The John F. Kennedy Library today announced that it has made
available for research a tape recording of a 73-minute White House meeting
that took place on November 21, 1962 during which President Kennedy made
clear his administration’s priority that the United States land on the moon
before the Soviet Union.

The tape is particularly noteworthy for the window it provides into
presidential decision making. Faced with the option of directing federal funds
more generally across the entire space program, President Kennedy argued with
James Webb, the head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA), for a more focused approach toward the lunar landing. Having such a
goal, the President argued, would carry the country’s entire space effort
forward and have the same outcome NASA was seeking. Unlike many of the
presidential recordings from the Kennedy Library archives, the quality and
clarity of the tape recording are also exceptional.

The entire tape is of a meeting that took place in the Cabinet Room on November
21, 1962. The identified participants are: President John F. Kennedy; James E.
Webb, Administrator, NASA; Jerome Wiesner, Special Assistant to the President;
Edward Welch, Executive Secretary, NASA; David E. Bell, Director, Bureau of
the Budget; Vice President Lyndon Johnson; Hugh Dryden, Deputy Administrator,
NASA; Dr. Brainard Holmes, Director of Manned Space Flight, NASA; Robert
Seamans, Deputy Administrator, NASA; Elmer Staats, Deputy Director, Bureau
of the Budget; Willis H. Shapley, Deputy Division Chief, Military Division,
Bureau of the Budget. The tape is declassified in full and there are no

At the meeting, the President and his staff were discussing a supplemental
budget for NASA and the effect the increased money would have on expediting
the scheduled orbital flights and the Apollo Space Program. There is a
disagreement among the staff over whether or not the increased budget will
change the target dates for the Apollo Program, including the lunar landing
scheduled for 1967.

James Webb, Administrator of NASA, and Robert Seamans, Deputy Administrator
for NASA, explain to the President that they do not believe that the
timetable for Apollo can be expedited. NASA’s Apollo Space Program sought
to develop man’s capability to work in the lunar environment, to carry out
a program of scientific exploration of the moon, and to establish the
technology to meet other national interests in space.

In the course of the discussion, an animated exchange between the President
and Webb took place over the priority of the lunar landing program. Webb,
in a spirited and fearless exchange with President Kennedy, argued that the
lunar program was "one" of the top priority programs of NASA. The President
wanted it made clear that it was "the" priority program — not only for
NASA but for the entire government — with the desired result being that
the United States would beat the Russians to the moon.

Other subjects covered in this meeting were the rising costs of governmental
contracts, the target dates for the lunar landing, the political importance
of John Glenn’s orbital flight on February 20, 1962, and the game plan
for approaching congressional leaders regarding increased NASA support.
Researchers should be aware that after the meeting ends and the President
departs, staff discussions continue for a portion of the tape.

Today’s opening from tape #63 represents approximately 73 minutes of
recording. Approximately 130 hours of meeting tapes remain to be reviewed
for declassification prior to release. Processing of the presidential
recordings will continue to be conducted in the chronological order of the
tapes. Additional tapes will be opened in the near future.

The first items from the presidential recordings were opened to public
research in June of 1983. Over the past eighteen years, the Library staff
has reviewed and opened all of the telephone conversations and a large
portion of the meeting tapes. The latter are predominantly meetings with
President Kennedy in either the Oval Office or the Cabinet Room. While the
recordings were deliberate in the sense that it required manual operation
to start and stop the recording, it was not, based on the material recorded,
used with daily regularity nor was there a set pattern for its operation.

The tapes represent raw historical material. The sound quality of the
recordings varies widely. Although most of the recorded conversation is
understandable, most tapes also include passages of extremely poor sound
quality with considerable background noise and periods where the identity
of the speakers is unclear.

Today’s release of White House meetings is in tape form without transcripts.
The tapes are available for research use in the Library’s Research Room.
The hours of operation are Monday ñ Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm and
appointments may be made by calling (617) 929-4534. The recordings and
finding guide are available for purchase at the John F. Kennedy Library,
Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125, or by calling the Audiovisual Department
(617) 929-4529.

Materials housed at the John F. Kennedy Library have come to the presidential
archives through two routes. The first is as Federal records, which come from
executive departments, commissions and committees of the Federal government.
Access to these materials is controlled by the originating agency. In
addition, many of these materials contain national security classified
information, which under laws and executive orders must be reviewed by the
appropriate agency for possible declassification. Some of the materials,
such as civil rights cases or litigation, also have privacy restrictions.

The second route is as personal papers, which come from individuals under
deeds of gift and deposit agreements negotiated between the National
Archives and Records Administration and the donor or his/her heirs. These
materials, called "donated historical materials", comprise the bulk of
the Library’s holdings. Deeds of gift and deposit agreements cover the
administration of the collections as well as the title, literary rights,
and any restrictions requested by the donor or necessitated by the nature
of the materials. Many donors retain literary rights and/or restrict
personal financial or medical information. A review of personal papers for
national security classified information also sometimes occurs depending
upon the nature of the papers themselves. The presidential recordings are
a deeded gift from the estate of President Kennedy.

The John F. Kennedy Library’s Archives includes 36 million pages of documents
from the collections of 340 individuals, organizations, or government
agencies; oral history interviews with 1,300 people; and over 30,000 books.
The Audiovisual Archives administers collections of over 400,000 still
photographs, 8,550,000 feet of motion picture film, 1,200 hours of video
recordings, over 9,000 hours of audio recordings and 500 original editorial

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum is a presidential library administered
by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part,
by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The
Kennedy Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through
educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding
of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the
importance of public service.

Assignment and News Editors Please Note:

The Kennedy Library and Museum will, on request, provide members of the media
with a cassette tape containing approximately 8 minutes of excerpts from
the 73-minute recording. Members of the media are cautioned against making
historical conclusions based on the sound clip alone. It is provided as a
professional courtesy to facilitate the reporting of the release of this
presidential recording. The full 73-minute tape will also be made available
on request.

[NOTE: A 7 min. 54 sec. audio excerpt is available online at]

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library – Columbia Point
Boston, Massachusetts 02125
Tel: 1-877-616-4599
Fax: 617-929-4538

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library Foundation – Columbia Point
Boston, Massachusetts 02125
Tel: 617-929-1200
Fax: 617-436-3395

Further Information: Tom McNaught: (617) 929-1230