John Fitzgerald Kennedy



















On November 22, 1963, when he was hardly past his first thousand days in office, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President; he was the youngest to die.

Of Irish descent, he was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1917. Graduating from Harvard in 1940, he entered the Navy. In 1943, when his PT boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer, Kennedy, despite grave injuries, led the survivors through perilous waters to safety.

Back from the war, he became a Democratic Congressman from the Boston area, advancing in 1953 to the Senate. He married Jacqueline Bouvier on September 12, 1953. In 1955, while recuperating from a back operation, he wrote Profiles in Courage, which won the Pulitzer Prize in history.

In 1956 Kennedy almost gained the Democratic nomination for Vice President, and four years later was a first-ballot nominee for President. Millions watched his television debates with the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon. Winning by a narrow margin in the popular vote, Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic President.

His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." As President, he set out to redeem his campaign pledge to get America moving again. His economic programs launched the John Fitzgerald Kennedy
country on its longest sustained expansion since World War II; before his death, he laid plans for a massive assault on persisting pockets of privation and poverty.

Responding to ever more urgent demands, he took vigorous action in the cause of equal rights, calling for new civil rights legislation. His vision of America extended to the quality of the national culture and the central role of the arts in a vital society.

He wished America to resume its old mission as the first nation dedicated to the revolution of human rights. With the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps, he brought American idealism to the aid of developing nations. But the hard reality of the Communist challenge remained.

Shortly after his inauguration, Kennedy permitted a band of Cuban exiles, already armed and trained, to invade their homeland. The attempt to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro was a failure. Soon thereafter, the Soviet Union renewed its campaign against West Berlin. Kennedy replied by reinforcing the Berlin garrison and increasing the Nation's military strength, including new efforts in outer space. Confronted by this reaction, Moscow, after the erection of the Berlin Wall, relaxed its pressure in central Europe.

Instead, the Russians now sought to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. When this was discovered by air reconnaissance in October 1962, Kennedy imposed a quarantine on all offensive weapons bound for Cuba. While the world trembled on the brink of nuclear war, the Russians backed down and agreed to take the missiles away. The American response to the Cuban crisis evidently persuaded Moscow of the futility of nuclear blackmail.

Kennedy now contended that both sides had a vital interest in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and slowing the arms race--a contention which led to the test ban treaty of 1963. The months after the Cuban crisis showed significant progress toward his goal of "a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion." His administration thus saw the beginning of new hope for both the equal rights of Americans and the peace of the world.


Kennedy's father had groomed his first son, Joseph, for politics - Joe was going to get the Kennedy's into the White House. But young Joe was killed in action in 1944, and after working as a reporter for the Hearst International News Service, Kennedy decided to enter politics himself. His opportunity came early in 1946, when he announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the House of Representatives seat for the 11th Congressional District of Massachusetts. He ran against nine other candidates and won the primary with 42 percent of the votes. In November, he defeated his Republican opponent and became a congressman at the age of 29, winning reelection in 1948 and 1950. In 1952, Kennedy decided to run against Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., defeating him by more than 70,000 votes, in a campaign the entire Kennedy family took part in.

On September 12, 1953, Kennedy married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. The couple had three children: Caroline Bouvier (1957 - ); John Fitzgerald, Jr. (1960 - 1999); and Patrick Bouvier, who died less than 48 hours after his birth on August 7, 1963.

Increasingly troubled by his back, Kennedy underwent spinal surgery. Due to the fact that Kennedy suffered from Addison's disease, the surgery had to be preformed in two separate procedures in October 1954 and again in February 1955. During his long convalescence, he occupied himself by writing Profiles in Courage, which was published in 1956 and received the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957.

Kennedy returned to the Senate in May 1955 and by the beginning of 1956, he aimed toward higher office. During he Democratic National Convention of that year, he almost was nominated for the vice presidency running with Adlai Stevenson, but he lost on the third ballot to Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. In 1958, Kennedy was reelected to the Senate, winning by the largest margin ever recorded in a Massachusetts senatorial contest. He spoke frequently throughout the country and in January 1960 he formally announced his candidacy for President. By the time of the Democratic National Convention, he had already won seven primary victories, overcoming opposition that a Roman Catholic could not win in a predominantly Protestant state. He won the nomination and the Kennedy/Lyndon B. Johnson ticket narrowly defeated their Republican opponents, Richard M. Nixon/Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. at the November elections. The margin being only 119,450 votes out of the nearly 69,000,000 cast.

Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic and at the age of 43, the youngest man ever elected President. Theodore Roosevelt was a few months younger than Kennedy when he took office after William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, but Kennedy was the youngest elected President. He was sworn in on January 20, 1961 and his inaugural address was widely acclaimed.

In April 1961, Kennedy supported a failed mission by anti-Castro Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs. The next year, the Soviets put nuclear missiles in Cuba, but withdrew them after Kennedy imposed a naval blockade. Tensions eased somewhat with the Soviets with the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty, although the “space race” continued. Kennedy was a strong supporter of the arts, while being mindful of the disadvantaged. He and his wife attempted to make the White House the cultural center of the nation. He was an avid reader and was particularly interested in what the press had to say about his administration. He founded the Peace Corps and proposed wide-ranging civil rights legislation, but never lived to see its enactment.

