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The exoneration of Lyndon Johnson?

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3 hours ago, Sandy Larsen said:


Oh, come on! How can it be that, with Jackie aboard as well as some JFK loyalists, Johnson and his guys were partying and getting drunk?

I'll bet that Whitehead was just bitter about how LBJ took over JFK's airplane and greatly embellished the story to make LBJ look bad.



Sandy, a big reason that the Kennedy family went to war with William Manchester because Manchester, relying on the Kennedys and their aides, wrote about Lyndon Johnson's atrocious behavior on Air Force One in the aftermath of the JFK assassination. With Robert Kennedy having political ambitions, the Kennedys felt if this were revealed while LBJ was president it would backfire on the Kennedys and make them look like selfish sore losers in contrast to LBJ. All this material ultimately got censored from Manchester's book Death of a President at the insistence of the Kennedys.

And while LBJ and his aides were drinking and making a happy noise on Air Force One, the LBJ people on Air Force Two were partying like it was 1999. The reason for this is all the LBJ and Kennedy political insiders knew about the toxic "about to end" relationship between the Kennedys and LBJ.

Sue Mortensen was the JFK staffer who was on Air Force Two on the plane ride back from Dallas who witnessed the LBJ people being “happy” at the death of JFK and the installation of LBJ as president.

 1) https://educationforum.ipbhost.com/topic/29142-interesting-jfk-press-staff-member-story-on-antique-roadshow/

 2) https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/stories/articles/2016/01/11/john-f-kennedy-documents-interview

 JFK Staffer Shares Administration Stories

POSTED 1.11.2016

BY Luke Crafton

Hear more from the Spokane guest who brought her fascinating collection of mementos from her years serving as a press aide to President John F. Kennedy, and see a slideshow of draft speeches and other documents she kept from her time in the White House.

In 1958 Sue Mortensen was a bright young lady fresh out of college when she landed a job working for Sen. John F. Kennedy’s nascent presidential campaign. This experience catapulted her a few short years later into the Kennedy White House, serving as a staff assistant under the president’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger. She worked closely and intensely with Kennedy during his brief time in office, helping with the drafting and revision of numerous speeches — a process that in that pre-laptop era still produced mountains of paper. And she was part of the president’s entourage on the fateful campaign trip to Dallas in late November 1963.

Sue brought a personal archive of her mementos from the time she spent serving the president to the Spokane ROADSHOW in June 2015, sharing it and her fascinating story with appraiser Martin Gammon, who appraised the collection for between $60,000 and $80,000.

This slideshow gives an up-close view of some of Sue’s most interesting keepsakes from her time in the West Wing, including a photograph with the president in a ceremony aboard the U.S.S. Oriskany; a copy of the presidential schedule for November 22, 1963; and a number of typescript works-in-progress that offer vivid and intriguing glimpses of JFK's thinking during the intense and continual process of drafting presidential speeches — as well as of his awful handwriting.

In the accompanying video Sue also tells us more about her personal recollections of JFK, and her own poignant experience of one of the most shocking tragedies in American political history.


Jeff Meek interview with Kennedy aide Sue Vogelsinger: Texas congressmen were making no bones about it that the JFK assassination was good and it was LBJ who they wanted to be president anyhow.

 (Jeff emailed this to me on 9/6/2022)


[“Vogelsinger remembers days in Kennedy administration,” Jeff Meek, Hot Springs Village Voice, April 13, 2021]

 The JFK Files #7

1-From left: In Paris, President John F. Kennedy’s press secretary Pierre Salinger visits with Sue Vogelsinger (Vogelsinger submitted photo)

 Vogelsinger remembers days in the Kennedy administration


 Recently I had the opportunity to interview Sue Vogelsinger who worked closely with President John F. Kennedy in the White House and on trips all over the globe, including Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Vogelsinger was born in Iowa but grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. She attended Penn State University where she received a degree in home economics.  During her schooling she learned shorthand which, as you will see, turned out to be a very good idea.

 After graduation her parents helped by buying her a car. “My plan had been to go to San Francisco with a friend of mine from college so I needed to get a job (to pay back her parents),” Vogelsinger said. She found work in the office of Florida Senator Spesserd Holland in 1958. The job was short-lived, just long enough to work during Holland’s Senate campaign. “I ended up in Bartow, Florida, out in the middle of nowhere.”

 Thereafter she came back to D.C. and was told that John Kennedy’s campaign was hiring. Vogelsinger looked into it, interviewed, and was hired in Nov. 1958. Her first job was a typing up index cards about the people Kennedy and his staff had met on trips, people who might be potential supporters.  “It was horrendously boring and I was about to quit.  This is not what I wanted to do. But somebody apparently had told the Senator that and he called me in one day and said I hear you’re planning to leave. I said I am and he said what’s wrong, what can I do to make you stay?” Vogelsinger said. She told Kennedy the job was boring and he said he’d see what he could do. “The next day I was assigned to the legislative staff which meant I got to do some research and original kind of work. It was very interesting.” She was sent to West Virginia for that state’s primary and was there for a month. Then she returned to D.C. and worked with JFK’s campaign staff in 1960.

 Vogelsinger was asked if she’d like to stay working with Ted Sorensen and Mike Feldman or with newly hired Press Secretary Pierre Salinger. She asked with whom she would see more travel, which was Salinger, so she took that offer.

 I asked Vogelsinger what Kennedy was like. “He was the most exciting person in the world to be around. I worked closely with him a lot. He was so charismatic. He was funny as he could be and so smart it was mind-boggling really, curious about people and things. He was a very special person,” Vogelsinger said.

 She worked on election night 1960 as the results trickled in.  The day after the election and the Kennedy victory, Vogelsinger decided to stay on the staff.  She, Salinger and others spent the next many weeks at what was called the Palm Beach White House, then returned to D. C. in January.

