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Was Kenneth O'Donnell an "Inside Man" in the plot to kill JFK?


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I think that O'Donnell and Powers stayed on with President Johnson was loyalty to President Kennedy. They may have thought by staying that could get some of his policies passed.

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FWIW it was O'Donnell who took charge in stealing the body from Parkland and Earl Rose.

That's noteworthy. I figured that was secret service.

It was Secret Service till the dispute became interminable, then O'Donnell angrily moved in and told Rose they were taking the body come hell or high water or something to that effect. I'm going by Manchester's lengthy account.

According to Manchester it was indeed Ken who started the ball rolling, when Jackie said to him "I'm not leaving without him" his next words were "let's get a coffin" and said in the presence of Hill and Burkley,

Hanging heavy over that apparent spur of the moment decision however is the conversation between O'Donnell and Johnson minutes after JFK's death in which LBJ later claimed he told O'Donnell that is exactly what he wanted, that they all leave together. O'Donnell denied that that was ever said to him of course and Manchester himself seems to have favoured Kenneth's version and labels LBJ's account as something he may have made up in the following days to make himself look better.

In other words, any reference in the book where LBJ and his team are waiting at Love Field just for the Kennedy's is not fully trusted by the author himself.

Obviously LBJ was still on the tarmac when they turned up but that doesn't mean that was the plan to begin with and taking the credit for it not only made O'Donnell look untrustworthy but totally worked out for the new President because that is exactly how history repeats the event. "He wasn't leaving without Jackie".

But again, according to Manchester that is not necessarily the truth.

Possibly added onto the event after the fact is how he put it.

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Everything i have read about O'Donnell . He and JFK was close friends. I don't see O'Donnell being part of the assassination.

"Et tu, Brute?"

One other thing worth noting about O'Donnell, in trying to judge any guilt or innocence on his part, is that after the assassination he worked as an aide for two years for one of the prime suspects in the case, Lyndon Johnson. Methinks a close friend of JFK could have found some other work.

It was my impression that O'Donnell put off going to work for Johnson for months with reports of illness and when they dragged him back he hated every minute of it and could not wait to get away.

Johnson needed the Kennedy crowd there because it looked good, so O'Donnell never really had a choice but got out as soon as he was able. The very thought of working for Johnson made him sick.

Is that inaccurate?

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Everything i have read about O'Donnell . He and JFK was close friends. I don't see O'Donnell being part of the assassination.

"Et tu, Brute?"

One other thing worth noting about O'Donnell, in trying to judge any guilt or innocence on his part, is that after the assassination he worked as an aide for two years for one of the prime suspects in the case, Lyndon Johnson. Methinks a close friend of JFK could have found some other work.

It was my impression that O'Donnell put off going to work for Johnson for months with reports of illness and when they dragged him back he hated every minute of it and could not wait to get away.

Johnson needed the Kennedy crowd there because it looked good, so O'Donnell never really had a choice but got out as soon as he was able. The very thought of working for Johnson made him sick.

Is that inaccurate?

I didn't know anything about O'Donnell not going to work for months. I just knew he worked for Johnson. If you have a source for that, then I'll take your word for it. It certainly makes it look better for O'Donnell.

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I'm sure Powers mentions his absence in Johnny we hardly knew ye, with LBJ repeatedly asking for him and telling him his office is there when he's ready to come back (but it's been a while) and Manchester references O'Donnell's violent nausea continuing for six months following the assassination, so just bits and pieces really, A Common Cause would probably detail that period better but sadly I can't refer to it, perhaps someone here can.

O'Donnell is the man that criticized Roberts for switching to LBJ so fast, refused to join LBJ up the front of AF1 telling the messenger that he'd rather sit back here with "the President" and then calling LBJ 's account of their own conversation after JFK's death, ridiculous. I've never pictured him as a man comfortable working under Johnson and I know he left the position in 1965 but I'm not even sure which month.

