Catching the Wind: Edward Kennedy and the Liberal Hour, 1932-1975 – Neal Gabler

GablerWhen most of us hear the word “Kennedy” we immediately think of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) and former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968).  Although he was in office only for one thousand days, John F. Kennedy set into motion numerous plans, many of which became reality during the administration of his successor Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973).  Kennedy was a gifted orator and skilled politician but struggled to move legislation through Congress.  Johnson lacked the flair and polish of the Kennedys, but he was a master politician and he excelled in the one area that is crucial to presidential success: the Senate.   The Kennedys knew that to move the Senate, the old guard would have to be removed one by one.  And do that meant putting younger senators in office with moderate and liberal views.  As part of this plan, the youngest of the Kennedy clan, Edward M. Kennedy (1932-2009) followed his brothers into politics and made the Senate his home.  And though he never became president or even vice-president, Edward M. Kennedy or “Teddy” helped changed the course of American history during the forty-seven years he served in the U.S. Senate.  In this first volume of a two-part biography, author Neal Gabler explores Edward Kennedy’s life from his birth in 1932 until the year 1975. 

I do warn readers that the book is a behemoth and not light reading. However, the author’s writing style keeps the narrative flowing smoothly and it never feels like a standard delivery of biographical facts.  Instead, Gabler makes the book feel like a journey and in many aspects, it is, but the journey of Edward Kennedy from an aspiring athlete to a U.S. Senator who would have a profound impact on crucial legislation.  And while there is a wealth of interesting information about Kennedy himself, the author takes us back in time to an era when America was undergoing significant social change.  The early part of the book rightly focuses on the Kennedy household and the dynamics as play between parents Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (1888-1968), Rose F. Kennedy (1890-1995) and their nine children.  Readers who are looking for a book that provides a good analysis of the Kennedy family will find this to be what they are searching for.  True, it is Teddy’s story but without telling the Kennedy story, there is no way to fully recall his life.  Behind the cameras, speeches and glamour, the Kennedys had their issues like thousands of other families.  And that part of the story is why the book is so good. Through Gabler’s words, they become more relatable as they go through trials, tribulations, and tragic deaths of siblings.  Behind the money, there was an enormous amount of grief, insecurities, and family secrets.  Teddy comes of age and his life would a mix of many things known all too well to the Kennedy family. 

Kennedy was the youngest of the family but in time he became one of the most important. His early life is interesting and Gabler left no stone unturned.  Some of the information is widely known but there are some tidbits of information that even season readers will appreciate. Inevitably politics comes in play and as Jack once said about his own entry in politics: “It was like being drafted,” Jack said. “My father wanted his eldest son in politics. ‘Wanted’ isn’t the right word. He demanded it.”  Teddy’s battle ground would be back home in Boston against the McCormack family.  This early battle in Kennedy’s political career is crucial for many reasons but served as his starting point to a career in the U.S. Government.  And to give readers an idea of just how important and bitter the feud was, Gabler states: 

“There was no love lost between the McCormacks and the Kennedys. If the Kennedys boiled with resentment at the Protestant establishment, the McCormacks boiled with resentment at the lace-curtain Irish Kennedys. In the hurly-burly of Boston Irish politics, the two clans had fought over the Democratic State Committee in 1956, when Jack attempted a takeover to reform the state party and John McCormack counterattacked.” 

Of course, we know that Kennedy was eventually elected to the U.S. Senate, and it is here that the book picks up in pace. With Jack in the White House and Bobby in charge of the Justice Department, Washington was under the thumb of what author David Halberstam (1934-2007) called “the best and the brightest”. But while his older brothers were battling the Soviet Union, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and right-wing elements within their own party and the Republican party, Teddy was sharpening his skills as a Senator determined to move America forward.  But his plan would not be easy and there were setbacks along the way. But Teddy never gives up and his determination to his causes epitomizes the true meaning of committed.   He would have help in the form of legendary figures in Senate history such as the liberal leader Mike Mansfield (1903-2001) (D-MT) and segregationist James Eastland (1904-1986) (D-MS).  Some readers may be wondering how a figure like Eastland could have helped Kennedy.  That is explained in the book and what transpires highlights the unusual alliances needed at times to get bills passed. 

In any Kennedy story, there are always the elephants in the room in the form of Jack and Bobby’s murders.   The events in Dallas and Los Angeles nearly shattered Kennedy completely.  Compounded with his grief was the state of his wife Joan, who struggled with her own demons which are discussed in the book.   Further, Ted Jr.’s health issues are one more piece of the puzzle that became Teddy’s life.   Another person might have given up on everything, but Teddy Kennedy did not and could not.  Kennedys don’t lose as they have always maintained.  Regardless of how strong he was, Teddy was not immune to demons as well and his personal struggles are also discussed. Gabler pulls no punches in revealing the darkest aspects of his life and revisits Teddy’s brushes with death.   And things become very dark when Kennedy decides to visit Chappaquiddick.  

On July 18,1969, Kennedy was visiting Chappaquiddick to attend a small meeting that included former members of Robert Kennedy’s campaign staff.  At some point during the night, he decided to leave and agreed to give a lift to former Kennedy staffer Mary Jo Kopechne (1940-1969).  While crossing the Dike Bridge, the vehicle went over the side and plunged into the murky waters below. Kennedy survived but Kopechne did not.  Her death and the aftermath would haunt Kennedy for the rest of his days.  There are many stories about Chappaquiddick but was Kennedy negligent that night?  Was he too intoxicated to drive?  And was he romantically involved with Kopechne?  Gabler tackles each question and I leave it up to readers to decide what they believe is the definitive version of the Chappaquiddick story.   Readers who are interested in Kopechne’s life might enjoy Georgetta Potoksi and William Nelson’s Our Mary Jo, which is a short but delightful book about a remarkable young woman that died too young. Whatever one believes, the tragedy made it certain that Kennedy would never be president.  And it had also drawn the eye of the most paranoid man to ever hold of the office of the presidency, Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994).   I had no idea how bitter the rivalry was between Nixon and the Kennedy family.   Gabler quickly clears that up with this summary of Nixon’s rage: 

“It was incontestable that a disproportionate amount of Nixon’s underhandedness and abuse of power had been directed at Ted Kennedy, and it was even arguable that Nixon’s so-called dirty tricks were hatched by his attempts to destroy Ted after Chappaquiddick, leading to Nixon’s later subversions of democracy.” 