Vogelsinger went with Kennedy and staff on all overseas trips and was there when Kennedy gave his famous “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech in Germany, in Ireland as Kennedy looked over his home country and elsewhere like Canada, South America.

 Her job was to work on speeches and other communications as well as dealing with the press out of a press pool office.  Answering questions, handing out information and the like kept her very busy.

About Jackie Kennedy, Vogelsinger said she was not around her a lot but her impression was that she was funny, sweet, gorgeous and smart.

 Moving on to the weekend of the assassination she said it was just another campaign trip, but politically dangerous because of Texas politics. “But the work was the same,” she said.  She and co-worker Christine Camp stayed busy with all that was required to keep the press up to date on many matters.

Landing in Dallas, they saw the trip as nothing out of the ordinary, so they stayed on board Air Force One and did not travel with the motorcade. This gave them time to prepare for the next stop in Austin.

“We were working in the president’s office on the plane when a steward came in and said pack up, we have to go. The president’s been shot,” remembers Vogelsinger.  “We’ve got to get the plane ready.”

Shortly thereafter they were told the president was dead.

Camp and Vogelsinger decided to get off Air Force One to make room for others. They were standing on the tarmac when Kennedy’s body arrived back at Love Field. They got on the backup plane carrying reporters, the Texas delegation and off duty Secret Service agents. “The atmosphere on that plane was grim. Some Texas congressmen were making no bones about the fact that it was good and that Johnson was now going to be president and that’s what they wanted all along and that kind of stuff.  It was ugly enough that Secret Service agents came up and sat around Chris and me to kind of shield us from all that stuff that was going on.  It was awful.  We were in a state of shock.”

 Now back in Washington, D.C. she and others returned to the White House and went to work. “The place was overrun with calls, needless to say, from all over the world who were planning to come to Washington so we had to start dealing with all that to help the best we could. Everyone was still in a state of shock, as were the people who were calling,” said Vogelsinger.

 November 23 was more of the same, planning and communicating with the press about what would be taking place in terms of a funeral. “It was nonstop.” Many press members wanted to pay their respects so Vogelsinger and others took them to view the casket. “As you know he was very well liked by the press,” she said.

 Vogelsinger attended the funeral mass at the cathedral.  “It was a frantic, horrendously busy, painful, painful time and hard to remember details,” she said.  Looking back on it 57-plus years later she said it’s a very surreal experience. “Then I went through it again with Robert Kennedy and it was even more surreal.”

 Vogelsinger later read about the Warren Commission conclusions and told me the only thing she’s sure of is that Lyndon Johnson did not have anything to do with the assassination. “I do not know what happen, I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened,” she added. It was difficult for her to follow subsequent investigations because “it was just too painful.” 

 Vogelsinger stayed at the White House until April, 1964. Then when Pierre Salinger decided to run for the Senate, she became a part of his staff.  Salinger lost the election and she then helped at the Justice Department, answering the many thousands of condolence letters coming into Robert Kennedy about his brother’s death. She also helped with Robert’s election campaign.

 In June 1968, RFK was assassinated and Vogelsinger was in Washington, part time with the Justice Department, mostly dealing with matters of the JFK presidency. “I got a call in the middle of the night from California telling me what happened. I couldn’t believe it,” Vogelsinger said.

 As we concluded our interview I asked Vogelsinger to share with me a story about her and President Kennedy.  She shared with me a time about a short trip for a fundraiser in New York and then on to Yale University for a major speech.  The major speech was written, ready and sent to JFK’s secretary Evelyn Lincoln to give to the President.  Late that night she realized there was something wrong with the speech. At that same time Kennedy contacted her saying the same thing.  They talked it out and then she began rewriting the speech for him.  The next morning on the way to Yale, Kennedy started furiously dictating changes, many of them.  Once on the ground she told the Secret Service to get her to Kennedy’s speech location as fast as they can, along with her typewriter and a place to work, because she had all the changes to make.

 Vogelsinger rode in the motorcade with Arthur Schlesinger to the site. Upon arrival, “the place they found for me was somewhere underneath where he was to speak. So I started working on the speech and literally at one point I’m handing pages of the speech to the Secret Service, who are handing it up to the Secret Service on the platform where the President is speaking.  Occasionally when I wasn’t sure of a word, and there was more than one that I wasn’t sure of, I’d circle it so he could figure that it meant I didn’t know what he meant, so figure out something,” she said with a laugh.

 I could tell Vogelsinger revered her time with the Kennedy’s.  I could also tell that remembering the Kennedy assassinations remain very painful for her.  You could hear it in her voice, the trauma of it all still real.

 Sue Vogelsinger on Facebook: (7) Sue Vogelsinger | Facebook

 Sue Vogelsinger oral history given on May 25, 1964 Vogelsinger, Sue Mortensen_JFK#1 (jfklibrary.org)



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4 hours ago, Sandy Larsen said:


Oh, come on! How can it be that, with Jackie aboard as well as some JFK loyalists, Johnson and his guys were partying and getting drunk?

I'll bet that Whitehead was just bitter about how LBJ took over JFK's airplane and greatly embellished the story to make LBJ look bad.



OMG. Sandy and I agree. I have an extremely long (book-length?) chapter on the various accounts of the plane ride back and it's clear LBJ was told to leave but instead refused to leave until the body and Mrs. K were aboard. It also seems clear that in the Irish tradition Mrs. K got drunk with JFK's buddies while they sat around the casket, and that LBJ disapproved of this. As I recall, there was a rift between the JFK and LBJ loyalists, in that the JFK people wanted to mourn and the LBJ people wanted to get down to business. But there was most certainly not a party atmosphere among the LBJ crowd on Air Force One. 

As far as the pilots being ordered to leave, I think it was Gen. McHugh who, upon Mrs. K's arrival with the body, ordered the immediate departure of the plane. He was then told they would only take orders from the President, at such time he said the President was dead. When then told they meant LBJ, he said that he was "not my President" or some such thing. In any event, LBJ did not order the plane to leave but actually ordered it not to leave before Sarah Hughes could arrive and swear him in. 

