On This Day in History June 11, 1963…. 50th Anniversary: President John F. Kennedy Gives Televised Speech on Civil Rights to the Nation

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program.

kennedycrban.jpg

John F. Kennedy delivering the Civil Rights Address (Wikimedia Commons)

On This Day in History June 11, 1963…. President John F. Kennedy gave a televised speech on civil rights to the nation from the White House oval office paving the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It was a busy day for the civil rights movement; Alabama Governor and strong segregationist George Wallace in his “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” physically prevented two African American students; Vivian Malone and James Hood, from registering at the University of Alabama despite a court order the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. President Kennedy was forced to send the US National Guard to end the conflict, and ensure the students could enter the university building and register.

Hours later, in the early morning of June 12th, African American civil rights activist and leader Medgar Evers was killed in Mississippi. He was shot in the back while entering into his home after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. Evers was shot by Byron De La Beckwith, who belonged to the White Citizens’ Council, a segregationist group. Although first arrested on June 21, 1963 for Evers’ murder, it took until 1994 for De La Beckwith to be convicted of the crime. Also in the north, Boston city school officials began a ten year battle with the NAACP over segregation the same evening as President Kennedy’s speech.

It was against this turmoil in the nation over civil rights that President Kennedy called and booked time on all three major networks for him to speak to the nation at 8 PM EDT on civil rights and the situation in Alabama.

In a hastily drafted speech by Ted Sorensen and revised by Kennedy. The President told Americans that segregation is a “moral issue” that is wrong. Kennedy stated; “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.” President Kennedy accomplished two points in his speech, the introduction of civil rights legislation, and the beginning of significant comprehensive school desegregation.

Kennedy pleaded to the American people that civil rights is the responsibility of all citizens; “It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all… Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.”

Kennedy specifically emphasized the lack of action since the Supreme Court’s decision in 1954 in the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education which ended the legality of the separate but equal system. Kennedy lamented; “Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision 9 years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job. The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.”

In his speech, President Kennedy began an active pursuit of Congressional legislation that would end segregation, stating; “Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law…. I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public–hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.”

Kennedy also introduced the pursuit of the vote for all African Americans stating; “Other features will be also requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.” With his speech that night, Kennedy was pushing in motion not only the Civil Rights Act, but the subsequent Voting Rights Act passed two years later in 1965 which guaranteed the vote to all Americans.

Kennedy concluded his speech with a request of support from the American public for his sweeping and necessary proposals based on Constitutional rights for all Americans; “Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents…. This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.”

Kennedy submitted a civil rights bill to Congress the next week on June 19, which historian Robert Dallek in his biography of President Kennedy, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 described as “the most far-reaching civil rights bill in the country’s history.” The law would guarantee the right to vote for all with the minimum of a sixth grade education, and end discrimination in all public and commercial facilities establishments and accommodations. Kennedy also requested that the attorney general be granted expanded powers to implement school desegregation, asked to end job discrimination and create job training opportunities and a “community relations service.” Kennedy used the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments of the Constitution to justify the contents of his proposed bill. President Kennedy continued pushing Congress to pass civil rights legislation with bipartisan support until his assassination five months later in November 1963.

The leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. approved of President Kennedy’s speech and described it as ‘the most sweeping and forthright ever presented by an American president’.” King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” on August 28th, over two months later during the March on Washington would eclipse Kennedy’s speech as the most relevant to advancing civil rights.

However civil rights would become central to Kennedy’s legacy, and without the President taking initial action with this speech and laying out his bold vision and plan to make a civil rights a reality for all Americans, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would never would have passed and signed into law on July 2, 1964.

IN THE NEWS

The Day President Kennedy Embraced Civil Rights—and the Story Behind It

Source: The Atlantic, 6-11-13

50 years ago today, the president gave his now-famous Civil Rights Address. But it was Martin Luther King Jr. and the Birmingham protesters who deserved the credit.

“Can you believe that white man not only stepped up to the plate, he hit it over the fence!” That was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s private verdict on President John F. Kennedy’s famous Civil Rights Address, delivered fifty years ago on June 11, 1963….READ MORE

John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Speech Remembered On 50th Anniversary

Source: Huffington Post, 6-11-13

On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave his Civil Rights Address, calling for the legislation that later became the Civil Rights Act Of 1964….READ MORE

Watch: JFK’s civil rights speech, 50 years ago

Source: MSNBC, 6-11-13

Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy spoke to the nation after a day of racial turmoil in the state of Alabama….READ MORE

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Peniel E. Joseph: Kennedy’s Finest Moment

Source: NYT, 6-12-13

JUNE 11, 1963, may not be a widely recognized date these days, but it might have been the single most important day in civil rights history….

But the most important event was one that almost didn’t happen: a hastily arranged speech that evening by President John F. Kennedy….READ MORE

Tufts Professor Recalls Momentous, Overlooked JFK Speech From 50 Years Ago

Download

Source: NPR Boston WBUR, 6-11-13

When Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops. It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodations.

Fifty years ago Tuesday, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation in a televised speech sometimes called one of the best of his presidency. But that speech would be overshadowed by other events of June 11, 1963, and of the early hours of the next day.

WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer spoke with Peniel Joseph, a history professor and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, about this date 50 years ago, which he calls the most significant date in civil rights history….READ MORE

QUOTES

Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights

June 11, 1963

Source: Presidency, UCSB

audio

Good evening, my fellow citizens:This afternoon, following a series of threats and defiant statements, the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro.

That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure to the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met their responsibilities in a constructive way.

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was rounded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Viet-Nam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.

It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.

It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.

The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the Nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is 7 years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.

This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right.

We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or cast system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.

The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives.

It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.

Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.

Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law. The Federal judiciary has upheld that proposition in a series of forthright cases. The executive branch has adopted that proposition in the conduct of its affairs, including the employment of Federal personnel, the use of Federal facilities, and the sale of federally financed housing.

But there are other necessary measures which only the Congress can provide, and they must be provided at this session. The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy, but in too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is in the street.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public–hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.

This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do.

I have recently met with scores of business leaders urging them to take voluntary action to end this discrimination and I have been encouraged by their response, and in the last 2 weeks over 75 cities have seen progress made in desegregating these kinds of facilities. But many are unwilling to act alone, and for this reason, nationwide legislation is needed if we are to move this problem from the streets to the courts.

I am also asking Congress to authorize the Federal Government to participate more fully in lawsuits designed to end segregation in public education. We have succeeded in persuading many districts to de-segregate voluntarily. Dozens have admitted Negroes without violence. Today a Negro is attending a State-supported institution in every one of our 50 States, but the pace is very slow.

Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision 9 years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job.

The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.

Other features will be also requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.

In this respect, I want to pay tribute to those citizens North and South who have been working in their communities to make life better for all. They are acting not out of a sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency.

Like our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are meeting freedom’s challenge on the firing line, and I salute them for their honor and their courage.

My fellow Americans, this is a problem which faces us all–in every city of the North as well as the South. Today there are Negroes unemployed, two or three times as many compared to whites, inadequate in education, moving into the large cities, unable to find work, young people particularly out of work without hope, denied equal rights, denied the opportunity to eat at a restaurant or lunch counter or go to a movie theater, denied the right to a decent education, denied almost today the right to attend a State university even though qualified. It seems to me that these are matters which concern us all, not merely Presidents or Congressmen or Governors, but every citizen of the United States.

This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents.

We cannot say to 10 percent of the population that you can’t have that right; that your children can’t have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go into the streets and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that.

Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents.

As I have said before, not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or an equal motivation, but they should have the equal right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation, to make something of themselves.

We have a right to expect that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law, but they have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color blind, as Justice Harlan said at the turn of the century.

This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.
Thank you very much.

Delivered from the President’s office at 8 p.m.

Citation: John F. Kennedy: “Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights,” June 11, 1963. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9271.

On This Day in History… April 14-15, 1912: Titanic’s Sinking 100 Years Later Centennial Anniversary — Unsinkable Ship Strikes an Iceberg and Sinks in the Atlantic Ocean

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

Day in History

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

IN FOCUS: THE TITANIC’S SINKING 100 YEARS LATERS — CENTENNIAL ANNIVERSARY

Titanic

 

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY….

On this day in history… April 15, 1912, the British luxury liner Titanic sank in the North Atlantic off Newfoundland, less than three hours after striking an iceberg. About 1,500 people died. (NYT)

April 14, 1912: RMS Titanic hits iceberg… April 15, 1912: Titanic sinks

Source: History.com

At 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the British ocean liner Titanic sinks into the North Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada. The massive ship, which carried 2,200 passengers and crew, had struck an iceberg two and half hours before.

On April 10, the RMS Titanic, one of the largest and most luxurious ocean liners ever built, departed Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic was designed by the Irish shipbuilder William Pirrie and built in Belfast, and was thought to be the world’s fastest ship. It spanned 883 feet from stern to bow, and its hull was divided into 16 compartments that were presumed to be watertight. Because four of these compartments could be flooded without causing a critical loss of buoyancy, the Titanic was considered unsinkable. While leaving port, the ship came within a couple of feet of the steamer New York but passed safely by, causing a general sigh of relief from the passengers massed on the Titanic’s decks. On its first journey across the highly competitive Atlantic ferry route, the ship carried some 2,200 passengers and crew.

