JFK+50: Volume 7, No. 2129JFK APPRAISES SITUATION IN VIETNAM 8 DAYS BEFORE DALLAS
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-three years ago this morning, November 14, 1963, President John F. Kennedy held what was to be his last press conference in the State Department Auditorium here in the Nation's Capital.
President Kennedy, who gave no opening statement, was asked...
"Would you give us your appraisal of the situation in South Vietnam now, since the coup, and the purposes for the Honolulu conference?*
"Because we do have a new situation there, and a new government, we hope, an increased effort in the war.
The purpose of the meeting at Honolulu....is to attempt to assess the situation: what American policy should be, and what our aid policy should be, how we can intensify the struggle, how we can bring Americans out of there.
Now that is our object, to bring Americans home, permit the South Vietnamese to maintain themselves in a free and independent country, and permit democratic forces within the country to operate."
Later in the conference, the President was asked...
"In view of the current situation in South Vietnam, do you still expect to bring back 1000 troops before the end of the year?"
"We are going to bring back several hundred before the end of the year, but..on the question of the exact number...we (will) wait until...November 20."
Thurston Clarke writes in JFK's Last Hundred Days,...
"Kennedy's sixty-fourth press conference was a grim affair. He was mad at Congress for cutting his foreign aid budget."
Clarke goes on to say that while the President's responses seem "cool and reasonable" in the transcript, he appeared "nervous and tense" on the television screen.
Clarke also tells about a party in the evening where UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson warned the President about visiting Dallas. Jackie's designer, Oleg Cassini, overheard the conversation and took the President aside and asked...
"'Why do you go? Your own people are saying you should not.'" JFK "stared back wordlessly and shrugged."
*Two weeks earlier, November 1, 1963, a military coup not only removed President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam from power, it resulted in his death along with his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu. A provisional government was set up and was recognized by the U.S.
The scheduled conference in Honolulu was to be attended by US Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge, General Paul D. Harkins, Commander of US Forces in Vietnam, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The assassination of JFK on November 22, 1963 led to the cancellation of the conference.
"JFK's Last Hundred Days," by Thurston Clarke, The Penguin Press, New York, 2013.
"Kennedy and the Press," by Harold W. Chase and Allen H. Lerman, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1965.
JFK's Press Conference