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The Swearing In - A New Perspective

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The Swearing In aboard AF1 - A New Perspective

A Public Relations Ploy or Holding off a Coup?

JFKcountercoup: The Swearing In Aboard AF1 - A New Perspective

"Officials at the Pentagon were calling the White House switchboard at the Dallas-Sheraton Hotel asking who was now in command. An Officer grabbed the phone and assured the Pentagon that Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara and the Joint Chief of Staff ' are now the President.” – Jim Bishop – “The Day the President Was Shot”

From all accounts the first decision LBJ made as president was to go immediately to Air Force One, because of its security and advanced communications equipment, and the second decision was to hold the swearing in ceremony immediately before they took off.

The first decision was made at Parkland Hospital before the official announcement was made that JFK was dead, while the second decision was made aboard Air Force One after LBJ made a series of telephone calls, one to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to obtain the wording of the oath of office.

Other calls were made from Air Force One as well, by LBJ himself, such as the call to his personal tax attorney J. Waddy Bullion, during which they discussed his Haliburton stock. LBJ’s close aides, such as Bill Moyers and Cliff Carter also made telephone calls.

The secure telephone lines set up for Air Force One at Love Field were special trunk lines that had to be detached from the plane before take off, after which all the communications were made through radio patches over three or four sideband radios in the communications room behind the cockpit.

All of the president’s communications were controlled by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), then led by Col. George McNally (code name “Star”), who was having lunch at the airport terminal when the assassination occurred and returned to Air Force One to ensure that the new president could communicate with anyone in the world.

The trunk line at Love Field aboard Air Force One was only one of a dozen such secure land lines that were connected by the WHCA – others being at locations where ever the President was or would be – the hotel in Fort Worth where JFK spent his last night, at the Dallas Trade Mart where he was scheduled to give a luncheon speech, and other locations in Texas where he was scheduled to be.

The WHCA Command Center and base station for the Dallas portion of the Texas trip was set up in a room or suite of rooms at the Dallas Sheraton Hotel,

According to William Manchester, it was McNally’s duty to ensure that the president was always within five minutes of a secure telephone. “Colonel McNally had a corps of advance men. By dawn of that Thursday morning temporary switchboards had been installed in trailers and hotel rooms in San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin and at the LBJ Ranch. Each had its own unlisted phone number. The Dallas White House, for example, was in the Sheraton-Dallas Hotel. It could be reached through RIverside 1-3421, RIverside 1-3422, and RIverside 1-3423, though anyone who dialed one of them and lacked a code name of his own would find the conversation awkward.”

Jim Bishop's book “The Day Kennedy Was Shot” contains a revealing incident: "Officials at the Pentagon were calling the White House switchboard at the Dallas-Sheraton Hotel asking who was now in command. An Officer grabbed the phone and assured the Pentagon that Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara and the Joint Chief of Staff are now the President."

While there is no documented or officially archived evidence that LBJ, as the new president, communicated directly with the Pentagon or any of his generals, except those who were aboard Air Force One, it is possible that LBJ learned of the report(s) that the WHCA operators were saying “the Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are now the President.”

If that is the case, the decision to hold the swearing in ceremony immediately may have been a reaction to these reports that the Joint Chiefs “were now the President,” rather than merely a public relations ploy to sooth the doubts of a nation as to continuity of government and the proper line of succession.

T.H. White, in “The Making of the President 1964” wrote: “Of all the things Kennedy did for Johnson, none, however, was perhaps more instantly important on the weekend of Nov. 22 than a minor decision Kennedy made months before. He had decided that, in the secret and emergency planning for continuity of American government in the happenstance of a nuclear attack, Johnson should be given a major role. Through Major General Chester V. Clifton, who acted as White House liaison with the Department of Defense, all emergency operational planning was made available to the Vice President in duplicate. These plans, envisioning all things – from the destruction of all major cities to the bodily transfer of governing officers to an underground capital – included, of course, detailed forethought of the event of the sudden death of a President.”

“Because he had participated in all these plans, both panic and ignorance were already preauthorized in the vice President; on the night of Nov. 22, 1963, he knew exactly all the intricate resources of command and communications at his disposal. Beneath this lay the experience of a man who had spent 30 years observing the work of the federal government, while beneath that lay the instincts of a Texas country boy. Now it was him to act.”

So the first two decisions LBJ made – to go immediately to Air Force One because of its superior communications equipment and take the oath of office before taking off, were both moves that were engrained into the special continuity of government plans that JFK had made LBJ privy to.

