134. Memorandum From the Acting Director of the United States Information Agency (Wilson) to President Kennedy1


  • Reactions to Your European Trip

Here is a summary of media reaction to your trip to Europe.2

Western Europe:

Western European media were almost unanimous that the visit was an overwhelming personal and psychological success but a limited political success.

You were widely viewed as projecting the image of a spirited and determined leader whose personal warmth and dynamism had previously been underestimated. The themes developed in your speeches most widely acclaimed were: western unity, your categorical pledges to stand by our European allies, the promotion of peace, and your efforts to find better relations with the East. Comments on counter-acting Gaullist policies and the quest for a multilateral nuclear force were divided and more critical. In only a few instances did commentators judge the trip an unqualified success.

The Visit to Germany:

Following the official welcome at Wahn Airport, the crescendo of popular and press acclaim rose rapidly. Even strongly Gaullist papers conceded that your reception by the Germans surpassed that of de Gaulle.

Prior to your visit, Die Welt of Hamburg had pictured you as “a political manager without passion, an engineer or a manufacturer of power.” Subsequent to the Berlin visit, it wrote: “This was a Kennedy [Page 346] we had not seen before. His former coolness gave way to passion and to an unconditional personal commitment for this city.”

A number of papers credited the visit with changing your views on Germany. The independent Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger said “if Kennedy ever had reservations vis-à-vis the Germans—and there are indications that this was the case—his Berlin visit has certainly lessened them.”

Your statements on European unity3 drew support from Scandinavia to Italy, but were also widely interpreted as directed in part against de Gaulle. Many papers found a positive aspect in this approach, crediting you with “opening the way (to European integration) which de Gaulle has barred, (something) which no European politician has been able to do since the break in Brussels” (Berlinske Tidende, conservative, Copenhagen).

Several German papers appeared uneasy at the prospect of an ultimate choice between the U.S. and France, and tried to ride the fence. The Social-Democratic Neue Rhein Zeitung of Cologne wrote: “Kennedy will not hesitate to make political capital out of his new friendship with the Germans, but he also will not overtax this friendship to the disadvantage of our solidarity with France.”

French papers were less outspoken on this issue. Le Figaro’s comment that West Germany needed both American and French friendship and “could not choose between the two” was representative.

The Western European press was at one in praise of your renewed pledges to defend our allies, including some French papers. The anti-Gaullist Depeche du Midi of Toulouse, one of the most influential provincial papers, spoke of the “categoric manner” in which the U.S. assured the security of Europe and that its contribution was both “necessary and sufficient.”


The Social-Democratic Neue Rhein Ruhr Zeitung of Essen summed up the views of many papers when it wrote “nobody in the White [Page 347] House, nobody in Germany had expected the President to identify himself so unreservedly and so courageously with the cause of Berlin and with the German cause as he did in his address at the Schöneberg city hall.4 Never before has a foreign statesman identified himself with the German cause in this form, on such a stage and so convincingly.”

A sour note was sounded by the hyper-Gaullist Paris Presse which complained that your pronouncements in Berlin might have gone beyond assuring Europeans of U.S. determination to stand by its pledges and that “the U.S. President is now accountable for the enthusiasm he aroused.”

Your statements on relations with the Iron Curtain countries were generally supported. The left-center Frankfurter Rundschau said, for example, “Mr. Kennedy’s great peace offensive nourishes our hopes for a rapprochement with the young progressive forces in the East.”


In Europe generally, your visit to Ireland was seen as a “sentimental journey” and a “homecoming” without political implications. Within Ireland, no event in modern times has received such detailed press, photographic, and TV coverage. There is still no consensus about the political significance of the visit, but there has been speculation about Ireland’s role in world events and relationships with NATO.

Great Britain

Papers of all political colorations welcomed you for what was described by the pro-Labor Daily Mirror as “a hustling working visit.”

The majority of papers welcomed the decision to delay the multilateral force.5 The conservative Daily Telegraph said, “Mr. Macmillan convinced the President of the strength of British misgivings and the [Page 348] American plan . . . is unlikely to reemerge in its present form.” Among the minority of papers still favoring the force, the conservative Daily Mail expressed the hope that a mixed-crew surface fleet with Polaris missiles would ultimately be accepted “because the advantages are much greater than the objections.”