To say that the two loathed each other would be an understatement.  Teddy does not show his disdain as much, but Nixon’s obsession knew no bounds and his willingness to subvert democracy to punish rivals us what contributed to his downfall.  The Watergate saga and Teddy’s battles in the Senate to press the White House play out in the book and it is spellbinding.  I now understand more why older relatives used to say that Nixon had to go.  But before he did, he did his best to punish Ted Kennedy for his own insecurities and shortcomings, one of which was undoubtedly his loss to Jack Kennedy in the 1960 election.  Quite frankly, Nixon was a very dark person, and it becomes clear who Ted Kennedy was so determined to prevent him from reaching the White House.   Although that effort failed, Nixon did their work for them by engaging in behavior both illegal and unprecedented. His resignation still stands as one of the most shocking moments in American history.  His successor Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006) enters the picture and seems to be the breath of fresh air needed after Nixon’s dark reign.  But Ford pardons Nixon which sends shockwaves through Washington.  Kennedy is among the many senators appalled by the act as Nixon’s crimes were still fresh in the public’s consciousness.  The book finishes with Kennedy returning to his home state of Massachusetts to do battle over the issue of integration.  Readers sensitive to descriptions of racial discrimination may find this part of the book difficult to go through.  Personally, I had no illusions about integration and my father has told me stories of the nightmare it was for him, my uncles and others sent to all-white schools in accordance with federal law.  But the venom with which the Irish in Boston react to integration is disturbing and a reminder that America is not that far removed from a time when racial violence and prejudice were unrestrained.   That is not to say that it does not exist currently.  We all know discrimination is a problem not just in America but in every country on earth.  But I do believe that Robert Kennedy had the right mindset when he would quote Aeschylus whose quest to “tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world” is as important now as it was then.   Ted Kennedy embodied those words through his time in the Senate which will continue in the next installment of this exceptional biography.  I cannot wait for the second volume. Highly recommended.  

As a bonus, I strongly recommend that readers fascinated with the 1960s and America’s political landscape during that time, should take a good look at Richard Goodwin’s (1913-2018) Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties, which is an invaluable look into the biggest political moments during that decade. 

ASIN:‎ B085BW13XF

RFK: His Words For Our Times – Robert F. Kennedy, C. Richard Allen and Edwin O. Guthman

20210724_203834In 1968, the race for the next President of the United States intensified as sitting President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) issued a public statement that he did not want, nor would he accept the nomination for his party’s candidate for the oval office.  The announcement stunned the nation and took the election in a much different direction.  The late David Halberstam (1934-2007) had been following the campaign of former Attorney General and then Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)(D-NY).  As he observed Kennedy’s evolution into a powerhouse figure, he noted that “Robert Kennedy was in many ways the most interesting figure in American politics, not only because he was a Kennedy, not only because so much of his education had taken place in the public eye—it could be traced by putting together film clips of this decade—but primarily because he was a transitional figure in a transitional year.”  Kennedy was riding a wave of popularity and had resurrected the image of Camelot that was assigned to the presidency of his older brother John F. Kennedy (1917-1963). But Bobby, as he was known, was not Jack and had seen many things that his brother did not live to experience.  His eyes had been opened to the growing gap between wealthy and poor, black, and white, and right and left. He sought to bridge those gaps and had a vision to change America. Sadly, he too was cut down by an assassin’s bullet on June 5, 1968.   His death marked the end to what Halberstam had called his unfinished odyssey. 

Each time I read about Kennedy, I find myself discovering more of his statements, speeches, and ideas.  And what is deeply intriguing is that he was the icon of liberals across America but early in his political career he undoubtedly aligned more with conservatives.  That changed with the arrival of the civil rights movement and the gritty violence that played out on the streets of America as the country moved closer to the brink of anarchy.   Kennedy was highly observant as the chief of the Justice Department and later as a senator from my home state.  Editors C. Richard Allen and Edwin O. Guthman have compiled selected speeches and comments by him and memories by those who knew him into this book that provides the platform for Kennedy to speak to us in his own words.  And if we pay close attention, we can see that there is a wealth of thought-provoking words by the fallen figure. 

John F. Kennedy is regarded as one of the most gifted orators in history.  Even today I still listen to his speeches in particular his address at American University on June 10, 1963, which is referred to historically as the “peace speech”.  His inaugural address in January 1961 is perhaps the greatest in American history.  And directive to Americans that they “ask not what your country can do for-ask what you can do for your country” are still profound over half a century later.  Though he did not possess the charm of his older sibling, Robert Kennedy was a profound speaker in his own right and the speeches he gave show his preciseness for words and the direct approach to matters which became his trademark. He minced no words and did not hesitate to act when needed.  Some referred to him as “ruthless Bobby” but statements by those who knew him and the anecdotes in this book show that he was also extremely compassionate.   Further, he was also guided by the ancient Greek author Aeschylus’ words “to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world“.  Kennedy believed in America and never wavered in his goal to see society change so that all Americans regardless of race could live in peace and prosper.   The speeches he gave on the plight of black Americans and the apartheid system in South America are what needed to be said.  Frankly, he had no fear in going to places where other politicians did not dare to go.  In all fairness, Lyndon Johnson had made his own visit to Appalachia and instituted policies to help the poor through his “Great Society” platform, but Kennedy was willing to take it one step further and there is no doubt that he would have used the powers of the presidency to focus on America’s disenfranchised citizens.

I purchased the paperback but do think for anyone who wants to take notes, the Kindle version is a much better option.  Of course, the speeches included here can be found elsewhere but I found this book to be the right collection of material for anyone who wants to get an idea of where Kennedy came from and where he intended to go.   And as we move forward, we can always come back to his words here as a reference guide so that we do not continue to make the mistakes of the past.  Kennedy is long gone physically but he lives on in spirit as an integral part of the American experience.

“Freedom means not only the opportunity to know but the will to know. That will can make for understanding and tolerance, and to ultimately friendship and peace.” – Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) 

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0062834142
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0062834140

Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis With a Foreword by Authur Schlesinger, Jr. – Robert F. Kennedy

rfkI have had many discussions with my father wherein he recalled his memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962.  He explained with vivid detail how he and his classmates had to take part in daily air raid drills due to the increasing threat of a nuclear holocaust.  The discovery by U.S. intelligence of Soviet missiles on Cuban soil, accelerated what was already a tense conflict. Today we refer to it as the Cold War but there were many things taking place that were anything but cold. And as former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara remarked in Errol Morris’ Fog of War,  “hell it was a hot war!”.  The stakes for the survival of the human race had been raised as high as possible and the very possibility of extinction by nuclear weapons became hauntingly real.  The public story is that at the last minute, the Soviets gave orders for naval vessels to reverse course away from Cuba and the U.S. weapons ready to be used. However, behind the scenes on both sides, there was much taking place that remained hidden from public light for years to come. Former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) kept a journal of the thirteen days that gripped the world as his brother, President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963,) navigated a crisis that the world had never before seen.  Presented here are the portions he completed up to 1967.  In June, 1968, Robert Kennedy would himself be assassinated and never had the chance to revise and add on to what is written here.