That LBJ took the oath of office, not to convince the American public who was president, but to head off a full blown military coup, is supported by LBJ’s opinions of the Joint Chiefs, as he himself expressed to them in a meeting in the Oval Office a year later, and as recounted by Lt. Gen. Charles Cooper, USMC (Ret), in "Cheers and Tears: A Marine's Story of Combat in Peace and War" (2002.

“….Seemingly deep in thought, President Johnson turned his back on them for a minute or so, then suddenly discarding the calm, patient demeanor he had maintained throughout the meeting, whirled to face them and exploded. I almost dropped the map. He screamed obscenities, he cursed them personally, he ridiculed them for coming to his office with their ‘military advice.’ Noting that it was he who was carrying the weight of the free world on his shoulders, he called them filthy names - xxxxheads, dumb xxxxs, pompous assholes - and used ‘the F-word’ as an adjective more freely than a Marine in boot camp would use it. He then accused them of trying to pass the buck for World War III to him. It was unnerving, degrading. After the tantrum, he resumed the calm, relaxed manner he had displayed earlier and again folded his arms. It was as though he had punished them, cowed them, and would now control them. Using soft-spoken profanities, he said something to the effect that they all knew now that he did not care about their military advice. After disparaging their abilities, he added that he did expect their help…” [For the complete article on this meeting see: http://jfkcountercoup2.blogspot.com/2012/07/lbj-joint-chiefs-day-it-became-longest.html ]

If LBJ held the same feelings for the military at the time of the assassination, the early reports immediately after the assassination that MacNamara and the Joint Chiefs “were now the President,” which came from the WHCA base station at the Dallas Sheraton, could have stimulated LBJ to hold the swearing in ceremony immediately aboard Air Force One so that the whole nation and the world, as well as the brass at the Pentagon, who was now President.

JFKcountercoup: The Swearing In Aboard AF1 - A New Perspective

William Kelly

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There are other passages from General Cooper's book that warrant attention. At least you Bill, I would think so. In fact the entire section from pages 119-124, are in my estimation. Tell me if I am correct.

from page 120

He told me I had been nominated to be the aide to Admiral Smith CINCLANT/CINCLANFLT in Norfolk but Admiral Smith had unexpectedly decided to retire. I wouldn’t be the aide to the new admiral, because someone else had taken that billet. The detailer asked me to "hang loose." It seemed that something else wasin the wind, but he didn’t say what...............

...........The day before I reported to Admiral McDonald for work in the Pentagon, I checked in with my parent unit at Headquarters Marine Corps. At that time General David M Shoup was Commandant of the Marine Corps. His Chief of Staff was Lieutenant General Wallace Greene, who had left instructions for me to

report to him. General Greene spent almost an hour with me and impressed me with the fact that I was being sent over to some “fop” job in the Pentagon. First, in the strictest confidence he explained to me that General Shoup had been totally at odds with the Navy senior leadership since early in his term, three and a

half years ago when he learned that Admiral Arleigh Burke had been recording a very personal, sensitive, private discussion they were having in his office. After Burke’s departure, things had not gone much better with his successor, Admiral Anderson. Shoup was feisty anyway and difficult to work with, but Admiral

Greene told me that he personally hoped to improve this communication gap by working more closely with Admiral McDonald. These are my observations. President Eisenhower had appointed General Shoup to be Commandant when he was a middle-grade major general, passing over all of the Corps senior leadership. Ike was looking for an “independent thinker,” and he found one in Shoup. Shoup also became close to John F. Kennedy, while he was President. Shoup ran the Marine Corps with a handful of his generals and treated the rest of the Corp’s generals with contempt. He did not trust the Navy, and felt that the admirals in charge took his loyalty for granted. General Greene wanted me to understand the undercurrents I’d be swimming in. He charged me with giving the CNO my very best, and added that whether things worked out with the CNO or not (some people fire aides almost on a whim) I had a good record and the Marine Corps would take care of me. His final remark was: “Your loyalty is to your boss, but you can serve the Corp’s well by being the best Marine aide he could ever have.”

A few months later, General Greene who had graduated from the Naval Academy a few years behind Admiral McDonald, became Commandant of the Marine Corps. Dispite some disagreements, he and the CNO maintained an open and continuous dialog during my tour. I was happy to become a somewhat unusual

conduit for this relationship.

from page 124

Midshipman Second Class Roger Staubach and his band of brave football warriors took Navy football to great heights in 1963. The team ended the regular season with a 9-1 record and played Texas in the Cotton Bowl in what was called as national championship game. Both teams were being touted as number one. The CNO had been monitoring the season very closely, assisted by his Marine aide. The season gave us an unusual opportunity to make some of the key games communication vehicles for both Congressional and Defense officials. The admiral, although not a dyed-in-the-wool sports enthusiast accepted the invitations he received and attended all of the home games and several of the away games, mainly those at schools that had prestigous NROTC units — schools such as Michigan, Notre Dame and Duke. For the October 5th game against Michigan, he invited House Majority Leader Ford and his two young sons to travel with him. Gerald Ford, a former Michigan center, proved to be as amiable and low key as he has always been portrayed. The school and its NROTC authorities welcomed the visit. Navy impressed the nation with a resounding 26-13 triumph over a good Michigan team. Congressman Ford, who turned out to be a neighbor of mine in Alexandria, was a good sport over Michigan’s loss.