On November 22, 1963, while on his way to make a luncheon speech in Dallas, Texas, Kennedy and his wife sat in an open convertible waving to the crowds who had gathered to greet him. Suddenly, as the motorcade approached an underpass, an assassin fired several shots, striking the President in the neck and head. He was pronounced dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital, never regaining consciousness. The bullets that killed Kennedy were fired from the window of a nearby warehouse. Dallas police arrested 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald for the President's murder. Two days later, on November 24 in the basement of the Dallas police station, Oswald was fatally shot by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, as millions watched on television.

John F. Kennedy: The 35th President of the United States

John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President on January 20, 1961. In his inaugural speech he spoke of the need for all Americans to be active citizens. 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,' [sound] he said. He also asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called the 'common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.'

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

White House, 1962. Jacqueline Kennedy, President Kennedy, Mme. Malraux, and violinist Isaac Stern at a dinner reception in honor of Andre Malraux, French Minister of Cultural Affairs

President Kennedy, together with his wife and two children, brought a new, youthful spirit to the White House. The Kennedys believed that the White House should be a place to celebrate American history, culture, and achievement. They invited artists, writers, scientists, poets, musicians, actors, and athletes to visit them. Jacqueline Kennedy also shared the same interest in American history as her husband. Gathering the finest art and furniture the United States had produced, she restored all the rooms in the White House to make it a place that truly reflected America's history with a sense of beauty. Everyone was impressed and appreciated her hard work.

The White House also seemed like a fun place, because of the Kennedys' two young children, Caroline and John-John. There was a pre-school, a swimming pool, and a tree-house outside on the White House lawn. President Kennedy was probably the busiest man in the country, but he still found time to laugh and play with his children.

However, the President also had many worries. One of the things he worried about most was the possibility of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. He knew that if there was a war, millions of people would die. Since World War II, there had been a lot of anger and suspicion between the two countries but never any shooting between Soviet and American troops. This 'Cold War', which was unlike any other war the world had seen, was really a struggle between the Soviet Union's communist system of government and the United States' democratic system. Because they distrusted each other, both countries spent enormous amounts of money building nuclear weapons. There were many times when the struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States could have ended in disaster or war, such as in Cuba and in the city of Berlin.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

President Kennedy with his two children, Caroline and John, Jr., in the Oval Office

President Kennedy worked long hours, getting up at seven and not going to bed until eleven or twelve at night, or later. He read six newspapers while he ate breakfast, had meetings with important people throughout the day, and read reports from his advisers. He wanted to make sure that he made the best decisions for his country. `I am asking each of you to be new pioneers in that New Frontier' he said. The New Frontier was not a place but a way of thinking and acting. President Kennedy wanted the United States to move forward into the future with new discoveries in science and improvements in education, employment and other fields. He wanted democracy and freedom for the whole world.

One of the first things President Kennedy did was to create the Peace Corps.  Through this program, which still exists today, Americans can volunteer where help is needed. They can help in areas such as education, farming, health care, and construction. Many young men and women have served as Peace Corps volunteers and have won the respect of many people throughout the world.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Cape Canaveral, 1962. President Kennedy and John Glenn

President Kennedy was also eager for the United States to lead the way in exploring space. The Soviet Union was ahead of the United States in its knowledge of space and President Kennedy was determined to catch up. He said, `No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space'. Kennedy was the first President to ask Congress to approve more than twenty two billion dollars for `Project Apollo', which had the goal of landing an American man on the moon before the end of the decade.

President Kennedy had to deal with many serious problems here in the United States. The biggest problem of all had to do with racial discrimination.  The US Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 that segregation in public schools would no longer be permitted. Black children and White children should be able to go to school together.  This was now the law of the land. However, there were many schools, especially in southern states, that did not obey this law. There was also racial segregation on buses, in restaurants, movie theaters, and other public places. 

President Kennedy meets the leaders of the civil rights movement

Thousands of Americans joined together, people of all races and backgrounds, to peacefully protest this injustice. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the famous leaders of the movement for civil rights. Many civil rights leaders didn't think President Kennedy was supportive enough of their efforts. The President believed that holding public protests would only anger many white people and make it even more difficult to convince the members of Congress who didn't agree with him to pass civil rights laws. By June 11, 1963, however, President Kennedy decided that the time had come to take stronger action to help the civil rights struggle. He proposed a new Civil Rights bill to the Congress and he went on television asking Americans to end racism. `One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free,' he said. `This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds…[and] on the principle that all men are created equal.' President Kennedy made it clear that all Americans, regardless of their skin color, should enjoy a good and happy life in the United States.

The President Is Shot

On November 21, 1963, President Kennedy flew to Texas to give several political speeches. The next day, as his car drove slowly past cheering crowds in Dallas, shots rang out. Kennedy was seriously wounded and died a short time later. Within a few hours of the shooting, police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald and charged him with the murder. On November 24, another man, Jack Ruby, shot and killed Oswald, thus silencing the only person who could have offered more information about this tragic event. The Warren Commission was organized to investigate the assassination and to clarify the many questions which remained.

