Informal Exchange With Reporters in Naples, Italy.
Q. Mr. President, it has been a long day, sir, but do you have just a couple of words for us?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I was, of course, very moved by the visit to the [6th] Fleet and particularly by not the ships that I saw, the planes and the rest, but the men. They have magnificent morale. They are the finest young men that America produces. They are doing their duty. They are doing it without whining and without complaining about a world they didn't make, and they realize that what they are doing there is to maintain the necessary forces that will keep the peace in the Mediterranean, give us a better chance to have peace for the balance of the century.
Of course, the rest of the afternoon I have had a very helpful and constructive meeting in depth on our general strategic posture in the Mediterranean, and tomorrow we will continue that on NATO.
Q. I see, you did stop in NATO on your way here, did you not?
THE PRESIDENT. No. No, not yet. We were on the Springfield this afternoon, the flagship; and we had the meeting of all of our commanders in this part of the world, the NATO commanders, the Mediterranean commanders as well, just going over general strategic problems.
Q. And your trip is going on on schedule?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. The questions have been asked, of course, about the possibility of some changes being made because of President Nasser's death. However, our visit to Yugoslavia will go on on schedule and the balance of the stops will be made. I am sending representatives to the funeral. I think Robert Murphy, former Ambassador, is going to go, former Ambassador McCloy1 will be going, and the third person will either be Robert Finch or possibly Elliot Richardson. We haven't found out. We have to make the arrangements at a very fast pace, of course, because the news came so unexpectedly.
1 Robert D. Murphy, U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, 1949-1952, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, 1959.
John J. McCloy, U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, 1949-1952.
Q. Do you have any reaction to that you'd care to tell about now?
THE PRESIDENT. The only reaction that I would give is one, of course, of sympathy for his wife and his family. We have had some very basic disagreements, as we know, in the last few years with President Nasser. I met him personally in 1963 and had a very good talk with him when I was a private citizen.
At that time his attitudes toward the United States were generally somewhat friendly. They, of course, became exacerbated after 1967.
But what will happen now in that country, however, no one can really speculate about it effectively.
I have noted with interest that already some of the experts are trying to say that this or that or the other thing may happen in Egypt. Usually you will find that when an event occurs of this type that that type of speculation has some basis because it is somewhat expected.
For example, when Ho Chi Minh died he had been sick for some time, and he was a very old man. Everybody is speculating what is going to happen when there is a change of leadership in China. That doesn't mean the speculation is always right, but at least people have had a chance to think about it. But no one thought that President Nasser's death would occur in such an untimely way.
So I think that at this point it is speculation as to what the leadership will be, what its attitude would be, would not be very constructive. We, of course, are waiting to see. We want good relations with all countries in this area. We would like to have good relations with the U.A.R.
We trust that they will continue, and we believe that the new government, whoever it is, will see that its interests will be served by continuing the cease-fire, and, we trust, then going on to talks.
Q. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
Hope you get a little rest in Naples tonight. Tomorrow will be a hard day--for you, not for me. Have you had a good time? Have you been able to go out any at all? You have been following us pretty much, haven't you? Q. Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. Of course, it is a great experience for me to go on and spend the night on it again. 2 I did spend the night on one when I went out to the splashdown.
2 The President spent the previous night aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga.
I think, as a matter of fact, I have shaken hands with more people today than I have in any one day since I have been in office, and it was a very great privilege to do so. I think that is why I say what really impressed me--I knew about the power and of course I was glad to see it, glad to see it demonstrated, and its readiness and mobility--but what really impressed me was the opportunity to meet the men. It is like traveling all over the United States in the space of one day. Because most of the States were represented and once they got past the awe of meeting the President of the United States, they talked in a very, it seemed to me, frank and open way, although I didn't have any extended discussions.
I found that the one thing they were all interested in, and this is something that hasn't changed, is mail. I told them we were having a little problem of getting mail deliveries every place. The last enlisted man that I talked to, he said, "If you can do something about the mail, we would appreciate it." Another one spoke up and said, "Yes, particularly mail from girls." That hasn't changed either.
Note: The President spoke at 6:25 p.m. at the Villa Roseberry, President Saragat's Naples residence.
Richard Nixon, Informal Exchange With Reporters in Naples, Italy. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/240684