Jump to content
The Education Forum

Air Force One Radio Transmissions


William Kelly
 Share

Recommended Posts

David, sorry to be slow but then the two units are necessary for a full duplex - both ends talking at one time - operation? One unit would require the old "over" protocol with

one end only talking then handing it off to the other.

Do you recall whether these were UHF or HF....what their range was?

-- thanks, Larry

Collins rigs I worked with at BaQueo Vietnam (primary in-country receive site) incoming traffic from Okinowa, Manila, Bangkok... crystal controlled 20-40 meters and tropo-scatter (Feb'63-Feb '64). ALL Collins Receivers!

UHF, single side-band, for the units I worked with in '64-'65... no Larry, one Collins Trans-ceiver unit will work just fine for standard transmit-recieve operation. Think military level command level for duplex op, those that you NEED to hear ALL the time, you wil atmospheric conditions cooperating of coursel...

Had full voice comm at 4x4 average and 5x5 (evenings) from land based Fort Benning (Kelley Hill), Georgia to San Ysidro Airport--Dominican Republic April 1965. Different Collins equipment with 7 operation

Edited by David G. Healy
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 168
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Got it David, that's great stuff. I recognize most of it; I worked Air Force Communications Service handling AUTOVON voice switching equipment fed off Tropo. so I'm not that familiar with the radio gear. Separate personnel handled the radio and then we had tech controllers in between the radio and land line circuits. We just worried about switching.

Anyway, that's exactly what I expected would be the long distance SSB gear. Per discussion with Bill I'm still assuming that AF1 would have had to have at least four SSB sets to hold up four long distance circuits. Also, if all four were at Andrews that would be four units there with a tape recorder on each for that channel. Which really means multiple tapes, one for each voice channel.

Let me know if that sounds stupid...grin, Larry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Got it David, that's great stuff. I recognize most of it; I worked Air Force Communications Service handling AUTOVON voice switching equipment fed off Tropo. so I'm not that familiar with the radio gear. Separate personnel handled the radio and then we had tech controllers in between the radio and land line circuits. We just worried about switching.

Anyway, that's exactly what I expected would be the long distance SSB gear. Per discussion with Bill I'm still assuming that AF1 would have had to have at least four SSB sets to hold up four long distance circuits. Also, if all four were at Andrews that would be four units there with a tape recorder on each for that channel. Which really means multiple tapes, one for each voice channel.

Let me know if that sounds stupid...grin, Larry

Larry,

I can see it too!

Somewhere there's a wall with three or four 1/2 inch thick tape recorders going - and they're recording the AF1 and other SAM radio communications that JFK had ordered they be recorded - so we know for a fact that they were ordered recorded and were in fact recorded by WHCA - and have knowledge of transcripts of same.

I think that these tapes and transcripts still exist - if we look for them in the right places - and really pin xxxxx them about it -

And if we force them to dig deeper, whatever they come up with will be something.

BK

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Got it David, that's great stuff. I recognize most of it; I worked Air Force Communications Service handling AUTOVON voice switching equipment fed off Tropo. so I'm not that familiar with the radio gear. Separate personnel handled the radio and then we had tech controllers in between the radio and land line circuits. We just worried about switching.

Anyway, that's exactly what I expected would be the long distance SSB gear. Per discussion with Bill I'm still assuming that AF1 would have had to have at least four SSB sets to hold up four long distance circuits. Also, if all four were at Andrews that would be four units there with a tape recorder on each for that channel. Which really means multiple tapes, one for each voice channel.

Let me know if that sounds stupid...grin, Larry

that Ft. Benning to the Dominican Repub shot was a mobile unit (jeep mounted) working off of a 16' whip antenna in a pine tree... very effective.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is there any record of the tele-type (TWX) traffic?

Found this recently declassified document which describes the "AF Worldwide Military Command and Control System 1961-1965":

http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/ebb249/doc08.pdf

There is a lot of good stuff, great glossary, good footnotes and some related info such as (pg. 53 footnote):

*(S-GP4) The NEACP carried the following primary communication equipment at the end of 1965:

1 AN/ARC - 89 (V) UHF/FM Multichannel radio set

3 AN/ARC - 58 Transceivers and 3 receive only inter-aircracft radios

2 AN/ARC - 34 UHF (AM) Sets

A multichannel tape recorder

and a 24 channel communication switchboard

The pertinent communications section starts on page 51. There is also an explanation of the communications capabilities of AF1, it's designated ground station relays and some kind of "Van" (3 vans actually) which was moved around as a mobile ground station when AF1 travelled out of range of the normal ground stations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is there any record of the tele-type (TWX) traffic?

Found this recently declassified document which describes the "AF Worldwide Military Command and Control System 1961-1965":

http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/ebb249/doc08.pdf

There is a lot of good stuff, great glossary, good footnotes and some related info such as (pg. 53 footnote):

*(S-GP4) The NEACP carried the following primary communication equipment at the end of 1965:

1 AN/ARC - 89 (V) UHF/FM Multichannel radio set

3 AN/ARC - 58 Transceivers and 3 receive only inter-aircracft radios

2 AN/ARC - 34 UHF (AM) Sets

A multichannel tape recorder

and a 24 channel communication switchboard

The pertinent communications section starts on page 51. There is also an explanation of the communications capabilities of AF1, it's designated ground station relays and some kind of "Van" (3 vans actually) which was moved around as a mobile ground station when AF1 travelled out of range of the normal ground stations.

you know continuous wave was not unheard of in 1963, in fact most of our radio comm guys were quite proficient in c-w. Some folks touting high-speed morse code intercept MOS's even. It's not much of a stretch, for me at least, to believe AF1 had that capability, nor that every com guy on the plane was c-w qualified... Comm log's available anywhere?

Edited by David G. Healy
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good stuff Chris, And thanks for your input Dave,

I wonder if any of this can be linked to the Presidential Executive Order of September 24 - that JFK signed - regarding Project Four Leaves - establishing a national communications system?

P. 49

“…On 5 September JCS asked DDR&E and the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group to participate on a JCRG Standards Committee to carry out JCS responsibilities for preparing common terms and reporting formats for the National Military Command System….”