The Legacy of John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

President Kennedy's death caused enormous sadness and grief among all Americans. Most people still remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of the murder. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington for the President's funeral, and millions throughout the world watched it on television.

As the years have gone by and other Presidents have written their chapters in history, John Kennedy's brief time in office stands out in people's memories for his leadership, personality, and accomplishments. Many respect his coolness when faced with difficult decisions--like what to do about the missiles in Cuba. Others admire his ability to inspire people with his eloquent speeches. Still others think his compassion and his willingness to fight for new government programs to help the poor, the elderly and the ill were most important. Like all leaders, John Kennedy made mistakes, but he was always optimistic about the future. He believed that people could solve their common problems if they put their country's interests first and worked together.

Congressman and Senator

In 1946, Kennedy ran successfully for a Boston-based seat in the U.S. House of Representatives; he was reelected in 1948 and 1950. As a congressman he backed social legislation that benefited his working-class constituents. Although generally supporting President Harry S. Truman's foreign policies, he criticized what he considered the administration's weak stand against the Communist Chinese. Kennedy continued to advocate a strong, anti-Communist foreign policy throughout his career. Restless in the House, Kennedy challenged incumbent Republican senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., in 1952.

Although the Republican presidential candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower, won in Massachusetts as well as the country as a whole, Kennedy showed his remarkable vote-getting appeal by defeating Lodge.

A year later, on Sept. 12, 1953, Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier. The couple had three children: Caroline Bouvier (b. Nov. 27, 1957), John Fitzgerald, Jr. (b. Nov. 25, 1960), and a second son who died in infancy in August 1963.

Kennedy was a relatively ineffectual senator. During parts of 1954 and 1955 he was seriously ill with back ailments and was therefore unable to play an important role in government. Critics observed that he made no effort to oppose the anti-civil libertarian excesses of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin. His friends later argued, not entirely persuasively, that he would have voted to censure McCarthy if he had not been hospitalized at the time. During his illness Kennedy worked on a book of biographical studies of American political heroes. Published in 1956 under the title Profiles in Courage, it won a Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. Like his earlier book on English foreign policy, it revealed his admiration for forceful political figures. This faith in activism was to become a hallmark of his presidency.

In 1956, Kennedy bid unsuccessfully for the Democratic vice-presidential nomination. Thereafter, he set his sights on the presidency, especially after his reelection to the Senate in 1958. He continued during these years to support a firmly anti-Communist foreign policy. A cautious liberal on domestic issues, he backed a compromise civil rights bill in 1957 and devoted special efforts to labor legislation.

By 1960, Kennedy was but one of many Democratic aspirants for the party's presidential nomination. He put together, however, a well-financed, highly organized campaign and won on the first ballot. As a northerner and a Roman Catholic, he recognized his lack of strength in the South and shrewdly chose Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas as his running mate. Kennedy also performed well in a series of unprecedented television debates with his Republican opponent, Vice-President Richard M. Nixon. Kennedy promised tougher defence policies and progressive health, housing, and civil rights programs. His New Frontier, he pledged, would bring the nation out of its economic slump.


Kennedy won the election, but by a narrow margin. He lacked reliable majorities in Congress. Primarily for these reasons, most of his domestic policies stalled on Capitol Hill. When advocates of racial justice picked up strength in 1962-63, he moved belatedly to promote civil rights legislation. He also sought a tax cut to stimulate the economy. At the time of his assassination, however, these and other programs such as federal aid to education and Medicare remained tied up in Congress. It was left to his successor, President Johnson, to push this legislation through the more compliant congresses of 1964 and 1965.

Kennedy's eloquent inaugural address--in which he exhorted the nation: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country"--sounded cold war themes. Soon thereafter, the president acted on his anti-Communism by lending American military assistance to the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in April 1961. The amphibious assault had been planned by the Central Intelligence Agency under the Eisenhower administration. The actual invasion was Kennedy's decision, however, and he properly took the blame for its total failure. Later in his administration he tried to diminish anti-Americanism in the Western Hemisphere by backing development projects under the Alliance for Progress, but the small sums involved had little impact. The Peace Corps program was developed with similar goals in mind. Kennedy's chief adversary abroad was the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. As early as June 1961 the two men talked in Vienna, but the meeting served only to harden Soviet-American hostility. Khrushchev then threatened to sign a treaty with East Germany that would have given the East Germans control over western access routes to Berlin. Kennedy held firm, and no such treaty was signed. The Soviets responded, however, by erecting a wall between East and West Berlin. Kennedy used the crisis to request from Congress, and to receive, greatly increased appropriations for defence.

By far the tensest overseas confrontation of the Kennedy years occurred with the Cuban missile crisis. In October 1962, U.S. intelligence discovered that the Russians were constructing offensive missile sites in Cuba. Kennedy recognized that such missiles would add little to Russian military potential, but he regarded the Soviet move as deliberately provocative. Resolving to show his mettle, he ordered a naval and air quarantine on shipments of offensive weapons to Cuba. At first armed conflict seemed likely. But the Soviets pulled back and promised not to set up the missiles; the United States then said it would not attack Cuba.