Edited by Pat Speer
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 I asked Vogelsinger what Kennedy was like. “He was the most exciting person in the world to be around. I worked closely with him a lot. He was so charismatic. He was funny as he could be and so smart it was mind-boggling really, curious about people and things. He was a very special person,” Vogelsinger said.

 About Jackie Kennedy, Vogelsinger said she was not around her a lot but her impression was that she was funny, sweet, gorgeous and smart.

 Vogelsinger later read about the Warren Commission conclusions and told me the only thing she’s sure of is that Lyndon Johnson did not have anything to do with the assassination. “I do not know what happen, I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened,” she added. It was difficult for her to follow subsequent investigations because “it was just too painful.” 

Vogelsinger's description of JFK reflects true adoration.

She doesn't mention LBJ at all.

I don't put much weight into her take that LBJ had nothing to do with the JFKA.

It seems she never did any research at all into the event and all the evidence, testimony and documentation brought out.

“I do not know what happen, I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened,” 

She says she "heard about" the Warren Commission and it's conclusion. Not that she gave it any study at all. And she repeats her feeling so much pain about the killing of JFK and later RFK, she avoided discussing it as much as possible.

I would be curious regards her studied reasoning that LBJ had nothing to do with the event and/or later choosing the members of the commission and making sure his great buddy Hoover directed the evidential aspects of it. 

My guess is she just said that about LBJ going on just a gut feeling.

Edited by Joe Bauer
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9 hours ago, Joe Bauer said:

Thanks for posting the actual letter.

When I went to add this to my computer files, it turned out I already had a letter from Lincoln saying she thought it was a conspiracy, etc. This one was addressed to Richard. So apparently there are a number of similar letters...

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14 hours ago, Paul Brancato said:

LBJ was apparently going nuts on the flight home. If he was the mastermind that doesn’t make sense. He was the beneficiary, and probably knew what was going down. Guilty as charged up to a point, but I don’t see him as the guy at the top. 

I never said Johnson was the "mastermind" or the "top guy".  I said he was crucial to the success of the project by protecting the killers, running the coverup, and securing some of the policy changes the killers wanted.  I went further by offering the *opinion* that the murder would not have happened without assurances from and the participation of Johnson.
I agree with Salandria that the plotters were from the top echelon of Kennedy's own government. But I don't claim to know how the plotters interacted.
Others in this thread have offered opinions about Johnson's conduct on the plane. I've heard stories too, but I don't  know what happened, and don't much care.  I don't see how that affects an evaluation of Johnson's role in the murder.
Unquestionably Johnson was a classic tragic figure.  Lusting after the presidency his whole adult life, only to see it turn to dooky after he got there.  You could think of that as retribution for what he did if you want to. 
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32 minutes ago, Pat Speer said:

When I went to add this to my computer files, it turned out I already had a letter from Lincoln saying she thought it was a conspiracy, etc. This one was addressed to Richard. So apparently there are a number of similar letters...

Pat Speer, would you mind posting the Evelyn Letter you have? I want to add that to my files on the JFK assassination. Thank you.

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In my "opinion," Lyndon Johnson was indeed the Mastermind of the JFK assassination, also known as the top of the pyramid of the JFK assassination plotters. The reason for this is that the Kennedys, in real time in November of 1963 were out to utterly destroy Lyndon Johnson and not merely "remove" LBJ from the 1964 Democratic ticket.

LBJ top aide Horace Busby: Lyndon Johnson was acutely aware  by Nov. 4, 1963 that the Kennedys had sent a SWAT team of over **FORTY** national reporters to Texas to utterly destroy him: https://robertmorrowpoliticalresearchblog.blogspot.com/2020/07/lyndon-johnson-was-acutely-aware-by-nov.html

Now to be precisely fair, Horace Busby does use the name "Kennedys" when talking about who was orchestrating the "destroy LBJ with the national media" campaign, but I think it is very reasonable to read Busby's book and conclude that the Kennedys, with JFK letting Robert Kennedy being the point man, were trying to politically and personally destroy the hated Lyndon Johnson in November of 1963. There was also a Senate Rules Committee investigation into LBJ that the Kennedys were fomenting in a parallel track to destroy Johnson (see Seymour Hersh interview of Burkett van Kirk in the Dark Side of Camelot).

Lyndon Johnson murdered JFK in a defensive move, although I actually think LBJ was plotting to murder JFK as early as the 1960 Democratic convention (if the Democrats were to win the 1960 general election). I do not think LBJ murdered JFK because he had always "lusted" to be president; rather the Kennedys were imminently about to drop a hydrogen bomb of humiliation on LBJ's head.

Again, that is my "opinion."



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10 hours ago, Robert Morrow said:

Sandy, a big reason that the Kennedy family went to war with William Manchester because Manchester, relying on the Kennedys and their aides, wrote about Lyndon Johnson's atrocious behavior on Air Force One in the aftermath of the JFK assassination. With Robert Kennedy having political ambitions, the Kennedys felt if this were revealed while LBJ was president it would backfire on the Kennedys and make them look like selfish sore losers in contrast to LBJ. All this material ultimately got censored from Manchester's book Death of a President at the insistence of the Kennedys.



Where did you read about that?


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4 hours ago, Sandy Larsen said:



Where did you read about that?


There is an interesting book entitled The Manchester Affair which tells the story of the book and the problems with its release. There is also a July 1967 article by Edward Epstein in Commentary Magazine that fills in a lot of the blanks, including that it was originally entitled The Death of Lancer, and used LBJ as a metaphor for the world JFK was fighting against. RFK and JBK were supposedly horrified, as it raised the question of LBJ's involvement, and LBJ knew it, and was telling everyone they needed to unite behind him because Bobby was out to get him. So JBK exercised her rights as the one who'd recruited Manchester to begin with by demanding the book be revised and edited. And it was. Fortunately, however, Epstein had been shown a copy of the original and wrote an article noting some of the key changes. 

