He was arguably the most feared and secretive intelligence officer to have worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. And although he left the agency in 1974, his name still conjures up images of the cold warrior with nerves of steel, engulfed in the world of counterintelligence and determined to protect the United States at all costs. Formally he was known as James Jesus Angleton (1917-1987), but to author Jefferson Morley, he is referred to as the ghost. The title fits appropriately for the secret life of the late CIA spymaster was one which Hollywood could never replicate on screen. By all accounts, his personality was outwardly unassuming, but behind the horn rimmed glasses, was an operative that ate, slept and breathed counterintelligence.
This project began in 1994 and the amount of research Morley has invested is impressive. Angleton did not leave behind diaries or personal writings, he was far too cloak and dagger for that He did however, testify before Congress as the CIA’s domestic mail spying program came under fire after being revealed by the press. The spymaster escaped without prosecution but his career at the agency was effectively finished. He would remain hidden in the shadows but still involved in the field until his death on May 11, 1987. The mystery surrounding Angleton helps to keep him in the public light, but what is it about him that is so fascinating?
Morley has composed a solid biography of Angleton, but there is still much about his life that has probably been lost to history. Angleton himself said that he would take things to his grave and I have no doubt that many secrets were buried with him. And next to Allen Dulles, Dick Helms, Bill Harvey, Cord Meyer and the many legendary officers once part of the OSS, Angleton stood as a gatekeeper to the trove of the Agency’s dark secrets. And throughout his life he was involved with a cast of characters who made their names famous as operatives of the agency that John F. Kennedy once threatened to scatter into a thousand pieces. As he moves up the ladder and increases his power, his secretiveness and paranoia grows at an exponential rate. His hunt for Soviet moles would prove to be one of the final nails in the coffin of his career and nearly crippled the CIA. But was he too paranoid or did he know more than he let on?
There is so much about Angleton’s life that remains a mystery. He was a family man, but his wife and children barely factor into the story. Instead, the book is filled with CIA intrigue, informants, double agents and political gambles in Washington. And sadly, it seemed that when no enemies existed, they were manufactured to suit personal agendas. And for Angleton, this might have been an underlying cause of his later obsession of moles within the government. But such was Angleton’s mind, the maze with false exits, traps and more riddles than answers. The man whom Morley calls “the ghost”, led a life which did not give away secrets and prevented even the most prying eyes from gaining too much insight. It may have been by design or just an extension of the counterintelligence legend’s way of operating.
To say that Angleton’s life was incredible would be a severe understatement. In fact, throughout every major event that takes place, the CIA seems to be close by and his actions regarding some are bizarre and even disturbing. Although detested by many, scared of by others and mind boggling to subordinates, he endeared himself to more than one president and those relationships gave rise to many questions surrounding his actions following JFK’s murder, RFK’s murder and the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer.
By the time he died, his CIA life was far behind him but the saying goes that you never really leave the agency. For James J. Angleton, the agency was his life and in a taped interview with Thames TV in 1975, he stated pointedly that he regretted nothing. I have no reason to doubt him and after reading this book I believe that you will also feel the same way. But as I read the book, I could see that in more than one way his life was quite tragic. As Morley explains, secret intelligence work was his life, but what suffered in the process was his personal life and in some cases his health. In a tragic fate, the love he would give to the CIA would not come to him from his family. Even to them he remained the elusive ghost.
Readers who are familiar with the stories from the cold-war CIA era will know many of the facts revealed in the book. We have heard the names before and their actions are now well-known. But I do think that the section on Lee Harvey Oswald is telling and adds yet another question to the mystery of Kennedy’s murder. When asked about the assassination, Angleton reportedly said ” a mansion has many rooms, I was not privy to who struck John”. Exactly what he meant we will probably never know. But what is clear is that Angleton possessed knowledge of many things that most Americans would prefer not to know.
I cannot imagine that writing a book on a secret CIA operative is an easy task. But Morley’s account of Angleton’s life is a solid work and will be appreciated by historians. Love him or hate him, there is no denying Angleton’s legacy, fame and infamy in the annals of the history of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“Deception is a state of mind–and the mind of the state.”– James J. Angleton
I have often wondered why my uncle and many other veterans that I have met, were sent to Vietnam. He and others never speak of the war, choosing instead to internalize their memories and feelings. But from the few things about being Vietnam that my uncle has told me, I cannot image what it was like to be fighting a war in a jungle 13,000 miles away from home. Today he is seventy-two years old and his memories of Vietnam are as sharp today as they were when he left the country to return home. And there is a part of him that still remains in Vietnam, never to leave its soil. He is one of five-hundred thousand Americans that served in a war that claimed fifty-eight thousand lives.
