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Ron Ecker

False Memory and the Hearse to Bethesda

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In another thread (The "Other" Zapruder Film) I wrote the following:

“I have personal experience with a JFK-related false memory, which I have described before on this forum, so I know what it can do to you. I still have a vivid memory of watching the ambulance with the Dallas casket arrive at Bethesda on live TV. I remember the ambulance sitting there for several minutes, with some broadcaster's comment about it, till some kind of officer got into the ambulance and drove it away. Years later I tried in vain to find as much as a single clip from that TV coverage to no avail. Gary Mack finally assured me that in fact there was no live TV coverage of the casket's arrival at Bethesda, that what I must be remembering was the live TV coverage of the ambulance leaving Andrews AF Base. But I have seen that footage and it is not the event that I remember at all. I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that what I vividly remember - live TV coverage of the arrival of the ambulance at Bethesda - never happened. It has to be a false memory created over the years by the things I have read about the arrival. At least that's my theory.

A couple of days ago I received an email from a fellow who told me that he also remembers this. He says that the hearse that left Andrews AFB was a Pontiac, and the one that arrived at Bethesda was “without a doubt a Cadillac.” He says that he pointed this aberration out to his parents at the time it occurred.

Any comments on this? Do we know if the hearse that took the Dallas casket from Andrews and arrived at Bethesda was a Pontiac or Cadillac? (Or both?)

Edited by Ron Ecker

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Any comments on this? Do we know if the hearse that took the Dallas casket from Andrews and arrived at Bethesda was a Lincoln or Cadillac? (Or both?)

Ron,

The hearse that carried JFK's body from Andrews to Bethesda was a Pontiac. It wasn't a Cadillac or a Lincoln.

From the TIME website....

"In January of last year [2011], a 1963 Pontiac ambulance that carried the president’s body from Air Force One when [it] landed in Maryland was sold for $132,000, noted CNNMoney. At the time, the ambulance was said to be a fake by historians cited by Jalopnik. The ambulance’s new owner, Addison Brown, was quoted by Reuters saying that she had “no doubt” the vehicle was real."

November-22-1963-JFKs-Casket-Is-Taken-Off-Air-Force-One-At-Andrews-Air-Force-Base.jpg

kennedy-photos.blogspot.com/2013/03/kennedy-gallery-296.html

Edited by David Von Pein

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David,

Thanks, I made a mistake and have corrected my post. The fellow's email said it was a Pontiac that left Andrews. I don't know why the hell I said Lincoln, I guess it was a false memory of the email.

So what about the hearse that arrived at Bethesda? Was it a Pontiac or Cadillac? I don't know of any existing photographs of the hearse at Bethesda, but I know there were eyewitnesses.

Edited by Ron Ecker

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So what about the hearse that arrived at Bethesda? Was it a Pontiac or Cadillac?

It was, of course, the same Pontiac ambulance/hearse that left Andrews carrying JFK's body, Jackie Kennedy, and Bobby Kennedy.

I know of no pictures of the Pontiac arriving at Bethesda, however. I've certainly never seen any pictures of that arrival anyway. I'd love to find some, though, to add to my Kennedy Gallery.

Another picture I'd love to find (and I've always been curious as to why none seems to exist) is a picture of JFK's SS-100-X limo leaving Parkland Hospital. There were tons of newsmen (with cameras) crawling all over Parkland during the period when that limousine would have certainly been leaving Parkland for Love Field. But there's not a single photo in existence of the car departing the hospital (that I am aware of). Very odd.

Edited by David Von Pein

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"BY MR. GUNN: Q: Before we went off the record, you were describing the casket that you saw in the morgue at Bethesda.

I’d like to show you some photographs, and ask you whether the casket that you see in the photographs is the same one that you saw - or the same general type, we’ll say, as the one that you saw in the morgue?

A: Yes.This is, generalIy.

Q: That’s what it looked like?

A: Yeah.

Mr. Gunn: What I'd like to do is mark this as Exhibit No. 204.

[ARRB Exhibit No. 204 marked PI for identification.]

THE WITNESS: But you got to remember something.There was more than one casket that night.

BY MR. GUNN:

Q: When you say there was more than one casket, what do you mean?

A: There was a casket brought in the back by a black Cadillac ambulance. Plus, there was a casket that Jacqueline Kennedy had in her entourage, too."

From the October 28, 1997 interview of Jerrol F. Custer by the ARRB. Jerrol Custer was the x-ray technician on duty at Bethesda the night of JFK's autopsy, and he took all of the x-rays of JFK's corpse.