Here is a quote from that article:

"Schlesinger, in the same memorandum from which Manchester so proudly quoted, had gone on to warn that the portrait of Lyndon Johnson "too often acquires an exaggerated symbolism—so much so that some critics may write that the unconscious argument of the book is that Johnson killed Kennedy (that is, that Johnson is an expression of the forces of violence and irrationality which ran rampant through his native state and were responsible for the tragedy of Dallas) ." 

Edited by Pat Speer
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1 hour ago, Sandy Larsen said:



Where did you read about that?


I heard about it from Joachim Joesten who in my "opinion" is and was the greatest JFK assassination researcher of all time.

Arthur Schlesinger once told William Manchester that his book Death of a President sent a subliminal message that Lyndon Johnson murdered John Kennedy. Jackie Kennedy sued Manchester and made him remove hundreds of pages of his original manuscript with much of the material unfavorable to LBJ.

The Kennedys were not ready to take on LBJ in the court of public opinion in a direct manner. Read the Dark Side of Lyndon Johnson by Joachim Joesten which has now been republished.




William Manchester came closer than most other people to seeing through the benign public relations mask of Lyndon Johnson, but one wouldn't know it from scanning the pages of 'The Death of a President'. If there are two persons in the world who have really come to know Johnson at close quarters, outside of his own family, they are Robert and Jacqueline Kennedy. Manchester interviewed both of them at length and they told him, without mincing their words, what they thought of That Man in the White House. But when Manchester, having faithfully recorded everything the Kennedys had told him, rushed into print with his story, years ahead of schedule, they both got panicky and practically forced him to 'revise' his story out of recognition. Edward J. Epstein, the author of Inquest, somehow managed to get hold of a copy of the original, unedited manuscript of the Manchester book, then entitled 'Death of a Lancer', and revealed in the July issue 1967 of Commentary, some of its contents. In his original draft, Manchester, it seems, made some very pungent remarks about Lyndon Johnson whom he described, among other things, as a 'chameleon who constantly changes loyalties'; 'a capon' and 'a crafty schemer who has a gaunt, hunted look about him'. He also pictured Johnson as 'a full-fledged hypomaniac' and 'the crafty seducer with six nimble hands who can persuade a woman to surrender her favors in the course of a long conversation confined to obscure words. No woman, even a lady, can discern his intentions until the critical moment'. By far the most interesting aspect of this matter, however, is Epstein's contention that Manchester's original theme, which gave unity to his book, was 'the notion that Johnson, the successor, was somehow responsible for the death-of his predecessor'. Several quotations from the original draft bear out this contention. At one point, the Lancer version states, 'The shattering fact of the assassination is that a Texas murder has made a Texan President'. At another, Kenneth O'Donnell, Kennedy's appointments secretary, is quoted as exclaiming 'They did it. I always knew they'd do it. You couldn't expect anything else from them. They finally made it'. Then Manchester comments: 'He didn't specify who "they" were. It was unnecessary. They were Texans, Johnsonians'. But what is one to think of an author who allows his most important work not only to be castrated, but to be turned completely upside down by a publisher more committed to the dictates of expediency than to the search for historical truth?


[Joachim Joesten, The Dark Side of Lyndon Johnson, p. ??]

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I don't know how any woman could ever be seduced by someone with a fleshy hanging jowls face, ears like an elephant, weak chin, balding head, mean, beady and heavy, puffy lidded eyes, all sitting on top of a 6 ft. 4 in. hulking forward pot-bellied and big baggy pants backside body.

And coming on with a corny good-ole-boy Texas drawl?

"Y'all lookin' mighty pretty there missy."

What was the appeal!

Compared to JFK, LBJ looked like...well what can one say?



Edited by Joe Bauer
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  • 2 months later...
On 12/11/2023 at 6:10 PM, Pat Speer said:

I don't believe I've ever said we know LBJ was complicit in JFK's murder. I agree that much of what's been written about LBJ is probably bs. But I find his own statements on the assassination and aftermath suspicious as heck. 

Anyhow, I think you'll find much to like in this section...

From chapter 21: 

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, William Manchester began work on his book The Death of a President. This was to be an authorized book, one for which Manchester was granted unparalleled access. On 4-10-64, Manchester interviewed CIA Director John McCone. (A transcript of this interview was placed in the CIA's files. It was declassified in October, 1998. It is 15 pages long. Manchester's notes on this interview were first made available in 2009, and are only 4 pages long. This suggests that McCone taped his conversation with Manchester, but that Manchester was not allowed to tape McCone. I guess this isn't much of a surprise.) In any event, McCone told Manchester that after hearing of the shooting, he called Robert Kennedy "through the White House. When I got him at his home he told me he was at home, and he asked if I would come right over." McCone then described Kennedy's mood and activities. He then claimed he'd overheard Robert Kennedy's conversations with Johnson on the day of the shooting, and that after being asked about the oath of office in a first call "He contacted his office--and I've forgotten just who in that office--to find out exactly just who could or should administer the oath. He found that any federal judge could do it, and he transmitted that information together with appropriate references so they could get the exact oath down to Dallas. He insisted that the swearing-in be done immediately. I think President Johnson felt the same way. He did not want the country to go the two hours and a half that President Johnson would be in the air without a President. And that was arranged. This involved several phone calls." McCone then described the arrival of a Catholic Priest. He said that this priest "sensed that the Attorney General was involved in the myriad of problems that arose almost at once, you know--his concern over Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, his concern over the swearing-in of the President." He then continued: "There was a period of half an hour, I suppose, that he was debating whether to fly to Dallas himself to return with the body and with Mrs. Kennedy. I urged that he not do that, stating that there was an element of time--that the best thing to do would be to bring the president's body up as quickly as possible, as quickly as it could be released, and he couldn't possibly get down there for three or four hours, by the time he got aboard a plane and got down there, and he would be out of touch all the time that he was in the air. He agreed with this, and as a result either decided or agreed with the decision that the body should be brought up with President Johnson and Mrs. Kennedy just as quickly as possible."