After stopping at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland, to pick up some final passengers, the massive vessel set out at full speed for New York City. However, just before midnight on April 14, the RMS Titanic failed to divert its course from an iceberg and ruptured at least five of its hull compartments. These compartments filled with water and pulled down the bow of the ship. Because the Titanic’s compartments were not capped at the top, water from the ruptured compartments filled each succeeding compartment, causing the bow to sink and the stern to be raised up to an almost vertical position above the water. Then the Titanic broke in half, and, at about 2:20 a.m. on April 15, stern and bow sank to the ocean floor.

Because of a shortage of lifeboats and the lack of satisfactory emergency procedures, more than 1,500 people went down in the sinking ship or froze to death in the icy North Atlantic waters. Most of the 700 or so survivors were women and children. A number of notable American and British citizens died in the tragedy, including the noted British journalist William Thomas Stead and heirs to the Straus, Astor, and Guggenheim fortunes.

One hour and 20 minutes after Titanic went down, the Cunard liner Carpathia arrived. The survivors in the lifeboats were brought aboard, and a handful of others were pulled out of the water. It was later discovered that the Leyland liner Californian had been less than 20 miles away at the time of the accident but had failed to hear the Titanic’s distress signals because its radio operator was off duty.

Announcement of details of the tragedy led to outrage on both sides of the Atlantic. In the disaster’s aftermath, the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea was held in 1913. Rules were adopted requiring that every ship have lifeboat space for each person on board, and that lifeboat drills be held. An International Ice Patrol was established to monitor icebergs in the North Atlantic shipping lanes. It was also required that ships maintain a 24-hour radio watch.

On September 1, 1985, a joint U.S.-French expedition located the wreck of the Titanic lying on the ocean floor at a depth of about 13,000 feet. The ship was explored by manned and unmanned submersibles, which shed new light on the details of its sinking.

TITANIC SINKING TIMELINE:

Source: The Sun, 4-14-12

APRIL 14

 

  • 9.45am: The ship approaches an area known for icebergs about 400 miles south of Newfoundland.
  • 11.40pm: Iceberg rips open the side of the Titanic.APRIL 15
  • 12.25am: Order given to put women and children into lifeboats.
  • 12:45am: Lifeboat number seven is the first lowered – with only 19 of 65 capacity.
  • 2:18am: Titanic breaks in two.
  • 2:20am: Ship goes under.

RESOURCES

Source for many of the links: NYT

From History.com

News Coverage

From National Geographic

HEADLINES

 

  • Around the world, prayer, music and flowers remember sinking of the Titanic, 100 years on: In the birthplace of the Titanic, residents will gather for a choral requiem. In the North Atlantic, above the ship’s final resting place, passengers will pray as a band strikes up a hymn and three floral wreaths are cast onto the waves.
    A century after the great ship went down with the loss of 1,500 lives, events around the globe are marking a tragedy that retains a titanic grip on the world’s imagination — an icon of Edwardian luxury that became, in a few dark hours 100 years ago, an enduring emblem of tragedy…. – WaPo, 4-14-12
  • US, British ships to meet at Titanic sinking spot: Titanic fans aboard cruise ships are journeying to the spot where the great liner hit an iceberg exactly 100 years ago on Sunday, as somber ceremonies are held on land to mark the disaster.
    The anniversary has taken on an international character, with artists, scientists and museums engaged in months-long preparations for commemorating events in Britain, Canada, Ireland and the United States, with an emphasis on dignity.
    The Titanic was built in Belfast, and sailed from Southampton toward New York, but it was from Halifax that ships were sent to retrieve the bodies. And 150 of the tragedy’s 1,514 victims are buried here.
    One century to the hour after the fatal encounter with an iceberg, more than 1,700 passengers on two cruise ships — the MS Balmoral from Southampton and the Azamara Journey from New York City — plan to meet at the site where the Titanic went down to witness a partial reenactment.
    The ship’s captain will announce a collision and a distress call will ring out.
    Passengers then plan to throw wreaths into the sea at 2:20 am about 800 kilometers (500 miles) southeast of Halifax at the time and place the ship sank.
    Some participants in the memorial events — many of them history buffs or descendants of passengers of the doomed voyage — came with personal stories about how the Titanic touched their lives…. – AFP, 4-14-12
  • Titanic mystery: 100 years later, questions linger in NJ: On April 27, Bracken and Charles Haas of Randolph, president of the Titanic International Society, will gather with other members of the international group in Secaucus for the RMS Titanic Centennial Convention, for a candlelight service…. – NJ Star-Ledger, 4-14-12
  • Remembering the Titanic in Southampton: A hundred years after the ship left Southampton, the port city marked the anniversary of the epic disaster with a recording of the ship’s whistle…. – NYT, 4-10-12
  • Halifax to remember the Titanic with Night of Bells ceremony: It was 100 years ago tonight that the R.M.S. Titanic struck an iceberg and later sank about 700 kilometres from the port of Halifax killing 1,500 of the 2,200 people aboard.
    The province of Nova Scotia is inviting the public to help commemorate the sinking and the lives that were lost at an event called Titanic Eve – Night of the Bells.
    It will be an event rich in memory and symbolism, beginning with a candlelit procession that will start at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on Lower Water Street…. – CBC News, 4-14-12
  • Coast Guard cutter to spread 1.5 million rose petals atop the Titanic’s watery grave: A Coast Guard cutter will depart from Boston to spread 1.5 million dried rose petals over the resting place of the Titanic, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, the Coast Guard said today.
    Crewmembers from the cutter Juniper will spread the petals atop the ship’s watery grave on Saturday. Members of the Coast Guard-led International Ice Patrol will also cast five wreaths from an HC-130J Hercules aircraft based out of Elizabeth City, N.J., the Coast Guard said in a statement.
    “I think it’s important. It is a chance to experience 100 years ago — how things have changed with transatlantic voyages,” said Petty Officer Rob Simpson, who will be on board the Juniper.
    The wreaths and rose petals will be blessed at a ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Coast Guard base in Boston hosted by the agency, as well as the Titanic Historical Society, the Titanic International Society, and Titanic Museum Attractions…. – Boston Globe, 4-9-12
  • At Sea on the Titanic a Century Ago: We may not know everything that happened that fateful night on April 15, 1912, but the ambition and folly of the Titanic’s maiden voyage are still with us…. – NYT, 4-13-12
  • Twists of Fate: The Titanic narrowly avoided a collision with another ocean liner, the New York, at the beginning of its ill-fated journey…. – NYT, 4-13-12
  • Experts Split on Possibility of Remains at Titanic Site: In 1986, Congress passed a protective law known as the RMS Titanic Memorial Act, but officials at the ocean agency and elsewhere agree that it has no teeth…. – NYT, 4-14-12
  • World’s largest Titanic attraction opens in Belfast: Resembling both an iceberg and the prow of the doomed ship that sank on its maiden voyage, the $160 million, six-story Titanic Belfast has drawn more than 40,000 visitors since it opened March 31…. – USA Today, 4-12
  • ‘Titanic at 100’ at South Street Seaport Museum: Titanic-themed entertainment abounds this weekend, and not just on the screen but in the city…. – NYT, 4-12-12
  • Titanic exhibit “Titanic at 100: Myth and Memory” — South Street Seaport Museum: A scale model of the RMS Titanic sits on display at the opening of the “Titanic at 100: Myth and Memory” exhibition on April 10, 2012 in New York City. The exhibit opened at the Melville Gallery, part of the South Street Seaport Museum, on the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s launch on her maiden – and only – voyage. The exhibition features mayday communications from the ship, personal artifacts from survivors, production items from Titanic films and interactive multimedia tours through the ship. The British passenger liner sank in the North Atlantic Ocean, killing more than 1,500 people on April 15,1912 after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City…. – Times Union, 4-10-12
  • History Lost And Found: A Letter From Titanic: Many famous names went down with the Titanic, like the American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthiest person on the ship, and Macy’s department store owner Isidor Straus.
    But you may not know about one of the ship’s doctors — John Edward Simpson. Aboard the Titanic, Simpson wrote a letter to his mother back home in Belfast. It was mailed from the great ship’s last port of call before it made its disastrous turn across the North Atlantic.
    Over the years, though, the letter fell into the hands of a collector, and the Simpson family thought it lost forever — until now…. – NPR, 4-14-12
  • Titanic Continues to Have a Long Afterlife – Advertising: Marketers and media companies are feeding an apparently ceaseless interest in the Titanic with an outpouring of TV programs, books, and many other collectibles…. – NYT, 4-12-12
  • New Books About the Titanic and Its Passengers: Two books explore the doomed maiden voyage of the Titanic…. – NYT, 4-14-12
  • Titanic, a story told in movies, plays and books: Mention Oreo cookies or the Girl Guides and no one’s likely to hark back, almost without thinking, to 1912. Both came into being that year. It’s the sinking of the Titanic that brings the time most readily to mind.
    The disaster has entered the language: “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” for any futile gesture that will fail to ward off impending calamity.
    It’s also become a cultural touchstone for any writer or filmmaker seeking to evoke the years immediately prior to World War I and symbolize the approaching death of a gilded era.
    The Titanic has featured most prominently in movies too numerous all to be mentioned here…. – Toronto Star, 4-14-12
  • Deborah Hopkinson: ‘Titanic’ review: Gripping ‘Voices’: When the ‘unsinkable’ met the unthinkable:
    TITANIC: VOICES FROM THE DISASTER, Deborah Hopkinson, Scholastic Press, $17.99, 304 pages
    On April 15, 1912, 17-year-old Jack Thayer was returning home from a European trip with his parents. A first-class passenger on a grand new ocean liner, he enjoyed a lavish dinner. It was a cold evening, growing colder. “There was no moon,” he said, “and I have never seen the stars shine brighter.” Before the night was through, Jack Thayer would find himself in desperate trouble. His ship, the Titanic, struck an iceberg and began to sink.
    “Titanic: Voices From the Disaster” is gripping from the first page. West Linn writer Deborah Hopkinson begins her history for middle grade and young adult readers by laying out the bare facts of the tragedy. The Titanic was an extraordinarily elegant ship, too big to sink. How then, could she have struck an iceberg? Why weren’t there adequate lifeboats or a plan for using them? Hopkinson answers those questions and introduces a number of vivid characters: “a stewardess, a 9-year-old boy, a science teacher, a wealthy gentleman, a brave seaman, an American high school senior, a young mother on her way to start a new life, and more.”…. – The Oregonian, 4-14-12
  • Titanic: A ship full of myths: Probably the most outlandish belief ever about the sinking of the Titanic is that it wasn’t the Titanic . . . .
    British writer Robin Gardiner got three books out of his premise that it was actually sister-ship the Olympic that went to the bottom in a massive insurance scam gone horribly wrong.
    In Titanic: The Ship that Never Sank, The Great Titanic Conspiracy and The Riddle of the Titanic, the latter co-authored with journalist Dan van der Vat, Gardiner builds on a collision in 1911 between the Olympic and a Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Hawke….. – Toronto Star, 4-12-12