The Altarnate NCC

(S-Gp3) The Alternate National Military Command Center (ANMCC) was part of a large complex that included the Alternate Joint Communications Center, Ft. Ritchie, and numerous subsystems. Site ‘R’ of this complex, located underground in the Blue Ridge summit at Raven Rock, contained five buildings. The ANMCC and Presidential quarters were in Building D.* *(S-Gp3) Building D, especiall designed to meet ANMCC needs, was completed in 1964.

p. 49

“(S-Gp 1) A permanent UHF ground terminal at Waldorf, Md., served as the primary communications link between the NEACP, the NMCC/ANMCC and the Navy alternate (NECPA). Established early in 1962 the Waldorf station became fully operational the following December with 12 UHF/AM channels. In addition three mobile communication vans were set up in 1962 – at Otis AFB, Mass., Greenville, S.C., and Homestead AFB, Fla. – to cover the routes most traveled by the Presidential aircraft. The Air Force always air lifted a van-housed grand terminal whenever the President journeyed outside the range of the above-listed terminals. 4

After President Kennedy’s assassination, the Otis and Homestead vans were relocated at Jackson, Miss.,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Len Osanic, the Canadian researcher and producer of the internet's best Black Op Radio, and Jeff Carter are producing 50 short videos on the Kennedy assassination for the 50th anniversary - and devoted #47 on my Air Force One radio transmission reserch.

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOpje8kixcV-skbCZOOiNlw/videos?view=0&flow=list&live_view=500&sort=dd

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bill, almost all the communications activity you see during 62 and 63 was the result of McNamara's initiative to dramatically improve national command and control. It had become obvious that almost all portions of the the system which existed in the 50's were exposed to targeting by the upcoming Soviet ICBM's and a emerging understanding of EMP and other effects was raising real questions about command and control. The old school plan of launching everything at everybody with one burst did not meet JFK's objectives for a much more flexible response nor allow any real leverage in the use of nuclear weapons during a crisis.

This whole transition is well described in several books, probably the best one of the set I've been reading is Strategic Command and Control by Bruce Blair.

It would take several years for the changes to be made, in fact the McNamara era studies of basic command network problems were redone again in the 70's, of course studies are cheaper than actually doing anything..

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I cannot imagine the following not being pertinent on a few elements, related to the topic at hand.

The International Telecommunications Union, Space Radio Communications, and U.S. Cold War Diplomacy, 1957–1963
Abstract

This article examines the role of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a specialized agency of the United Nations, in the international effort to manage the radio spectrum. The management of the radio spectrum has been one of the most important activities of the ITU. International agreements for the use of the radio spectrum have been necessary because radio waves do not simply stop at national borders. Governments have viewed the spectrum as an international common resource.Specifically, this article focuses on the development of radio spectrum policy for one of the most significant new radio “services” of the twentieth century: radio transmissions involving outer space. Crucial ITU administrative radio conferences in 1959 and 1963 organized especially by the United States laid the foundation for the Cold War space race. A focus on the efforts by the United States to manage the meetings is particularly important for gaining a deeper understanding of Cold War diplomacy and international relations during this crucial period. In the context of total cold war, diplomacy was closely linked to a broad range of national security concerns, not only military preparedness but also the symbolic and material struggle over hearts and minds. A central concern of the early efforts to arrive at international agreements for space frequencies was satellite communications. The United States was particularly concerned about convincing the international community to set aside large blocks of frequencies for a planned global satellite communications system that would serve multiple national security objectives. The global satellite system would, in turn, play an important role in convincing other countries to agree to set aside frequencies for all forms of space communication.

http://dh.oxfordjournals.org/content/37/2/313.abstract

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for those important tidbits Larry and Robert.

At the top, as for MacNamara's upgrading of CCC - Command Control Communications - and new satellite tech coming on line - I call attention - to JFK's September 23-24? Executive Order - -regarding Four Leaves - which (as Robert once pointed out) is only mentioned in the JFK Library in the President's Daily Diary - and it is described as some sort of military communications system.

How come we can't get anything more on Four Leaves - fifty years later?

I don't know if it is connected to Falling Leaves - which was the sudden deployment of ICBM radar towards Cuba.

I haven't looked into them yet, but Collins Radio annual reports indicate they were part of the vanguard of defense contractors involved

Excerpt from Collins History - ".....Another area of broadcast radio equipment for Collins Radio Company in the post-war years as equipment for the State Department’s Voice of America network. In the conflict of ideologies with the Communist block countries, later coined the “Cold War,” the weapons was radio. In 1950 the VOA began an expansion to lengthen its radio time, and Collins had a big part in equipping the radio ship Courier for its debut in the propaganda war. The project, called “Operation Vagabond,” was a facet of the “ring plan” designed to ring all of the world’s critical areas with extremely high-powered communications acilities. The Feather Ridge studies by Dr. Dale McCoy and C.M. Hepperle, led to construction by Collins of a giant aluminum dish antenna for the Naval Laboratory at Anacostia, D.C. in 1950."

It would be nice if someone can get a make on "Operation Vagabond," "The Feather Ridge Studies," or Four Leaves."

On the street level - Tippit's good friend Carl Mather worked at Collins on the radio equipment aboard the Vice President's plane at Brandywine, which I think is a base in Maryland which is part of the Mystic Star network - though they didn't call it that in 1963, which was the last year that they used the open air way frequencies that anyone could listen to if they had the right equipment and knew the frequency or had a scanner.

Edited by William Kelly
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Detroit Free Press picks up on the Air Force One radio tapes story -

http://www.freep.com/article/20131110/NEWS07/311100070/jfk-air-force-one-assassination-tape

“The Air Force One tapes are sort of like the black box of the assassination. It has all the basic information there you want to know of what happened at the highest levels of government in the two hours after the assassination. And it all should be right there, but there’s some that’s missing,” said Kelly,...

