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Download this summary catalogue (PDF) ›THE JOHN F KENNEDY NATIONAL SECURITY FILES, 1961-1963

Identity statement

Reference code(s)
GB0099 KCLMA MF 358-360 (USSR and Eastern Europe); 374-383 (Western Europe); MF 523-532 (Asia and the Pacific)
1961-1963, 1987
Level of description
collection level
Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)
23 reels


Name of creator(s)

National Security Council and McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant for National Security Affairs,

Administrative / Biographical history

The John F National Security Files, 1961-1963, were the working files of McGeorge Bundy as Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, 1961-66. Bundy was formerly a political analyst, Council of Foreign Relations, 1948-49; Harvard University visiting lecturer, 1949-51; Associate Professor of Government, Harvard University, 1951-54; and Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science, Harvard University, 1951-61. The documents in this collection originated in the offices of Bundy and his assistants, Walt Whitman Rostow and Carl Kaysen and consist of communications traffic between the various executive departments and agencies of the US government, especially those concerning US foreign affairs and national defence. To meet the challenges faced by his administration, US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy re-modelled the machinery of US foreign policy and established a small cell within the National Security Council (NSC) to enhance his executive control over the foreign policy decision making process. Kennedy enlisted advisers from top positions in academia and industry, including as his special assistant, McGeorge Bundy. Bundy eliminated the committee system of previous administrations and instead made the NSC a compact policy making body which included Robert Komer, Gordon Chase, Michael Forrestal, David Klein, and Bromley Smith. Soon, the White House and the NSC established its own situation room and installed equipment that gave it direct access to State Department, Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency cables. The NSC maintained effective liaison with the State Department, particularly with Secretary of State David (Dean) Rusk. The NSC under Bundy managed the flow of information, intelligence, and decision papers to the president, cable traffic between the departments and agencies in Washington, DC, and embassies abroad; memoranda of conversations between US and foreign officials and among top US officials; intelligence reports assessing foreign policy issues, especially those from the Central Intelligence Agency; internal memoranda, including those from Bundy to Kennedy; and, agenda for and records of executive meetings. It remained, throughout the Kennedy administration, the president's major foreign policy instrument.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

University Publications of America, Inc., Bethesda, MD, with fully indexed guide to USSR and Eastern Europe co-ordinated by Robert E Lester and compiled by Stuart Stern.

Content & structure

Scope and content

The John F Kennedy National Security Files, 1961-1963, reproduces in microfilm memoranda, cables, intelligence projections, telegrams, conversations, correspondence and special studies relating specifically to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Central Europe, Asia and the Pacific and Western Europe. The collection provides documents maintained and organised by NSC adviser McGeorge Bundy and his staff of 'New Frontiersmen' and relate to foreign policy and national security issues including US attempts to achieve a state of détente with the Soviet Union, 1961-1963; US political, ideological and psychological perceptions of the First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, 1961-1963; the development of nuclear weapons technology and the massive build-up of nuclear deterrent forces, 1961-1963; the expansion and modernisation of US conventional forces to permit a 'flexible response' to Third World threats, 1961-1963; the establishment of guerrilla warfare programmes, 1961-1963; increased US economic and technical aid to the Third World under the Alliance for Progress; the Berlin Crisis and the resultant construction of the Berlin Wall, Aug 1961; statements issued by Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric relating to American nuclear second strike capabilities, 1961; the Cuban Missile Crisis and its aftermath, 1962; Kennedy's promotion of the 'Grand Design', increased economic and military trade with Europe; US reactions to growing West European scepticism of US nuclear deterrence; the increased US political and military commitment to Vietnam, including mention of the South Vietnamese military coup d'état which overthrew President, Ngo Dinh Diem, 1 Nov 1963.

System of arrangement

Microfilm copies of The John F Kennedy National Security Files, 1961-1963 are arranged alphabetically by country. Memoranda, cables, intelligence reports, correspondence and special studies are arranged chronologically within a 'Country File'. The material was originally bound into volumes, each of which was assigned a number. For certain countries, some memos and cables were arranged under agency tabs or embassy tabs. The State Department, Defense Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, and Agency for International Development were the agencies most frequently represented. Some memoranda, 'memcons' (memoranda of conversations), correspondence, and reports were filed under tabs highlighting selected documents, events or correspondents. The staff at the John F Kennedy Library removed the material from the volumes and filed it into folders. Each folder has been arranged in chronological order and assigned inclusive dates. In most cases a 'Country File' consists of one or more folders, with separate folders for briefings or heads of state or government visiting the US. In its microfilming, the The John F Kennedy National Security Files were divided into geographic areas: Africa; Asia and the Pacific; Latin America; the Middle East; the USSR and Eastern Europe; Vietnam; and Western Europe.

Conditions of access & use

Conditions governing access

Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies may be printed off the microfilm for research purposes and are charged at the cost to the Centre. Enquiries concerning the copyright of the original material should be addressed to University Publications of America, Inc., 4520 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD, 20814-3389, USA

Language/scripts of material


Finding aids

This Summary Guide, and published detailed catalogue available in hard copy in the Centre's reading room, Robert E Lester and Stuart Stern (eds.), The John F Kennedy National Security Files, 1961-1963 (University Publications of America, Inc, Bethesda, MD, 1987)

Allied materials

Existence and location of originals

The documents reproduced in this series are from the Presidential Papers of John F Kennedy in the custody of the John F Kennedy Library, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, a unit of the National Archives and Records Administration.



Compiled Jun 1999

Description control

Rules or conventions

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

This catalogue is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License. This catalogue may be updated from time to time in order to reflect additional material and/or new understandings of the material.

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  • Alliances
  • Berlin Wall
  • Boundaries
  • Central government
  • Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)
  • East West relations
  • Foreign aid
  • Foreign policy
  • Foreign relations
  • Government
  • International conflicts
  • International cooperation
  • International law
  • International law
  • International politics
  • International relations
  • International tensions
  • Military engineering
  • Military equipment
  • Nuclear warfare
  • Nuclear weapons
  • Public administration
  • Rights of states
  • Rights of states
  • Territorial rights
  • Vietnam War (1945-1975)
  • War
  • Warfare
  • Wars (events)
  • Weapons

Personal names

  • Bundy, McGeorge, 1919-1996, US public official
  • Diem, Ngo Dinh, 1901-1963, President of South Vietnam
  • Kennedy, John Fitzgerald, 1917-1963, US President
  • Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeyevich, 1894-1971, Prime Minister of the USSR
  • Rostow, Walt Whitman, b 1916, US economist
  • Rusk, David Dean, 1909-1994, US Secretary of State

Corporate names

  • Alliance for Progress
  • US Government departments


  • Americas
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Caribbean
  • Central America
  • Middle East
  • Territorial rights, Rights of states, International law
  • USSR, Eastern Europe
  • Viet Nam, South East Asia

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