Recordings of the conversations between Air Force One and the White House communications office immediately after President John F. Kennedy assassination were made public this week.
One of the calls was between a White House radio operator who had to inform the Secretary of State that the President had been killed and that there was a new leader of the United States.
Another one was recorded between Vicepresident Lyndon Johnson and JFK’s mother was made by on board Air Force One just minutes after he was sworn in. The call reveals how he and his wife Lady Bird tried to console the Kennedy matriarch who was on the ground.
“I wish to God there was something that I could do and I wanted to tell you that we were grieving with you,” LBJ is recorded saying to Rose Kennedy.
“Thanks a mill- thank you very much, thank you very much. I know, I know you loved Jack, and he loved you,” Rose Kennedy responded.
All calls made on presidential plane are put through by a White House switchboard operator, which has a system in place to automatically tape the calls.
Mrs. Johnson is also recorded on the tapes, which captured the activity on the flight from Dallas, Texas to Washington on November 22, 1963, though part of her comments are cut off my an interjection by Rose Kennedy.
“Mrs. Kennedy, we feel like we just had-“Mrs. Johnson said.
“Yes, alright,” Mrs. Kennedy interjected.
“We are glad that the nation had your son as long as it did,” Mrs. Johnson continued.
“Yes, well thank you, Lady Bird. Thank you very much, goodbye!” Rose Kennedy said quickly.
The Johnsons called Rose Kennedy at home at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, about 30 minutes after they took off from Dallas’ Love Field Airport.
While the conversation was extremely brief, the plane ride was a busy one as President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in just minutes before the flight took off.
In the air, LBJ was preparing the speech he was going to give once the plane landed just over two hours later.
Conspiracy theorists have been known to obsess over every detail surrounding the assassination of JFK, and are likely going to find fault with the fact that the 42 minutes of tape are only just being released now.
The tapes were found after the death of JFK’s top military aide Army General Chester “Ted” Clifton Jr., when his family found the recordings.
They sold his copy to a historical documents dealer, who then gave a copy to the National Archives.
Also included in the tapes is the moment when a White House operator tell the news to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who was on a flight headed to Japan with several other cabinet members at the time.
“Kennedy apparently shot in the head,” said the unidentified radio operator.
“He fell face down in back seat of his car, blood was on his head, Mrs. Kennedy cried <<Oh no>> and tried to hold up his head.”
Another frantic notification call was included on the newly-released tape, this time of a military aide trying to look for his superior, General Curtis LeMay, who was often at odds with JFK.
General Curtis LeMay’s assistant called the White House call center and wanted desperately to be connected to his boss.
“General LeMay is in a C 140. … He’s inbound. His code name is Grandson. And I wanna talk to him. … If you can’t work him now, it’s gonna be too late, because he’ll be on the ground in a half-hour,” the aide said.
The urgency in the aide’s call will likely prompt some sinister speculation, though it is also easy to assume that he simply wanted to get the news of the assassination to his boss quickly.
The tapes confirm that, like Secretary of State Dean Rusk and several other cabinet members, Curtis LeMay was on various flights at the time.
The tapes of the calls from Air Force One come shortly after the Kennedy Library released some of the recordings from JFK’s last days in office.
While speaking to an aide three days before his death, then-President John F. Kennedy unknowingly refers to the day which would end up being his funeral as “a tough day”.
The conversation arises while his aides are attempting to sort out his schedule, which was expected to be very busy when he returned from his Dallas trip.
One of the meetings they were trying to schedule was with General Nasution of Indonesia.
“I will see him, when is here here? Monday?,” JFK says.
A staffer responds: “Monday and Tuesday.”
“Well that’s a tough day,” JFK remarks.
“It’s a hell of a day Mr. President. He’ll be coming back here though, I understand on Friday because I offered to entertain at dinner.”
The tapes also revealed JFK’s thoughts on the nearing 1964 election, a tender moment with his children, and conflicting reports about the ongoing operation in Vietnam.