Impressions.

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Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, the best-seller written by O'Donnell and Powers, painted a very unflattering portrait of LBJ, especially his conduct following the assassination. Both O'Donnell and Powers each worked for LBJ only until 1965, and the book reflects how reluctant they were to do so. As was noted earlier, the rationale seemed to be that some Kennedy loyalists needed to stay on, to ensure his policies were continued.

If O'Donnell was an inside man, who knew JFK was going to be assassinated, it would astound me. As someone mentioned, he blamed himself for the assassination for the rest of his life. He drank heavily and died young. His role in getting the body out of Dallas was troubling, but I think it sprang from the clear anti-Dallas view which is reflected in their book. Their first thought, which is addressed in the book, was to get away from the city.

Maybe it wasn't misguided naivete but genuine culpability on the part of O'Donnell. Like the rest of them, he should have known the law. Again, if they got to O'Donnell, they got to JFK's real inner circle. Among his close aides, only RFK, O'Donnell and Powers were not establishment types that every president is seemingly forced so be surrounded with.

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Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, the best-seller written by O'Donnell and Powers, painted a very unflattering portrait of LBJ, especially his conduct following the assassination. Both O'Donnell and Powers each worked for LBJ only until 1965, and the book reflects how reluctant they were to do so. As was noted earlier, the rationale seemed to be that some Kennedy loyalists needed to stay on, to ensure his policies were continued.

If O'Donnell was an inside man, who knew JFK was going to be assassinated, it would astound me. As someone mentioned, he blamed himself for the assassination for the rest of his life. He drank heavily and died young. His role in getting the body out of Dallas was troubling, but I think it sprang from the clear anti-Dallas view which is reflected in their book. Their first thought, which is addressed in the book, was to get away from the city.

Maybe it wasn't misguided naivete but genuine culpability on the part of O'Donnell. Like the rest of them, he should have known the law. Again, if they got to O'Donnell, they got to JFK's real inner circle. Among his close aides, only RFK, O'Donnell and Powers were not establishment types that every president is seemingly forced so be surrounded with.

And a very fortunate thing it was for the conspirators that JFK's close circle had anti-Dallas sentiments, or the autopsy might have been performed at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

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Everything i have read about O'Donnell . He and JFK was close friends. I don't see O'Donnell being part of the assassination.

"Et tu, Brute?"

One other thing worth noting about O'Donnell, in trying to judge any guilt or innocence on his part, is that after the assassination he worked as an aide for two years for one of the prime suspects in the case, Lyndon Johnson. Methinks a close friend of JFK could have found some other work.

It was my impression that O'Donnell put off going to work for Johnson for months with reports of illness and when they dragged him back he hated every minute of it and could not wait to get away.

Johnson needed the Kennedy crowd there because it looked good, so O'Donnell never really had a choice but got out as soon as he was able. The very thought of working for Johnson made him sick.

Is that inaccurate?

I didn't know anything about O'Donnell not going to work for months. I just knew he worked for Johnson. If you have a source for that, then I'll take your word for it. It certainly makes it look better for O'Donnell.

O'Donnell wrote in the chapter "our short stay with LBJ" that it was over a month before he went back to work and only after conversations with Bobby where they considered the good that could come from it, keeping Goldwater out was one of the very good reasons.
As soon as Johnson was elected he left just as he, Powers and O'Brian had been warning him they would do in letters for months.
So it was late Jan 1965, a 12 month stay for O'Donnell where he helped get LBJ elected and claims without his and the other Kennedy veteran's connections Johnson was weak and stood no chance but despite this assistance there was little trust between LBJ and the Kennedy men.
What is interesting about Manchester's understanding of the events that brought Jackie and the body onto AF1 is that he seems to have no trouble with the theft itself, what is more important to him it seems to me, is "why would O'Donnell deliberately bring the Kennedy's onto the plane where LBJ was when there was another available?
It made no sense to him and so he believed Kenny rather than LBJ when the former told him it wasn't planned that way. However, seats were removed from AF1 before the body's arrival so there was at least some coordination amongst the confusion.
Ultimately though, there was no reason in reality for O'Donnell to get Jackie out of there, not according to him anyway and he should have backed down and let Rose have an honest look at the victim but something or someone told him to fight this interfering busybody.
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Speaking of laws here's a reminder of how Manchester summed up the situation surrounding Jackie.