The reasons for America’s involvement in Indochina have been muddled and in some cases omitted from discussions. Secrecy became the standard method of communication in more than one administration in Washington as the United States became deeper involved in a conflict with no end goal in sight. Daniel Ellsberg gained fame and infamy when he revealed the top-secret Pentagon Papers to the country. The New York Times later published a review of the documents and today it is available in the form of a book titled The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War. The book is enlightening and contains a trove of information regarding how and why decisions were being made in the White House as control of the government passed through several presidents. Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara (1916-2009) published his own memoir of the war, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. The book has its fans and critics. McNamara has often been blamed for the war and the vitriol towards him was so strong that in later years he declined to talk about the conflict. True, he was a participant in the events leading up to the war, but many other players had a hand in the game which became deadlier as time went on. To understand their roles and the policies enacted, it is necessary to revisit the complete history of U.S. foreign policy in Indochina. David Halberstam (1934-2007), author of The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert F. Kennedy, conducted his own research into the war’s origins and the result was this New York Times bestseller that is nothing short of mind-boggling.
Halberstam admits that he knew Ellsberg and in fact, he reviewed the Pentagon Papers as he wrote the book. In addition he conducted hundreds of interviews but was careful not to reveal any of their names. When Ellsberg was indicted and had to stand trial, Halberstam was subpoenaed to give testimony, unaware then of how Ellsberg came into possession of the documents. But what started out as a look at the life of former National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy (1919-1996), grew into this definitive account of the reasons for the Vietnam War.
The book follows a carefully guided timeline and the story of Vietnam begins in China before moving on to Korea and eventually Southeast Asia. These parts are critical for they set the stage for foreign policy decisions in the years that followed and explain many of the mistakes that were made. As President Eisenhower winds down his time in office, a new young Catholic Democrat gripped parts of the country as he declared himself the next person to occupy the White House. By the time John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) took office, the road to Vietnam had already been paved. It is at this point in the book where the pace picks up and never slows down. The concept of the best and the brightest came to Halberstam as he thought of a phrase for Kennedy’s cabinet of intellectuals who were set on reshaping Washington in the image they believed was right to push the country forward. One by one he introduces us to all of the characters that have a role in the story, tracing their origins and helping us to understand how they reached their positions in the government. Some of them are as mysterious as the country’s then paranoia about communism taking over the world. But as they come together, something still is not quite right and Vietnam becomes the issue that will not go away. And for the thirty-three months Kennedy was in office, the American involvement would grow in Indochina but the nation had not yet entered a war. The growing crisis however, had begun to cause a rift in the White House and the deception employed by those loyal to the military and war hawks is eye-raising and chilling. I also believe that it helps explain Kennedy’s murder in November, 1963. We can only guess what would have happened if he had lived. There are those who strongly believe we would have withdrawn from Vietnam. I believe that is what would have happened, probably sooner rather than later. But Kennedy was gone and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, inherited the nightmare of Vietnam.
As Johnson settles in to being the new Commander-In-Chief, Indochina becomes a thorn in his side and he becomes conflicted with the decisions he will eventually make. This part of the book is the crux and the key to the final push by the military for a war. Many of Kennedy’s cabinet members continued to stay and at first worked under Johnson. But as time passed and the ugly truths about Vietnam came back from Saigon, they would fade out as Johnson led the nation down the path of escalation. Halberstam is a masterful story-teller and the scenes he recreates from his research are spellbinding. Nearly everyone in the book is now deceased but as I read the book I could not help but to scratch my head at their decisions and actions. The warning signs of Vietnam loomed ominously large but tragically were ignored or discounted. Washington suffered from a tragic twist of fate: although it had the best and the brightest in Washington, they still made mistakes that literally made little sense. And that is a central theme in the book. The war’s architects were all brilliant individuals with endless accolades yet they failed to understand what was considered to be a peasant nation far away from home. Many of them would suffer in one way or another. For Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam eventually became the final nail in the coffin that sealed his chances at reelection.
