127. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Secretary of State1

2907. Astronaut John Glenn and family left Japan last night after what was probably the most successful visit by an American, from a public image standpoint, since that of Attorney General.2

His press conferences, interviews, TV appearances and addresses projected a most favorable picture of U.S. space program. At same time, Glenn and his family, through the warmth and sincerity of their personalities and their genuine enthusiasm and friendliness, were effective demonstration of typical American virtues. The fact that he had brought his family out for vacation in Japan added a warm personal touch which pleased Japanese public.

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Published news stories compared Glenn’s visit favorably with Russian astronaut Gagarin’s visit to Japan last year3 and numerous members of Japan’s science community, sometimes vocally opposed to U.S. policies, commented on the frank and detailed answers Glenn gave to all their questions. Many seemed, for first time, to appreciate openness of the U.S. space program as compared to Russian.

In addition to scientific discussions, Glenn was most impressive in his appearances before youth groups. These ranged in size from meetings with groups of ten or a dozen to Nihon University’s degree conferring ceremony which was witnessed by ten thousand students. In every case these appearances were written up in detail in newspapers and carried on broadcasts, and telecasts, often two or more times on prime time.

While accorded a hero’s welcome throughout his tour, Glenn showed a genuine modesty, which was especially well received by the Japanese people.

There was not a single untoward incident to mar visit, but there was one unfortunate aspect to it. He paid commercial air fare from Houston to Tokyo for family to join him here for vacation and for two weeks they were here was himself on leave status. It was, therefore, on own time and at own expense that he devoted much time and energy to further national cause by participating in events we programmed for him.

If Dept has no objection, I recommend the President be apprised of Col. Glenn’s fine contribution to US-Japan relations and suggest it might be appropriate for the President to convey in some suitable form his appreciation for well-done job beyond the call of duty.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Personal Papers of Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General’s General Correspondence (#138.2), Box 78, United States Information Agency (USIA), 1/1963–6/1963. Unclassified. Wilson sent a copy of the telegram to Robert Kennedy under a June 3 memorandum in which he wrote: “you will be interested in this appraisal by Ambassador Reischauer of John Glenn’s trip to Japan.” Kennedy wrote a notation on the memorandum that reads: “Have me call [illegible]. RFK.” A notation in an unknown hand above Kennedy’s writing reads: “done.” According to a stamped notation on the memorandum, it was received in Kennedy’s office on June 5.
  2. Attorney General Kennedy visited Japan between February 3 and 9, 1962. See Document 74.
  3. Gagarin visited Japan between May 21 and 28, 1962. (“Japanese Greet Gagarin with Cheers and Jeering,” The New York Times, May 21, 1962, p. 3