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The "Dead Secret Service Agent" Rumor — How Did It Start?


David Von Pein
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I've often wondered who it was who originated the false rumor on 11/22/63 that a Secret Service agent had been killed during President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas' Dealey Plaza. Does anyone here have any idea?

Some people I have talked to over the years have speculated that perhaps policeman J.D. Tippit's death was incorrectly reported as being the death of a member of the Secret Service. But that cannot possibly be the case, because Tippit had not yet been shot when the first bulletins were aired on television and radio concerning the alleged death of the SS agent.

The false rumor about the SS agent most probably first ran on the UPI or AP wire services, because it was widely being reported very early in the afternoon on November 22 by several different local and network TV and radio outlets [see the videos below]. In the first video, Eddie Barker of KRLD-TV in Dallas can be heard saying "a Secret Service agent was killed" as early as 12:56 PM CST, which was certainly before Officer Tippit was shot. I was able to pinpoint that time (12:56 PM) precisely by comparing the raw KRLD-TV video below with the uncut CBS-TV network video that I also have in my collection.

Vincent Bugliosi does have an endnote devoted to the rumor about the alleged dead SS agent. It would appear as if the rumor made its way into the media through reporter Seth Kantor, but it certainly didn't originate with him. Kantor was merely writing down in his notes what someone else had told him. And even that source appears to be a case of triple hearsay (at least). Here's what Bugliosi wrote in his book "Reclaiming History"....

"In his scribbled notes on the assassination, Scripps Howard reporter Seth Kantor wrote that while at Parkland Hospital following the president’s death, he overheard a nurse ask a Western Union man [quoting Kantor's notes...] “about a report that a Secret Service Agent had been killed out on the street. He [Western Union man] said that it was true. This was one of the immediate rumors that sprung up. It took several days for this particular rumor not to be believed in Dallas itself (fellow in Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall who got it from a friend who got it from a postman supposed to have been at the death scene that the shot and bleeding SS man was picked up and whisked away and it was all hushed up [apparently, out of the several hundred people in Dealey Plaza at the time of the shooting, only the postman saw this event]. Why? I asked [Kantor doesn’t say whom he asked]. Because they [secret Service] even have to die in secret, he said. He and others hinted that maybe the SS man was in on the plot to kill the President.)” (Kantor Exhibit No. 4, 20 H 410) There of course is no evidence that the above rumor was true." -- Vincent Bugliosi; Pages 710-711 of Endnotes in "Reclaiming History"

KRLD-TV BULLETINS FROM THE TRADE MART ON 11/22/63

MEDIA ERRORS (NOVEMBER 22-24, 1963)

Edited by David Von Pein
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Good topic, David!

I explore this in some detail in chapter 9 of my book, putting together every known time this was either uttered on television or mentioned in writing. The exact origin----the genesis----is STILL a matter of debate. Lifton believes it was a ruse, started by someone "on the inside", in order to enable FEDERAL jurisdiction over the body of President Kennedy, as the murder of a president was NOT then a Federal crime, yet the murder of a FEDERAL agent WAS. We can argue the wisdom of that speculation, but it does make you think. Some people think this could even relate to the mystery agent (of unknown repute) in the plaza.

Please note Kantor's mention of "fellow in Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall"---where OSWALD worked at one time!

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Thank you, Vince Palamara, for your input on this subject. I appreciate it.

The source of the "dead Secret Service agent" rumor seems to be one of the truly enduring mysteries and unanswered questions connected to the events of November 22, 1963. And as far as my experience goes of being involved in various discussions with people on Internet forums and newsgroups over the last several years, this topic doesn't seem to get very much attention at all. Perhaps that's because even most conspiracy theorists realize that it was just an unconfirmed and unsupportable rumor that emerged out of the chaos and bedlam that erupted in Dallas, Texas, that day in 1963.

Although, incredibly, as you can hear in that KRLD-TV video I posted above, Eddie Barker and KRLD were actually reporting that it had been confirmed as a fact that a Secret Service man had died. That mistake, by the way, was one of very few errors made by Eddie Barker and the KRLD-TV staff on 11/22/63 during the hectic first few hours of reporting the assassination story. (Another error was when Barker told the KRLD viewers that JFK had been transported to Parkland Hospital "by bus". I haven't the foggiest idea where Barker got that information from.)

But it's quite ironic that the one thing KRLD (and other news outlets) were saying was an ironclad FACT (the death of the Secret Service agent) was the one item of news that turned out to be totally false from the very beginning.

jfk-archives.blogspot.com/2015/09/jfk-assassination-arguments-part-1032.html

Edited by David Von Pein
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How about the Jaggers-Chiles-Stovall remark? Pretty interesting, huh?

