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#211: Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis

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Army officials meet with President John F. Kennedy in the White House in Washington in 1962 to discuss U-2 spy plane flights over Cuba
Army officials meet with President John F. Kennedy in the White House in Washington in 1962 to discuss U-2 spy plane flights over Cuba

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember

(MUSIC)

This week in our series, we continue the story of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Kennedy, a Democrat, defeated Republican Vice President Richard Nixon in one of the closest elections in United States history. He took office in January nineteen sixty-one.

After three months, Kennedy faced a major foreign policy failure.

On April seventeenth, armed Cuban exiles tried to invade Cuba, less one hundred fifty kilometers from the American state of Florida. They had been trained by the Central Intelligence Agency. Their goal was to overthrow the island's communist leader, Fidel Castro. In nineteen fifty-nine he and his guerrilla forces had overthrown Fulgencio Batista, the president who was supported by the United States.

The exiles came ashore at Cuba's Bay of Pigs. Most were killed or captured.

The last administration, under President Dwight Eisenhower, had planned the invasion. But Kennedy had approved it. After the failure, some Americans again wondered if the forty-three-year-old president had enough experience to lead the nation.

(MUSIC)

In May nineteen sixty-one, Kennedy went to Paris and met with French President Charles de Gaulle. Kennedy visited France with his wife Jacqueline, who spoke French and had studied there.

In June, Kennedy met in Vienna, Austria, with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev did not want to compromise on any issue. He threatened to have the East Germans block all movement into and out of the Allied-controlled western half of Berlin.

In November, the East Germans, with Soviet support, started building the Berlin Wall to separate east and west. President Kennedy quickly announced a large increase in American military forces in Germany.

(MUSIC)

Less than a year later came the Cuban missile crisis. On October twenty-second, nineteen sixty-two, President Kennedy made an announcement to the American people.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy reports to the nation on the Cuban missile crisis from the White House in Washington
U.S. President John F. Kennedy reports to the nation on the Cuban missile crisis from the White House in Washington

JOHN KENNEDY: "This government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.

"Upon receiving the first preliminary hard information of this nature last Tuesday morning at nine a.m., I directed that our surveillance be stepped up. And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation of the evidence and our decision on a course of action, this government feels obliged to report this new crisis to you in fullest detail.

"The characteristics of these new missile sites indicate two distinct types of installations. Several of them include medium range ballistic missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead for a distance of more than one thousand nautical miles. Each of these missiles, in short, is capable of striking Washington, DC, the Panama Canal, Cape Canaveral, Mexico City, or any other city in the southeastern part of the United States, in Central America, or in the Caribbean area."

Kennedy had a warning for the Soviets.

JOHN KENNEDY: "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."

Kennedy and his national security advisers debated what to do about the Soviet missiles in Cuba. Should the United States launch an air strike and try to destroy them? What if some of the nuclear missiles escaped the attack?

Kennedy decided to use a naval blockade -- he called it a "quarantine" -- to prevent any more Soviet ships from reaching Cuba.

This photograph, made Oct. 23, 1962, shows a ballistic missile site project in the San Cristobal area of Cuba. The photo was released by the Defense Department.
This photograph, made Oct. 23, 1962, shows a ballistic missile site project in the San Cristobal area of Cuba. The photo was released by the Defense Department.

There were tense negotiations with the Soviets. Khrushchev demanded a promise that the United States would not invade Cuba. Kennedy agreed, and did so publicly. Secretly he also agreed to another demand. He promised that the United States would remove its Jupiter missiles based in Turkey, after the crisis was over.

The Cuban missile crisis lasted thirteen days. It raised fears of a nuclear war. But it ended peacefully when the Soviets agreed to remove their missiles from Cuba, and turned their ships around.

(MUSIC)

But the Cold War continued.

In Asia, the Kennedy administration tried to fight communism in Vietnam by increasing the number of American military advisers there.

The United States and the Soviet Union did make some progress on arms control. In nineteen sixty-three, the two countries agreed to ban tests of nuclear weapons except underground.

(MUSIC)

Kennedy also had to deal with domestic issues, including discrimination against blacks. His brother Robert was attorney general, the nation's top law enforcement official. The Justice Department took legal action against states in the South that violated laws on voting rights.

The administration also supported a voter registration campaign to sign up more black voters.

Robert Kennedy repeatedly called on National Guard troops to protect blacks when they tried to register to vote or attend white schools.

President Kennedy said the situation was causing a moral crisis in America. He decided it was time to propose a new civil rights law that would guarantee equal treatment for blacks in public places and jobs.

Congress did not pass a wide-reaching civil rights bill until nineteen sixty-four. By then Kennedy was no longer president.

In November nineteen sixty-three, he traveled to Texas. He hoped to settle a dispute in the Democratic Party in that state. The dispute might have affected his chances for re-election in nineteen sixty-four.

