I hate to ask a stupid question, but how do we know the tape isn't complete? Many taping systems of the time were voice activated, meaning they didn't record long gaps when nothing was being said. I listened to most of the first tape, and don't remember any significant gaps. I assumed from this that such a system was in place.
Does anyone know for sure what kind of system was in place?
Pat, There were three sideband radios aboard AF1, all three being used to "patch" conversations from those aboard AF1 to other locations, including the White House Situation Room (CROWN), Andrews AFB, the State Dept., LBJ called JFK's mom and Mrs. Connally at Parkland, so there were three radio frequencies being used at the same time. And there are long gaps and lots of static in both versions of the tapes, as I transcribed them.
Someone somewhere had a reel to reel tape recorders taping each of the frequencies, and there were probably three tapes going at the same time recording all three radios, as JFK had ordered the taping of all radio communications to and from AF1 just as he was secretly taping his Oval Office conversations and phone calls. This was the responsibility of the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) but the taping was probably done not only at WHCA but at Collins Radio relay station and possibly the SAM Command Post but it was taped and done so at JFK's orders. See footnote below.
From Death of a President, William Manchester, p. 341
Aft of the cockpit Signalman John Trimble was too busy to brood. He had three phone patches going to the communications shack, and he was using Hanson's UHF and VHF sets, yet it wasn't enough. Every official in Washington it seemed, wanted to talk to Air Force One...Several conversations were trivial....Lem Johns was forwarding instructions to the White House Communications Agency, and Bill Moyers was talking to Walter Jenkins and MacBundy. (Ted Clifton talked to Bundy, too, asking again whether an international plot was emerging. It was not a discreet inquiry.Trimble's patches were not secure. They could be bugged. Bundy replied crisply that the Pentagon was taking its own steps.) But the bulk of theverbal traffic was about President Kennedy...BK Notes: This conversation between Clifton and Bundy is NOT on any of the tapes, so there must be more, as other conversations alluded to by T. H. White, who quoted from a transcript, and mentioned by Salinger are not on the tape either. So we know of conversations that occurred that are not on the tape. There are also references on the tape to previous conversations that are not on the tape. So we don't have a complete tape or transcript.
Footnote 9 - p. 371
9. That Friday Lyndon Johnson did not know that John Kennedy had ordered the taping of all Angel conversations while the plane was in flight. On April 21, 1964, this writer learned that the Love-to-Andrews tape still existed. Since security was not involved, it was first thought that a complete transcript of it would serve as a useful appendix to this book. Presidential consent was withheld, however. On May 5, 1965, the author was permitted to read an edited transcript at the White House. Doubtless the tape will be available to future historians. BK: So Manchester saw an edited transcript, and he refers to a conversation between Clifton and Bundy that isn't on the tape.
Here's what Doug Horne says about it: Doug Horne IARRBChapter 13 The "Air Force One" Audiotapes
One of the most intriguing, and frustrating, records of the assassination are the heavily edited "Air Force One" audiotapes available from the LBJ Presidential Library in Texas.Colleague Joan Zimmerman, who was as curious about the autopsy and the role of the Secret Service the night of the autopsy as I was, spent two whole days with me at the Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland—October 10-11,1995—studying the tapes. The result was my first ARRB "research memo," completed on October 17, 1995. I am referencing it now as I write up this brief section.
The tapes were recorded by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), is responsible for coordinating all Presidential communications. The total length of the edited conversations on the three audio cassettes is approximately 2 hours; a disclaimer at the beginning says the tapes are "edited and condensed," but does not indicate who did the editing or how much material was deleted.
The tapes are recordings of in-flight conversations that occurred on November 22,1963 between SAM 26000 (Air Force One), SAM86972 (the aircraft carrying several Cabinet officials and Press Secretary Pierre Salinger from Hawaii to Japan when JFK was assassinated), Andrews AFB,"Liberty" (the "Fish Bowl," run by Collins Radio in CedarRapids, Iowa—the outfit patching all of the radio calls back and forth betweenthe different parties), and "Crown" (the White House Situation Roomin the West Wing of the White House).