QUOTES: SURVIVOR ACCOUNTS

United Press International/File

Artist Willy Stoewer’s vision of what the sinking must have looked like

 

 

  • Survivors of the Titanic | Survivors from the famous shipwreck tell their stories:
    At 11.40pm on 14 April, 1912, the famously ‘unsinkable’ ocean liner, Titanic, struck an iceberg. Two hours and 40 minutes later she sank deep into the freezing Atlantic waters. Less than a third of the people on board survived.
    Over the years, the BBC has heard from some of the men and women who lived through that ‘night to remember’. Their memories, and internal BBC documents about the controversies that followed, are now gathered together to tell the true story of the disaster.
    Hear the survivors describe a night they could never forget…. – BBC
  • Titanic memories from Canadians: Titanic survivors with a connection to Canada were a mixed bag of infants to autocrats, with an equally mixed bag of stories as they disembarked in New York from the rescue ship Carpathia…. – Toronto Star, 4-13-12
  • ‘They watched the ship go down’Toronto Star, 4-13-12
  • Titanic: ‘I heard the screams’ recalls officer
    Joseph Boxhall Joseph Boxhall was aged 28 when he became fourth officer on the Titanic:
    Joseph Boxhall, the fourth officer on RMS Titanic, was on duty the night the liner sank, but survived the disaster after he was ordered to take charge of one of the lifeboats.
    In a BBC radio interview in 1962, the Hull-born officer recalled the moment the liner hit the iceberg on 14 April…. – BBC, 4-14-12
  • Titanic 100: We survived: Just over 700 people escaped from the Titanic after it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic on the night of 14 April 1912. More than 1,500 others were not so fortunate.
    The survivors scrambled into lifeboats or plunged into the icy water. In the years after the disaster, some of them spoke publicly about the Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage.
    Here, with the help of archive images and audio, listen to what happened through the voices of crew members Charles Lightoller and Frank Prentice and passengers Eva Hart and Edith Russell…. – BBC, 4-9-12
  • The terrible cries for help lasted 20 or 30 minutes… then faded away – Titanic first class passenger John Thayer:
    CLOSE to death adrift in the dark Atlantic, John Thayer watched as the Titanic slipped beneath the waves.
    The 17-year-old and his parents had been first-class passengers on the doomed liner 100 years ago.
    Miraculously, John – heir to an American railroad fortune – survived the disaster with his mother and wrote a vivid first-hand account of the catastrophe 28 years later.
    John committed suicide in 1945 and for decades A Survivor’s Tale was forgotten – but it is now back in print to mark the centenary.
    Here is an edited extract…. – The Sun, 4-14-12
  • Titanic: Unlikely friendship in lifeboat eight: Able Seaman Thomas Jones and the Countess of Rothes became friends after surviving the tragedy
    He was a crewman from Wales, she was a countess from London travelling first class on the biggest passenger liner of the time.
    If not for one of the biggest maritime disasters in history, it is unlikely their paths would ever have crossed.
    But aboard Titanic’s lifeboat number eight Able Seaman Thomas Jones and Lucy Noël Martha, Countess of Rothes, struck up an unlikely friendship that would last for the rest of their lives.
    And now 100 years later their descendants have met for the first time.
    Thomas William Jones was 32 years old when he boarded the Titanic as a member of the deck crew at Southampton.
    The Countess of Rothes, who was “of independent means”, was just a year older than the crewman when she boarded at the same port with her Scottish husband’s cousin and her maid…. – BBC , 4-14-12
  • Unsinkable Molly Brown’s daughter chose Paris over Titanic: Helen Brown Benziger couldn’t resist April in Paris. What 22-year-old socialite studying abroad could?
    The City of Light, from its spring fashion shows to its blossoming boulevards, had a certain je ne sais quoi.
    That magnetism, that state of mind, later romanticized in song, presumably altered the course of history for the only daughter of the heroine who came to be immortalized as “The Unsinkable” Molly Brown.
    Benziger, who years later settled in Old Greenwich, chose Paris over the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
    The year was 1912…. – Greenwich Times, 4-11-12
  • 200,000 Titanic-related records are published online:
    More than 200,000 records relating to the Titanic have been published online to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking on 15 April.
    The documents provide information about survivors and the 1,500 people who died, including a number of wills and hundreds of coroner inquest files.
    The collection has been gathered by the subscription-based family history website Ancestry.co.uk.
    However, access to the Titanic records collection is free until 31 May 2012…. – BBC, 4-9-12

QUOTES: NEW YORK TIMES COVERAGE 1912

 

  • The Titanic Sails Today: The White Star liner Titanic, the largest vessel in the world, will sail at noon tomorrow from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York…. – NYT, 4-10-1912
  • Allan Liner Virginian Now Steaming Toward the Ship: A wireless dispatch received tonight by the Allan-line officials from the steamer Virginian states that the Titanic flashed out wireless calls for immediate assistance. The Virginian put on full speed and headed for the Titanic…. – NYT, 4-15-1912
  • Latest News From the Sinking Ship: Dispatches from the Titanic to the Marconic wireless station in Cape Race, Newfoundland…. – NYT, 4-15-1912
  • Noted Men on the Lost Titanic: Sketches of a few of the well-known people among the 1,300 passengers lost on the Titanic, including Col. Jacob Astor and his wife, Isidor Strauss and Benjamin Guggenheim…. – NYT, 4-16-1912
  • Biggest Liner Plunges to the Bottom at 2:20 a.m.: The Carpathia found at daybreak this morning only the lifeboats and the wreckage of what had been the biggest steamship afloat…. – NYT, 4-16-1912
  • Titanic’s “C.Q.D.” Caught by a Lucky Fluke:
    By Harold Thomas Cottam, wireless operator on the Carpathia:
    Carpathia’s wireless man had finished his work for the night, but going back to verify a “Time Rush,” he caught the call for help…. – NYT, 4-19-1912
  • Thrilling Tale by Titanic’s Surviving Wireless Man:
    By Harold Bride, surviving wireless operator on the Titanic:
    Wireless operator recounts the final hours of the ship…. – NYT, 4-28-1912

HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION

 

