Five decades later, the day President John F. Kennedy, Nov. 22, 1963, continues to traumatize the national psyche, and proof of that is the huge buzz surrounding the Jan. 30 release of recordings between officials, the White House and Air Force One from that day the National Archives in Washington.
The National Archives received the rare audio artifact from the Raab Coolection, a Philadelphia-based autograph and historical document dealer, said David S. Ferriero, the archivist of the United States.
[Air Force One Flight Deck Tape: Download]
“The Raabs have done a great service in discovering and donating this important historical audiotape to the National Archives. It provides additional documentation concerning the immediate response of the U.S. government on the day of President Kennedy’s assassination,” he said.
Nathan Raab, the firm’s vice-president and an expert in historical documents, said, “Our search for important history has led us to some fascinating places, but this is a particularly exciting find.”
In addition to discussions between Secret Service agents, State Department officials and others deal with disposition of the president’s remains to Walter Reed hospital and whether the body will be taken by a hearse or an ambulance.
In a more frantic exchange, an aide to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Curtis LeMay tries to find his boss. Then, another voice comes on trying to track down the location of Texas congressman.
The recordings are on two identical tapes found in the private papers of Army Gen. Chester “Ted” Clifton Jr., who was a senior military aide to Kennedy, according to a statement from the National Archives. The recordings were from a relay point in the apparatus of the White House Communications Agency.
One tape reel was donated to the archives. The other is available for private sale, initially priced at $500,000.
Although both boxes were labeled and dated, they had not been listened to in many years. However, it is now believed that these two tapes are the source tapes for shorter, edited versions of the communications from that day that have been available in the public for many years and have been part of the collections of both the presidential libraries dedicated to Kennedy in Boston and for his successor Lyndon Baines Johnson in Austin, Texas, according to the exhibit webpage at raabcollection.com. In the version at the LBJ Library, all referenced to LeMay were edited out.
Raab said, “The discovery of these tapes will allow the public a more complete view of the chaotic circumstances following the assassination of President Kennedy. We are honored to be part of that process.”
This short transcript of the voice traffic between White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, “Wayside,” the White House Situation Room and a presidential fleet Air Force jet with the Tail No. 86972, is an example of the conversations captured:
Wayside: Situation Room, This is Wayside. Do you read me? Over.
Situation Room: This is Situation Room, I read you, go ahead.
Wayside: Give me all information on President.
Situation Room: All available information on President follows: Con-John-and-E-N (sic) and Gov. John Connolly of Texas have been hit in the car they were riding in. We do not know how serious the situation is. We have no information. Mr. Bromley Smith is back here in the Situation Room now. We are getting our information over the tickers, over.
86972: That is affirmative, affirmative. Keep us advised out here. This plane on which the Secretary of State and other cabinet ministers are heading to Japan is turning around – returning to Honolulu, will arrive there in approximately two hours, over.
Wayside: This is Wayside, understand those departing Honolulu are turning around and will be back there in approximately two hours, over. Is that correct?
86972: That is affirmative, affirmative. We will need all the information to decide whether some parties should go directly to Dallas, over.
A few seconds later, Situation Room breaks in with an update.
Situation Room: The Associated Press is coming out with a bulletin to the effect that they believe the President was hit in the head. That just came in, over.
Then, a few more seconds later, there was more news.
S.R.: Hold on the line, there, Wayside, we have some more information coming up. Wayside, Wayside, I read from the AP bulletin: Kennedy apparently shot in head. He fell face down in the back seat of his car. Blood was on his head. Mrs. Kennedy cried, “Oh, no!” and tried to hold up his head. Connolly remained half-seated, slumped to the left. There was blood on his forehead. The President and the governor were rushed to Parkland Hospital near the Dallas Trademark, where Kennedy was to have made a speech, over.