At 3:40 p.m. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Robert A. Wallace reported, "No Secret Service man was injured in the attack on President Kennedy," a denial of sorts, but it does not indicate if one was killed, or if there was violence away from "the attack on President Kennedy."

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Perhaps in SS Agent Clint Hill's attempt to "cover" JFK and Jackie in the rear seat of the limo, some spectator may have opined that Hill "might have" been wounded...and that unsubstantiated spectator report might have gotten blown out of proportion. The source of the report hasn't ever surfaced, to my knowledge, but it's my "theory" that some spectator, possibly one beyond the triple overpass, may have started that rumor based upon the jumble of bodies in the rear of the limo as it passed him or her.

GREAT topic, Mr. Von Pein.

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Perhaps in SS Agent Clint Hill's attempt to "cover" JFK and Jackie in the rear seat of the limo, some spectator may have opined that Hill "might have" been wounded...and that unsubstantiated spectator report might have gotten blown out of proportion. The source of the report hasn't ever surfaced, to my knowledge, but it's my "theory" that some spectator, possibly one beyond the triple overpass, may have started that rumor based upon the jumble of bodies in the rear of the limo as it passed him or her.

GREAT topic, Mr. Von Pein.

I suppose your theory could conceivably be correct, Mr. Knight. But it's a bit difficult to fathom that KRLD would be reporting the absolute confirmation of such a false rumor less than an hour after the President had been shot.

I can understand such a rumor resulting in a report about a Secret Service man who might have been shot or might have been seriously wounded or killed, but to say that the SS man had been confirmed dead (as KRLD and other media organizations were reporting to the nation prior to 1:30 PM CST on November 22) is taking the rumor to yet another level that it never should have reached.

But, then too, the exact same kind of erroneous "He's dead" reporting occurred on March 30, 1981, too, following the attempted assassination of President Reagan, when Press Secretary James Brady was incorrectly confirmed dead by many television and radio stations. So this type of sad and unfortunate mistake certainly can—and does—happen....and repeatedly.

The video linked below includes a compilation of KRLD and CBS video clips concerning the rumors about a Secret Service man being killed in Dallas on 11/22/63. Interestingly, in the report provided by Dan Rather at 2:37 PM CST, Rather says that one of the reports concerning the dead SS agent had come from "the Dallas Police Department".

Also take note of Walter Cronkite's error in the 2:59 PM clip where Walter incorrectly identifies Lee Harvey Oswald as

"Leo H. Oswald". That was the first time Oswald's name had been mentioned during the CBS-TV coverage following the assassination, and it wasn't the last time that Cronkite messed up a part of Oswald's name. I think it was the following day (on Saturday, Nov. 23) that Walter erroneously referred to LHO at one point as "Lee Henry Oswald"....

CBS VIDEO CLIPS

Edited by David Von Pein
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Although, incredibly, as you can hear in that KRLD-TV video I posted above, Eddie Barker and KRLD were actually reporting that it had been confirmed as a fact that a Secret Service man had died. That mistake, by the way, was one of very few errors made by Eddie Barker and the KRLD-TV staff on 11/22/63 during the hectic first few hours of reporting the assassination story. (Another error was when Barker told the KRLD viewers that JFK had been transported to Parkland Hospital "by bus". I haven't the foggiest idea where Barker got that information from.)

at least on law and order when the cops call a bus they are calling for an ambulance. may be police jargon

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  • 6 months later...

If you believe the files FBI files, as of 2:17PM EST (1:17PM Dallas time), Shanklin told Hoover that he had heard the dead Secret Service agent story and confirmed it with the Dallas Police Department:

http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=62251#relPageId=57&tab=page

I agree with Mr. Lifton that the fortuitous result of that rumor was that it allowed the FBI to immediately move into the case, prior to the official sanction from LBJ later that evening.

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Good topic, David!

I explore this in some detail in chapter 9 of my book, putting together every known time this was either uttered on television or mentioned in writing. The exact origin----the genesis----is STILL a matter of debate. Lifton believes it was a ruse, started by someone "on the inside", in order to enable FEDERAL jurisdiction over the body of President Kennedy, as the murder of a president was NOT then a Federal crime, yet the murder of a FEDERAL agent WAS. We can argue the wisdom of that speculation, but it does make you think. Some people think this could even relate to the mystery agent (of unknown repute) in the plaza.

Please note Kantor's mention of "fellow in Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall"---where OSWALD worked at one time!