As if chastened by this crisis, the most frightening of the cold war, the Soviets and Americans in 1963 signed a treaty barring atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. Kennedy nevertheless remained as ready as before to stop Communist advances. He continued to bolster American defences and stepped up military aid to South Vietnam, where revolutionary forces were increasingly active. By November 1963, the United States had sent some 16,000 military personnel to Vietnam. His administration also intervened in South Vietnamese politics by at least conniving at the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963.


  • Kennedy is committed to a more aggressive stance in the Cold War: big nuclear buildup and developing capacity to fight in wars of national liberation

  • Bay pf Pigs. Vienna Conference, and Berlin Crisis prompt efforts to demonstrate U.S. credibility

  • October 1961 - Taylor-Rostow report on Vietnam

  • November 1961 - Kennedy commits U.S. troops as advisors to South Vietnam

  • November 1961 - November 1963: 16,000 U.S. troops go to Vietnam

  • Diem government consistently alienates much of the population: coup attempts in 1960 and 1962

  • The Vietnam War - a conflict between the NVA-supported NLF (Viet Cong) and the GVN army supported by U.S. advisors and money - goes badly

Events During Kennedy's Administration 1961-1963

Cabinet And Supreme Court Of Kennedy

  • Peace Corps established (1961).

  • Alliance for Progress announced (1961).

  • 23rd Amendment adopted (1961).

  • First United States astronaut orbits Earth (1962).

  • Trade Expansion Act passed (1962).

  • Nuclear test ban treaty (1963).

  • Kennedy assassinated (Nov. 22, 1963).


  • Vice-President. Lyndon B. Johnson (1961-63).

  • Secretary of State. Dean Rusk (1961-63).

  • Secretary of the Treasury. C. Douglas Dillon (1961-63).

  • Secretary of Defense. Robert S. McNamara (1961-63).

  • Attorney General. Robert F. Kennedy (1961-63).

  • Postmasters General. J. Edward Day (1961-63); John A. Gronouski (1963).

  • Secretary of the Interior. Stewart L. Udall (1961-63).

  • Secretary of Agriculture. Orville L. Freeman (1961-63).

  • Secretary of Commerce. Luther L. Hodges (1961-63).

  • Secretaries of Labor. Arthur J. Goldberg (1961-62); W. Willard Wirtz (1962-63).

  • Secretaries of Health, Education, and Welfare. Abraham A. Ribicoff (1961-62); Anthony J. Celebrezze (1962-63).

  • Appointments to the Supreme Court. Byron R. White (1962- ); Arthur J. Goldberg (1962-65).

Full-Length Synopsis of the Cuban Missile Crisis


Cuban Missile Crisis, major confrontation between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that occurred in 1962 over the issue of Soviet-supplied missile installations in Cuba. Regarded by many as the world's closest approach to nuclear war, the crisis began when the United States discovered that Cuba had secretly installed Soviet missiles able to carry nuclear weapons. The missiles were capable of hitting targets across most of the United States. The discovery led to a tense stand-off of several days as the United States imposed a naval blockade of Cuba and demanded that the USSR remove the missiles.


The crisis was the culmination of growing tension between the United States and Cuba following the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The revolution ousted Cuba's dictator, Fulgencio Batista and brought to power a government headed by Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

Prior to the revolution, the United States had had significant influence in Cuba's economic and political affairs, but the Castro government refused to be influenced by the United States. Castro also caused concern in the United States when he confiscated property belonging to wealthy Cubans and foreigners in an attempt to implement policies to improve conditions for poor and working-class Cubans. Many of these properties belonged to businesses owned by U.S. companies.

Fearing that Castro would establish a Communist regime in Cuba, the United States applied economic pressure, and in 1960 implemented an embargo that cut off trade between the United States and Cuba. Castro refused to give in to the pressure. He responded by establishing closer relations with the Communist government of the USSR. At the time, the USSR and the United States were engaged in the Cold War—an economic, military, and diplomatic struggle between Communist and capitalist nations.

Crisis Emerges

In 1960, as tensions mounted between Cuba and the United States, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev began planning to secretly supply Cuba with missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads to most parts of the United States. Khrushchev mistakenly assumed that the United States would take no action.

By 1962, however, concern was growing in the United States over reports that the USSR was channeling weapons to Cuba. In September, U.S. president John Fitzgerald Kennedy warned the Soviets that "the gravest issues would arise" should they place offensive weapons (a phrase widely understood to mean nuclear weapons) in Cuba.

On October 14 U.S. spy planes flying over Cuba spotted the first ballistic missile. On October 16 U.S. intelligence officials presented Kennedy with photographs showing nuclear missile bases under construction in Cuba. The photos suggested preparations for two types of missiles: medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) able to travel about 1100 nautical miles (about 2000 km, or 1300 mi) and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) able to reach targets at a distance of about 2200 nautical miles (about 4100 km, or 2500 mi). These missiles placed most major U.S. cities—including Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City—within range of nuclear attack. Kennedy also saw evidence of nuclear-capable bombers.

Kennedy now faced a situation with potentially grave consequences. However, he had no clear choice on the actions to take against the Cubans and Soviets. He knew that an attack on Soviet installations in Cuba risked touching off a global nuclear war that would result in the loss of millions of lives. At the same time, he thought, and repeatedly said, that he also risked war by doing nothing. If he ignored Soviet defiance of his pledge in September to oppose offensive weapons in Cuba, then all U.S. pledges might become suspect.