The book is short and to be fair, we will never know if Kennedy had intended on adding more to his memoir. But I do feel that there is enough material here to give readers and play-by-play recap of how things developed and the why the Kennedy Administration did or did take certain actions. As a bonus, there is beautiful foreword by Author Schlesinger, Jr., (1917-2007). I do believe that it might be necessary to read the view with the understanding that we have the benefit of hindsight, something unavailable as Moscow kept up its intentions to test the young Irish Catholic American President. However, Jack Kennedy kept cool and leaned heavily on his advisors but he was not prone to blindly following advice and knew fully just how much was at stake. On both the American side and the Soviet side, hardliners were pushing for a first strike which would have set off a chain reaction and led to nuclear Armageddon. Robert understood the pressure his brother faced from Cold War warriors who hated anything Soviet and wanted to see the downfall on the U.S.S.R. Jack had come to vet his military advisors more closely after the Bay of Pigs disaster and when contemplating the advice of the joint chiefs, he makes this telling remark as relayed by Robert:

During the missile crisis Kennedy courteously and consistently rejected the Joint Chiefs’ bellicose recommendations. “These brass hats have one great advantage in their favor,” he said. “If we…do what they want us to do, none of us will be alive later to tell them that they were wrong.

Throughout history, the Soviets have been portrayed as the aggressors in the conflict, who were determined to get as close to U.S. soil as possible. The installation of the missiles in Cuba with the blessing of Prime Minister Fidel Castro (1926-2016), set off a diplomatic fury and the gears at the Pentagon began to grind hard. In response to the growing Soviet threat, President Kennedy opted for a blockade over direct military action out of concerns for a chain reaction series of events that would quickly spiral out of control. On the Soviet side, there were people who wanted to avert nuclear war, primarily former Premier Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971). The channels of communication between Jack Kennedy and Khrushchev show two men determined to avoid the unthinkable. And each was facing backlash from his own administration. The two were literally pulling at each end of the same rope. They were aided in their efforts by skilled diplomats who were eager to meet the Americans halfway. Bobby’s meeting with Anatoly Dobrynin (1919-2010) on October 27 might have been the final act that helped two nations avoid the apocalypse. There are several accounts as to the whole discussion that took place. Undoubtedly some of it is lost to history and both Kennedy and Dobrynin are deceased. However, regardless of what exactly was said, we do know that the removal of U.S. missiles from Turkey was a key component in keeping the dialogue open between the two nations.

When Soviet ships reversed course, the world breathed a sigh of relief. In Washington, President Kennedy was adamant that no word of the back channel agreements be made public nor should there be any gloating about the resolution of the crisis. However, it was in fact a masterful display of diplomacy on both sides and continues to serve as a case study for the threat of nuclear war. I do wish that Robert Kennedy had lived to revise and add to his memoir of the crisis. His position as attorney general as Jack Kennedy’s younger brother, placed him in a very unique position with regards to the development of the crisis. His recollections here lay everything out for the reader to follow as the Kennedy Administration handled a crisis that threatened the planet. There are possibly many other secrets that remain hidden from the official narrative but we do have enough material to form a very significant picture of what did happen and why. Robert Kennedy’s memoir is an invaluable piece of the puzzle. Good read.

ASIN : B004W9CWAQ

To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace – Jeffrey D. Sachs

jfkPeace is a state of being that mankind constantly seeks to achieve even as tensions flare between nations making the threat of armed and nuclear conflict a very real possibility.  The detonation of the bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945, changed modern warfare permanently.  Man had entered the nuclear weapon era and the fear of complete annihilation reached even the most hardened leaders of the free world.  In the wake of World War II, the United States and Soviet Union took center stage in the battle for global supremacy.  The Cold War ushered in a new level of caution as Washington and Moscow became increasing distrustful of each other. 

In January, 1960, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) was elected over Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) in one the slimmest election margins in United States history.  The young Irish-Catholic president had pulled off a stunning victory in a race that seemed destined to be decided in Nixon’s favor. Upon assuming office, Kennedy inherited the successes and failures of his predecessor, retired General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969).  Moscow watched the election with keen interest and tested the new president in ways he could have never imagined. Under the command of Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971), the Soviet Union became determined to continue the spread of its communist ideology and confront American whenever and wherever necessary.  In October, 1962, tensions reached an all-time high when the world came to the brink of nuclear war. For thirteen days, the world watched with fear as the two superpowers threatened the planet with extinction.   Crisis was averted by back-channel communication between the two nations and the commitment of both Khrushchev and Kennedy to avoid total destruction.  The Cuban-Missile Crisis changed Kennedy’s view on U.S. foreign policy and he became determined to avoid a similar situation in the future.  And he had begun to visualize his quest for peace. Author Jeffrey Sachs takes a close look at Kennedy’s in this short yet remarkable account of a time in world history that will be studied for years to come.

Kennedy constantly walked a tight rope in dealing with foreign powers and satisfying domestic opponents as home. His determination not to be seen as a dovish president, had taken him down a path in which Cold War warriors exerted their influence with the final objective of refuting Soviet expansion by force if necessary. It should be noted that the book is not an examination of the Cold War but rather it places its focus on Kennedy himself and the decisions he made when faced with the threat of catastrophe. Of course, the author addresses the most important events during his short time in office which came to a tragic conclusion on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. The assassination itself is not discussed in detail for obvious reasons. The focus here remains throughout on Kennedy’s plan for peace which he put into action through a series of events that were quite bold for his time. And although he did not live to see many of his ideas come to pass, he did lay the groundwork for many things, most importantly the Civil Rights Act which would signed into law by his successor Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) on July 2, 1964. Kennedy was not only concerned about world peace but was highly aware of domestic issues at home that centered on the issue of race in America. In recalling Kennedy’s words, Sachs writes:

“The heart of the question, said Kennedy, was this: If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?” 

Peace became Kennedy’s dominant focus and his actions n the later half of his administration showed his commitment to seeing the world truly change. Whether through his appeals to the United Nations or the creation of the Alliance for Progress, Kennedy was putting his plan into action to see change materialize. But he also understood that peace does not happen overnight. In fact, Sachs explains Kennedy’s vision perfectly in this statement:

“Kennedy’s third precept was that peace is a process, a series of step-by-step confidence-building measures. He recognized that moves by one side lead to moves by the other. A situation of high distrust necessitated a series of confidence-building steps.” 

Had he lived, I believe that President Kennedy would have continued his plan of peace and that America would not have remained in Vietnam. He fully understood that the world was heading down a dangerous path and sought to reverse course before mankind destroyed itself. His assasination changed America and to this day, his murder haunts this nation as a reminder of what could have been. However, in just a few short years, he set into a motion a number of events. His commitment to true peace is sometimes overlooked or not fully understood. Here, Jeffrey Sachs explains it all perfectly so that readers can see what Kennedy wanted to accomplish and how he planned to do it. And as a bonus, the author includes text from Kennedy’s speech at American University on July 10, 1963 which is considered by many, including myself, to be his finest. And the fact that he was murdered only five months later, speaks volumes about how much of a threat the young president was to what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.

