July 08, 1963
Fresh From Berlin and His Electrifying “Ich bin ein Berliner” Speech, JFK Thanks the Overseas Military for Making His Visit a Success
Crowd estimates differ: some say one million Germans, some say two, gathered in Berlin’s Rudolph Wilde Platz on June 26, 1963, to hear President Kennedy defiantly proclaim that in their struggle against communism, he too was a Berliner. To a clapping, waving, crying, cheering three-fifths of Berlin’s population, Kennedy – having viewed for himself the terrible wall splitting the city in half – declared that “Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was ‘civis Romanus sum’” but now, he told the roaring crowd, “in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.'” That exhilarating triumph was the apogee of his trip to Germany, about which he writes here, to thank General Landon for “the magnificent way” in which he and “all the members of the United States Air Forces in Europe worked to assure the success” of his visit:
I am well aware of the sensitivity and the complexity of the many requirements placed upon the members of your command, over and above the normally heavy demands of their duties. That you and they fulfilled these requirements so willingly and efficiently is a source of great satisfaction…. Please relay to the members of your command my good wishes and my appreciation for their support during my visit. You have, of course, my most grateful personal thanks.
Typed Letter Signed, as President, 1 page, quarto, The White House, Washington, July 8, 1963. To General Truman H. Landon in Germany. With typed transmittal envelope.