The purpose of the 2-day visit to the Archives was to determine whether therewere any significant reasons to pursue the unedited, full length version of therecordings. There were; we did; and neither the Air Force nor the White House Communications Agency exhibited any interest or cooperation whatsoever. TheARRB's inability to locate the unedited recordings was my second biggest
disappointment while working there. (My biggest disappointment, of course, was not taking the depositions of the Dallas doctors in the presence of the autopsy photographs.) Four frequencies wereidentified on the tape as being in use that night, and a memo written by USAFMaster Sergeant John C. Trimble (the radio operator aboard Air Force One on11/22/63) stated that he "...had three phone patches going simultaneouslyfor much of the time..." during the flight back to Andrews AFB from LoveField. Since the flight time from "wheels up" to "on theblocks" at the final destination was 2 hrs. 17 min., it is possible thatthe total duration of recorded conversation, on all four channels, was anywherefrom seven to nine hours long. One of the problems when listening to the tapesis that the listener does not know which "patch" he is listening toat any one time, or whether or not the various conversations on the editedtapes are recorded in the right time sequence in relation to each other (sincethere were three circuits in use almost continuously).
Some of the 'investigative leads' I noted in my memo of October 17, 1995 are summarized below:
• Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman, and later U.S. Army General Ted Clifton(Military Aide to President Kennedy) make it clear on the radio that theirdesire is for an ambulance and a limousine to take President Kennedy's body toWalter Reed (not Bethesda) for autopsy "...under guard...," as specifiedby General Clifton.
• Gerald Behn, Head of the Secret Service White House Detail (speaking from"Crown"), counters that a helicopter has been arranged to take thePresident's body to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda for autopsy,and that all other personnel will be choppered to the south grounds of theWhite House.
• Ultimately, Dr. Burkley (onboard Air Force One) sides with Gerald Behn (atthe White House) in support of a Bethesda autopsy, and persuades General Heaton(the Surgeon General of the Army, in Washington) to cancel arrangements for aWalter Reed autopsy.
• After Bethesda has been selectedas the autopsy site, the mode of transportation to Bethesdais discussed. Burkley and Cliftoninsist that JFK's body be transported by ambulance (vice helicopter), eventhough JFK's Naval aide, CAPT Shepard, has assured Behn that it would be noproblem for a helicopter to carry the heavy casket.
• Unaccountably, even though ambulance transport had been selected for JFK'sbody, Gerald Behn directs Kellerman on the radio: "You accompany the bodyaboard the helicopter." [Question: Was Behn aware that the bronze Dallascasket was empty and that JFK's body was in the forward luggage compartment?]
• General Clifton insists upon, and then repeats, in great detail, orders forthe following ground support at Andrews AFB upon arrival: a forklift andplatform at the left rear of the aircraft for the casket; a personnel ramp atthe left front of the aircraft for the debarkation of President Johnson and theother passengers; and another personnel ramp at the right front of the airplane(the dark, unlit side where there is a galley door)for the departure ofJacqueline Kennedy. [Mrs. Kennedy did not use the forward starboardgalley door to leave the aircraft in secret; she insisted on staying with the Dallascasket, which threw a monkey wrench in the conspirators' likely plans toreunite JFK's body with the Dallascasket at Walter Reed hospital prior to taking the bronze coffin to Bethesda.]
•At one point Roy Kellerman says to Gerald Behn: "I'm sure the Volunteerboys will go over his car and so forth." ("Volunteer" was theWHCA code word used for LBJ.) Late in the flight, as Air Force One nearsAndrews, someone is heard discussing the status of the flight carrying the twovehicles—the Presidential limousine and the Queen Mary—back to Washington.[The "Volunteer boys" is surely a reference to Secret Service agentsassigned to LBJ; I wonder whether Kellerman was discussingan impending searchof the Presidential limousine, in an attempt to remove any of the 'wrong' kindof evidence—such as evidence of shots from the front striking the automobile?]
