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Archive for '- The 1960s'

Facial Hair Friday: A mustache, a funny man, and a President

Page of the World War I draft card for Groucho Marx, from the holdings of the National Archives

Julius Henry Marx–better known by his stage name Groucho Marx–passed away on August 19, 1977. He left behind a legacy of humor on stage, radio, and film. I was not able to find to find any images of him in our holdings, which was disappointing as his trademark mustache was a fine candidate for Facial Hair Friday.

However, I did find something unexpected. Groucho had been corresponding with President Truman.

What would a funny man and a President have in common? Well, it turns out that the young Harry Truman was an avid vaudeville fan, attending shows at the Orpheum Theatre and the Grand Opera House whenever he was Kansas City. He even took his future wife Bess to vaudeville shows on dates. Truman especially enjoyed the Marx Brothers, later recalling that he never missed a chance to see them when they were in town.

So Truman was a fan of the famous brothers, but how did he come to correspond with Groucho (and later Harpo Marx)?

It started with the displaced persons, the survivors of the Holocaust who had lost their homes and families and were now living in temporary camps. Truman had issued a directive in 1945 to allow some of them to immigrate to the United States. In … [ Read all ]

The Pentagon Papers, now online after 40 years

"Honolulu Conference on the Vietnam War," February 7, 1966 (Photo by Yoichi Okamoto, LBJ Library)

If you opened the the New York Times this morning in 1971, you would have seen the first part of the secret “Pentagon Papers” that the newspaper published—without authorization from the government.

Today in 2011, the National Archives and the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon Presidential libraries will release the entire official Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force (commonly referred to as the Pentagon Papers).

Although the unauthorized publication of the Papers fueled opposition to the Vietnam War and provided historians with unique insight into the U.S. policymaking apparatus, today’s release will finally provide the American public with unimpeded access to this historic text.

The release will feature over 2,300 pages of previously undisclosed material not included in the Senator Gravel Edition of the Pentagon Papers, the most commonly referenced compilation of the Papers.

So what were the Pentagon Papers?

Following the 1954 Geneva Accords, the United States assumed a substantial role in the political and military development of South Vietnam. In order to prevent the new nation from falling into the communist sphere of influence in Southeast Asia, the Eisenhower administration provided the government of Ngo Dinh Diem with billions of dollars in economic and military aid. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson continued authorizing similar assistance prior the … [ Read all ]

History in a Cap and Gown

President Kennedy addresses the American University Commencement, receives honorary degree. Washington, D.C., American University, John M. Reeves Athletic Field., 06/10/1963 (Kennedy Library, ARC 194263)

We’re now in the middle of commencement season, and there’ll be many words of wisdom coming from the mouths of speakers: academicians, celebrities, inventors, authors, artists, business people, and political leaders.

Sometimes commencement speeches become historic.

President John F. Kennedy announced talks for a test-ban treaty in his commencement speech at American University in 1963, and a treaty banning nuclear testing above ground was signed later in the year. “In the final analysis,” Kennedy said, “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson officially unveiled his “Great Society” in his commencement speech at the University of Michigan in 1964. “The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to . . . advance the quality of our American civilization,” Johnson told the graduates. “For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the ‘Great Society.’”

Another historic speech was made at the Harvard commencement in 1947. President Harry S. Truman’s administration was preparing a plan … [ Read all ]

Pennsylvania Avenue Hotline

Today’s guest post comes from David Coleman,  associate professor at the University of Virginia and Chair of the Presidential Recordings Program at the Miller Center of Public Affairs.

On April 28, W.W. Norton will publish volumes 7 and 8 in the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson series. (The original tapes are in the holdings of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.) The volumes, which span June through July 4, 1964, were edited by Guian McKee, Kent Germany, and David Carter.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, the National Archives will host Dave Coleman, the editors, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Taylor Branch to discuss these latest books.

Photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson Meeting with Thurgood Marshall, 06/13/1967 (ARC 2803439)

Photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson Meeting with Thurgood Marshall, 06/13/1967 (ARC 2803439)

“That’s a good bill, and there’s no reason why you ought to keep a majority from beating it. If you can beat it, go on and beat it, but you oughtn’t to hold it up. You ought to give me a fair shake and give me a chance to vote on it.”
—LBJ to House Minority Leader Charles Halleck, 6:24 p.m., June 22, 1964

 

Behind-the-scenes discussions between the White House and Capitol Hill can be an essential piece of the puzzle in understanding how and why legislation was passed, rejected, or changed, or even a government shutdown averted. But they’re typically

[ Read all ]

JFK’s Cold War Calculations

ar206454-bOn April 20, 1961, exactly three months after his inauguration, President John F. Kennedy addressed the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) regarding the Bay of Pigs invasion. In his speech, Kennedy addressed one of the most crucial decisions of his presidency—his choice not to provide air cover for the 1,400 men of the Cuban exile brigade at the Bay of Pigs.

 

Although planning for the invasion began under the Eisenhower administration, President Kennedy opted to approve the operation upon taking office. But the invasion was doomed as soon as the CIA-trained exiles landed ashore in Cuba. The Soviet-supplied Cuban military was well equipped and had overwhelming resources in terms of manpower.

 

Once failure appeared imminent, military personnel and CIA officials scrambled to persuade Kennedy to deploy U.S. air cover in hopes of salvaging the operation. The President, however, refused to approve the direct military intervention sought by the advisors who had fully endorsed the invasion’s initial provisions.

 

In the end, Cuban forces easily defeated the undermanned exile brigade within three days. To make matters worse for Kennedy, U.S. involvement was undeniable and media coverage made the failure a highly publicized national issue.

 

In the aftermath of the invasion, the President moved quickly to justify his decision to approve the invasion but not to provide air cover. Speaking before the ASNE, Kennedy [ Read all ]