During the reading of the book, I also noticed at how Halberstam explained the actions of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Vietcong. In order to understand why Vietnam became a stalemate, it is not just necessary to understand the failures of Washington, but the strategy of Ho Chih Minh and the generals under him. The small peasant nation took on a colossus and refused to give up. And the battles of Vietnam changed warfare and showed the world what many believed to be impossible. Arrogance and in some cases, racist beliefs laid at the base of some foreign policy decisions regarding the war. History has a strange way of repeating itself and the repeated warnings from the French fell on deaf ears as American troops landed in a place many of them knew nothing about. Looking back with hindsight, the critical failures are clearly evident and although Halberstam shows us how we became involved in Vietnam, we are still baffled about why. How could so many minds filled with so much knowledge make such rudimentary and baseless decisions? The answers are here in this book in the form of official cables that withheld information, overzealous military advisors, an unstable South Vietnamese government, National Security Action Memos and the idea that the United States could solve any of the world’s problems. This book is a must-read for those who are interested in the history of the Vietnam War.
The murder of John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) continues to maintain its place among the greatest crimes in American history. The official story as published by the Warren Commission is that former Marine Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963) fired three shots in six seconds from the sixty floor of the Texas School Book Depository, fatally wounding Kennedy and severely wounding Texas Governor John Connally (1917-1993). To many, including the author of this book, David Lifton, the government version seemed to be the best and final explanation. But over time Lifton came to doubt the official story and after obtaining a set of the twenty-six volumes that composed the Commission’s investigation, his doubt turned into disbelief and lead him down the path that culminated with this national bestseller.
At the time his odyssey began, Lifton was a law student at UCLA. Working on campus was a law professor by the name of Wesley J. Liebeler who served as a Warren Commission attorney. Disillusioned by the official report, he decided to confront Liebeler about the many discrepancies he found in the final report. Over the next several years, the two men would become more closely acquainted as Lifton dived deeper into the murder and Liebeler sought to preserve the Commission’s report. Ironically Liebeler is the person that suggested to Lifton that he should one day write a book. He eventually did and this is book is a must read for anyone with unanswered questions about the murder of John F. Kennedy.
Having read multiple books on the assassination, I would like to point out that Lifton focuses on the medical evidence surrounding Kennedy’s murder. He does not go into great detail about Oswald’s life, murder or the life and murder of J.D. Tippit. This is strictly about the postmortem events from the time Kennedy was declared dead at Parkland Hospital until the official autopsy report was published by the physicians who were on call at Bethesda Naval Hospital when Kennedy’s body was brought in. I warn readers that the subject matter graphic as it pertains to the autopsy and a large number of anomalies with Kennedy’s body that by all appearances, occurred before the official autopsy even began. Almost like a horror movie, the body tells signs of makeshift surgical procedures, unexplained bruising and conflicting testimony between doctors in Dallas and Maryland. But as Lifton explains, the body is the evidence. Skeptics might be tempted to ask how on earth could such changes have been made to Kennedy’s body before it arrived at Bethesda? Well Lifton asked himself the same question and many others that have been answered through exhaustive research and due diligence in the most plausible manner to date. But what is even more sound about Lifton’s work is that he supports his conclusion based off of evidence that is publicly available and in some cases, was hiding in plain sight. His case is further supported by statements he obtained from numerous individuals who were at either Parkland Hospital, Bethesda or part of Kennedy’s entourage that escorted the body all the way back to Washington.
There are those of us who will refuse to believe that the Government could engage in such nefarious activity. On the surface it simply seems absurd. But we soon learn that there is far more than meets the eye. As Lifton is continue to develop his case for a frontal shot a key event takes place changing his life forever. On a FBI report filed by Agents Francis O’Neill and James Siebert is a section in which they state that surgery had been performed on the president’s head prior to the autopsy. I confess that as I read that section of the book I nearly jumped out of my seat. This statement served as the catalyst for Lifton to change gears and become one of the most respected researchers to date. As I continued through the book I noticed that at times chills ran down my spine. As the story progresses, the macabre becomes a reality and it dawns on the reader that there was more to that day that had nothing to do with Lee Harvey Oswald. This is a story that the Government did not want its citizens to hear. But like Oswald’s murder, it refuses to be put to rest and leaves many unanswered questions.
