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Joseph Backes

Roy Kellerman and "the, ah, body..."

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Hello folks,

There's a key section in the new Clifton version of the Air Force One tapes I want to draw your attention to. Doug Horne made his own transcript:

See - http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=146531

This is from page 4 and 5 of Horne's transcript.

Crown - (that's the White House) 26000, ah Duplex is on, go ahead

SAM 26000 - [garbled] Stand By

Duplex - (Gerry Behn) Hello

Digest - (Roy Kellerman) Ok. Jerry?

Duplex - Hello

Digest - [garbled] in here now, ah, we're at the airport, 26000, everybody aboard.

Duplex - Okay go ahead

Digest - We're waiting for the swearing in

Duplex - That is for Volunteer, is that right

Digest - Yes, we are having [garbled] before we take off, Jerry

Duplex - That's affirmative. Do you have any idea what, ah, Lace ( Jackie) wants to do and what Volunteer wants to do on their arrival here?

Digest - No, I will call you back. Suggest --we have a 2 hour 15 minute flight into Andrews. We have a full plane of at least 40.

Duplex - Ok, go ahead

Digest - I'll have to call you again after the, ah, body. However, I'm sure the, ah, Volunteer boys will go over his car and so forth. We will need [garbled] and several others.

Duplex - All right, let me know what Volunteer wants to do when they, ah, land if they want to come into Crown by, ah, helicopter.

Digest - That's a Roger. I'll call you again.

Duplex - OK

What does Kellerman mean? What is going on with "the, ah, body?" What is this "after" the body? Officially, its already on board and in the ceremonial bronze casket. Why does Kellerman need to call Behn at the White House again about the body?

See my blog for more. - http://justiceforkennedy.blogspot.com/2012/03/roy-kellerman-and-ah-body.html


I interpret that a bit differently. After the Clifton tapes were released in November I noted that when AF1 left Dallas with the coffin it had not been sorted out where the autopsy was going to be conducted. If I remember correctly, somewhere other than Bethesda had been suggested, but Jackie Kennedy, during the flight, made it clear that she wanted this to be done at Bethesda as president Kennedy had been serving in the US Navy during the war.

It seems likely to me that this is what they were discussing in your transcript.


First of all, it's not my transcript. It's Doug's.

Second, if you only have a limited knowledge of the medical evidence in this case you will probably think there's nothing amiss here, when actually there is a great deal amiss.

The decision for the body/casket and only the body/casket to go (I'm not even getting into different caskets and arrival times at Bethesda yet) ANYWHERE WITHOUT JACKIE was never a decision of Jackie's. Somebody wanted the body/casket to go, ALONE, by helicopter somewhere. That idea and the many different ways it's expressed and by many different people was never Jackie's idea.

It is speculated that the conspirators thought they could separate Jackie from JFK at some point in Parkland Hospital. That didn't happen. If you read everything that is available in the public record you'll read where LBJ was kind of pissed off that a Catholic ceremony was performed at Parkland as JFK was given the Last Rites. This delayed things at Parkland. I don't think there was anyone who was Catholic or knew anything about the Roman Catholic faith, its ceremonies or traditions in the group of conspirators who killed JFK.

Your opinion that this is just a misunderstanding and that they eventually got it together and went to Bethesda per Jackie's request is an opinion you're being guided into believing. Harold Weisberg goes into this whole "blame the Kennedys," mentality for when and where things seem odd in his book Post-Mortem.

Third, the reason I want researchers to focus in on one conversation is because something strange is going on. JFK's body is in a bronze ceremonial casket and is already aboard AF1. When it arrives and is off loaded at Andrews its empty. JFK's body arrives at Bethesda before Jackie and the Navy ambulance get there as Lifton discovered and details in his book. I believe its Dennis David, or maybe Jerrol Custer, who is carrying X-rays and/or other autopsy photos just taken of JFK when he sees Jackie and the rest ARRIVING at Bethesda.

This cannot be, if JFK is in the ceremonial casket too and is just arriving. The conclusion is obvious. JFK's body got there another way.