A U.S. promise to defend the beleaguered city of West Berlin in Germany was already under severe pressure. Following the allied victory in World War II (1939-1945), Berlin had been divided into East Berlin, controlled by Communist East Germany, and West Berlin, governed by capitalist West Germany. Earlier in the year Khrushchev had threatened to take over West Berlin and told Kennedy he was willing to bring the matter to the point of war. Khrushchev set a deadline of November 1962 for the resolution of the issue.

Before the Cuban missile crisis began, Kennedy and his advisers believed U.S. nuclear superiority would deter any aggressive Soviet moves. But when the photographs of the missiles arrived, Kennedy and his experts agreed that the weapons might have been placed in Cuba to keep the United States from going to war over West Berlin. For Kennedy, doing nothing about the missiles would only increase the danger in another war-threatening crisis later in the year, this time over Berlin. The dilemma, as Kennedy understood it, was acute.

In an effort to topple Castro's government, the United States trained and armed anti-Castro Cuban exiles living in the United States. The exiles invaded Cuba in 1961, with a landing at the Bay of Pigs. Castro's army easily defeated the exiles. His victory during the Bay of Pigs Invasion solidified Castro's control over Cuba. Most Cubans resented U.S. intervention in Cuban affairs and they rallied behind Castro, who declared that Cuba was a Communist nation.

Debating The Options

Kennedy quickly assembled a small circle of advisers, including both national security officials and others whose judgment Kennedy prized. On October 16, the first day of the crisis, Kennedy and almost all of his advisers agreed that a surprise air attack against Cuba—followed, perhaps, by a blockade and an invasion—was the only reasonable response.

On October 18, however, former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Llewellyn Thompson suggested that Kennedy announce a blockade as a prelude to an air strike. Kennedy's advisers supported a blockade, but not all for the same reasons. One group saw the blockade as a form of ultimatum. Unless Khrushchev announced he would pull the missiles out of Cuba, the blockade would be followed very shortly by some kind of military action. Another group saw the blockade as an opening to negotiation. After his advisers debated the options, Kennedy decided to go ahead with the blockade. At the same time, the U.S. military began moving soldiers and equipment into position for a possible invasion of Cuba.

Before Kennedy publicly announced the blockade, he wanted to prepare both military and congressional leaders. On October 19 he met in the Cabinet Room with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the president's military advisory group The Joint Chiefs favored an air strike and an invasion, but Kennedy rejected their proposal, stating that an invasion could escalate into a nuclear war. Kennedy met with congressional leaders on October 22. The legislators' opinions mirrored those held by Kennedy and the majority of his advisers.

Following the meeting with congressional leaders, Kennedy went on worldwide radio and television and announced the discovery of the missiles. He demanded that Khrushchev withdraw them and said that as a first step he was initiating a naval quarantine zone around Cuba, within which U.S. naval forces would intercept and inspect ships to determine whether they were carrying weapons. Kennedy warned that if Khrushchev fired missiles from Cuba, the result would be "a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."

Because international law defines a blockade as an act of war, Kennedy and his advisers decided to refer to the blockade as a quarantine. The United States was supported by other members of the Organization of American States, an organization of nations in the western hemisphere that seek to cooperate on matters of security and economic and social development.

Waiting For War

The first days after the speech were consumed with tension as Kennedy waited to see whether the Soviet ships would respect the blockade or trigger a military confrontation at sea. For several tense days Soviet vessels en route to Cuba avoided the quarantine zone, and Khrushchev and Kennedy communicated through diplomatic channels. This cautious action postponed any confrontation between the U.S. Navy and the Soviet freighters or the Soviet submarines escorting them.

On October 26 Khrushchev sent a coded cable to Kennedy that seemingly offered to withdraw missiles from Cuba in return for a U.S. pledge not to invade the island, a pledge Kennedy had already volunteered more than a week earlier during a meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko. Before Kennedy and his advisers could react, Khrushchev delivered a public message in which he linked the withdrawal of the Cuban missiles to the removal of "analogous" U.S. weapons in Turkey along the southern border of the USSR. Khrushchev may have been emboldened to make this added demand by the fact that the United States allowed some Soviet-bloc ships to pass through the blockade. None of Kennedy's top advisers valued the U.S. missiles in Turkey, which were considered obsolete. However, nearly all of them counseled against removing the missiles in response to a Soviet demand, a demand they thought was made in bad faith to derail any solution.

Meanwhile the United States faced the difficult problems of maintaining the blockade and keeping track of the Soviet missiles, which were camouflaged and moved soon after Kennedy's speech. Low-flying U.S. surveillance aircraft encountered hostile fire, and on October 27 the Cubans shot down a U-2, killing its pilot. The Kennedy administration debated the question of whether or not to retaliate by destroying some air defense sites in Cuba, but retaliation ran the risk of killing Soviet advisers and thereby escalating the crisis.