“Spine chilling” is how Primeau describes listening to history come to life on the tapes,... “As I listen to the recordings, I can hear edits. I can actually go through and pick out spots where I believe there are pieces that were missing. And there’s lots of theories about why there would be pieces removed....What was taken out, who took them out and where are they?”

It also points to the possibility that the entire record of the radio transmissions is somewhere out there, says author and former Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley, who has led the charge to have the CIA release still-classified material on the assassination.

“It’s not the tape itself. It’s what the tape tells us. And what the tape tells us is that there was a longer recording of the Air Force One communications on Nov. 22. That was never known before. What the tape tells us is there could be, somewhere, a recording of the reaction of the U.S. national security agencies to the president’s death,”....An original source tape with several more hours of content would be a big historical discovery. “It would be the record of the government’s response to the assassination itself,” .....

“Aside from what I might disagree with Kelly on, it’s always a good thing to try to get the historical record in better shape, to clarify the material,” said professor John McAdams ......

Morley says there’s no justification for continued official secrecy about the assassination. “Things are withheld on grounds of national security, and that’s not very plausible for 50-year-old documents about Cuba. The secrecy around the subject remains a big problem for public understanding, and it encourages suspicion.”

Primeau suspects the original source tapes of the Air Force One tapes may no longer exist. “Will they ever surface? I don’t think so. I think they’re destroyed, like parts of the Watergate tapes were destroyed, permanently gone so that nobody could ever find out.”

Even if that is the case, he adds, witnesses could still be found to speak to what was said all those years ago.

“I think it’s everybody’s hope that this might nudge somebody, I don’t know how else to say this, (who) is going to be around for a few more years and doesn’t care about telling the truth now, who might know something, and it might bring us another step closer to the truth.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, the Detroit Free Press Story was picked up by USA Today, and went nationwide.
Can somebody post a link to the USA Today article, that I believe was edited - cut back.

Then CNN Inside Edition did a piece with Ed Primeau - the acoustics engineer I worked with - and John McAdams - what does he have to do with any of this?

Can someone post a link to this CNN program?

Thanks,

BK

Link to comment
Share on other sites

INTERVIEWEE: GENERAL CURTIS LEh1AY

INTERVIEWER : Joe B . Frantz

Date : June 28, 1971

F : This iINTERVIEWEE: GENERAL CURTIS LEh1AY

INTERVIEWER : Joe B . Frantz

Date : June 28, 1971

F : This is an interview with General Curtis LeMay who made his home in

Newport Beach, California . The interviewer is Joe B . Frantz . General,

just to get started . Incidentally, I'm a World War II veteran so I have

been following you for a long time . When did you first become acquainted

with Mr . Johnson? Was it in his senatorial days or was it later than that?

L : Yes, I first met President Johnson when he was Majority Leader of the

Senate .

F : They gradually got a little tired . Were you aware at all of Mr . Johnson's

participation in the Bay of Pigs problem?

L : Well the Bay of Pigs problem, I wasn't in on parts of it . My first contact

with it came in a Joint Chiefs meeting while I was still Vice Chief of Staff

with the Air Force . And General White was out of town on a trip overseas

visiting some of the bases . And I attended all the Joint Chiefs meetings

in his place just when he was gone of course . In this particular meeting

there was an item on the agenda which I wasn't cleared for, which surprised

me, and I think it probably went through the President . I had to get

cleared before I could discuss it . After 20 or 30 minutes of delay I finally

was cleared and we proceeded with the item, and it was on the Bay of Pigs .

And a member of the CIA appeared to brief the Joint Chiefs on the question

at hand, which was to effect that they wanted the Joint Chiefs' opinion

on changing the landing beach in Cuba of the invasion force . Now wait

a minute before I can participate in this, I would like to have a little

more background in this . And I found out that some time before the CIA had

presented to the Joint Chiefs three landing beaches and asked their opinion

on which one was the best one to land on from a military standpoint . And

as far as I knew this was all they knew about so called invasion, and

they had given an opinion . Then CIA changed their mind and decided that

they ought to have a beach that had a landing strip on it, or close by .

So they picked a couple of others and they wanted to know which was the best

of those . That was the item on that particular day . I said, "Well I

need a little more information . What's the size of your landing force?"

Seven hundred men was the answer . "And are you planning on taking Cuba

with 700 people?" Yes . "Well I don't quite understand this . I know

Henry Morgan took Panama with 700 people, but this seems to be a little

bit different . I presume that things are well enough organized inside

Cuba to be simultaneous uprisings over the country, and it will give some

chance success ." In blunt terms I was told this was none of my business .

F : I see .

L : All they wanted was an answer to a question which beach was the best . And

that's all the information I could get, so we came up with the answer of a

purely military standpoint of which was probably the best beach to land

on that had a landing strip . And that was all that took place . The next

time the subject came up that I participated in--now remember, no Vice

Chief of any of the services was aware of this item . Only the Chiefs of

each of the services was aware of what was going on . How much detail they

knew I don't know, but it was very sketchy I am sure .

F : To a great extent it was politically handled .

L : This was not a military operation--not a military operation, and the Joint

Chiefs had nothing to do with the planning of it, control of it, or anything

else . I'm sure that all that happened was they ever asked a couple of

questions, like which was the best beach to land on . They were aware of

what was going on, but the details I don't think they knew anything about .

It's true that there was some military participation along the way because

the CIA had military people from all of the services assigned to the CIA,

but working for the CIA and not reporting back to the military at all .

They were working as individuals over there because they had some background

training that the CIA required to carry out their work . Also from

time to time for various things that they were doing, they would ask for

people from military services with certain specialities which were furnished,

but we didn't know what they were doing . So there was military participation,

but as far as being a military operation with military planning and military

control, no, it was not an operation of this sort . Well the next I heard

of the operation is the time of the actual invasion . As a matter of fact,

a couple of days before there was a Joint Chiefs meeting which General White

was absent that I attended at which it was brought up that the activity was

going to take place a couple of days later . Landing at daylight on the

beaches, and there was a preparation to be made which they wanted to destroy

the Cuban Air Force with the Air Force such as it was that the invasion

force had of which was few B-26's . They can be gathered off of every junk

pile around the world as a matter of fact . They didn't want any of this thing

to be traced to the United States . That was our greatest fear that they

find out the United States had been dabbling in this . There was an attack

to be made on the Cuban Air Force on the ground--surprise attack by the

invasion Air Force two days before, and they cooked up some sort of a story

that two of these B-26's with Cuban markings on them would take off from

our base down in Central America and bomb the air fields in Cuba . And

then Cubans would land over in Florida and say that they were Cuban Air Force

people that had defected, and they had participated in the bombing and so forth .

