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I was pondering the performance of William Greer (the limo driver) during the Dealey Plaza attack and wondered whether or not he was the regular driver or was this duty rotated amongst other Secret Service agents?

Any info here would be appreciated. I did manage to find this shot of JFK in mid 1963 and that sure looks like Greer on the far right.

James

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James, Greer was definitely the lead driver for the White House detail in

1963 although not the only driver available. However his report and testimony make it clear that he was a primary driver. On a side note, he had been scheduled to drive on the abortive Chicago trip as well, he mentions that.

However its also clear that he had no special training and that his job was

literally driving....when asked about his knowledge of the route his reply

was basically that he was doing what he always did, following the car in front

of him. I don't recall if he had driven on the other cities involved in the Texas trip before Dallas but I suspect he had....perhaps someone will jump in and confirm that.

Also, if memory serves, he was not part of the late night club visit the evening

before.

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Thanks Larry and John.

I guess it's easy to be scathing of his performance during the drama but armchair critics weren't there with bullets whizzing all around. I found it interesting that he had no special training for the task at hand.

I dug up this image of the Kennedy family in Palm Springs for Easter of 1962. Greer is in the background.

James

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We've often heard that Greer was not JFK's regular driver, and this has sometimes been used to excuse his inept performance in Dealey Plaza. I would think that even a one hour seminar would have imparted enough information to a presidential limousine driver to make him realize that you don't slow down (or perhaps stop) when you hear the sound of gunfire during a motorcade. The total lack or reaction by JFK's entire Secret Service contingent that day was inexcusable and should have been properly investigated. Of course, we could say the same thing about the crime itself.

If I recall correctly, Vince Palamara interviewed Greer's son years after the assassination. The son admitted that Greer didn't personally like JFK, and his reason was that "well, he was Catholic, you know," or words to that effect. I would urge all critics to read the great research done by Palamara, much of which is available online.

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We've often heard that Greer was not JFK's regular driver, and this has sometimes been used to excuse his inept performance in Dealey Plaza. I would think that even a one hour seminar would have imparted enough information to a presidential limousine driver to make him realize that you don't slow down (or perhaps stop) when you hear the sound of gunfire during a motorcade. The total lack or reaction by JFK's entire Secret Service contingent that day was inexcusable and should have been properly investigated. Of course, we could say the same thing about the crime itself.

If I recall correctly, Vince Palamara interviewed Greer's son years after the assassination. The son admitted that Greer didn't personally like JFK, and his reason was that "well, he was Catholic, you know," or words to that effect. I would urge all critics to read the great research done by Palamara, much of which is available online.

Don,

Ian Griggs published an 18 page article I wrote in the Dealey Plaza Echo in March of 2002 that deals with the issues of the US Secret Service reactions in Dealey Plaza that I believe would put much of this in proper perspective. It dealt with the duties of the Secret Service and of Action v. Reaction v. Response. I would be more than happy to post it here under the on-line forum, if John Simkin can get Ian Griggs to authorize its release.

Al

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I would like to read it Al.

This is a hot topic and a wide range of opinion is held on this.

It is a sensitive subject to this day, and today the Secret Service

is bureaucratically under the Secretary for Homeland Security,

but in 1963 the Treasury was over the Secret Service.

Certainly the episode of Nigel Turner's The Men Who Killed Kennedy

is condemning of the Secret Service, for the loss of the evidentiary

windshield, for one thing. The one with the front to rear bullet hole in it.

The ambush saw incredibly poor presidential protection.

The line up and advance work were sloppy to the point of complicit,

let alone negligent. Emory Roberts and Mr. Greer can really be best

explained as working under duress or conflicting orders...

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I guess it's easy to be scathing of his performance during the drama but armchair critics weren't there with bullets whizzing all around. I found it interesting that he had no special training for the task at hand.

James

I did some research some time ago on Greer's background. I'm pretty much convinced this poor guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In no way, shape or form was he involved in the conspiracy, or slowed the limo deliberately. The son of a farmer, he had never completed high school. He came to the US from Ireland in 1930. Prior to WWII, and after service in the US Navy during the war, Greer worked as a chauffeur. He was hired by the Secret Service in October 1944 in the uniformed division, working as a guard at the Bureau of Engraving. In 1950, he was assigned to the White House essentially as a go-fer, assigned to pick up food for the White House kitchen. He drove the SS follow up car, drove Presidents Truman and Eisenhower on occasion, and was Mrs Eisenhower's driver. When JFK was elected, Greer was assigned as his senior driver.