Hmmm...so McCone told Manchester Robert Kennedy not only told Johnson he should be sworn-in in Dallas, but that he--Robert Kennedy--had "either decided or agreed that the body should be brought up with President Johnson and Mrs. Kennedy." Hmmm...is this credible? This not only exonerates Johnson for the swearing-in's taking place in Dallas, but Mrs. Kennedy's returning on his plane. This is mighty curious, and suspicious when one takes into account Robert Kennedy's statements on the matter. Perhaps, then, Johnson had gotten to McCone.

Or perhaps McCone was on board with Johnson from the beginning.

Yeah, yeah, I know this smells like dog dirt, but indulge my paranoia for a second... McCone told Manchester that upon hearing of the shooting, he called Robert Kennedy, and that Kennedy asked him to come right over to his house. He then claimed he'd spent the next hour or so walking around Kennedy's house and grounds, talking to him about the assassination in between the incoming calls.

Well, wait a second. McCone was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, not some retired businessman or old friend. Didn't he have a job to do? Shouldn't he have been at CIA Headquarters, digging up everything he could regarding a possible conspiracy? Shouldn't he have been on the phone, calling up everyone he knew to find out everything he could? His holding Bobby's hand in a time of national crisis simply makes no sense--unless one is to assume this was something previously agreed upon by the person to whom McCone would now be reporting, Lyndon Johnson. Yes, shockingly, there is no record of McCone talking to Johnson--who purportedly suspected a Russian or Cuban attack from the outset--on the day of the shooting. Johnson received briefings from National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, but there is no record of him talking to CIA Director John McCone until the next morning.

Heck, the record of what was discussed the next morning is also kinda suspicious. On 11-25-63 McCone created a memo on this, his first meeting with his new boss after the killing of his old boss. This memo reveals that they met at 9:15 in the office of National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, and that the meeting lasted "approximately 15 minutes." The memo reveals as well that they discussed their own personal and professional relationship--that there were a number of issues that had arisen during the Kennedy Administration on which they'd "seen eye to eye." It then reveals that McCone had "confirmed" his confidence in Johnson, as well as his "desire to help and support him in every way..." McCone then describes their reviewing details of the "President's checklist" and their agreeing to meet every morning for the next few days. That's it. The meeting lasted but fifteen minutes. Apparently, there was no extended discussion of Oswald, or of Russian activity.

Now contrast McCone's 11-25-63 memo with the transcript of his 8-19-70 interview with the Johnson Library. When asked when he first saw Johnson after the shooting, McCone replied "I think I saw him at his home that night." (This was incorrect. Johnson's calendar of phone calls and visitors shows it was the next morning-- a fact confirmed by McCone's 1964 interview with Manchester, where he claimed "I did not see him that evening when he arrived--I saw him the next morning, and I saw him every day for a long time--sometimes several times a day.") In any event, when then asked Johnson's mood during this meeting, McCone replied: "Well, his mood was one of deep distress over the tragedy, and grave concern over how to get his arms around the problems that confronted him--some concern over how to properly handle the men in the organization whose competence he recognized, but also whose allegiance to President Kennedy-- And, of course, you know the background of issues that arose that dated 'way back to the convention here in Los Angeles and even before."

Well, wait a minute. The man whose competence Johnson recognized, with whom he'd had a problem dating back to the convention and even before, was Robert Kennedy. Did Johnson spend his first meeting with John McCone, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency--the agency tasked with determining the likelihood Russia, our number 1 enemy of the day, had backed the main suspect in the shooting, Lee Harvey Oswald--talking about "Bobby"?

And, if so, is it all that far-fetched to assume McCone visited "Bobby" on the day of the shooting--at a time when he had serious business to attend to--at his new boss Johnson's direction?

On 5-16-64 Manchester interviewed Robert Kennedy. The recording of this interview, while still withheld from the public, was made available to Arthur Schlesinger for his 1978 book Robert Kennedy and His Times. According to Schlesinger, Kennedy claimed "John McCone called me and said 'I'll come out,' and he came out..." Hmmm... McCone told Manchester that Kennedy had asked him to come over, while Kennedy, in his interview with Manchester, said nothing of the sort, and suggested instead that McCone had come over without even being invited.

And that's just the little "hmmm..." According to Schlesinger, Kennedy described the phone call Johnson made to him as follows: "First he expressed his condolences. Then he said... this might be part of a worldwide plot, which I didn’t understand, and he said a lot of people down here think I should be sworn-in right away. Do you have any objection to it? And – well, I was sort of taken aback at the moment because it was just an hour after... the President had been shot and I didn’t think – see what the rush was. And I thought, I suppose at the time, at least, I thought it would be nice if the President came back to Washington – President Kennedy... But I suppose that was all personal... He said, who could swear me in? I said, I’d be glad to find out and I’ll call you back." Schlesinger then wrote that Kennedy called Katzenbach, and found out any federal judge could give Johnson the oath. Schlesinger then returned to quoting Kennedy: "So I called Johnson back and said anybody can..." Kennedy's account of the call was thus in line with Marie Fehmer's notes on every point but one--a big one--Kennedy didn't mention telling Johnson he should be sworn-in in Dallas during the second phone call.

