4. Memorandum From James J. Halsema, Office of Plans, United States Information Agency to the Acting Director (Washburn)1

The Eisenhower-Kennedy Meeting

The meeting between President Eisenhower and President-elect Kennedy of December 6,2 their first since the election,3 gave USIA an excellent opportunity to convey to world-wide audiences something of the importance and the cordiality of the occasion, some backgrounding of US process in the transfer of responsibility between one administration and another, and an idea of the serious concern shown by both principals for their responsibilities in today’s world.

In the field of radio, the Voice of America (IBS) gave the meeting extensive coverage in all news roundups to all areas. For more than 24 hours December 6 and 7 on virtually all shows it was the lead story. Significant editorial comment was picked up. On-the-spot reportage was broadcast to all areas in English. The Latin American Division and the German and Yugoslav desks prepared special reports which have been broadcast. The Japanese and Burmese desks used taped inserts. The event was the subject of special direct feeds to Athens and Bangkok in Greek and Thai respectively. The Indian desk airmailed a tape of the reportage to New Delhi. Several desks used the full text of the communiqué, the Russian twice.

The Press Service (IPS) sent out the full text of the joint statement (380 words) and a lead (670 words) highlighting the joint statement, human interest and color angles. This was carried on all Files.4 Two [Page 17] pictures, one of President Eisenhower greeting President-elect Kennedy on the White House portico, another in the President’s office, were processed and serviced quickly to all posts. (Other photographic possibilities were quite limited.) A roundup of US and foreign editorial comment and IPS column treatment followed. The Chalmers Roberts’ article on transition in the Washington Post 5 was sent in full on Wireless Files (radio teletype) to all parts of the world.

The Television Service (ITV) acquired from Telenews 3 minutes of newsreel coverage of the meeting for distribution to 23 posts with TV outlets in Latin America, the Near East, and Africa which are not regularly serviced by commercial newsreels. One minute of this coverage was included in the regular TV weekly program for Latin America, PANORAMA PANAMERICANO.

Though conditions were not ideal for newsreel coverage, the Agency’s motion picture service (IMS) obtained 253 feet of useful coverage which was sent to USIS newsreel operations in 27 countries, and in addition, the coverage was supplied to commercial newsreel operations in 16 other countries.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Office of Plans, General Subject Files, 1949–1970, Entry UD WW 372, Box 603, Director’s Correspondence—1960. No classification marking. Drafted by Halsema and Dalcher. A copy was sent to Dalcher.
  2. Eisenhower and Kennedy met on December 6 in Eisenhower’s office at the White House from 9:04 until 10:44 a.m., at which time Goodpaster joined the meeting. Kennedy also met with members of the White House staff and participated in a meeting with the Cabinet. (Eisenhower Library, Presidential Appointment Books, December 1960) For the text of the joint statement issued by the President and President-elect after the meeting, see Public Papers: Eisenhower, 1960–61, pp. 872–873. For additional information about the meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. III, National Security Policy; Arms Control and Disarmament, Document 128 and Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXV, Organization of Foreign Policy; Information Policy; United Nations; Scientific Matters, Document 1. For Eisenhower’s recollection of the meeting, see The White House Years: Waging Peace, 1956–1961, pp. 712–716.
  3. November 8.
  4. The Wireless File transmitted from Washington to posts included official statements of U.S. policy, in addition to news articles and press summaries prepared by the Department of State. The Wireless File also sent five regional transmissions of policy statements and news background materials to post five days a week.
  5. Presumable reference to “Scene II of Transition: U.S. Process Clicks at White House,” The Washington Post, December 7, 1960, p. A11. Roberts, describing the meeting, wrote: “But above all, it was the second scene in one of the greatest processes of the American system of government: the orderly transfer of power from the leader of one political party to that of the other. The first scene was in the voting booths across the land on Election Day; the third and concluding scene will come on Inauguration Day.”