I highly recommend this ARRB interview, found here:

http://www.history-matters.com/archive/jfk/arrb/medical_testimony/pdf/Custer_10-28-97.pdf

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Robert,

Thanks. Custer states that the ambulance in Jackie's entourage was gray (he didn't see it arrive but saw it parked later that night) but he doesn't say what make.

But that interview is amazing. It talks about the duty officer and the duty chief both telling him that the body first went to Walter Reed. He tells about the Secret Service taking film away from Riebe. There's a four-star general in the gallery giving orders to Finck, who shouts orders to Hume and Boswell. (I believe O'Connor also mentioned this general in the gallery.) He says that Pitzer was there filming the autopsy. (I checked Eagersham's article re the suspicion that Pitzer had a movie of the autopsy, and this statement by Custer isn't mentioned.) What jumped out at me was Custer's statement that a bullet fell out of the back wound. I guess that answers the question of where the bullet went. It fell out and disappeared. Incredibly Gunn asked him nothing about this bullet.

What struck me as odd was his statement that JFK was still wearing a suit when taken from the casket. It was my understanding that Greer had given JFK's clothes to another agent who stored them in a White House locker, so they were unavailable at the autopsy.

I've never visualized the autopsy as being loud, but Custer says the decibel level was high and sometimes you had to shout to be heard. But I guess such an environment was appropriate for a joke of an autopsy. I love this statement by Custer (p. 51): "Finding out facts, forget it.This (autopsy) is something that had to be done. but done in a way that it’s not going to implicate. And this is, basically, the opinion I got, because I made that statement (to Ebersole), and I was told to shut up."

Edited by Ron Ecker

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In a follow-up email, the fellow who shares my "false memory" of live TV coverage of the arrival at Bethesda states: "I can recall no 'Stand-up Reporter' with a mic in the frame, just the wide shot of that older Black Cadillac Hearse, it was NOT a '59-'63, it was older, like a '56-'58 whereas the Pontiac was Gray & a new one, either a '62 or '63 ."

That's what I remember too, no reporter on camera, just a wide shot of the hearse sitting there in front of Bethesda. I have no memory of which TV network it was, but he's pretty sure it was NBC. (CBS was the only other network they watched.)

This fellow's knowledge of vehicles and what he remembers seeing obviously indicates that Jackie and her entourage switched hearses, from a gray Pontiac to a black Cadillac, on the way to Bethesda (rather than switching the caskets in the hearses). Did they not anticipate live coverage of the arrival at Bethesda in a different hearse? It occurs to me that this could be why no clip of live TV coverage now exists. It has been known for some time that a decoy ambulance was used that night, but this was not publicly known at the time any clip would have been destroyed, in order to hide the fact that there was any subterfuge that night involving the casket.

What I don't understand is why no one else on Earth that I know of besides this one fellow remembers seeing the live TV coverage that I remember seeing.

Edited by Ron Ecker

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I don't remember the color of the hearse in front of Bethesda, and I knew nothing about Pontiacs and Cadillacs. But I have to conclude that what I remember seeing on live TV that night was real, and that any evidence of that coverage has since been destroyed other than in the minds of ever how many people still living around the country who also remember it.

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"From the October 28, 1997 interview of Jerrol F. Custer by the ARRB. Jerrol Custer was the x-ray technician on duty at Bethesda the night of JFK's autopsy, and he took all of the x-rays of JFK's corpse."

Before the Kennedy entourage arrived

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Has registration for this forum closed?

The fellow who shares my memory of live TV coverage of the arrival at Bethesda has told me that he has tried several times to join the forum, but gets the message "The administrator is currently not accepting new membership registrations."

He has a media background and did work with the CIA in the late 1970s and early 80s. I think he would be a good addition to the forum.

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Ron, as far as I know, the forum is still open to new members.

It would be interesting to get someone in the CIA's take. My boss was CIA in the 70's and rejoined later for a few years in the late 80's early 90's; he was their automotive industry analyst. His claim to fame is that when George H. W. Bush got sick in Japan, he was presenting my boss' report at the time and actually puked on the report (and the movie Philadelphia was filmed inside his house).

Edited by Brian Schmidt

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Has registration for this forum closed?

The fellow who shares my memory of live TV coverage of the arrival at Bethesda has told me that he has tried several times to join the forum, but gets the message "The administrator is currently not accepting new membership registrations."

He has a media background and did work with the CIA in the late 1970s and early 80s. I think he would be a good addition to the forum.

Ron, have him go to this link and FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS THERE:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?s=65300ab07fd0874e17e0912c8ffdfa63&showannouncement=2&f=126

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