“Liz Carpenter, please come to the administrative office,” Parkland’s PA system had barked for the last time

and then quit, coughing static. In the lull that had followed, President Kennedy’s wife sat

outside Trauma Room No. 1 in unique isolation. An hour ago she had been America’s First Lady,

encompassed by panoply and special privilege, all of which had vanished in the speed of a fulljacketed

cartridge. Officially she no longer existed. Every other member of the Presidential party had

retained his title and gauds of power. Her own secretaries were still White House secretaries, but she

herself was a widow, and the government had no G.S. classification for that. Everything that she had

been had stemmed from John Kennedy’s position. Ted Clifton and Godfrey McHugh had stayed at

Parkland; Roy Kellerman was keeping the four-to-twelve shift at the hospital—six agents and Bill

Greer—but the generals and Roy were acting without authorization and, technically, without

justification. Their commissions and commission books did not mention her. There was no provision

in either the U.S. Constitution or the U.S. Code for a dead President’s wife. Indeed, had the law been

observed literally, even Kennedy’s closest lieutenants, Ken O’Donnell, Larry O’Brien, and Dave

Powers, should have been aboard Aircraft 26000. The entire apparatus of the Executive Branch of the

federal government belonged to Lyndon Johnson now. When he left for Love Field at 1:26 P.M., it was

their legal duty to follow. Jacqueline Kennedy was entitled to neither aides nor bodyguards. She

wasn’t a Chief Executive, and wasn’t related to one.

“I’m not going to leave here without Jack,” she whispered to Ken.

“Let’s get a coffin,” he said to Clint Hill, Andy Berger, and Dr. Burkley, and Burkley said to Jack

Price, “I want the best undertaker in Dallas and the best bronze coffin.”


I can see his point but he forgets that O'Donnell claimed he had already spoken to the new President and they were both quite happy that Johnson would leave and Kenny would stay with Jackie.

Someone then put the idea into Jackie's head that she should leave too.


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I discuss the aftermath of the assassination in chapter 21 of patspeer.com. http://www.patspeer.com/chapter-21-things-that-make-me-say-hmmm It is far and away the most complete examination of who made the decisions regarding the plane, etc.

My conclusions were pretty much that the SS told Johnson he had to leave the hospital and return to Washington, but that he made the decision to take JFK's plane, as opposed to the plane he'd flown in on, and to be sworn in in Dallas before leaving. He also decided to wait for Jackie and the body, and to tell her the swearing in, which delayed Jackie's departure by 15-20 minutes, was RFK's idea. It seems clear, moreover, that his plan was to escort her from the plane with the world's media watching.

This plan was foiled, of course, by RFK's racing onto the plane and escorting Jackie out of the back of the plane with the body.

This became a huge problem, moreover. RFK hated LBJ for trying to manipulate Jackie to his advantage, and LBJ hated RFK for refusing to help him take his place as JFK's heir apparent. This problem festered for years, for that matter, to the point that LBJ convinced himself RFK was behind the Warren Commission's critics.

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It does seem unlikely to me, from all that's been said, that O'Donnell was an inside man in the assassination. But if he was, his illness and later alcoholism could be attributed to guilt and remorse. I'm reminded of General Maxwell Taylor who, according to his son's book, cried on a couple of occasions when the subject of the assassination came up. Kind of odd behavior for a general. Guilt and remorse? (Compare General Curtis LeMay, who would probably chuckle when the subject came up.)

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