclusive, never-before-heard extended audio of Jacqueline Kennedy's oral history, rare photographs, plus an exclusive interview with Caroline Kennedy.

One of the many personal memories Jacqueline Kennedy lovingly shares is her husband's frequent morning wake-ups in the White House.

"The television, gosh sometimes it was loud ... there'd be cartoons, and there was this awful exercise man, Jack La...," Jacqueline recalled, referring to 1960s exercise guru Jack LaLanne.

Daughter Caroline and toddler son John would be rolling on the floor doing exercises to Jack LaLanne with their father encouraging them.

"He'd have them tumbling around.  He loved those children tumbling around him," she said.

According to Caroline Kennedy, her father didn't like to read to his children, preferring to make up stories instead.  Many of them starred Caroline and a pony, and in his stories she frequently won the Grand National horse race, beating a Miss Shaw and Mrs. Throttlebottom.  In his tales, there were also sharks, a girl named Maybelle who hid in the woods, and sometimes the kids would join him on a PT boat and sink a Japanese destroyer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kennedy's Space Challenge, 50 Years Later

NASA/AFP/Getty Images(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Fifty years ago Wednesday, a fresh-faced president named John F. Kennedy -- just four months into his presidency -- asked Congress for the funding required to send American astronauts to the moon.

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth," President Kennedy said at the time. "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

Eight years later, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., with three men on board. Then, on July 20, the president's goal was realized when the spacecraft and its crew of astronauts -- Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong -- touched down on the moon.

"I'm at the foot of the ladder," Armstrong told Mission Control as he descended from the lunar lander to the moon’s surface.

With his right hand on the ladder, Armstrong continued, "I'm going to step off."
Then, in an image that would become forever ingrained in the minds of millions of Americans who watched the event live on television, Armstrong planted his left foot to the moon's surface.
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," he said.

The Russians beat the U.S. into orbit, but Americans won the race to the moon.

Fifty years later, critics say NASA has no timetable for returning men to the moon or to any planet. And though the American shuttle program is scheduled to end this summer, astronaut Mark Kelly, commander of the STS-134 shuttle mission, remains hopeful.

"It's something we need to continue, focus on, invest in," Kelly said last week from Space Shuttle Endeavour, which is currently docked at the International Space Station.

The final American space shuttle mission is slated for July 8.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Marks 50th Anniversary of White House Situation Room

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the White House Situation Room on Friday with a ceremony “to name a secure conference room after the father of the situation room, President John F. Kennedy,” a statement from the White House said.

The president delivered remarks to the room's staff “to thank them for their around-the-clock work to keep the President informed and the country safe.”

“We could not meet the national security challenges that we face without the capabilities of this room and the people who work here,” Obama said in a statement. “It’s the president’s eyes and ears.  Providing the latest information and alerts, it’s the nerve center for the U.S. government, the place where we come together to make policy and respond to crises from wars abroad to floods at home.”

He was joined by Caroline Kennedy, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, and other current and former members of the White House security team.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


JFK Delivered Famous Inaugural Address 50 Years Ago

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Fifty years ago, on January 20, 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn in as the nation’s 35th president.

On that frigid day, Kennedy braved the elements without an overcoat to deliver a speech promoting his “New Frontier” as he became the first World War II-era commander in chief.

The most repeated line from his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” may be the most memorable passage from any speech given by a new president before or since that day.

It is an appeal for Americans to put aside their personal interests to work for the betterment of all.

Kennedy was only 43 years old at the time of his inauguration.  He was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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