  • Titanic: A century of fascination: Stephen Cox, a UC San Diego English literature professor who has written extensively about Titanic, including a book, has some ideas about why the tragedy retains its pull on the public’s imagination, 100 years later and counting.
    “It’s a story about people, and it’s a story about people who are like us,” he said. “We’re interested in thinking about what we would have done under those circumstances.”
    It took the Titanic two hours and 40 minutes to sink, roughly the time of a Shakespearean tragedy, Cox said. People had time to think about what they were doing, and why. The decisions they made — Get on a lifeboat? Go back for others? Sink or swim? — say something about them and their character. And, by extension, something about us…. – UT San San Diego, 4-13-12
  • William Neill: Titanic ‘disaster tourism’ disrespects victims, academic claims: The city of Belfast has “coarsened itself” by exploiting the sinking of the Titanic to draw in tourists, an academic has claimed.
    Titanic anniversary: Belfast’s monument to the Titanic tale Belfast has spent £97m – Northern Ireland’s biggest-ever outlay on a tourism project – on Titanic Belfast
    The city is throwing a three week “festival” to mark the opening the Titanic Belfast museum and the centenary of the launch of the fated ocean liner.
    William Neill, a professor of urban planning at Aberdeen University, said: “Belfast is unique in terms of the significance of the Titanic but the question must be raised as to whether that memory has been treated with enough respect.
    “The city has lived with the shame of the sinking for many years. That has turned a corner and it is important that the role Belfast’s great shipyard played in our maritime history is acknowledged.
    “Whether what is now a mythic legacy should have been tied so closely to financial gain through selling ‘infotainment’ is more debateable.”
    Professor Neill is to address a conference on the phenomenon of ‘disaster tourism’ in Berlin. More than 1,500 people died when the RMS Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 after striking on iceberg…. – Telegraph UK, 4-4-12
  • Paul Heyer: Fascination with Titanic is unlikely to sink, prof says
    Paul Heyer is a WLU prof who has just published a book called Titanic Century. He is in big demand these days as an expert on media coverage 100 years ago and Titanic myth-making.
    It’s downright painful for Paul Heyer to admit that he passed up on a chance to be an extra on the set of movie producer James Cameron’s 1997 megahit Titanic.
    The professor of communication studies at Wilfrid Laurier University is an expert on how the passenger ship and its tragic story have been represented in all kinds of media.
    He is the author of the just-released book, Titanic Century: Media, Myth and the Making of a Cultural Icon, an update of a scholarly work he published in 1995.
    Heyer says he was teaching at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., back in the 1990s, when he was asked if he would like to spend two weeks in San Diego, Calif.
    “Titanic was in production and they were looking for extras with some connections to the Titanic,” Heyer recalls. “They wanted people who had written about the Titanic, or members of the Titanic Historical Society.”
    To this day — and maybe even more so now that the movie is back on the big screen in 3D to mark the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking on April 15, 1912 — Heyer regrets saying no…. – Guelph Mercury, 4-13-12
  • ‘The Titanic For Dummies’ Written By University Of New Haven Professor Stephen Spignesi Covers Historic Disaster, Detail By Detail: Fact No. 1: There was nobody named Jack Dawson on the Titanic.
    Fact No. 2: The man named J. Dawson who was among the passengers and died on the Titanic, and whose grave movie fans visit in Nova Scotia, was not Jack, the character Leonardo DiCaprio played in that 1997 blockbuster movie.
    “The Titanic for Dummies” will teach you that, and thousands more facts about the legendary disaster.
    So if his first Titanic book was “complete,” why write a new one?
    “I was already a ‘Dummies’ author. I’ve written three of them,” Spignesi said, referring to “Second Homes for Dummies,” “Lost Books of the Bible for Dummies” and “Native American History for Dummies.” “I had done the [Titanic] book in 1998. I had already put in the time to do the research and had a massive archive of books, articles, videos and facts.”
    With that research in hand, he persuaded Wiley, the publisher, to let him write “The Titanic For Dummies” on the 100th anniversary of the disaster, which happened on April 14-15, 1912. More than 700 passengers and crew members survived the sinking of the Titanic, but more than 1,500 died.
    Spignesi, 58, who teaches English and history at University of New Haven in West Haven, said that “The Titanic for Dummies” is different in format from his previous book.
    “‘The Complete Titanic’ was straightforward history, and the ‘Dummies’ books are very modular and nonsequential,” he said. “They’re meant entirely as reference books.”… – The Hartford Courant, 4-8-12
  • Morgan Woodward: St. Cloud historian has a Titanic love Woodward uncovers St. Cloud ship connections: “It teaches us about ourselves; you look at the Titanic disaster and it’s the microcosm of Edwardian society — kind of this culmination of arrogance and hubris,” Woodward said.
    “The ship slipped below the waves in the wee hours of April 15; it’s all over the front pages on the 15th, which was a Monday, so people knew about it right away,” he said…. – SC Times, 4-13-12
  • Crossing the Ocean, 1912 vs. 2012: THE 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy is being widely observed on both sides of the Atlantic, at museum openings, special exhibits and lectures, theatrical performances, concerts, readings and walking and graveyard tours. Guests at some events are invited to dress in fashions of the era, and Titanic-themed cocktails and re-creations of the elaborate first-class meal from the storied liner’s last dinner will be served. Two Titanic Memorial Cruises to the site of the sinking are planned, and the ships are scheduled to be there on the anniversary, April 15.
    But what was life onboard the Titanic actually like? Not much like taking a cruise today.
    Traveling on the Titanic was a voyage of purpose, primarily to transport mail, cargo and passengers, many of whom were emigrating, as steadily and safely as possible.
    Designed to withstand harsh seas and cut through water, the Titanic was built with efficiency in mind. Ships today are capable of traveling at speeds similar to the Titanic’s but rarely do, as cruising is about pleasure, said John Maxtone-Graham, a maritime historian and author of the newly published book “Titanic Tragedy: A New Look at the Lost Liner.”…. – NYT, 4-8-12

 

Titanic today
Titanic … as it looks today, resting on bottom of the Atlantic

On This Day in History…. June 13, 1971: NYT Publishes “Pentagon Papers” 40 Years Later Declassified

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

Day in History

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: PENTAGON PAPERS DECLASSIFIED 40 YEARS LATER

Donal F. Holway/The New York Times

Daniel Ellsberg, outside a federal courthouse in 1971, faced 12 felony counts as a result of his leak of the Pentagon Papers; the charges were dismissed in 1973.

 

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY….

On June 13, 1971, The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers, a documentary history tracing the ultimately doomed involvement of the United States in a grinding war in the jungles and rice paddies of Southeast Asia.
They demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance.
The Government sought and won a court order restraining further publication after three articles had appeared. Other newspapers then began publishing. They, too, were restrained, until finally, on June 30, 1971, the United States Supreme Court ruled, by a vote of 6 to 3, that publication could resume.
Forty years later to the day June 13, 2011 the government has declassified the entire Pentagon Papers, and will be releasing them, giving the public and historians the opportunity to read the entire 7000 page document in its proper order and without ommisssions, with the exception of 11 words. — (Adapted from the NYT)

QUOTES

 

  • Pentagon Papers Online: Full Text 

     

  • (The original front page story on the Pentagon Papers of the Washington Post from the Pentagon Papers here and here.) 

    HEADLINES

     

    • 40 years after leak, the Pentagon Papers are out: Call it the granddaddy of WikiLeaks. Four decades ago, a young defense analyst leaked a top-secret study packed with damaging revelations about America’s conduct of the Vietnam War.
      On Monday, that study, dubbed the Pentagon Papers, finally came out in complete form. It’s a touchstone for whistleblowers everywhere and just the sort of leak that gives presidents fits to this day.
      The documents show that almost from the opening lines, it was apparent that the authors knew they had produced a hornet’s nest…. – AP, 6-13-11 

       

    • After 40 Years, the Complete Pentagon Papers: It may be a first in the annals of government secrecy: Declassifying documents to mark the anniversary of their leak to the press. But that is what will happen Monday, when the federal government plans to finally release the secret government study of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers 40 years after it was first published by The New York Times.
      Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers, said the report should not have been secret even in 1971.
      At first blush, it sounds like the release of one of the worst-kept secrets in history — finally unlocking the barn door four decades after the horses bolted. The study, after all, has already been published by The Times and other newspapers, resulting in a landmark First Amendment decision by the Supreme Court. It has been released in book form more than once. But it turns out that those texts have been incomplete: When all 7,000 pages are released Monday, officials say, the study can finally be read in its original form.
      That it took until the era of WikiLeaks for the government to declassify the Pentagon Papers struck some participants as, to say the least, curious…. – NYT, 6-13-11 

       

    • Pentagon Papers to be declassified at last: The disclosure of the Pentagon Papers four decades ago stands as one of the most significant leaks of classified material in American history. Ever since, in the eyes of the government, the voluminous record of U.S. involvement in Vietnam has remained something else: classified.
      In the Byzantine realm of government record-keeping, publication of a document in the country’s biggest newspapers, including this one, does not mean declassification. Despite the release of multiple versions of the Pentagon Papers, no complete, fully unredacted text has ever been publicly disclosed.
      On Monday, the National Archives and Records Administration will change that, as it officially declassifies the papers 40 years to the day after portions were first disclosed by the New York Times. In doing so, and in making the papers available online, the Archives could provide researchers with a more holistic way of understanding a remarkable chapter of U.S. history.
      It could also bring a small measure of solace to advocates of open government frustrated by what they see as the overzealous classification of important documents. They note that tens of thousands of the classified diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks also remain classified…. – WaPo, 6-13-11 

       

    • Pentagon Papers declassified today. Will we learn any shocking new secrets?: The release 40 years ago of the Pentagon Papers, which showed how several presidential administrations had misled Americans about their intentions in Vietnam, was a historic moment. Now, people can read the report just as government officials themselves saw it.
      The US government is releasing the Pentagon Papers in their entirety on Monday. This 7,000 page report, known formally as the “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” is one of the most famous secret documents in the nation’s history.
      It is also a secret document that was poorly kept, as RAND researcher Daniel Ellsberg leaked much of it to The New York Times – a dramatic act of defiance that bolstered freedom of the press after the Supreme Court voted to allow the Pentagon Papers’ publication.
      Stories based on the report began appearing in the Times 40 years ago today. Given that much of it has been public for so long, will we learn any new secrets from today’s release of the entire project?
      Well, for one thing, historians will now get to view the Pentagon Papers in their proper order, with all supporting volumes, as top government officials themselves saw it.
      “The fact of the matter is that no one, outside the people properly cleared to view top secret, has seen the real Pentagon Papers,” says the National Declassification Center on its blog…. – CS Monitor, 6-13-11 