There are many books about JFK’s murder, each taking a slightly different approach. To get an idea of the overall picture of what happened that day, I always recommend to new readers Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy by the late Jim Marrs (1943-2017). For others that have passed beyond that point, Lifton’s work is a critical addition to every researcher’s library. The narrative is chilling: unexplained changes to the president’s head indicating prior dissection, two ambulances, two caskets, a helicopter and other mind-boggling postmortem incidents reveal a darker and more sinister plan in effect that most could not begin to fathom. However, there are still many interviews that were classified and thousands of pages of others that remained classified. When they finally are released we can only guess or shudder as to what they might reveal. Until then, we have authors such as David Lifton that force us to take a close look at what is considered to be best evidence.
For twelve years Evelyn Lincoln served as John F. Kennedy’s devoted secretary. Following Kennedy’s murder she penned a memoir of her time as his assistant under the title “My Twelve Years with John F. Kennedy”. As his secretary she was a first hand witness to his daily routine and the decision making process behind some of the biggest moments in American history. The relationship between Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon Johnson has been documented in scores of books. But Lincoln’s account is a welcomed look into the unusual relationship between two polar opposite individuals.
It will be expected that Lincoln speaks fondly of her boss. A good secretary becomes an extension of the person that is served listening to their gripes, anticipating their next move and putting the pieces back together again after a major fallout. Lincoln is all of these but that is not the goal of this book. This book is the record of what she saw and heard between John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson. And what we learn in the book will either confirm what many felt all along or seem like the unsubstantiated ramblings of a secretary in mourning and bitter at the new Commander-In-Chief. In her defense, never in the book does she show a personal vendetta against Johnson. She only reports what she observed during her time with both of these legendary figures.
The book begins before Kennedy is elected to the presidency. In fact, in the early part of the book, he is about to declare his candidacy and gears up for what turned out to be a bitter campaign against Johnson for the Democratic nomination. The animosity and sometimes vindictive methods employed during the primaries made it even more unusual that the two former enemies ended up working together in Washington. But what is clear is that they were never “friends” in any sense of the word. They established a cordial and professional working relationship that was sometimes fragile and tense. Tragically it culminated with the events in Dallas.
Lincoln does shed light on two moments in JFK’s campaign that have been the subject of heavy debate for many years. His decision to accept Johnson as the vice-president caused shock, suspicion and in some cases outrage for Johnson was not liked in many parts of the United States. The often purported story is that Kennedy offered Johnson the nomination believing that he could help pull the southern states which resisted civil rights legislation and were wary of a Irish-Catholic nominee. There is also the belief that Johnson blackmailed his way onto the ticket. What the real reason was for Johnson’s inclusion we will never know for Kennedy took it with him to his grave. But Lincoln does give us enough to see that Johnson’s version of the events leading up to his appointment as vice-president were way off base.
Towards the end of 1963 as Kennedy was preparing for his reelection campaign in 1964, he began to develop a series of agendas that he was determined to accomplish during a second term. The biggest question surrounding his administration was if Johnson would remain on the ticket. Scandals began to surround Johnson through affiliates with the most dangerous being the Bobby Baker debacle. It has been said that Bobby Kennedy had been monitoring the cases building against Johnson who may have possibly landed in jail. Apparently Jack had told him they would speak about it when he returned from Dallas. What would have happened if he did return we will never know. But what we do know from Lincoln’s journal is that before he left for Dallas he made it very clear exactly who would be his running mate for 1964. Her admissions which we have no reason to doubt, serve as concrete statement on what was going through Kennedy’s mind in regards to the future of his administration.
The book is only 207 pages but within these pages is a good journal kept by an interesting woman who served one of the greatest political figures this world has ever seen. And in his short time in office, he touched the lives of many including his own secretary who duly devoted twelve years of her life to him.