IMO, Greer was not your typical SSA. He had little education, little training, and was simply a driver. He was never assigned as a "protector" of anyone. During the shooting in Dealey Plaza, he reacted slowly, slowed the limo to look behind him, and had to be told by Kellerman to "get us out of here". In short, he was shocked, surprised, and he "choked". As I said, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

RJS

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I did some research some time ago on Greer's background. I'm pretty much convinced this poor guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In no way, shape or form was he involved in the conspiracy, or slowed the limo deliberately. The son of a farmer, he had never completed high school. He came to the US from Ireland in 1930. Prior to WWII, and after service in the US Navy during the war, Greer worked as a chauffeur. He was hired by the Secret Service in October 1944 in the uniformed division, working as a guard at the Bureau of Engraving. In 1950, he was assigned to the White House essentially as a go-fer, assigned to pick up food for the White House kitchen. He drove the SS follow up car, drove Presidents Truman and Eisenhower on occasion, and was Mrs Eisenhower's driver. When JFK was elected, Greer was assigned as his senior driver.

IMO, Greer was not your typical SSA. He had little education, little training, and was simply a driver. He was never assigned as a "protector" of anyone. During the shooting in Dealey Plaza, he reacted slowly, slowed the limo to look behind him, and had to be told by Kellerman to "get us out of here". In short, he was shocked, surprised, and he "choked". As I said, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

RJS

Richard,

Al knows that we disagree on the subject of Secret Service culpability in Dealey Plaza, but I thought you and I were on the same page. I don't think Greer's modest background-although it makes for a nice story-has anything to do with his total lack of response during the app. six seconds of shooting. Greer and his fellow agents had to have been warned to be extra-cautious, if anything, with the climate in Dallas (remember Adlai Stevenson had been attacked just the month before by extremely conservative citizens there). He had been driving the presidential limousine for quite a while, and as I mentioned before, a one hour seminar should have been sufficient for him to know not to slow down (or stop) when he heard the sound of gunfire during a presidential motorcade. The fact that he turned around, saw JFK's obvious reaction to the first shot that struck him, and continued watching him until the fatal head shot, speaks volumes about his culpability, IMHO. At the very least, he should have sped up instantly once he saw JFK's hands rising to his throat (after hearing the sound of gunfire).

One of the very first steps that should have been taken in a real investigation of the assassination of JFK would have been the intense grilling of each Secret Service agent in the presidential contingent. They should have been asked the hard questions about total lack of reaction, the late night drinking the night before, and the undeniable fact that LBJ's Secret Service contingent was not confused at all, reacting instantly and keeping their man out of the line of fire.

It's true that it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and second-guess the response of these agents, in an undeniably stressful and fast-paced series of events. However, that was their job, and they had all been well-trained for it. Presumably, they had all been told that when shots are fired, there is very little time to react, and that they must be prepared to protect the president instantly. I can understand one, or two, or even three agents being lethargic and not reacting at all to the sound of gunfire, but for every agent there to stare into space, or actually slow the car down in the case of Greer, without running towards JFK to push him down out of the line of fire, is completely unbelievable to me. In terms of conspiracy, the most obvious participants, IMHO, were the Secret Service agents assigned to protect JFK.

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I would like to read it Al.

This is a hot topic and a wide range of opinion is held on this.

It is a sensitive subject to this day, and today the Secret Service

is bureaucratically under the Secretary for Homeland Security,

but in 1963 the Treasury was over the Secret Service.

Certainly the episode of Nigel Turner's The Men Who Killed Kennedy

is condemning of the Secret Service, for the loss of the evidentiary

windshield, for one thing.  The one with the front to rear bullet hole in it.

The ambush saw incredibly poor presidential protection.

The line up and advance work were sloppy to the point of complicit,

let alone negligent. Emory Roberts and Mr. Greer can really be best

explained as working under duress or conflicting orders...

____________________________

Yes Shenet, "conflicting orders" the usual "order" to protect the president's life at all cost, which is their job description, and the real order that day re JFK, from Col. Lumpkin and whomever above him. Greer's "performance" that day cannot be explained in any other fashion. As you pointed out when one hears gunfire pure instinct says "run" not "stop". Something/someone "overrode" Greer's normal "fight or flight" instinct that day.

