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New wrinkle in JFK assassination


Steve Thomas
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By Steven Gillon in the Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-m-gil...k_b_339026.html

This month will mark the 46th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A recently declassified oral history by Brigadier General Godfrey McHugh, President Kennedy's military aide on the Dallas trip, sheds new light on the critical hours after the shooting. McHugh makes startling claims about Lyndon Johnson's behavior in the wake of the assassination.

The interview with McHugh, originally conducted for the John F. Kennedy Library in 1978, remained closed for 31 years. It was finally declassified in the spring of 2009. I just happened to be working at the Kennedy Library on the day the interview was opened to the public and have used it for the first time in my new book, The Kennedy Assassination -- 24 Hours After.

After being informed at Parkland Hospital that Kennedy was dead, Johnson raced back to Air Force One, where he waited for Mrs. Kennedy and the body of the slain president, and made preparations to take the Oath of Office. Back at the hospital, the Kennedy group loaded the body into a coffin, forced their way past a local justice of the peace, and hurried back to Love Field for the long ride back to Washington.

It was standard practice for the plane to take off as soon as the commander-in-chief was onboard. Even after McHugh had ordered the pilot to take off, however, "nothing happened." According to the newly declassified transcript, Mrs. Kennedy was becoming desperate to leave. "Mrs. Kennedy was getting very warm, she had blood all over her hat, her coat...his brains were sticking on her hat. It was dreadful," McHugh said. She pleaded with him to get the plane off the ground. "Please, let's leave," she said. McHugh jumped up and used the phone near the rear compartment to call Captain James Swindal. "Let's leave," he said. Swindal responded: "I can't do it. I have orders to wait." Not wanting to make a scene in front of Mrs. Kennedy, McHugh rushed to the front of the plane. "Swindal, what on earth is going on?" The pilot told him that "the President wants to remain in this area."

McHugh, like most members of the Kennedy entourage, did not know that Johnson was onboard. They believed that the new president was on his own plane flying back to Washington. If LBJ was on the plane, McHugh wanted to see for himself. Since he had not seen Johnson in the aisle -- and at 6'4" Johnson would be tough to miss -- McHugh assumed that he must then be in the bedroom. When he checked there Johnson was nowhere to be seen. The only place on the plane he had not inspected was the bathroom in the presidential bedroom.

What McHugh claimed to have witnessed next was shocking. "I walked in the toilet, in the powder room, and there he was hiding, with the curtain closed," McHugh recalled. He claimed that LBJ was crying, "They're going to get us all. It's a plot. It's a plot. It's going to get us all.'" According to the General, Johnson "was hysterical, sitting down on the john there alone in this thing."

I soon discovered that McHugh had told a similar story when he spoke by phone with Mark Flanagan, an investigator with the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). Ironically, McHugh gave the interview to the HSCA a week before he sat down with the Kennedy Library in May 1978. "McHugh had encountered difficulty in locating Johnson but finally discovered him alone," Flanagan wrote in his summary to the Committee. Quoting McHugh, the investigator noted that the General found Johnson "hiding in the toilet in the bedroom compartment and muttering, 'Conspiracy, conspiracy, they're after all of us.'"

Author Christopher Anderson claimed that McHugh shared a similar, although slightly more dramatic, version of this story when he interviewed the General for his book Jackie after Jack, published in 1998.

If true, the story is explosive and reveals a completely different side of Johnson than the collected, calm presence he otherwise managed to convey throughout the hours and days following Kennedy's death.

But how credible is McHugh's account?

It is, of course, impossible to confirm or deny whether a private encounter took place between the two men, both of whom are now dead. There are a number of reasons to doubt McHugh's claim. The General intensely disliked Johnson and was fiercely loyal to JFK, and therefore had some reason to invent such a story. Most glaring, McHugh made no mention of what was surely a very memorable encounter in his long interview with William Manchester in 1964. It also stands to reason that if McHugh had witnessed Johnson in a state of utter breakdown, he would have told the story to others within the Kennedy camp. Surely, given how potentially damaging the story would be to LBJ, Kennedy partisans would have leaked it to the media at some point.

Although it is impossible to prove, my gut reaction is that McHugh is telling the truth. We know that Johnson was a man capable of dramatic mood swings, and occasional fits of hysteria were not unusual. McHugh's account of LBJ's behavior is similar to RFK's description of a trembling and tearful Johnson at the 1960 Democratic Convention when it appeared that JFK might renege on his promise to include him on the ticket. It was not surprising behavior to those who knew him best.