Lifton theorizes that they took JFK out of the ceremonial casket at some point while it was on board AF1, probably shortly before LBJ swears himself in as the new POTUS. So, for Roy Kellerman, who is THE central figure in the movement of JFK's body, to say something as odd as he does, that he needs to call Gerry Behn back after SOMETHING happens to "the, ah, body," is damn strange. He doesn't say, "I don't know," or "As far as I know a decision hasn't been made," or anything like that.

I would recommend you do some further reading:

Post-Mortem by Harold Weisberg

Best Evidence by David Lifton

In the eye of History by William Matson Law

Inside the ARRB by Doug Horne

Joe Backes

Let me add a few things to what Joe Backes has said:

(1) the basic source of the story (and that's what it is, a "story") that it was "Jackie's decision" that the autopsy would be held at Bethesda Naval Hospital (and not Walter Reed, which was the headquarters for AFIP (Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) and would be the logical place for a military autopsy--was Admiral George Burkely's November 27, 1963 narrative, which then became a Warren Commision exhibit (WCE 1126). Burkley's account was provided to William Manchester, and so his version of events thenbecame part of "the story" as set forth in Manchester's widely read account. Basically, what I think happened is that some "story" was agreed upon, in the first few days, and that "story" was made a part of the documentary record by Burkley.

(2) Notable in Burkley's account is that (by implication, at least) he talks of two ambulances that would meet the plane. One, if the destination was Walter Reed, the other, if the destination was Bethesda Naval Hospital. Here is the exact quote: "Arrangements were made on the ground for departure to Walter Reed Army Hospital or Bethesda Naval Hospital, as the case may be." (Burkley's Narrative, dated 11/27/63, which is WC Exhibit 1126; it is also ARRB Medical Document "MD 48") Curiously, while we all saw the navy ambulance, the Air Force History--which I obtained under FOIA, and published a few lines from in BEST EVIDENCE (Chapter 31), states that the body was taken to Walter Reed). Here is the exact quote from page 120 of the U.S. Air Force History of the 1001st Air Base Wing: the body of the slain President was removed to Walter Reed General Hospital So obviously, something peculiar was going on (that there would be an after-action report on which the USAF historian would base that statement, which completely contradcted the event, as nationally televised. Furthermore, the USAF event appears to also contradict Admiral Burkley's narrative (which, again, employs CYA language, by stating that the body could go to either location "as the case may be." What does "as the case may be" mean?

(3 ) It was X-Ray tech Jerrol Custer who said --both in his original 1979 telephone interview with me, and then again in our October, 1980 filmed interview--that he was passing through the Bethesda lobby, with some x-rays, when he saw the ambulance parked outside, and Jackie crossing the lobby

(4) It was Dennis David, who had already witnessed offload at the rear, who was standing in the Bethesda rotunda, and looking down on the lobby, when Jackie crossed the lobby.

I consider Custer and David to be akin to "time-clocks" that are punched in two places--and which establish this critically important sequence: first, the arrival of the black hearse with the shipping casket, at the back of Bethesda Naval Hospital; and then, the arrival of the naval ambulance (at 6:55 pm EST) at the front of the hospital.

In fact, there's a third witness, and he is just as important, if not more so.

Within days of the publication of BEST EVIDENCE, and while I was in Los Angeles on my first book tour, I received a call from a reporter in the mid-west. He told me that they were about to run a story confirming what had just been released in my book. A local man, he said, was part of the group that met the black hearse at the rear of the hospital, had actually helped carry in the shipping casket, and knew about the "two ambulance" story. He gave me his name (Donald Rebentisch), and was calling for reaction. Of course, I was pleased, and said so, but also asked for contact information with this new witness, because I was anxious to speak with him before he received calls from other reporters; and, hopefully, before he even read my book. (The book had received a full two-page spread in Time Magazine, and that was what had elicted this reaction from this witness, and others as well--in effect, that "yes," they knew all about the two ambulance business, because they had been at Bethesda that night.

At the time, as noted, I was in Los Angeles, and was staying in a nice hotel. I set aside some time, hooked up a recorder, and had a wonderful "on the record" interview with Rebentish, who had met the black hearse, and participated with the offloading of the shipping casket. Then, after that event, he had gone up to either the rotunda or the lobby, and witnessed Jacqueline Kennedy, who had just exited the ambulance (with Robert Kennedy) at the elevator bank, and about to enter the elevators to go to the presidential suite upstairs.