This got tied up and wasn't very well executed . The whole mission wasn't

very well executed, and they failed in destroying the Cuban Air Force, and

only one of them got to Florida . But they didn't fool very many people,

I am sure . Anyway they failed in the mission of destroying the Cuban Air

Force, but decided to go ahead with the landing anyway . The landing force

was supposed to have air cover during the landings which meant that they

had to take off around midnight in Central America to get up there by

daylight . And the night before, this air cover was called off because of

the failure of the story they had worked out looked too much like American

participation, so they called it off . No one knew anything about this in

the Joint Chiefs of Staff until the morning of the invasion when there

wasn't a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff . And I knew this was coming

up so I went down early to try to find out what was going on, and I found

out then about 15 minutes before the meeting that Secretary Rusk had called

it off, or he said the President had called it off . Maybe the President

did call it off, but the story I heard was from Pre Cabell (General Charles

P .), who was the deputy of CIA and at the time he was an Air Force General

Officer and was a deputy of the CIA . And when the air cover was called

off, he knew the implications of this, of course, and went personally to

Rusk, who gave him the same cavalier treatment that most military people

got from the administration, to the effect that : "Well, the President is

now dressing to attend a party . If you want to interrupt him, you can go

to him, but he has already made the decision to call this off ." Well I

think Pre made a mistake by not going to him, but here again he had been

butting his head against a stone wall I guess for a long enough he didn't

think it would do any good . Anyway it had been called off . Mr . McNamara

was supposed to be at the meeting that morning at the Joint Chiefs, but he

didn't come down . Mr . Gilpatric came down to represent him . As soon as he

came in, I went right to him before the meeting ever started and said : "Look

you have just cut the throat of every man on the beach down there . Without

this air cover, there can't be any success ." And he said, "Well I didn't

know anything about it ." Said, "Well it is done ." Sure enough the invasion

force did catch them by surprise, and they were doing quite well until they

ran out of ammunition . And of course what happened the Cuban Air Force

came over and sunk the ships that had the reserve ammunition on them, and

when they ran out of ammunition, that was all ; the whole force was captured

of course .

I sat in on the critique of the operation for General White too in

which the President attended, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense,

CIA, and all the rest of them . And it got around to the point that the

lack of air cover was what caused the failure . Secretary Rusk was asked

about the cancellation of air cover . The President turned to him to see

what his answer was . He said, "Well, I didn't know anything about the

importance of this," and that ended the discussion . All these articles

that you have seen that have been written by the great brains of the

Kennedy Administration, including Robert Kennedy, on the Bay of Pigs as

to the bad military advice and the betrayal of the military to President

Kennedy is just a bunch of hogwash because it was not a military operation

. The Joint Chiefs as far as I know were not asked to participate

except as I mentioned, and it was not a military operation--it was a

civilian operation from start to finish .

F : No one in Cuba doubted where it came from or would have I think under any

circumstances . What do you get that this feeling that this is just kind

of a bunch of amateurs wanting to--that they were playing toy soldiers?

L : Well, I try not to exaggerate but everyone that came in with the Kennedy

Administration and is the most egotistical people that I ever saw in my life .

They had no faith in the military ; they had no respect for the military at

all . They felt that the Harvard Business School method of solving problems

would solve any problem in the world . They were capable of doing it ; they

were better than all the rest of us ; otherwise they wouldn't have gotten

their superior education, as they saw it . And the fact that they had it

entitled them to govern the rest of us, and we shouldn't question their

decisions . I try not to exaggerate but that's exactly the case . So all

during the administration we found it impossible to get experience or

judgment cranked into the solution of any problem . As a matter of fact,

I have had a man tell me, "No, General, this is not the kind of weapon

system that you want to use, this is what you need ." This man was in knee

pants when I was commanding the division in combat . He had no experience

on the use of weapons at all . And certainly the military are not without

knowledge of the use of computers and other methods of gathering statistics

and solving problems and so forth . But war is an art, not an exact science,

and you are dealing with people, and judgment and experience are very

valuable in solving that kind of problem . And we couldn't get those factors

ever ground into the solution .

F : That's interesting in view of the fact that the big run on the missile

gap was 1960, which may or not have been an actual gap .

L : Well there wasn't any . We may have been at one time a little behind in

missiles because we didn't do too much about them early in the game . We

were doing a little something about them, but mainly we had to catch up

33

on everything . Remember at the end of the war we were ten years behind

the Germans in technology at that time . Aerodynamics, rocketry, missiles,

everything, we were ten years behind and had to catch up . As I say, I

was running the research and development effort for the Air Force at that

time, chief officer for it on the staff and we tried to get some of these

German scientists over to the United States . This was resented and

objected to by our own scientists . They didn't want them over here, but

we brought them anyway . The only way we could get them in was as prisoners

of war . Now we would go and talk to these people and, in effect, we'll

hire them to come over and work for us, and "We'll see that your family is

taken care of back here . We'll see that they have a place to live, food,

and taken care of ." We had quite a time convincing some of them that we

would do this . But we got a lot of them to come over . Von Braun was one

who came over at this time, Dornberger,who had commanded Peenemunde . But

the Russians got a great number of them because the research centers were

back away from our bombing and closer to the Russians, so they overran

most of them . We got a few B-1 missiles, but the Russians got most

of them, and they got most of the scientists that were working on them .

And they carried right on with that program full blast, moved everything

right back into Russia, and carried on with it . We got some

of them, but we didn't carry on with the full field development program .