Kennedy sensed that the U.S. public would support removing the missiles in Turkey, but he did not want to appear to be capitulating to Khrushchev's demand. Finally Kennedy decided his public reply would only address Khrushchev's first message, which offered to withdraw the missiles in exchange for a pledge not to invade Cuba.

At the same time, however, Kennedy planned to privately assure Khrushchev that he intended to remove the missiles in Turkey. The president's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, paid a secret visit to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., to convey the president's pledge and its terms. If the Soviets disclosed the assurance or intimated that the missiles in Turkey were part of the bargain, the missiles would not be withdrawn, Robert Kennedy told Dobrynin. He also warned the Soviets that time was running out and that the president would soon feel compelled to attack Cuba.

By the time he received Dobrynin's report, however, Khrushchev had already decided to remove the missiles because the danger of nuclear war was too great. Cuban leader Fidel Castro had sent Khrushchev a message saying Castro believed a U.S. invasion was imminent and that Khrushchev should be ready to launch the missiles. Khrushchev decided that Kennedy was serious and that an air attack on Cuba and an invasion were at hand. Khrushchev told his ministers that the missiles must be withdrawn from Cuba in return only for a noninvasion pledge.


On October 28 the tension began to subside. In a worldwide radio broadcast Khrushchev said he would remove "offensive" weapons from Cuba in return for a U.S. pledge not to invade. He also called for United Nations (UN) inspectors to verify the process. Kennedy believed Khrushchev was sincere, but many of Kennedy's advisers remained wary of the Soviets' intentions.

A further problem developed when Castro refused to allow UN oversight of the dismantling process. Eventually an agreement was reached: The bombers would be removed within 30 days, and the missiles and other "offensive" weapons would be evacuated in the open so that U.S. surveillance aircraft could observe their removal.


The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was one of the turning points of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. At that time the two superpowers came close to war, possibly with nuclear weapons; after it, both countries began to seek ways to adjust to each other, in particular, to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.

The events of the Cuban Missile Crisis demonstrated the maturity of the U.S. intelligence community, especially in its ability to collect and analyze information. The crucial roles of human intelligence (HUMINT) and photographic intelligence (PHOTINT) in the Cuban Missile Crisis have been known from the beginning. Documents declassified and released in 1998 now reveal that signals intelligence (SIGINT) also played an exceedingly important part in managing the crisis.

It should be said at the outset that signals intelligence did not provide any direct information about the Soviet introduction of offensive ballistic missiles into Cuba. However, in the more than two years before that fact was known, SIGINT analysts thoroughly studied the Cuban military build-up. Once the offensive missiles were discovered, SIGINT provided direct support for day-to-day management of the crisis. This is the story of SIGINT in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

When Fidel Castro took power in Cuba by overthrowing the previous dictator, Fulgencio Batista, he was hailed as a liberator by the Cuban people themselves and became a hero to the American people as well. However, Castro soon took actions inimical to American interests and aligned his country publicly with the Soviet Union. The U.S. public and government were gravely concerned about the creation of a communist state and member of the Soviet Bloc only seventy miles from its southern shores; this problem became a major focus of the new Kennedy administration when it took office in January 1961.

In response to the potential threat and the administration's interest in it, the U.S. intelligence community began a new focus on information about Cuba. The National Security Agency also beefed up its coverage of Cuba and Soviet support for the island nation.

In Havana, one of the consequences of its alignment with the USSR was fear that the United States might intervene against the new Cuban government. This fear materialized in later 1961 when Cuban exiles, trained by America's CIA, staged an invasion of Cuban territory at the Bay of Pigs. Although the invasion was quickly repulsed, it intensified an arms build-up that was already under way.

The Cuban Arms Build-up

The signing of agreements with the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in mid-1960 was followed by a secret arms build-up in Cuba sponsored by the Soviets and their satellites. Early indications of that build-up came from signals intelligence -- the exploitation of Soviet and Soviet Bloc communications that carried information related to the arms supply operations. Beginning late in 1960 and extending through 1961, NSA intercepted messages concerning Soviet ships headed for Havana. The cargo manifests were suspiciously blank, indicating that what they carried was more than just palm oil or farm equipment.

For example, early in 1961 the Nikolay Burdenko arrived at the Cuban port of Mariel. The unloading operation was highly secret, but NSA caught Cubans discussing the arrival of tanks. It was hardly an innocent delivery.

As vessels poured forth their cargoes, the Cubans took extra precautions to keep them secret. They kept gawkers away from the wharf, unloaded at night, even prohibited over flights of the area while the unloading was taking place. Deliveries rolled away from the pier under black canvas and heavy guard. The United States government knew this from NSA intercepts of Cubans discussing the procedures.

The agreement with the Czech government in June of 1960 resulted in additional deliveries of small arms and ammunition, light aircraft, military vehicles, and equipment for military factories. Even more ominous was the training of Cuban pilots in Czechoslovakia. American intercept operators began to hear Spanish along with the usual mix of Slavic tongues coming from airfields in Czechoslovakia. As early as the fall of 1960, Cuban pilots were being trained in piston-engine trainers; later evidence showed that the training included jet aircraft. Thus it came as no surprise when, in mid-1961, CIA sources got wind of the imminent arrival of Soviet combat and transport aircraft, including the light bomber IL-28 and the state of the art MIG-15s, 17s and 19s. It was clear by then that a major upgrade of the Cuban air forces was in progress.

