After the assassination that President man F. Kennedy in 1963, the U.S. Information company – at the time the eight of U.S. Public diplomacy — aided extend and also solidify the so late President’s heritage by developing a well known film — John F. Kennedy: years of Lightning, job of Drums.

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The 86-minute memorial documentary recalled the achievements of the President as the “Years of Lightning.” The “Day that Drums” was the job of the President’s burial at Arlington Cemetery. The documentary highlighted 6 “faces” of president Kennedy’s brand-new Frontier — the peace Corps, the conquest of space, the Alliance because that Progress, polite rights, freedom, and also peace.

Considering the limited reach and also hours of television broadcasting in the beforehand 1960s, the expression that grief approximately the human being was striking. The very first transatlantic television broadcast – via the Telstar satellite – was only a year in the past. In plenty of nations only a couple of well-to-do people owned televisions, and also the reach and broadcast hours of nationwide TV networks to be limited. 24/7 news coverage was just a dream. Indeed, lot of the civilization was not yet electrified. In the net age, we maybe underestimate just how the “legacy media” — news reports, radio, magazines, speeches, and also photographs that JFK and his family members — provided the U.S. Chairman a personalized influence.

Willard De Pree, then major Officer in Accra, Ghana, recalled the strength of the movie in his oral background for the combination of Diplomatic Studies and also Training. “When the film arrived, the Embassy decided to display it approximately Ghana at every of the regional capitals. I have the right to recall going approximately Bolgatanga v Jack Matlock. The governor placed the display screen in the middle of the town square and also thousands that people, seated on all sides that the screen, verified up to view it. It to be incredible, the reaction and also feeling of black Africa toward Kennedy and the Kennedy Administration.”

Michael Schneider, now director that the Washington publicly Diplomacy regimen of Syracuse University’s Maxwell school of publicly Affairs, looked ago on making use of the documentary during his Foreign business assignment come Dacca in east Pakistan, now Dhaka, Bangladesh. “I remember gift . . . Responsible because that the Bangla translation and also voice end of the film. I could almost recite the back. We called on the Gregory Peck the Bangladesh because that the voice over.”

USIA Foreign business Officer Edward Alexander psychic his tour in Hungary. “On the fifth anniversary of chairman Kennedy’s assassination, ns let the word out that we would certainly be mirroring ‘Years that Lightning, day of Drums.’ I had actually to show the film over and also over again together close come a thousand people jammed the Embassy, human being who had never dared go into before. Marvin Kalb, in city for CBS, said it to be an astonishing suffer in his coverage.”


Poster in Italian for “Years the Lightning, job of Drums,” on DVD.


Poster because that “Years that Lightning, work of Drums” shown in Japan. Picture credit: Record team 306Records that the U.S. Details Agency, 1900-2003Still photos Identifier:306-PPB-339

The movie was shown within a year that the assassination. George Stevens, Jr. — then chief for films at USIA, now starting Director of the American film Institute — to be the producer. The director was Bruce Herschensohn, and also the movie owes lot of its strength to his script and also music and to the narration by Gregory Peck. (Herschensohn later ended up being Director of movement Pictures and also Television in ~ USIA. Influential in California politics, he was the Republican candidate for the Senate in 1996.)

Bosley Crowther that the brand-new York times said, “here is a film the forever honors the spirit and also vigor that the murdered chairman — the glowingly shows the good vitality of the large progressive regime he launched and also hauntingly says the stark collision the his active life and also tragic death.”

He added, “Through it every there runs the stirring timbre the Mr. Kennedy’s voice in key segments that his speeches and talks. These are interspersed v the narration, i m sorry is spoken by Gregory Peck, so that the entirety makes a blend v the music, the herbal sounds and the insistent thump the drums, to complete a brilliant soundtrack the is together eloquent together what the eye beholds.”

Historians and pundits have actually for numerous years to be re-assessing chairman Kennedy — the man, his accomplishments in office, and the meaning of his death. Conspiracy theories also live on. Once Years of Lightning, job of Drums to be shown, all that lay in the future.

Professor Nicholas Cull, historian and Director that the Master’s in publicly Diplomacy regime at the facility on Public diplomat at the university of southern California — and also member of the public Diplomacy council — said it to be USIA’s “most widely seen” film. He provided the best account that it together Public diplomacy in his magisterial The Cold War and also the unified States information Agency. Practitioners and also students of publicly Diplomacy need to read his testimonial (pp. 229 ff) that the film’s conception; the purposeful usage of images, sequencing, music, and also narrative; its usage overseas; and also how the Soviet Union responded.

Produced for mirroring to international audiences, the film could not it is in screened in the joined States. In 1966, however, a special act of Congress permitted it to be perceived domestically. This showings to be acclaimed, too.

A remastered version of the film was completed by Warner Home video clip for the 50th anniversary of chairman Kennedy’s death. It can also be regarded on Youtube.

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Americans who remember the Kennedy era will desire to check out the film once again. Those that practice and study Public diplomacy will, i am confident, find value in seeing exactly how it presented the unified States and also President Kennedy to the world.