Text of October 22, 1962 – President Kennedy address to the nation

October 22nd, 1962

NOTE:  If you’re looking for the “List of Americans in Afghanistan” and Google sent you HERE, you should really go Here.

This is an exact copy of the original UPI Teletype text of President Kennedy’s Speech of October 22, 1962 to the world and the nation.  It is presented here in “16 takes” which represent the 16 pages of the scan of the original teletype roll that is one continuous sheet more than fourteen (14) feet long.

The date on this teletype is October 23 (1962) because about 1:00 A.M. in the morning of Tuesday the 23rd of October it was the 23rd in Korea and still only just after 12:00 noon in Washington D.C. where it was still the 22nd (of October).

Kennedy had not given his “speech to the nation” yet, but it had been written and starting about 12 noon on October 22nd (Washington time) the news started going out across the world about what he was to say.  The world was on the precipice of war, probably nuclear, possibly breaking out on a hundred fronts.

I was in Korea at the time; in Seoul – living on an army base.  I was fourteen (14) at the time.  I had a few good friends who worked for AFKN (Armed Forces Korea Network) in the news; television and radio and things like that.  They worked high upon a hill near where the broadcast towers were and where the teletype machines were housed.  That’s how news came in in those days; the bulletins, the “breaking news”, the news that was known before it was ever broadcasted, disseminated, spread around.  First it came in on the teletypes, later it went on the air.

Everyone “knew” the President’s Speech was coming.  They knew there was a crisis, a crisis in or over Cuba; what they did not know was how big, how bad, and “when”.  Finally word got out that the President would address the nation at seven (on Monday); but the military command in Korea and elsewhere had to know beforehand what the President would say; so they could call up the troops and tell them in case the war started before the President had a chance to speak.

I had been going up to the AFKN studios nightly (before curfew) to keep on top of the situation.  On the night of the 22nd (still morning in Washington) things were different.  No one cared about the curfew assuming that maybe one was soon to die; “we’ll be in Pyongyang by Wednesday” was what everyone said – that, “or we’ll be dead”.

The American Colonels, Majors, Generals had their own teletypes at SAC Command (Seoul Area Command).  They knew about the same moment that I knew what the President was to say.  I read each word with bated breath as it came in over the wires; peace or war, like Roosevelt and Truman a democratic president in the White House giving national addresses almost always was a call to war.  That’s how people thought then, it was seldom “give peace a chance“.  “Tanks roll in an hour.”  “We’ll launch our nukes (in Korea) and then we’ll take the ground.”  All the soldiers on the ground knew it; it looked clearly like a time to live or die, confined to barracks – waiting for the order to “move out” and take the ground with a radioactive cloud overhead – our nukes not theirs making up the cloud.

I took home this piece of history, “let the kid have it” – “fourteen is too young to die”.  “See ya tomorrow Don”, is what they really said, still hoping – hoping that tomorrow and the next day (in peace) might come.  There are no patriots when confronting a nuclear war, the uniforms make no difference, it’s just, “where have all the flowers gone” and Gypsy Rover and a few other familiar tunes.  America the Beautiful was not the song that night as I walked home after curfew, in the dark, knowing what the President would say on the morrow; not knowing what the response might be.

You know my feelings about war; now you’ve walked another twenty feet in my shoes.  I’ve saved this tightly wound roll of paper so that I would never forget; never forget that evening, that night, never forget the way I and others were made to feel in a world with the bomb; in a middle east with at least 500 nuclear bombs armed and ready and ready to go.

Read these words and remember.  Remember the way that it was.  Remember Dorothy and Oz and the emerald slippers and Kansas (or Nevada) and a place one might call “home”.  Then contemplate the winter, October late, a nuclear winter maybe coming and all that could be lost.  Is it worth it over a few houses; built or empty does it really matter; the eastern world (even the western) does not have to explode.

I give you the President:

On the Border because there are now so many border issues that we’re all on.  The document presented is historical, but could not be more relevant then than it is today.

[First posted  2010.05.12 / Wednesday  Kennedy Address]