One problem shared by intelligence analysts and administration policymakers alike was the nature of the military deliveries. Most of the military equipment could be described accurately as defensive, but much of it could also be used in taking the offense. The primary questions for Americans was: would the Soviets introduce offensive missiles into Cuban territory?

Improvements to Cuban defensive capabilities continued to characterize Soviet deliveries. In May of 1961 NSA discovered references to shipborne radar, and, in June, radars associated with antiaircraft guns. Cubans chattered over the radio about "highly unusual aircraft" and impending training on various unspecified "Russian equipment."

Military deliveries increased in 1962, and along with them, Soviet attempts to conceal them. An NSA report in July indicated that Soviet vessels calling on Cuban ports were making false port declarations and declaring less than the known cargo carrying capacity. By late August NSA noted that there had already been fifty-seven voyages in a little over a month, and some ships were on their second voyage in that period of time.

The Crisis Crown

Cuban air defenses improved at an accelerating pace. In May, SIGINT reports had the first indication of airborne fire control radar on MIG-17and MIG-19 planes. Ground radar activity became heavier all over the island. By early summer, NSA analysts concluded that the Cubans were putting together an air defense system copied from the Soviet model. Equipment, training, and procedures were the same. In fact, by early fall NSA was listening to Russian ground controllers speaking in heavily accented Spanish to Cuban pilots.

Confronted with American concerns about this military buildup, several Soviet spokesmen, including the foreign minister, assured the U.S. government that the military equipment sent to Cuba was for defense only. Offensive weapons would not be introduced.

In August and September 1962, Soviet deliveries surged to the highest levels ever seen. In August, CIA analysts saw the first indications of an ominous new development, the construction of SA-2 surface-to-air missiles. These represented a new turn in the arming of Cuba -- such weapons could shoot American military aircraft out of the skies, including CIA's U-2 photographic reconnaissance planes. It had been an SA-2 that had shot down Francis Gary Powers's U-2 over the Soviet Union two years earlier.

SA-2s, moreover, were very expensive. Was the Soviet purpose to keep U.S. reconnaissance aircraft out of Cuba, and if so, why? John McCone, Director of Central Intelligence, came up with an answer that no one wanted to hear -- that SA-2s were on the island to deny the United States the capability to see the construction of offensive missile installations. Others in the defence and intelligence communities dissented from this opinion.

Human sources and photography could spot SA-2s, but signals intelligence would provide the first indicator of their operational status. On September 15, NSA reported the first operation of a Spoon Rest radar, associated with the SA-2. The SA-2 was operational, and could shoot down a U-2. Subsequent over flights would be at risk.

Other parts of the Cuban air defence system also matured in September. NSA reported that Cuban pilots, previously trained in Soviet Bloc countries, frequently went up to challenge American aircraft buzzing the periphery of the island. Cuban pilots practiced timed scrambles, and performed border patrols whenever American naval aircraft approached. Under the watchful eye of Russian GCI (Ground Controlled Intercept) controllers, their procedures became coordinated and efficient. With the new MIG fighters, using Soviet-originated ground control procedures and Soviet weapons, Cuban pilots were becoming a potent defensive force. With the antiaircraft weapons and surface-to-air missiles, American aircraft would approach Cuba at their peril.

On October 10, NSA reported that the Cuban air defence system seemed to be complete. They had just begun passing radar tracking from radar stations to higher headquarters and to defensive fighter bases using Soviet procedures. Their system, with Russians in advisory positions at every point, was ready for business. It was into this defensive thicket that a CIA U-2 flew four days later. Although it survived, on October 25 another U-2 was shot down.

At this point, on October 15 analysis of photographs taken on the U-2 flights revealed to the U.S. senior leadership that the Soviet Union was preparing sites to install SS-4s, medium-range ballistic missiles. DCI McCone, alone among the government's senior leaders, had been correct about Soviet intentions. President John F. Kennedy secretly convened a series of emergency meetings of his senior military, diplomatic, and political advisors, a grouping that became known as the Executive Committee, or ExCom, to seek ways of coping with this ominous development.

As the crisis progressed, and the ExCom considered a wide variety of diplomatic and military options, the need for information on Cuba and the Soviet Union increased. All members of the U.S. intelligence community responded splendidly.

The NSA Response

At NSA, the response to the crisis was led by the director, Lieutenant General Gordon Blake, USAF. Blake had become DIRNSA only three months before, but he had a strong background in communications and intelligence. Early in his career he had been operations officer at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. After a series of command and staff positions, in 1957 he became chief of the Air Force Security Service. Two years later he became vice commander and chief of staff of the Pacific Air Forces, then chief of the Continental Air Command. In 1962, when Vice Admiral Laurence Frost was unexpectedly transferred from his position as DIRNSA, Gordon Blake was selected as his replacement.

Much of the day-to-day -- or minute-to-minute -- burden fell on an element of the Operations organization headed by Mrs. Juanita Moody. Mrs. Moody had begun her career as a cryptanalyst during World War II and had remained in cryptology after the end of the war. Her office worked around the clock to reexamine older reports about the status of Cuba's armed forces and produce current intelligence quickly. In addition to producing new reports and summaries, Mrs. Moody found it necessary to give impromptu telephone briefings to senior military and political decision makers, most of whom would call for information updates at any hour of the day or night.