Papers elsewhere construed the postponement of the multilateral force as a victory for Macmillan, particularly in France. Said the Gaullist mouthpiece La Nation: “Reality will prevail.”

A number of papers interpreted the decision on the multilateral force as a move to improve chances for a nuclear test ban with the Soviets.


Italian editorialists were embarrassed by the relatively small crowds which greeted you in Rome, but following your appearance and speech in Naples papers from Socialist to Right supported your views with enthusiasm.

Conservative Corriere Della Sera wrote that de Gaulle’s concept is designed to “isolate Europe,” but that you, Segni, and Leone were agreed on the necessity of “European unity within the framework of the interdependence of Europe and the U.S.”

Christian-Democratic Gazzetta del Popolo said that your trip ended “with the solemn reaffirmation of a pledge of united effort . . . The special atmosphere created around this welcome American guest confirms the existence of the deep and vital roots of the Alliance, which the Italian people want as a guarantee and token of freedom, and which Italy now reaffirms, not only as a guarantee of security but as a new pledge and a hope of progress and peace.”

Socialist Avanti gave heavy and generally friendly coverage to your visit, emphasizing the “peaceful” line. You have a “bag of ideas which deserve close consideration,” Avanti commented.

A complete report on Western European reactions is attached.6

Latin America

Papers gave heavy coverage to the early part of the trip and to the audience with Pope Paul VI.7 Major dailies in Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and Chile had editorials supporting your objectives, particularly strengthening the Atlantic Alliance. The only non-communist negative reaction received was from La Prensa of Mexico City, which said that [Page 349] “not only North American . . . but also our own Mexican cities will be destroyed (in a third World War) and no one can dispose of our destiny so carelessly as the President of the United States seems to do.” The editorial recommended a protest to the United Nations and censure by it of you.


African media gave the trip moderate coverage, but there was little editorial comment. Radio Accra and other stations reported favorably on your remarks in Bonn welcoming African unity efforts.8 But Radio Accra also reported a statement by Malcolm X criticizing you for talking of freedom in Europe while “millions of Afro-Americans are denied freedom in the United States.” The Tunisian Neo-Destour daily L’Action spoke highly of your “courage, frankness, and determination in defining the new trends of (your) strategy” and of your decision-making capability, “a clear-cut end to the indecision of (your) predecessors.”

Near East and South Asia

There was extensive news coverage and limited editorial comment, except in India and Pakistan. Editorialists in these two countries dwelt heavily on the reference in the communiqué from Britain to military aid for India, the Indians largely favorably, the Pakistani critically.9

Several papers in the Near East reported that your trip had failed to change de Gaulle’s policy, and criticized you for not visiting France.

Far East

News coverage was moderate. Japanese commentators were inclined to agree that you had allayed German fears over West Berlin, and also interpreted the journey as an effort to form a unified base for negotiations with the Soviets. Comments in Viet-Nam were similar.

The Taipei press supported your efforts for western unity, but, typically, called for a greater U.S. effort in Asia with the comment that “the root of the international communist evil is in Asia and not in Europe.”

[Page 350]

Communist Bloc

Soviet output on your trip was relatively mild in tone and low in volume, never exceeding more than two per cent of total radio comment. Among the propaganda themes were western disunity, failure of the multilateral force, the alleged discrepancy between your American University10 and German speeches, and the opportunity your visit provided for “revanchist” leaders to fan “the slanderous campaign against East Germany.” Moscow concluded that you were “evaded” in Italy, “approved only in principle” in Britain, and “warmly received” by the revanchists in Bonn.

Peking was harshly critical, picturing the tour as a “cunning diplomatic move with evil designs.” A New China News Agency report of June 27 said you had made “five provocative and aggressive speeches . . . unscrupulously slandering the socialist system and expressing U.S. determination to . . . subvert the German Democratic Republic and other East European socialist countries.” A Red Chinese labor official asked: “How can this satan incarnate be viewed as an envoy of the people?”