I do admit that Kenney’s administration as not perfect and at the beginning of his tenure, he made a series of missteps that increased tensions between America and opponents abroad. But his removal of holdovers from previous administrations, finally allowed him to chart his true course. And by the time he was ready to speak at American University, he had become a seasoned leader who understood that not everyone can be pleased. There are times when being president means doing what is best even if it may be unpopular. And to fully drive home where Kennedy’s thoughts lay in the months before his death, we can turn to this snippet of his speech before that graduation class:

“What kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children—not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time.” 

John F. Kennedy has been dead for more than fifty years but his legacy remains with us. There are many what if questions surrounding his death and what it meant to the United States. However, he left behind quite a bit of ideas and material for us to study, understand and learn from. One of the most important was his desire to move the world in his quest for peace.

ASIN: B00BVJG3C8

Into The Nightmare: My Search For The Killers Of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J.D. Tippitt-Joseph McBride

Mcbridge

On occasion, I find myself coming back to the murder of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963). His assassination remains one of the America’s darkest moments and officially, the crime is still an open case for the Dallas Police Department. Some may express surprise at that statement but it should be remembered that no one was ever convicted for Kennedy’s murder. A twenty-four year-old former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963) was convicted in the court of public opinion as the assassin but was himself murdered before he could stand trial in a Dallas courtroom. Roughly forty-five minutes after Kennedy’s murder, Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit (1924-1963) was shot to death after stopping a pedestrian walking in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. Oswald was arrested at the Texas Theater and charged with Tippit’s murder. But due to his death at the hands of nightclub owner Jack Ruby (1911-1967), he was never officially tried and convicted of Tippit’s murder, which is still an open homicide case. The Warren Commission established that Oswald committed both murders before hiding in the Texas theater and for years many have accepted the “lone gunman” theory. But if we look closer, there are many things about both murders and Oswald himself that just do not add up. Author Joseph McBride has spent thirty years researching and writing this book that takes us into the nightmare that occurred on November 22, 196,3 in Dallas, Texas. And what he has to say might make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

The book opens with a recap of McBride’s childhood in Wisconsin during 1960 when Kennedy was ramping up his campaign for the presidency. McBride’s parents were both reporters and his mother was part of the local Democrat committee. Her position in the committee provided McBride to meet Kennedy on several occasions and during one of those occasions, McBride took a photo which is included in the book, of Kennedy in what could be described as an unguarded moment. On the day of Kennedy’s murder, McBride relates that information presented during news broadcasts raised his suspicions about the crime Those seeds of doubt grew into a life-long quest to find the truth about Kennedy’s murder. I should point out that McBride’s focus here is primarily on the murders of Oswald and Tippit. The book is not a broad discussion of the crimes such as Jim Marrs’ best-selling classic Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy, but a more streamlined approach to examine what former commission member David W. Belin (1928-1999) called the “Rosetta Stone” of the case.

Seasoned researchers into the Kennedy assassination will know that there has been a lack of focus on the life of J.D. Tippit. He has typically been portrayed as the simple yet heroic officer who tried to stop Lee Harvey Oswald and died in the line of duty. On the surface it fits the narrative of the good cop/bad suspect line that we are taught from a young age. However, if Tippit was attempting to arrest the man who allegedly had just shot the president, then why did he not have his gun drawn as he got out of his squad car? And how would he have known to stop Oswald when Dallas Police had yet to learn Oswald’s name according to the official timeline? There are seemingly endless mysteries surrounding both Tippit and Oswald regarding their alleged encounter. McBride journeyed down the rabbit hole and provides what I have found to be the most in-depth analysis of what may have taken place in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas on that fateful day.

I believe that by putting his focus on the Tippit murder, it allows readers to digest critical information without being overwhelmed by other events that took place in and around Dallas that day. Tippit’s murder undoubtedly is the Rosetta Stone of the case but not for the reasons that Belin believed as McBride makes clear. To be clear, McBride is not a conspiracy theorist. In fact, what I found is that he remains unbiased and does not shy away from presenting contradictory evidence when addressing a topic. I believe that makes the book even more fascinating. McBride presents an honest and thorough discussion of the Tippit murder. And at no point, did I feel he has moving too far in one direction but rather he moves through the book like a veteran detective with an eagle’s eye for clues. And frankly, the amount of information he provides about Tippit’s personal life is just staggering and has caused me to see the murder in a very different light. And although secrets remain about Tippit’s murder, the version presented in the Warren Commission’s report should be taken with a grain of salt. If you want to learn about the real J.D. Tippit, this is without question a book that you need to read.

Although Tippit’s murder is the nexus of the book, McBride does focus on other strange events that day after shots rang out in Dealey Plaza. The most telling are FBI reports from field agents in Dallas that reveal some very surprisingly decisions taken by Dallas officials. And the discussions between J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) and former President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) underscore the problems Dallas detectives faced in making their case. Further, a particularly deeply distburbing fact comes to light about the attitude of Dallas police towards Kennedy’s murder. I found myself staring in disbelief and what former detective Jim Leavelle (1920-2019) reveals about the effort to solve Kennedy’s murder. Before leaving Washington, Kennedy had been briefed on the right-wing climate of hate in Dallas and was advised not to travel there. But he insisted on doing so to show that the President of the United States cannot be afraid to travel within his own country. It was his fate to go to Dallas but the local police owed him far more of an effort than what is shown in the book.

The revelations of the numerous problems of proving Oswald’s guilt, provide the context for a discussion on the many problems with regards to the lone gunman theory. Capt. William Fritz of the Dallas Police Department was certainly aware of this and as McBride shows, most officials knew that making a case against Oswald would be a monumental task. Of particular interes are McBride’s notes of his discussion with former Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade (1914-2001). The statements by Wade in response to McBride’s questions are nothing short of mind-boggling and a sharp defense attorney would have made a name for himself picking apart the indictment against Oswald. However, that is only a small piece of the puzzle that McBride puts together to show the lack of evidence, planted evidence, hidden information and various other anomalies that make the lone gunman theory even more ludicrous.

There has always been confusion as to what Tippit was doing before he was killed. According to the Warren Commission report, there exist at least forty-five minutes between the shooting in Dealey Plaza and his murder in Oak Cliff. But much of what Tippit and Oswald were doing during that time remains shrouded in mystery. To piece the story together, McBride draws on several sources that include Tippit’s widow Marie, witnesses near Oak Cliff who spotted Tippit prior to his death, Dallas Police Department radio transmissions and witnesses to the murder, some of whom were never called to testify by the Warren Commission. As I read through the statements and series of events, I felt a chill run down my spine as I realized that there was a lot more to the events in Oak Cliff that we have been led to believe. Not only was Tippit out of his assigned area but his murder took place near the home of Jack Ruby who shot Oswald live on national television on November 24. Questions have persisted if Oswald, Tippit and Ruby knew each other. While I would stop short of saying that there is a smoking gun, what we do learn raises suspicion that many figures in Oak Cliff were more connected than the Warren Commission wanted to acknloweledge.