About a month later, and in conjunction with another news organization, I interviewed this man, on camera.

Later, I learned that Rebentisch in a wire service account, but I had this very fine and most detailed interview with him, from January 24, 1981. Unfortunately, the entire interview was recorded on a SONY micro-cassette, and it ended up in a storage box. Some months ago, it turned up, and--through the expertise of my friend Pat Valentino--it was transferred to a full sized cassette, and he made a detailed transcript. I mentioned Rebentisch briefly in the 1982 Epilogue to Best Evidence, and I will be including him in a future edition of BEST EVIDENCE).

Between Dennis David, Jerrol Custer, Rebentisch, and the Boyajian report (which specifies the time of arrival of the body as 6:35 PM EST) I don't think there can be any doubt but that President Kennedy's body arrived at Bethesda a good 20 minutes before the naval ambulance containing the Dallas casket.

Although this is now a well publicized fact (my publisher ran ads in many major newspapers, showing the Andrews offload and with the headline, "The Coffin Was Empty") I don't think people fully understand the implications.

IMHO: THere is no "innocent explanation" for this state of affairs.

The implication is that the President's body was removed from the Dallas casket, sometime between 2:18 CST, when it was placed on board in Dallas (with SS Agent Kellerman at the head of the coffin, as photographed by White House photographer Cecil Stoughton, who photographed the Dallas onload) and 2:47 PM, the time of takeoff.

It was during that period--a time segment that included he swearing in of Lyndon Johnson--that President Kennedy's body was somehow removed from the Dallas coffin.

It didn't happen by magic; and I now have considerably more information as to what happened.

Stay tuned.


3/18/12; 11:20 PM PDT

Los Angeles, California

Edited by David Lifton

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Mr, Lifton when i first read your book back in 82 that stuck with me how could Custer be carring the X-Rays of President Kennedy when he saw the party just ariving at the hospital.

I remeber there was talk of a coppter lifting off right after Air Force One tough down that it could have carried the body which you had in your book.

I also was wondering since the last update to your book have you found out who could have done any alterations to the body?

Also will put out an new update to your book?

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I believe you're thinking of the account of Richard Lipsey, the aide to General Wehle, the Commanding Officer of Military District Washington, the Army official in charge of the multi-service casket team.

Lipsey told the HSCA--during his HSCA interview in 1978 (which he insisted be tape recorded, which was done) and then repeated to me in 1979 (in our telephone interivew)--that at a meeting of officials at Andrews, at the control center, and prior to the arrival of AF-1, plans were made for two ambulances to meet the plane, and that one was to be a "decoy."

So that (I believe) is what you are referring to.

I'm thinking of something more recent, involving confirmation by some military personnel that there were two caskets. But I can't remember who and don't know now how to find it.

Of course I may have imagined it. I'm the only person here who remembers watching the arrival of the Dallas casket at Bethesda on TV and the long wait outside. But Gary Mack and others have persuaded me that there was no TV coverage and I must be remembering the departure from Andrews instead. So what do I know? Less and less as the years go by.

Edited by Ron Ecker

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I have found what I was looking for (by Googling "Dallas casket decoy"). It’s from Chapter 6 of Roger Feinman’s online book Between the Signal and the Noise. Interestingly, the book’s website says that you and Feinman have been “feuding for years.” So what about petty officer Donald Rebentisch’s statement (corroborated by at least one other person involved) that there were two caskets, and the Dallas casket was empty? The book suggests that you have rejected this, but I understand why (it gets kind of confusing), given your belief that there were indeed two caskets.

