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Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) On his last day in the White House, Wednesday, November 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed condolence letters to the survivors of five American servicemen.

This was the last time JFK would undertake this responsibility, but it certainly was not the first time.

William Manchester writes in “Death of a President, 1963,” that President Kennedy wrote the family of EVERY American who died in uniform during his presidency. 

Manchester adds that if a family replied to JFK’s letter, the widow and children were invited to the White House for a talk in the Rose Garden.

In one of his last letters to the children of a serviceman who gave his life for the United States, the President wrote…

“I want you to know that your father was an outstanding soldier who repeatedly demonstrated his loyalty and devotion to duty.  These fine qualities won for him the respect and admiration of those with whom he served.  

As you grow older you will realize the full importance of the service your father rendered his country in the knowledge that his countrymen are deeply grateful for his contribution to the security of the Nation.

Mrs. Kennedy joins me in extending our heartfelt sympathy to you in the loss of your father.”


According to the National Archives, there were 16 American servicemen killed in the Vietnam War in 1961, 53 in 1962 and 122 in 1963.  The total is 191.

While 216 servicemen died in the war in 1964, the numbers dramatically increased over the next few years to a maximum of 16,899 in the year 1968.

The total during LBJ’s years as POTUS from 1964 through 1968 is 36,756.


“Statistical Information about Fatal Casualties of the Vietnam War,” National Archives, www.archives.gov

“The Death of a President, November 1963,” by William Manchester, Harper and Row, New York, 1967.

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