Edited by Robert Howard
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Guest Tom Scully

Is it necessary to post the "filthy names"? We either maintain a rule against displaying such words in posts.or we don't. Someone above my pay grade posted one similar word earlier today. I don't want to interfere if the rule has been revised.

Getting back on topic, it seems the same reasons for moving quickly to AF-1, the superior communications, could also have been satisfied by going immediately to "the Dallas White House" in rooms at the Dallas Sheraton. It doesn't seem like a destination any less secure, especially if a military coup is a major consideration, than moving into an open area, at Love Field, onto a military aircraft, AF-1, now, does it?

If the move to the Sheraton had been chosen, maybe the local law, in the local jurisdiction could have been abided, like it had been 62 years earlier, when President Mckinley had died from a gunshot wound in Buffalo, NY.

Buffalo, Sept. 14. -- Surgeons performed an autopsy on the body of the late

President this afternoon. At the close of the autopsy it was announced that the

bullet which was supposed to have lodged in the muscles of the back was not

found. Death was caused by toxemia, due to the presence of the bullet in the


Later Dr. Mynter stated that death was the direct result of gangrene

produced by the bullet wound.

An X-ray machine will be used to ascertain the location of the bullet in the

President's body. A machine has been sent for and it is said the examination

will be made today. The doctors engaged in the autopsy here have taken a

recess for luncheon.

Buffalo, Sept. 14. -- An autopsy on the body of President McKinley, late

this afternoon, revealed the fact that death was caused from gangrene

(mortification) about the bullet wounds.

I do not think the muscling of the dead president's body out of Parkland Hospital or the rush to AF-1 and the

quick departure had all that much to do with reaction to local events or to local conditions, or to superior, secure communications

to be found on AF-1. If you are apprehensive about the military, why would you isolate yourselves (all in one, vulnerable group) aboard an Air Force aircraft.after abducting the body of the assassinated president to hand it over to permanent military custody, from Love Field, through

the military controlled autopsy and the military funeral that followed. It you were suspicious of the military and you were Texas

born and raised, you would have insisted on abiding by the law, the body would have remained at Parkland under the authority

of the coroner under Secret Service observation, and Mr.Johnson would have proceeded to the Dallas White House in the Dallas Sheraton,

in consultation with other trusted government officials and preparing for a television address broadcast from Dallas, to reassure the nation at

a time later that evening timed to reach a maximum coast to coast audience.

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Bill, I would note in regard to the Pentagon's concern/question at that point in time, when an immediate state of war might have been in play and when missiles could have been incoming, the answer from a military perspective was correct. Legally, national command authority, the authority to order implementation of the SIOP rested only with President Kennedy and the Secretary of Defense and given that McNamara went to the Pentagon and had direct access to the comm system that would have issued that order...and the Joint Chiefs would have executed it, he and they would have had to act for the President in military matters. If they had gone out of contact for some reason, we now know that the SIOP decision would have come down to the SAC commander.

It does not appear that Johnson did anything to execute immediate communications with the Pentagon or to assume his role as national command authority; heck, he didn't even know where the SIOP codes were in Dallas and had to be told the officer had made it onto the plane. In that exchange it appears he had little interest or perhaps didn't even understand or appreciate that issue at all. .

As an aside I'd like to see Mr. White's sources (and Johnson didn't need to be given anything, as next in line for national command authority he was already it) and something that would indicate that Johnson ever read or had any real understanding of the contingency plans or even the SIOP. If he did he showed no sign of it on Nov. 22. Johnson may have been copied, whether he read anything or had any serious discussions on it with Clifton is a very interesting question..

-- Larry

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I'm not going to quickly dismiss Bill Kelly's thought here. I was only a 9-year-old kid when the assassination went down, but the entire weekend of the assassination the news media went to great pains to tell us over and over, how the line of presidential succession, after Johnson, would flow to Speaker of the House John McCormack. In retrospect, I'm beginning to wonder if this wasn't information that LBJ and his crew requested the media to repeat, so that the entire American public--right down to 9-year-old kids--would know something was up if the SecDef or the Pentagon attempted to take control of the government. In fact, behind the Speaker of the House--who was described in news reports of the day as "elderly"--came Senate president pro tempore Carl Hayden, and then the Secretary of State Dean Rusk. So the press was, for all intents and purposes, drilling it into the minds of the American people exactly what the line of presidential succession was--and what it wasn't.