       

    • The Pentagon Papers are released in full to the public: On Monday the National Archives released all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers, the explosive documents that detailed four administrations’ worth of deception on Vietnam. Some of the content has been public since 1971, and the release is not likely to reveal many new secrets. But this is the first time that Americans can read the papers in full without a security clearance.
      Officially known as the “Report of the OSD Vietnam Task Force,” the Pentagon Papers were a secret analysis of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The papers showed that while U.S. leaders said one thing about the conflict publicly, they were thinking something entirely different behind closed doors.
      Forty years ago today, the New York Times first published excerpts of the papers. Daniel Ellsberg, the task force participant who leaked the documents, believes they still have something to teach. He recently told the Times that the papers show that Congress, not presidents, should have the power to make war…. – WaPo, 6-13-11 

       

    • Pentagon Papers to be fully declassified: The Pentagon Papers, a window into U.S. action in Vietnam that has been officially closed for decades, will be declassified, the National Archives said.
      The National Archives and the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon Presidential Libraries Monday “will release in its entirety the official Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force (commonly referred to as the Pentagon Papers),” the Archives said in a release Thursday.
      “This is the 40th anniversary of the leak of these Papers by The New York Times. Approximately 2,384 pages or 34 percent of the report will be opened for the first time as compared to the Senator (Mike) Gravel (D-Alaska) Edition of the Pentagon Papers, the most common benchmark used in Pentagon Papers discussions,” the release said.
      While some sections of the documents were leaked to the press, no complete, fully unredacted version of the text has ever been released to the public, The New York Times reported.
      “This was a secret history project to try to figure out why we were in such a national security tangle,” Timothy Naftali, director of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, told the Times. “And now with all the material together in one place, you can see how our government wrestled with the problem.”
      “The fact that the Pentagon Papers were still secret is an embarrassment to the United States government,” said John Prados, senior fellow at George Washington University’s National Security Archive. “You’ve been able to read them for 40 years, but they’re still secret.” – UPI, 6-10-11 

       

    • Tim Naftali: Nixon Library to make Pentagon Papers public: After more than 40 years, the federal government has declassified the Pentagon Papers, and the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum will be one of the first institutions to make the document available.
      The Nixon Library already has a copy in the vault that was part of President Richard M. Nixon’s papers. It will be released at 9 a.m., June 13, 40 years to the day that leaked portions of the report were printed on the front page of The New York Times, near a picture of Nixon accompanying his daughter Tricia on her wedding day.
      Until now, the public has been able to read only the relatively small portions of the report that were leaked, including what Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg gave to the press and volumes that were read into the Congressional record by then-Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel.
      “On June 13, you can look at and touch the Vietnam Task Force Study,” library Director Tim Naftali said, referring to the report’s formal name. “You can see how the authors intended it to be read.”
      The public will be able to read all 7,000 pages except for 11 words on one sheet that federal agencies refused to declassify.
      Naftali said he didn’t know what those 11 words are…. – – OC Register, 5-27-11 

       

    • Eleven Words in Pentagon Papers to Remain Classified: The Pentagon Papers that were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg four decades ago have been formally declassified and will be released in their entirety next month — except for eleven words that remain classified.
      David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, announced the surprising exception to the upcoming release of the Papers at a meeting of the Public Interest Declassification Board on May 26.
      The nature of the censored words was not described, but the National Declassification Center said on its blog that all eleven of them appeared on a single page. The Center also said that the release next month “will present the American public with the first real look at this historic document,” because it will be more complete and accurate than any prior edition of the Papers.
      From a security policy point of view, the decision to maintain the classification of eleven words is questionable because it invites attention and speculation, not to mention ridicule, focused precisely on that which is withheld…. – FAS, 5-26-11 

    HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION

     

    • Fredrik Logevall: Today’s Release of Pentagon Papers Has ‘Contemporary Resonance,’ Says Cornell History Professor: Fredrik Logevall, Cornell University professor of history, is a leading historian of the Vietnam War. He is the author of several books on the Vietnam War, including “Twilight War,” to be released by Random House in early 2012.
      “The leak of portions of the Pentagon Papers forty years ago by Daniel Ellsberg showed clearly the degree to which the Johnson administration concealed from the public and from Congress its grim assessment of the situation on the ground in the South Vietnam, and its plans for escalation. Lyndon Johnson and many of his aides in 1964-65 doubted that the outcome in Vietnam really mattered to U.S. security, yet they Americanized the war anyway, the papers show.
      “We also know that Nixon’s view of Ellsberg’s action was initially mixed. He relished the thought that people would know of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations’ secret escalation, but he feared that his own secret policies would be revealed, notably his bombing of Cambodia. Nixon’s attempt to block publication had a boomerang effect and only increased the publicity surrounding the story. Ultimately, the leak and his response to it would play a role in his downfall.
      “The issue also has contemporary resonance, with Wikileaks and the Obama administration’s response similar to that of the Nixon administration forty years ago. In both instances the government charged that the leakers were guilty of stealing government property, that by their actions they had endangered U.S. national security, and that they should be tried under the Espionage Act.” – Newswise, 6-13-11 

       

    • 40 Years After Leak, Weighing the Impact of the Pentagon Papers: In 1971, parts of a secret Pentagon report began to surface in The New York Times calling the Vietnam War’s validity into question. Forty years later, the Pentagon Papers were declassified and released in full Monday. Jeffrey Brown discusses the leak’s significance with historian Michael Beschloss and journalist Sanford Ungar…. – PBS Newshour, 6-13-11 

       

    • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: Well, people had — many people who were critics of the war had a lot of their worse suspicions confirmed, that the Johnson administration had been very secretive and had not told the truth about key episode, and also learned about other things, like the Kennedy administration’s involvement in the coup that led to the assassination of President Diem in November of 1963.
      But the more shocking thing was this. You know, before 1971, there was a feeling that government documents that were leaked or stolen or published against the will of the government, that was something the Soviet foreign agents did. That was something Alger Hiss or the Rosenbergs did.
      In fact, the Pumpkin Papers is one reason why the Alger Hiss archive, one reason why this was called the Pentagon Papers, so there was that connection. But this was the first time that this was really seen as an episode of patriotism. And ever since 1971, we have begun to believe the idea of a crusader who finds government secrets that shouldn’t be secret, gives them to the public.
      Shortly after this was Watergate. We saw what bad secrets government can really keep….

      …Of the Plumbers, this squad that the Nixon administration organized to go after leaks like this.
      And it is almost poetic. Almost exactly a year after the Pentagon Papers were published was the Watergate break-in, June of 1972. Richard Nixon has this famous meeting with H.R. Haldeman in which he’s using government secrecy to cloak a crime. He is telling Haldeman, use the — tell the CIA and the FBI to stay the hell out of this.
      This was national security — exactly what people feared would happen and exactly the argument that they made for opening these secrets….

      …Well, the irony that it was The New York Times that first did this, because, in 1961, exactly a decade earlier, John Kennedy went to the publisher of The New York Times, who had told him that we have got this information that you are planning an attack on Castro’s Cub at the Bay of Pigs. Do you want us to publish or not? Kennedy said, please don’t. The Times said, OK, we won’t.
      Later on, Kennedy said, I wished you had published it, because it would have stop head this fiasco from happening.
      That is how much things have changed.
      Nowadays, I would say that, for a publisher who is a boss of editors and reporters who come across information like this, the burden is much more on the government to show why something like this will cost lives or directly jeopardize American national security.
      And, oftentimes, if the government makes that argument, they do not win. In the old days, they almost always did…. – PBS Newshour, 6-13-11 

       

    • James Rosen: Five Myths About the Pentagon Papers: For his book about the Nixon presidency, The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate (2008), Fox News Washington Correspondent James Rosen intensively researched the Pentagon Papers and interviewed many of the key players in the case. Among them was Daniel Ellsberg, the disaffected former Marine and Defense Department consultant who turned against the Vietnam War and leaked the documents to the New York Times. The Times’ series of excerpts from the top-secret study began forty years ago Monday, triggering both a historic Supreme Court ruling on the scope and limits of press freedoms and also the domestic spying that resulted in President Nixon’s resignation. Here, James examines five prevalent myths about the Pentagon Papers.
      Myth # 1: ON MONDAY –THE FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES’ FIRST PUBLICATION OF EXCERPTS FROM THE PENTAGON PAPERS – THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC A VAST AMOUNT OF MATERIAL FROM THE PAPERS MATERIAL NEVER AVAILABLE BEFORE.
      Myth # 2: THE PENTAGON PAPERS REFLECTED POORLY ON THE NIXON ADMINISTRATION.
      Myth # 3: THE PLUMBERS’ BREAK-IN AT THE OFFICE OF DANIEL ELLSBERG’S PSYCHIATIRST WAS UNSUCCESSFUL.
      Myth # 4: THE ELLSBERG BREAK-IN WAS UNDERTAKEN IN ORDER TO FIND INFORMATION THAT COULD DISCREDIT ELLSBERG AT TRIAL.
      Myth # 5: IT WAS HENRY KISSINGER WHO PERSUADED PRESIDENT NIXON TO PROSECUTE DANIEL ELLSBERG. – Fox News, 6-13-11
The July 1, 1971, front page of The New York Times.

