New book looks into lives of men who devoted themselves to protecting the president
by Jeb Bing
Pleasanton Weekly Staff Former U.S. Secret Service agent Gerald Blaine will be at the Pleasanton Public Library Sunday, December 19th, 2pm in the library meeting room to talk about President John F. Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963 and his years as one of the agents responsible for protecting the president.
At the 2 p.m. discussion, which is open free to the public, Blaine also will talk about his new book, "The Kennedy Detail," which is available at Towne Center Books in downtown Pleasanton and will be on sale at the library event. Towne Center Books is hosting the library event.
Blaine was serving in the Secret Service in Texas when Kennedy was shot. Drawing on the memories of his fellow agents, he captures the energetic, crowd-loving young president, who banned agents from his car and often plunged into raucous crowds with little warning.
Blaine describes the careful planning that went into JFK's Texas swing, the worries and concerns that agents, working long hours with little food or rest, had during the trip. And he describes the intensely private first lady making her first-ever political appearance with her husband, just months after losing a newborn baby.
Most of all," Judy Wheeler, co-owner of Towne Center Books said, "this is a look into the lives of men who devoted their entire beings to protecting the presidential family: the stress of the secrecy they kept, the emotional bonds that developed, the terrible impact on agents' psyches and families, and their astonishment at the country's obsession with far-fetched conspiracy theories and finger-pointing."
A book 50 years in coming, "The Kennedy Detail "is a portrait of incredible camaraderie and incredible heartbreak--a true, must-read story of heroism in its most complex and human form.
Blaine was assigned in November 1960 to the Kennedy detail and, for the next three years, traveled with President Kennedy all over the world. In 1963, when the president was assassinated, the U.S. Secret Service had a budget of about $4.1 million dollars and a staff of about 200 agents nationwide. Just 34 agents were responsible for protecting John F. Kennedy around the clock. They worked in eight-hour shifts, rotating the times of their shifts every two weeks.
"At the time of the assassination," Blaine writes, "while riding in an open convertible in a motorcade through Dallas, Secret Service Agent Clint Hill was just 10 feet from the president, desperately trying to hurl his body in front of the gunfire, when the president's head exploded before his eyes. Covered with blood and pieces of the president's brain, Agent Hill pushed Jackie Kennedy into the back seat and, clinging to the trunk of the open top limousine as it sped away from Dealey Plaza to Parkland Hospital, all he could do was slam his fist in anger, and give the thumbs down sign to the agents in the follow-up car behind him."
"For nearly 50 years, the close-knit group of men who protected JFK has refused to talk about that tragic day--until now," Wheeler said.
Blaine also writes about how the assassination threw the country and the White House into sudden turmoil and despair.
"Abruptly, the Kennedy Detail became the Johnson Detail," Blaine writes. "There was no time to grieve; no time to deal with feelings of anger, frustration and guilt."
On July 4, 1964, Jerry Blaine resigned from the Secret Service to join the private sector.
Blaine's son Scott lives in Pleasanton.