Faustian Bargains: Lyndon Johnson and Mac Wallace in the Robber Baron Culture of Texas – Joan Mellen
On January 7, 1971 law enforcement personnel responded to the scene of a single car accident on U.S. Route 271 near Pittsburg, Texas. The deceased is identified as Malcolm “Mac” Wallace. His death marks the end of a life replete murder, sex, alcohol and suspicion. Wallace was a known associate of several powerful figures in the State of Texas, most notably, Billie Sol Estes and Lyndon Baines Johnson. His association with Johnson earned him the title of a conspirator in the murder of President John F. Kennedy. An unidentified finger print at the Texas School Depository discovered in the wake of Kennedy’s murder, puzzled investigators and researchers for years. In 1998, Nathan Darby, a career fingerprint analyst, identified the print as belonging to Wallace giving rise to the belief of many conspiracy theorists that Wallace had been on the sixth floor either right before or during the assassination. Wallace’s death was cloaked in conspiracy theories about how and why he died. But just who was Mac Wallace? Was it really his print at the book depository? And was he LBJ’s hitman for hire as has been alleged? Joan Mellen, a noted scholar and author of several books related to JFK’s murder explores the relationship between Wallace and Johnson in this phenomenal account of the lives of both of these Texas natives.
Drawing upon the words of Wallace’s children, interviews with former associates, some of whom are now deceased, official documents from the LBJ Presidential Library and other public records, Mellen retraces the origins of the mysterious figure. JFK assassination researchers might be tempted to believe that the book might contain a “smoking gun”. This is not the case and the book is not another look at the assassination. It is purely about the relationship between Wallace and Johnson and the climate of corruption and murder in Texas. Because Texas is also the location of JFK’s murder, the book does contain a section about the assassination, but not what the reader may be tempted to think. While the focus of the book is not of JFK’s murder, where it truly shines is the information about Wallace and the true nature of his relationships and troubled life that included more than one marriage, several divorces, alcoholism and deadly sexual triangles.
What is abundantly clear from Mellen’s work is that a deadly climate of suspicion and fraud existed engulfed Texas, then a stronghold of right-wing extremist groups and politicians determined to operated a completely different system of government and culture. In the middle of this climate is Lyndon Johnson, the native of Stonewall, Texas and former U.S. President. His close-knit group of associates formed an impenetrable circle of deceit suspected in the deaths of a number of individuals including Henry Marshall, a former investigator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, John Douglas Kinser and even LBJ’s sister, Josefa. Billie Sol Estes, Bobby Baker, Herman Brown and George Parr all make an appearance in the book showing the reader how Texas politics were controlled during the first half of the 20th century.
Johnson has been portrayed in textbooks as the champion of civil rights, voting rights and the leading force behind the “Great Society” program. The reality as shown by Mellen is that a very dark side to LBJ was carefully hidden from public light but did show itself from time to time. Beginning with the controversial election in 1948 against Coke Stevenson, Johnson’s career would be dogged by controversial events that often had tragic and catastrophic results. JFK’s murder in Dallas and the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 remain some of the darkest moments in U.S. history and two of the biggest crimes for which those involved have never been brought to justice. The truth about the Liberty presented here in its entirety, reveals the very grim reality of the U.S. government’s faulty foreign policy that claimed the lives of 34 sailors and injured nearly 200 more. And had it not been for JFK’s death, perhaps the story of the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson would be told far differently today.
Many years have passed since the events in this book have taken place. A majority of the figures in the book are now deceased and their secrets having been lost to history. But for students of history, the JFK assassination and those curious about the true nature of both Lyndon Johnson and Malcolm Wallace this is the book that sets the record straight and finally puts to rest rumors, misinformation and uncertainty about November 22, 1963 and the lives of many that ended tragically in South Texas.
Prior to his death from cancer, Jack Ruby, the convicted murdered of Lee Harvey Oswald who executed his prey live on national television, once remarked that to get answers in the murder of John F. Kennedy, it would wise to ask the man currently in office. That man as we all know was Lyndon B. Johnson. In most history classes, Lyndon Johnson or LBJ for short, is seen as a pioneering president, responsible for the passage of the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, what is often looked over is his role in the escalation of the U.S. military in southeast Asia resulting in the Vietnam War. As the body count of American soldiers climbed, his approval rate dropped to absurdly low levels, possibly the worst in recent history. And the announcement of Robert Kennedy for candidacy for president served as a final nail in the coffin forcing Johnson to withdraw his name in the 1968 presidential race. Many years after his death, the true story of the life of Lyndon Johnson has come to light in dozens of books. And what we learn through each of these books is that there was a very dark side to the 36th President of the United States.
