Berlin Reacts to the Assassination of John F. Kennedy

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

After President John F. Kennedy’s triumphant June 1963 visit to West Berlin to show support for that city and his famous proclamation “Ich bin ein Berliner,” it should not be surprising that citizens of West Berlin reacted strongly to the President’s assassination.[1]

The U.S. Mission Berlin (USBER) sent the following telegram reporting the reaction of citizens of that city in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

US POL 15-1 US[Kennedy.Berlin 718

U.S. Mission Berlin to Department of State, Telegram 718, November 23, 1963, file POL 15-1 US/Kennedy, 1963 Subject-Numeric File (NAID 580618), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.  Original document now filed as part of the JFK Assassination Records Collection as document 1191001310244

Willy Brandt, Mayor of West Berlin sent the following message to President Johnson and personally attended President Kennedy’s funeral.

US POL 15-1 US[Kennedy.State 445.Brandt

Willy Brandt to Lyndon B. Johnson, Telegram (copy), file POL 15-1 US/Kennedy, 1963 Subject-Numeric File (NAID 580618), RG 59. This copy now filed as part of the JFK Assassination Records Collection as document 1191000710290

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The Department of State and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: Keeping the Field Informed

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

Even though American Foreign Service Officers overseas received the news about the tragic events in Dallas through public media, the Department of State had the responsibility to provide its posts with official updates.  Consequently, on November 22 and 23, the Department sent a number of circular telegrams relating to the assassination and follow-up issues to keep staff informed and to provide direction.  The Department also notified foreign diplomats in the U.S. and other American officials.  Even today, 54 years later, the telegrams make for poignant reading.  They are found below.

I. Circular Telegram 931. November 22, 1963 2:15 p.m.

Initially drafted to say that President Kennedy had been wounded, by the time it was sent the President had died, so the first draft was scrapped and replaced by notification of his death and the succession of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Department of State to All Diplomatic Missions and Consular Offices, Circular Telegram 931, November 22, 1963, file POL 15-1 US/Kennedy, 1963 Subject-Numeric File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.  Original document now filed as part of the JFK Assassination Records Collection as document 1191000710126.

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Captain Randolph B. Marcy’s Expedition from Camp Scott, Utah Territory to the New Mexico Territory and Return, November 1857-June 1858, Part 2 of 2.

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park

Captain Marcy, from Camp on Fontaine qui Bouille, on April 6, wrote a family member, that for the past several days they had been traveling towards Utah, without anything of interest occurring to please or annoy them:

The weather has been beautiful, and our animals which constitute the principal objects that require my attention, are doing well. We have to remain about ten days at this place, awaiting Colonel Loring’s arrival, with large reinforcement to join my command, and proceed with us to Camp Scott.

We have great abundance of game here, and indeed, we have not been without deer, antelope, turkey, or bear meat for the last three weeks. This with onions, potatoes, etc. makes our fare better than it was on our trip over the Mountains last Winter.

It will probably be two months yet before we get back to the Army, and we are very impatient to get there. By the time that we get back, the troops from Leavenworth will probably be near the army. We shall have about 450 men in our party, and if the Mormons come out to meet us it will be for the purpose of trying to stampede and run off our animals in the night, but they will not attempt to fight us. We shall keep out scouts all the time, and if they come near us, we will know it before they have an opportunity to get any of our animals.

The reference Marcy made to the troops from Leavenworth were the reinforcements being sent to join Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston’s army. The first contingent, consisting of the rest of the 6th Regiment of Infantry departed Fort Leavenworth on May 7. Three more columns followed during May and June, under the command of Brigadier General William S. Harney.

Left, image of Randolph B. Marcy from Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, Record Group 111. Right, image of Albert Sidney Johnston from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Meanwhile, Colonel Loring’s command, some 200 soldiers, left Fort Union on April 7 and 8. The command consisted of Loring, 2nd Lt. McNally and 2nd Lt. Tilford of the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, three bandsmen; members of Company K (the remainder were already with Marcy under Lt. Du Bois) and detachments from H and G of the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen under the command of 1st Lt. Alexander McRae (of Company K); Companies F and E, 3rd Infantry, respectively under the command of Capt. John Trevitt and Lt. A. N. Shipley, of the 3rd Infantry (the two companies having a few days before reached Fort Union from Albuquerque, 160 miles).

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Captain Randolph B. Marcy’s Expedition from Camp Scott, Utah Territory to the New Mexico Territory and Return, November 1857 – June 1858, Part 1 of 2.