I think it very interesting that Secret Service is no longer under the Treasury Department's jurisdiction, but under the controversial "Homeland Security" dept.

I sure feel "secure" living under Patriot Acts 1 and 11, don't you?

Dawn

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Richard,

The son of a farmer, he had never completed high school.

I found that part of what you wrote to be interesting, because the Head of the Secret Service, James Rowley told the Warren Commission, "The men we recruit are men that are college graduates and mature, and screen them very carefully, particularly before we assign them to the White House detail."

and later,

"Mr. RANKIN. Now, I think the Commission would be interested in the requirements or standards that you have for agents. Do you require a college education now?

Mr. ROWLEY. Yes, sir.

Mr. RANKIN. And are there any other conditions or standards that you would like to describe?

Mr. DULLES. May I inquire for one point? Is that a college education for the White House detail?

Mr. ROWLEY. No; that is for all the agents that we recruit for our work, for both criminal and protective, Mr. Dulles. We require a minimum academic achievement of 4 years of college or university, and preferably those who attend police administrative schools, where they have in their curricula subjects on science, criminology, and law."

I guess the operative word is "now."

To digress just a little, one of my classic exchanges in all of the Warren Commission testimonies came when Rankin was interviewing Rowley, "he" being Oswald,

"Mr. RANKIN. Was he an agent or informant or directly or indirectly connected" with the Secret Service in anyway?

Mr. ROWLEY. Not in any way. We did not know of him until the event.

Mr. RANKIN. And you are certain that he never was hired directly or indirectly or acted in that capacity.

Mr. ROWLEY. He was never hired directly or indirectly in any capacity.

Was Oswald connected to the Secret Service?

No.

Are you sure?

:-)

Steve Thomas

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One of the very first steps that should have been taken in a real investigation of the assassination of JFK would have been the intense grilling of each Secret Service agent in the presidential contingent. They should have been asked the hard questions about total lack of reaction, the late night drinking the night before, and the undeniable fact that LBJ's Secret Service contingent was not confused at all, reacting instantly and keeping their man out of the line of fire.

It's true that it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and second-guess the response of these agents, in an undeniably stressful and fast-paced series of events. However, that was their job, and they had all been well-trained for it. Presumably, they had all been told that when shots are fired, there is very little time to react, and that they must be prepared to protect the president instantly. I can understand one, or two, or even three agents being lethargic and not reacting at all to the sound of gunfire, but for every agent there to stare into space, or actually slow the car down in the case of Greer, without running towards JFK to push him down out of the line of fire, is completely unbelievable to me. In terms of conspiracy, the most obvious participants, IMHO, were the Secret Service agents assigned to protect JFK.

Several witnesses said that Greer stopped the car after the first shot was fired. This included Jean Hill, who was the closest witness to the car when Kennedy was hot: According to Hill "the motorcade came to almost a halt at the time the shots rang out". James Chaney (one of the four Presidential motorcyclists) - stated that the limousine "after the shooting, from the time the first shot rang out, the car stopped completely, pulled to the left and stopped." Mary Woodward, a journalist with the Dallas Morning News wrote: "Instead of speeding up the car, the car came to a halt... after the first shot".

Kenneth O'Donnell (special assistant to Kennedy), who was riding in the motorcade, later wrote: "If the Secret Service men in the front had reacted quicker to the first two shots at the President's car, if the driver had stepped on the gas before instead of after the fatal third shot was fired, would President Kennedy be alive today? He added "Greer had been remorseful all day, feeling that he could have saved President Kennedy's life by swerving the car or speeding suddenly after the first shots."

William Manchester claims that Greer told Jackie Kennedy at Parkland Hospital: "Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, oh my God, oh my God. I didn't mean to do it, I didn't hear, I should have swerved the car, I couldn't help it. Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, as soon as I saw it I swerved. If only I'd seen it in time!"

Senator Ralph Yarborough, who was riding with Lyndon B. Johnson, was highly critical of the actions of Greer: "When the noise of the shot was heard, the motorcade slowed to what seemed to me a complete stop... After the third shot was fired, but only after the third shot was fired, the cavalcade speeded up, gained speed rapidly, and roared away to the Parkland Hospital... The cars all stopped... 'I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings but for the protection of future Presidents, they (the Secret Service) should be trained to take off when a shot is fired."