Barr McClellan worked as an attorney at the firm of Clark, Thomas and Winters, the firm that worked intimately with Johnson, handling many of his private affairs. This book is McClellan’s recollections of the things he saw, heard and took part in over a multi-decade service to the firm under Johnson’s primary attorney and close friend, Edward A. Clark. The cover of the book alludes to a smoking gun in the book. Having read dozens of books on the Kennedy murder, I wouldn’t quite go that far. And as McClellan points out, many of the discussions that took place among some of the partners and various nefarious figures associated with Clark were never put on record as an official transcript. While he presents to us a picture of what might have been said, the participants are lone gone and can neither confirm of deny the statements in the book. Also, the allegations regarding Lee Harvey Oswald are direct but gloss over many important details that not only cast doubt on him being Kennedy’s assassin, but also being the murderer of Officer J.D. Tippit and the attempted assassin of Gen. Edwin Walker.
The beauty in the book are the revelations about the relationships between Johnson, Clark, Thomas, Mac Wallace, Bobby Baker, Clifton Carter and Billie Sol Estes. This close group of conspirators, pulled off some of the biggest scams in Texas history and are complicit in the murders of several individuals, possibly including John F. Kennedy. Of all of the players, Baker is the only one still alive and has disclosed a lot of what he did for Johnson and other politicians in Washington during his career. However, out of all of these mysterious and fascinating figures, the two that stand out in the book as the most interesting are Edward Clark and Mac Wallace. Johnson, while complicit in many illegal activities, always maintained a safe distance in the event that a scandal arose. However, when problems did come up and people need to be taken care of, Clark and Wallace would prove to be the most loyal and deadly associates of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Wallace has been long known to assassination researchers and people familiar with Johnson’s activities in Texas. And if McClellan’s account is correct, then it shows the assassination into an entire different perspective. Clark is lesser known to those outside of the State of Texas but McClellan clues us in to another major participant of the crime of the century in the United States of America.
While I do believe that LBJ did have foreknowledge of the crime, I do not think that the law firm of Clark, Thomas and Winters had the sole role they did as described by McClellan. Did they play a part? Absolutely. But I also believe that there were many things transpiring in Dallas that day that went far beyond the control of both Edward Clark and Lee Harvey Oswald. A conspiracy of that magnitude needs many participants with plans made far in advance in many different sectors of government. Of interesting note, McClellan does shows that the plan to remove Kennedy began as early as 1961 which coincidentally is when multiple Oswald sightings first began. Was there a plan to remove JFK from office? Undoubtedly. Was a sole lawyer the mastermind behind the entire plot? You be the judge.
Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford-Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin
The 20th Century was filled with some of the most earth-shattering events the world has ever seen. The home video shot by Abraham Zapruder that recorded the assassination of John F. Kennedy stands as one of the most important pieces of motion picture ever captured. During that film, as former Firs Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy reaches to the trunk of the car to retrieve a portion of JFK’s skull, a secret service agent can be seen leaping on the trunk of the car as the motorcade sped down the Stemmons Freeway en route to Parkland Hospital. The agent, Clint Hill stands out in the film as only one of two agents to make any major movement to help the fatally wounded Kennedy and Gov. John Connally. Hill would go on to serve three more presidents and today is a best-selling author with several books published about his time working in the United States Secret Service.
Teaming up with Lisa McCubbin, who worked with Hill on his first book, ‘Mrs. Kennedy and Me’ and subsequent memoir ‘Five Days In November’, Hill recounts his experiences during a career that stretched over five administrations, beginning with the legendary Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The secret service of today is far advanced from the days of Eisenhower’s administration and as Hill shows us, the secret service was still developing as the agency tasked with the daily protection of the commander-in-chief. As Eisenhower’s administration comes to an end, a new president takes office and his administration would change Hill’s life forever. Primarily assigned to guard Mrs. Kennedy, she and Hill become close friends and as fate would have it, he was included in the motorcade on November 22, 1963. The murder of JFK and the swearing-in of Lyndon Johnson are still surreal and continue to capture the public’s attention as more books are published about that day.