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park

On November 24, 1857, Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding the Army of Utah, then located at Camp Scott, a mile from Fort Bridger, then part of the Utah Territory, ordered Captain Randolph B. Marcy, 5th Regiment of Infantry, to proceed some 600 miles to New Mexico for the purpose of procuring animals to replace those that had perished on the march from Fort Leavenworth to Camp Scott. Most of the animals had died during the first three weeks of November as the army marched through the snow on their way to their encampment. Johnston’s quartermaster informed him that one-half of the horses of the artillery batteries and two-thirds of those of the 2nd Dragoons and a very large percentage of the mules had died; and there was good reason to believe, from the famished condition of the remaining animals, that the greater part of these might not survive a severe winter.

The story of Marcy’s assignment began during the early summer of 1857, when President James Buchanan, believing the Mormons in Utah were in rebellion against the United States Government, and without thoroughly investigating the matter, sent the 5th and 10th regiments of infantry, two batteries of artillery, and six companies of the 2nd Dragoons from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory to Utah Territory with a three-fold mission. First was to escort and protect the newly appointed territorial governor and other federal officials. Second was to assist the civilian officials in ensuring the laws of the United States were obeyed. And third, to protect the emigration routes that passed through Utah to California and Oregon.

In mid-September the former governor and head of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young, issued a proclamation barring the army from entering Utah and declared martial law. Later that month the territorial militia (the Nauvoo Legion) began limited military actions against the army, stampeding their animals and burning the grass upon which the animals grazed. On September 29 Young addressed a letter “To the Officer Commanding the Forces now Invading Utah Territory,” in which he stated:

I am still the Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for this Territory, no successor having been appointed and qualified, as provided by law, nor have I been removed by the President of the United States. By virtue of the authority thus vested in me, I have issued, and forwarded you a copy of my proclamation forbidding the entrance of armed forces into this Territory. This you have disregarded. I now further direct that you retire forthwith from the Territory, by the same route you entered. Should you deem this impracticable, and prefer to remain until spring in the vicinity of your present encampment — Black’s Fork on Green River — you can do so in peace and unmolested, on condition that you deposit your arms and ammunition with Lewis Robinson, Quartermaster General of the Territory, and leave in the spring, as soon as the condition of the roads will permit you to march; and, should you fall short of provisions, they can be furnished you, upon making the proper applications therefor.

The Army did not turn back and during the first week of October the Nauvoo Legion near Green River struck three unescorted wagons trains, burning over 70 wagons containing government provisions for the winter. Continue reading

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U.S. Domestic Discrimination as a Problem in the United Nations, 1949

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

The effect of race discrimination on U.S. international relations during the years after World War II was a critical issue for U.S. foreign policy and remains so to this day.

After World War II, racial problems increasingly manifested themselves in the U.S.  Violence led to protests and demands that the Federal Government take action to alleviate racial injustice.  Coming out of World War II, the issue of race discrimination seemed especially incongruent with the themes put forth by the U.S. propaganda effort during the war.

In partial reaction, President Harry Truman established the President’s Committee on Civil Rights to make recommendations for action.  The Committee issued its report, To Secure These Rights, in 1947.  How the issue affected U.S. foreign relations appeared in the report.  Additionally, President Truman ordered the integration of the U.S. armed forces in 1948.

These actions attracted foreign attention of the type that was especially problematic in the fight against the Communist Bloc led by the USSR.  It was particularly a problem for the U.S. at the United Nations.  In addition to foreign criticism, the U.S. also faced domestic censure in the UN.  In October 1947, the NAACP filed a petition, principally authored by W.E.B. Du Bois, with the UN protesting the treatment of African Americans in the U.S. The UN took no action, but it was an indication of things to come as the situation of civil rights and racial equality in the United States continued to be a sore point in American foreign relations over the next several decades. Continue reading

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The Sinking of the Japanese Submarine I-1 off of Guadalcanal and the Recovery of its Secret Documents


Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park

Just a little over 75 years ago, in early August 1942, American forces landed on Guadalcanal with the mission of pushing the Japanese forces off the island.  By the end of December, the Imperial General Headquarters (IGH) decided that the Japanese forces, which had suffered great losses at Guadalcanal – on land, in the air, and at sea – would have to be withdrawn from the island.  The Emperor, on December 31, endorsed the decision and the IGH began preparing for the evacuation, called Operation Ke, scheduled to begin during the latter part of January 1943.

Meanwhile, as United States forces continued inflicting great losses on the Japanese forces, the Japanese (on January 14) sent warships to Guadalcanal carrying a battalion of troops to act as a rear guard for the Ke evacuation. A staff officer from Rabaul, New Britain, accompanied them to explain the evacuation decision and plan to the Japanese commander.  What remained of the Japanese 17th Army, some 10,000 men, began moving from the west coast of the island to Cape Esperance in order to be evacuated, while the rear guard checked the American offensive.