McBride’s analysis of the murders that day is spellbinding and anyone that has doubts about the official story should absolutely read this book. There are no outlandish theories or witness bashing. It is simply an honest and open discussion built on facts discovered by the author through meticulous and exhaustive research. I guarantee that after you have finished this book, you will find yourself looking at the murder of John F. Kennedy in a completely different light.

ASIN: B00EP6B0J0

Dr. Mary’s Monkey: How the Unsolved Murder of a Doctor, a Secret Laboratory in New Orleans and Cancer-Causing Monkey Viruses Are Linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK Assassination and Emerging Global Epidemic – Edward Haslam with a Foreword by Jim Marrs

Haslam1On July 21, 1964, New Orleans police officers responded to a call about a mysterious fire in an apartment complex. When officers arrived and entered the apartment, they found the body of Dr. Mary Sherman (1913-1964), a noted orthopedic surgeon and cancer researcher.  The details surrouning her grisly demise are hair raising, chilling and also mystifying.  The murderer was never caught.  Edward T. Haslem is a New Orleans native whose father was a close acquaintance of Sherman.  In fact, his father was asked to identify her remains and the incident left him visibily shaken as Haslam captures the below passage:

“As a Navy doctor during World War II, my father had seen more than his share of burned and broken bodies. Someone (I don’t know who) had asked him to go to the morgue to look at Mary Sherman’s body to get a second opinion on her unusual death. He came home from the morgue that day, fixed himself a drink, sat down in his chair, and cried silently. I wondered what was wrong. My mother told me that a woman he knew from the office had died. It was only later that I learned it was Mary Sherman.”

Little did Haslam know at the time, but Sherman’s death would take him places he could have never imagined.  His curiousity soon gets the better of him and his search for the truth about her murder, led him down a path that revealed many dark secrets in the America during the 1950s and 1960s.  Some readers might be wondering why Sherman is important and how her death is related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy (1917-1963).  It is a complicated connection to be sure and certainly not direct.  The key to understanding the two requires an examination of the Cold War, right-wing movements in New Orleans, well-connected doctors and the threat of a deadly disease we have come to know as polio.

The field of virus research is one that stretches back several decades as doctors have sought to understand viral transmission from one species to another.  Books and articles had been written about the dangers of animal to human transmission previously and Congress began to take notice.  Further, the United States and Soviet Union were both determined to explore the issue of cancers induced by viruses.  The United States Government commissioned the Delta Regional Primate Center with Tulane University serving as the host institution.  The facilites were located near Covington, Louisiana on the waters of Lake Ponchartrain and few outside of its grounds knew of its existence and as Haslam shows, for every good reason.

If so far this sounds like something from a science fiction film, just wait because there is more to come.  Primates were found in many research centers across the United States and served in the testing of vaccines developed by doctors.. As polio raged, the race for a vaccine heated up and primates were fully immersed in studies and trials.  Eventually a vaccine was found but at first, things went horribly wrong and the horrors of viral cross-contamination became vividly real.  The primate viruses known as SV-40 and SIV take center stage and will cause many readers to stare in shock at Haslam’s revelations.  The current day situation regarding Covid-19 might even seem like a dark case of deja vu.

Haslam’s discussion of SV-40 and SIV are just the tip of the iceberg.  What really raises eyebrows are the strange facts about Sherman’s real work and the colleagues arround her.  Dr. Sherman had become a close family friend and one day while talking to his mother, Haslam learns many unsettling things about the laboratory at Tulane.  A dark and disturbing picture soon begins to emerge.  And by the end of the book, it includes characters such as David Ferrie (1918-1967), Dr. Alton Oschner (1896-1981) and even Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963).  The connection between all of them is quite interesting and sheds light on the political climate in New Orleans at the time.  And while many things are probably still hidden in classified documents, what is evident in Haslam’s book is that within the City of New Orleans, many strange individuals operated right under the nose of several United States intelligence agencies seemingly with the seal of approval.  The story is simply mind-boggling and although Sherman was not right-wing nor a conspirator in any sense, she was closely collaborating with those who were.  And we can only wonder as to what exactly she did discuss with David Ferrie and others who were knowledgable about the project they were working on.  Ferrie as many know, was not a doctor by any means, so why was he so closely aligned with a distinguished surgeon?  The author provides a theory about their working relationship and what he believes was the true purpose of their work.  It is highly plausible and considering the fallout from the initial polio vaccine, makes perfect sense.  Haslam’s theory regarding Sherman’s death also is highly plausible and the most likely explanation based on the reports and evidence that did survive.

Towards the end of the book as he is in search of the linear particle acclerator, things take a very interesting turn.  And yes, the acclerator did in fact exist and is not something out of the Twilight Zone.  Haslam’s search for it, results in an interesting discussion about Lee Harvey Oswald about whom he has his own suspicions.  There is no “smoking gun” about Kennedy’s murder, but Haslam did ask a good question as to who might have ordered that Oswald be allowed back in the United States after attempting to defect to the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.  It is a possible scenario that does make one wonder.

As he continues on Oswald, he also discusses the story Judith Vary Baker, who has stated publicly that she was Lee Harvey Oswald’s mistress in the summer of 1963.  She wrote about her time with him in the book Me & Lee: How I Came to Know, Love and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald. I have read the book and have no doubt that she knew and worked with Oswald.  Proof of their working relationship is documented and Haslam discusses the evidnece he found himself.  But because Oswald and the others in the book are deceased, I felt that some parts of her story will be difficult to verify.  Nonetheless, the book is good and leaves us with more questions than answers. The information that Baker provides does line up with what Hasam has found  and it is further proof of the unorthodox circle people brought together in a city run by the Mafia and right-wing extremists and intelligence operatives.

Admittedly, the book will be a tough sell to those who cannot fathom such a thing taking place in the United States. However, further research of those mentioned in the book, will reveal even more bizarre facts.  Ferrie and Clay Shaw (1913-1974) are proof of this.  Haslam is no conspiracy nut and simply gives us the facts.  He has his own theories which are perfectly justified based on the material he presents.  And while he convicts no one of anything, he has shown that there was far more than meets the eye in New Orleans before, during and after the death of John F. Kennedy.

ASIN: B00LZ5OTQ0

On the Trail of the Assassins – Jim Garrison

20200410_123739I decided to use the spare time at hand to reorganize my book case and other shelves upon which sit the other literature that I have come to love and appreciate.  While perusing the books, I found this book by former New Orleans District Attorney James “Jim” Garrison (1921-1992) who is remembered for bringing the only public trial in the murder of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963). In 1992, Warner Brothers released Oliver Stone’s JFKwhich captured Garrison´s investigation on film. Kevin Costner took on the role of Garrison and delivered a compelling performance.  The film is great cinema but as one would expect, many liberties were taken by Stone and producers.  Reasons for the changes are beyond the scope of this review.  Stone´s film was based on a number of source including the late Jim Marrs’ (1943-2017) Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy which is regarded as one of the best books published on Kennedy’s death and Garrison’s memoir of his investigation.