On This Day in History May 25, 1961… 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Moon Speech to Congress

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: 50TH ANNIVERSARY JOHN F. KENNEDY’S MOON SPEECH TO CONGRESS

https://i1.wp.com/i.space.com/images/i/9809/i02/kennedy-moon-speech-1961.jpg

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY….

On this day in history… May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced in an address to a joint session of Congress his goal of sending and putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Stating “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

HEADLINES

  • President Kennedy’s Speech and America’s Next Moonshot Moment: President Kennedy speaks to Congress on May 25, 1961. President Kennedy speaks to Congress on May 25, 1961. Photo Credit: NASA
    This journey into the future has its foundations 50 years in the past, when President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge that transformed the tentative early steps of human spaceflight into a giant leap for mankind.
    In just a short six weeks in the spring of 1961, a trio of dramatic events set the stage for our first journey to another world: Soviet Yuri Gagarin’s first human spaceflight on April 12, was followed on May 5 by Alan Shepard’s first American flight. Then, on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy went to Congress for an address on “Urgent National Needs.”
    Kennedy told Congress and the nation that “space is open to us now,” and said that space exploration “may hold the key to our future here on Earth.” Then he issued an audacious challenge to NASA that seemed unthinkable after just a single U.S. spaceflight… – Nasa.gov, 5-25-11
  • Race to Space, Through the Lens of Time: On the 12th, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth — one more space triumph for the Soviet Union. Though the flight was not unexpected, it was nonetheless deflating; it would be more than a month before Alan Shepard became the first American in space, and that was on a 15-minute suborbital flight. On the 17th, a force of anti-Castro exiles, trained by the C.I.A., invaded communist Cuba at the Bay of Pigs — a fiasco within 36 hours. Mr. Kennedy’s close aide Theodore Sorensen described him on the 19th as “anguished and fatigued” and “in the most emotional, self-critical state I had ever seen him.”
    At one meeting, his brother Robert F. Kennedy, the attorney general, “turned on everybody,” it was reported, saying: “All you bright fellows. You got the president into this. We’ve got to do something to show the Russians we are not paper tigers.” At another, the president pleaded: “If somebody can, just tell me how to catch up. Let’s find somebody — anybody. I don’t care if it’s the janitor over there.” Heading back to the Oval Office, he told Mr. Sorensen, “There’s nothing more important.”
    So, 50 years ago, on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and a national television audience, declaring: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
    There it was, the challenge flung before an adversary and to a nation on edge in an unconventional war, the beginning of Project Apollo.
    Echoes of this time lift off the pages of “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon” (Palgrave Macmillan), a new book by John M. Logsdon, a political scientist and longtime space policy specialist at George Washington University. He has drawn on new research in archives, oral histories and memoirs available in recent years to shed new light on the moon race.
    The famous speech came after five weeks of hand wringing, back-channel memos and closed-door conferences, often overseen by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. In those meetings NASA and Pentagon officials, scientists and engineers, budget analysts and others decided that sending astronauts to the Moon by the end of the sixties was the country’s best shot at overcoming the Soviet post-Sputnik command of the orbital front in the cold war…. – NYT, 5-24-11
  • The Moon and Man at 50: Why JFK’s Space Exploration Speech Still Resonates: Fifty years ago today (May 25), President John F. Kennedy presented NASA and the nation with a historic challenge: To put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the 1960s.
    Kennedy’s dramatic 1961 speech jump-started NASA’s Apollo program, a full-bore race to the moon that succeeded when Neil Armstrong’s boot clomped down into the lunar dirt on July 20, 1969. The moon landing was a tremendous achievement for humanity and a huge boost to American technological pride, which had been seriously wounded by several recent space race defeats to the Soviet Union.
    The impact of Kennedy’s words lingers still, long after Apollo came to an end in 1972. The speech fundamentally changed NASA, ramping up the space agency’s public profile and creating a huge infrastructure that continues to exist today. [Photos: John F. Kennedy’s NASA Legacy]
    “This is the most significant decision made by our national political leaders in relation to space activities,” said Roger Launius, space history curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. In addition to starting up humanity’s first journey to another world, he added, “it transformed NASA into a big space-spectacular agency, which it wasn’t before.”
    Kennedy made his speech before a special joint session of Congress just four months after being sworn in as president. Filled with proposed policy initiatives (the moon challenge being the last and most dramatic of these), the address was an attempt to get his presidency on track after a very bumpy start…. – Space.com, 5-25-11
  • The 1961 JFK Speech That Sparked ‘Apollo’ and Led Space Exploration to New Heights: NASA’s exploration solidified scientific understanding of moon’s formation and planetary science.
    Fifty years ago, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy told a joint session of Congress that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
    His vision became NASA’s Apollo program, which conducted six successful manned lunar landings during 1969-72 and brought the crews and the moon rocks that they collected safely home. As Kennedy intended, the Apollo program established the nation’s preeminence in spaceflight, but it also produced a revolution in scientific understanding of the moon, sparking a debate that continues today about the relative merits of manned and robotic exploration.
    Kennedy’s call to action was viewed as a largely geopolitical maneuver, intended to achieve U.S. supremacy in rocketry and space travel at a time when the Soviet Union had gained a huge head start by launching Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, and Yuri Gagarin — the first man to orbit Earth. There were defense implications: rockets that launch manned capsules into orbit could also propel nuclear weapons across intercontinental distances.
    Whether Apollo had a strong scientific purpose at first or not, the president’s speech “was tremendously influential,” said retired astronomer William E. Howard, who served in military, academic, and intelligence organizations. “[It] inspired a lot of people to go into science.”… – Fox News, 5-25-11
  • JFK’s Man-on-Moon Dream Shown on Tapes to Be Offset by Worry Over Stunt: Then U.S. President John F. Kennedy gives a speech on the nation’s space effort before a special session of Congress in Washington, on May 25, 1961. Source: AFP/Getty Images
    John F. Kennedy’s call to send a man to the moon symbolized the soaring ambition associated with his presidency. In private, he was more a cold-eyed realist, concerned that the mission would be dismissed as a costly “stunt” and might be better recast as a military venture.
    A presidential recording to be released today by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum reveals a Kennedy conversation in the Oval Office with then-NASA administrator James Webb in which the president expresses doubts that belie his public promotion of manned space travel.
    “This looks like a hell of a lot of dough to go to the moon,” Kennedy told Webb at the September 1963 meeting.
    The release marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech to Congress on May 25, 1961, in which he said the U.S. should commit within the decade to “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
    “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish,” Kennedy said.
    Two years after that address, the president was confronting budget issues as he was contemplating his 1964 re-election campaign, acknowledging that the moon mission probably wouldn’t be accomplished during his time in office.
    His conversation with Webb took place on Sept. 18, 1963, two months before the president was assassinated in Dallas…. – Bloomberg, 5-25-11
  • JFK had doubts about moon landing Questioned costs, voters’ reactions: “I predict you are not going to be sorry,’’ NASA Administrator James Webb said to JFK. “I predict you are not going to be sorry,’’ NASA Administrator James Webb said to JFK. (Abbie Rowe/ JFK Library And Museum/ File 1961)
    Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress and audaciously declared that before the end of the decade, the United States should land a man on the moon.
    “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space,’’ he said, delivering a confident rejoinder to the Soviet Union’s successes in the space race.
    But two years later, the president struggled with doubts about the expensive program as he prepared for his reelection campaign and worried that public and congressional support was waning, according to a newly declassified tape being released today by the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.
    The recording of a frank, 46-minute White House meeting with NASA Administrator James Webb in September 1963 provides a window into Kennedy’s thinking, revealing political calculations as well as more personal reactions. At one point during the conversation, Kennedy asks, “If I get reelected, I’m not — we’re not — go[ing] to the moon in my — in our period are we?’’
    Webb tells him no, and Kennedy’s voice drops with disappointment: “We’re not going . . . yeah.’’
    “What I love is that you get every part of him as a person — him doubting the American public is interested in it; then he asks are we going to land in my presidency,’’ said Maura Porter, an archivist at the Kennedy Library. “This is just two months before his death and he thinks space has lost its glamour with the American public — he doesn’t see space being a political positive as he goes into the ‘64 campaign.”… – Boston Globe, 5-25-11

QUOTES

  • Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs, May 25, 1961
    President John F. Kennedy Delivered in person before a joint session of Congress May 25, 1961:

