WHEN JFK WAS SHOT

President Kennedy arrives for Vienna Summit June 3rd 1961 © White House Photographs: JFK Library & Museum

President Kennedy arrives for Vienna Summit June 3rd 1961 © White House Photographs: JFK Library & Museum

Much has been written about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F Kennedy of the United States in Dallas, Texas, fifty years ago on November 22nd 1963. My father contributed this letter to the Irish Times in response to an interesting article by Dennis Staunton in a special supplement marking the anniversary.

‘Sir, – Denis Staunton’s interesting article (JFK, 50 Years after Dallas supplement, November 22nd) on JFK’s presidency rightly credits his “patience, caution and willingness to compromise with his Soviet counterpart Nikita Khrushchev” as helping to avert a nuclear war over the Cuban crisis in 1962.

It would, however, be wrong to give Kennedy all the credit for saving the world from nuclear war 50 years ago. His diplomatic skills were hard-learned. Only six months in office and still a novice in international politics, the US president faced the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, in a summit meeting in Vienna.

President Kennedy meets Nikita Khruschev in Vienna 1961 Photo: © US Dept of State, JFK Library & Museum

President Kennedy meets Nikita Khruschev in Vienna 1961 Photo: © US Dept of State, JFK Library & Museum

The summit’s main issues were the Soviet threats to close off Berlin to the Western powers and to locate nuclear weapons in Cuba, only 90 miles from Florida. Deadlock on both matters culminated in the world’s two most powerful leaders threatening nuclear war, Kennedy warning of “a long, hard winter” and Khrushchev adamant that “If the US wants war, that’s its problem”.

Pierre Salinger Photo: US Congress / Wikimedia Commons

Pierre Salinger Photo: US Congress / Wikimedia Commons

As the Irish Press’s London editor, I was covering the meeting and succeeded in getting an exclusive interview with the White House press secretary, Pierre Salinger. His version of the meeting was that Khrushchev gave Kennedy a frightening picture of the likely consequences of a nuclear war, with the major American cities being flattened like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a picture that the gung-ho US military top dogs had hidden from him .

That evening Kennedy told the New York Times top reporter, James “Scotty” Weston, that “he (Khrushchev) beat the hell out of me . . . the worst thing of my life”. It was Kennedy’s real introduction to diplomacy. – Yours, etc

DESMOND FISHER, Roebuck, Dublin 14′.

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One thought on “WHEN JFK WAS SHOT

  1. Your Da had a very interesting and exciting time back then in ’50’s. Great he’s able to remember those years now with Peggy from the comfort of their own home!!!!!!!

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