If you have never watched JFK, I think it would best to read Garrison’s book and then watch the film.  I firmly believe it will have an even more powerful effect in spite of the liberties taken by the filmmmakers. However, with that being said, overall the film is true to the book but the real story is even more perplexing and disturbing.  Similar to the film, Garrison is at his desk with Assistant D.A. Frank Klein comes in to inform him about the Kennedy shooting.  The revelation that Oswald had spend the summer of 1963 in New Orleans caused Garrison to investigate any connections that the alleged gunman may have had in New Orleans.  The trail quickly leads to David Ferrie (1918-1967), a former priest and airline pilot who had become known in New Orleans for connections to a wide range of characters including organized crime figures. Within days, Ferrie is cleared by Garrison and life seems to go on until Garrison has an encounter with former Louisiana Senator Russell Long (1918-2003) who tells him “those fellows on the Warren Commission were dead wrong, there’s no way in the world that one man could have shot up Jack Kennedy that way.” Garrison soon obtains a copy of the Warren Commission Report and the full twenty-six volumes of exhibits and testimony.  And the rest as they say is history.

At the end of the book, Garrison reveals that some of the files he had locked away from the investigation were stolen and he was forced to go by memory when reconstructing some events.  It was no small feat for and must have been a painstakingly long process. Nonetheless, the book is an incredible recollection of events that changed American history.   What I found the most enjoyable in the book were the explanations of how leads were developed and relevant information was obtained.   Incredibly, Garrison operated with a small staff and they still had other cases to work on while keeping tabs of the Kennedy investigation.  Combined with a limited budget, the results from Garrison’s investigation are even more potent. Today we have the benefit of hindsight that allows us to see that Garrison was vindicated on many fronts but at the time, he could not have forseen just how deep a fully open and welcome investigation would have led.

Early in the investigation, most of his team’s work is done in private.  This veil of secrecy allowed the Garrison team to cultivate a staggering amount of information, not only on David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963), but also on businessman Clay Shaw (1913-1974), who becomes the target of Garrison’s criminal investigation.  In the film, Shaw is played by Tommy Lee Jones who delivers a breathtaking performance alongside Joe Pesci, who stars as Ferrie. The information comes pouring in Garrison finds himself on the trail of the assassins. However, unknown to him, he had awakened the sleepign giant and the efforts by the FBI and Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) may or may not surprise some readers.  For reasons unknown, their interference with Garrison’s investigation is kept to a minimum in the film.   Regardless, the real story is simply mind-blowing and also produces a number of disturbing questions. Further, as Garrison explains the book, Shaw’s arrest brought upon him a new wave of agression from Washington that at first made no logical sense.   But as the story moves forward, the government’s response begins to take on a new light.  And a statment in 1979 by former C.I.A. Director Richard Helms (1913-2002) probably would not have come about had it not been for Garrison’s case.

Similar to the film, Garrison does go into detail about aspects of the crime that never made sense, including the parade route, Oswald’s actions that day and the murder of J.D. Tippit (1924-1963).  Today, there are scores of books that address what Garrison found and have expounded on those facts significantly.  However, reading the words of the man who was the driving force behind the refutation of the Commission’s report, gives way to feelings of nostaglia and satisfaction.   And undoubtedly, I am sure there was far information that Garrison could not readily recall that would have given the book an even bigger impact.  However with his death and the theft of certain files, some facts may possibly be lost forever.  But Garrison provides enough material for a good discussion of why the case against Oswald would not have held up in a court of law.

Shaw’s trial eventually becomes the subject of discussion and happened far differently from what we see on film.  Hollywood theatrics certainly played their role but a more accurate picture is presented here by Garrison as to how things played out in the courtroom. In particular, the testimony of Vernon Bundy is intriguing but receives scant attention in the film.  Garrison discusses the importance of Bundy’s statements to underscore Shaw’s actions and connections to those suspected of being part of his intelligence network.  And although the case did not result in a conviction, I do believe Garrison was certainly on the right track.  And as we see many years later, at the time, the full scale of where he was headed was unknown.

In the wake of the Shaw trial, Garrison found himself the target of an investigation by federal authories as part of alleged pinball machine scheme which sounds like something out of a television show.  The case fell apart and Garrison breaks down each part of it, highlighting the absurdity of the case.  Some readers may express bewilderment at the charges brought against Garrison and the case presented by federal prosecutors.  And it is hard to refute Garrison’s belief that the charges were retaliation for what he revealed about the United States Government during Clay Shaw’s trial.

As the book closes, Garrison provides a short summary of his thoughts about the case, working in New Orleans and the impact it had on his life. While there is nothing groundbreaking in this section, it is a fitting way to end an important story.  And whether you believe in the lone gunman theory or not, what is clear is that Garrison’s investigation became a threat to many in high places and could have brought to light dark secrets that had remained hidden to date.  As I read through this section, I was struck by the comments he makes on Shaw’s death.  I had never given it second thought before but after reading what Garrison says, I might take another look at it.  And for readers interested in Clay Shaw’s life, I strongly recommend Donald Carpenter’s Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw.   Many of the figures in the book are now deceased and although more than fifty years have passed since Kennedy’s death, the story is as important and disturbing now as it was then.  One day the truth will be known and when it is, Garrison’s legacy just might take on a new dimension.

ISBN-10: 0446362778
ISBN-13: 978-0446362771

JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated – Dougas Horne

horne1One of the most important questions surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) has always been why was he murdered?  We do have the official explanation that Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963), a former Marine and attempted defector to the Soviet Union, murdered Kennedy due to his own deranged thoughts which no one has been able to accurately explain.  And although he was murdered before he could stand trial in a Texas courtroom, Oswald remains labeled as Kennedy’s assassin.  But to understand the murder of any politician, it is necessary to examine the political and social climate in existance at the time. There are many clues to why Kennedy was murdered if we are willing to look.  Douglas Horne served on the Assassination Records Review Board, the organization that was developed to examine the voluminous recorsds produced in response to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.  The act was created as a result of Oliver Stone’s groundbreaking film JFK, starring Kevin Costner as former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (1921-1992). His unique position on the board, has allowed him to view documents that many had never seen before and some of what he found is covered here with regards to the internal battle between Kennedy and factions within his own administration.

To some readers it may sound unbelievable that a sitting United States President was at odds with his own cabinet but that is exactly what was taking place prior to Kennedy’s death.   But what were the roots of the tensions and widely differing views?  Horne clues us in as we re-examine the Bay of Pigs invasion, Cuban Missile Crisis, Laos and ultimately the Vietnam War.  Kennedy did not live to see the escalating U.S. involvement and had set into motions plans for a far different course of action.  A full discussion of his true plan for Vietnam is discussed by John Newman in his phenomenal book JFK & Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power, which I highly recommend to any reader interested in how the United States might have avoided war in Southeast Asia.   The book is spellbinding and will leave readers in shock.  But Newman’s work does not detract from the work of Horne, whose discussion of the very critical events during Kennedy’s administration present some very disturbing revelations.  Also, Horne references Newman’s work on occassion even including information unvailable to Newman at the time.

