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Maj. Harold R. Patterson

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The Tokyo Flight - Coincidence or Conspiracy?

Ronald L. Ecker



The Boeing 707 used for the Tokyo trip was Aircraft 86972, one of the presidential jets. Each of these planes had a White House code book for radio transmissions to and from Crown (the code name for the White House). 6 The news that JFKhad been shot in Dallas, perhaps fatally, reached Aircraft 86972 not by radio but by teletype. Before ordering the airplane to turn back for Hawaii, Rusk asked Salinger to get verification of the report from the White House. The radio operator in the communications shack put Salinger through to the White House Situation Room, and Salinger, using his code name Wayside, asked the Situation Room for all information on the President. 7 Wayside was told what little the White House knew, and was kept informed on the open line till it was official that JFK was dead.

Before that final notice, however, Rusk was curious about one radio message, relayed by Salinger, from someone code-named Stranger, on the question of whether to proceed to Dallas or Washington. For about five minutes they searched for the plane's White House code book, but it was not to be found. "We have to know who Stranger is," Rusk said, as they didn't know at that point what was happening in Dallas or who the government was. The decision was made to break the code procedure and find out the identity of Stranger.

It turned out to be Major Harold R. Patterson of the White House Communications Agency, an officer whom Salinger knew well. 8

And that was the extent of the missing code book crisis. The code book should not have been missing, but its absence, which proved to be ofno real consequence, does not by itself mean something sinister. Still, Rusk'sconcern over Stranger illustrates the fact that conspirators would certainly have been able to take advantage of there being no code book on board under a worst-case scenario.

2. William Manchester, The Death of aPresident (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 89.

6. PierreSalinger, With Kennedy (1966), p. 5; "Transcript--Radio Traffic,November 22, 1963, AirForce-1 and Plane Carrying US Cabinet"(http://www.geocities.com/jfkinfo3/reports/af1trans.htm).

7. Salinger, p. 7; "Transcript."

8. Salinger, p. 7.

Air Force One Radio Transmissions 11/22/63


[14:44] Go ahead,please

- Wayside? Wayside? This is Stranger. Do you read me? Over.

- This is Wayside. Go ahead.

- Kilduff asked that all cabinet members return to Washingtonimmediately. Over.

[14:59]- We are enroute to Honolulu,where we have ah....Washington.Over

[15:09]- Roger Roger, will theynotifiy us of time of arrival and location? Over [15:21]

- Roger, Roger, we do not have any firm....as to the exact status...go...Dallas...Wayside....goahead.

[15:40]...Wayside this is Stranger,I'll get that information...over.


- Liberty?

- Go ahead.

- [17:25] 86972, 86972Andrews.

- 86972 You are loud and clear.

- Roger. Give me the name, the real name of Stranger please...from the WhiteHouse

- Roger. Say again the name. What is the name sir? Stranger.

- [17:45] Stranger – S-T-R-A-N-G-E-R

- SAM Command Post is on will you give thema call?

- ....Mr. Jackson from the state department.

- We are returning to Hickham field...three zero Zulu...We are standing byfor

- [18:15] more information...

- Stand by for just a moment sir.

- Roger, Roger Seven two, Let us know when you are going to leave Hickham andwhat your destination is. [18:29]

- Okay we will keep you advised, have Wayside give them a call.

- That's a Roger 72.

[18:42] - 86972 – Andrews.

[18:52] - Andrews.

- Roger. In reference to request. A Major Harold R. Patterson, Major Harold R. Paterson.

Mary Farrell:


With Kennedy, p. 7; Death of a President, Manchester,p. 224

Mary's comments: Codenamed "Stranger". High-ranking officer in White House Communicaitons Agency.

Stranger was literally a stranger…an obscure officer in the White House Communication Agency's net control…."

Edited by William Kelly
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That is very odd that the code book went missing from an white house jet. Who could have taken the book with all the security that is around the planes that belong to the white house?

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Guest Tom Scully


I've located a woman who attended the Feb., 1949, bon voyage party of Patterson's wife, Jane. She is a first cousin of Patterson's wife. I'll PM her mailing address and tel. # to you, with links to supporting details.

Please read your PMs in the Ed forum's messenger system.

Edited by Tom Scully
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Schenectady Gazette, Friday, February 4, 1949

Society, Church and Club News of Schenectady

Mrs. Harold R. Patterson of Bailltown road and Mrs. Owen Thomas entertained at a "going away" party Saturday evening at Mrs. Patterson'shome. The event honored Mrs. Harold R. Patterson Jr., who left last night on ajourney to Yokohama, Japan, where she will join her husband, Lieutenant Harold R. Patterson of the United States Signal Corps.

Guests were Mr. and Mrs. William Goeiz, Mr. and Mrs. ArthurHebert, Arthur Hebert,Jr., Charles Hebert, Mr. and Mrs. Warren Burns, ElijaHollins, Mr. and Mrs. Owen Thomas, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Patterson, Sr.

Photo Caption

At the start of a 12,000 mile journey, destination Yokohama, Japan, Mrs. Harold R.Patterson, Jr., above, waves goodby to her mother, Mrs. Owen Thomas of 2765 Broadway. Mrs. Patterson, left Schenectady by train for New York last night,or rather, early this morning, at 2 a.m.,on the first lap of the trip to rejoin her husband, Lieutenant Patterson,stationed with the U.S. Army Signal corps at Yokohama. She will travel by way of the Panama canal, on the troopship U.S.A. "T.Darby."

Both Mrs. Patterson, the former Miss Jane Thomas, and Lieutenant Patterson are graduates of Mont Pleasant High school.They were married in July of 1947.

Lieutenant Patterson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Patterson of Balltown road, has been with the signal corps since Nov. 1947. He was stationed a year in Korea,and in December 1948 was assigned to his present post in Japan.


This article reminds me of a story about a German who was arrested for espionage during World War II when he was found to have compiled a complete German order of battle with the entire German army detailed down to the battalion and regimental commanders, where they were based and where they were stationed and deployed.

He was released when he explained that he committed no espionage and showed how he compiled the information from local newspaper reports such as this.


Edited by William Kelly
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