    IX. SPACE
    Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. Since early in my term, our efforts in space have been under review. With the advice of the Vice President, who is Chairman of the National Space Council, we have examined where we are strong and where we are not, where we may succeed and where we may not. Now it is time to take longer strides–time for a great new American enterprise–time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.
    I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshalled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.
    Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of leadtime, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.
    I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:
    First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.
    Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.
    Third, an additional 50 million dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide communications.
    Fourth, an additional 75 million dollars–of which 53 million dollars is for the Weather Bureau–will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide weather observation.
    Let it be clear–and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make–let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal ’62–an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.
    Now this is a choice which this country must make, and I am confident that under the leadership of the Space Committees of the Congress, and the Appropriating Committees, that you will consider the matter carefully.
    It is a most important decision that we make as a nation. But all of you have lived through the last four years and have seen the significance of space and the adventures in space, and no one can predict with certainty what the ultimate meaning will be of mastery of space.
    I believe we should go to the moon. But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.
    This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel.
    New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further–unless every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.
    JFK Library

HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION

  • JFK’s Moon Shot: Q & A With Space Policy Expert John Logsdon: On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered one of the most memorable speeches of the 20th century. He challenged Congress and the American people to put a man on the moon, and return him safely to Earth, by the end of the decade.
    The rest, of course, is history. NASA’s Apollo program roared to life, and just eight years later Neil Armstrong’s boot crunched down into the lunar dirt. [Photos: JFK and NASA]
    Kennedy’s announcement came close on the heels of two embarrassing American Cold War defeats. The Soviet Union had put the first human being, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in space on April 12, 1961. Less than a week later came the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a failed CIA-backed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s communist government in Cuba.
    As the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s momentous speech approaches, SPACE.com caught up with historian and space policy expert John Logsdon, author of “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon” (Palgrave Macmillian, 2010). [50 Years of Presidential Visions for Spaceflight]
    Logsdon chatted about what drove Kennedy to make the speech, and what it means today:
    SPACE.com: What did Kennedy hope to achieve with this speech? Was he just interested in beating the Soviets, or did he also want to jump-start a space program that was still in its infancy?
    John Logsdon: In the immediate aftermath of Gagarin, on April the 20th, he had asked his advisers to find him a “space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win.” So that was the guidance he set out: something in space, dramatic, win.
    There were no real alternatives, either in space or, as he told his science adviser, in any other area that would have the impact of a space achievement. The Soviet Union kind of had defined the playing field as space success, and Kennedy came to the conclusion that he had no choice but to accept that game rather than try to shift the stakes into something else. [Biggest Revelations of the Space Age]
    SPACE.com: Why did Kennedy choose the moon? Were there other options that could also have shown American technological superiority and restored our pride?
    Logsdon: Well, the technical basis for choosing the moon was, it was the first thing that [famed rocket designer] Wernher von Braun and others in NASA said the Soviet Union could not do with its existing rocket. They would have to build a new, larger rocket to send people to the surface of the moon. And so the moon became the first thing where the United States had, as von Braun said, a sporting chance to be first. [Giant Leaps: Top Milestones of Human Spaceflight]
    SPACE.com: JFK’s announcement charted the course of NASA for a decade. What were its longer-lasting effects?
    Logsdon: I think it’s charted the course of NASA for most of the 50 years since, in the sense that it created a large organization built around large engineering projects centered on human spaceflight, with an institutional base of civil servants and contractors and facilities that exists today, and still has the expectation that the country will provide support.
    I kind of look at the budget curve for Apollo as a rollercoaster. Kennedy’s commitment took the space program up the front end of that rollercoaster and over the top, and the momentum has lasted a long, long time. I think it’s just about gone now…. – Space.com, 5-25-11

1961 – JFK – Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs

On This Day in History… January 28, 1986 25th Anniversary of the Challenger Disaster

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CHALLENGER DISASTER

President Reagan and his staff, like most Americans, were glued to their television sets in the wake of the Challenger explosion, waiting for news and watching replays of the disaster. (left to right) Ronald Reagan, James Poindexter, Pat Buchanan, Alfred Kingon, Don Regan, Edward Djerejian

Bill Fitzpatrick / Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY….

    On this day in history… January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral in Texas, all seven of its crew members were killed. School children around the nation were watching the launch’s telecast live to witness the send off of the first schoolteacher sent to space Christa McAuliffe, who was among the deceased crewmembers.
    On that afternoon instead of giving his State of the Union Address in the evening President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation about the Challenger Disaster memorably ending his speech with words; “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”
     

  • The horror dawned slowly: …One of the smaller solid rocket boosters could be seen looping out and back in toward the shuttle, trailing smoke. Other trails appeared.
    “Obviously. . . a major malfunction. . . has occurred,” the voice of Mission Control, Steve Nesbitt, who normally speaks crisply, said slowly over the NASA public address system.
    “They’re coming back,” said Reader’s Digest writer Malcolm McConnell, who has covered 10 launches. He and several other reporters started running, planning to make their way to the landing strip several miles away where the shuttle was to return in an emergency. There were confused shouts, swearing, a short scream.
    Then, still looking up, McConnell sat back down. “Where are they?” someone asked. “Dead,” he answered flatly. “We’ve lost ’em, God bless ’em.”
    Phrases drifted down from Mission Control. “. . . Appeared nominal through engine throttle-back . . . apparent explosion. . . . Tracking crews have reported that the vehicle had exploded.”
    Shortly, there was the announcement that an “impact point” had been located in the ocean…. – Washington Post Archives, 1-29-86
  • President insists space program go forward, delays State of Union address: Sharing a nation’s shock over the explosion of the Challenger, President Reagan has voiced his deep sorrow to the families of those who were aboard the space shuttle. But he also stressed the importance of going forward with space exploration. Because of the tragic event yesterday, the President after consulting with leaders of Congress postponed his State of the Union address until next Tuesday. He also sent Vice-President George Bush to Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center to convey his concern for the families of those aboard the space shuttle.
    Mr. Reagan instructed acting NASA director Bill Graham to fly to Cape Canaveral with the Vice President to begin probing the cause of the explosion and and then to proceed with the space program. “These people were dedicated to the exploration of space,” the President stated. “We could do no more to honor them, these courageous Americans, than to go forward with the program.”
    The President was having an Oval Office meeting with top aides when he learned that the shuttle had blown up. He stood in “stunned silence” as he watched a televised replay of the disaster, said White House spokesman Larry Speakes.
    “It’s a terrible thing,” Mr. Reagan told TV reporters. “I just can’t get out of my mind her husband, her chidren, as well as the families of the others on board.”
    Asked if he felt special remorse because of his decision to send a teacher into space, Mr. Reagan replied that all those aboard the Challenger were citizens. “I don’t think there’s anybody who’s been on there who’s not a volunteer,” he commented. “They were all aware of the dangers and risks.”… – Christian Science Monitor Archives, 1-29-86

HEADLINES

  • Challenger: 25 years later, a still painful wound: For many, no single word evokes as much pain. Challenger.
    A quarter-century later, images of the exploding space shuttle still signify all that can go wrong with technology and the sharpest minds. The accident on Jan. 28, 1986 — a scant 73 seconds into flight, nine miles above the Atlantic for all to see — remains NASA’s most visible failure.
    It was the world’s first high-tech catastrophe to unfold on live TV. Adding to the anguish was the young audience: School children everywhere tuned in that morning to watch the launch of the first schoolteacher and ordinary citizen bound for space, Christa McAuliffe.
    She never made it.
    McAuliffe and six others on board perished as the cameras rolled, victims of stiff O-ring seals and feeble bureaucratic decisions.
    It was, as one grief and trauma expert recalls, “the beginning of the age when the whole world knew what happened as it happened.”… – Boston Herald, 1-28-11
  • Challenger 25th anniversary: Memories of the day: On a bright blue morning in Florida in 1986, the Challenger shuttle launched into space. Twenty-eight years had passed since NASA had first formed. Shuttle flights had become routine. What set this one apart was the diversity of the crew and the addition of the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe. The shuttle took off buoyed by hope and pride, watched by a nation enamored with the great U.S. space program and by schoolchildren filling classrooms early in the morning.
    Seventy-three seconds later, the shuttle disappeared into an orange and white cloud, and the nation stood in shock and disbelief.
    President Ronald Reagan, in a moving broadcast to the nation that afternoon, paraphrased a sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee, a young American airman killed in World War II saying the crew “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”… – WaPo, 1-28-11
egypt riots