The first event that Horne addresses is the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April, 1961.  Fidel Castro’s (1926-2016) removal and the installation of a government favorable to Washington had become of the utmost urgency during the transition of power from Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) to John F. Kennedy.  Before leaving office, Eisenhower had approved several covert plans and Horne explains Cuba quite pointedly:

On January 3, 1961, Eisenhower terminated diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, setting the stage for the paramilitary invasion. President-elect Kennedy had learned of the proposed invasion (by about 1400 Cuban exiles training in Guatemala) on November 17, 1960, after his election. Eisenhower left the invasion to his successor to implement.

The invasion was a failure and Kennedy soon came to distrust the intelligence community and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The seeds of division had been planted and grew exponentially over the next two years.  Cold-War warriors had mistakenly believed the young president could be bullied into taking action but they would soon learn that Kennedy had a whole different idea for United States foreign policy.

Horne’s narrative is chilling to the core and at some points in the book I had to take a step back and digest what I had just read.  In what could only be described as mind-boggling, the failed Cuban invasion did not deter the military from setting its sights on Southeast Asia, in particular Laos and later Vietnam.  Kennedy’s refusal to invade Laos is the earliest indication of how he viewed the “Domino Theory” and the futility of a ground war in Indochina.

Behind the scenes in Washington,  Kennedy was under enormous pressure to launch a first strike not only against Cuba but also against the Soviet Union on more than one occassion with China being collateral damage.  It was estimated that in a nuclear exchange, well over three hundred million Americans and hundreds of millions of people in Russia, China and Eastern Europe would have died within a matter of hours or even minutes.  Today, it seems unthinkable that those in power were actually considering intiating a nuclear confrontation but at the time, World War II was still fresh in the minds of Americans, in particular those who served in the war.  Horne focuses highly on one person in particular who very well could have started World War III.  Gen. Curtis E. LeMay (1906-1990) was chosen by Kennedy himself in the wake of his first summit with former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971).   The summary Horne provides about LeMay sets the tone of the book going forward and at that point, it will be clear to readers that tensions are about to increase. But who was LeMay?  Horne explains:

By the time President Kennedy attended the public swearing-in of General Curtis LeMay as the new Air Force Chief of Staff on June 30, 1961, LeMay was already a revered American icon to many. He had courageously led large elements of the 8th Air Force in Europe during World War II, and had personally designed, and commanded, the horrific firebombing campaign against Japan’s cities that had virtually razed that nation to the ground during 1945 (and in this role, his bombers had dropped the first two strategic nuclear weapons ever used in combat on Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

It is clear from the start that Kennedy had aligned himself with someone who saw combat as the only means to an end.  And by the end of the book, the dysfunctional and bitter relationship between the two helps to explain the forces Kennedy was contending with unbeknownst to the American people. LeMay is just one of multiple figures in the book, whose actions and statements are nothing short of scary.  A post-apocalyptic future akin to the film The Book of Eli, could have very well happened had some individuals been successful in their efforts to goad Kennedy into nuclear conflict.  And if you have any doubts that this could have happened, considered this quote by Horne:

LeMay’s concept of nuclear war was total: he believed in what he called the “Sunday punch,” or throwing everything you had at the enemy at the very beginning of hostilities — an attack from all directions, with the majority of your own weapons — that would go on without stop, for several days. His concept of nuclear war was orgiastic, and Wagnerian.

When it became clear that Kennedy would not approve an invasion of Cuba nor attack the Soviet Union, the topic of Vietnam takes center stage, becoming the hotbed issue that researchers believe was the last straw, resulting in the “green light” to remove Kennedy from office.  Horne’s essays are informative and should be read by those who study the Vietnam War, those who served and anyone in search of the truth about Dallas.  It is a case study of when U.S. foreign policy does disastrously wrong.  And for the young president, Vietnam became a moment of extreme clarity and proof that he could no longer trust his own administration.

The book is filled with dozens of important events, National Security Action Memos and transcripts of critical meetings.  One committee meeting in particular stands out not for what was said in the meeting but what was captured by the secret recording system after Kennedy had departed the room.  The discussion by the military generals who remained in the room is provided here showing that none supported Kennedy and wanted nothing short of a show of force.  Nearly all of the former officials are deceased but their names will remain ingrained in American history.  Kennedy had enormous foresight but had his hands full with powerful and intimdating figures including J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), Allen Dulles (1893-1969) and Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer (1899-1988), the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff whom Kennedy replaced with Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor (1901-1987).  The military industrial complex, described by Presiden Eisenhower in his farewell address was alive and well, forcing Kennedy to make decisions that bucked the establishment and resulted in him being engulfed in a hornet’s nest of enemies.  It is simply an American tragedy and the fictional book Seven Days in May, provided a blueprint for regime change which many never thought could be possible in the United States.

Research into Kennedy’s murder continues to reveal information that has been carefully hidden to elude investigators and curious citizens who intend on learning the truth about the events in Dallas on November 22, 1963.  Some will always believe that Lee Harvey Oswald did in fact pull the trigger.  But others who have long ago learned to see past the shots in Dealey Plaza, will find this book by Horne to be eye-opening and hair-raising.  And as author John Newman has made clear in his own works on the assassination, a storm was definitely brewing before Kennedy’s murder.

ASIN: B00NHVBIF0

The Kennedy Autopsy 2: LBJ’s Role in the Assassination – Jacob G. Hornberger

Hornberger2 I recently reviewed Jacob Hornberger’s The Kennedy Autopsy, in which author Jacob Hornberger discusses the anamolies surrounding the forsenic examination conducted on President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) at Bethesda Naval Hospital following his assassination on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. In this second part of the series, he examines the role of former President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) in Kennedy’s murder.  To be fair, no “smoking gun” has ever surfaced linking Johnson directly to the crime. However, researchers have long believed that Johnson knew in advance of what was to come in Dealey Plaza and had used the powers of the presidency to conduct a sham investigation that resulted in the much disputed Warren Commission report.  Admittedly the evidence is compelling and Johnson has his own trail of indiscretions unrelated to the events in Dallas.  In fact, Johnson was complicit in so many things, that his former attorney Barr McClellan felt compelled to write about in his book Blood, Money & Power: How L.B.J. Killed J.F.K. The legacy of Johnson is certainly a topic for another discussion but what Hornberger has to say here just might cause you take another look at the champion of the “Great Society”.

