New Film On JFK Changes Peace Corps History

According to a front page article in The New York Times this morning there is a new mini-series about John F. Kennedy’s presidency being written for the History channel, and while there is no cast or footage yet, those who know anything about JFK want the script stopped. 

The reason being, they say, the “Kennedys” screenplays contain many factual errors, some benign, some outrageous.” For example, one mistake that hits close to home to all of us is that the script has President Kennedy introducing the Peace Corps during the Bay of Pigs crisis in April 1961, when in fact JFK signed an executive order creating the agency one month earlier.

The mini-series, called “The Kennedys,” is being produced by  Joel Surnow, a political conservative. Kennedy scholars say the script offers a portrait of the president and his  family that is, at best, inaccurate, and at worst, a hatchet job.

Mr. Kronish, the script writer, says that some factual details, like the date that the Peace Corps was established, were changed for concision or dramatic license, but not with malicious intent.

“This is not a documentary. It is a dramatization.” As the author, Mr. Kronish said, it was his job to “take these people off the dusty pages of history and make them come alive.”

Fine, I’m all for creativity, but if you want to move “dates” for dramatic purposes, move the Cuban invasion. After all, it wasn’t a success, but the Peace Corps is!

Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams should write a letter to the New York Times expressing the concerns the agency and RPCVs have about anyone jerking around with Peace Corps facts. I suggest that you all email Allison Price, the Peace Corps Director of Communications, with the suggestion that she draft a letter for Aaron  to sign and send asap to the New York Times. Her email is aprice@peacecorps.gov. And while you’re at it, send your own letter to the Times.

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  • The History Channel is often so disappointing. I can understand when a movie made for entertainment fudges historical facts to make the story “better”, though I still hate it, but the History Channel is supposed to be giving us the real stuff. Just tell what really happened the way it actually happened to the best of anyone’s knowledge. More often than not, it turns out to be more interesting than the “literary license” garbage.

  • I have a question. When did President Kennedy sign the Executive Order prohibiting the Peace Corps from becoming involved with intelligence gathering? Was that part of the original Executive Order establishing the Peace Corps or was it issued after the Bayof PIgs?

  • I am not sure when President Kennedy signed the Executive Order prohibiting Peace Corps Volunteers working in our intelligence agencies. But when I was preparing to leave Ethiopia in 1964 I took a letter I had written to the CIA asking them to reopen my application to our Associate Director in Asmara for his advice on how to send it. Not being the brightest star in the Peace Corps galaxy he told me to send it by local mail, which I did. This got him a blistering reply from Peace Corps headquaters saying that my letter had caused a panic. He asked me if I had let him know about the letter. I replied, “Yes, you told me to send it by local mail.” He then told me about the Executive Order.

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