WASHINGTON — John F. Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline pleaded with him to allow her and their children stay with him in event of a nuclear Armageddon, around the time of the Cuban missile crisis, a report on new audio tapes said Monday.
The transcripts are being released in a book this month entitled “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.” ABC News airs the tapes in a special program on Tuesday.
In them, the first lady talks of pleading with her husband to let her and the two young children stay with him no matter what, as the prospect of nuclear war with Soviets weighed heavily on the world.
“Please don’t send me anywhere. If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you,” she told the president, according to ABC News.
In the event there was not enough space in the White House bomb bunker, she told him: “Please, then I just want to be on the lawn when it happens — you know — but I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do too — than live without you.”
Jackie Kennedy’s recollections are from a series of interviews conducted by the historian Arthur Schlesinger, and have been kept private by the Kennedy family until now.
She also recalled how president Kennedy openly wept upon returning to the White House residence after learning of the failed bid to invade Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, some 90 days into his young presidency.
“He came back over to the White House to his bedroom and he started to cry, just with me. You know, just for one — just put his head in his hands and sort of wept,” she said in the tapes.
“It was so sad, because all his first 100 days and all his dreams, and then this awful thing to happen. And he cared so much.”
In another episode, president Kennedy wonders out loud whether Abraham Lincoln, the US civil war president who was also assassinated during his term in office, “would have been as great a president if he’d lived.”
In a discussion with historian David Donald, Jacqueline said they had agreed that in fact it “was better for Lincoln that he died when he did.”
Last week, first reports on the tapes found that president Kennedy “worried for the country” should his vice president Lyndon Johnson succeed him, with Jacqueline even saying her husband had begun discussing how to ensure Johnson did not run for president in 1968.
“Bobby told me this later, and I know Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, ‘Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon was president?'” she said, referring to Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother.
“He didn’t like that idea that Lyndon would go on and be president because he was worried for the country,” she said.
Johnson completed Kennedy’s term and won the presidential election in 1964. His White House years brought a major escalation in the Vietnam War and the passage of landmark civil rights legislation.