Cuban media interpreted the trip as an effort to gain approval for U.S. “aggressive policies” and adjudged it a complete failure.

Donald M. Wilson
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Department and Agencies Series, Box 91, USIA 7/63. No classification marking. Also printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXV, Organization of Foreign Policy; Information Policy; United Nations; Scientific Matters, Document 150. This memorandum appears to have been prepared as a response to a July 5 note from Evelyn Lincoln to Murrow, in which Lincoln indicated that Kennedy “would appreciate it if you would send him a commentary on his entire trip.” (National Archives, RG 306, DIRCTR Sub Files, 1963–69, Bx 6–29 63–69: Acc: #72A5121, Entry UD WW 257, Box 9, GOVERNMENT—White House, July/Dec. 1963)
  2. Kennedy visited Europe between June 22 and July 2. He first traveled to Germany, arriving on June 22 and departing for Ireland on June 26. From Ireland, he traveled to the United Kingdom on June 29, where he spent one day before flying on to Italy the following day. He concluded the trip in Italy.
  3. Kennedy spoke about European unity throughout his trip. On his arrival in Germany at the Bonn-Cologne airport at 9:50 a.m. on June 23, he said: “Our strategy was born in a divided Europe, but it must look to the goal of European unity and an end to the divisions of people and countries.” (Public Papers: Kennedy, 1963, p. 497) He most notably stressed this theme in two addresses. He delivered the first on June 25 at 4:30 p.m. at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt; he declared: “The future of the West lies in Atlantic partnership—a system of cooperation, interdependence, and harmony whose peoples can jointly meet their burdens and opportunities throughout the world,” and “[i]t is only a fully cohesive Europe that can protect us all against the fragmentation of our alliance.” (Public Papers: Kennedy, 1963, pp. 517 and 520) He delivered the second address on July 2, the final day of his trip, in Naples at NATO Headquarters, in which he declared: “The age of interdependence is here. The cause of Western European unity is based on logic and common sense. It is based on moral and political truths.” (Public Papers: Kennedy, 1963, p. 552)
  4. Kennedy’s address in Berlin, which he delivered at 12:50 p.m. on June 26 on the steps of the Schöneberger Rathaus, included his famous statement: “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’” (Public Papers: Kennedy, 1963, p. 525)
  5. According to the joint communiqué issued by the United States and the United Kingdom following Kennedy’s meeting with Macmillan on June 30: “The President reported on his discussions with Dr. Adenauer in which they reaffirmed their agreement to use their best efforts to bring into being a multilateral sea-borne M.R.B.M. force and to pursue with other interested governments the principal questions involved in the establishment of such a force. The President and the Prime Minister agreed that a basic problem facing the NATO Alliance was the closer association of its members with the nuclear deterrent of the Alliance. They also agreed that various possible ways of meeting this problem should be further discussed with their allies. Such discussions would include the proposals for a multilateral sea-borne force without prejudice to the question of British participation in such a force.” (Public Papers: Kennedy, 1963, p. 544) For the memorandum of conversation of Kennedy’s June 30 meeting with Macmillan, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XIII, Western Europe and Canada, Document 204.
  6. Not found attached.
  7. Kennedy met with Pope Paul VI in Vatican City on July 2. (Arnaldo Cortesi, “President and Pope Confer for 40 Minutes,” The New York Times, July 3, 1963, p. 1)
  8. During his news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Bonn on June 24, Kennedy stated: “I welcome the effort which the Africans are making not only to meet their own problems but towards unity. I think it sets a good precedent—the unity of Africa—for the unity of Europe, a unity which is very encompassing in Africa and which may some day be in Europe, and I regard it as a very important step forward.” (Public Papers: Kennedy, 1963, p. 511)
  9. In the June 30 joint communiqué: “The President and the Prime Minister were agreed on their continuing to help India by providing further military aid to strengthen her defenses against the threat of renewed Chinese Communist attack.” (Public Papers: Kennedy, 1963, p. 544)
  10. See footnote 2, Document 129.