We also know from some eyewitnesses that LBJ's secret service agent, Rufus Youngblood, stood outside the door to the bedroom and controlled the traffic into the room. Aides went in and out, but it is possible that McHugh could have found LBJ alone in the bedroom suite.

If true, though, why did McHugh wait until 1978 to tell this story? When Manchester interviewed him in May 1964, McHugh was still in the military, although only a few months away from retirement. Is it possible that he worried the story would be too damaging to his commander-in-chief?

We will never know for sure, but McHugh's account is sure to add to the controversy surrounding that tragic November day in Dallas.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-m-gil...k_b_339026.html

Steve Thomas

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It's possible, despite report of the secret midnight meeting the night before and Johnson's reputed boasts about the outcome, and despite every "Johnson did it" scenario. The multiple wounds on Connally may have scared LBJ. It might have brought home to him that, however much he himself was involved in the coup, higher powers than his small-oil Texas right-wing cronies had to have given the green light first. And even Macbeth was "unmann'd" by his own deeds.

FYI, I read of McHugh's discovery somewhere else recently. If it's important, I'll try to track down where.

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If the body was stolen from the casket aboard AF1, which would help account for the altered wounds, two caskets, etc., then McHugh, who stayed with the body during the swearing-in, was in on the plot. If so, his story about LBJ crying in the toilet can be seen as an over-the-top fabricated way of exonerating LBJ of any involvement. In other words, LBJ was in on it too.

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If the body was stolen from the casket aboard AF1, which would help account for the altered wounds, two caskets, etc., then McHugh, who stayed with the body during the swearing-in, was in on the plot. If so, his story about LBJ crying in the toilet can be seen as an over-the-top fabricated way of exonerating LBJ of any involvement. In other words, LBJ was in on it too.

That's reaching, IMO. Apparently, McHugh claimed from the get-go that LBJ's behavior aboard AF1 had been "obscene". All indications are that McHugh was a Kennedy loyalist. His involvement in a plot seems most unlikely.

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If the body was stolen from the casket aboard AF1, which would help account for the altered wounds, two caskets, etc., then McHugh, who stayed with the body during the swearing-in, was in on the plot. If so, his story about LBJ crying in the toilet can be seen as an over-the-top fabricated way of exonerating LBJ of any involvement. In other words, LBJ was in on it too.

That's reaching, IMO. Apparently, McHugh claimed from the get-go that LBJ's behavior aboard AF1 had been "obscene". All indications are that McHugh was a Kennedy loyalist. His involvement in a plot seems most unlikely.

The issue of newly sworn-in President Johnson's, alleged behavior in the bathroom of AF-1 cannot be looked at as insignificant. For it is really at the core of the issue of whether LBJ was the benefactor of JFK's assassination or darker possibilities that have become quite a issue even as recently as the year 2009. The History Channel's recent showing of The Kennedy Assassination 24 Hours After, provides more than a casual treatment of this episode in the events of 11/22/63. See

http://www.history.com/shows.do?action=det...pisodeId=488254

As for myself, at the risk of being a fence straddler, I see points made on both sides of the issue made since Steve posted the topic here. The first time I heard about the description of the event with LBJ allegedly, being slapped in the face to pull himself together, I remembered an old TV commercial for an aftershave or something, and thinking of that, I almost expected to read that LBJ said "thanks I needed that."

But, after watching the History Channel show, unless there is an attempt to contrive an event, I believe Pat make a good point.

According to the account given in The Kennedy Assassination 24 Hours After, amidst the confusion, there was also the very real split between the Kennedy and Johnson factions, [see William Manchester's Death of A President], another key moment reveals a conversation where McHugh says "My President [Kennedy] is in that box," alluding to JFK's casket.

If you do not see this video you won't accurately be able to comprehend how serious all of this is, irrespective of just how based on reality it is.

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If the body was stolen from the casket aboard AF1, which would help account for the altered wounds, two caskets, etc., then McHugh, who stayed with the body during the swearing-in, was in on the plot. If so, his story about LBJ crying in the toilet can be seen as an over-the-top fabricated way of exonerating LBJ of any involvement. In other words, LBJ was in on it too.

You can see it that way, and I am sure-as-heck too cynical to rule out the crying thing as a cover story, or - if it happened - as an LBJ-manufactured excuse for why he was distraught.