And Kennedy wasn't the only one pushing against the tide. In his 5-18-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, Kenneth O'Donnell insisted that, at Parkland Hospital "As soon as I was assured that he (Kennedy) was dead, and it was definite, I went back to the Vice President and informed him the President was dead, and that in my opinion he ought to get out of there as fast as he could. We had a general discussion. The President's first words to me were that we must look upon this in a sense that it might be a conspiracy of some nature, and that all security must be taken..." O'Donnell then claimed Johnson started discussing some security measures he might take at the airport, such as moving the plane to a nearby military base, but that he shot Johnson down on this matter, reiterating that Johnson should leave without delay, and that "it would be much better if he got to the field immediately, where he was under security, and got aboard one of the aircraft." O'Donnell then claimed that he didn't specify which plane Johnson should board, Air Force One or Air Force Two, which were nearly identical. He then testified that when he arrived at Air Force One with Mrs. Kennedy and the president's body "I didn't know whether it was 1 or 2, to be honest, until I saw the members of the crew" and that, prior to the loading of President Kennedy's casket onto the plane, "I didn't know President Johnson was on the plane." He was then asked point blank if there had been any discussion of President Johnson's waiting for Mrs. Kennedy on Air Force One while at Parkland, and responded: "There had been no discussion of that to my knowledge. Once the President--the Vice President--left, I left him, I had not seen him again. I had been notified he had departed, I had been notified that he arrived, and that was the last I heard of it, until I got on the airplane." He was then asked what happened after he realized Johnson was on the plane, and waiting to be sworn-in: "the President and I carried on a conversation, which, again my recollections might be hazy--that it had been brought to his attention that I had asked for the plane to take off, and that there was some difference of opinion between him and me. He said to me that he had called the Attorney General, and that the Attorney General had indicated that it was, if not mandatory, at least preferable that he be sworn-in prior to the aircraft taking off. I didn't describe what I saw as the problems. I realized it was an inevitable delay. So I don't believe I commented on it. I just listened to him. We sat there." Hmmm... O'Donnell backed down after being told Robert Kennedy had said the swearing-in was preferable. Apparently, Johnson had said something similar to Jacqueline Kennedy. Presumably, Robert Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Kenneth O'Donnell were now telling everyone who would listen that Robert Kennedy had never said such a thing...and that Johnson had lied and manipulated them when they were at their weakest.

Unfortunately for Johnson, for that matter, one of his closest cronies was unable to help him in his ongoing effort to blame O'Donnell and Robert Kennedy for the decisions made in Dallas. On 5-20-64, Johnson assistant Clifton Carter provided an affidavit to the Warren Commission that tried to keep the peace. It read: "At 1:12 p.m. Special Agent Emery Roberts brought the news that President Kennedy was dead. At that moment the only people present were Vice President Johnson, Congressman Thornberry, Special Agent Lem Johns, and I. Special Agent Roberts advised Vice President Johnson to return to the White House forthwith because of the concern of the Secret Service that there might be a widespread plot to assassinate Vice President Johnson as well as President Kennedy. Vice President Johnson then asked that Kenny (O'Donnell) and Larry (O'Brien) be consulted to determine what their views were on returning promptly to Washington. Kenny and Larry came down and told Vice President Johnson that they agreed he should return to Washington immediately. Vice President Johnson then asked me to try to alert some of the members of his staff to go to the airport for the return trip to Washington. I then proceeded to look for those members of the staff, and I was later driven to Love Field by a young Dallas policeman. By the time I returned to the Presidential plane (AF-1), Vice President and Mrs. Johnson had already boarded the plane and arrangements had already been made to have Vice President Johnson sworn-in as the President. I do not have any personal knowledge of Vice President Johnson's conversation with Attorney General Kennedy concerning the advisability of a prompt swearing-in or of the arrangements to have Judge Sara Hughes participate in that ceremony. I was present at the swearing-in and shortly thereafter the President's plane took off for the Washington area."

And that wasn't the end of a bad week for Johnson. Unfortunately for Johnson, one of Kennedy's closest cronies was in a position to help, but did not. On 5-26-64 Lawrence F. O'Brien testified before the Warren Commission. O'Brien had been a close Kennedy aide. Unlike O'Donnell, however, he'd retained much of his influence under Johnson. This made his statements especially intriguing. And they didn't disappoint. First and foremost, he suggested that Johnson's presence on Kennedy's plane came as a surprise to both Kenneth O'Donnell and himself.He told the Commission that, after helping lift Kennedy's coffin onto the plane, he "noticed that seats to the left of the door had been removed, leaving a floor space in the plane to place the coffin. We placed the coffin on the floor. Then I looked up, and the President and Mrs. Johnson were at the corridor that would go into the compartment from that area of the plane." He then testified "During the course of these few minutes, it was my understanding that we were going to immediately depart. There was some confusion for a couple of minutes about departure. I was not privy to that. And the President asked the two of us to sit with him, at which point he said that he was awaiting a judge who was en route to swear him in--that he had secured the advice of the Attorney General, which, as I understood it, was a preference in his view to have a swearing-in ceremony immediately. And that this would be accomplished within a matter of minutes."

O'Brien's subsequent words were more descriptive on this point. In his 1974 book No Final Victories, written after Johnson's death, O'Brien claimed that when he and O'Donnell first spoke with Johnson on the plane "I told Johnson about the problem we'd had at the hospital and said I thought we should take off immediately. I knew that the delay was terribly painful to Jackie. 'No, I've talked with the Attorney General,' Johnson said. 'He thinks I should be sworn-in here.' Then it hit me. This man is President of the United States. After that, I didn't argue." Although a bit murky, O'Brien's words suggest that he'd actually explained to Johnson that further delay would be "terribly painful to Jackie," and that Johnson had nevertheless responded by invoking Robert Kennedy as the authority indirectly causing her this pain. Hmmm... If Johnson had really done this, and had lied to O'Brien about Kennedy's comments, well, he was indeed quite the weasel.

That Johnson had lied about what O'Donnell and Kennedy had told him, and had lined up the likes of Rufus Youngblood, Lem Johns, and John McCone as support for his lies, however, seems a very real possibility. One can only assume the Kennedys thought as much. They most certainly doubted Johnson's reasons for being on the plane in Dallas. In a 6-2-64 interview of Mrs. Kennedy, conducted by historian Arthur Schlesinger and finally released in 2011, she volunteered "I don't know if Lyndon had an Air Force One just like it or one of the older planes, but he always kept pushing for a bigger plane. And--or for more--all the kind of things like that he wanted, the panoply that goes with power, but none of the responsibility."

