Tom Wicker --
"You've probably seen the famous picture -- it's been reprinted thousands of times in which his back is to the camera, and he's leaning over the table, and he seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. This picture is often used to show him as the serious young man burdened down with the world. That picture was taken by George Tames, our photographer. George had secured permission to spend a day in the President's office and take pictures. When he came in the door, the President was in that position, leaning over the table, reading. George is a great photographer and knew a good picture when he saw one: he immediately lifted his camera and snapped. Just as he got the picture, the President turned around, lifting his head up from the New York Times, and said, 'That goddamned Arthur Krock.' He didn't have the weight of the world on his shoulders at all; he had Arthur Krock on his shoulders."
James A. Reed--
"One of his favorite indoor sports was taking a bath. He loved to lie there -- of course, he had a very bad sore back, and I think it relieved him. Many times, if you were visiting him for the weekend, for example, he'd call you, and you'd come in the bathroom, and he'd be in the tub up to his neck, usually with a book beside him. Some of the most interesting conversations I ever had with him took place while he was in the bathtub."
"I remember him in his bathtub, with rather deep water and some of John-John's celluloid toys floating in it. He looked up at me -- I don't know why I'd walked in: to ask him something, I guess -- and he said, 'What would people think if they could see the President of the United States in his bathtub, with these ducks?' "
Maj. General Chester V. Clifton--
"One of my favorite stories: the exchange was wonderful. I saw this word, 'Draconian,' and I must say, I wasn't familiar with it. It was in an intelligence report from the CIA. I had very carefully written in the margin, 'cruel, inhuman!' The President grabbed the report and was running through it, and when he came to that he stopped and said, 'Who put this in here?' I said, 'I did.' He said, 'That's the trouble with you military; now if you'd had a classic Harvard education, you would have known what the word meant.' So I said, 'Yes, Sir,' and later on -- oh, four or five days later -- again the same thing: we were up in the bedroom, he was going through the report, and there was some very technical military term, in the atomic energy field -- I think it was 'permissive link.' He said, 'Well, what's this mean?' I told him; he said, 'Right,' and I said, 'Mr. President, if you'd had a classic military education at West Point, you would have known what that word was.' He said, 'Touche,' and grinned. He was willing to give and take with great humor.
"You always felt, in his presence, that life was more worth living, was greater fun. Of course, he liked doing whatever he was doing, hard. If he wanted to go for a sail, he'd go for a sail even though no other boat was out in the harbor. I remember one day at Hyannis Port -- not a sign of anybody else trying to sail -- he insisted on going sailing, with the result that, at the end, we lost the top of the mast. This was when he was President. I think the Secret Service got quite upset about it."
"My most vivid memory of him is on the top bridge of the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, late in the evening Of June 6, 1963. We had survived a two-hour display of missiles and rockets in the afternoon, and at ten o'clock there was to be a night exercise, the fastest small jets being launched like firecrackers and retrieved the lightning jolt of the catapults across the deck.
"By happenstance, the commanding officer of the battle fleet turned out to be a friend from the early war days. I came on him along one of the endless decks, and he invited me up in his elevator. We came out directly on the bridge, and I stumbled in and saw nobody but the supervising officers who were tiptoeing around with red flashlights in the necessary dark on the huge bridge. There were a couple of captains and rear admirals watching a whole console of dials and lights. There was no talk. Up against a curving window pane on the port side, however, was the black silhouette of a man. He could barely be seen not to be in uniform. What I noticed at once was the quite beautiful contour of the head. It could be nobody else's, and the leather-padded rocker the man sat in confirmed it. It was the President. We'd been with him all day, but it was eerie to see him alone in this night aquarium, with not an aide or a Secret Service man in sight.
"We moved over to him, and he said little. He just stared at the ejecting planes. He asked no details, which was untypical, because he was a very inquisitive observer of everything. The Admiral was leaning over, briefing him on the routines he was watching. The President said very quietly, and with infinite fatigue, 'Admiral, I'm afraid I can take no more.' He grabbed the arms of the rocker and began to force himself in a twisted, writhing motion, to his feet. It took about a minute, and then two officers led him to his quarters. It was his back again. It was always hard to know whether the wry eyes were an expression of humor or agony. Anyway, it was with him all the time, and he never talked about it, and you had to remind yourself of the extra demands of courage it made on him."
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