However - big murder, big conspiracy, and big debts are traumatic things, maybe producing momentary regrets, once one sees the upshot and responsibility of one's own handiwork.* And Johnson expressed other conflicted behavior, in prattling on, early and late, about conspiracy and "a damned Murder Inc. in the Caribbean," to what seemed like different purposes at different times. So the man was not unflappable, not unafraid. Of something.

I have no doubt the man was "in on it," but to what degree of responsibility and action? Maybe, in an instant, it seemed less than he had imagined, and being suddenly thrust into the bloody target seat, still warm from Jack, unnerved him. He did, after all, retire Kennedy's desk. (And Nixon didn't bring it back.) Gloating? Sweeping change? Fear?

This is biographer's meat, and we need to cut and cure more of it, so better biographies are written, and very good ones (Robert A. Caro's) might be perfected.

+++++++++

*Sidebar: I referred above to Johnson being, "unmann'd" by his guilt, in the language of Shakespeare's Macbeth. We should recall that in 1967 "MacBird," a rather well-received satirical play on Johnson as the king-killing usurper, and Bobby as the avenger, was popular off-Broadway. So the "Johnson did it" view was contemporary. And I find from my JFK and RFK research that works - even fictional works - written soon after such events do catch much important fact and opinion that was in the minds of witnesses and the general public.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacBird

Edited by David Andrews
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If the body was stolen from the casket aboard AF1, which would help account for the altered wounds, two caskets, etc., then McHugh, who stayed with the body during the swearing-in, was in on the plot. If so, his story about LBJ crying in the toilet can be seen as an over-the-top fabricated way of exonerating LBJ of any involvement. In other words, LBJ was in on it too.

You can see it that way, and I am sure-as-heck too cynical to rule out the crying thing as a cover story, or - if it happened - as an LBJ-manufactured excuse for why he was distraught.

However - big murder, big conspiracy, and big debts are traumatic things, maybe producing momentary regrets, once one sees the upshot and responsibility of one's own handiwork.* And Johnson expressed other conflicted behavior, in prattling on, early and late, about conspiracy and "a damned Murder Inc. in the Caribbean," to what seemed like different purposes at different times. So the man was not unflappable, not unafraid. Of something.

I have no doubt the man was "in on it," but to what degree of responsibility and action? Maybe, in an instant, it seemed less than he had imagined, and being suddenly thrust into the bloody target seat, still warm from Jack, unnerved him. He did, after all, retire Kennedy's desk. (And Nixon didn't bring it back.) Gloating? Sweeping change? Fear?

This is biographer's meat, and we need to cut and cure more of it, so better biographies are written, and very good ones (Robert A. Caro's) might be perfected.

Wonder why LBJ wanted to "stay in the area"? Did he fear going 'wheels up' and getting shot out of the air, did he fear going back to Washington?

Maybe there was still unfinished business to be completed in- "the area"

-Bill

+++++++++

*Sidebar: I referred above to Johnson being, "unmann'd" by his guilt, in the language of Shakespeare's Macbeth. We should recall that in 1967 "MacBird," a rather well-received satirical play on Johnson as the king-killing usurper, and Bobby as the avenger, was popular off-Broadway. So the "Johnson did it" view was contemporary. And I find from my JFK and RFK research that works - even fictional works - written soon after such events do catch much important fact and opinion that was in the minds of witnesses and the general public.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacBird

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If the body was stolen from the casket aboard AF1, which would help account for the altered wounds, two caskets, etc., then McHugh, who stayed with the body during the swearing-in, was in on the plot. If so, his story about LBJ crying in the toilet can be seen as an over-the-top fabricated way of exonerating LBJ of any involvement. In other words, LBJ was in on it too.

You can see it that way, and I am sure-as-heck too cynical to rule out the crying thing as a cover story, or - if it happened - as an LBJ-manufactured excuse for why he was distraught.

However - big murder, big conspiracy, and big debts are traumatic things, maybe producing momentary regrets, once one sees the upshot and responsibility of one's own handiwork.* And Johnson expressed other conflicted behavior, in prattling on, early and late, about conspiracy and "a damned Murder Inc. in the Caribbean," to what seemed like different purposes at different times. So the man was not unflappable, not unafraid. Of something.