Vince Palamara:

You have collected a mass of important data about the U.S. Secret Service, and I am one (of many) researchers who has benefited from your efforts. In particular, I was very impressed--and think I told you this private, via email--when Brian Lamb (on a C-Span broadcast, a few years back) used video clips of you reading from your documents, to engage Secret Service agent Clint Hill in debate,

Now about this particular matter being addressed on this thread: It is understandable that sometimes a rumor can achieve a life of its own, even when it is completely untrue. As Internet-savvy readers know, "Snopes.com" is a website entirely devoted to pursing a wide assortment of allegations and separating what is true from what is false (or, at least, attempting to do so).

In that spirit, and just for the record: I have never believed, nor do I believe that I ever speculated--either publicly or privately--that the report of a "dead Secret Service agent" was deliberately begun as a rumor, in order to permit the FBI to enter the investigation of President Kennedy's murder. I've been researching (and writing) about the JFK case for many years; but--as far as I can recall--I never believed--or espoused--any such theory.

PERSONAL REQUEST: If anyone reading this thread has any Internet post (or even a private communication from me) to the contrary, please do bring that to my attention. Either post the information here; or email it to me at: DSL74@Cornell.edu

As to the late Vincent Bugliosi's description of the matter: in a detailed "Endnote" to Reclaiming History [see the first post on this thread, by David Von Pein, referencing pp. 710-711 of Bugliosi's "End Notes"] Bugliosi wrote that the rumor was started as a consequence of Seth Kantor's "scribbled notes" (and then VB references "Kantor Exhibit 4" in Volume 20 of the Warren Commission's 26 Volumes). That's not quite accurate. It is neither reasonable nor fair to describe Kantor Exhibit 4 as consisting of "scribbled notes." Rather, it is a single-spaced type-written document --apparently typed by Kantor himself (as he transcribed a tape recording he had made)--and published in Volume 20 of the 26 Volumes, and extending from page 403 to page 421. On the subject of "scribbled notes": Kantor Exhibit 3 does consist of handwritten notes--that exhibit is a photostat of Kantor's personal notebook (showing every handwritten note that he made on 11/22, and in the days following), and that exhibit exhibit extends from page 338 out to page 402. (In that exhibit, there is no mention of any "dead SS agent".)

My personal appraisal of the situation: It would appear that when, in the aftermath of JFK's murder, Seth Kantor sat down with a tape recorder and dictated everything he thought was relevant, the matter of the dead Secret Service agent was resident in his memory, and so he dictated what he knew into his tape recorder, but he had not made any handwritten notes on the subject--at least, none are recorded in his personal notebook (Kantor Exhibit 3).

I think David Von Pein is to commended for collecting all of these reports about the matter. (Whether history establishes that his final evaluation is--or is not-- correct, his data collection is very valuable). I am aware of another researcher whose collection goes well beyond KRLD (and CBS) and whose collection effort extends to all 3 networks. I think its safe to say that --false rumor or not--there are dozens of reports about the matter. Regarding the previous post on this thread (Post #11, by Steve Thomas): somewhere in Sylvia Meagher's book -- Accessories after the Fact (1968)--I believe there is a statement that the death of a SS agent was (supposedly) confirmed --or "affirmed" (as the case may be)--and that the source was the Dallas County Sheriff's Department. As I recall, the statement was made that "it came over our teletype". If someone can locate that reference, please let me know, so I can amend this post.

Thanks.

DSL

4/14/16 - 7:05 a.m. PDT

Los Angeles, California

Edited by David Lifton
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Somewhere in the back pages of the Forum, there is a previous thread on this issue. At the time, I - like another poster on this thread - speculated that it was the sight of Clint Hill spread over the limo rear on the way to Parkland that started this rumor (if rumor it was). I mention that in case it helps anyone locate the older thread.

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Here's a link to the previous thread:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=9658&hl=%20robertson%20%20dead%20%20secret%20%20service%20%20agent

See post #36 on the alleged disappearance of SS agent Chuck Robertson, who allegedly had foreknowledge of the plot, on 11/22/63.

There are a couple of other tidbits worth noting in the thread that I had not previously heard of.

Posts #38 and 39: When arraigned Oswald he was under the jurisdiction of the County Sheriff's office, and should not have been in police custody when murdered.

Post #41: the statement is made that communications over the SS channels were withheld from the WC.

Edited by Ron Ecker
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Somewhere in the back pages of the Forum, there is a previous thread on this issue. At the time, I - like another poster on this thread - speculated that it was the sight of Clint Hill spread over the limo rear on the way to Parkland that started this rumor (if rumor it was). I mention that in case it helps anyone locate the older thread.

FWIW: As I recall, that was actually stated, on the air, by a local radio person, as a conjecture.

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