We had to get all of our ducks in a row under a very strict budget and

we had a lot of other things to do too . So the fact that the Russians

started early carrying on with the B-1, which was based on carrying TNT,

was for this reason that the Russians came up with much bigger missiles

than we did, because when we finally started our missile program, we started

it with atomic warhead on it and this was a lighter smaller weapon--smaller

payload--that we could carry . Therefore the rocket that we built was a

34

smaller rocket than the Russians built . And this is the reason we were

behind in the payload that we could put into orbit if you want to measure

it this way . And it took a little while to catch up on that . And you

could say for awhile we were behind in basic rocketry, because the fact

that the Russians got more of the technical people that knew something

about it and kept right on going over the program, while we had a little

lag . But in overall strength there wasn't any big gap or anything of that

sort, and when we finally put the money into it and got all of our people

ready to work, very soon it became apparent that there wasn't any missile

gap at all…..

F : . . . . Where were you atthe time of the assassination?

L : I was in Washington at the time--the Chief of Staff of the Air Force .

F : You were at work on that particular day?

L : No, I was off some place, at the actual time of the assassination, I was

called back .

F : Yes, what was the situation that you found when you got back to Washington?

Was there a little bit of tenseness or was it pretty well decided that Lee

Harvey Oswald was just after one man?

L : Well there wasn't much of a flap . Everybody was a little concerned that they

didn't know what made the attack, the assassination, so they wanted

everybody present for duty . That's the reason they were called back .

F : Was there any great difference between working on the Joint Chiefs under

Johnson than it had been with Kennedy or did the fact that you had the same

Secretary of Defense insure the continuity?

L : No, I didn't understand exactly what was going on . For several months

before the President was assassinated they were rumors, and then they

got to be a little more than rumors, Vice President Johnson was going to

be dropped for the coming election . And all the Kennedy team was finally

got to openly to giving to the Vice President to the back of their hands,

and it was rather embarrassing for the country around Washington because

it was so apparent. Then bang, all at once he is President

F : Yes.

L : And I believe all of this hard feeling grew up around the flight from Fort

Worth back was brought on by these people who had really been vulgar in

my opinion and snubbing the Vice President who expected to be stepped on

like the cockroaches they were, and he didn't do it. As a matter of fact

quite the contrary. From all I got the President was extremely polite to

Mrs . Kennedy and the family and bent over backwards to do everything he

could to soften the blow if that is possible. It isn't, but he certainly

was a Southern gentleman in every respect during this period. And I think

this rather surprised these people because they expected the same kind of

treatment that they had given him and he didn't give it to him. Why, I don't

know : I really don't know because well I can understand in having to face

an election and I can understand him being a smart enough politician to

know if he threw out all of the Kennedy crowd and put his in, this might

split the Democratic party at the time in the next election and so forth .

So I can understand him keeping these people around until the election was

over, but then he won the election--he won it with the greatest majority

that any President has ever had, but he still kept these people around .

The same people that had treated him so miserably during this period just

before President Kennedy's assassination .

F : This is curious .

L : Yes . I could never understand, never could figure it out yet . The only

answer I could come up with is that knowing the vindictiveness of these

people, knowing the moral standards of these people, how ruthless that

they were, they must have had some threat over the President that he

knew that they would carry out .

F : You had your term extended by President Kennedy . Was this any surprise

to you?

L : Mr. Johnson was president when my tenure was extended. Actually

my extension wasn't recommended by the Secretary of the Air Force

or the Secretary of Defense . As a matter of fact I was told this by Mr.

Zuckert . And I didn't expect it to be because George Anderson was fired,

and I fully expected to be too . However, I was over at a cocktail party

to celebrate the birthday of NATO, and Mr . Johnson had invited all of the

NATO ambassadors and their military representatives at the White House for

a cocktail party on NATO's birthday. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of

Staff was gone . I was a senior member of the Joint Chiefs present, so I

went over to represent the United States military. And after things had

gone underway the President pulled me off to a little anteroom and asked

me who was available to replace me as Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Well I wasn't about to recommend anybody to give them a kiss of death. I

certainly didn't agree with what was going on in the administration, and they

knew it, and anyone I would recommend they probably wouldn't take into consideration

for appointment . So I said, "yell, Mr . President, we have got

a dozen people who could do with a job for as Chief of Staff of the Air

Force," and I started running off some names and their qualifications .

"Then well how about something for you? Now how about being an

ambassador?" They'd just sent Anderson to Portugal as ambassador . And

he said, "I need a roving ambassador around some of these countries upon

the Russian border to keep them bucked up or try to help them and so forth

and I particularly want to get them to buy this F5 airplane," which was made by

Northrup designed for backward countries . It was a simplier airplane, but

it wasn't a first line airplane and wouldn't compete with the Russian

first line airplanes . I thought well, first of all, I don't see any reason

for stopping doing something I know how to do to take on a job that I don't

know how to do . I don't have any experience as an ambassador, and as for

selling these F5 airplanes, I can't do that . I couldn't face my counterparts

in these foreign countries because they're airmen too, and being

airmen, are well aware that this is not a first line system . It's a

second line weapon system, if you want to get these people to fight first

line equipment with . And I haven't recommended it in the past ; I have been

against the F5 in the past for that reason, and I just can't go to face

these people and say, "Now it is a good one," I said, "No . If you haven't

got anything that I really can do, why let me goon to retire and go into

industry ." And he said, "Well, you haven't made any commitments yet have

you

And I said, "No, I have no form of course until I retire ."

And he said, "Well, give me about ten days ."

Well two weeks went by ; I guess it was about two weeks . I was down

on the Joint Chiefs . We were having an exercise of some sort and the

telephone rang, and it was the White House asking me to come over . So I

got somebody to replace me and went over there . It was late in the afternoon

about 5 :30 then . And I saw the President and he said, "Look I got an election

coming up, and I don't know what is going to happen there . I don't think

your military career ought to be interrupted until your retirement date,

so I'm going to extend you until your retirement date ." Which was about

four months short of two-year four-year tour that the chiefs normally

serve .

"Mr . President, if that's what you want I'll certainly do the best

I can, but I'm sure that in coming to this judgment you've taken into account

the fact that I don't agree with what your Secretary of Defense is trying to

do ."