• Background chatter can be heard at one point, discussing a "limousineand ambulance at Andrews," and at another juncture, as part of this samebackground chatter, the phrase "black Cadillac" can be heard. [Ahearse is a black Cadillac.]
• During the flight, "SAM CommandPost" (undefined) calls Air Force One and a Colonel 'Arnbuck' (phoneticspelling) expresses a concern from the Chief of Staff (almost certainly AirForce Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay) as to whether President Johnson and Mr.Kennedy's body are onboard the aircraft.
• During the flight, several players make plans to separate Mrs. Kennedy fromJFK's body [i.e., the Dallascasket] after landing. General Clifton is the person who asked for a personnelramp after landing at the forward starboard galley door for Mrs. Kennedy'sdebarkation. Gerald Behn attempts on two occasions toseparateall passengers aboard Air Force One from JFK's body after landing(desiring to send 'the body' to Bethesdavia helicopter, and all other passengers to the south grounds of the WhiteHouse via helicopter also). [Since we now know—thanks to the Boyajiandocument—that the Dallas casket had to be empty when it was offloaded from AirForce One, the repeated interest in separating JBK from the Dallascasket indicates an intention to reunite the body with thecasket prior to the autopsy.]
• Immediately after Behn ordered Kellerman to "...accompany the bodyaboard the helicopter," the following exchange took place:
Kellerman: I was unable to get ahold of Payne and Bob Burke (names are phoneticapproximations).
Kellerman or Behn: ...Payne and Burke at the ranch...
Unidentified: ...Payne and Burke were not notified...
• Finally, "Wing" (Kennedy's Air Force aide, General Godfrey McHugh)asks "Crown"(the White House situation room) to contact"Slugger" (USAF Captain Cecil Stoughton), and to direct him to meetthe aircraft as soon as possible on the ground at Andrews. A reason is notgiven, but the urgency and importance of the matter to General McHugh is quiteclear because of his tone of voice. "Crown" later informs"Wing" that "Slugger" remained on the ground in Dallas.[Cecil Stoughton took the now infamous photo of Congressman Al Thomas of Houstonsmiling and winking at LBJ immediately after Johnson had been sworn in asPresident onboard Air Force One, just prior to takeoff from Love Field. CouldLBJ have been concerned about the possibility of the 'wink' photo gettingpublished? He need not have worried;
Cecil Stoughton had better discretion than that. However, he was aware of thepolitical significance of the photograph. When David Lifton called him to askhim about the photo just prior to its publication inBest Evidence, Stoughtonexpressed surprise and alarm, and asked Lifton how he knew about it.Apparently, the LBJ Library had printed it for Lifton by mistake; Stoughtonclearly thought it had been suppressed. Author Richard Trask writes (on page 47of Pictures of the Pain) that the negative of the 'wink photo' has nowdisappeared from the LBJ Library.]
DOUG HORNE IARRB p. 1660
THE AIR FORCE ONETAPES: MORE EVIDENCE OF A U.S. GOVERNMENT COVERUP
In his 1996 book History Will Not Absolve Us, author E. Martin Schotzwrites of Vincent Salandria's discovery in 1966 of an extremely earlyGovernment attempt at a simplistic whitewash, placing the sole blame for theassassination on a lone malcontent, Lee Harvey Oswald, before Air ForceOne even landed at Andrews Air Force Base on November 22, 1963. Salandria'sdiscovery came from Theodore H. White's book The Making of a President,1964 – in which White wrote on page 20:
There is a tape recording in the archives of the Government which best recapturesthe sound of the hours as it waited for leadership. It is a recording of allthe conversations in the air, monitored by the [Army] Signal Corps Midwesterncenter "Liberty," betweenAir Force One in Dallas, theCabinet plane over the Pacific, and the Joint Chiefs' Communication Center in Washington.
White continued on page 48:
On the flight the party learned that there was no conspiracy, learned of theidentity of Oswald and his arrest; and the President's mind turned to theduties of consoling the stricken and guiding the quick.