President John F. Kennedy rides in a motorcade with his wife Jacqueline moments before he was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas November 22, 1963
President John F. Kennedy rides in a motorcade with his wife Jacqueline moments before he was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas November 22, 1963

Kennedy arrived in Dallas in the late morning of November twenty-second. The president and his wife were seated in the back of an open-topped car as his motorcade drove through the city. Suddenly, there were gunshots.

WALTER CRONKITE: "Here is a bulletin from CBS news. In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting."

The motorcade raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital. But doctors could do little to save his life. This was how television newsman Walter Cronkite reported the news:

WALTER CRONKITE: "From Dallas, Texas -- the flash apparently official -- President Kennedy died at one p.m., Central Standard Time."

Police quickly arrested a suspect. Lee Harvey Oswald worked in a building near where Kennedy had been shot. People had seen him leave the building with a gun.

Lee Harvey Oswald was a man with a strange past. He was a former United States Marine. He was also a communist. He had lived for a while in the Soviet Union and had tried to become a Soviet citizen. He worked for a committee that supported the communist government in Cuba.

Lee Harvey Oswald, suspected assassin of President John F. Kennedy, at police headquarters in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963
Lee Harvey Oswald, suspected assassin of President John F. Kennedy, at police headquarters in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963

Police questioned Oswald about the shooting of President Kennedy. He told them he did not do it. After two days, officials decided to move him to a different jail.

Oswald was being led by two police officers. Suddenly, a man stepped forward. There was a shot. Oswald fell to the ground. Television cameras broadcast the events live.

The man who killed Oswald was Jack Ruby. He was a nightclub owner in Dallas. He said he shot Oswald to prevent the Kennedy family from having to live through a trial.

(MUSIC)

A commission investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The chief justice of the United States, Earl Warren, led the investigation. In its report, the Warren commission said that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone. It said there was no plot to kill the president.

Many Americans never accepted that finding. Some blamed Fidel Castro or the Central Intelligence Agency. Others blamed organized crime.

The eternal flame honoring President John F. Kennedy
The eternal flame honoring President John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington. An Eternal Flame burns night and day by his grave.

(MUSIC)

You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts, and pictures at www.unsv.com. And you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

___

This was program #211.

肯尼迪是民主党人,他在总统大选中击败了当时任副总统的尼克松,两人之间的这场较量成为美国历史上最激烈的总统大选之一。1961年1月19号,肯尼迪入主白宫。

上任三个月后,肯尼迪在外交政策上遭遇重大失败。1961年4月17号,一支由流亡海外的古巴人组成的武装力量进入距离美国佛罗里达州不到150英里的古巴。这些人接受了美国中央情报局的训练,他们行动的目标是推翻古巴的共产党领袖卡斯特罗。1959年,卡斯特罗和他领导的游击队武装推翻了当时受美国支持的古巴统治者巴蒂斯塔。

流亡古巴人组成的武装力量在古巴猪湾登陆,大部分人被杀或被捕。这次行动是肯尼迪的前任--艾森豪威尔政府的官员策划的,但得到了肯尼迪的批准。行动失败后,一些美国人开始怀疑43岁的肯尼迪是否具备领导美国所需的足够丰富的执政经验。

1961年5月,肯尼迪前往巴黎会见法国总统戴高乐。陪他一同前往的是他的夫人杰奎林,她会说法语,曾在法国上学。6月,肯尼迪在奥地利的维也纳会见了苏共总书记赫鲁晓夫。赫鲁晓夫并不想就任何议题进行妥协,他还威胁说,要让东德封锁一切进出西柏林的活动。当时的西柏林处于盟国的控制之下。

11月,东德在苏联的支持下开始修建柏林墙,试图把东西两德划界分开。肯尼迪总统马上宣布,大幅度增加驻德国的美军数量。 此后不到一年,发生了古巴导弹危机。

1962年10月22号,肯尼迪总统对美国人民宣布了一项消息。他说:"美国政府遵照承诺,一直对苏联在古巴的军事集结保持密切监测。在过去一周里,不容质疑的证据显示,在封闭的古巴出现了一系列进攻型导弹基地的准备活动,这些导弹基地的目的只能有一个,就是建立对西半球国家发动核打击的能力。"

肯尼迪还说:"上周二早上九点,我收到了关于这一事件的最初的确切消息,并马上下令加强监测。现在,我们已经证实了相关证据,并对这些证据和我们的行动步骤进行了评估,我们相信,政府必须把这一最新危机的全部细节告诉大家。"

肯尼迪说:"这些新建的导弹基地有两种类型,一些是中程弹道导弹,可以把核弹头投射到一千海里远的地方。也就是说,这些弹头可以打到华盛顿、巴拿马运河、卡纳维拉尔角、墨西哥城以及所有处于美东南部、中美洲或者加勒比地区的地方。"

肯尼迪也对苏联提出了警告。他说:"美国的政策是,一切从古巴发射出来的以西半球国家为打击目标的核导弹都将被视为是苏联对美国发动的攻击,必将引发美国对苏联的全面的报复行动。"

肯尼迪任美国总统期间,爆发了古巴导弹危机。苏联在古巴修建导弹发射基地,威胁到西半球国家的安全。肯尼迪和他的国家安全事务顾问就如何应对这场危机进行了辩论。美国是不是应该发动空袭,摧毁这些导弹基地呢?如果不能把核导弹全部击毁,而是漏掉一些,怎么办?

