When JFK was shot
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.
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”.
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
Roebuck, Dublin 14.
Sir, – The American essayist Gore Vidal was once asked what difference it might have made had Khrushchev been assassinated instead of Kennedy, to which he replied, “With history you can never tell but I am pretty sure Aristotle Onasis would never have married Mrs Khrushchev!” – Yours, etc,
Waterfall, Near Cork.
Sir, – I was very surprised to read in your Editorial “Remembering our JFK” that ” There is still despite the forests felled in his name no great biography . . .” I would highly suggest anyone who agrees with that statement hasn’t read the superb (and revealing) JFK An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek. – Yours, etc,
Westbury, Co Clare.
Sir, – As the world remembers the tragic events of November 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated, we can only wonder why the US did not see it as an opportune moment to introduce strict gun control. How many lives might have been saved over the 50 years if it had? It would have been a fitting legacy. – Yours, etc,
Hollystown, Dublin 15.