The crux of the book is formed by a series of events that took place within the short span of less than two and a half hours. As a dying Kennedy was rushed to Parkland Hospital, Johnson was also rushed to the facility and remained there until learning of Kennedy’s death at 1:00 p.m.  Upon learning of the president’s death and that he was now the new president, he then proceeded to Love Field where Air Force One and Two were sitting idle. However, instead of immediately returning to Washington, he stay in place at love field until Kennedy’s body, which was forcibly removed from Parkland Hospital by fully armed Secret Service personnel, arrived at the air strip.  Only then did both aircrafts depart for Maryland and Washington, D.C.  Kennedy’s body was transported to Bethesday Naval Medical Center where an even more bizarre series of events took place.  However, that is well covered in the first book by Hornberger regarding the topic at hand.

The premise of Hornberger’s argument is this:  if Johnson was so afraid that Kennedy’s murder was a Soviet plot to attack America and that his own life could be in danger, then why did he wait at Love Field instead of immediately departing Texas for safer territory?   The argument put forth by Hornberger is without question disturbing, but the position taken by the author is thought provoking.  And to be honest, no sound explanation for Johnson’s actions has ever been put forth. In fact, his behavior the entire time was more than bizarre and did not reflect the mindset of someone concerned about a large scale attack on the United States.

Some readers may feel that there is no way on earth Johnson could have been complicit in any part of the crime. Unless the person knew him personally, that is purely speculation. But what is clear is that his statements following Kennedy’s death conflicted with his actions that day.   In all fairness, the author does not claim that Johnson masterminded Kennedy’s murder anywhere in the book.  But he does believe that Johnson knew of the murder in advance, played an enormous role in the cover-up and that there does exist a very real deep state or military industrial complex as described by former President Dwight Eishenhower (1890-1969).

As a bonus, the author also discussed Johnson’s decision to withdraw from the 1968 presidential election.  One narrative that has remained in place is that the entry of Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) into the race is what ultimately caused Johnson to step out of the race.  Another is that the rise of Hubert Humphrey (1911-1978) was proof that the Democratic party was ready for a new direction.  Well both may not be entirely accurate and Hornberger has a strong argument for his belief that Kennedy’s murder is the real reason he did not seek reelection.  On the surface, it seems far fetched but the author presents a very compelling case that have valid points.  And although the Vietnam War had damaged his presidency and civil unrest at home was a pressing issue, Johnson still remained a popular figure. His true reason for stepping down most likely went with him to the grave and we may never know completely.  But there is a strong chance that what we have long believed about his decision may be completely wrong.  The case is presented here for you to be the judge.

The Kennedy assassination is a riddle with many layers, some of which have been peeled back for us to see the complexity within.  Unraveling the entire crime is still a monumental task that requires a focused approached one step at a time.  Hornberger has taken that approach in this highly interesting look into the actions of Lyndon Johnson after the infamous volley of gunfire in Dealey Plaza.

ASIN: B07ZKXLXZZ

The Kennedy Autopsy – Jacob G. Hornberger

Hornberger1The unexpected increase in free time at my disposal has provided me with ample opporunity to increase the amount of reading material at my disposal. I decided to take another look at the murder of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), whose death remains one of most puzzling crimes in American history.  The official narrative is that on November 22, 1963, lone gunman and former Marine Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963) fired three shots at Kennedy’s motorcade from the Texas School Book Depository, fatally wounding Kennedy and severly wounding Texas Governor John Connally (1917-1993).   The case seemed open and shut with Oswald forever being labeled as the lone nut or lone gunman.  On the surface, the case seems simple but there were many strange things that took place that day after Kennedy died that are not only mind boggling but also deeply disturbing. One of them is the handling of his body and the autopsy that was conducted at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Jacob Hornberger is the president of the Future of Freedom Foundation , an organization whose goal is the “aim of establishing an educational foundation that would advance an uncompromising case for libertarianism in the context of both foreign and domestic policy“.  His mission in finding the truth has led him on the trail taken by other researchers into Kennedy’s death.  His focus here is on the autopsy itself and many bizarre and troubling anomolies that have surfaced over the past several decades.  Some readers might wonder how the autopsy could be a source of controversy but there is ample evidence that there was a flurry of unusual activity as the president’s body arrived in Maryland. And what Hornberger discusses here may blow the minds of many.

I strongly recommend anyone interested in the full story of JFK’s autopsy to read David Lifton’s Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy , a chilling examination of the handling of Kennedy’s body following the assassination.  However, there is much that can be learned here which is based partly on Lifton’s work.  The book reads like a long essay and in fact, Hornberger describes his writings as exactly that.  The format makes the narrative flow smoothly without becoming drawn out or extremely repetitive.  And although the author repeatedly drives home his point, at no point does the book feel like a rehash of what we have already learned.  It is a dark and sinister tale which few are willing to discuss, mainly out of fear that they will be labeled as a “conspiracy theorist”.  However, if one does not believe the offiical story about Kennedy’s death and believes that more parties were involved, then by definition he/she would be considered a conspiracy theorist. But I digress.  Hornberger backs up all of his claims with solid evidence, based on interviews of the personnel on staff that day at Bethesda and the timelime set by the Warren Commission itself.

Kennedy’s autopsy was performed by Lt. Col. Pierre Finck, Dr. James Hughes and Dr. J.  Thorton Boswell (1922-2010).  All three were noted military physicians but inexperienced with gunshot victims.  However, they were given the task of what was then the most important autopsy in American history.  The official story is that the autopsy began roughly around 8:00 p.m. on November 22.  However, several individuals would later give statements to investigators and the Assassination Records Review Board that opened a can of worms and threw the whole story into uncertainty.  Snippets of their statements are included here and what they have to say may cause the hair on your neck to stand up.  Further, we are tempted to ask the question, when exactly did Kennedy’s body arrive at Bethesda?  And how many autopsies were performed that night?  Further, what are we to make of the report filed by FBI Agents James Sibert and Francis O’ Neill, who both reaffirmed the words in their report thirty years after the assassination?

The autopsy is one of the most overlooked parts of Kennedy’s murder.  Oswald, the rifle and the murder of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit (1924-1963) have taken center stage in the assassination story but events outside of Dallas that day often remain secluded in the shadows.   Diligent research has brought them to light for those who wish to see.  Undoubtedly there is more to the story than many of us could ever imagine.  The doctors who performed the autopsy stated under oath that higher ups in the military command gave orders that night as well as other individuals who remain unidentified. A military controlled autopsy on a civilian is almost unheard of. Yet on that day, Kennedy’s body was illegally removed from Parkland Hospital under circumstances which are nothing short of troubling and a tightly controlled forensic examination occurred. Further, those who did attend and assist were sworn to secrety by military brass.  The story is simply unbelievable but actually happened as described and is well-documented.

The murder of John F. Kennedy continues to intrigue researchers intent on learning the truth about Dallas that day.  They may one day find out what actually did happen in its entirety.  And through books such as this, the real truth will continue to emerge.  Some may write off Hornberger as another conspiracy nut but I caution them that the book is not simply a rant by a deranged nut.  There are many dark details here which should be paid close attention to if we are to learn the truth about Kennedy’s murder.

ASIN: B00NHVT820