Corroboration for White's claim can be found in the 1993 oral history edited byGerald S. and Debroah H. Strober, Let Us Begin Anew: An Oral History ofthe Kennedy Presidency. On pages 450-451, Assistant Secretary of State RobertManning – who was aboard the Cabinet plane to Japan with Secretary of StateRusk and Presidential Press Secretary Pierre Salinger – is quoted as sayingthat the White House situation room was in continuous voice contact with theCabinet aircraft, and not only informed Rusk that "Lancer [the President]is dead," but also told the editors of the book: "The news then camein that someone named Oswald who had been in the Soviet Union had donethis."
This is most curious, since on November 23, 1963 (the next morning) the Dallas MorningNews printed the following, quoting District Attorney Henry Wade from theprevious day:"…preliminary reports indicated more than one person wasinvolved in the shooting…the electric chair is too good for the killers."
For the Dallas District Attorney to say that preliminary reports indicated morethan one person was involved in the shooting was quite understandable, giventhat the suspect's rifle was found in the Book Depository (behind the motorcadeat the time of the shooting), and yet numerous eyewitnesses indicated shots hadunmistakenly come from the Grassy Knoll, to the right front of the vehicle atthe time of the shooting. What is truly strange is that anyone in the WhiteHouse Situation Room could pass on a solution to the crime while Air ForceOne was in the air enroute from Dallas to Washington the day of theassassination – before the sun had even set – when no one in Dallas had solvedthe crime, or had even yet claimed to have solved the crime. At the time theinformation White and Manning referred to was passed to Air Force One, suspectOswald had not even been charged with the murder of the President. If theWhite House Situation Room had been an honest broker in all of this, its reportshould have said: "a suspect has been arrested in the shooting of apoliceman, and a rifle has been found in a building along the motorcaderoute." Either someone was feeding the White House Situation Room thedesired "legend" about the assassination, or someone in the WhiteHouse Situation Room was in on the conspiracy.
What was unclear then, and remains unclear now, is whether journalist TheodoreH. White listened to these tapes himself, or whether he was indirectly fed someof the information on the tapes by LBJ aids while researching and writing hisbook. White tries to give the impression that he was privy to the tapeshimself, but as subsequent events revealed, this was extremely unlikely. It ismuch more likely that he was simply told what was on the tapes by an LBJ aid'on background.' Vincent Salandria's dogged attempts to obtain access to theseaudio recordings – through Theodore White, the National Archives, PierreSalinger, and ultimately, the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) – werefruitless.
The White House Communications Agency turned out to be the correct point ofcontact, but WHCA only hinted at this, neither confirming nor denying that sucha tape from 11/22/63 existed, and simply replied to Salandria that any suchtapes would not be made available to US citizens:
January 2, 1968
Dear Mr. Salandria:
I have been asked to respond to your letter, addressed to the White HouseCommunications Agency, concerning a tape recording to [sic] Air Force One,November 22, 1963.
Logs and tapes of the radio transmissions of military aircraft, including thoseof Air Force One, are kept for official use only. These tapes are notreleasable, nor are they obtainable from commercial sources.
I am sorry my response cannot be more favorable.
James U. Cross
Armed Forces Aide to the President"
This response – which undoubtedly was coordinated with LBJ –makes it a virtual certainty that Theodore H. White never listened t the tapeshimself, but instead was given a summary account of some of the contentmaterial in the recordings by an insider who had listened to them.
As a member of the Military Records Team on the staff of the AssassinationsRecords Review Board, I did my best to locate the original, unedited Air Forceone tapes; ultimately, I had no more success than Vincent Salandria. But bythis time – by 1995, when I first became involved in the search – the landscapehad changed considerably.