During the preparations for the evacuation (which would begin on February 1) at Rabaul, the Japanese submarine I-1 [1] loaded up with about 10 tons of Army rations and set out on a relief mission for Guadalcanal on January 24.  The 320-foot submarine, commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Eiichi Sakamoto and with a crew of 82, was also carrying extra gasoline and had a 47-foot Daihatsu-class landing barge loaded with drums strapped to her.   Continue reading

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation Records Relating to the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: The Challenge of Abbreviations and Euphemisms

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

With the recent releases of records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy it might be useful for readers of Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) records that form part of the released records, to better understand actually what they are reading. Thus this blog posting.

The National Archives holds a substantial quantity of FBI records relating to the Kennedy assassination. In the future it is likely additional FBI records relating to the assassination will be released. The FBI case files contain a variety of documentation, including FBI agent reports; teletype-messages; prosecutive summaries; accounts of interviews and physical surveillance; letters; memorandums; lab reports; informant reports; photographs; newspaper clippings and other public record material; and logs, transcripts, and summaries of electronic surveillance. They are a rich source for researchers. According to Judge Harold H. Greene, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in a lawsuit regarding FBI records, the records of the FBI “perhaps more than those of any other agency, constitute a significant repository of the record of the recent history of this nation, and they represent the work produce of an organization that has touched the lives of countless Americans.” But, in using those records, challenges will be faced by researchers, including understanding FBI abbreviations and euphemisms.

On the surface the contents of the FBI files appear straightforward. Actually they are not so simple to understand. “Learning to find one’s way through FBI files,” according to one researcher, “is no easy chore.”[1] A Department of Justice senior attorney in the mid-1970s investigating illegal break-ins reported that his staff had been on the case for more than a year and “they still didn’t know how to read an FBI file.” Part of the problem is the language used in the files. Like any agency, the FBI has its own terminology and euphemisms that researchers will have to learn in order to understand what they are reading. There are scores of abbreviations throughout the files that researchers will have to decipher if the information in the file is to make sense. There are real simple ones, like OO meaning Office of Origin (the FBI office responsible for an investigation) and AO meaning Auxiliary Office (FBI office(s) assisting in the investigation). Then there are the abbreviations for FBI Field Office supervisors: SAC and ASAC, Special Agent in Charge and Assistant Special Agent in Charge. ELSUR means electronic surveillance, both telephone surveillance (wiretap or technical surveillance) and microphone surveillance (bug or electronic listening device).

Often individuals in FBI records are identified as FNU, LNU, or FNU LNU. When I began looking at records at FBI headquarters back in the 1980s I thought it strange that there were so many criminals named FNU LNU. I eventually asked Bureau personnel to explain it to me. I bet they really thought I was naïve. They smiled, chuckled and told me that those abbreviations stood for First Name Unknown and Last Name Unknown!!

My favorite abbreviation is UACB (Unless Advised to the Contrary by the Bureau). This is usually used in conjunction with an FBI Field Office notifying FBI Headquarters (i.e., the Bureau) that it planned to do something unless there was an objection. And, of course, there is “OK H,” on tens of thousands of documents indicating that Director J. Edgar Hoover approved what was being recommended to him. Abbreviations are listed and discussed in Ann Mari Buitrago and Leon Andrew Immerman, Are You Now or Have You Even Been in the FBI Files: How to Secure and Interpret Your FBI Files (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1981).

Then there are the euphemisms. Former Attorney General Nicholas Katenbach told Congress in 1975 that “the Bureau constantly resorted to terms of art, or euphemisms, without bothering to inform the Attorney General that they were terms of art. I don’t think it is excessively naive to assume that ‘a highly reliable informant’ is precisely that, and not a microphone surveillance.” For example, when reporting of break-ins, agents sometimes used such terms as “special techniques” or “sensitive investigative techniques.” When included in the files, information from break-ins was reported often as having come from an “anonymous source,” a “highly confidential source,” a “highly confidential informant,” or a “confidential informant.” The term “confidential informant” also was used to disguise the source of illegally obtained information. According to former special agent G. Gordon Liddy, if a field office submitted a plan for headquarters approval and it contained the words “‘security guaranteed,’ it meant that we did it last night and got away clean—approve it so we can send you the results officially.” Often in a report one will see “T-1, a usually reliable informant whose identity cannot be disclosed” or “T-2, a reliable informant who is not available for re-interview.” These may relate to human informants, but occasionally they denote electronic eavesdropping.

So the word to the wise, before undertaking research in the FBI records, one should become familiar with the literature regarding the records and once research has begun to understand that certain words and terms may have some special meaning.

This is an update to a post written on October 10, 2012

Click here to read more FBI related posts from the Text Message!


[1] Anthony Marro, “FBI Break-in Policy,”in Athan G. Theoharis, ed., Beyond the Hiss Case: The FBI, Congress, and the Cold War (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982), p. 84.