Mrs. Kennedy's words, one can only assume, stuck with Schlesinger. When one looks at June 1964 in his journal, published 2007, one finds that he talked about the flight back from Dallas with Air Force General Godfrey McHugh on 6-5-64, and was told that neither Kenneth O'Donnell nor McHugh knew Johnson was on Air Force One when they arrived at the plane. McHugh told Schlesinger, furthermore, that, upon arrival on the plane, he'd initially been told the plane was being held until Mrs. Johnson's luggage could be brought over from the other plane, and not that they were waiting for Judge Hughes.

This, apparently, whet Schlesinger's appetite. His journal reflects further that he tried to talk about the flight with Mrs. Kennedy at a get-together on 6-16-64, but was cut-off when a third party changed the subject.

This, then, brings us to Johnson's account of his actions. In his 7-10-64 statement to the Warren Commission, Johnson related: "It was Ken O'Donnell who, at about 1:20 p.m., told us that the President had died. I think his precise words were, "He's gone." O'Donnell said that we should return to Washington and that we should take the President's plane for this purpose... When Mr. O'Donnell told us to get on the plane and go back to Washington, I asked about Mrs. Kennedy. O'Donnell told me that Mrs. Kennedy would not leave the hospital without the President's body, and urged again that we go ahead and and take Air Force 1 and return to Washington. I did not want to go and leave Mrs. Kennedy in this situation. I said so, but I agreed that we would board the airplane and wait until Mrs. Kennedy and the President's body were brought aboard the plane... Despite my awareness of the reasons for Mr. O'Donnell's insistence--in which I think he was joined by one or more of the Secret Service agents--that we board the airplane, leave Dallas, and go to Washington without delay, I was determined that we would not return until Mrs. Kennedy was ready, and that we would carry the President's body back with us if she wanted...When we got to the airport, we proceeded to drive to the ramp leading into the plane, and we entered the plane. We were ushered into the private quarters of the President's plane. It didn't seem right for John Kennedy not to be there. I told someone that we preferred for Mrs. Kennedy to use these quarters. Shortly after we boarded the plane. I called Robert Kennedy, the President's brother and the Attorney General. I knew how grief-stricken he was, and I wanted to say something that would comfort him. Despite his shock, he discussed the practical problems at hand--problems of special urgency because we did not at that time have any information as to the motivation of the assassination or its possible implications. The Attorney General said that he would like to look into the matter of whether the oath of office as President should be administered to me immediately or after we returned to Washington, and that he would call back. I thereafter talked with McGeorge Bundy and Walter Jenkins, both of whom urged that the return to Washington should not be delayed. I told them I was waiting for Mrs. Kennedy and for the President's body to be placed on the plane, and would not return prior to that time. As I remember, our conversation was interrupted to allow the Attorney General to come back on the line. He said that the oath should be administered to me immediately, before taking off for Washington, and that it should be administered by a judicial officer of the United States. Shortly thereafter, the Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Katzenbach, dictated the form of oath to one of the secretaries aboard the plane. I thought of Sarah Hughes, an old friend who is judge of the U.S. district court in Dallas. We telephoned Judge Hughes' office. She was not there, but she returned the call in a few minutes and said she would be at the airplane in 10 minutes. I asked that arrangements be made to permit her to have access to the airplane. A few minutes later Mrs. Kennedy and the President's coffin arrived. Mrs. Johnson and I spoke to her. We tried to comfort her, but our words seemed inadequate. She went into the private quarters of the plane. I estimate that Mrs. Kennedy and the coffin arrived about a half hour after we entered the plane, just after 2 o'clock. About a half hour later, I asked someone to find out if Mrs. Kennedy would stand with us during the administration of the oath. Mrs. Johnson went back to be with her. Mrs. Kennedy came and stood with us during the moments that the oath was being administered. I shall never forget her bravery, nobility, and dignity. I'm told that the oath was administered at 2:40 p.m."

Let's note first that Johnson's statement is largely based on Marie Fehmer's notes. It repeats that Robert Kennedy called Johnson back to tell him the "oath should be administered immediately." It also claims Mrs. Kennedy arrived at the plane just after 2:00. That Johnson was willing to admit this last fact in his statement, moreover, supports that the Secret Service claim she arrived at 2:14 or 2:15 was, if not true, an innocent mistake, or at least not a lie pushed by Johnson.

Now note that Johnson stressed that, upon reaching the plane, he was ushered into the president's "private quarters" and that he told "someone" that "we preferred for Mrs. Kennedy to use these quarters." Well, this hid that Johnson turned around and used these "private quarters" to make a series of phone calls. And that's not all. While it's widely reported that Mrs. Kennedy spent the bulk of the flight in the back of the plane with her husband's casket and companions, the location of Mrs. Johnson on the flight back from Dallas is rarely discussed. In a 10-18-69 Oral History interview with the Johnson Library, however, Johnson aide Jack Valenti was asked point blank her whereabouts on the flight back from Dallas, and admitted "most of the time she was back in the little bedroom." Apparently, the Johnsons' preference the private quarters be reserved for Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy alone was asking too much...of themselves.

Now note that Johnson and O'Donnell's stories were at odds on two key points. Johnson claimed that before he (Johnson) left Parkland Hospital for the airport he was told by Ken O'Donnell to fly back on "the President's plane," which in this context would mean Kennedy's plane, number 26000. O'Donnell denied doing any such thing. Johnson then indicated that he (Johnson) had told O'Donnell at Parkland that he would wait for Mrs. Kennedy on "the President's plane." O'Donnell denied this as well.