And he said, "Yes, I understand that ; just go back over there and do

what you think is best for the country ."

"Well that's certainly easy to do, and thank you very much for your

confidence ."

Well, by this time, it is about 7 :30, so I didn't go back to the

Pentagon. I went in to see the Secretary the next morning and saw the Air

Secretary and told him who his next Chief of Staff was going to be. He

didn't know it . Mr. McNamara didn't know it either. So I was of course

grateful to President Johnson for his confidence in me to carry on . But

in sitting down and trying to figure out . . . .

F : Johnson didn't break the news to McNamara?

L : No, he surely didn't--he let me do it . But I remained more skeptical all

the time of being in a rat race in Washington . I wonder how much of this

was confidence in me and how much of it was political and not wanting a

big battle in the Congress, because he just as in effect fired Admiral

Anderson, which caused a little stir in the Congress, not much.

s an interview with General Curtis LeMay who made his home in

Newport Beach, California . The interviewer is Joe B . Frantz . General,

just to get started . Incidentally, I'm a World War II veteran so I have

been following you for a long time . When did you first become acquainted

with Mr . Johnson? Was it in his senatorial days or was it later than that?

L : Yes, I first met President Johnson when he was Majority Leader of the

Senate .

F : They gradually got a little tired . Were you aware at all of Mr . Johnson's

participation in the Bay of Pigs problem?

L : Well the Bay of Pigs problem, I wasn't in on parts of it . My first contact

with it came in a Joint Chiefs meeting while I was still Vice Chief of Staff

with the Air Force . And General White was out of town on a trip overseas

visiting some of the bases . And I attended all the Joint Chiefs meetings

in his place just when he was gone of course . In this particular meeting

there was an item on the agenda which I wasn't cleared for, which surprised

me, and I think it probably went through the President . I had to get

cleared before I could discuss it . After 20 or 30 minutes of delay I finally

was cleared and we proceeded with the item, and it was on the Bay of Pigs .

And a member of the CIA appeared to brief the Joint Chiefs on the question

at hand, which was to effect that they wanted the Joint Chiefs' opinion

on changing the landing beach in Cuba of the invasion force . Now wait

a minute before I can participate in this, I would like to have a little

more background in this . And I found out that some time before the CIA had

presented to the Joint Chiefs three landing beaches and asked their opinion

on which one was the best one to land on from a military standpoint . And

as far as I knew this was all they knew about so called invasion, and

they had given an opinion . Then CIA changed their mind and decided that

they ought to have a beach that had a landing strip on it, or close by .

So they picked a couple of others and they wanted to know which was the best

of those . That was the item on that particular day . I said, "Well I

need a little more information . What's the size of your landing force?"

Seven hundred men was the answer . "And are you planning on taking Cuba

with 700 people?" Yes . "Well I don't quite understand this . I know

Henry Morgan took Panama with 700 people, but this seems to be a little

bit different . I presume that things are well enough organized inside

Cuba to be simultaneous uprisings over the country, and it will give some

chance success ." In blunt terms I was told this was none of my business .

F : I see .

L : All they wanted was an answer to a question which beach was the best . And

that's all the information I could get, so we came up with the answer of a

purely military standpoint of which was probably the best beach to land

on that had a landing strip . And that was all that took place . The next

time the subject came up that I participated in--now remember, no Vice

Chief of any of the services was aware of this item . Only the Chiefs of

each of the services was aware of what was going on . How much detail they

knew I don't know, but it was very sketchy I am sure .

F : To a great extent it was politically handled .

L : This was not a military operation--not a military operation, and the Joint

Chiefs had nothing to do with the planning of it, control of it, or anything

else . I'm sure that all that happened was they ever asked a couple of

questions, like which was the best beach to land on . They were aware of

what was going on, but the details I don't think they knew anything about .

It's true that there was some military participation along the way because

the CIA had military people from all of the services assigned to the CIA,

but working for the CIA and not reporting back to the military at all .

They were working as individuals over there because they had some background

training that the CIA required to carry out their work . Also from

time to time for various things that they were doing, they would ask for

people from military services with certain specialities which were furnished,

but we didn't know what they were doing . So there was military participation,

but as far as being a military operation with military planning and military

control, no, it was not an operation of this sort . Well the next I heard

of the operation is the time of the actual invasion . As a matter of fact,

a couple of days before there was a Joint Chiefs meeting which General White

was absent that I attended at which it was brought up that the activity was

going to take place a couple of days later . Landing at daylight on the

beaches, and there was a preparation to be made which they wanted to destroy

the Cuban Air Force with the Air Force such as it was that the invasion

force had of which was few B-26's . They can be gathered off of every junk

pile around the world as a matter of fact . They didn't want any of this thing

to be traced to the United States . That was our greatest fear that they

find out the United States had been dabbling in this . There was an attack

to be made on the Cuban Air Force on the ground--surprise attack by the

invasion Air Force two days before, and they cooked up some sort of a story

that two of these B-26's with Cuban markings on them would take off from

our base down in Central America and bomb the air fields in Cuba . And

then Cubans would land over in Florida and say that they were Cuban Air Force

people that had defected, and they had participated in the bombing and so forth .

