- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

BOSTON — Final recordings President John F. Kennedy secretly made in the Oval Office include an eerie conversation about what would become the day of his funeral.

In talking to staffers while trying to arrange his schedule, Kennedy remarked that Nov. 25 was shaping up to be a “tough day” after his return from Texas and time at Cape Cod.

“It’s a hell of a day, Mr. President,” a staffer agreed.

The exchange was among the last 45 hours of private recordings Kennedy made, tapes The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum released Tuesday. They provide a window into the final months of the 35th president’s life.

They include discussions of conflict in Vietnam, Soviet relations and the race to space, plans for the 1964 Democratic Convention, and re-election strategy. There also are moments with his children.

The tapes are the last of more than 260 hours of recordings of meetings and conversations Kennedy privately made before his assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

David Coleman, the professor who leads the Presidential Recordings Program at the University of Virginia, on Tuesday called the final recordings significant because while JFK didn’t tape himself regularly, he chose to preserve important moments.

The university’s Miller Center of Public Affairs already has published three volumes of Kennedy transcripts and is working on another two volumes from recordings that previously went public, Coleman said.

Kennedy did not tape as systematically as Johnson or Nixon. But what he did tape was often very important discussions,” he said.

“What you have is an unusually rich collection of decisions being made in real time.”

The recordings also are valuable because they’re a raw look inside the Kennedy White House, Coleman said.

“It’s all unfiltered,” he said. “It hasn’t been massaged by committees or by the White House press machine.”

Historians may gravitate most to Kennedy’s recordings about Vietnam to see where his policy was heading when his presidency ended, Coleman said.

Kennedy kept the recordings a secret from his top aides. He made the last one two days before his death.

Kennedy library archivist Maura Porter said Monday that JFK may have been saving them for a memoir or possibly started them because he was bothered when the military later gave a different overview of a discussion with him about the Bay of Pigs.

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