John Kennedy's own retained copy and the only letter of JFK to Ike during the transition that we can find ever having reached the market.
“Let me express again my thanks to you for the efficacy you have made to ease the transition…I was happy to hear arrangements have been made to continue General Goodpaster. I shall make sure that that he is not detained as I know he is anxious to return to a troop command.”...
“Let me express again my thanks to you for the efficacy you have made to ease the transition…I was happy to hear arrangements have been made to continue General Goodpaster. I shall make sure that that he is not detained as I know he is anxious to return to a troop command.”
The transition from the Truman to Eisenhower administrations had not gone well, and when it was Eisenhower’s turn to hand over the keys to John F. Kennedy, he was determined that this one would proceed more smoothly. That was surprising in its own way, since 1960 saw a change not just of party but of generation, from the oldest President in history to the youngest. Never before had the transfer from one administration to another been as carefully or as cordially managed. Their first meeting, on December 6, 1960, was held in an atmosphere of informality, and the President and President-elect spent nearly three hours in a conference with some of Ike’s chief advisers present, covering not only procedural matters, but all the responsibilities of world leadership and the problems America would face in coming months. They specifically spoke about global flash points like Berlin, the Far East, and Cuba and discussed various world leaders. Much of the talk was about the structure of decision-making – especially on national security issues. Eisenhower told his friends that Kennedy had little understanding of the presidency. But on other matters, Kennedy had “tremendously impressed him;” he described him as “one of the ablest, brightest minds I’ve ever come across.” And Kennedy told his brother Bobby that he was struck by the sheer force of Eisenhower’s personality. He admitted that Ike was “better than I had thought.”
General Goodpaster served as Ike’s liaison officer to the Defense Department, and was expert in issues related to arms control and nuclear weaponry. JFK was so impressed with Goodpaster he wanted to keep him on after his inauguration to help the new administration in its transition. Goodpaster, however, had a field command waiting for him leading the 8th Division in Germany, and did not want to lose that opportunity. Eisenhower thought it best that he be allowed to leave with the rest of his administration on January 20, 1961, but Kennedy insisted that he would be hampered without Goodpaster. So Ike got Kennedy’s agreement that Goodpaster’s field command would be held for him, and his time remaining at the White House be limited to two months.
The Eisenhower Archives shows Ike’s account of the December 6 meeting, and the retained copies of letters written by Ike to JFK on December 16 relating to General Andrew Goodpaster and December 19 offering Kennedy the use of his plane during the transition. JFK’s response, of which this is the draft, is also in the file.
Draft typed letter signed, with several corrections in his hand, on his United States Senate letterhead, Washington, December 21, 1960, to President Eisenhower, agreeing to Ike’s conditions on the retention of Goodpaster, and expressing gratitude to him for the ease of the transition. “Thank you for your very generous thought in regard to the use of the plane. Fortunately, I have been able to use the same plane that carried us through the fall and as I do not plan to travel very much between now and the 20th of January I believe it will serve us very satisfactorily. I was happy to hear arrangements have been made to continue General Goodpaster. I shall make sure that that he is not detained as I know he is anxious to return to a troop command. I am grateful to you for both of your thoughts. Let me express again my thanks to you for the efficacy you have made to ease the transition. Mrs. Kennedy and I send our very warm wishes to you and Mrs. Eisenhower and the members of your family for Christmas.” He signed, quite uncharacteristically, “Cordially, Jack.”
On his first day in office, Kennedy made his gratitude official: “I am sure that your generous assistance has made this one of the most effective transitions in the history of our Republic.” As for Goodpaster, he stayed on for two months into the Kennedy era, after which he took his command in Europe.
This is the only letter of Kennedy to Eisenhower during the transition that we can find ever having reached the market.
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