This got tied up and wasn't very well executed . The whole mission wasn't

very well executed, and they failed in destroying the Cuban Air Force, and

only one of them got to Florida . But they didn't fool very many people,

I am sure . Anyway they failed in the mission of destroying the Cuban Air

Force, but decided to go ahead with the landing anyway . The landing force

was supposed to have air cover during the landings which meant that they

had to take off around midnight in Central America to get up there by

daylight . And the night before, this air cover was called off because of

the failure of the story they had worked out looked too much like American

participation, so they called it off . No one knew anything about this in

the Joint Chiefs of Staff until the morning of the invasion when there

wasn't a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff . And I knew this was coming

up so I went down early to try to find out what was going on, and I found

out then about 15 minutes before the meeting that Secretary Rusk had called

it off, or he said the President had called it off . Maybe the President

did call it off, but the story I heard was from Pre Cabell (General Charles

P .), who was the deputy of CIA and at the time he was an Air Force General

Officer and was a deputy of the CIA . And when the air cover was called

off, he knew the implications of this, of course, and went personally to

Rusk, who gave him the same cavalier treatment that most military people

got from the administration, to the effect that : "Well, the President is

now dressing to attend a party . If you want to interrupt him, you can go

to him, but he has already made the decision to call this off ." Well I

think Pre made a mistake by not going to him, but here again he had been

butting his head against a stone wall I guess for a long enough he didn't

think it would do any good . Anyway it had been called off . Mr . McNamara

was supposed to be at the meeting that morning at the Joint Chiefs, but he

didn't come down . Mr . Gilpatric came down to represent him . As soon as he

came in, I went right to him before the meeting ever started and said : "Look

you have just cut the throat of every man on the beach down there . Without

this air cover, there can't be any success ." And he said, "Well I didn't

know anything about it ." Said, "Well it is done ." Sure enough the invasion

force did catch them by surprise, and they were doing quite well until they

ran out of ammunition . And of course what happened the Cuban Air Force

came over and sunk the ships that had the reserve ammunition on them, and

when they ran out of ammunition, that was all ; the whole force was captured

of course .

I sat in on the critique of the operation for General White too in

which the President attended, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense,

CIA, and all the rest of them . And it got around to the point that the

lack of air cover was what caused the failure . Secretary Rusk was asked

about the cancellation of air cover . The President turned to him to see

what his answer was . He said, "Well, I didn't know anything about the

importance of this," and that ended the discussion . All these articles

that you have seen that have been written by the great brains of the

Kennedy Administration, including Robert Kennedy, on the Bay of Pigs as

to the bad military advice and the betrayal of the military to President

Kennedy is just a bunch of hogwash because it was not a military operation

. The Joint Chiefs as far as I know were not asked to participate

except as I mentioned, and it was not a military operation--it was a

civilian operation from start to finish .

F : No one in Cuba doubted where it came from or would have I think under any

circumstances . What do you get that this feeling that this is just kind

of a bunch of amateurs wanting to--that they were playing toy soldiers?

L : Well, I try not to exaggerate but everyone that came in with the Kennedy

Administration and is the most egotistical people that I ever saw in my life .

They had no faith in the military ; they had no respect for the military at

all . They felt that the Harvard Business School method of solving problems

would solve any problem in the world . They were capable of doing it ; they

were better than all the rest of us ; otherwise they wouldn't have gotten

their superior education, as they saw it . And the fact that they had it

entitled them to govern the rest of us, and we shouldn't question their

decisions . I try not to exaggerate but that's exactly the case . So all

during the administration we found it impossible to get experience or

judgment cranked into the solution of any problem . As a matter of fact,

I have had a man tell me, "No, General, this is not the kind of weapon

system that you want to use, this is what you need ." This man was in knee

pants when I was commanding the division in combat . He had no experience

on the use of weapons at all . And certainly the military are not without

knowledge of the use of computers and other methods of gathering statistics

and solving problems and so forth . But war is an art, not an exact science,

and you are dealing with people, and judgment and experience are very

valuable in solving that kind of problem . And we couldn't get those factors

ever ground into the solution .

F : That's interesting in view of the fact that the big run on the missile

gap was 1960, which may or not have been an actual gap .

L : Well there wasn't any . We may have been at one time a little behind in

missiles because we didn't do too much about them early in the game . We

were doing a little something about them, but mainly we had to catch up

33

on everything . Remember at the end of the war we were ten years behind

the Germans in technology at that time . Aerodynamics, rocketry, missiles,

everything, we were ten years behind and had to catch up . As I say, I

was running the research and development effort for the Air Force at that

time, chief officer for it on the staff and we tried to get some of these

German scientists over to the United States . This was resented and

objected to by our own scientists . They didn't want them over here, but

we brought them anyway . The only way we could get them in was as prisoners

of war . Now we would go and talk to these people and, in effect, we'll

hire them to come over and work for us, and "We'll see that your family is

taken care of back here . We'll see that they have a place to live, food,

and taken care of ." We had quite a time convincing some of them that we

would do this . But we got a lot of them to come over . Von Braun was one

who came over at this time, Dornberger,who had commanded Peenemunde . But

the Russians got a great number of them because the research centers were

back away from our bombing and closer to the Russians, so they overran

most of them . We got a few B-1 missiles, but the Russians got most

of them, and they got most of the scientists that were working on them .

And they carried right on with that program full blast, moved everything

right back into Russia, and carried on with it . We got some

of them, but we didn't carry on with the full field development program .

We had to get all of our ducks in a row under a very strict budget and

we had a lot of other things to do too . So the fact that the Russians

started early carrying on with the B-1, which was based on carrying TNT,

was for this reason that the Russians came up with much bigger missiles

than we did, because when we finally started our missile program, we started

it with atomic warhead on it and this was a lighter smaller weapon--smaller

payload--that we could carry . Therefore the rocket that we built was a

34

smaller rocket than the Russians built . And this is the reason we were

behind in the payload that we could put into orbit if you want to measure

it this way . And it took a little while to catch up on that . And you

could say for awhile we were behind in basic rocketry, because the fact

that the Russians got more of the technical people that knew something

about it and kept right on going over the program, while we had a little

lag . But in overall strength there wasn't any big gap or anything of that

sort, and when we finally put the money into it and got all of our people

ready to work, very soon it became apparent that there wasn't any missile

gap at all…..

F : . . . . Where were you atthe time of the assassination?

L : I was in Washington at the time--the Chief of Staff of the Air Force .

F : You were at work on that particular day?

L : No, I was off some place, at the actual time of the assassination, I was

called back .

F : Yes, what was the situation that you found when you got back to Washington?

Was there a little bit of tenseness or was it pretty well decided that Lee

Harvey Oswald was just after one man?

L : Well there wasn't much of a flap . Everybody was a little concerned that they

didn't know what made the attack, the assassination, so they wanted

everybody present for duty . That's the reason they were called back .