A commercial version – a heavily edited version – of the tapes of in-flightrecordings made on 11/22/63 by the White House Communications Agency hadsurfacedsubsequent to Salandria's search, so the existence of the tapes was nolonger subject to question. I visited Archives II on October 10-11, 1995 with colleague Dr. JoanZimmerman, and listened to the version of the Air Force One tapes released bythe LBJ Library. The NARArecordings available at Archives II in College Park, Maryland – sent to them by the LBJ Library– appeared to be identical to what I had purchased through the mail a few yearspreviously through a small Texasbookstore. The very first voice audible on the tape is a member of the ArmySignal Corps, who announces that the recording is "edited andcondensed." Large portions of the 3 cassette tapes at Archives II consistof blank space, but I would estimate that the total length of spoken materialon the 3 cassettes is somewhere between 110-120 minutes, or a maximum of twohours. The information reported below is from the staff memo I wrote about theexperience on October 17, 1995.
A so-called "transcript" of the 3 cassette tapes is available in theJFK Records Collection, 67 and is not to be trusted, since itis incomplete, and is not verbatim.
Any interested researcher is advised to request copies of the audiotapes themselvesfrom the audiovisual branch of Archives II in College Park, Maryland (or the LBJ Library itself). OneWarren Commission document, a typed statement signed by the radio operator onAir Force One on 11/22/63 – Master Sergeant John C. Trimble, USAF – revealsthat four radio frequencies for voice communications had been set up by him theday of the assassination for the flight from Love Field back to Andrews AFB,and that 3 of them were in almost constant use. I quote from his statement:"I ….had three phone patches going simultaneously most of thetime."
As an ARRB staff member I was very concerned with determining whether or not asignificant portion of time had been excised from the original recordings.Anyone concerned with this exercise must begin with the flight time from LoveField to Andrews AFB: 2 hours 17 minutes. Next, since Trimble had written thathe had "three phone patches going simultaneously most of the time,"it is wise to take a conservative approach to his statement "most of thetime." I interpreted "most of the time" as 2 hours out ofthe total flight time of 2 hours, 17 minutes. Continuing with this calculation,the reader should multiply 2 hours ('most of the time') times 3 radio circuits( 'going simultaneously'), i.e., 2 x 3 = 6, which conservativelyyields six hours of unedited voice conversationsas the length of theunedited Air Force One tapes
67 In LBJ Library box # 19
from November 22, 1963. Since the tapes at Archives II are a maximum oftwo hours in length, approximately 4 hours have been excised. It appearssafe to say, then, that the amount of time edited out of the existing tape istwice as long as the length of the information released by the LBJLibrary.
This is extremely disturbing.
Furthermore, there is no mention on the edited version of the AirForce Once conversations (with either the White House Situation Room, or theCabinet plane), of the crime being solved, or of the assassin being capturedand identified, as referenced by Theodore White and Robert Manning. I can onlyconclude from this that the information passed to Air Force One waspremature, in that it was too detailed for the information available onthe ground in Dallas at the time, and therefore had to be excised from thehistorical record to protect the conspirators who passed along thisinformation. To have released the unedited tapes would have revealed,directly or indirectly, the identity of one of the conspirators.
One prominent voice that is present on the tapes is that of Gerald Behn,the Head of the White House Detail of the U.S. Secret Service, who had chosento take leave during the President's trip to Texas,but was nevertheless present in the White House Situation Room coordinatingarrangements. In one conversation that did survive on the edited version, Behnis heard ordering ASAIC Roy Kellerman (who was in charge of the Dallas trip,who was in the front right-hand seat of the limousine in Dallas, and whosubsequently monitored and partially controlled entrance to the morgue duringthe autopsy), "You accompany the body [of the President] aboard thehelicopter." This is particularly interesting, since the Dallascasket was transported by a Navy Ambulance, containing Greer, Kelleman, RFK,JBK, and others. 68.