Johnson's story was also at odds with Robert Kennedy's, of course. He claimed Kennedy told him the oath should be administered immediately in Dallas, while Kennedy--at least in Schlesinger's account--recalled no such thing.

Even so, the writers of the Warren Report--not surprisingly, in light of the fact their report was designed in part to clear Johnson--chose to take his word on these matters. In Chapter 2 of the report--a chapter written by Arlen Specter, then edited by Norman Redlich--it is claimed that O'Donnell told Johnson of Kennedy's death. It then relates: "When consulted by the Vice President, O'Donnell advised him to go to the airfield immediately and return to Washington.245 It was decided that the Vice President should return on the Presidential plane rather than on the Vice-Presidential plane because it had better communication equipment.246" The citation for footnote 245 reads "Id. at 152; 7 H 451 (O'Donnell); 5 H 561 (Johnson)." The claim is accurate and the citation is accurate. The citation for footnote 246, however, reads simply "Ibid." The Free Online Dictionary defines "Ibid" as "In the same place. Used in footnotes and bibliographies to refer to the book, chapter, article, or page cited just before." Note the words "just before." The page cited just before was a page from Johnson's statement. By placing a sentence in which O'Donnell "advised" Johnson before a sentence in which "it was decided" Johnson should return on the Presidential plane, the report had implied O'Donnell was a party to this decision. The writers of the report had thereby chosen to ignore O'Donnell's sworn testimony--the testimony they'd found credible enough to cite in the preceding footnote--and had decided to instead push the facts as related in Johnson's un-sworn statement. They'd then hidden this fact from the public.

It should come as no surprise then that they also accepted Johnson's word on the conversation he'd had with Robert Kennedy. The report claimed "From the Presidential airplane, the Vice President telephoned Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who advised that Mr. Johnson take the Presidential oath of office before the plane left Dallas.263" They, of course, never double-checked this with Kennedy.

As a result, the Johnson/O'Donnell and Johnson/Kennedy conflict on these matters was little recognized. It lay hidden beneath the surface of Washington politics.

Conclusion number 5: the Warren Commission was deceptive in its reporting of the aftermath of the assassination, and showed undue deference to Johnson's version of events.


Regarding this post below: one can say, well, Lyndon Johnson was terrified and in mortal fear of his life being taken. Or one can take my interpretation which is that LBJ had just orchestrated the JFK assassination and was trying to playact his way out of culpability. One thing is for some Jackie Kennedy, Evelyn Lincoln and Kenny O'Donnell were all on that plane ride back from Dallas and all of them immediately suspected Lyndon Johnson in the JFK assassination.

Gen. Godfrey McHugh (1978 oral history) found a ‘hysterical” Lyndon Johnson on Air Force One “hiding” in the bathroom and saying “They’re going to get us all. It’s a plot. It’s a plot. It’s going to get us all.”

Gen. Godfrey McHugh was a former social escort of Jackie Kennedy, who he adored, and he later became an aide to JFK. Gen. McHugh in his 1978 oral history for the JFK Library described the condition and behavior of LBJ on Air Force One in the immediate aftermath of the JFK assassination.

Godfrey McHugh (JFK Library oral history, interviewed by Shelden Stern, on May 19, 1978): 


 She [Jackie] turned to me again and said, “Please, let’s leave.” I felt obligated to do something. I got back up, walked back through, got to the…. Oh, no. I got on the phone because there was a phone right there and I said, “Let’s leave.” He said, “I can’t do it. I have orders to wait.” So I didn’t want to discuss it there with Mrs. Kennedy sitting there. I walked back and I said, “Swindal, what on earth is going on?” He said, “The President wants to remain in this area.” You see, I could not remember – it was President Johnson at that time. I said, “The President is in the back.” “No,” he said, “I mean President Johnson.” I said, “But he’s the Vice President.” He said, “Well, he’s going to be President.” I said, “That’s true.” And he says, “He’s ordered for me to wait until his luggage is transferred from Air Force Two to here, and I’m told that there’s going to be swearing in. I don’t know because we were told to call a [-47-] judge” – somebody, I don’t know, a woman judge that he knew – “and that she’s coming, so we’re going to have to wait.” I said, “Where is President Johnson?” He said, “I’m told, I don’t know” – because he was talking about the policy to wait – “I’m told he’s going to come, but I don’t know about it. No, I’m told he’s here; he’s in this airplane.” So I said, “I’ve walked the airplane twice” – and I know Johnson well, and I kept on walking back and looking at every person in the face and no Johnson. I get back to Ken O’Donnell, who is now furious, and he said, “Didn’t we tell you to leave?” I said, “I can’t get the crew to do it because they say President Johnson is aboard.” He said, “Obviously he isn’t.” I said, “There’s only one place, he is in the bedroom” – Mrs. Kennedy’s bedroom, which we called it because he didn’t use it so often. 

 We walked in the bedroom, and he was not there. I walked in the toilet, in the powder room, and there he [LBJ] was hiding, with the curtain closed, saying, “They’re going to get us all. It’s a plot. It’s a plot. It’s going to get us all.” He was hysterical, sitting down on the john there alone in this thing. So I walked out and I said, “My God, he’s there. Yes, you’re right. He seems very, very upset.” He said, “I don’t want to upset him any more.” I went back to Mrs. Kennedy and I said, “Mr. Johnson is here and he’s asked that the plane not leave right away.” Now he got hold of himself and got dressed again, changed his shirt or something, and ordered everybody to attend his swearing-in [-48-] ceremony including Mrs. Kennedy. Somebody came in the back saying, “Everybody is to attend including Mrs. Kennedy.” STERN: She was told, she wasn’t asked? McHUGH: She was asked, “Mrs. Kennedy, the President wants you to attend the ceremony, the swearing-in ceremony.” She turned to me and said, “At least you don’t leave him. Don’t leave him. Stay with him.” So I’m the only one on board that airplane that stayed with the casket. Never left it.


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