F : Was there any great difference between working on the Joint Chiefs under

Johnson than it had been with Kennedy or did the fact that you had the same

Secretary of Defense insure the continuity?

L : No, I didn't understand exactly what was going on . For several months

before the President was assassinated they were rumors, and then they

got to be a little more than rumors, Vice President Johnson was going to

be dropped for the coming election . And all the Kennedy team was finally

got to openly to giving to the Vice President to the back of their hands,

and it was rather embarrassing for the country around Washington because

it was so apparent. Then bang, all at once he is President

F : Yes.

L : And I believe all of this hard feeling grew up around the flight from Fort

Worth back was brought on by these people who had really been vulgar in

my opinion and snubbing the Vice President who expected to be stepped on

like the cockroaches they were, and he didn't do it. As a matter of fact

quite the contrary. From all I got the President was extremely polite to

Mrs . Kennedy and the family and bent over backwards to do everything he

could to soften the blow if that is possible. It isn't, but he certainly

was a Southern gentleman in every respect during this period. And I think

this rather surprised these people because they expected the same kind of

treatment that they had given him and he didn't give it to him. Why, I don't

know : I really don't know because well I can understand in having to face

an election and I can understand him being a smart enough politician to

know if he threw out all of the Kennedy crowd and put his in, this might

split the Democratic party at the time in the next election and so forth .

So I can understand him keeping these people around until the election was

over, but then he won the election--he won it with the greatest majority

that any President has ever had, but he still kept these people around .

The same people that had treated him so miserably during this period just

before President Kennedy's assassination .

F : This is curious .

L : Yes . I could never understand, never could figure it out yet . The only

answer I could come up with is that knowing the vindictiveness of these

people, knowing the moral standards of these people, how ruthless that

they were, they must have had some threat over the President that he

knew that they would carry out .

F : You had your term extended by President Kennedy . Was this any surprise

to you?

L : Mr. Johnson was president when my tenure was extended. Actually

my extension wasn't recommended by the Secretary of the Air Force

or the Secretary of Defense . As a matter of fact I was told this by Mr.

Zuckert . And I didn't expect it to be because George Anderson was fired,

and I fully expected to be too . However, I was over at a cocktail party

to celebrate the birthday of NATO, and Mr . Johnson had invited all of the

NATO ambassadors and their military representatives at the White House for

a cocktail party on NATO's birthday. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of

Staff was gone . I was a senior member of the Joint Chiefs present, so I

went over to represent the United States military. And after things had

gone underway the President pulled me off to a little anteroom and asked

me who was available to replace me as Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Well I wasn't about to recommend anybody to give them a kiss of death. I

certainly didn't agree with what was going on in the administration, and they

knew it, and anyone I would recommend they probably wouldn't take into consideration

for appointment . So I said, "yell, Mr . President, we have got

a dozen people who could do with a job for as Chief of Staff of the Air

Force," and I started running off some names and their qualifications .

"Then well how about something for you? Now how about being an

ambassador?" They'd just sent Anderson to Portugal as ambassador . And

he said, "I need a roving ambassador around some of these countries upon

the Russian border to keep them bucked up or try to help them and so forth

and I particularly want to get them to buy this F5 airplane," which was made by

Northrup designed for backward countries . It was a simplier airplane, but

it wasn't a first line airplane and wouldn't compete with the Russian

first line airplanes . I thought well, first of all, I don't see any reason

for stopping doing something I know how to do to take on a job that I don't

know how to do . I don't have any experience as an ambassador, and as for

selling these F5 airplanes, I can't do that . I couldn't face my counterparts

in these foreign countries because they're airmen too, and being

airmen, are well aware that this is not a first line system . It's a

second line weapon system, if you want to get these people to fight first

line equipment with . And I haven't recommended it in the past ; I have been

against the F5 in the past for that reason, and I just can't go to face

these people and say, "Now it is a good one," I said, "No . If you haven't

got anything that I really can do, why let me goon to retire and go into

industry ." And he said, "Well, you haven't made any commitments yet have

you

And I said, "No, I have no form of course until I retire ."

And he said, "Well, give me about ten days ."

Well two weeks went by ; I guess it was about two weeks . I was down

on the Joint Chiefs . We were having an exercise of some sort and the

telephone rang, and it was the White House asking me to come over . So I

got somebody to replace me and went over there . It was late in the afternoon

about 5 :30 then . And I saw the President and he said, "Look I got an election

coming up, and I don't know what is going to happen there . I don't think

your military career ought to be interrupted until your retirement date,

so I'm going to extend you until your retirement date ." Which was about

four months short of two-year four-year tour that the chiefs normally

serve .

"Mr . President, if that's what you want I'll certainly do the best

I can, but I'm sure that in coming to this judgment you've taken into account

the fact that I don't agree with what your Secretary of Defense is trying to

do ."

And he said, "Yes, I understand that ; just go back over there and do

what you think is best for the country ."

"Well that's certainly easy to do, and thank you very much for your

confidence ."

Well, by this time, it is about 7 :30, so I didn't go back to the

Pentagon. I went in to see the Secretary the next morning and saw the Air

Secretary and told him who his next Chief of Staff was going to be. He

didn't know it . Mr. McNamara didn't know it either. So I was of course

grateful to President Johnson for his confidence in me to carry on . But

in sitting down and trying to figure out . . . .

F : Johnson didn't break the news to McNamara?

L : No, he surely didn't--he let me do it . But I remained more skeptical all

the time of being in a rat race in Washington . I wonder how much of this

was confidence in me and how much of it was political and not wanting a

big battle in the Congress, because he just as in effect fired Admiral

Anderson, which caused a little stir in the Congress, not much........

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bill,

That interview in the post above seems to be double posted and that's why at first glance it looks pretty long. Also it ends with a "...." and no "thank you's" or anything leading me to think it's incomplete.

As far as the content, LeMay has nothing nice to say about Kennedy or his Administration but praises President Johnson every time he gets a chance. A lot of good revealing stuff in there. I note though that LeMay couldn't be any more vague about what he was doing at the time of the assassination, "I was off somewhere".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...