Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands meets with President John F. Kennedy in the White House, April 25, 1961 (Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston) - Credit: Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands meets with President John F. Kennedy in the White House, April 25, 1961 (Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)
Friday, November 22, 2013 - 17:00
JFK, Prince Bernhardt Meeting Remembered
As the world marked the fiftieth anniversary of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's assassination, some in the Netherlands recalled the President's two meetings with Prince Bernhard. The Prince, father of current Netherlands King Willem-Alexander, first officially met with President Kennedy at the White House on April 25, 1961. The meeting took place late in the afternoon on a day when Kennedy had also met with President Sukarno of Indonesia. Indonesia and the Netherlands had been in dispute for more than a decade over the future of West Papua, where the Dutch had been present for four centuries. Tensions between the two nations flared as President Sukarno viewed the Dutch presence in West Papua to be a relic of the Netherlands imperialism in that region. Indonesian forces, under Sukarno's command, were invading West Papua by sea and by air in effort to kick out the Dutch troops present in the country. Worried that a prolonged battle between Indonesia and a western nation could lead to a spread of communism in Asia, President Kennedy began secretly brokering a peace deal between the two nations. The President sat with the Netherlands Foreign Minister in March 1962, and Prince Bernhard again met with President Kennedy in June 1962, along with former Netherlands Ambassador to the U.S. Dr. J.H. van Roijen. That meeting took place about two months prior to the signing of the New York Agreement between the Netherlands, Indonesia, and the United Nations. President Kennedy was assassinated 15 months later. Prince Bernhard and Princess Beatrix attended the funeral, along with then-Foreign Minister Joseph Luns. Separately, Princess Beatrix and the Foreign Minister had sat with JFK in the White House during the last six months of his life.