There can be heard on the existing tape what appear to be crude edits andbreaks in the conversation, as well as references to other conversations whichare not on the tape available today. The indecision, or rather tug-of-war, overwhether the President's autopsy should be performed at Walter Reed Hospital orBethesda Naval Hospital is one of the subjects of interest on the edited tapes,as is interest by the White House in the limousine and follow-up car beingtransported back to Washington D.C. in a C-130 aircraft. In another tantalizingfragment of a conversation on the edited tapes, there is discussion of a"limousine and ambulance at Andrews," and an indistinct reference toa "black Cadillac" at one point. It is unclear whether this is areference to a hearse (which is indeed a black Cadillac), or to the follow-upcar in the Dallas motorcade, theso-called Queen Mary, which was itself a black Cadillac convertible. In onefragment of conversation, a Colonel from OPS expresses a concern from the Chiefof Staff (General LeMay?) as to whetherPresident Johnson or Mr.Kennedy's body is onboard the aircraft. One would have expected the Chiefof Staff of the Air Force to be concerned with the overall DEFCON status, orthe alert status of SAC's bombers and ICBMs, not the whereabouts of JFK's body.This seems to me
[68 It is still unknown today whether JFK's body was helicoptered from Andrewsto the grounds of Bethesda and then placed in a black hearse, or whether ablack hearse spirited it at high speed, uninterrupted, directly from Andrews tothe loading dock outside the Bethesda morgue. The fact that President Kennedy'sbody actually arrived at 1835 (6:35 PM) at the loading dock outside theBethesda NNMC morgue, whereas the Andrews motorcade did not arrived until about6:55 PM (twenty minutes later), strongly implies that a helicopter was used totransport it to the Navy complex, and that it was united with the Gawler'shearse containing Hagen and Robinson a short distance from the hospital complexitself. ]
a pretty damning statement, given the fact that LeMay disobeyed orders from theSecretary of the Air Force to proceed to Andrews AFB; instead proceeded to theNatinoal Airport near downtown Washington D.C.; and was reported by autopsytechnician Paul O'Conner to have been at President Kennedy's autopsy.
The White House Communications Agency played 'dumb' with the ARRB on thesubject of the Air Force One tapes, as did the LBJ Library. Neither entityprofessed to having any knowledge as to who edited the tapes, when they wereedited, or the whereabouts of the unedited version, if it even existed (which Iseriously doubt).
As the Final Report of the ARRB states:
The Review Board sought to locate any audio recordings of voice communicationsto or from Air Force One on the day of the assassination, includingcommunications between Air Force One and Andrews Air Force Base during thereturn flight from Dallas to Washington, D.C. As many people are now aware, inthe 1970s, the LBJ Presidential Library released edited audio cassettes ofunsecured, or open voice conversations with Air Force One, Andrews Air ForceBase, the White House Situation Room, and the Cabinet aircraft carrying theSecretary of State and other officials on November 22, 1963. The LBJ Libraryversion of these tapes consists of about 110 minutes of vice transmissions, butthe tapes are edited and condensed, so the Review Board staff sought access tounedited, uncondensed versions. Since the edited version of the tapes containsconsiderable talk about both the forthcoming autopsy on the President, as wellas the reaction of a government in crisis, the tapes are of considerableinterest to assassination researchers and historians.
Given that the LBJ Library released the tapes in the 1970s, the paper trail is nowsketchy and quite cold. The LBJ Library staff is fairly confident that thetapes originated with the White House Communications Agency (WHCA). The LBJLibrary staff told the ARRB that it received the tapes from the White House aspart of the original shipment of President Johnson's papers in 1968 or 1969.According to the LBJ Library's documentation, the accession card reads:"WHCA?" and is dated 1975. The Review Board staff could not locateany records indicating who performed the editing, or when, or where.
The Review Board's repeated written and oral inquiries of the White HouseCommunication Agency did not bear fruit. The WHCA could not produce any recordsthat illuminated the provenance of the edited tapes.
I was the person on the staff driving the effort to find the original, uneditedAir Force Once tapes, and I do not mind admitting that our inability to obtainany information whatsoever from WHCA was extremely frustrating, anddisappointing. Not only was the paper trail extremely old (and cold), but theattitude of the WHCA official responsible for ARRB liaison was one ofamusement, and barely concealed contempt for the Review Board's concern overthis issue.
Edited by William Kelly, 01 February 2012 - 10:58 AM.