Mrs. Moody later recalled how NSA responded as a team to the crisis, sometimes in unusual ways. At one point General Blake came to her office to ask if he might be of any assistance to the effort there. She asked him to try to get additional staff to meet a sudden need for more personnel. Shortly she heard him on the telephone talking to off-duty employees: "This is Gordon Blake calling for Mrs. Moody. Could you come in to work now?" To ensure timely responses to unexpected needs by the consumers of SIGINT, General Blake established NSA's first around-the-clock command center. General Blake also took responsibility for getting NSA's product to the White House and interpreting its sometimes arcane indicators to the policymakers.

NSA had deployed a considerable capability around Cuba, including SIGINT collection from ground-based stations, and aircraft circling the periphery of the island, just outside Cuban territorial waters. The USS Oxford, a specially configured SIGINT collection ship, nestled close to the Cuban coastline intercepting radio communications from the island.

To The Brink

On October 22, President Kennedy appeared on television and announced the U-2 findings to an anxious public. Despite assurances from the Soviet government that the build-up was defensive in nature, he said, medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles had been introduced into Cuba. He called for their withdrawal or elimination. As one measure to solve the crisis, he proclaimed a naval "quarantine" of Cuban ports to prevent the introduction of additional Soviet armaments. Kennedy also warned that further actions might be needed if the build-up of offensive weapons continued.

SIGINT collectors listened to the radio messages to and from the Soviet vessels on their way to Cuba. Would they turn around, or would they challenge the U.S. Navy "quarantine" that the president had imposed on Cuba? A cordon of U.S. Navy vessels awaited the Soviet cargo vessels in the Atlantic. Conflict between them, if it happened, carried with it the possibility of escalation into a wider war between the two superpowers.


By this time Kennedy was thinking ahead to the presidential campaign of 1964. In order to promote harmony between warring factions of the Democratic party in Texas, he travelled there in November 1963. While driving in a motorcade through Dallas on November 22, he was shot in the head and died within an hour.

President Johnson appointed the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination. It concluded that the killer, acting alone, was 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald. No motive was established. Speculation persisted over the years, however, that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy.


In the years since the crisis, more details about the incident emerged from declassified U.S. and Soviet files; from conferences involving those who participated in the crisis, including some Soviet officials; and from the release of secretly recorded White House tapes of the meetings involving Kennedy and his advisers.

The facts that came to light revealed that a U.S. invasion of Cuba might have met more opposition than the United States expected. Unknown to the U.S. government, Soviet forces in Cuba had been equipped with nuclear weapons intended for battlefield use. The United States had also incorrectly estimated the number of Soviet troops stationed in Cuba. Instead of a few thousand troops, there were about 40,000 Soviet soldiers in Cuba. Any U.S. invasion would have faced stiff resistance.

The Cuban missile crisis was a very dangerous episode, bringing the world's major military powers to the brink of nuclear war. Kennedy has been criticized for such policies as the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, which helped cement the Soviet-Cuban relationship and led Khrushchev to think Kennedy might be bullied. Yet most historians agree that it was Kennedy's good judgment, and the prudence Khrushchev displayed once the crisis intensified, that helped avert catastrophe.

The crisis led to a temporary strain in relations between the USSR and Cuba. Castro felt he had been unfairly excluded from the negotiations over the fate of the missiles, which he thought Cuba needed to discourage a potential invasion from the United States. However, with the threat of invasion removed by the U.S. pledge and with Cuba badly in need of Soviet financial aid, relations between Cuba and the USSR soon grew closer.

The apparent capitulation of the USSR in the standoff was instrumental in Khrushchev's being deposed as leader of the USSR in 1964. The younger Soviet leaders who ousted Khrushchev perceived his action during the crisis as weak and indecisive. This perception, combined with other foreign policy setbacks and difficulties meeting his goals for domestic programs, contributed to his removal from power.

The Cuban missile crisis marked the point at which the Cold War began to thaw. Both sides had peered over the precipice of nuclear war and wisely decided to retreat. Khrushchev eventually accepted the status quo in West Berlin, and the predicted conflict there never materialized. The thaw also led to the signing of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963 by Britain, the United States, and the USSR. The treaty outlawed nuclear test explosions in the atmosphere or underwater, but allowed them underground.


-HK Government Reports.

On-line: http//asterix.lib.hku.hk:8888/hkgro1/browseGa.jsp?the_year=1912 -

-MGH-NMR Center Publication List.

Online :http//www.nmr.mgh.harvard.edu/Personal/Kevin/NMRWeb/Pages/Publicationlist.html

-Meeting Point / Guestbook.

On-line: http//virtual-mktg.com/einhorn/gb_b/c132

- Previous Books of the Week

 On-line: http//www.ashbrook.org/books/books.html

John. F. Kennedy 1917-1963______________ ___ _____________________________

The 35 th President of the United States

Enviado por:Desiree Teixeira
Idioma: inglés
País: Venezuela

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