It has been estimated that 59 witnesses and the Zapruder Film indicated that Greer stopped after the first shot was fired. However, when interviewed by the Warren Commission, Greer claimed: "I heard this noise. And I thought that is what it was. And then I heard it again. And I glanced over my shoulder. And I saw Governor Connally like he was starting to fall. Then I realized there was something wrong. I tramped on the accelerator, and at the same time Mr. Kellerman said to me, "Get out of here fast." And I cannot remember even the other shots or noises that was. I cannot quite remember any more. I did not see anything happen behind me any more, because I was occupied with getting away."

Greer's testimony on Kennedy's head wound did suggest that a conspiracy had taken place. He claimed that when he got to Parkland Hospital he noticed Kennedy's "head was all shot, this whole part was all a matter of blood... it looked like that (his head) was all blown off." This contradicts the pictures of Kennedy's head that were published sometime after his death.

There is evidence that Greer also believed that John F. Kennedy had been a victim of a conspiracy. The daughter of Roy Kellerman, the Secret Agent in Kennedy's car, told Harold Weisberg in the 1970's that "I hope the day will come when these men (Kellerman and Greer) will be able to say what they've told their families".

William Greer died on 23rd February, 1985. His son, Richard Greer, was interviewed in 1991. When asked, "What did your father think of JFK," Richard did not respond the first time. When asked a second time, he responded: "Well, we're Methodists... and JFK was Catholic..."

This is what Michael L. Kurtz (Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination From a Historians Perspective) had to say about the behaviour of Kellerman and Greer.

The Zapruder and other films and photographs of the assassination clearly reveal the utter lack of response by Secret Service agents Roy Kellerman and James Greer, who were in the front seat of the presidential limousine. After the first two shots, Greer actually slowed the vehicle to less than five miles an hour. Kellerman merely sat in the front seat, seemingly oblivious to the shooting. In contrast, Secret Service Agent Rufus Youngblood responded instantly to the first shot, and before the head shots were fired, had covered Vice-President Lyndon Johnson with his body.

Trained to react instantaneously, as in the attempted assassinations of President Gerald Ford by Lynette Fromme and Sara Jane Moore and of President Ronald Reagan by John Warnock Hinckley, the Secret Service agents assigned to protect President Kennedy simply neglected their duty. The reason for their neglect remains one of the more intriguing mysteries of the assassination.

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This all points to a domestic action by the agencies of Treasury, Intelliegence and the military.

If the President was struck down by US executive orders on the

pretext of incpacity and loss of security clearance...for "national security"

then this is exactly what we would have, inexplicably bad protection.

Negligence to the point of complicity.

Main points:

Knoll, Railyard, Overpass and TBSD windows...grossly unsecured.

Presidential Limousine Running Boards...standard...not available in Dallas.

Unusual slow detour into triangulated "arcade" of Dealey Plaza.

Motorcycles dropped back. No Presidential SS men near Kennedy.

Johnson and Jacqueline recieving better attention from SS than JFK.

Halting, near stoppage during 18 second barrage of gunfire.

5 to 10 mile an hour pace at beginning of barrage, slow to walking speed

or nearly halted, brake lights on

(downhill-gravity and transmission would have pushed them faster at 20-30 mph coasting)

Lack of security for blood, tissue, ballistic fragments and window glass indicating

ballistic activity....

This is just a thumbnail from memory....the Twenty Fifth Amendment

would technically serve to exonerate Johnson and Treasury Secretary

CD DILLON if this scheme were ever to be made public...

Coordinated government agency effort are very clear here, sad to say....

Edited by Shanet Clark
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If there was a conspiracy -- and I think we're all beyond that point -- would the power behind this crime take the chance on all their plans being foiled by one alert Secret Service man doing his job?

After a couple of rounds are squeezed off, Greer turns to see JFK wounded and puts a foot on the gas and gets the hell out of Dealey Plaza, and Kennedy survives to return to Washington and his brother, the Attorney General. What happens then to those that plotted this crime?

I can see the plotters gathered around Parkland when they learn Kennedy is alive. "Oops. We forgot about the driver."

Would the conspirators really have taken that chance?

To me, it defies logic.

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