肯尼迪决定部署海面封锁,以阻止更多苏联军舰到达古巴。与此同时,美国和苏联展开紧张的谈判。赫鲁晓夫要求美国承诺不入侵古巴。肯尼迪同意了,而且是公开表示同意。他私下里还同意了苏联的另外一个要求,他承诺,在这场危机结束后,美国将撤走部署在土耳其的木星导弹。

古巴导弹危机持续了13天,让人们担心核战争即将爆发。不过,这场危机最终还是和平地化解了,苏联同意撤走部署在古巴的导弹,其军舰也驶回了苏联。不过,冷战并没有就此结束。在亚洲,肯尼迪政府试图通过增加美军在越南的军事顾问来打击越共。

美国和苏联在武器控制方面取得了一些进展,1963年,两国达成协议,禁止除地下核武试验以外的一切核试验。除外交事务外,肯尼迪还要解决国内的问题,包括对黑人的歧视问题。肯尼迪的弟弟罗伯特是当时的美国司法部长。司法部对美国南部违反选举权法的州采取了法律行动。

肯尼迪政府还支持进行选民注册宣传活动,让更多的黑人选民参选。 罗伯特.肯尼迪多次派遣国民警卫队去保护那些试图注册参选和去白人学校上学的黑人。

肯尼迪总统说,种族歧视问题正在为美国带来一场道德危机。他坚信,美国应该建立一部新的民权法,确保黑人在公共场所和就业市场得到公正的对待。

美国国会直到1964年才通过了一部内容广泛、影响深远的民权法案,那时,肯尼迪已经不是总统了。1963年11月19日,肯尼迪前往德州,希望能解决德州民主党内出现的一场纠纷。这场纠纷有可能会影响到他在1964年总统大选中获得连任。11月22日上午,肯尼迪到达达拉斯机场。随后, 总统车队穿行达拉斯,肯尼迪和夫人杰奎林坐在一辆敞篷车的后排座上。突然,传来了几声枪响。

电视节目主持人沃尔特.克朗凯特在新闻中说:"这里是CBS新闻简报。在德州达拉斯市,有人在市中心向肯尼迪总统的车队开了三枪。最初的报导说,肯尼迪被击中,伤势严重。"

车队飞奔到柏龄纪念医院,但是,医生们已经回天乏术。沃尔特.克朗凯特报导说:"这是来自德州达拉斯的消息,已经证实,肯尼迪总统在中部时间下午一点钟逝世。"

警方很快逮捕了凶手,这个人叫李.哈维.奥斯瓦尔德,他在肯尼迪遇刺地附近的一幢大楼里上班,人们看到奥斯瓦尔德带着一把枪离开了大楼。奥斯瓦尔德过去的经历十分奇怪,他曾是美国海军陆战队成员,也是个共产主义者,他在苏联生活过一段时间,并试图获得苏联国籍。他还曾为一个支持古巴共产党政府的委员会工作。

警方就肯尼迪遇刺对奥斯瓦尔德进行审问,奥斯瓦尔德说,不是他干的。两天后,有关官员决定把他转到另外一座监狱。奥斯瓦尔德在两名警察的带领下走出来,忽然,一名男子上前一步,一声枪响后,奥斯瓦尔德倒在地上。这一切都被电视镜头捕捉到,并即时播送了出去。

杀死他的男人是杰克.鲁比, 他是达拉斯一家夜店的店主。他说,杀死奥斯瓦尔德是为了不让他有机会受审,因为那会给肯尼迪的家人带来更多的痛苦。美国政府成立了专门委员会,调查肯尼迪遇刺案。

美国最高法院首席法官厄尔.沃伦主持调查工作。委员会在调查报告中表示,奥斯瓦尔德没有同党,是单独行动的,并说,没有刺杀总统的阴谋。

许多美国人一直不相信这个说法。一些人认为是卡斯特罗或中央情报局策划刺杀了肯尼迪,还有一些人觉得是犯罪集团刺杀了总统。肯尼迪的遗体被埋葬在阿灵顿国家公墓,和首都华盛顿就隔着一条波多马克河。在他的幕前点着一盏日夜发光的长明灯。

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