Now, at the time I didn't give it a moment's thought; a lot of what went out over the airwaves that weekend was monotonously repetitious, and this information fit the pattern. BUT...IF LBJ had seriously considered that a military coup was possible, being the shrewd politician that he was, it would be perfectly in character for Johnson to do his damnedest to be there "firstest with the mostest," and to make sure that the public understood that anything other that a proper line of succession would indicate that there was something amiss at the highest levels. Call it a pre-emptive strike, if you will; first, with the swearing-in aboard AF1, then making sure his friends in the press impressed upon America what the proper order of presidential succession was.

In light of Johnson's personality, and the way he played the press, it's difficult to dismiss Bill's theory out-of-hand. For those who believe that LBJ wanted that presidency at all costs, is it that difficult to envision Johnson thinking--if not saying aloud-- This is my chance, finally...and I'll be DAMNED if I'll let McNamara or anyone else steal that from me!"

So is Bill Kelly's theory really THAT far-fetched? I would think not.

Edited by Mark Knight
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Thanks for the response. Thanks for that additional info Robert. Much appreciated.

Tom, I don't think that the words being quoted as those of the President of the USA in talking to this Joint Chiefs of Staff would embarrass a school child if he reads this far into it. It gets the message across exactly as the President intended.

And Larry's point trumps Mark's, as I too thought at first, hey, everybody knows that the Veep succeeds the President immediately upon the death of the President and the swearing in ceremony isn't really necessary, except as a public relations ploy, but it's clear, after reading Jim Bishop's quote closer, they weren't talking about the constitutional order of succession, but the National Command Authority - NCA - which is the power to order the use of nuclear weapons, which I now understand goes from the President to the Secretary of Defense to the Deputy Secretary of Defense - which makes MacNamara the person with the power of the presidency to order nukes into action - unless this power is assumed by a new president.

I have since read this report and analysis:

President Kennedy wrote this memo:

Washington, August 16, 1961.

I would appreciate it if you would prepare a memorandum on the present assignment of responsibility within the Department of State. We discussed this at breakfast this morning, but I think if we could get it down on paper all concerned on the White House staff, as well as the State Department, would have a better idea of how they should conduct their responsibilities.

In the wake of the Berlin crisis, White House and national security staff reviewed emergency planning procedures that had been established during the Eisenhower administration. As part of the single integrated operation plan (SIOP) that would be used by the U.S. government and armed forces in the case of a nuclear attack, Eisenhower’s staff and advisors had also designed civil defense contingency plans for civilians. An essential element in Eisenhower’s military planning was the National Command Authority (NCA) nuclear…. release authority that would have decisive control over the use of nuclear weapons if the President were disabled or killed. According to Thomas B. Allen, of War Games, the nuclear…. release authority passes from a ….disabled or missing President to the Secretary of Defense, and then, if necessary, to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Allen was unable to determine who would be next in the chain of command since no two authorities I consulted agreed to the passing of authority beyond the Secretary of Defense. The following memo of August 19, 1961 from the White House Assistant Fred Dutton to Bundy reveals that Eisenhower had set up a parallel but separate “contingency” structure to exercise civilian authority in the even of a national emergency.

The reply to Dutton’s memo has not been released: it is not known whether Kennedy terminated or continued the contingent authority set up by Eisenhower…..

The NCA is not an abstraction. It is a real concept embodied in military doctrine, especially the doctrine that governs control over nuclear weapons. If the President is unable to employ his authority to order the use of nuclear weapons, the nuclear “release authority,” as it is called, does not follow the Constitution’s line of succession. The release authority passes from a disabled or missing President to the Secretary of Defense, and then, if necessary, to the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Details about the NCA are vague and contradictory. One source suggests that “calculated ambiguity” cloaks revelations about presidentially delegated retaliatory authority. Another says that definitive information about the NCA is one of the nation’s closely guarded secrets. No two authorities I consulted agreed on the passing of authority beyond the Deputy Secretary of Defense. But it can be imagined as a movement down and down, through catastrophe upon catastrophe, to the Secretary of Army…Navy…the Air Force and ultimately, if all of them are gone, to an Air Force brigadier general in command plane code-named Looking Glass flying somewhere over a leaderless nation devastated by nuclear war.

Edited by William Kelly
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