The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence was written by Gerald Blaine, one of 34 Secret Service Agents who protected John Fitzgerald Kennedy and who also served as an agent protecting two other Presidents on the White House Detail. It was written along with Lisa McCubbin, an award-winning journalist who has worked for three major television news networks, and the story includes contributions from most of the Secret Service agents who were on the Kennedy Detail.
Recently published by Gallery Books (November 2, 2010), it’s an authoritative account that shares historical facts and personal recollections. The story is told in third person, taking into account personal recollections shared by other Kennedy Secret Service agents who contributed to the book. It details events of November 22, 1963, and the aftermath, but also shares the human side of being a Secret Service agent: how they were traumatized by the events of that day and the sacrifices their wives made by raising children alone as their husbands traveled with the President.Blaine and McCubbin also disclose a variety of behind-the scenes-stories related to the assassination as well as the authors’ conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. It shares information on what the job was like in the 1960s: carrying index cards in their pockets of suspected threats or individuals, running 8 or more miles alongside the presidential limo wearing black polished shoes that left their feet blistered, long hours that included no breaks for eating and very little sleep, and the amount of planning and work that went into advances (trips to secure areas before the presidential visit).
It also illustrated the times. Life in the 1960s was racially charged (a black Secret Service agent was almost denied a room in a Texas hotel due to racial prejudice), and the Bay of Pigs was fresh in the minds of many Cubans.
The Kennedy Detail takes the reader on a ride that is fast paced, intelligent, emotional, moving, humorous, sad, and historically factual. For example,I smiled when I learned how JFK got short sleeved shirts for all his agents to wear while protecting him in Florida. I enjoyed JFK's humor and personable demeanor. According to Blaine, JFK loved to tease and even told one new agent, “I heard you didn’t vote for me.” Watching the agent's facial expression change from a smile to "horror," Kennedy just smiled, patted his shoulder, and walked away. I was also charmed by stories about the “Kiddie detail,” remembering how John Jr., almost three years old, loved watching helicopters land in his back yard.
Genuine photographs (taken of the Secret Service agents, their families, their work, trips, the President and his family, the motorcades) were shared in various sections of the book. This allowed the reader to go back in time and remember or learn what it was like during Kennedy's presidency. Kennedy quotes were shared at the beginning of each chapter and were subtly missed as the book switched gears and described the Johnson years, following Camelot. The quotes illustrated Kennedy's sharp mind and vision. My personal favorite was located at the beginning of chapter 14: "For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future."
Blaine and McCubbin's sharp ability to re-tell events made me feel like I was a “fly on the wall,” watching the men who protected the President. I was able to visualize what it was like waiting outside Kennedy’s hospital room as the doctors frantically tried to save the President’s life. I felt the sadness Jacqueline Kennedy must have felt after losing her infant son Patrick and later her husband. I felt the trauma that scarred many agents over the past 50 years and understood that through the writing of this book many of them began to heal.
It's is a remarkable story about a remarkable group of men protecting one remarkable man and his family. I highly recommend the book. The Kennedy Detail is a wonderful read and makes the perfect gift for anyone who loves history and is interested in learning details about the “six seconds in Dallas” that took place on November 22, 1963.
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