I have no doubt the man was "in on it," but to what degree of responsibility and action? Maybe, in an instant, it seemed less than he had imagined, and being suddenly thrust into the bloody target seat, still warm from Jack, unnerved him. He did, after all, retire Kennedy's desk. (And Nixon didn't bring it back.) Gloating? Sweeping change? Fear?

This is biographer's meat, and we need to cut and cure more of it, so better biographies are written, and very good ones (Robert A. Caro's) might be perfected.

Wonder why LBJ wanted to "stay in the area"? Did he fear going 'wheels up' and getting shot out of the air, did he fear going back to Washington?

Maybe there was still unfinished business to be completed in- "the area"

-Bill

+++++++++

*Sidebar: I referred above to Johnson being, "unmann'd" by his guilt, in the language of Shakespeare's Macbeth. We should recall that in 1967 "MacBird," a rather well-received satirical play on Johnson as the king-killing usurper, and Bobby as the avenger, was popular off-Broadway. So the "Johnson did it" view was contemporary. And I find from my JFK and RFK research that works - even fictional works - written soon after such events do catch much important fact and opinion that was in the minds of witnesses and the general public.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacBird

This is biographer's meat, and we need to cut and cure more of it, so better biographies are written, and very good ones (Robert A. Caro's) might be perfected.

Wonder why LBJ wanted to "stay in the area"? Did he fear going 'wheels up' and getting shot out of the air, did he fear going back to Washington?

Maybe there was still unfinished business to be completed in- "the area"

-Bill

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This is another important mainstream media article to come out about the assassination in the past few weeks.

Steve Gillon, the writer, is listed as the resident historian at the History Channel, which makes me want to think that they have come around and may be interested in pursuing this subject more seriously than before.

Hard on the heels of the New York Times article on the Morley v. CIA and the FPCC article in CounterPunch, this is the third serious article about the assassination in weeks, when we often went years without one.

As for the jist of the story, it's not difficult to believe that LBJ holed up on the hopper, as that was his favorite place to think and give orders, a scene repeated when he got back to DC, according to Jack Valente.

Apparently LBJ conducted much of his business from the hopper.

"...Johnson was a man who became President but never managed to become presidential. He retained a manner that was vulgar and abrasive. He swore, pushed people around, and held meetings with journalists and others regardless of circumstance. He continued conversations with visitors while in the toilet; he once spoke to journalists while being given an enema…."

http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:2Kms-L...=clnk&gl=us

http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:2BSfoL...=clnk&gl=us

RICHARD GOODWIN: I had come back to the White House by then. No, I remember I walked in and I looked around the bedroom and there was no one there. Then I suddenly hear a voice from the bathroom saying, “Dick! Dick! Come on in!” So I walked in and there he was,sitting on the toilet, defecating, and uh, my years in the army had prepared me for this, but I had never seen a president taking a xxxx before. Then he said, “Dick, I want you to work for me. I’m going to pass all those bills. I know what the man on the street wants -- a little medical care, a rug on the floor, a place to take Molly and the children.” He says, “I’m going to get a war on poverty, and I’m going to move on to civil rights. Those Harvards think I’m a politician from Texas who doesn’t care about the Negroes, and as senator I did the best that I could, but now I represent the entire country.” I began to fear he was going to get a severe case of hemorrhoids. And I agreed to work with him in what turned out to be a historic year....

For a photo of AF1 Toilet:

http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/m...ad.main/104973/

BK

Edited by William Kelly
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If the body was stolen from the casket aboard AF1, which would help account for the altered wounds, two caskets, etc., then McHugh, who stayed with the body during the swearing-in, was in on the plot. If so, his story about LBJ crying in the toilet can be seen as an over-the-top fabricated way of exonerating LBJ of any involvement. In other words, LBJ was in on it too.

You can see it that way, and I am sure-as-heck too cynical to rule out the crying thing as a cover story, or - if it happened - as an LBJ-manufactured excuse for why he was distraught.

However - big murder, big conspiracy, and big debts are traumatic things, maybe producing momentary regrets, once one sees the upshot and responsibility of one's own handiwork.* And Johnson expressed other conflicted behavior, in prattling on, early and late, about conspiracy and "a damned Murder Inc. in the Caribbean," to what seemed like different purposes at different times. So the man was not unflappable, not unafraid. Of something.

I have no doubt the man was "in on it," but to what degree of responsibility and action? Maybe, in an instant, it seemed less than he had imagined, and being suddenly thrust into the bloody target seat, still warm from Jack, unnerved him. He did, after all, retire Kennedy's desk. (And Nixon didn't bring it back.) Gloating? Sweeping change? Fear?