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A Most Remarkable Accomplishment: Changing the Name of a NATO Working Group

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

In late 1962, Lt. Col. John TeSelle, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps, then assigned to the United States Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), made a suggestion that the name of a NATO Working Group, of which he was a member, be changed. The NATO bureaucracy addressed his proposal systematically, methodically and, for TeSelle, perhaps slowly.

TeSelle was born January 29, 1922, in Antigo, Wisconsin, where his father served as a prosecuting attorney and a circuit court commissioner. In 1928, the TeSelle family moved to Gainesville, Florida, where TeSelle’s father joined the faculty of the University of Florida College of Law. While in undergraduate school during World War II, he joined the Army on November 17, 1942. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the Field Artillery on July 15, 1944. He would serve as an aviator, flying small planes in the Philippines as an artillery spotter. After the war, TeSelle received his Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1947, and attended the Ground General School at Fort Riley, Kansas, 1947-1948. Then as a Captain, under the sponsorship of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, he attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School, graduating with an LL.B. in June 1951. He joined the Judge Advocate General Corps in June 2, 1952, and served with the Staff Judge Advocate Sections with the Fourth US Army and U.S. Forces, Austria before joining the Patents Division, office of the Judge Advocate General in 1955. While in that position, he received an LL.M. from George Washington University in 1957. During 1958 and 1959, TeSelle, now a Major, attended the Command and General Staff College. This was followed by an assignment during 1959 and 1960, as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, with the Military Assistance and Advisory Group (Korea). In 1960, TeSelle was assigned to Paris as the Patent Advisor and Deputy Legal Advisor with the United States Mission to NATO.

In December 1962, TeSelle at a meeting of the NATO Working Group on the Protection of Proprietary Technical Information proposed the working group’s title should be changed to Working Group on Industrial Property. The working group agreed.


Note by the Chairman of the Working Group.

But before a change could be made, approval was needed from the NATO Armaments Committee. On February 21, 1963, that committee approved the name change, subject to confirmation from the United Kingdom. Continue reading

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Establishing and Disbanding the Neah Bay Settlement, 1792

Part III of the blog series 225 Years Ago: Spanish Explorations of the Pacific Northwest and the First Spanish Settlement in Washington State, Núñez Gaona (Neah Bay), 1792

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

Spanish naval Lieutenant Salvador Fidalgo, in the Princesa, left San Blas on March 23, 1792, and headed directly to the port of Núñez Gaona (Neah Bay), in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was uncertain at this time whether the Spanish post at Nootka Sound and all lands north of the strait would be ceded to the British or not. Fidalgo’s work at Neah Bay would be in preparation for a possible relocation of Spain’s Nootka Sound post, with Viceroy Juan Vicente de Guemes Pacheco de Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo or Revillagigedo and Juan Francisco Bodega y Quadra knowing the Spaniards could hold the country south of the strait only by actual and immediate occupation.

Fidalgo, born August 6, 1756 in Catalonia, Spain, joined the Spanish Navy as a midshipman at the naval academy in Cadiz. He graduated in 1775, and given the rank of Frigate Ensign. He was a member of a team of cartographers working during the 1780s on the first atlas of Spain’s ports and coastal waters and served on various assignments in the Mediterranean, seeing action against the British and Portuguese. In 1778, he was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to the Spanish naval station at San Blas. The Princesa (also called La Princesa and Nuestra Señora del Rosario) was a 189-ton frigate built at San Blas and launched in 1778. She was a three-masted, two-deck warship, carrying 26 cannons. She was designed with storage enough to sail for a year without having to restock and built for durability rather than speed. Accompanying Fidalgo were 89 men, including his second in command, first pilot Antonio Serantes, pilot Hipolito Tono, Surgeon Juan de Dios Morelos, Father José Alejandro López de Nava, a small company of Mexican, Peruvian, and Spanish male colonists, and, thirteen soldiers, members of the First Free Company of Volunteers of Catalonia.

While Fidalgo was sailing up the west coast from Mexico, British Captain George Vancouver’s ships, the 337-ton sloop of war Discovery and the 133-ton survey brig Chatham, on March 16, 1792, had sailed from their winter harbor in Hawaii for the North American Coast. Earlier, in April 1791, Vancouver had sailed from England as commissioner appointed to implement the Nootka Convention. His mission was two-fold. First, to assume control over the territory at Nootka Sound that had been assigned to Great Britain by the Nootka Convention. Second, was to make a detailed survey of the coast to 600 N and a search for the fabled Northwest Passage. He was to pay particular attention to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the waterway that seemed most like to give access to the great passage. On April 17, Vancouver arrived off the coast of California at Cape Mendocino. Continue reading

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