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Archive for '- The 1960s'

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 ]

Roll out the red carpet at the National Archives!

Today we have a special guest post from Tom Nastick, public programs producer at the National Archives.

This week, from February 23 to 27, we’ll be presenting the seventh annual free screenings of Oscar®-nominated documentaries and Short Subjects in the William G. McGowan Theater. Our friends at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will once again be sending us the very best Feature Documentaries and Documentary Short Subjects from the past year so that we can share them, for free, with our audience.

But you don’t have to wait until this annual event to see Oscar-nominated docs at the National Archives. Within our vast motion picture holdings are several documentaries that have been honored by the Academy.

During the Second World War, several films now in our holdings were presented the Oscar for best Documentary including Prelude to War (1942) and episode one of Frank Capra’s “Why We Fight” series of orientation films for service personnel.

We also have Oscar-winning coproductions The Fighting Lady (1944), a joint production of the U.S. Navy and 20th Century Fox about the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, and The True Glory (1945), a sweeping documentary on the Allied invasion of Europe co-produced by the U.S. Office of War Information and the British Ministry of Information.

The Documentary Short Subject category is also represented in our holdings. Notable examples from the WWII era … [ Read all ]

Baseball and the 13th Amendment

January 31, 1865, was a busy day for the war-torn United States. The House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee was named general-in-chief of the Confederate armies.

On January 31, 1919—50 years to the day after slavery was abolished—Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia.

On April 10, 1947—82 years after the Civil War ended—Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball when he was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first African American to play in the major leagues. He went to have a successful career in baseball and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. His number, 42, was retired in 1997.

After he retired from baseball, Robinson continued to fight for equal rights and treatment in other ways. The National Archives has some of his letters to politicians, including this letter to President Eisenhower.

Ninety-years after the 13th amendment was ratified, Robinson exercised his first amendment rights in the fight for civil rights.

Read more about Jackie Robinson and civil rights in two Prologue articles: “An Archival Odyssey: The Search for Jackie Robinson” (Summer 1997) and “Jim Crow, Meet Lieutenant Robinson: A 1944 Court-Martial” (Spring 2008). To find out about baseball-related records in the National Archives, check out “Beyond the Box Score” (Spring 2006).… [ Read all ]

Sargent Shriver and his Peace Corps guerrillas

I am convinced that if, in the future, our country is to meet the unparalleled opportunity to win friends and advance the cause of peace and freedom, thousands of additional Americans will have to step forward and say, “I will serve.”
—from the statement of Robert Sargent  Shriver, given in Chicago, IL, on May 17, 1961

Robert Sargent Shriver (1915–2011) lived a long and full life, fighting in World War II as a gunner on a Navy boat during the the Battle of Guadalcanal, serving as the ambassador to France in the late 1960s, and joining the extensive Kennedy clan when he married Eunice Kennedy in 1953. He also ran as the vice-presidential candidate with George McGovern against Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in 1972.

But in the National Archives, Sargent Shriver’s legacy is the Peace Corps. Shriver served as the first Director of the Peace Corps from 1961 to 1966. A search in the OPA database yields numerous Peace Corps documents, including the statement below, describing Shriver’s trip to eight countries to speak with heads of state and the men and women on the street about the possibility of Peace Corps volunteers coming to live and work there.

Sargent Shriver was listening carefully to the reactions of citizens in the possible host country. A headman in a village assured him that “If someone from the Peace Corps would come here, … [ Read all ]

January 18, 1964 – Martin Luther King, Jr. & LBJ

Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been 82 on January 15, and yesterday we observed the national holiday in his honor.

The above photograph shows a January 18, 1964, White House meeting between four civil rights leaders—Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Whitney Young—and President Lyndon Johnson. A civil rights bill was stuck in the House Rules Committee, and the President was determined to get it moving.

Only five months before the photograph was taken, these same four men had spoken before nearly a quarter of a million people during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King, Jr., the final speaker on that day, inspired the crowd with his ringing declaration that “I have a dream.”

The House finally voted in February 1964 and sent the bill to the Senate. As the year progressed, LBJ’s legislative orchestrations, combined with actions by civil rights supporters on the streets, got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. The President signed it on July 2, and King, Wilkins, Farmer, and Young were in the East Room of the White House with him. (The story of getting the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 through Congress is told in the Summer 2004 issue of Prologue).

The Archives’ online exhibit “Documented Rights” assembles documents from our holdings across the country to chronicle the evolution of human and civil rights in the … [ Read all ]