For Donald Rebentisch, a petty officer who was stationed at Bethesda on the night of the autopsy, there was no big secret. Rebentisch was studying dental and medical equipment repair at the hospital at the time. According to Rebentisch, two ambulances carrying two caskets were employed—one of them empty and one with the body of Kennedy—in a deliberate charade to slip the President's body into Bethesda Naval Hospital. Rebentisch says his commanding officers told him the secrecy was planned to avoid the media and other onlookers. The empty casket was brought in the front door while the casket carrying Kennedy's body was driven in a 1958 Chevrolet hearse to the back of the hospital where medical officials were to perform an autopsy:

"It was about 4:30 p.m., when our chief petty officer came to me and about five other petty officers and told us to go to the back of the hospital. I'm talking about the loading ramps where they used to bring in supplies.

"He told all of us that we were going to be there and we were going to bring the President's casket into the mortuary. We were told not to leave our posts.

"The chief said we got all the…ghouls and reporters and the TV and everybody at the front of the hospital He said there would be an empty casket in the ambulance. He said the President's body would really come in the back.

"This made sense to me. I felt there was nothing wrong with this. I just bought it, as did the rest of us."

Rebentisch said he and five other officers took the President's casket out of the black hearse and pushed it through a rear freight entrance, 35 or 40 minutes before another coffin was taken through a mass of reporters and photographers at the front door. "Rebentisch said he doubted most of Lifton's claims." (The Associated Press, January 23, 1981, AM Cycle) Robert Muma, who was a Bethesda staff dental technician, corroborated Rebentisch's account:

"There were two ambulances that came in. One was lighted. It came up to the front door. The second one they kept dark and it went around to the back. That was the one that had Kennedy in it. It was common knowledge that there were two caskets." (The Associated Press, January 23, 1981, AM Cycle)

Another of Rebentisch's associates, Paul Neigler, also corroborated the former petty officer's story. (United Press International, January 24, 1981, AM cycle)

In an "Epilogue" to his Dell and subsequent paperback editions of Best Evidence, Lifton refers to Donald Rebentisch surfacing after the initial publication of his book. He chortles at the notion that a mere security measure might have been employed. Nevertheless, he omits to mention the front entry of the bronze ceremonial casket, and he also fails to grapple with the fact that Rebentisch and his colleagues were stationed at the back of the hospital from 4:30 p.m. that afternoon until they carried the casket containing the President's remains. None of them mentioned the comings and goings of more than one vehicle or more than one casket.


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I Googled for more info on Donald Rebentisch. He was one of the 7 or 8 sailors in Dennis David's team who received the shipping casket at Bethesda, and is referred to in Horne v. 3, p. 675: "After Best Evidence was published, a Michigan newspaper and a Canadian news team located and interviewed Donald Rebentisch, one of the sailors in Dennis David’s working party, who had been telling the same story independently for years.”

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The Air Force One at the Reagan Library is nearly identical to the one used on 11-22-63. It's quite confined inside. It's hard to imagine any significant movement of any type in the front or the back or the plane that people in the middle of the plane wouldn't know about. My two cents.

photos in BEST EVIDENCE show SS AGENTS blocking the rear of the plane.

I don't know the identity of those men, but one or two strike me as having a sinister aspect.

It looks to me as though those watching LBJ's swearing-in would have no way of seeing or knowing

what was happening to the coffin at that moment.

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(1) the basic source of the story (and that's what it is, a "story") that it was "Jackie's decision" that the autopsy would be held at Bethesda Naval Hospital (and not Walter Reed, which was the headquarters for AFIP (Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) and would be the logical place for a military autopsy--was Admiral George Burkely's November 27, 1963 narrative, which then became a Warren Commision exhibit (WCE 1126). Burkley's account was provided to William Manchester, and so his version of events thenbecame part of "the story" as set forth in Manchester's widely read account. Basically, what I think happened is that some "story" was agreed upon, in the first few days, and that "story" was made a part of the documentary record by Burkley.

The first rule of successfully spinning a false story is to be truthful whenever possible,

and I submit Burkley is truthful in describing Jackie's response.

Burkley said he framed the question as a simple choice between the army hospital and the navy hospital.

The conspirators all knew that Jackie knew that JFK was born sailor and a proud navy man, so they KNEW

as sure as God made little apples

that Jackie was CERTAIN to choose the navy hospital.

Further, when Burkley told the story to Manchester

he had to assume

that Manchester would repeat it to Jackie

who would have caught the lie

if there was one.

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