This 1986 photo shows the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, from left, Ellison Onizuka, Mike Smith, Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Greg Jarvis, Ron McNair and Judy Resnick. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • Challenger explosion: How President Reagan responded: A quarter century ago, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff. President Reagan’s reaction framed the response of the nation.
    It was shortly before noon on January 28, 1986. President Ronald Reagan was in the Oval Office, preparing for a traditional pre-State of the Union luncheon with television news anchors. Then, as Reagan remembered it, Vice President Bush and National Security Advisor John Poindexter strode into the room with terrible news.
    “All they could say at the time was that they had received a flash that the space shuttle had exploded,” Reagan said later.
    In that flash, US history changed. The space program had suffered its most dire tragedy yet, with its fate perhaps now hanging in the balance. And President Reagan himself – with no warning – faced a pivotal moment of his presidency.
    Reagan and his aides crowded into an adjoining room to watch the unfolding tragedy on a nearby TV. A photo taken at the moment shows them, stunned, looking down at the screen – Chief of Staff Don Regan, his face twisted; Assistant to the President Pat Buchanan, arms crossed, brow furrowed; NSC chief Poindexter glum; and the president himself, jaw set, hands together. Reagan looks as if he is already preparing himself for the task to come.
    On a replay, they saw the Challenger explode.
    “It was a very traumatic experience,” Reagan remembered…. – CS Monitor, 1-28-11
  • Remembering space shuttle Challenger: Five ways it changed spaceflight: Twenty-five years ago Friday, the space shuttle Challenger came to a tragic end, exploding on liftoff and claiming the lives of seven astronauts. We remember the loss of the Challenger and its crew, yet we often forget the contributions it made to space exploration.
    The night of the disaster, President Ronald Reagan told the nation: “The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.” Here are five ways the Challenger pushed spaceflight forward…. – CS Monitor, 1-28-11
  • Challenger Explosion: Last Words and Video: NASA recently honored the Challenger mission, which famously exploded and disintegrated on January 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members. The space organization has released the final words and transcript of the Challenger mission by way of its operational recorder voice tape. The following are the last recorded words of Commander Francis R.Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialist 1 Ellison S. Onizuka, and Mission Specialist 2 Judith A. Resnik. Also on the mission were Mission Specialist 3 Ronald E. McNair, Payload Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis and civilian Christa McAuliffe, who won the “Teacher In Space” contest…. – International Business Times, 1-28-11

QUOTES

https://i0.wp.com/www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/photographs/large/c33089-18.jpg
  • Ronald Reagan: Speech on the Challenger Disaster, January 28, 1986: Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.
    Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But, we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.
    For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.
    We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the member of the Challenger crew, were pioneers…. – Teaching American History
  • Ronald Reagan: Address to the Nation on the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, January 28, 1986: The sight of the Challenger exploding is seared into each of our minds. A few days after the explosion, I attended a memorial service in Houston for the crew. I stood next to Jane Smith, the wife of Michael Smith, one of the crewmen on the Challenger. She gave me a most remarkable gift, a three-by-five card that her husband had written before the flight and left on the bedroom dresser. He wrote about the importance of their mission. It was such a personal, generous gift that I didn’t feel right about keeping it. I made a copy and gave her back the original. I’ll never forget her generosity in offering me that part of her husband’s final days… – Ronald Reagan Library
https://i2.wp.com/www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/photographs/large/c33141-14.jpg
  • Three days later, President Reagan delivered the following remarks at a memorial service held in Houston following the Challenger disaster, Jan. 31, 1986: We come together today to mourn the loss of seven brave Americans, to share the grief we all feel and, perhaps in that sharing, to find the strength to bear our sorrow and the courage to look for the seeds of hope.
    Our nation’s loss is first a profound personal loss to the family and the friends and loved ones of our shuttle astronauts. To those they have left behind – the mothers, the fathers, the husbands and wives, brothers, sisters, and yes, especially the children – all of America stands beside you in your time of sorrow.
    What we say today is only an inadequate expression of what we carry in our hearts. Words pale in the shadow of grief; they seem insufficient even to measure the brave sacrifice of those you loved and we so admired. Their truest testimony will not be in the words we speak, but in the way they led their lives and in the way they lost those lives – with dedication, honor and an unquenchable desire to explore this mysterious and beautiful universe.
    The best we can do is remember our seven astronauts – our ChallengerSeven – remember them as they lived, bringing life and love and joy to those who knew them and pride to a nation.
    They came from all parts of this great country – from South Carolina to Washington State; Ohio to Mohawk, New York; Hawaii to North Carolina to Concord, New Hampshire. They were so different, yet in their mission, their quest, they held so much in common…. – Teaching American History
  • President Obama Honors Astronauts Lost in Space Exploration: “We pause to reflect on the tragic loss of the Apollo 1 crew, those who boarded the space shuttle Challenger in search of a brighter future, and the brave souls who perished on the space shuttle Columbia. Through triumph and tragedy, each of us has benefited from their courage and devotion, and we honor their memory by dedicating ourselves to a better tomorrow.”

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Gil Troy in Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented The 1980s: During one of his presidency’s most searing moments, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members including the teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, Reagan’s eloquent speech reassured Americans. Yet his choice of words was instructive. In 1962 John F. Kennedy dreamed about a man on the moon continuing the quest for scientific knowledge. When George W. Bush in 2003 would eulogize the shuttle Columbia astronauts, he would combine nationalism and theology, praising their “idealism,” and soothing with Isaiah’s words that “Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Reagan’s speech was more individualistic, focusing on the astronauts as explorers, hailing their “daring” and “dedication.”
  • Kurt Ritter in Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator: Reagan’s delivery openly communicated his personal grief as he addressed the nation following the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986. Kathleen Hall Jamieson has noted that Reagan’s “intimate conversational style” constituted “an unprecedented level of self-disclosure on television.” It was not without effect, Jamieson noted: “His moments of self-revelation invite us to conclude that we know him and like him.”
  • J. Jeffery Auer in Reagan and Public Discourse in America: As Anthony Lewis wrote after the 1986 Challenger explosion, “People waited: Not for an answer . . . but for words of consolation. They came, with rare grace, from President Reagan . . . in a few words, simple and direct . . . he expressed our inchoate feelings. He was touching without being mawkish. He was dignified. Listening to Mr. Reagan, I thought I understood better than ever before the mystery of his enormous popularity as President. . . . the main reason for public affection lies, as always, in Mr. Reagan’s personality and his ability to communicate it. . . . In cold print the next day his words seemed flat. But when he spoke, there was tangible emotion in them, resonating with his listeners.”
  • Michael Schaller in Reckoning with Reagan: America and Its President in the 1980s: Reagan had an instinctive ability to reassure and soothe the feelings of grieving Americans in the aftermath of tragedy. For example, following the disastrous explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986, the president’s moving eulogy, written by Peggy Noonan, stressed the theme of renewal. The astronauts had “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.” A grateful nation would reach out for new goals, and even greater achievements in order to commemorate “our seven Challenger heros.”
  • Lou Cannon in President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime: Although some of the participants in this meeting were more than willing to talk about what had happened, the story of the Reagan-O’Neill confrontation was completely overshadowed by the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger later in the day. O’Neill said subsequently that he had seen “Reagan at his worst” in the Oval Office and “Reagan at his best” in his nationally televised speech after the Challenger tragedy. “It was a trying day for all Americans, and Ronald Reagan spoke to our highest ideals,” O’Neill wrote.
  • Davis W. Houck & Amos Kiewe in Actor, Ideologue, Politician: The Public Speeches of Ronald Reagan: The scheduled 1986 State of the Union Address was delayed due to an unforeseen event. In his address to the nation on the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, Reagan eulogized the Challenger’s crew. Anticipating the shock of the disaster, which was televised live to many whose exhilaration had been replaced by horror, Reagan understood his role as a comforter who had to console the nation as well as to contextualize the event. Twenty-five years of space exploration had dazzled the nation, he stated, but we must not forget that the Challenger’s crew were still pioneers, brave spirits who wished to pull us into the future. To further soothe the pain, Reagan reminded America that the visibility of the nation’s space program was part of the American belief in freedom, unlike the Soviets who hid disasters out of fear of exposure. America was thus superior to Reagan’s old nemesis, the Soviet Union, even in times of a domestic disaster.
  • Mary E. Stuckey: Slipping the Surly Bonds: Reagan’s Challenger Address (Library of Presidential Rhetoric): Millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, watched in horror as the Challenger shuttle capsule exploded on live television on January 28, 1986. Coupled with that awful image in Americans’ memory is the face of President Ronald Reagan addressing the public hours later with words that spoke to the nation’s shock and mourning. Focusing on the text of Reagan’s speech, author Mary Stuckey shows how President Reagan’s reputation as “the Great Communicator” adds significance to our understanding of his rhetoric on one of the most momentous occasions of his administration. – Amazon.com
  • Colin Burgess in Teacher in Space: Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger Legacy: Two days after the Challenger tragedy President Ronald Reagan gave a moving testimony at a memorial service for the seven astronauts at Johnson Space Center’s central mall. In his speech he recalled the moving words of the poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee (reproduced at the front of this book) and reminded those present that the spirit of the American nation was based on heroism and noble sacrifice.
    It was built by men and women like our seven star voyagers, who answered a call beyond duty, who gave more than was expected or required, and who gave it with little thought of worldly reward.
    Today the frontier is space and the boundaries of human knowledge. Sometimes, when we reach for the stars, we fall short. But we must pick ourselves up again and press on despite the pain. Our nation is indeed fortunate that we can still draw on immense reserves of courage, character, and fortitude — that we are still blessed with heroes like those of the space shuttle Challenger.
    Man will continue his conquest of space, to reach out for new goals and even greater achievements. That is the way we shall commemorate our seven Challenger heroes.
  • Peter Levy in Encyclopedia of the Reagan-Bush Years: In times of great tragedy, such as the spacecraft Challenger disaster, Reagan had the ability to deliver moving speeches that portrayed a deep-felt sorrow. By doing so, Reagan disarmed those who, based upon his demand for spending cuts in social programs, sought to portray him as an uncaring president.
%d bloggers like this: