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NORAD and the death of JFK


John Simkin
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http://heraldnet.com/article/20091122/NEWS...29916/-1/news01

Kennedy’s assassination remains a puzzling memory

By Julie Muhlstein

Herald Columnist

You either remember or you don’t.

I do. Mrs. Komp, my fourth-grade teacher at Spokane’s Jefferson Elementary School, walked us to the cafeteria. A radio was on. Teachers were crying. They sent us home early.

Similar memories are shared by an entire generation of Americans, kids of the 1960s.

Gary Clark remembers, too. No kid, he was a 21-year-old airman at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont., on Nov. 22, 1963.

“That day,” as Clark calls it, left the 67-year-old Marysville man with a memory no one else shares. Clark said he was ordered, in his country’s dark hour, to pass along news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to others where he worked for the 24th North American Air Defense Command, known as NORAD.

Last week, Clark described his Air Force job as an interceptor director technician. He worked in a Semi-Automatic Ground Environment building on the base, where huge computers were used to track aircraft.

The Cold War system, split into sectors around the United States, aimed to counter the Soviet threat by intercepting any enemy bombers. “We were constantly on guard. Anybody who was going to fly down from Canada was not going to make it,” he said. “We practiced all the time.”

In the “blue room” where Clark worked, in tandem with an officer, unidentified planes showed up as dots on a huge screen. Those planes were nearly always American commercial airliners, off course in a jet stream.

Workers in the football-field sized building could send messages that resulted in F-101 interceptor jets taking off from the base to get a look at whatever plane the system detected. “We’d push a button, and within a couple minutes you could hear planes start to roll down the runway,” said Clark, whose Air Force discharge papers show he served from February of 1962 until January of 1966.

On Nov. 22, 1963, a Friday, Clark said the room’s quiet was disturbed by the different-sounding ring of a call from NORAD headquarters. He said he watched as a senior director and his staff, seated at a raised dais, listened and verified the phone message using a cryptographic process.

What happened next, he said he’ll never forget: An officer he recalled as Maj. Van Quill “looked around the room and spotted me sitting by myself.”

The officer, he said, called him crisply by name — “Airman Clark report” — and told Clark he was about to learn something very important, and that he was to go around the room and inform everyone else of what he had heard.

Clark said he can still hear those words, “President Kennedy has been assassinated,” and that Van Quill also told him “assassins” had fired from an overpass. Also, Clark said, the officer told him the U.S. government did not believe the killing was an attack by any foreign country.

In delivering the message, Clark said he was met with various reactions — hostility, shock and disbelief.

With his order completed, Clark said he reported back to the major, who suggested he sit down for coffee in a break room. There, a TV was tuned to a game show, Clark said, and civilian workers were eating. It wasn’t until several minutes later, he said, that a news bulletin came on TV reporting the president had been shot — there was no news yet that Kennedy had died.

“I always found it interesting that NORAD knew President Kennedy was dead almost immediately, and that it took 15 to 20 minutes or more for the news to react to it,” Clark said. “That day lingers in my mind as if it happened this morning.”

After leaving the Air Force, Clark returned to his native California. He earned an education degree at what is now San Jose State University, and worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs before retirement.

For 46 years, he said he has puzzled over the words “assassins” and “overpass” in that stark message. Neither fit the official explanation of what happened in Dallas that day. Yet Clark doubts that either NORAD nor the major, who had flown B-24 bombers in World War II, would be careless or make errors with such fateful news.

“There are so many theories about the Kennedy assassination,” Clark said. “I only know what Major Van Quill told me. And to this day, I believe him.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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Interesting story. It seems odd, if NORAD was told of assassins on the overpass, that the source would add that it was not thought to be an attack by any foreign country. Wasn't the story supposed to be that it was a hit team sent by Castro?

Maybe there was fear that some General Ripper at NORAD might launch an attack against Cuba or Russia all by himself.

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FWIW the only Google hits for "Van Quill" OR VANQUILL NORAD are to the cited article and apparently there are no other mentions of a Major or Maj Van Quill or Vanquill. So not only is Clark the only person the only person to remember this incident he seems to be the only person to remember the person who supposedly told him this. Conveniently of course he didn't mention the guys first name.

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Malmstrom Air Force Base apparently played a key role in the Cuban Missile Crisis:

The 341st Strategic Missile Wing was activated at Malmstrom AFB on July 15, 1961. Construction of the wing's first launch facility began in March 1961 and was completed in December. The 10th Strategic Missile Squadron (SMS) was activated Nov.1, 1961 and Alpha-01, the first launch control facility, was completed in July 1962. The first Minuteman I ICBM arrived on base by rail July 23, 1962. Just four days after the missile's arrival, Launch Facility Alpha-09 gained the title of the first Minuteman missile site. The 12th SMS and 490th SMS activated in March and May 1962.
Later that same year the missiles assigned to the nations first Minuteman ICBM wing would play a major role in the Cuban Missile Crisis. On October 26, at 11:16 am, the 10th SMS's launch facility Alpha-06 went on "strategic alert" after it was discovered the Soviet Union had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. Over the next four days the wing placed four more missiles on alert, with the last missile from Alpha flight achieving alert status Nov. 10. The Soviets eventually removed their missiles from Cuba. Later President Kennedy said the Soviets backed down because they knew he had an " Ace in the Hole," referring directly to the Minuteman missiles of the l0th SMS. (bold added)
On July 3, 1963, following 28 months of construction, the wing and its three squadrons became operational. Each squadron controlled 50 missiles, bringing the total wing strength to 150 Minuteman I missiles. Two years later, construction began on the fourth and final squadron, the 564th SMS. This squadron was equipped with the more modern Minuteman II missiles. On May 5, 1967, the 564th SMS was declared fully operational. Malmstrom's missile field was now the largest in the United States, covering 23,500 square miles. Two years later, the 10th, 12th and 490th SMSs were also upgraded to the Minuteman II missiles, increasing the wing's capabilities to four missile squadrons equipped with a total of 200 Minuteman II missiles.

Edited by Michael Hogan
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FWIW the only Google hits for "Van Quill" OR VANQUILL NORAD are to the cited article and apparently there are no other mentions of a Major or Maj Van Quill or Vanquill. So not only is Clark the only person the only person to remember this incident he seems to be the only person to remember the person who supposedly told him this. Conveniently of course he didn't mention the guys first name.

Major Van Quill is most probably Air Force, but he could be Canadian, as NORAD officers are both USA and Canadian (ie Peter Sellers' role in Dr. Strangelove).

That NORAD would be linked to SAC is not surprising, as they work hand in glove, and SAC used the same Collins Radio relay center (the Fishbowl) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as Air Force One, so they would have been in the loop.

This Collins Radio relay station is mentioned on the AF1 radio tapes and identifies itself as radio "Liberty," but is misidentified in the official transcripts as the White House.

The NORAD network was most certainly wired with the SAC and the Fishbowl is the most probable link and source of their immediate information.

BK

Edited by William Kelly
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FWIW the only Google hits for "Van Quill" OR VANQUILL NORAD are to the cited article and apparently there are no other mentions of a Major or Maj Van Quill or Vanquill. So not only is Clark the only person the only person to remember this incident he seems to be the only person to remember the person who supposedly told him this. Conveniently of course he didn't mention the guys first name.

Major Van Quill is most probably Air Force, but he could be Canadian, as NORAD officers are both USA and Canadian (ie Peter Sellers' role in Dr. Strangelove).

That NORAD would be linked to SAC is not surprising, as they work hand in glove, and SAC used the same Collins Radio relay center (the Fishbowl) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as Air Force One, so they would have been in the loop.

This Collins Radio relay station is mentioned on the AF1 radio tapes and identifies itself as radio "Liberty," but is misidentified in the official transcripts as the White House.

The NORAD network was most certainly wired with the SAC and the Fishbowl is the most probable link and source of their immediate information.

BK

Comparing Van Quill to a fictional character was more apt then you intended I carried out searches for Van Quill OR Vanquill and usaf, rcaf, sac, norad, usaaf, aaf, airforce, “air force”, strategic air command, maj, major, “Air Defense” b-24, raf and Malmstrom but got no hits or no applicable hits the guy does not seem to have existed.

Another problem is that Clark claimed “the major…had flown B-24 bombers in World War II”. B-24 pilots tended to be captains or at least to have reached the rank of captain, major or even Lt. colonel* by the end of the war, the military has an 'up or out policy' so it’s doubtful he still only be a major over 18 years later and if he was he would have been one of the senior officers at a NORAD/Strategic Missile base, the CO was a colonel** so a major would the #1 or #2 man of the NORAD operations there.

The story doesn’t even make any sense. For it to be true we would have to assume someone high up in NORAD was in on it. Why then would they jeopardize the ‘operation’ sharing this privileged information with a base in Montana and have them share the info with everyone there? Since Malmstrom wasn’t more important (or much more important) than the dozen of other NORAD bases we would have to assume thousands of people were give the same info but the only guy who said anything about it waited 47 years. If the source of the info was "the fishbowl" the presumed number of people who have heard about this would have been even larger. How much do you want to wager that no one (using their real name) comes forward to confirm his story?

Ron wrote:

I'll bet you can't find a NORAD/Malmstrom AFB record on the Internet of Major Black, White, Brown, Jones, or Smith in 1963 either.

Do you have any evidence majors by that name served at Malmstrom or with NORAD?

* Based on the Wikipedia bios (if any) of the well know B24 pilots listed on this site. The only exception I found was George McGovern who left as a 1st Lieutenant but even so 18 years is along time to get 2 promotions.

http://www.b24bestweb.com/b24bestweb-Famous.htm

** http://books.google.com/books?id=ARohGwYMZ...mp;pg=RA1-PA355

PS Capt. Mandrake was RAF not RCAF

Edited by Len Colby
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Ron wrote:

I'll bet you can't find a NORAD/Malmstrom AFB record on the Internet of Major Black, White, Brown, Jones, or Smith in 1963 either.

Do you have any evidence majors by that name served at Malmstrom or with NORAD?

Sorry, I guess I should write more clearly. WHAT MAJOR by ANY NAME would you expect to find at Malmstrom or NORAD in 1963 using the Internet (unless that person did something in 1963 that was newsworthy)? IOW your statement that you couldn't find Major Van Quill at Malmstrom or NORAD using an Internet search is meaningless. Maybe he existed and maybe he didn't, but your search proves nothing.

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Ron wrote:

I'll bet you can't find a NORAD/Malmstrom AFB record on the Internet of Major Black, White, Brown, Jones, or Smith in 1963 either.

Do you have any evidence majors by that name served at Malmstrom or with NORAD?

Sorry, I guess I should write more clearly. WHAT MAJOR by ANY NAME would you expect to find at Malmstrom or NORAD in 1963 using the Internet (unless that person did something in 1963 that was newsworthy)? IOW your statement that you couldn't find Major Van Quill at Malmstrom or NORAD using an Internet search is meaningless. Maybe he existed and maybe he didn't, but your search proves nothing.

There is a huge amount of data on the Internet and a lot has been written about bomber operations during WWII and the US military during the Cold War so I find it odd there doesn't seem to be any mention of the man who supposedly had flown B-24's and was one of the top guys at a NORAD Semi-Automatic Ground Environment facility, odd that he'd still be a major in 1963, odd that if his career had so stagnated he was given such and important post, odd that his first name wasn't mentioned.

That's in addition to Clark's story suffering from the other logical flaws outlined in my earlier post

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