This is biographer's meat, and we need to cut and cure more of it, so better biographies are written, and very good ones (Robert A. Caro's) might be perfected.

Wonder why LBJ wanted to "stay in the area"? Did he fear going 'wheels up' and getting shot out of the air, did he fear going back to Washington?

Maybe there was still unfinished business to be completed in- "the area"

-Bill

+++++++++

*Sidebar: I referred above to Johnson being, "unmann'd" by his guilt, in the language of Shakespeare's Macbeth. We should recall that in 1967 "MacBird," a rather well-received satirical play on Johnson as the king-killing usurper, and Bobby as the avenger, was popular off-Broadway. So the "Johnson did it" view was contemporary. And I find from my JFK and RFK research that works - even fictional works - written soon after such events do catch much important fact and opinion that was in the minds of witnesses and the general public.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacBird

This is biographer's meat, and we need to cut and cure more of it, so better biographies are written, and very good ones (Robert A. Caro's) might be perfected.

Wonder why LBJ wanted to "stay in the area"? Did he fear going 'wheels up' and getting shot out of the air, did he fear going back to Washington?

Maybe there was still unfinished business to be completed in- "the area"

-Bill

Such as waiting for the patsy to be arrested? :)

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While I can't remember the title, the book by LBJ's lawyer, who claims LBJ initiated the hit, has pictures of LBJ smirking, winking and grinning on AF1. There is also the story by the Secret Service agent in LBJ's car in Dallas, who claims that LBJ was on the floor of the car before the 1st shot was heard.

So LBJ crying in the loo doesn't seem to hold much water, no pun intended.

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While I can't remember the title, the book by LBJ's lawyer, who claims LBJ initiated the hit, has pictures of LBJ smirking, winking and grinning on AF1. There is also the story by the Secret Service agent in LBJ's car in Dallas, who claims that LBJ was on the floor of the car before the 1st shot was heard.

So LBJ crying in the loo doesn't seem to hold much water, no pun intended.

Well, like I posted above - people do things for conflicting reasons, or give out reasons that conflict with reality. LBJ was caught in several hintings of conspiracy during and after the Presidency, and seemingly for conflicting purposes.

Shakespeare told Kevin Costner (in "JFK") that one may smile and smile and be a villain. Well, one can cry and cry, too. Just watch courtroom broadcasts on cable.

P.S. - This is no knock on your argument, but Barr McClellan's book on LBJ is an ephemeral historical work, so slight it isn't even really there. It's one insubstantial anecdote - a business associate of McClellan's and LBJ's told McClellan that Lyndon had had Jack offed - surrounded by a hundred pages of innuendo. This does not make a complete book, much less a useful history, and I'm amazed that the small money involved could induce a publisher to accept what, by rights, should have been a one-page magazine piece.

This does not mean that I believe LBJ was innocent - but he and his Suite 8F clique were essentially ground troops for the real kingmakers, who resided at a further economic remove in the business and politics of oil, drugs, military spending, and globalist-inspired anti-communism. LBJ was perhaps only as responsible as Edwin Walker or Joseph Milteer or Ed Lansdale, and just as disposable.

Maybe that was the thought creeped out the old Senate power-broker in the Air Force One toilet. It probably creeped him out again when he "denied himself" the nomination, knowing or sensing that he was giving the seat up not to Bobby after all, but to the old hard-line anti-communist, Nixon - the Black Prince of our tragedy.

Edited by David Andrews
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"They're going to get us all. It's a plot. It's a plot. It's going to get us all.'" According to the General, Johnson "was hysterical, sitting down on the john there alone in this thing."

I'd nominate this excerpt as being one of the more important revelations of Gillon's book. Here we have LBJ, only minutes after the crime has been committed, so certain that it was a plot -- dare we say "conspiracy"? -- that he's holed up (so to speak) in the most private, secure place of the most secure airplane in the world, driven to tears by his fears.

Shouldn't historians, like Mr. Gillon, for instance, be wondering just what it could have given the vice president of the united states, so soon after the murder, such certainty that it was a plot? And shouldn't historians be wondering what could have happened in the subsequent few hours -- even before an "investigation" had begun -- that caused LBJ to reverse direction and decide that the crime must be shown to be the work of one man?

--rec

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