Moving on to Johnson’s administration, we see the stark contrast between the two presidents. But Hill allows us to see the private side of LBJ, not often seen or discussed in books or magazines. He would stay with Johnson throughout the remainder of his term until the top office in the land was assumed by Richard M. Nixon. Nixon’s presidency and the events that followed would shock not only Hill but the entire nation. The Vietnam War and Watergate scandal permanently marked Nixon’s time in office and his resignation is the only one to have ever occurred by a sitting U.S. President. The prior resignation of then Vice-President Spiro Agnew began to erode the already crumbling confidence in the U.S. government. And by the time that Gerald Ford took office, things had reached the point where the nation was threatening to become unhinged. Regardless of their personal shortcomings or questionable judgment calls, Hill stood by each one and recalls his time with each and remarks fondly and gracefully on the proud career he left behind.
This book is not a “smoking gun” about JFK’s murder nor is it a gossip column. It is a memoir by a remarkable person who had an even more remarkable career. His life was and is extraordinary by far and in the book an entire cast of characters make an appearance such as Arnold Palmer, Frank Sinatra and even Elvis Presley. Assassinations and attempted assassinations, infant deaths, racial tension, war and social change are relived as Hill’s memory comes alive. And as he Hill points out, not many agents have worked in as many details as himself making his story all the more valuable as a piece of history recounting America’s most dangerous moments.
On November 22, 1963, a shift of government occurred in the United States that permanently altered the course of history taken by this nation. Aboard Air Force One, Lyndon Baines Johnson is sworn in as the 36th President of the United States following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Rumors and speculation about the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald and possible conspirators, began to grow exponentially following Oswald’s arrest. And after Oswald’s murder at the hands of Jack Ruby on Sunday, November 24, the nature of the crime took a darker and more sinister turn. The murders of the President, Lee Harvey Oswald and Dallas Polices Officer J.D. Tippitt, transfixed the nation and resembled events often seen in nations thought of as nothing more than Banana Republics. And Kennedy’s murder is considered by many, to this day, to be the most notorious crime and unsolved murder in American history.
The question has been asked more than once if we will ever know the truth about Dallas. Some believe we are inching closer while others feel that the crime is so complex that no one will be able to put all of the pieces together. However, what is clear, is that the murder was a concerted effort among an unknown number of individuals and groups, all benefiting from the removal of John F. Kennedy from office. The official story is that a lone nut with a cheap Manlicher Carcano rifle executed Kennedy with three shots from the Texas School Book Depository. In 1976, the House Select Committee on Assassinations found a “probable” conspiracy in the murders of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both murders continue to raise suspicion as the truth about the events on each day are still shrouded in mystery.
Similar to a jigsaw puzzle with thousand of pieces, Kennedy’s murder has produced a staggering amount of possible conspirators. Intelligence agencies, Cuban exiles, mobsters and politicians are among the endless number of suspects. On nearly every list of suspects that I’ve seen in books and articles on the assassination, one name continues to stand out, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Many readers will have a knee jerk reaction at the thought that anyone would accuse the former President of murdering his own Commander-in-Chief. But when we take a closer look at the life of LBJ and his rise to power, many dark and disturbing actions come to light showing the true nature of our former President.
This book is Roger Stone and Mike Colapietro’s indictment of Lyndon Baines Johnson for the murder of John F. Kennedy. No stranger to politics, Stone worked closely with another former President, Richard Nixon has as keen grasp on dirty side of the political spectrum. The reader may be tempted to dismiss the duo as crackpots out to smear the legacy of Johnson but I caution the reader to have an open mind and cross-reference what’s in the book. What you will find just might shock you to the core. And once you’ve finished this, I highly recommend David Talbot’s ‘Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kenned Years‘, ‘The Devil’s Chessboard‘ and Seymour Hersh’s ‘ The Dark Side of Camelot‘.
All of the usual suspects known to be associated with LBJ make an appearance such as Malcolm “Mac” Wallace, Billy Sol Estes and Bobby Baker. The murders of Doug Kinser, Josefa Johnson, Henry Marshall and Sam Smithwick are examined as well as the 1948 election against Coke Stevenson. The tragedies of Vietnam and the USS Liberty are also revisited. Fidel Castro once remarked that history would absolve him. In the final analysis, was LBJ a champion of civil rights and defender of the US against communist aggression? Or was he a power-hungry lunatic, bent of starting war with help defense contractors get rich and the murderer of John Fitzgerald Kennedy? You be the judge.